Check Your Nuts! Found Assembly Error During Hitch Install

Today I undertook the installation of a Torklift trailer hitch on my new Model S and encountered a scary situation. The Torklift hitch is a custom designed hitch for the Model S and comes with detailed instructions on how to remove the rear bodywork, bottom panels, and bumper crossbars to install the hitch receiver. It installs without any drilling, using existing bolts and nus that are part of the Tesla bumper system. It is a great piece and will allow us to use a bicycle carrier with nothing touching the car.

Installation is quite complex, and for most people would be a job for a body shop. However, we have a lift in our barn and all the needed tools, so I tackled it myself. All went well until I removed the bumper cover. Immediately inside the bumper cover is a second stamped steel bumper cross member that is attached with eight nuts to studs that protrude from the aluminum body. This steel cross member is actually a cover for an extruded aluminum cross member that is the main structural element inside the rear bumper. The instructions are to remove the eight nuts holdng the steel cross member with a 17mm socket wrench, then remove eight more nuts that hold on the aluminum crossbar, using a 15mm socket wrench. The trailer hitch is then mounted behind (forward on the car) both crossbars using the original nuts to hold all three crosspieces (including the new hitch) in place.

Imagine my shock when I saw the following pictures (I hope these links work this is my first try at embedding links on the forum). When I pulled the plastic bumper cover away, it was immediately obvious that Tesla had at least one serious quality control issue when assembling my car. Three of the four nuts holding the right side of the steel bumper crossmember were barely threaded onto their respective studs. They were not even hand tight, but very obviously just started onto the studs and far away fom being seated. The fourth nut was properly torqued to 40 ft. lbs. (the torque recommended in the hitch instructions).

If I had not seen this myself I might not have believed it. It was obvious, and in my opinion, the bumper cover installer would have had difficulty missing the loose nuts left behind by the cross member installer. I do not know if that function is robotic, but doubt it. It is serendipitous that these loose nuts are three of the very fitments that I was going to be removing anyway to position the hitch assembly.

This is disturbing on several fronts. How many people with ths condition would uncover it? The loose nuts are fully enclosed in the bumper cavity and cannot be seen. I presume that only a small fraction of Model S owners will install hitches. It is a big job, and requires removing dozens of screws, the entire rear body panel system, carpets, hatch seal, interior panels, rear key sensor etc. Very few people will ever see these nuts in their cars, and they cannot be inpected without hours of surgery to get the external panels out of the way. These bolts are part of the rear crash protection system and are critical to safety. I presume that this means that our car did not meet its safety design specifications, and we never would have known if it were not for my home wrenching project.

Lastly, if assembly quality is this haphazard, I wonder what else isn't bolted tight where it cannot be seen? Part of me wants to ask TM to do a thorough build-level inspection, removing all interior and exterior panels to ensure everything is properly tightened and torqued. Perhaps this is an isolated assemby error, but I worry that it means smething more fundamental - that in the rush to meet its production objectives, TM is having quality issues on the assembly line. I love my car, but it isn't going to be quite the same after this experience.

Links to detailed pictures follow.

I think I've found the ultimate solution for NNT (why do we bother capitalize that?); the forum seems to recognize that once you flag him as inappropriate once or twice, you never again see his posts.

While that makes some of the jokes-at-his-expense that do show up a little out-of-context, it probably leads to lower blood pressure and a greater respect for the intelligence of humankind in general. ;-)

Still grinning! :-)

P.S. click the post once, flag as inappropriate
P.P.S. note I only flagged inflammatory or otherwise idiotic responses by that "that poster", though I'm thinking of joining the Evangelical Church of Tesla (better than Scientology, right?)

Actually, still dropping snarky one-liners here and there. All the screeds were deleted.

@Shesmyne2 - I flag them all - his almost-reasonable posts are just to draw you into conversing with him. Down that path lies pain, don't do it.

Fortunately his English is so poor in a particularly recognizable way so we can detect when he creates a new account.

Hi nick.


Darmok, they took the old charging cable and sent it back to have the plates installed. They are pretty expensive so I doubt TM will sell them cheap to avoid shipping costs. I also would Ike a second cable but couldn't keep it.

Seems like we can get rid of nnt at will now. Beware beepbeep, or whatever he invents next. It is kind of fun, a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, although leaves the forum a bit confused when people leave responses to his posts that no longer exist.

Thanks Dave. I thought maybe they would sell it less their cost of rehabbing the old one. Not looking for a big discount, just the chance to buy one at all as they do not seem to be otherwise available. I'll ask when the time comes.

One of my guys who is from the Ukraine said when you buy a new car over there it has to be taken apart and all the bolts tightened. I here the employees at tesla are being pushed very hard. Sometimes working 12+ hrs a days, 6+ days a week, & lunches cut short. So things like this are going to happen. Everyone is under extreme pressure to produce. I love my model s and wouldn't trade it for anything.

This sort of oversight should not be tolerated in any way whatsoever...The party responsible should be determined through assembly line and employee records and their employment terminated without further ado.

Also, I would issue a MANDATORY "Inspection" notice to all owners of Models produced under that individuals' influence just to be certain that nothing else was...missed.

A zero tolerance policy for error/oversight should be the guiding principle in all Tesla Models' production, there is simply too much on the line.

@ just an allusion,

I can't imagine a happy workplace under those types of conditions. Shit happens. People screw up. Companies make mistakes. What's important is that it's corrected and life moves on. Service bulletins have been issued for this issue, among others. When you take your car to service, it is brought current with all service bulletins. It's fair to say that most Model S vehicles will find themselves in service the first year, if not sooner, so all of those issues will be automatically addressed.

One high end auto manufacturer (Aston? I forget) contains an insignia bearing the name and signature of the person who was responsible for final inspection and QC. If my underwear contains a sticker telling me who inspected them, shouldn't my $100,000 vehicle? That would be a classy touch, I think.

In general I do agree that it should be relatively easy to track down, based on VIN #, who was working what position in the factory when this happened. I have no doubt that Tesla addresses these issues internally as needed, but I highly doubt that termination is the first item on the agenda. It takes a lot of time and expense to train assembly line workers, so it's a costly proposition to fire one and have to retrain another. It's probably better to address the issue in a way that allows you to retain the employee while improving quality.

I had the same hitch installed on my SP in the last month. No issues found under my 2013 rear bumper assembly.

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