Everyone knows that when it comes to Tesla maintenance, they’re relatively inexpensive to maintain and don’t require much. However, when you are an enthusiast who is pushing the car a little bit harder than most, there are a few extra items that require attention. And even for those who just drive day to day, there are still items that wear out faster than Tesla intended.
In this Tesla maintenance guide, we’ll go over some of these items so that you have a guide on what to be looking for, and what are common wear items on these cars.
Use Your Brakes!
For starters, it is important to burnish your brakes monthly. This goes for any Tesla owner. What is brake burnishing? Well, it’s really just a fancy term for using the brakes and bedding them in. Us Tesla owners can drive around without using the brakes much at all for months, but this creates problems, especially in climates that use salt on the roads in the winter.
Burnishing the brakes puts heat into the brake components, boils off moisture build-up inside of the pads, and helps to prevent corrosion from developing. It’s as simple as accelerating at highway speeds and using the brakes aggressively a few times.
If you want to be even more scientific about it, Tesla has a tool for this procedure in the “service” mode menu. Simply place the vehicle into “Service Mode” (see the bottom of the page for information about that) and press the “Brake Burnishing” button. A helpful guide on the Touchscreen will disable regenerative braking and walk you through the process.
An often-overlooked part of vehicle ownership is tire pressure. But – sorry to say, It’s especially important for an electric vehicle to set the tire pressures correctly. Proper tire pressure helps achieve the maximum range and helps to prevent uneven tire wear.
Tire pressure varies with the seasons – colder weather results in lower air pressure. Of course, tires also naturally lose pressure over time. Even a few psi will make a difference to range, so it’s more important to watch the pressures on an EV compared to a traditional ICE vehicle.
Tire pressures should be adjusted every six months at a minimum. To find the tire pressure specifications of your model, check the inner door jamb on the driver’s front of the vehicle (or use google!). Generally, 42psi is the recommendation. You can also run the pressures slightly higher (around 45psi). You’ll find worse ride comfort the higher you go, but increased range.
Annual maintenance on a Tesla is not required, but we strongly suggest it. There are several things that should be checked, including the wheel alignment, brake fluid, and suspension joints.
For starters, the alignment should be checked and adjusted as needed. If your car is pulling one side or another, or the steering wheel isn’t straight – it’s time for an alignment! Incorrect suspension angles can lead to premature tire wear and undesirable driving characteristics. We posted a video on YouTube with some helpful instructions on how to check your own alignment, which will save you a lot of money over the years. Check it out below!
The video covers both how to check your alignment, and how to adjust it yourself when using our MPP Toe Arms. The nice thing about using our toe arms is that you can always go back to the starting point – something that isn’t possible with the OEM eccentric adjuster.
Most of us don’t realize this, but brake fluid is not a “lifetime” fluid. If you’re partaking in “spirited” driving or any kind of track use, the brake fluid should be flushed/changed every year. If the car is primarily just used for “normal” driving, this can be done every few years, but if you feel that the brake pedal is long or spongy, that is an indication that some air is in the system or the pads have worn unevenly and it is time for a brake service.
Brake fluid absorbs moisture over its life, and the moisture significantly reduces the boiling point of the fluid. If you have a Model S Plaid specifically, you need to be ensuring you have fresh brake fluid before every track day. Boiling brake fluid leads to a sudden long brake pedal and is not something you want to experience on track!
Front Suspension Bushings And Joints:
Every year it’s a good idea to inspect the front suspension rubber bushings. The front lower control arm and compression arm bushings on the Model 3 and Model Y are both susceptible to premature wear, and this is more prevalent on enthusiasts’ vehicles which work the suspension harder than a normal road-going car. However, cars that drive on broken roads regularly will have these issues as well. The more the suspension articulates, the faster the OE bushings will start to tear!
Once these bushings start to go the suspension and steering response will feel loose, “floaty” or uncertain, and less responsive. The suspension may also start making noises.
Our Front Lower Control Arm Bearing upgrade has become extremely popular as a longer lasting, higher performing replacement, especially for lowered cars.
Once your inspection is complete, we recommend checking the torque on the front lower control arm bolts that attach to the subframe. They are 21mm bolts and the torque spec is 115 Nm. These bolts have a tendency to stretch and come loose, don’t ask us how we know!
Rear Suspension Bushings:
The rear traction arm bushing (the suspension arm which is the upper, forward most link) commonly fails on these cars. You’ll know if the arm has failed because you’ll see it has slid sideways off of the bushing, causing rubbing between the arm and the subframe.
Our MPP traction arms solve this problem, but if your car is under warranty you should be able to get Tesla to replace your arms as well.
Strangely, Tesla Model 3’s and Y’s have a problem with the HVAC system that can lead to some very gross-smelling air when the AC is on. Changing your cabin filter will resolve this, as it seems the filter media is where the smell develops.
To get ahead of this issue, you’ll want to change the filter before you start smelling eggs inside your car – it’s not a nice thing to experience! the Tesla Maintenance / Do It Yourself website has instructions on how to swap the filter, you can find that here
Extra Service For Cold Weather Climates:
Finally, it is important to take some proactive measures if you’re in an area that sees inclement weather. This is especially important if you get road salt, sand, or excessive debris on the vehicle.
First, we will want to clean and lubricate the brake assemblies. Push the pistons back, remove the brake pads, clean the parts using brake clean and a wire brush, and apply a liberal amount of brake lubricant to the contact points.
Next, apply a sticky oil lubricant to a few points on the vehicle (something like WD40 Gel Lube).
• Remove the frunk (10mm bolts).
• Next, locate the ground stud points on the frame as well as the brake lines coming out of the ABS module.
• Now, apply a liberal coating of lubricant. This will help to prevent corrosion from developing on these rust-prone areas.
Axle Service Every Two Years:
To prevent clicking noises and wear on your axle splines, we recommend lubricating them every two years. To do so, you’ll need to remove the 32mm nut holding the axle to the hub, push back the axle using a hammer (keep the nut on there to protect the axle!), and apply a liberal amount of Moly Lube onto the axle splines. A spray works well here. Then, torque the nut to 300 Nm.
Every 50,000 Miles:
Of course, not all maintenance can be done by time. So here are a few Tesla maintenance items to do based on mileage. These are of course rough estimates, and cars that are driven hard will need more regular checks.
While the stock brake pads and rotors would normally far exceed 50k miles under normal use, enthusiasts will likely wear through them more quickly. Periodic inspection of the brake pads and rotors can give you a good idea of how long they will last and ensure you don’t damage your rotors by running brake pads down to the backing plates.
The rear wheel bearings specifically develop some play over time. You can check them for play with the wheel installed and the vehicle off the ground. Shake the wheel side to side and up and down to feel for play. It should be quite clear if there’s an issue, as you’ll notice the wheel moves before the suspension does. Unfortunately, at this time, you will need to replace the entire knuckle to tighten things back up to original spec.
Drive Unit Fluid:
Finally, if you’re tracking the vehicle and exposing the drive units to excessive temperatures, we recommend changing the fluid and filters. Normally, this fluid would never need to be changed as the oil would never get hot enough. However, temperatures under heavy driving loads can reach 90C, and with additional metallic buildup from drivetrain wear mixing into the fluid, it is no longer “lifetime” as intended. The drive units use ATF9, and we recommend using a new factory Tesla filter. Capacities are 1,300ml in the front motor, and 2,100ml in the rear.
Low Voltage Battery – Every 4 Years Or When Prompted:
Electric vehicles still require a low voltage battery to function – when the high voltage battery is offline “or sleeping” the low voltage battery is what is used to power the vehicle during this sleep mode. If it dies – the car will not wake up even though the high voltage battery has plenty of energy!
As these OEM batteries are lead-acid, they have a relatively short lifespan as you would expect in an ICE vehicle. Tesla has created its own method of detecting if the low voltage battery is failing, and while this alert is often too sensitive, it is designed to prevent you from coming back to a totally dead car.
Replacing the battery with a factory replacement is a cheap and easy option. If you’re looking for an upgrade, we have a super lightweight lithium battery option available which we recommend for warm climates only.
Note that 2022+ Teslas now come pre-installed with a Lithium Low Voltage Battery!
The official Tesla Maintenance / DIY website has instructions on how to change the battery, you can see the procedure here
Electric vehicles are possibly the most ideal cars for long-term storage. With fewer mechanical components, there is simply less to seize up and go wrong after sitting for long periods of time.
When storing a Tesla for some period of time, be sure to put the car away dry – I.E. not after you just got a ton of water into the brakes after cleaning the car!
Beyond that, simply leave the car plugged in with the battery charge limit at 50%. When it’s time to remove the vehicle from storage, simply use the brakes or perform brake burnishing, and be sure to check the tire pressures. That’s it!
Tesla Service mode is a very useful tool that Tesla has opened up to the community. Service mode is accessible via the UI and shares a ton of interesting data as well as software service routines and tools (such as brake burnishing) which you can do yourself – no overpriced dealership required.
Some of the things you can do in service mode are:
• View the status and temperatures of the HVAC system
• View the health and temperature of the battery
• Bleed the cooling system (required when draining or refilling the coolant)
• Calibrate windows, steering wheel, autopilot cameras
• Re-install vehicle software
Entering Service Mode:
• Open the vehicle menu
• Hold down the “Tesla” for 5 seconds and release
• A dialog box will open, enter “service” and press ok.
As you can see, servicing your Tesla is not nearly as intensive as an ICE vehicle, but there are certainly things that should not be left unaddressed either. If you are driving the car aggressively or on a road-course, there’s several additional items that should be completed. Hopefully this guide helps you to keep your Tesla running in tip-top shape for many miles to come!