Door Handle Problems with Tesla Model S

Estimated reading time: 2 min

The Model S has one of the lowest aerodynamic drag figures of any production car.  Retracting door handles help achieve this.  They retract when the car starts to move, and open automatically when a key holder approaches the driver’s door.  After a delay of about a minute, if nothing else happens, all the handles retract and the interior lights go out.  If you are in the car and want to allow someone to enter, just press the button on the end of the gear selector that is used to set park and the handles will present.

A Tesla ranger fixes a Model S door handle

The mechanism is complicated with actuators and microswitches.  Unfortunately, Tesla appeared to not have run any life tests on handle operation, and early cars had failures of the driver’s door after about 20,000 miles, other less used doors failed at a higher mileage.  Initially, the problem was due to the way internal wires to a microswitch were anchored.  All the wire flexing was done where the wire joins the microswitch, as a result the wire broke and the handle stopped working.  If your car is under warranty this can be replaced by a Ranger coming to you or a visit to your local service centre.  If your car is outside warranty, you should be able to make a case as it is an admitted manufacturing defect.  On later models, the wire was anchored correctly and the defect eliminated.  If you want to repair it yourself, you can find videos on Facebook.

The rear of a Tesla Model S door handle assembly

On all Model S the handle can be wrongly mounted so that it jams on the bodywork of the car.  You can easily check this by seeing if a small slip of paper can be passed between the chrome handle and the body of the door; it should be able to be passed all around the chrome handle.  This fault can be fixed with a ranger visit or a visit to your local service centre.  Tesla advises not to squirt a product like WD40 to release the jamming.  Again, if your car is outside warranty, you should be able to make a case for a manufacturing assembly defect.

One of the tools Tesla uses to align the door handles with the bodywork. Part numbers: 1080985-00-A left handle & 1080985-01-A right handle

This video may also help:

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