Tesla released its first vehicle just over a decade ago, which may cause some to wonder what unique problems these cars face, such as potential leaks, and how to troubleshoot them. All vehicles are prone to performance and service issues. However, Tesla vehicles differ greatly compared to their automotive counterparts in that they are all-electric. Therefore, Tesla models are subject to unique problems when it comes to what can go wrong and how such problems can be fixed.
So, what is a guide to troubleshooting a Tesla leak? Some consumers have reported that their Tesla cars experience water and/or other fluid leaks. In order to assess whether such leaks warrant a trip to a company service provider or can be addressed by the individual owner, it’s important to troubleshoot the problem and take steps to determine the nature of the leak, its source, and whether professional maintenance is required or repairs are needed.
Though Tesla cars may be a good investment as an environmental choice, these vehicles are not immune to situations that require maintenance and/or repair. Therefore, it’s important for Tesla owners to have an idea for how to troubleshoot such potential problems before they occur. No car owner wants to find a leak of any kind; yet, through understanding Tesla vehicles and how to troubleshoot a leak, step by step, expensive diagnostics and repairs may be avoided on the part of Tesla owners.
Troubleshooting a Tesla Leak: Step-by-Step Guide
If you notice that your Tesla vehicle has a leak, troubleshooting is a good strategy before you rush to a service provider for diagnostics and repair. Troubleshooting is a process in which someone diagnoses the source of a problem, primarily when it comes to products. The process of troubleshooting begins with assessing the most general and/or obvious possible problem and then progresses by narrowing down to identify more specific issues.
Here is a step-by-step guide to troubleshooting a Tesla leak, which may save you the time and money it would take to bring your vehicle in to be assessed and/or repaired by the company’s automotive professionals.
1. Determine the Nature of the Leak
Electric cars contain fewer fluids than their traditional automotive counterparts since they require no oil or gasoline. Therefore, determining the nature of a leak, as in which fluid is present, is a bit more straightforward when it comes to a Tesla vehicle, as there are fewer possibilities to consider.
Here are the fluids present in an electric car:
- Coolant: Just like traditional vehicles, electric cars that have a thermal management system utilize coolant. Adding coolant is part of an electric vehicle’s regular maintenance schedule.
- Brake fluid: Teslas, like all cars, utilize brake fluid as well, and it should be checked and replaced as per owner manual instructions.
- Windshield fluid: Windshield fluid is also present in Tesla vehicles and should be added periodically. In addition, windshield fluid should be a winter blend in colder climates, so the freezing point is lowered during cold weather.
There may be other fluids present in Tesla vehicles. However, ideally, they would be sealed and not accessible. One exception is the Tesla Model S, which has a differential gearbox that contains transmission fluid and requires scheduled replacement and maintenance.
2. Determine the Source of the Leak
If you are able to determine the nature of the leak, this can lead to troubleshooting the source of the leak and assessing whether it needs professional attention, service, or repair. For Tesla vehicles, the two most likely possibilities as far as leaking fluids would be coolant or brake fluid.
Coolant, or antifreeze, is one of the most common leaks when it comes to cars. Though a coolant leak is not initially a serious problem, it should be fixed as soon as possible since this fluid is designed to regulate the temperature of a vehicle’s engine. If the source of the coolant leak is not determined and repaired, it can lead to the engine overheating and an incapacitated vehicle.
The most notable sign that your Tesla is leaking coolant is the presence of antifreeze as a leak. To check that the fluid is antifreeze, look for these indicators:
If your car is experiencing a coolant leak, the source may be one or more of the following:
Brake Fluid Leaks
Brake fluid is a far less common leak than coolant, yet it can result in serious consequences. Brake fluid is generally clear or yellowish in color, has a medium thickness, and a slight oily feel to it. If you see fluid of this nature under your car, it’s essential to have it checked immediately.
In fact, if you suspect your Tesla is leaking brake fluid, it’s best to have it towed to a company service provider rather than driving it there. This is important since a car’s brake system works on a hydraulic pressure system in which brake fluid serves as the hydraulic fluid that maintains that pressure. A brake fluid leak would cause a drop in pressure and potentially result in brake failure, making the vehicle hazardous to drive.
If your car is experiencing a brake fluid leak, the source would be the braking system, and the fluid would appear near the wheels of the vehicle or in the area directly under the brake pedal.
3. Determine Action Needed to Address the Leak
Some car owners would assert that any fluid leak from a vehicle should be checked and treated by professional service providers with expertise when it comes to the make, model, operation, and performance of the car. Such professional service would be the best guarantee in providing any required maintenance or necessary repairs to the vehicle, as well as ensuring that any long-term or repeated issues are noted, recorded, and addressed.
However, taking a vehicle in to be unnecessarily checked by a service provider for a problem that could be determined by the owner at home can incur costs when it comes to both time and money. This is especially true with Tesla vehicles. Since the company is still considered by many to be at the startup level, there are far fewer providers that can adequately service these all-electric vehicles compared to their traditional automotive counterparts—and general mechanics are not trained to work on Teslas.
This low supply to demand ratio for service adds up for the consumer in time spent finding and traveling to a Tesla service center, as well as the monetary cost of diagnosing the issue and servicing the vehicle. In addition, since Tesla, for the most part, has operated in a space of luxury vehicles based more on performance and design rather than manufacturer reliability, Tesla owners are more likely to incur service costs rather than troubleshoot any vehicle issues on their own.
Fortunately, for Tesla owners, the company offers mobile service in order to eliminate the need for owners to bring their vehicles into a Tesla service provider. Tesla claims that 80% of repairs can be done to their vehicles outside of a service center and offers 100% mobile service coverage to their customers if the required service need can be met by a mobile technician. This means that in many cases, Tesla will cover mobile service so that a technician visits the owner, rather than the opposite.
When it comes to Tesla cars, there are ways to troubleshoot the nature and source of the leaks, which in turn can help determine the action needed to address them. The best course of action, once the vehicle owner has determined the nature and source of a leak, is to utilize the mobile service option. Tesla vehicles are highly specialized, and though some of their owners may feel capable of addressing leaks themselves, this could come at a huge cost if done improperly.
Overall, troubleshooting your Tesla’s leak does not override the fact that action should be taken to have it professionally diagnosed and treated by a company service provider—whether it is through the mobile option or at a physical service center. Instead, taking the steps to troubleshoot a leak in a Tesla vehicle can assist owners in reporting the exact problem, saving time and potential cost as well as allowing Tesla drivers to develop a greater understanding of their vehicle’s performance and operation.
Why Is My Tesla Leaking Water?
One issue that Tesla owners face that they may be able to handle themselves without visiting a service center is leaking water. Tesla vehicles may leak water for various reasons, from simple condensation to faulty drains or sealants. The most common areas in which Tesla owners report water leaks are under the car, the deck (or trunk) lid, and water build-up in the taillights.
Some experts, according to Vox, have indicated that because of the unique design features of Tesla vehicles and the recency of their appearance in the automotive market, a good portion of their manufacturing has not been “perfected” in the same way as other car companies.
Since traditional vehicles are made with a variety of materials and components that are sub-assembled by global supply chains, most car companies do everything possible to ensure uniformity and reliable operation under all conditions.
Design Features and Water Leaks
Tesla vehicles, at this point, have favored innovations in design over mass, reliable production. For example, the Model S roof has been known to experience leaks and even develop mold in certain geographical regions. This model features a large, panoramic sunroof that, while unique in design, presents difficulties in manufacturing and installation to precise specifications. Therefore, the Model S roofs often experience leaks, and many are so small that their owners don’t notice.
Such design features may be the reason for some reported Tesla water leaks in the deck lid and water build-up in taillights as well. Some Tesla owners have experienced water leaking into the trunk of their vehicles after heavy or prolonged rainfall, to the degree of damaging the interior carpet and a remaining presence of water within the deck lid itself.
If your Tesla experiences any water leaks in the trunk or water build-up in the taillights, it’s essential to make an appointment with a service provider to diagnose and repair any sealant or drain issues. Most of these water leaks were reportedly resolved by Tesla mechanics after replacing the deck lid seal and liner. In some instances, the water problem was addressed by fixing faulty drain plugs at the bottom of the trunk, which allowed water from wet roads to enter the trunk from below.
Water In Taillights
There have also been reports of water build-up behind the taillights in some Tesla vehicles. Again, this seems to be the result of design features that prevent consistent, standardized sealing of certain Tesla car parts. Experts recommend in the case of water build-up behind taillights that car owners take preventive measures.
These preventive measures can be achieved by doing the following:
By assessing these seams, Tesla owners can note any gaps or skips in the factory seam sealer of their vehicle that may allow water into the taillights. If no gaps or skips are present, water build-up behind the taillights should not occur. However, if there are noticeable gaps or skips, then it’s best to bring the vehicle to a professional service provider in order to address the situation and treat the problem before any damage takes place.
Air Conditioner Condensation
However, often when car owners see what they believe is leaking water, it may not actually be a leak. One common reason for the presence of water within or outside a vehicle is condensation, and this frequently results from the vehicle’s air conditioner. Many Tesla drivers in warm and humid climates experience water puddles under their vehicles after they have parked their cars for some time—more so than with gas-powered vehicles.
Though these water puddles may appear to be the result of leaks, they are often due to water condensation drips. To troubleshoot air conditioner condensation, you can ask the following questions:
This condensation may be more prevalent in Tesla cars for a few reasons:
Traditional, non-electric vehicles don’t experience this amount of condensation since the air conditioner stops running as soon as the car motor is off.
When it comes to all-electric cars, such as Tesla vehicles that operate without any supplementary gasoline generator, they feature less maintenance when compared to traditional cars. This is due to the fact that there are fewer moving parts and a reduced number of fluids. However, there are still essential items that must be regularly maintained when it comes to electric cars, all of which would be outlined in the owner’s manual.
Though Tesla vehicles feature fewer fluids than their traditional gasoline counterparts, they are still subject to leaks. For this reason, it’s essential that Tesla owners not only follow regular maintenance procedures but personally understand the operation of their vehicles and ways to troubleshoot issues such as leaking fluids. This way, Tesla drivers can ensure optimum performance when it comes to their vehicles and avoid any unnecessary and potentially expensive trips to their automotive service center.
Tesla vehicles are also known for their “smart” features, including the company’s ability for remote diagnostics and SmartAlerts. The company claims that 90% of the time, they can remotely diagnose an issue with their vehicles and what is needed to repair it. In addition, the SmartAlerts feature of Tesla vehicles is designed to communicate the needs of the car and can walk the owner through simple fixes or connect them to a service team.
These smart capabilities may cause Tesla owners to rely upon them exclusively for the well-being and performance of their cars. However, it’s rare for any computerized system to entirely take the place of human attention and decision making. Therefore, even though Tesla vehicles are equipped with these advanced features, it’s still best for their owners to share the responsibility of understanding their cars for the most beneficial performance.