One persistent critique of the Tesla Model S is that it is prone to random squeaks and creaks emanating from various parts of the car. These claims are often rebutted with the base claim that because the Model S is electric and thus, so quiet, even the tiniest of squeaks and creaks stands out.
Having owned a wide variety of gasmobiles as well as owning and driving quite a few electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles including the Model S, I’m in a pretty good position to make the call.
I have to say that in my own Model S which is admittedly an early build (2013, serial 8096), I had a pretty obvious squeak that reared its head when I would do anything that would put rotational stress on the vehicle. Things like going around corners that were not level, entering driveways at an angle and even some speed bumps caused creaks and squeaks that became bothersome.
The noise was coming from the overhead area between the two panoramic windows in the Model S so my first step was to just pull the cover off the thing to give my ears a better shot at pinpointing the noise. After a few days of driving without the cover on, it was clear to me that the noise was coming from the connection between that beam and the side frame of the car.
Having previously done quite a bit of work in the car audio space in previous vehicles, I was confident that a removal and replacement of the beam along with some tactically placed sound dampening material would take care of this nuisance once and for all.
I ordered up some sound dampening material from Amazon and waited for it to arrive. Sound dampening material is generally split into two categories — foamy products and rubbery products. They are generally applied directly to the vehicle by hand. With rubbery products, they absorb vibrations in the metal of the vehicle frame and attempt to prevent them from entering the interior of the vehicle. I bought a few small sheets of rubbery dampening strips with some aluminum backing — a combination I used back in my car audio days with great success.
With the help of my older son Asher, I started by pulling off the bolts holding the beam in place and removing it from the car. I found that the bits of sound dampening material (very thin felt strips) between the beam and the cover were insufficient. The dampening material near the ends was also lacking.
After removing the beam, I applied a liberal coating of sound deadening material with extra focus on the areas that would be in contact with the rest of the vehicle. The sound deadening material can be cut with a razor blade as needed, although the edges of the aluminum backing are extremely sharp, so put safety first and wear gloves. I’ve earned some less than friendly feeling cuts from this stuff and it’s worse than a paper cut.
After covering the beam, I simply fitted it back into place overhead and bolted it back in. All told, it wasn’t more than an hour or so of effort. I snapped the cover back into place and was ready to hit the road.
We headed out on a test drive and to my excitement, all signs of squeaks from the car were gone. From this simple exercise, I learned that my Tesla and likely many others were under-insulated when it comes to typical sound dampening.
This is likely attributable to the fact that it is electric and thus, did not have to take into account the dampening of noise from the engine compartment to the passenger cabin, but also is just a bump in the road for early Tesla vehicles.
I have not torn down a more recent Tesla but if given the opportunity, would fully expect to find more sound dampening material in the vehicle, if only at critical junction points like the overhead beam in panoramic glass-equipped vehicles. I haven’t experienced any other squeaks and creaks in the car, but for those that may be experiencing these issues, it could be as simple as an hour or two of your time to find it and to apply a fix.
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