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Tesla Problems

Are you having problems with your Tesla? Let our team of motoring experts keep you up to date with all of the latest Tesla issues & faults. We have gathered all of the most frequently asked questions and problems relating to the Tesla in one spot to help you decide if it's a smart buy.

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Thousands of 2022-23 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y electric cars recalled for steering issue following separate ADR fault
A new potential ADR issue has arisen for Tesla, this time for pre-update Model 3 electric cars and its sibling Model Y, relating to a possible steering issue for thousands of cars.
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The big fix! Tesla 'recalls' more than 1.1 million cars to address braking concerns in China
Tesla is the target of a massive ‘recall’ - if it can really be called that - in China, as the nation’s government compels the electric car brand to reimplement some features that no longer exist in its models.
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Almost 16,000 Teslas in Australia including Model 3 and Model Y recalled for software safety issues, but there's an easy fix
The Australian Government's Vehicle Recalls program has identified software issues in as many as 15,914 Teslas, both Model 3 and Model Y, which could affect the vehicles' safety.Managed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the
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How do Tesla cars work?

It鈥檚 a popular barbecue or front bar topic of discussion: How do Tesla cars work? Fundamentally it鈥檚 pretty simple; they work like any other car, but they use an electric motor in place of an internal combustion engine. And instead of filling them with petrol, you recharge the batteries with electricity. There are other differences, too, but that鈥檚 the simplest definition of what is a Tesla, and the one that allows it to operate on fully renewable energy on some cases.

Tesla is a company founded by Elon Musk, the same guy that invented PayPal. So the company has plenty of money behind it. As well as cars, Tesla makes home storage batteries (for storing rooftop solar power) and is investing in all sorts of renewable technology and electrical components.

Over time, the Tesla cars product has evolved from a small sports car converted to electric, to clean-sheet designs for modern electric cars, SUV, pick-ups and even a semi-trailer than runs on electricity. But which ever Tesla you鈥檙e talking about, they all use a common philosophy.

That starts with a battery. In the case of Tesla鈥檚 current designs, that鈥檚 the latest lithium-ion battery tech. Connected to that is either a single electric motor or a pair of motors that power either the rear wheels or all four wheels respectively. Just like a slot car, you feed power to the electric motor and the car moves. Of course, a slot car doesn鈥檛 carry a battery, it picks up its power form the track it runs on, but even that could be a thing of the future for electric cars which might be able to wirelessly collect power through the road surface. It鈥檚 not as far off as you might think.

Other differences between a Tesla (and any other mainstream electric car) and a conventional car as we know it include bakes that recoup energy as the car slows (which is used to recharge the battery on the run) and the electrification of every system that is handled mechanically by a conventional car (brake boosting, power steering, heating etc).

Another major difference is that the Tesla drivetrain doesn鈥檛 feature multiple gears in its transmission. Because the electric motor offers maximum torque from standstill, the Tesla only needs one gear to achieve lots of acceleration and ample top speed.

The electric motor these days is a pretty neat piece of gear and is virtually maintenance free. It also has the potential to last a lot longer than an internal combustion engine. The batteries are also much better these days and as well as being vastly more energy-rich (their output per kg) they charge more quickly and battery life can easily be half a million kilometres. Some car-makers now offer a ten-year warranty on battery-packs. Tesla in Australia offers up to eight years battery warranty (depending on the model) but, crucially, up to 240,000km of cover guaranteeing that the battery will retain at least 70 per cent of its original capacity at that point.

Perhaps Tesla鈥檚 biggest claim to fame is that it took electric cars from golf carts to a product that was sexy and in demand. The company was way ahead of the curve in this regard, but now it seems the rest of the world is catching up, and the Tesla car has more serious competition now than it ever did.

Where is Tesla made?

While the city of Detroit, Michigan is the cradle of the North American car industry, electric-car maker Tesla has always marched to the beat of its own drum. So even though it鈥檚 a US based entity, Tesla鈥檚 worldwide view and its inherent mould-breaking attitude means that its factories are in some interesting locations. But how many are there and in which countries?

Tesla currently has three giant plants across the USA, as well as a plant in China. Some of these plants make the Tesla cars we鈥檙e familiar with, while others are responsible for battery and solar technology production. Tesla is also building a fourth North American plant as well as a European gigafactory in Germany, while rumours of a second Chinese plant are also doing the rounds.

Given that Tesla cars are the brand鈥檚 most visible, recognisable products, the question usually revolves around where are Tesla cars made? In that case, the answer is the firm鈥檚 original gigafactory in Fremont (near San Francisco in California) which builds the Tesla Model S, Model X, Model 3, Model Y as well as components for other Tesla products. The original gigafactory in Fremont is a huge facility (as are all Tesla factories) employing something like 10,000 people. It was once the site of a General Motors manufacturing plant and then a Toyota/GM joint production facility.

The Shanghai plant in China, meanwhile, is the other half of the answer to 'where are Tesla cars built'. That plant produces whole cars, including the Model 3 and Model Y and is slated to produce the forthcoming Telsa Pick-Up which has been pushed back to 2022 at the earliest.

Tesla鈥檚 plant in Sparks, Nevada (Near Reno) is largely a battery factory with production of batteries for Tesla cars as well as its Powerwall home-storage battery. The Sparks plant is also a motors factory, producing the electric motors that power Tesla vehicles. The Tesla Semi (delayed but due soon) is also expected to be built at the Nevada plant.

Another Gigafactory is located in New York state, in the city of Buffalo. This concentrates on assembly of solar cells and modules as well as the superchargers that allow Tesla vehicles to be charged quickly in the field.

The factory under construction in the USA now is located at Austin, Texas and will be used to built the Model 3, Model Y and the Pick-Up. The new factory in Berlin, meanwhile, is very close to completion and will initially be used to build the Model Y.

Tesla has always been a brand surrounded by rumours, and these days, these seem to involve a second Chinese plant. The company has also established an Indian business unit, suggesting that a gigafactory on the sub-continent might also emerge.

Do electric cars have gears?

One of the most common questions regarding the latest in passenger-car technology is: Do electric cars have gears? The question really should be: Do electric vehicles have more than one gear, but, in both cases the broad answer is no, they don鈥檛. That鈥檚 in the case of production cars anyway, and the reason is simple: They don鈥檛 really need more than one gear.

In most cases, the production-based EV has an electric motor that acts more or less directly on the axles (or drive-shafts) turning the wheels. Even on an all-wheel-drive EV, that simply means there鈥檚 an electric motor at each end of the car, operating the front and rear drive-shafts. That brings us to the more subtle question of: Do electric cars have transmissions? In the strictest technical sense, they do, but the EV transmission is a very simple device, since it鈥檚 a single speed unit rather than a multi-speed gearbox. Simplicity of drivetrain is a major EV selling point.

So why only one gear? A conventional car needs a multi-ratio transmission (or gearbox) because the engine operates well in only a narrow band of speeds (rpm). So, to keep the engine in its happy-zone, the gearbox can provide it with the gear ratio that is right at that moment; that keeps it spinning at a happy speed, regardless of whether it鈥檚 in stop-start traffic or cruising on a freeway at 110km/h. But the electric motor fitted to an EV has a much wider range of speeds at which it makes good power and torque. In fact, an electric motor makes its maximum torque at rest and can spin very fast, so it鈥檚 always ready for action.

This is all tied up with the broad subject of 'how do electric engines work', but it remains that an electric motor (it鈥檚 not technically an engine at all) makes lots of torque from the moment the driver presses the accelerator. Which brings us to the topic of 'do electric cars have a clutch' because, again, the answer is no. It doesn鈥檛 need one because to stop an EV at a traffic light, you simply stop the motor; it doesn鈥檛 remain running at idle like a conventional car engine and, without gears to select anyway, you don鈥檛 need it even when taking off from rest. All these things make driving an EV a simpler task than a conventional car with a manual transmission. Maintenance over the life of the vehicle is reduced, too.

Most production EVs have this simple, single speed transmission, the notable exception being the Porsche Taycan. That car has a two-speed gearbox which enables Porsche to make it accelerate extremely quickly as well as reach a high top speed (both Porsche selling points from the very beginning). Most EV makers gear their cars for either top speed or acceleration (usually the latter) but the electric motor is so flexible that Tesla has shown it鈥檚 possible to attain both with a single-speed gearbox.

The major variation from this concept comes in the form of older cars that enthusiasts have converted from petrol to electric power. In these cases, the engine vs transmission equation means that the car usually retains its manual gearbox. That鈥檚 purely because the electric motor sits where the petrol motor once did, and retaining the transmission is a simple way to get the electric power to the wheels. This is one case where the type of motor (petrol versus electric) being used to power the car doesn鈥檛 dictate the transmission.

The vast majority of these home brews use a conventional manual (stick shift to use an Americanism) because converting a petrol car with an automatic transmission is a much bigger job. Even then, most owners of these converted cars find they leave the car in third gear all of the time and allow the huge flexibility of the electric motor to do its thing, driving the car as if it was without gears. Again, the clutch is not needed, even in stop-start traffic.


What is the ordering process for a Tesla Model 3?

Tesla certainly does things differently, starting with the cars themselves and extending right throughout the entire purchasing and ownership experience. Basically, Tesla has no dealerships per se, so, to buy a brand-new Tesla you go to the website, create an online account, design the specifics (options and colours) of the car you want and then place your order. And it鈥檚 all done electronically.

You then have three days to make any changes to the car鈥檚 specification, after which it鈥檚 pretty much locked down and Tesla will have begun assembling the bits and pieces that you鈥檝e ordered. It鈥檚 after this three-day period that you鈥檒l actually talk to a Tesla employee, who will guide you through the paperwork, payment options and delivery details.

In a way, it鈥檚 no different to any other form of online shopping but it does presume that Tesla buyers are also internet savvy enough to trust this process. After all, we鈥檙e not talking about pocket-money here, are we?

Tesla slams brakes on inquiry into 500,000 electric cars accidentally accelerating
Tesla has slammed a petition currently in front of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the largest automotive safety body in the United States, which could lead to a recall of more than 500,000 electric vehicles (EVs) due to alleged “sudden unintended acceleration” issues
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What electric car should I buy?

We can understand your feelings about the centrally-mounted screen in the Tesla, though you do get used to it surprisingly quickly.

As for the other models you鈥檝e mentioned, we鈥檝e had to get the crystal ball out to attempt to answer you!

The Polestar 2 will be on sale by the end of 2020, if all goes to plan. The company will be pushing hard to make that happen. 

The VW ID3 is likely not going to be here until 2021, likely the mid or latter part of that year. It certainly has a lot of potential, and with pricing set to start below $50,000, it could well be The People鈥檚 (Electric) Car. 

There are other options coming, though it depends on your diary and your budget.

You could consider the Tesla Model S, which may have been around for a while, but that also means it has a more traceable reliability history. It has a digital instrument cluster in the regular spot as well.

Have you looked at the Jaguar i-Pace? It has a claimed range of 470 kilometres, though it is on the pricey side of the equation, starting from about $125,000.

Indeed, a high price tag is a common theme among those EVs with big battery capacity and expansive driving range, because you鈥檙e basically covering the cost of the batteries with your money.

For instance, there鈥檚 the Audi e-tron quattro, which is due here in early 2020. That model will have a range of 鈥渕ore than 400 kilometres鈥, and - we suspect - a price tag above $120,000. 

The Mercedes EQC is about to go on sale, too. Range for that mid-size SUV is pegged at about 450 kilometres, but again, you can expect a high price tag.

If 2021 isn鈥檛 too long to wait, there鈥檚 the Volvo XC40 Recharge coming then. Based on our previous experience with Volvo XC40s, it鈥檒l be a great small SUV, with predicted range of 400km - though we think that鈥檚 understating it, because it has a 78kWh battery pack, and it has AWD too.

At the more affordable end - though admittedly still not quite meeting your expectations for range - there鈥檚 the very impressive Hyundai Kona Electric, which has a WLTP range of 449km, and a price tag of around $65k. It isn鈥檛 all-wheel drive though.

And MG is about to launch a real upstart in the segment, with the ZS EV hitting showrooms soon for $46,990 drive-away, albeit with a range of 262km. It鈥檚 also FWD only. 

The Mini Cooper SE will also arrive in mid-2020, with pricing set to be less than $60k. But again, a range of 270km will likely rule it out for your needs, and its 2WD as well.

Another new small EV due next year is the Mazda MX-30. Pricing is still to be confirmed, and range isn鈥檛 great at about 300km. It鈥檚 FWD too. 

In short, at this point in time - and out towards the end of 2020 - it looks like you鈥檒l either need to spend a big amount of money on a premium EV to get the best range possible, or you鈥檒l have to get used to the Model 3鈥檚 screen. You could always get an aftermarket head-up display fitted鈥

Are Tesla good and reliable cars?

If there are any common problems and complaints about Tesla's reliability or faults, they'll likely show up on our Tesla problems page. You can also calculate a car's projected resale value via our price and specs page.  

Disclaimer: You acknowledge and agree that all answers are provided as a general guide only and should not be relied upon as bespoke advice. Carsguide is not liable for the accuracy of any information provided in the answers.
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