More than any car I’ve seen or driven, the Tesla Model 3 is unusually susceptible to curb rash on both passenger side rims. This can be attributed to the fact that the metal rims stick out farther than the rubber and also to the important subtlety that the design of the Model 3 makes it feel like a much smaller, sportier car.
Curb rash on my model 3 😥 pic.twitter.com/gbvmR9IoPC
— Iqtedar Chowdhry (@iQtedar_C) June 26, 2018
Pages and pages of forum posts filled with the tears of new Model 3 owners about rim rash and repeated rim rash raised the caution flags before I took delivery of mine, so I was already on the defensive. The demo Model 3 Performance at the Tesla store I visited just a few days after it was delivered in order to test drive it had already racked up multiple hits on the passenger side rims — after just 5 days out in the field.
These instances of curb kissing encouraged me to prioritize rim guards for my car as one of the first acquisitions for the CleanTechnica Model 3 (article coming soon on that) but rather than just treat the symptoms, I’ve been looking for ways to fix the root cause — hitting the curb in the first place. After a few weeks of testing, I’ve found a good method for retraining my brain to drive in the Model 3 — and the fact that it’s necessary is worth mentioning as well.
Too Much Junk In The Frunk
First off, the Tesla Model 3 is not a small car … but it drives like one. The sporty handling of the car, the torquey acceleration, and the truncated nose of the car all contribute to it feeling like a spritely two-seat sports car … but there’s just no getting around the fact that it’s a large vehicle.
At just 4 inches (10 cm) narrower than the Tesla Model S, the 6 foot, 4 inch wide (193 cm) Model 3 is still 3.5 inches (9 cm) wider than a Toyota Camry, 2 inches (5 cm) wider than a BMW 3-series, and 3 inches (8 cm) wider than a Mercedes C Class. Those sound trivial, but they are magnified by the car’s sporty handling and spritely acceleration. (Also see: Tesla Model 3 vs 22 Competitors — The Straight Specs.)
The all-but-invisible nose of the Model 3 creates what feels like an optical illusion that makes it harder to gauge just how wide the car actually is. This is especially important for the width of the car, as we’re used to seeing both edges of the hood when driving, which help our brains to understand how wide the car actually is. The invisible hood of the Model 3 drastically improves visibility of the car, but it also takes away one of the tools most of us are used to using when driving.
Train Your Brain
To hedge against this, I’ve done a few things to keep from banging the rims of the car into things like curbs and tighter corners. First, I consciously remind myself that I’m driving a car that feels smaller and narrower than it is. Said another way, the Model 3 has more junk in the trunk than it feels like it has. So I remind myself rather regularly (granted, I’m only a few weeks in on driving it) that I’m in a boat of a car. That helps me to take turns wider and generally helps me to be more cautious of curbs.
Next, I use the Autopilot display on the LCD to help me get a feel for where the car is in the lane. This is especially easy and safe to do on the freeway, where the car gets a much better read for where it is in the lane. For example, when I’m driving down a straight stretch of road, I’ll glance over at the Autopilot screen and — more often than not, I’m farther to the right of center in the lane than I imagined.
Using the Autopilot display is a hack to manually train my brain for the width of the car. It helps calibrate me on the actual position of the car in the lane vs where it feels like the car is in the lane. This may be more of an issue for me, having most recently driven a Prius as my daily driver, but given the number of Model 3s I’ve seen that have had unfortunate run-ins with curbs, I’m thinking it’s also very much a Model 3 thing.
As I shared above, I’m working on a piece about protecting the Model 3, which will include solutions for rims, and I have plans for a second, more in-depth piece on rim protection. For now, just start training your brain to keep your new electric car in tip top shape.