The question of servicing premium electric cars like Teslas is something that remains a bit of a mystery to anyone outside the Tesla owner circle. Tesla’s clearly aren’t the same as other cars, so what happens when they need a tune-up? Do Tesla’s owners have to go somewhere special to do this? Do you have to take it to the dealer for even simple things?
Most traditional mechanics don’t have the equipment to maintain electric vehicles. It’s possible for Tesla owners to service their own cars for minor things, although it’s not recommended for everyone. Tesla vehicles come with a service plan to help navigate the maintenance needs of their vehicles.
If you’re a Tesla owner and you’re left dazed and confused by managing the service of your vehicle, stick around. If you’re contemplating the purchase of a Tesla, but you’d like to have a clear-cut vision of the service needs before you buy, this article is for you, too. Keep reading for a guide to get your Tesla serviced.
Why Tesla’s Can’t be Serviced by a Regular Mechanic
Servicing an electric vehicle requires a different set of tools and expertise than it does to service a regular car. When you hear that certain Tesla services can only be performed at a Tesla dealership, this isn’t because they’re just that fancy. It’s mainly because of what’s required to do the job.
Unfortunately for dealerships, this expertise is lacking. Electric vehicles are complex things, requiring a different hand than gas vehicles, different software, different tools, more specialization.
Along with this crippling overspecialization for electric vehicle maintenance, they require less maintenance than gas vehicles, which will hurt a dealership’s bottom line.
A large fraction of the money made in the car dealership business is based on maintenance and repairs. It’s no wonder dealerships try their hardest not to sell you an electric car.
Tesla, however, was smart in the way that they knew dealerships would be indifferent to their electric vehicles. So, being the innovators that they are, Tesla decided to sell you their cars directly online, without dealership interference.
Tesla Direct directly delivers your car to your home or workplace where you can sign paperwork for your car and drive it as soon as possible. But one thing is missing. Where do you take your Tesla to be serviced if something bad happens?
Where Do Tesla Cars Get Serviced?
Since Tesla does not sell their cars at dealerships that provide maintenance, where and how do their cars get serviced?
Tesla cars get serviced at their service centers. Many of these service centers are located near Tesla stores and galleries, where you can view and learn more about a Tesla you are thinking of buying.
Not every state has a Tesla Store or Service Center, so you must look online to find one that is nearest to you. Use this list of service centers from Tesla’s website to find the one nearest to you.
Tesla also has a “Mobile Service” option for services that don’t require the full-on service center treatment. On Tesla’s website, they say that 80% of repairs can be done outside of a service center, and their mobile service option is completely covered without pay.
To schedule an appointment at a Tesla Service Center, be sure to download the Tesla app and schedule an appointment on the app.
If you feel like your car does not need to be serviced by Tesla’s Service Centers, then the Tesla website provides you with a Do It Yourself guide. This guide provides information on how to change wiper blades, air filters, and all sorts of other smaller tasks that won’t require heavy-duty tools and car lifters. These guides are only for the Model 3, S, and X so far.
When Should You Get Your Tesla Serviced?
One of the many unique things about Tesla is that their cars can be remotely checked on by the company. This allows for software updates to be installed and keeps service center visits to a minimum. According to Tesla, 90% of the time, they can diagnose your issue remotely and tell you what is needed to repair it.
Generally, a Tesla or other electric vehicle does not need the same amount of maintenance as gas-powered vehicles because of the lack of an ICE (internal combustion engine). Also, Tesla and other electric vehicles use regenerative braking returns energy to the battery,
This means no oil changes, air filter replacements, and spark plug replacements are necessary for your Tesla.
Note: As of last year, Tesla has killed its annual maintenance program. Now they only recommend their buyers to visit their service centers when a specific car component needs to be serviced.
What Components Need Servicing in a Tesla Vehicle?
No annual maintenance plan means no surprises when you take your car in for a routine check-up. You only need to bring it in to be serviced when something needs to be checked out.
Cabin Air Filters
Since Tesla Cars do not have ICEs, they do not have engine air filters that prevent toxins from getting into the car. Tesla cars typically use two cabin air filters.
These filters prevent pollen, fallout, road dust, and other particles from entering the interior of your car through your air vents. It is recommended by Tesla to replace these air filters every two years.
When Can You Tell Your Cabin Air Filter Needs Changing?
In the rare case that your air filter needs changing before those two years, follow these signs to see when your air filter needs to be changed.
- If the air filter looks dirty
- If there is a foul smell inside of your Tesla
- Your window fog clearing does not work as well or as intended
- HVAC system runs poorly
Who Can Provide This Service?
Tesla recommends its mobile service program or service center work on any of their products. But replacing cabin filters is one of the services you can get your local handyman to do, or even yourself.
Tesla sells its brand of cabin air filters for $17 on their online Tesla Store.
Do It Yourself
Here is a guide on how to replace your cabin air filters in your Tesla. Note: These directions are only for Tesla 3 models with the HVAC module system. Before you do anything with the Cabin Air Filters, make sure you turn off your climate control system in your car.
- Move the front passenger seat rearwards and remove the seat’s floormat.
- Use a trim tool to release the right-side panel from the center console.
- Release push clips using a clip pry tool. Then, while supporting the footwell cover, disconnect the two electrical connectors and move the footwell cover.
- Remove the screw that secures the cabin filter cover to HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) module, then release the cabin filter cover and move it to the side.
- Fold upper cabin filter’s tab upward. While holding the filter tab, remove the filter out from the HVAC module.
- Fold the lower cabin filter’s tab downward. While holding the filter tab, remove the filter out from the HVAC module.
- Insert the replacement lower cabin filter into the HVAC module first to ensure the arrows on the replacement filters face the back of the vehicle.
- Insert the replacement upper cabin filter into the HVAC module.
- Fold the tabs inward to ensure the full installation of the filter cover.
- Install the cabin filter cover by engaging the lower cover tab first, then tightening the screw.
- Reconnect the electrical connectors to the components in the footwell cover, then resecure the cover with the push clips
- Align the right-side panel with the front and rear locator slots. Apply pressure until all clips are secure.
- Reinstall the floormat and move the front passenger seat into place.
How Much Would Air Filter Maintenance Cost?
There is, unfortunately, not a lot of information online about how much Cabin Air Filter maintenance for Tesla costs. However, estimates have been made on other websites and forums on the cost. Generally, it is said that the air filter replacement service costs $60-$200 depending on your make.
What About HEPA Filters?
HEPA filters are high-quality air filters that are found in higher-cost Tesla models. Tesla recommends that you replace your HEPA filter in 3 years, a year more than your regular cabin air filter.
Although Tesla’s electric cars have the fancy “regenerative braking” component that many other electric vehicles have, they still use brake fluid for their brakes. And because they still use brake fluid, Tesla cars need their brake fluid checked for contamination.
Tesla recommends that its cars’ brake fluid should be checked every two years. They also say that fluid should be replaced “as needed,” meaning whenever it is necessary. I looked up how long brake fluid lasted in a Tesla and got a whole assortment of answers ranging from 80,000 km of driving to years. Many of these Tesla models are new, however, so time will tell.
How Can You Tell Your Brake Fluid Needs Changing?
Like many other traditional cars, Tesla models have similar worsening brake system symptoms. If the performance of your brakes is worsening and/or your brake feels spongey and weak, you should call Tesla’s Service Center or set up an appointment on the Tesla app.
Who Can Provide This Service?
Since Tesla does not sell brake fluid on their online store, I believe it is safe to say that they do not recommend servicing the brake fluid on their car on your own. In fact, it is generally not recommended to change brake fluid on your own. Tesla provides its Mobile Service and Service Stations for their car owners to use as needed.
It’s possible that a local shop can take care of this for you, as long as they have the resources and the staff to do so. Calling ahead to make sure they’ve worked on Tesla’s before is always a good idea. It’s also helpful to check with other Tesla owners in your area to see if they have any recommendations.
What is Done to Your Car During a Brake Fluid Cleaning?
Mechanics usually run a full inspection on your Tesla’s brake system before they decide whether its best to replace your brake fluid. If they decide replacing your brake fluid is necessary, they will perform other tasks after replacing the fluid to ensure the system works well.
These tasks include brake bleeding, which checks whether air bubbles are in the brake lines. Checking if any brake fluid has leaked in the car, inspecting brake pads, rotors, and hoses; and a test drive.
How Much Does This Service Cost?
Similar to brake fluid, the cost of maintenance for brake fluid for a Tesla car is not directly stated on Tesla’s past maintenance plans or website. However, forums and other websites put the price at around $80-$110 for a full brake system flush.
The price for the service may go up if more of your brake system, like brake pads, need to be fixed. One report said the cost of getting their brake pads fixed was an incredibly high $1597. Of course, this is one report and not the whole deal for most Tesla users.
A/C issues are a common thing in many cars, especially those who live in warm conditions. For Tesla models, their A/C should be serviced at different times. For the Model S, Tesla recommends the A/C should be checked every two years; for Models X and Y, every four years, and for Model 3, every six years.
How Can You Tell Your Air Conditioning Needs Changing?
There are a few signs that tell you that your car’s A/C compressor is acting up or failing altogether. If your cabin’s temperature is higher than normal when the A/C is on, that is possible because the A/C is no longer blowing as cold as it used to blow.
Loud noises when an A/C compressor is failing is also a common symptom. If any of the A/C compressor’s interior components break or fail, all sorts of loud noises can happen. There is a report on an online forum that Tesla A/C’s make “squealing” noises when the compressor fails. This may not be true for everyone but pay attention to any weird noises.
Reports of a funky smell when the A/C is turned on also exist on Tesla’s official forum.
Who Can Provide This Service?
Tesla can provide this service along with other services at their service center or mobile service option. Like with brake fluid, it is not recommended to service your car’s A/C on your own. A local handyman can also fix this issue if they know how to work on a Tesla car, which can be plenty different than a traditional car.
Before you send your Tesla in for a diagnostic based on the smell of your A/C, be sure to check the warranty and see if that is covered. In online forums, it is reported that Tesla service centers can check for the smell of the A/C, but fixing that smell is not covered in their warranty. This may cost a lot of money if you want Tesla to fix it.
A/C issues are common with Tesla cars, and you should do your research to figure out who can service it for the lowest price if Tesla doesn’t cover your A/C problems with warranty.
What is Done to Your Car During Air Conditioning Service?
Much like with brake fluid, mechanics usually run a full diagnostic on Tesla’s A/C system before doing anything with it. If the compressor is dead, more likely than not, Tesla or your mechanic will say that the A/C system will need to be replaced completely. If it’s just a faulty smell, your car’s HVAC most likely will need some cleaning.
According to experts at AC Comfort, they do not recommend replacing just the compressor if your compressor is dead. They say the whole AC system will need to be replaced instead.
How Much Does This Service Cost?
There have been reports that the cost to fix a Tesla Model 3’s A/C was at an exceptionally low price of $50. This, of course, is with a warranty in the old maintenance plan Tesla used before settling with their new “as needed” servicing. Without a warranty, prices can be as high as $4000 if Tesla gets their hands on your car, and you need the whole A/C system replaced.
On average, according to automotivediagnosticspecialties.com, the cost of replacing the whole A/C system is between $1500-$4000, with an average cost of $2750. Labor costs when it comes to replacing a compressor costs between $300-$500, and an actual new compressor costs between $500-$1900.
As expected, prices go up when the full A/C system needs to be replaced compared to just the compressor.
Windshield Wiper Blades are another car component covered in Tesla’s old maintenance plan. Tesla had recommended that their cars get their wiper blades checked every year before they changed to the “as needed” servicing plan. So, that means I would have to recommend that you get your Tesla car’s windshield wiper blades checked at least every 12,000-15,000 miles.
How Can You Tell You Need New Wiper Blades?
Wiper blade issues are an easy thing to diagnose, and you won’t need an expert to check it.
Check to see if your wipers are having issues with rubber. Is the rubber on the wipers smooth? Are some of it coming off and/or broken? This can be dangerous as rubber wearing off on the wipers could mean they aren’t working as effectively as is necessary.
The sound of the wipers dragging across the glass is a warning as well. Bent frames caused by harshly brushing snow and or ice from your wiper are also a case for wiper blade replacement.
Who Can Provide This Service?
We already know that Tesla can replace wiper blades using their Mobile Service or Service Center options. A local handyman or mechanic from an auto repair company can perform this service as well. You also can replace your wiper blades, and there are many videos out there that show how to replace a Tesla car’s blades.
This Can be a DIY Job
Windshield wipers are an easy thing to fix, even if you don’t know much about cars. Here’s all you need to do:
- Turn off your windshield wipers.
- On your touchpad, touch Controls, then Service, then Wiper Service Mode. This moves your wipers to the service position.
- Lift your wiper arms a bit away from the window, far enough to have good access to the wiper blade.
- Grab and hold the wiper arm, pressing the locking tab while sliding the blade down the arm.
- Slide the new blade toward the hooked end of the arm until it locks completely.
- Place the wiper blades toward the windshield like it was before.
- Turn off your car’s Wiper Service Mode, which will return your wipers to their original position.
How Much Does This Service Cost?
If you decide to do it yourself, and that is most likely the cheapest option, the wiper blades cost $28 each for a Tesla Model S in the Tesla online shop. Model 3 wiper blades cost $23 each. However, at Walmart, Amazon, and/or other stores, you can find windshield wiper blades for as cheap as $6.
However, if you are not feeling confident in the slightest and need someone to fix your wiper blades for you, it is estimated that the cost of service for wiper blade replacement is between $58-83, according to repairpal.com. It would be $26-$33 for the labor cost and everything else for the service.
Before we get into the meat of tire rotation, I will note that tire rotation itself is not a necessity. It is mainly recommended for those who use a rear-wheel (RWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) to add a few more miles on their wheels. Tesla recommends that your tires be rotated every 6,250 miles before they switched to their “as needed” service plan.
How Can You Tell Your Tires Need to be Rotated?
There are generally three signs that tell that your tires need to be rotated. If your car goes faster than 45mph and you feel a vibration, that vibration is caused by uneven wear. You may be able to notice uneven wear just by looking at your tire. You can catch uneven wear by checking if one side of the tire has less tread than another
If the tread wear on the tire is not severe, you can get those tires rotated. If it is, then replace your tire completely.
Who Can Provide the Service?
Tesla can rotate your tires using their Mobile Service and Service Center options. Local handymen should also be able to rotate your tires without a problem, and if you have the correct equipment for it (lifters, rotating dollies, etc.), you can rotate your car tires yourself.
However, since you need to lift your Tesla to rotate your tires, it is recommended by many to use a lift adapter to avoid damaging the battery pack.
Rotating tires is something that you can do on your own, but again, the proper tools are a must. If you don’t have the necessary items, it’s much easier to just go somewhere to have this done. Not to mention, you’ll be saving money by not purchasing all of the equipment. But, if you’ve rotated tires before, you can do it to your Tesla, too.
What is Done to Your Car During Tire Rotation?
Before anything is done to your tires, your mechanic will most likely run a diagnostic on your tires to see if anything happened to them. They’ll check for tire holes, treadwear, and how they run during a test drive, possibly. If they determine that tire rotation is what your tires need, here is what they will do.
As mentioned before, the car needs to be lifted for your tires to be rotated. What happens during tire rotation is that your car is lifted, and the wheels are removed. After the wheels are removed, it depends on what type of drive your car has.
For rear-wheel-drive cars, the front tires should be moved to the opposite side of the rear, meaning the front right tire should be moved to the back right tire, etc. For all-wheel drive, the front and back tires should be swapped from left to right instead of up to down, meaning the left tires become the right tires.
Tire rotation is a relatively quick service that usually takes from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on whether you decide to do it yourself, or if you take your car to a garage for a mechanic to work on.
How Much Does This Service Cost?
In one forum, I found that it costs $75 for the tires to be rotated by Tesla, which is a rather high price for something as simple as tire rotation to be done. However, if you have a warranty, the cost is free.
According to autoservicecosts.com, the average price for a tire rotation service costs $67. I am sure with more digging around you, and readers can find a lower price locally.
The idea of servicing a Tesla can be overwhelming, especially with all of the rumors swirling around about who can and can’t do it. But we’ve hopefully put those to rest and ease your mind. Now you’ve got a complete guide on how to service a Tesla.