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"Interior: Touch sensitive door handles"

In another thread it was mentioned that the Model S Specs page now contains warranty information. Tesla seems to be silently updating the Specs page as they go.

I quickly glanced over and found another bit of info that I did not notice before. I am not sure it is actually new, but I am sure it has not yet been discussed here. "Touch sensitive door handles", in the "Interior" section.

I cannot map that information to the interior door handles I've seen on the beta models so far. They are stylish and maybe a bit unusually shaped, but definitely regular physical levers. So either I am mistaking this, or the interior door handles are to be replaced with something completely different. Someone mentioned that the finish of the door handles is not as smooth and polished as it should be in a car of this class. Maybe that's an entirely moot point then.

I checked out the Fisker Karma at the Geneva Motor Show, and its got door open buttons instead of levers. I absolutely loved them, I had to try them over and over again. When you push the button (not much more than actually touching it), the door pops open and the window of the frameless door rolls down a bit as these windows do. The response is instantaneous, one single action that feels very light, easy, natural. So much so that I was wondering why we haven't been opening car doors like that for years.

Of course, I expect that the button does not respond when the car is in motion, and it is in a place where I think you'd rarely push it accidentally. If that's the route Tesla wants to go for the Model S, don't hesitate! I am looking forward to it.

My concern about the "fly-by-wire" door latches is what happens when you have power problems in the car, a short, a worn-through wire powering the door(s) etc. how are you going to get out of the car?

This seems like a bit of a safety issue, maybe no different than a conventional car with power locks but one that should be addressed none the less.

If you look in the owners manual it describes the hidden cable releases for the frunk and rear doors.

@kevjo - no worries, emergency exit is already covered.

As previously posted, a mechanical override cable is built-in. Motors, wires and power can all fail and you can get out immediately. Just pull firmly on the handle and the door opens.

The wimps at Fisker put in an obscure separate emergency pull ring. Complicated, and downright scary if you are panicking.

TM's elegantly simply design does it right.

@nickjhowe - you've seen the owner's manual? Is it posted online?

@Mark K - Thanks for the clarification.

Owner's Guide. 38-page picture book.

Actually, some of the "magic" can be removed from this link (e.g., in case you want to bookmark it):

I don't know, this still worries me. The mechanical override apparently works only from the inside. One owner was unable to open the driver's side door in his brand new signature S. The handle was extended but the door would not open when he pulled it. Had to reach through the passenger door.

That could be a bad scenario with first responders unable to easily open a front door. And this is not even with a power failure.

Chris DC. That happened to an S at the SC event. I tried to touch the handle but it wouldn't extend. The window was opened so I reached in to open it, but I realized the door wasn't actually shut all the way. Maybe the handles won't extend unless the door is fully closed?

@mboedigh - No, according to the report the handle was FULLY EXTENDED and he pulled it but the door would not open. This was not an issue of the handle not extending but simply the door not opening.

@Chris DC - yeah that's a different scenario, and TM should refine the software in future releases to allow independent access through any of the other handles that are working OK. That would reduce potential inconvenience.

As to first responder safety though, that's not an issue. It's similar to the locked car scenario, if a driver is incapacitated, they are trained to break the window and open the door.

So you'd never be stuck due to an interior or exterior electrical failure when in an actual emergency.

Still not satisfied. A door that is unlocked (handle was extended) but refuses to open from the outside is more than inconvenience in my opinion. I can imagine more than one potential dangerous situation (kids inside, etc.)
I am going to inquire about this issue directly with TM and publish
their response.

Separate scenario: Passengers in the rear. Car has power failure. Passengers are unable (i.e. kids, injured) to operate or reach the manual release cable under the seats. How do you get access to those passengers? Breaking the window will not help since the handle might not open the rear doors without power.

It may not be a completely different scenario. The door may be slightly ajar with the handles extended. I'm not disagreeing that there is a problem, just looking for a root cause.

@ChrisDC - read through cottonwood's description in detail. Here's what I think happened:

Water intrusion into the door got on the mechanical door latch itself.

Water froze on the latch, jamming it.

The mechanical force he was able to apply with his hand was not enough to free it ("latch seemed welded to door").

After the ice melted, it worked properly.

This needs to be fixed with corrected weatherstripping around the latches. Its possible that the weather seals were damaged or deffective. TM did a lot of cold weather testing so a design flaw is possible but less likely.

He needs to get those seals fixed.

None of this failure mode has anything to do with the electric drives for the handles or latches. The mechanical latch mechanism itself froze and was inoperable by both the motor and even much stronger hand force.

Chris - not sure what cables under seats you're referring too. Fisker has a separate cable pull, but TM is integrated into the interior door handle.

Mark K, thank you for clarification! You did this thread a great service. :-)

I wonder if this was one of the 1% finishing details that Tesla wasn't happy about.

Mark K, cottonwood specified that the failure happened at 45˚ (presumably F). I don't think there was any freezing involved.

@chrissam42 - it's likely that the temperature varied over that period, and it would have been a hassle for cottonwood to track it continuously while he ate dinner.

What often happens is the temperature drops after it stops raining. That's the classic "got wet and then froze" problem with door and window seals.

The fact that the mechanical override was completely immobilized ("welded to door") strongly suggests a phase change (liquid water to ice) rather than just a viscosity change (grease thickening), it wasn't just gummy or resistant, it wouldn't move at all.

There are other possible explanations, like thermal contraction moving parts into shear lockup, but this seems unlikely given normal design tolerancing practices.

In any case, everything still points to a mechanical jamming of the latch as the core problem, and no failure of the motors, power or software.

The engineering follow up needs to be on the seals around the latch and mechanics of the latch itself.

Let's stick to reported facts. No owner has stated that icing was an issue with any of the doors not opening. There is now more surfacing on this issue:

I wish my concerns would have been unwarranted, believe me. I am getting nervous about getting an unfinished car in November now

Chris - read GGR's new post.

GGR's handle popped out OK, but door didn't unlatch when pulled. Ranger came out and fixed it.

Not enough data to be certain, but sounds like a different problem from cottonwood. No temperature or weather issues reported, but GGR also did not report interior handle being stuck ("welded to door"). So, seems different.

This could be many things, including a stuck mechanical latch which could be common to both incidents. In GGR's case, it's also possible touch sensor on handle was inoperative. Would help to ask TM what they found.

Still, neither guy reports a problem with the motorized handle. It popped out when asked. It was the electric door latch that didn't respond.

Lots of cars have had electric door latches for 25 years now, and we are used to them. They sometimes malfunction, but not common. Since the motorized handles are new, it's natural to be skeptical of them, but so far they've performed correctly. It's the door latch (a well established system) that seemed to be at issue. That needs attention, but it's not spooky new science.

Teething issues for any new product are ordinary course. There are some inconveniences while those are rectified, but the evidence is strong that TM stands by their product and we would not get less product for enjoying it earlier.

GGR for example seemed pretty happy with TM's response. That said, you might be more comfortable waiting a few months if it bothers you to deal with any updates or adjustments.

Folks pretty much stratify into two groups: Those willing to wait for every detail to be adjusted, and those who want the key benefits early. No amount of technical explanation converts one psychology to the other. Figure out your own profile and go with it.

Personally, I'm hungry for the benefits early, and I don't mind minor nits in the bargain. As long as I am confident in the vendor's ethic to stand by the customer (TM track record makes me very confident of this), I don't see a material downside to enjoying it sooner.

That's my profile, but there's nothing wrong with being in the other camp.

The core of thread is not a technical issue, it's a human one.

Why worry? If one door doesn't work there are still four others (including the hatch) you can use to enter the car! ;-)

For now, I file these under teething problems, but of course hope they don't get out of hand. If nothing else, these kinds of problems will stir bad press, which is entirely unnecessary given Tesla's dedication to quality and perfection.

Agree wholeheartedly with both of you.

I had this happen with the test car in the Santa Monica showroom - pressed the handle, it extended, gave it a tug, nothing. Salesperson tried a couple times and it opened, but I could tell from their reaction that it wasn't the first time they'd seen that.

Got my car yesterday. I found that it is best to not actually "pull" the handle or "give it a tug" until the electric latch releases. The hande is not an actual mechanical handle like other cars. It is fly by wire. You touch it once at it pops out. Then grab the handle and pause for a slip second, and the latch will release. Then pull to open. Takes a few times get the hang of it, but elegant once you do.

@MarkK: yes, always been happy with the service, still am.

@Tomas: Wow... we've had the car 11 days, and even I didn't understand exactly how the door handles worked. I've been pulling too hard. It seems you do have to pull a little; just holding it doesn't work. But it unlatches about a second later, without excessive force. I wonder if pulling too hard is breaking the "pressure sensors" or strain guages or whatever? Note: mine failed while being shown at the National Plug-In Day gathering, maybe someone really yanked hard on it while I wasn't watching?

That's too bad. I'd rather not explain to everyone how to open my doors so hopefully this is solved.


My door handles have been glitchy since the day I picked up the car. They were even having problems with them the day i picked the car up. Doubt someone pulling on the handles did anything. i personally think its not the door handles themselves, by some master circuitry that controls all of them. Sometimes one will work while another won't. Once none of them worked. Still waiting for the fix three weeks into ownership.

make that "but some master circuitry"

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