Maintaining a Tesla seems simple enough, according to one promise of the electric vehicle revolution. After all, having fewer mechanical parts in the car means you don’t have the expense and inconvenience of oil changes, transmission fluid replacements, or coolant flushes.
Tesla, America’s best-known EV maker, is doing the most to spread the message of easy maintenance and less-expensive routine service costs. Still, keeping a Tesla on the road isn’t free, and service centers aren’t as common as regular auto shops. Continue reading for insight into Tesla maintenance.
The Expense of Maintaining a Tesla
Tesla’s Model 3 is the second-fastest-selling EV in America and one of the cheapest cars of its kind that you can own. The sedan won our Lowest 5-Year Cost to Own Award in the luxury EV segment by being $16,411 less expensive over five years than the average car in its class.
However, most of the savings come from fuel costs. In our studies, the Model 3, costs slightly more to maintain than many gas-powered competitors. But the money saved on fuel more than makes up the difference.
Where To Go for Tesla Maintenance
Tesla employs a fleet of mobile service providers. They’ll come to you wherever your Tesla is parked to perform routine maintenance. These include tire rotations, air filter changes, and other basic tasks.
For less common and more extensive work, Tesla maintains a network of service centers. The company has service centers in 35 states at the time of this writing.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re all conveniently located. Ease-of-access varies widely based on where you live. California residents can use 39 service centers across the state. If your Tesla experiences a problem in Idaho, you need to get it to Boise.
Can You Take Your Tesla to a Regular Auto Shop?
Few independent service shops currently have technicians certified to work on electric cars. That will likely change in the coming years as electric vehicles make up a more significant portion of the cars on American roads. But, at the moment, most independent shops don’t work on Tesla vehicles.
Tesla also notes that “If you choose to take your car to a non-Tesla shop for maintenance or repairs, coverage under your warranty could be affected.”
Routine Tesla Maintenance
Tesla vehicles use batteries and maintenance-free electric motors. Those take the place of the engine, fuel system, and transmission in a gasoline-powered car — parts that are the source of most maintenance needs.
Like other electric cars, Teslas do use a suspension system, tires, brakes, and other parts similar to vehicles with internal combustion engines. These parts still need routine maintenance.
Do Teslas Require Unique Maintenance?
Tesla vehicles also require some unusual maintenance services because of their unique nature. For instance, regenerative braking uses resistance from the electric motor to help slow a Tesla. This function means drivers rely less on brakes. Therefore, brake pads tend to last longer in a Tesla than in a gas-powered car.
However, Tesla requires owners to lubricate the brake calipers annually in states that use road salt in the winter. Car and Driver magazine kept a Tesla for a year for testing purposes. They found that lubricating the brake calipers costs just as much money as regular oil changes do on a conventional car.
Many Tesla owners have shared anecdotes suggesting that a Tesla’s tires need replacement before their predicted lifespan ends. Tires advertised to last 40,000 miles can last just 30,0000 miles on a Tesla. The increased wear could be because EVs weigh more than gas-powered cars. Another cause may be the instant torque of their motors provides high-friction starts.
What Maintenance Do Tesla Owners Get to Skip?
Because Teslas lack traditional engines and transmissions, regular tasks like oil changes and coolant flushes are unnecessary.
How Much Does Maintaining a Tesla Cost?
Our experts found that, over five years, the owner of a Tesla Model 3 can expect to spend $3,115 on maintenance. That’s slightly higher than many gas-powered competitors. The similarly-sized Acura ILX, for example, cost $2,792 in maintenance over the same period. The Genesis G70 cost $2,621.
But fuel savings more than made up for the added cost.
Can You Maintain a Tesla Yourself?
Some items on Tesla’s routine maintenance schedule are simple enough for a competent home mechanic to perform. Replacing the cabin air filter every two years, for instance, is simple with minimal experience.
Other tasks, including testing brake fluid for contamination, require shop tools most of us don’t have.
Owner Satisfaction With Tesla Maintenance
Tesla sales have snowballed — the company became America’s best-selling luxury automaker in late 2021. Its network of service centers has not grown as quickly. Consequently, many Tesla owners have complained of extremely long wait times for service appointments.
On a recent earnings call with investors, Tesla Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn acknowledged the problem and pledged to work on it. “We’ve been working extremely hard since then to address this, and we’ve seen our wait times come down,” he said. But, he added, “the best service is no service. And so we have been incredibly focused as a company both on the initial quality of our vehicles and reliability of our vehicles.”
Tesla Recommended Maintenance Schedule
|Replace Cabin Air Filter||Every 2 years (Model 3, Model Y)
Every 3 Years (Model S, Model X)
|Rotate Tires, Align Wheels||Every 6,250 miles|
|Test Brake Fluid, Replace If Needed||Every 2 years|
|Replace Air Conditioning Desiccant Bag||6 years (Model 3)
4 years (Model Y)
3 years (Model S, Model X)
|Replace HEPA Air Particulate Filter||Every 3 years|
|Clean and Lubricate Brake Calipers||Every 12 Months or 12,500 miles in regions that use road salt|
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