Cars Image Credit: Kyle Field

Published on February 28th, 2016 | by Kyle Field

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What’s Included In The Optional Model S Annual Service?

February 28th, 2016 by  

Image Credit: Kyle Field

The Tesla Model S is the undeniable leader in mass-produced electric vehicles (EV) when it comes to the magic trifecta of range, charging speed, and service, but one question haunts many prospective Tesla buyers — what in the world is included in the optional and expensive annual maintenance plan? With the price per service running several hundred dollars, it may seem an outrageous price to service a car that, per Elon Musk, contains only 6 parts that wear out — 2 windshield wipers and 4 tires.

The service itself is recommended every 12,500 miles or every year, whichever comes first, which seems like an odd arrangement. Adding to the mystery, skipping the annual service does not void the warranty… so how important could it really be? After purchasing my Model S, that question was still unanswered and I was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery when the first service was due on my Model S.

Having purchased a used Model S with just over 29,000 miles on it and subsequently putting another 2,600 miles on it to drive it across the United States, my first scheduled ‘annual’ service would be at the 37,500 mile marker. The Tesla Model S maintenance schedule follows a 4-year cycle with prices fluctuating from $400 to $900 depending on the year/mileage and corresponding services required. The 37,500 mile service is $400 and only notes a few relatively basic items on the schedule, with one exception:

Screen Shot from Tesla Motors Website

Screenshot from Tesla Motors Website

The key fob battery replacement was something I could easily do and just used two CR2032 batteries that I already had on hand to swap them out. A handy tutorial gave me the confidence needed to pry the key fob open without fear of damaging it. Wipers also seemed like low-hanging fruit and, living in Southern California, aren’t something we frequently find ourselves in need of (unfortunately).

The cabin air filter proved a bit more difficult, but I was able to find an aftermarket replacement online that I was able to get shipped to my house. The Tesla Service Center will also sell you a cabin air filter, with folks online typically being charged $35, but with a few people claiming the bill was $50.

Kmanauto has a great video on YouTube showing how to replace the filter. He also has tons of other helpful Model S videos from his experience as an inquisitive Model S owner equipped with more automotive knowledge than the average Joe. The video for the filter change is at the bottom of this article for anyone interested in his no-nonsense overview of the filter swap procedure.

With the first 3 of 4 service tasks checked off, I reached out to Tesla Service to understand what the ambiguous “multi point inspection” entailed, to see if it was really worth the extra couple hundred bucks. They shared the text from the Tesla Service website, with no more detail to be gleaned. Maybe the austere response has something to do with my writeup on the Tesla Service screens….

The inspection gives the car a bumper-to-bumper, roof-to-wheel inspection to ensure that everything is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, with a few specific checks called out. From the Tesla Service FAQs:

  • The Tesla team will remove the wheels and rotate the tires if necessary
  • If a wheel alignment is determined necessary, this service can be performed for an additional charge.
  • Logs will be pulled and examined, and all systems will be tested for operation.
  • The drive unit assemblies will be inspected, and the temperature management system will be checked.
  • Your brakes will be inspected. If the brake pads are outside of recommended specifications, they can be replaced for an additional charge.
  • Normal items, such as windshield wipers, will be replaced as needed.
  • Tread wear is inspected and if new tires are needed additional charges will apply if new tires are installed.

Of all of these items, most are items that can be relatively easily checked by someone with the interest and enough mechanical skill to change a tire. Though, a few items stand out due to the proprietary/technical nature of the tasks. Specifically, the inspection of the drive unit assembly, the temperature management system, and checking logs are Tesla proprietary tasks for the time being.

DIYers are still out of luck in most areas with only one state in the US (Massachusetts) even having the ability to access the service manual. With the manual only being online and with steep fees being levied to access it, maintenance of Teslas is sure to be an interesting topic as the fleet continues to age out of the warranty. I understand the reasoning behind a dynamic online manual — especially with so many flavors of the Model S running around — but it doesn’t feel customer friendly to prevent owners from learning about and servicing (or even to consider servicing) a car they own.

tesla_service_manual_prices

The big asterisk hanging over access to Tesla service manuals relates to “Tesla Approved Body Shops,” which are able to access the manuals for free. Interestingly, this access appears to only be intended for actual body work for accident repair, as all of the locations within 200 miles of me are body shops and do not appear to offer service such as log viewing and diagnostics. Hilariously, one of the approved shops near me is Ferrari of Beverly Hills (~100 miles away), which made me laugh and seems interesting. I wonder if that’s just an excuse for Ferrari to get its hands on the Tesla manuals….

For this round of service, I am planning to pass, but with the next service being a major service with several mechanical services — AC Service, Replace the Battery Coolant, and Replace the Brake Fluid — on the list, I just may have to spring for the $900 (!?!) service if the service manual isn’t available by then.

As a final note on the topic, the Model S service can be purchased in advance in the form of 3 and 4 year maintenance packages, which do let buyers save some cash if they have the money up front and don’t mind the commitment.

Top image by Kyle Field, screenshots from TeslaMotors.com


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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need.



  • hybridbear

    Wouldn’t they do a full inspection of the car when you bring it in for warranty work as part of that process?

    • Kyle Field

      I wouldn’t think so…that’s a lot of work. In fact, when the Ranger came over and fixed my door handle mechanism, he didn’t check anything else. He did connect up his laptop to my car so maybe the laptop checked me out but that’s something they could do remotely via 3g or wifi when I’m home. Dunno…

    • neroden

      They check whether the logs threw any unexpected errors (pretty much whenever they do service) and they check for any outstanding service bulletins applicable to your VIN (only at annual service, not at other service appointments). They do not do a full inspection for other issues you might have missed.

  • neroden

    Hmm, my last comment didn’t show up. Anyway, the main thing I got at all my annual services was the application of all outstanding Service Bulletins. There were a huge number the first year and quite a lot the second year. There will probably still be more this year.

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    • Kyle Field

      The comment system is a known oddity here. Not sure what dictates what gets hidden by default and what shows up though it seems like links are consistent problem for some. I do know for certain that comments almost never get deleted manually 😀

  • Charlotte Omoto

    I didn’t bother to get annual service since I live 300 miles from the nearest service center. When I have had to go there, they top off my windshield wiper fluid and changed my air filter for a nominal cost. I don’t think the service cost is worth it.

  • thedude

    That’s interesting, my first annual service was $600, and it has always been my understanding that it was $600 every year. I wonder if this is a brand new pricing arrangement?

    Anyway, one other important feature of the service is a complete detail, inside and out, probably worth, I dunno, $150? I thought they did a good job, but I’m not a stickler for that kind of thing.

    • Kyle Field

      It still averages out to $600 per service but what you stated was the original arrangement from my understanding as well. Good to know about the detail – that is an important piece of both the service and the high quality standards Tesla typically holds to.

  • neroden

    Tesla’s refusal to release the manuals is a customer-unfriendly *mistake* on Tesla’s part which will damage their reputation. They gain nothing by it; they’re just being jerks about it.

    That said, the main thing I get at annual service is the application of all outstanding Service Bulletins. There have been a long list of these. For that it’s worth it.

    • Kyle Field

      I have a serious issue with this. It is only a matter of time before someone with the means, know-how, willingness and motivation captures the manuals and gets them online. Obviously they will continue to evolve but just having current state snapshots every few months or years would be fantastic.

    • neroden

      The key thing is that by not releasing the manuals, they are causing the hardcore “I always do my own maintenance” people to reverse-engineer everything, which puts those people at risk of accident (they have to guess where the fuses are, etc.). If the manuals were released, there would be less likelihood of bad publicity…

      • Dragon

        No auto maker “releases” technical service manuals. They are always a high-cost item meant to be affordable only by repair shops. Of course people pirate and illegally release copies, or partial copies, or re-written information from them for popular repairs on popular vehicles, but that doesn’t mean any auto maker wants that info out there.

        Whether or not that’s wrong can be debated, but it isn’t without potential benefits to consumers. Auto makers can (I don’t know if they do, but they can) charge less for cars and expect part of the profit to come from repairs and service manual sales (which tends to be based on a recurring subscription model). It can also be dangerous for end users to make certain repairs or changes and auto companies don’t want accidents (Tesla carries some deadly voltage) or broken hardware they have to tell the consumer they can’t cover under warranty. One good example is a friend of mine recently destroyed his aluminum engine because he forgot to plug a fan back in after some DIY maintenance. Teslas have way more connectors than his old aluminum-block engine car.

        It doesn’t really matter because once warranties run out, people are going to start figuring stuff out and releasing tech manuals and whatever else no matter what Tesla does. I’m all for DIY electronics repair and have a fair amount of experience doing it, but it’s a complicated thing and I’ve made mistakes and fried things. I actually felt more confident in working with big parts on my Prius (shocks, coolant pump, thermostat) than with any of my electronics projects, and I’ve had a lot more electronics experience (and a lot more “why the heck doesn’t this work?!” moments in electronics). And despite being careful, I forgot to plug in an electric pump after a maintenance. Luckily the car threw an error code that people online said was related to that pump and I figured it out, but it could have just as easily damaged something. DIY maintenance is always risky but I do it to save money and because it’s sort of fun to learn how things work and fix them.

        • neroden

          “It doesn’t really matter because once warranties run out, people are going to start figuring stuff out and releasing tech manuals and whatever else no matter what Tesla does.”

          True as far as it goes. But the question for Tesla is a marketing question: whether Tesla wants to *alienate* these people or have them *on Tesla’s side*. So far Tesla has chosen “alienate” for no obvious reason.

  • Dragon

    Silly Kyle. Don’t you know that annual service costs are a secret way of charging you to use the supercharger network?

    😉

    Actually I read somewhere that the service fees were based on average annual service fees charged by other luxury car makers and then discounted a bit. Not sure if that’s true, but could be.

    It is a shame that they’re so secretive about doing any service yourself, but I can forgive them for seeking out a bit more profit by keeping service in house as long as they keep pushing the EV revolution. When the cars truly become mainstream, someone will crack the code and let people view the logs and important repair procedures will be published. I think you can already get in to the service screens with a leaked code, though they may have patched that. And even then most people will not feel comfortable doing anything themselves. Other car makers don’t want you getting access to any of that stuff for free either, it’s just that with enough customers, someone always finds a way eventually.

    • Kyle Field

      Hah 🙂 Actually, service is supposed to be a net-neutral offering if I recall correctly. It’s not that I don’t think they’re doing enough to justify the cost…just that it’s not worth it to me personally. I like getting my hands dirty and when that’s coupled with an opportunity to learn, it’s that much nicer 🙂

      I did some digging and found that people are already starting to connect to the car, gather telemetric data but that Tesla is also very protective of any connectivity to the car via the hidden and camouflaged network port claiming that it will void the warranty. The car runs a modified version of ubuntu, uses 192.168.90.0 subnet etc…it will get interesting as Teslas continue to age, warranties expire, etc

    • Joe Viocoe

      With the buy in cost of Supercharger access being known at $2000, and average cost of a Supercharger station being about $150,000… That means Tesla only needs to sell 75 vehicles with that option to pay for a station. The maintenance isn’t much either.

      The secrecy behind Tesla is easily explained without a conspiracy theory. They are doing what Apple has done again and again. Closed end to end. Control the entire user experience, so 3rd parties cannot bring down the brand.

      • Dragon

        I added the 😉 as a clue I was joking about the supercharger conspiracy theory but I guess I wasn’t clear enough.

  • Craig Jacobs

    Is the prepaid service transferrable if you sell the car?

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