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What's up with Edmunds and drive units?

They're on their fourth drive unit in 30k miles. Not good.

They have been rather brutal on their car, although they actually paid for their car unlike most outlets/magazines. I'm surprised Tesla didn't void the warranty, although the press would have a field day if they did.

Don't you have to pull a fuse to do that?

I see that actually as positive... now is the time to debug the drive train and learn your lessons. Model S in next 10 years will sell half to one million cars... so far they have only delivered 4-8% of that, so the bulk is still ahead of us. Add MX and it is even less.

I should also point out that I feel the Edmunds reporting is quite fair and seems unbiased. Note that the drive issues never left the car stranded and were replaced due to a minor noise heard from the drive unit. While a drive unit replacement is not unheard of, it seems quite rare based on those who've talked about it on the forums.

@Kleist, nah, don't have to pull a fuse. You can turn traction control off in the settings of the touchscreen, and it will let you do that. We had a lot of rain one day, so as I was about to leave work, I turned traction control off and did a couple of fun power slide spins in the wet parking lot. (Huge, very empty parking lot, by the way)

TeslaTap - that picture might explain ONE drive unit. The other three?

Maybe they continued driving it that way.

Tesla has issues with its drive units, and as an owner, I am concerned.

Someone who uses his Model S for commercial purposes, and who was not able to purchase an extended warranty, was charged $15,000 for an out-of-warranty drive unit replacement. This person started a thread about it a couple of months ago.

I have personally received two drive unit replacements in the 11 months and 11,000 miles that I've driven my car. Both replacements were due to noise, but were otherwise functioning normally. The noise was not something that could be overlooked, it was quite noticeable and louder than the stereo. Local Phoenix service told me that there was a period of time last year when they were doing "several drive units per week", and that's with fewer than 500 Model S cars in the state.

The same service advisor also told me that some modifications and changes were made to the drive unit in order to address the droning noise issue, but he also said they continue to receive complaints. There is definitely something going on here.

@AmpedRealter. Following the forum for more than a year that's why I bought the extra 4 years of warranty. I hope these issues are close to being worked out but just in case. amped did you ever record the sound in your car of the drive train noise. It would be good to have a database of sounds if the owners were capable of making a good recording. I hope problem doesn't happen to me but if it does I will record it.

Also taking traction control off and spinning the rear wheels should be less stress on the drive train.

Had my drive unit replaced at about 10,000 miles. Had a "clunk" sound going back and forth between power and regen. Seemed to me like too much backlash. They replaced it and now is like "as delivered" in late Jan '14.

Quickly... The drive unit is one of Tesla's supposed core competencies. It is entirely of Tesla's design and consists of a liquid cooled motor, inverter, gear reducer and other goodies. While modular and relatively straightforward to replace, functionally the drive unit is the equivalent of an ICE engine. How many ICE vehicles have you heard about requiring four engine replacements in the first year? Or even two, as is my case? As an owner of much less expensive vehicles, the possibility of experiencing multiple engine replacements in a brand new car was unthinkable until I experienced it twice with my Model S.

According to this TMC poll, drive unit problems are afflicting over 50% of respondents. While that's hardly scientific, it tends to support the anecdotal evidence that these are not simply isolated incidents.

Our 2013 Model S has over 28K miles on it in the 17 months of ownership. No noise from the drive train. Still drives just as well as the day it was delivered.

@Thomas N. - It's clear others have had problems. I do think "4" is misleading as Edmunds only got three units. One was a replacement that was defective from the factory and was replaced before ever giving it back the Edmunds. Most non-Tesla service shops hide the fact when a replacement is bad, so give some credit to Tesla for at least telling the truth. That said, even one replacement is not great.

It does seem most (but not all) of these are being replaced because of noise and not due to failure. I suspect most other car companies would have just said "This is normal" and refuse to replace it. I know I've been given the "This is normal" line at more than one non-Tesla service shop with luxury ICE cars.


Perhaps a deep breath is in order. :)

One thing to bear in mind is that the drive unit is not a something you can repair in the field. Even if there is some small component out of whack, the whole unit gets pulled and refurbished at the factory--this is the norm for high-tech gear--very rarely do you do component-level repairs in the field, you swap a board, module, interface, etc, and have the factory diagnose, analyze and repair.

ICE engines are not designed this way--you can replace pretty every component in the field--oil pumps, fuel injectors, timing chains, thermostats, water pumps, whatever, so the comparison is not fair as the design and servicing philosophy is different.

Its also useful to bear in mind that the noise, as irritating as it is, is not leaving cars stranded--the drive units are still working fine, no loss of acceleration, no increased power consumption, etc, so it might be some odd-ball secondary issue that has nothing to do with the engineering goodness of the drive unit.


I had the "clunk" coming from the drive unit when moving between acceleration and regen at very low speeds in my 7 month old S P85+. The Houston SC assured me that it was normal and typical. Last week in the middle of downtown Houston during rush hour with three business associates in the car, the drive unit gave out and the car just wouldn't go. Roadside service reacted incredibly well and they had the car repaired and back to me in less than 24 hours. The reaction and response when the drive unit went out was great but I KNEW that the "clunk" sound just couldn't be normal and that anything taking enough punishment to make that much noise would have to fail eventually. I wrote the service and engineering department earlier this week and restated my concern about the clunk and that I felt it was related to the drive unit failure.

@omarsultan - I'm with you on the replacement versus repair, it makes sense. The issue that I have is that you will get charged $15K once the car is out of warranty. It could be some trivial thing that is easily repaired when the drive unit is sent back to the factory. It shouldn't cost the owner $15K because its more convenient for Tesla to replace the whole unit rather than repair it in the field.

TeslaLandShark makes an excellent point.

I would think, at that point, there would be a credit for the returned "core". I dunno, this is all conjecture--I think the only data point we have is the one livery dude who ended up paying the $15K--I am not sure you can extrapolate that into general policy--I am guessing Tesla probably does not have anything in place yet.


Following up on my own comment, only Tesla knows if the drive unit noise thing is some short term problem component issue like the 12V battery that will eventually flush out of the supply chain or if there is some fundamental engineering flaw. Either way, based on various bits of info out there, they seem to have an audio profile of the issue and have given it a name ("milling sound"), so I would assume they know what the problem is and have executed an on-the-fly fix. Said fix should work its way through the population of Teslas in the wild as the fix is applied under warranty or ESA if the problem manifests itself.

If we go back to the high-tech support example, what I would not mind paying for the ability to buy an on-going support contact for my Tesla that covers parts and service, much like I can for IT gear.


Very similar to the battery replacement where Tesla takes the core and does not give a reimbursement for it.

I am not sure how it works but I know in MO with an ICE you can request to keep the bad part since it's yours to start with. There was a time when dealers where replacing parts and not ACTUALLY replacing parts.

Tesla is going to have some serious lawsuits on their hands if they try this after selling a few million Model Es. If you are paying out of pocket to have a part re[laced, you still own the broken part.

Battery backs can have an opposite effect since they can't be dumped. You can get charged a disposal fee. I am pretty sure I could sell a Tesla battery pack on ebay for at least a dollar (+ shipping and handling) functioning or not.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the long run.

...are Edmunds Tesla shareholders or something, replacing three drive units on a $100,000 car barely 6 months old along with other issues to most people would be considered a pile of lemon c*** and yet as an independent car review body they seem very reluctant to come down hard on Tesla.... makes me wonder...

This, along with the 12 volt issue, is why I am sticking to my very late February 2015 delivery date. BTW, with patents no longer an issue and as some of the early super high mileage S-40, S-60 vehicles start to run out of warranty (including battery), I wonder if a cottage industry might be born here...replacing drive units, coolant pumps, etc with non-Tesla parts.

Do we know what is causing the noise or failure of the drive units? Could be multiple causes for various owners, but was curious if a pattern has been established.

There have been reports of the motor mounts being a possible contributing factor...

I bought my P85 because it goes fast and corners on a rail.
I expect this car to hold up as well as my Porsche Turbo or my Mercedes SL55 of which I drove both very hard.

Why own this car unless you can drive it hard.

Being new technology, I can't imagine not buying the extended warranty.

4000 miles and counting, and everything is working perfectly.

I push my P85 every time I take it out!

@tramline - it is a resonance in the drive train and it is loudest around 70-72 miles per hour... the most favorite speed on US highways. To dampen the resonance yes, motor mounts are important. To excite the resonance there can be many potential sources like imbalanced rear tires to a noisy bearing.
Resonances are not unusual in a newly designed mechanical system, Tesla just has to work through it. In an ICE you would never hear that as the engine noise drowns everything out. You only hear it just because the Tesla is so quiet. Challenge of a new way to do things...

Some residents of some states can't get the extended warranty yet, it is still being worked on, AFAIK.

There's also the accelerate to decelerate clunk. I've read about several of those. Some precede a total failure (at least in one case I read). I had my drive unit replaced for that last week. Also got a new side motor mount.

I hope Tesla works out the issues with the State of Fla for the extended warranty before mine runs out. I was counting on that.

It sounds like they are not performing drivability evaluation but test to destruction evaluation.

I just read the comments over there. Bunch of armchair quarterbacks. At least the armchair quarterbacks over here understand Tesla.

This whole 10K mile, 20K mile, 30K mile interval thing is complete baloney in my opinion. It happens when it happens - or it doesn't.

I agree there is a problem, but I'm not certain it's as pervasive as made out to be online.

Where is m5ashby? I think he's got to be up to 80K+ miles on a pretty early-production vehicle. He surely should be on his 7th or 8th drive unit. I'm not even certain if he's ever had one replaced. It would be interesting to hear.

I'm still under 10K miles after a year. No problems. Maybe I'm the outlier. Nah. There's got to be thousands upon thousands of owners like me out there.

Now if I need a replacement at 11K miles I'm going to raise my eyebrows a little.

I take really good care of my motor. No burnouts, low miles, glass-smooth roads. Lots of 0-60 starts but they shouldn't be too hard on an electric motor. What I'm not crazy about is getting a drive unit replacement that is a refurbished motor. It could be from some car with 40K miles, or it could be from the Edmunds car. I'm sure they bring them up to "factory specs and tolerances" but now your motor is gone and you've got whatever they give you.

How does that work with mileage? Are these refurbished motors zero'd out? If you get an all-new engine dropped into your car you restart the miles on it. Just new pistons? Then you've still got 104K on the engine.

Then again, I don't want to be without my car for a month while they sort out my drive unit. New would be nice but that's unreasonable financially for Tesla.

So far no problems for me. (knock on Obeche matte wood).

@ Thomas N

LOL :-)

I'm up to 87K, I did have one drive unit change, roughly around 40K, It has been wonderful ever since.

In 6-8 years a Model S will be worth about $30K. When that happens a $30K car should not be in need of a $15K repair as if that happens often enough and the word gets around no one in their right mind would want to own a Model S out of warranty.

I know Tesla has stated they never want to make money out of repairs because their point is that the vehicle failed because they did not built it properly. The fact that they seemed to have charged some poor soul $15K for a drive unit replacement makes me question that. At the least they should have covered half the cost of the repair as a good-will gesture, especially given the fact that they ostensibly got to keep the original drivetrain to refurbish and refit.

If these vehicles get known for $15K repairs out of warranty they'll hardly have any meaningful residual value as few would want to touch them used out of warranty and then we will all end up paying for it with a higher cost of ownership. IMHO Tesla needs to get some of these out of warranty repair costs to more reasonable levels.

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