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Our Tesla Model 3 Suffered a Failure While Parked (caranddriver.com)
77 points by t3f 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 163 comments

I rented a 2018 Ford Explorer AWD with ~8k miles on it last year. It suffered a persistent "Terrain Management System Fault. Service AdvanceTrac." error while parked, stranding me on a mountain for 2 days. This is apparently a shockingly common problem with Ford vehicles equipped with AdvanceTrac.

It's getting tiresome that any similar issues Tesla encounters are somehow newsworthy... For example fires - according to FEMA, there's ~171,500+ highway car fires per year and if a Tesla ever catches on fire it's big news

OTOH it’s a car and driver long term test car, so one would hope that entropy wouldn’t affect it much. If you’re saying it’s common for many vehicles to just die while parked, I don’t think that’s really a thing yet.

I'm saying if they had a Ford Explorer (or any other mundane model) that suffered a similar failure they would likely not bother to write an entire article highlighting that event. It just isn't quite the click bait that a Tesla article brings.

They would absolutely bother writing about it. They do a ton of long term car reviews, many good, some bad, some horrible (like this one). You can search their long term car reviews, they tell it exactly as is, including any maintenance costs or inconveniences (they even mention other luxury brands at least providing full tOW truck pick up service and a loaner, unlike Tesla which expects you to do it itself)

Can you point me to the article they wrote about the drivetrain failure they had in their long term Ford Raptor[1]?

1. https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a23888636/2017-ford-f-1... "it ate a costly drivetrain part at only 40,000 miles."

Isn't it that article? In the previous paragraph:

"After hitting 40,000 miles, the Raptor began complaining with a noisy, ill-shifting transfer case. The dealer replaced a damaged shift fork, the clutch assembly, and a handful of other worn internal parts under warranty—a fix that took a week."

My point is they didn't call it out in the headline or write an article focusing on the failure.

I'm as confused as you are. He's doing Trump's signature move, pointing at the evidence and saying: "see, there's no evidence"

The car still worked and managed to limp to the dealer, so it's not close to the same event. C&D is stating that they had never had a car become 100% useless while parked and turned off, and that every other luxury brand had offered tow service and a loaner. That's what made this particular event article worthy. I'm 100% sure that had this happened to any other brand, they would've done the same. You're not a C&D regular if you think otherwise to be honest, they'll happily love one model of a brand and absolutely detest others. They love electric cars. You're just spewing out accusations with no basis on fact.

You're right that I am not a c&d regular, but I do have respect for them. I lumped them in with other publications that like to write sensationalized articles about Tesla. I'm still not 100% confident that they'd write an article if they had a similar failure in a mundane vehicle.

If it were the review model or an employee's personal vehicle they absolutely would write an article about it.

To me, the scariest part of the article is the last image showing the Tesla screen: "Schedule an appointment on your Tesla Mobile App". No ability to take it somewhere else, no ability to diagnose and attempt a fix yourself, you just have to hope that Tesla will fix it quickly for you.

I like Tesla as much as anyone else here, but that last image, imho, takes a bit of ownership/agency away from the owner of the car. I don't trust any company enough to have a $50k+ asset that _only they_ can work on.

> To me, the scariest part of the article is the last image showing the Tesla screen: "Schedule an appointment on your Tesla Mobile App".

>No ability to take it somewhere else, no ability to diagnose and attempt a fix yourself, you just have to hope that Tesla will fix it quickly for you

Why would a message on a screen prevent you from doing any of those things?

The screen is attached to a computer that is able to prevent the car from turning on. And there's no way to get diagnostic manuals.

>The screen is attached to a computer that is able to prevent the car from turning on

Ok? That computer isn't particularly adversarial. Presumably if you're capable of fixing this car yourself the computers will present you with no difficulty, if you don't know how to fix cars with computers then the Tesla probably isn't for you.

> And there's no way to get diagnostic manuals

Yeah, there is https://service.teslamotors.com/ Or you know, just pay some random guy on a forum $20 for a copy.

> That computer isn't particularly adversarial.

Oh, this won't be DRM-bound like half of what it does? If you're sure and not just guessing, good.

> Yeah, there is https://service.teslamotors.com/

Oh, hey, that works outside of Massachusetts now, as of earlier this year. Wonderful. Next up, can you order parts without this procedure yet?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19322223

>Oh, this won't be DRM-bound like half of what it does? If you're sure and not just guessing, good.

Not any more so than in similarly priced German cars.

>Next up, can you order parts without this procedure yet?

Sourcing parts via official channels continues to be difficult.

This is why we need strong Right to Repair laws in all 50 states--not just for cars, but for all expensive technology.

right to repair certainly helps, but wtf is this about:

> [...] Tesla isn't allowed to operate company-owned service centers in Michigan.

Car dealerships are a _very_ strong lobby.

No ability to call and make an appointment.

Recently my bothers Ford Focus had service engine light that had come on and vehicle was shut down. He had it towed to ford. which let him know that they recently had a recall on the model and they knew the exact issue. He was neither given rental nor Uber or loaner etc. he had to talk to his insurance company which also did not include recall as a clause so he had to rent.

This sort of shit happens to all cars. Although Lexus has been generous with loaner as they try to push you to trade in or buy newer version on Lexus.

Any high-end dealership I've been to will give loaner cars during any service. The Audi dealership near me will usually give you one of their A4's if its scheduled enough in advance, and for more "emergency" service if the lot loaner isn't available they'll ferry you down the road to a little car rental shop and pay for whatever they have in-stock.

I mean, to be clear: You "pay for it" with the fact that an oil change is like $150. But, you'd still get it for any maintenance that is covered under warranty, and its disappointing that Tesla doesn't do the same. One of a myriad of reasons why I'm confused why anyone buys a Tesla.

My local VW dealer gives loaners if the service is scheduled in advance, or turns out to take longer than anticipated. They'll drive you just about anywhere if for some reason a loaner isn't available, including home or work.

They're not top spec loaners, generally, but they're usually newer than what you rode in on.

And oil changes are only $70 for full synthetic, though I do the routine stuff myself. But the point is, not everywhere that gives loaners overcharges for routine maintenance. $70 is cheaper than the JiffyLube.

> This sort of shit happens to all cars.

Sure, except certain brands have standard policies to provide transportation assistance for any lengthy (e.g. > 1 day repairs)

e.g. Toyota: http://toyota.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/7653/~/if...

> He was neither given rental nor Uber or loaner etc

That's surprising. Whenever I take my honda in for service, I always get offered a loaner (even if it's just a couple hours of service)

It's a focus, I don't know why people expect luxury service for a 30K car. I had a shelby 350 and ford would even give me a loner while in regular service if I wanted. The tesla in the article is priced at 57k, I'd expect pretty good service for that price.

Honda gives me a loaner for my Honda civic which costed about 20k...

Had a similar problem with a VW. They sent a car carrier to pick it up, and offered to bring a rental. Didn't need a rental, but it was a nice offer.

One could speculate that Lexus owners are more likely to be able to afford the upgrade than with other makes. I'm a bit surprised that other moderately high end brands like Tesla don't do the same.

I wonder if Tesla gives different service for Model S vs Model 3.

Forum messages suggest this is the case.

> his insurance company which also did not include recall as a clause so he had to rent

But he didnt leave car for recall, his car shut down. Sounds like a fob off excuse.

Did the focus cost $57k?

No. Point was that cars do have problems. And we can’t separate out one car mfg from Another. Regardless of price paid. Let’s not forget Gm sold cars with known ignition issues and Toyota with known air bag issues. At least Tesla are jeopardizing human lives as the former two did and probably do.

The price paid matters for the quality of the service. If you’re paying $60k you should expect a loaner or at lest help with a rental. Other brands provide that at that price range. Why doesn’t Tesla? Why is it ok for them to cheap out?

Ford would give me a loaner for regular service for my shelby gt 350. Literally 4-5 hours, and they'd let me ride around in a newer mustang GT or bullit.

Statistics can sort this out. How often do we hear about dead Toyotas vs dead Teslas?

The number you stated has to be divided by units sold, IMHO

Expensive cars tend to be more finicky, not less.

I don't think the problem is that a car broke down (happens to any car). But the higher end the car, the higher end the service you expect. A Ford Focus is anything but premium so I'm sure few people expect premium services attached to the purchase. A ~$60.000 car is a different story.

Ford gives pretty much no service for 201x Focus's when the transmission goes to pot.



A slow breakdown of a transmission, even if it's premature, doesn't strand you out of nowhere.

I think he’s saying, you front pay service in luxury brands. Of that $57k, maybe $2k goes to a potential loaner fund maintained by the dealer.

Both my Toyota and ford dealer, for example, rents their cars for competitive rates (compared to the local enterprise). They are nice enough to give you a shuttle service between working hours up to 10mi away, but that cost likely comes out of the Service Center budget (hence the $49 tire rotation service cost)

The point of TFA that the car failure / bad service happened to CarAndDriver's long term test drive Model 3 early on its lifespan and they have never had this happen before for any of their long term cars.

"This sort of shit happens to all cars" misses the significance of this event due not applying basic statistics. Simply put, readers of this article have far more cars than the writers.

I’m fairly certain this single data point is statistically meaningless.

To me the story is about reliability, the changing nature of automotive problems and how they handle customer service.

No, the misapplication of basic statistics is yours in concluding that one data point in a small sample size must be significant. The opposite is true.

Significance in a magazine article != statistical significance, which is unfortunately very hard to come by in the real world. Simply put, I'm willing to give more credence to a car magazine talking about never having encountered a problem like this before in a pool of vehicles than random commenters on HN.

I was very disappointed that the author's idea of Catastrophic was far less interesting than what I pictured in my head.

It's definitely not the only time an expensive car has failed in the first 6,000 miles of use. Also, the author's assumption that ICE cars don't fail while parked is a bit of hairsplitting. This isn't much different from any of the dozen or so times I've driven somewhere and discovered my car won't start when I go to leave.

I am honestly surprised by your blasé reaction. To make an apples to apples comparison, have you ever had a:

1. New car,

2. Which cost almost $60,000, with

3. Fewer than 6000 miles,

4. Suffer a catastrophic failure (i.e. couldn't start with a jump),

5. While parked,

6. And had the manufacturer not communicate the source of failure,

7. Or how long it would take to fix?

That, to me, seems almost unbelievable. I have entertained the idea that our family's next car would be a Tesla, but stories like this make me want to wait another generation or longer.

I bought a VW GTI 20th anniversary (a numbered car) and the transmission broke on my third drive (wouldn’t shift out of third) which was a catastrophic failure. This was about 50 miles deep. Took a few hours to get towed. VW said they would fly in an expert from Germany to diagnose the issue. I opted to get a different car (new number, same model) and that one worked fine. Did I have massive ill will towards VW? no. This was even a numbered car that technically “could not be replaced”. Errors happen.

Statistically, a few hundred thousand model 3s have been delivered and many are well past 6k miles. I think you should wait and hear what Tesla’s reaction is before writing them off.

Things you should consider are:

- they have sold so many cars in the past 2 years that service center growth is struggling to keep up and wait times are long

- Tesla vehicles cannot be serviced easily by third parties so you have no option if Tesla says something you don’t like or wait times are long

Choosing the one broken car out of hundreds of thousands delivered as a reason to not buy one doesn’t make much sense. All manufacturers deliver defective vehicles. Looking at statistics on how many are defective per capita from each manufacturer would be a more reasonable course of action.

I disagree with your reaction.

With any another car, the car would fail to start with a generic idiot light. You would then arrange to drop it with the dealer with no expectation of diagnosis on the spot. Later they would call you up and let you know.

No manufacturer is immune to problems, even with very new cars.

In this case the major difference is the car proactively notified the owner of the problem.

Most cars will limp to the dealer (except BMWs but they get as much flak as teslas for the behavior).

Most cars will absolutely not die while parked or turned off (I'm sure some will, but it won't be a common occurrence).

Most luxury brands will offer full service and a loaner (this is a 57k vehicle, well into M3/RS4/Porsche/AMG territory, which are considered premium vehicles on already luxury brands)

wrt limping...

It's interesting that Tesla says this about the dual-motor version:

> Tesla All-Wheel Drive has two independent motors.


> Your car can drive on either motor, so you never need to worry about getting stuck on the road. If one motor stops working, you can safely continue to your destination with the second.

> With any another car, the car would fail to start with a generic idiot light.

Why do you think that? I think it's most likely that a normal car would still start, possibly needing jumper cables if there are battery issues.

One example doesn't tell you much.

This week a local freeway was shut down when a driver travelling down it noticed smoke coming out of the air-conditioning. He started to slow down, but then it caught alight. The scary thing was fire took hold so quickly he suffered burns before he could get out. That is the only time I've read about such a thing in the mass media. Which is an interesting statistic in itself - because I heard anecdotes about others peoples cars catching on fire while they were driving them several times. This particular time it shut down an inner city free way for a few hours - so it made the news.

And so it will be with this particular failure. I'm sure the only reason we heard about it is because it's a Tesla. Modern internal combustion engines are entirely computer controlled. They are far more complex to control that battery + electric motor, so the computer systems and sensor networks they have are commensurately more complex. They will not be going anywhere if that computer system fails - jump start or no jump start, so this sort of failure is not peculiar to EV's. Given the millions of cars out there I have absolutely no doubt coming back to a parked car only to discover the ECU has failed has happened many times. I also have absolutely no doubt I would not have heard about it. After all no one died, and "car won't start" is hardly news worthy unless it is a Tesla.

It may be there is a systemic fault with Tesla's - but there is no way you can tell from this one blog post. As for the bad dealer - I'm sort of surprised you think it is somehow exceptional.

How many tens of thousands of Tesla Model 3s have been sold?

That ONE Tesla failed with fewer than 6,000 miles is not surprising or remotely concerning.

No, I haven't had a car fail with fewer than 6,000 miles. But if I'd bought a Model 3, that would almost certainly still be the case as well because of the tens of thousands sold to date this appears to be fairly uncommon or we'd have heard about it by now.

I'm not certain what the big deal about it failing "While Parked" is. A breakdown is a breakdown.

It might be that we're not hearing about other cases.

I have around 20K miles on my Model 3 and so far haven't dealt with any service/maintenance. I took the car to les schwab to make sure the tires are good, and that's been it.

Shit happens to cars, they're usually the most complicated piece of technology the average person owns. It takes time to perfect a production line and service line, but Tesla really needs to have a perfect support line and it's unfortunate they don't.

I can't really believe we're not hearing about other cases. The media absolutely _loves_ to crap on Tesla any chance they can get for any reason, their fault or otherwise.

> That ONE Tesla failed with fewer than 6,000 miles is not surprising or remotely concerning.

Yeah, it "just happened" to be one owned by Car and Driver. If they are seeing this sort of failure with review models, you can be sure that the real failure rate is big.

How can I be sure? Why would the other owners keep quiet about it, some grand conspiracy?

Everything that happens with Tesla gets amplified 10 fold. If the failure rate was "big", I'm certain we'd have heard about it by now.

Regardless, this isn't a special review unit, C&D leased the Tesla from the dealer like any other schmuck, it was just luck of the draw. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a29515368/tesla-model-3-lo...

"Everything that happens with Tesla gets amplified 10 fold"

Well, one reason people do that is because of the ridiculous things everybody has been saying for years - like how electric cars are inherently way more reliable than ICE vehicles.

It's like how certain people get enraged over short sellers influencing stock prices, and somehow it doesn't occur to them that way more information is distorted in favor of public companies.

And sure, there's no reason to think it was a special unit, but that's the best case, and it's not rational to assume the most likely case is the best.

You misunderstand. Of course it wasn't "a special review unit". It was the randomly selected review unit.

As in any test methodology, if your random sample has problems, it's a bad sign for failure rates for the batch.

Are these reviewers big enough in the industry for there to be any reason to assume they got a pre-tested vehicle? If not there's absolutely no indication that this failure suggests a higher overall failure rate.

I don't remember exactly how many miles it had, but I had a fairly new 2016 Honda Accord that had an electrical failure of some sort that left me stuck in a parking lot with a warning from the computer that the battery and alternator weren't working.

It is possible this, or the head gasket problem, was related to a previous warranty repair being done incorrectly - originally it had an internal engine problem, which did not leave me stranded but sounded terrible and scared me that the dealer would blame me and not honor the warranty.

And "coincidentally" I have read quite a few times recently that Honda is struggling with reliability in recent years.

I am probably not going to own a Honda again, but I would still be more comfortable with one than a Tesla simply because of the local dealer service.

No, but any specific cherry-picked anecdote won't happen to more than a handful of people. That shouldn't be surprising.

(also, 1 and 3 are the same thing.)

Sure, just 2 weekends ago I tried to boost a friend's Highlander. A few more miles but otherwise met all conditions. They spent several hours on the phone with the help desk, but nobody could do anything on a Sunday. They ended up staying an extra night in the hotel without any sort of assurance it would be a quick fix the next day.

And yet Toyota is considered one of the good brands.

That's an interesting story, and I did some quick research to compare the two models. It looks like the Toyota Highlander sold almost twice as many cars in the US in 2019 (~219,000 vs ~114,000) and costs about $20,000 less for the most-expensive model. This is, in my opinion, not an apples to apples comparison.

I know most of us at HN--me included!--want Tesla to succeed, but I am again surprised that people are so quick to write off a brand new, low-mileage Model 3's catastrophic failure with no apparent cause. I have to wonder if it's because, when we saw the word "catastrophic" in the headline, we assumed it would be due to a battery catching fire, or autopilot steering the vehicle into a Jersey barrier.

Toyota Highlander sales figures: https://www.goodcarbadcar.net/toyota-highlander-sales-figure...

Tesla Model 3 sales figures: https://www.goodcarbadcar.net/tesla-model-3-sales-figures-us...

Price of top-end Highlander: https://www.google.com/search?q=how+much+is+a+toyota+highlan...

> and costs about $20,000 less for the most-expensive model

That's not the price of the top-end Highlander, which is the AWD Platinum, which is $48,800 (without any options).


The highest priced Model 3 is the Performance, at $56,990 (before $1,875 tax credit)

Every time I see this kind of comparison I'm reminded of how little effort Tesla seems to make relative to other manufacturers to make their cars price-competitive in non-US markets.

Equivalent pricing for top-spec (non-hybrid) Highlander and Model 3 in Canada is $52,100 and $75,990, respectively.

My cousin drives Tesla model x, a friend and I drive model S.

We have not had any issues so far. Let’s not freak out at every Tesla is bad story.

Simply drive one and see how much it changes your life as it has mine. Then decide what’s good or bad for you.

Always remember doom and gloom stories sell more than successful ones.

> Simply drive one and see how much it changes your life as it has mine.

Either you had a very boring life or you always talk like you are in a TV advert.

They do drive themselves though.

I drove one. It felt like a car? Not sure what I was supposed to feel.

He's not the one saying it. The notification he received from tesla implied it.

If my car has suffered a failure and will no longer drive, I'm likely to consider that catastrophic as well, especially for such a new, expensive car.

The other day my truck battery died while it was parked. I didn't describe it as a "Catastrophic failure while parked", I tell my friends "My truck didn't start".

My daughter's VW had trouble and the engine died while she was doing 70 miles an hour. She pulled over, got out and watched it burn to the ground in front of her. I'm not even sure I'd call that a catastrophic failure, but it's a lot closer.

When I hear something is catastrophic, I expect it to be more interesting/ impactful than a failure to move.

I was mostly being tongue in cheek in my original comment, but seriously, what happened is his car wouldn't start and had to be serviced. If this were any other make/ model of car it wouldn't be a story.

The difference to me of the Model 3 not being able to start and an ICE car, is there’s a nonzero chance one (either alone or with help) can get back on the road in the latter.

On the flip side, how cool is it that cars are now smart enough to diagnose themselves and prevent you from driving before what could potentially be an unsafe situation has a chance to occur?

The fraction of serious accidents that are caused by mechanical failure is just 12%. Of mechanically induced accidents, two-thirds were caused by the failure/degradation of the tires, wheels, or brakes.


So for diagnostics other than tires, wheels, and brakes, we are talking about a system that can prevent at most 4% of accidents, and probably much, much less. Given the huge number of false positives, I'd much rather cars notify the driver in detail (not just a vague "check engine" warning) and let the driver decide how to proceed, rather than irrevocably disabling themselves.

Consider: we could also probably eliminate 20% of accidents by prohibiting drivers from driving in wet conditions, but instead we reasonably instruct drivers to drive more cautiously and accept that some wetness induced accidents will occur nevertheless.

In what world is preventing 4% of serious accidents trivial? That’s likely hundreds or thousands of crashes per year given the numbers involved.

See "probably much, much less" (since diagnostic systems have many false negatives, and only work on some subsystems) and my argument about wet conditions (which causes greater than 4% of accidents). Furthermore, the absolute number of accidents is not a sensible number to look at unless you're also totaling up the absolute number of drivers inconvenience. Both the absolute number of accidents and the absolute number of downsides (wasted time, driver frustration, unnecessary repairs) will be proportional to the number of cars, so you should divide out by the number of cars.

Probably much, much less is meaningless since it means nothing.

I’m pretty sure if there are 20,000 serious accidents per year and some lines of code alone prevent 100 (0.5%) that’s noteworthy.

First, you are not engaging with any of the points in my reply. (Do you disagree that the fraction of accidents that diagnostic systems can plausibly stop is <<4%? We can't tell.)

Second, you keep suggesting that I made claims about this being "trivial" or "noteworthy". I did not. I made a claim about what would be a good system, not the notability of the absolute number of accidents stopped.

>> prohibiting drivers from driving in wet conditions

I will not consider this. Because it sounds ridiculous. Prohibiting whom and how exactly, from driving how/what?, and how wet? And how do you measure that? And at the cost of what?

"Now"? This has been implemented for years - most people just call it "Check engine light" ;)

The check engine light doesn't send a notification directly to your phone with a diagnosis of what's wrong.

They still don't have a diagnosis of what's wrong with the car. They've been told about a whole bunch of things going wrong, including battery-related stuff (which is probably why the car was prevented from driving further!). At least it does seem to be an exceptional case, I'm pretty sure we would know if it wasn't.

So, yes, car manufacturers do exactly this right now. But if you want exact details, or if you have an older MY car you can plug in your own odb-ii reader and download one of the many apps to get those details.

My car just threw a CEL and it was because I put low octane gas in. I knew this but also found this by using the handy Forscan app

It also doesn't leave you stranded. Some cars have been driven for tens of thousands of miles with this light on.

I put 60,000 miles on a Jeep with a check engine light. Also spent thousands on trying to fix it at various shops which would replace all sorts of things, to no effect, including about 5 attempts to replace a costly computer board.

Eventually had a redneck guy working out of the back of his pickup truck have a go at it. After hearing about the history he spent hours unplugging, cleaning, and replugging every single wire connection and socket. And the light stayed off.

> And the light stayed off.

Are you sure he didn't just leave that particular light unplugged?

It's a good idea, but such a ruse would be easy to catch. A properly-wired check engine light illuminates whenever accessory power is on and the engine isn't running: i.e., right before you start the car, every time you start the car.

With the right OBDII reader it does.

It also doesn’t stop you from driving the car to a mechanic or service station.

No, it doesn't send your car location to the cloud and tells it to everyone involved, true.

The diagnosis however is available for retrieval via industry standard connector - OBD2.

The check engine light is only for emissions related failures which is why in most cases the car is still driveable. In serious cases like this most cars will flash the CEL but AFAIK that is not legally required. The whole point of the CEL is that when the emission system is compromised its not immediately obvious, in fact the car may even perform better depending on the fault.

So just a nitpick, but the CEL is not exclusively for emissions related codes. There are a wide range of things that can fail that do not affect the emissions output of the car, but will still trigger a code and light. All of them can fail you in an emissions test, but not all of them are emissions related.

Edit: All of them will fail you -> All of them can fail you. Not all codes will trigger an immediate fail in CA smog testing anyways, depending on if they are manufacturer specific, or what they effect. I passed my most recent smog with a few codes.

Which people drive around with for weeks without care because it usually feels like a light that indicates the dealer would love to extract some exorbitant service fee from you light.

The check engine light doesn't prevent you from driving.

True, though some cars fall into “limp mode” making it challenging to drive very far. That typically limits the max RPM if a potential catastrophic drivetrain issue is detected while not also stranding you.

If a car is in limp mode though you probably shouldn't be moving it at all unless you have already committed to writing it off.

I don’t think that’s true, though it may depend on the make and model - the related service manual should be consulted. Limp mode is intentional and is mostly meant to limit function while sensors may be disabled, compromised or uncertain. There’s a sensitivity to drivetrain timing that narrows as RPMs increase (e.g. approach redline), limp mode seems to mostly use sane defaults for everything to avoid catastrophic failure in that type of scenario.

I have the exact opposite reaction. There are very few things that can go wrong with a car that are dangerous enough for the car to automatically refuse to be driven. For what is the equivalent of the check engine light coming on, the car refuses to even be driven to the mechanic. I've had a history of older jalopies, but I've driven for probably a decade with a check engine light on. The odds of having your Tesla deciding to strand you in the middle of nowhere seems a lot higher than it saving itself from bursting into flames.

What about this situation said it was unsafe to drive? Not able to drive and not safe to are different things.

I’m reminded that many gas engines can drop into a degraded mode and still run when there is a problem like a sensor failing. Even a small oil leak can still be driven with. Degraded but not stranded.

That was my thought too. And the article even says that the first evidence they had of a potential problem was when it was charging slowly earlier, so this is less "suffered a failure while parked" and more "suffered a failure while driving and diagnosed itself while parked".

Depends what the false positive rate is, and it's no excuse for proper engineering and quality control.

I don’t think it’s cool at all that this happened on a car with 5200 miles. That’s a bug, not a feature.

If they can do all this real-time surveillance, why not have a conditional somewhere to send a loaner for the case when you sold someone a lemon?

Actually I strongly prefer catastrophic failures while parked to catastrophic failures while driving...

Of course, having a defect in a basically new car is very annoying, but that is the curse of any technology. At least with an almost new car, there is little argument about whether it is carried by warranty. Tesla will either fix it or give them a new car and then they can hopefully enjoy it.

Whilst Tesla's engineering is impressive, their customer service is terri-bad.

As just one example, I was unable to start my new model 3 on a cold morning after owning it for 3 months (which in itself is horrendous). The entire system shut down and would not start. This was particularly problematic for me as I am required to get into the hospital in under 30 minutes in order to treat stroke patients. As such I ended up having to use an uber to make it to my surgical list.

As is typical for uber, it was impossible to get hold of a human to resolve the situation and the replies (from whatever it is that replies to you on their app) refused to help me unless I waited at my car for their service to show up.

When I finally got hold of someone I was told that in order to prevent this, I should prewarm the car using the app prior to using the car. No-one ever explained this to me prior to this happening.

I would like to say this has been the only incident but there have been innumerable problems at every point as a new owner.

> When I finally got hold of someone I was told that in order to prevent this, I should prewarm the car using the app prior to using the car.

They gave you a bullshit answer - the car would have had to start to pre-warm too.

The advice I would give is not to park with a low battery in cold weather, since it will lose range.

That said, the car should warn you:

  Battery Low

  There will be significantly less energy available
  from your battery if it gets colder.

  We recommend charging now.
Of course, regular cars have cold weather problems too. Never park a gas car in freezing weather with an almost empty tank (since there is some water in the tank, and it might freeze the fuel pump or lines).

*Typical for Tesla

"Catastrophic Failure" sounds a bit dramatic.

The car could no longer drive. Short of bursting into flames that’s about as bad as it gets.

I think you're downplaying the number of cars that actually do burst into flames. A car telling me it can't run seems quite undramatic.

If you are late to work because your car won't start, say a bad starter or a dead fuel pump, would you really tell your boss that your car had a "catastrophic" failure?

So what would constitute a normal failure? Because I wouldn't consider it a failure at all unless I couldn't drive.

That was what I was imagining when reading the headline. The battery had spontaneously combusted or something like that.

I think catastrophic to me would involve some sort of destruction of the car. Like it exploding or something.

TFA mentions a "pyrotechnic battery" which sounds like a great feature for a military fort but not so much for an automobile?

It was a "pyrotechnic battery disconnect", i.e., basically a type of switch/active fuse using some type of small explosive charge as part of its operation.

Here's the patent for all the gory details:


The fact that this part has a "problem" probably means that it was triggered, e.g., maybe some type of false collision detection, short circuit or other failure which ended up triggering the disconnect.

"Disconnect" also belongs to the expression - essentially, a tiny explosive is used to ensure that the safety switch disconnects the battery from the load side, permanently and without arcing: https://insideevs.com/news/334322/tesla-patents-pyrotechnic-...

A pyrotechnic battery disconnect, which I suppose cuts the connection to the battery instantly in case of accident to avoid shorting it. There are already pyrotechnic devices in cars: airbags are pyrotechnic, as well as safety belt detents. It's the fastest type of actuator.

Yeah, I totally expected there to be some kind of injury or at least a threat of it involved. But I'm not a frequent driver so I guess I cannot relate to these "catastrophes" as well as I could.

"Catastrophic failure" is a common engineering term that essentially means "complete and irreversible failure."

For a regular car when I hear catastrophic failure I think scrap metal in the oil pan.

Are you sure? A catastrophe is often defined as “A complete failure” and the car certainly meets that criteria.

More like irreversible, total destruction.

It may have been catastrophic for his afternoon plans, but the car has clearly be repaired.

yeah, they got the 2020 equivalent of a blinking engine check light, but !on a Tesla! so it's a blog post and on the front page nonetheless

According to you the 2020 equivalent of a blinking engine light is an immobilized vehicle.

That alone is worthy of a blog post on the front page if it were true (it's not).

you are supposed to call a tow with a blinking light, so yeah. hardly different

> you are supposed to call a tow with a blinking light

Citation needed.

I dunno where you can look it up, probably a modern car manual, but as someone within an entire family of mechanics, ive never heard of a blinking check engine light that didn't mean your shit is seriously fucked up and any second away from blowing apart. In fact blinking check engine lights are pretty new overall to differentiate between shit like 'this light is on because your o2 sensor is going bad' and 'this light is on because only half your motor is getting enough oil', now it blinks with the oil problem so you know it is serious. Although a number of cars these days have completely separate 'service engine' and 'engine warning' lights so a blinking check engine light might not exist for whatever model.

If anything other than your blinker blinks more than a handful of times past startup, something is very very wrong.

thank god there's a second car person around here, it felt lonely.

just open your owner manual, for most cars is standard

steady light: maintenance

flashing for a time: issues on the emissions controls, you risk on the long run to damage the converter or stuff like that

fixed flashing light: something seriously wrong, like a misfire or worse, running the engine is actively damaging it. car runs in protected mode as not to leave you stranded in a dangerous situation, but you are not supposed to run it.

what's your car if I might ask?

Citation from the 2003 SL55 AMG owners manual under "what to do if ... the yellow check engine indicator light comes on"

  Have the vehicle checked as soon as possible by an 
  authorized Mercedes-Benz Center.  An on-board diagnostic 
  connector is used by the service station to link the
  vehicle to the shop diagnostics system. It allows the
  accurate identification of system malfunctions through the 
  readout of diagnostic trouble codes. It is located in the
  front left area of the footwell next to the parking brake.

And this is only after checking the fuel cap and ensuring the fuel tank isn't empty.

They don't recommend towing the vehicle. There are surprisingly few conditions mentioned in the manual where a tow to the service center is recommended: brake system failure indicators, and visibly dangerous tire damage/vibrations.

There is however substantial discussion of towing methods and proper towing procedure, mentioning significant risks of damage when done incorrectly. So we see, towing isn't some kind of panacea the manufacturers are eager to suggest - the process may break things like the transmission or body if done incorrectly, especially over long distances.

It's a noteworthy difference in the failure modes of Teslas (and perhaps EVs in general) vs. conventional ICE vehicles.

ICE vehicle drivetrains often fail more gracefully. The first vehicle I purchased, to rebuild before getting a driver's license, had a broken con-rod, yet it still drove noisily with a hole in the side of the engine block.

ICE vehicle manufacturers do not actively disable a vehicle in a CEL-triggering condition. They want nothing to do with potentially pro-actively stranding someone, which could be a life-or-death situation like a snowstorm, just because some sensor is malfunctioning on an otherwise perfectly operable automobile.

Requiring a tow is a self-evident condition. It's been generally left up to the owner to decide if they want to risk potentially costly repairs driving with an indicator light flashing.


I pasted the only section speaking to handling the check engine light, it's not cherry-picked.

If you read my comment, it clearly states that few parts of the manual explicitly recommend towing. But some do, and none of them are surrounding CELs. Which makes it rather clear that a CEL condition doesn't warrant an immediate tow, unlike the brake system light or dangerous tire wear/damage where they do recommend a tow.

A charitable interpretation of my comment would accept that nowhere else was there a section about blinking lights recommending towing. Grasping at straws? Are you kidding? You suggested I look in an owners manual, that's precisely what I did, and you're unhappy with what it states.

Instead of making me do the legwork of disproving your claim, the onus is really on you to back it up so why don't you materialize an owners' manual explicitly recommending towing when a check engine light starts flashing?

> no wonder they had to add the blinking failure mode, there's truly irresponsible people out there

I don't appreciate your borderline personal attack, are you implying I'm an irresponsible person?

I don't understand where I lost you. facts are quite clear, let's recap

I talked about blinking lights

your car doesn't have the blinking mode for engine check

I and another commenter both explained that blinking lights were specifically added to disambiguate between critical and non critical issues

these issue are deemed critical specifically because they are immediate danger of engine damage

blinking lights were specifically added because people were ignoring static check lights

your vintage car comes from an era before the disambiguations, fair enough, still not the common case today.

the respondible thing to do if your car passes the fuel and fuel cap test is to stop it and call a tow truck, specifically because as the manual started the light cover issues that might cause an engine seizure.

it's likely my fault for not disambiguating towing and tow truck early in the discussion, we have two different words for that here. (traino vs rimorchio)

I've collected more miles on my last car with the engine light on than off. Earlier you could at least override false positives by just not caring.

on is different than blinking

I was sort of expecting the car to have exploded, parts strewn about, and the steering wheel missing. Nope, just a check engine light.

Michigan is a bit of a unique situation in Michigan, not having the ability to do many repairs in state due to laws meant to favor traditional automakers.

The fact that loaners are not available as readily is probably an unfortunate side effect of the Model 3’s success; however, many companies don’t offer loaners for vehicles in the price range (starting <$40k), but I think Tesla should do better especially since most with options are selling for the same money as the MB, BMW or Lexus compacts.

Obviously being an electric car it fails as gracefully as an ICE car with a fuel system issue.

Most companies do actually offer loaners. Honda does, Toyota does, VW does. They're all under $40k for the most part.

That experience certainly makes me really think about the value proposition. If I’m buying a $60k car, it breaks after 5k miles, and they can’t get me a loaner?

>...the pyrotechnic battery disconnect...

What the?! Sounds sorta awesome.

BMW has been using them for 20 years or more. When the Airbags are deployed the primary battery connection servers power to fuel pump, etc. leaves only the lights and some other accessories working.

I don't know about the Model 3, but at least in the Model S Performance, the main breakers are some short cables with a pyrotechnic charge. When the maximum current is exceeded, the explosives blow up the cables... After all, they are only triggering in excess of 1500 amps. Seems to be difficult to build traditional breakers good for up to 1500 amps which react fast enough.


tl;dr There is a "pyrotechnic charge" to disconnect the battery in case of danger.

Speculating in the failure cause here...

I would guess the Tesla constantly checks the isolation between the high voltage system and the car chassis. If it is ever compromised, it blows single-use pyrotechnic fuses as a safety measure (to protect a person who may have their hands in the high voltage system).

That event then makes the car useless till serviced.

Since it is a kind of 'catch all' event, it happens quite frequently, so it was worth Tesla building an error message into the app for it.

What's worse, your car won't move or your car gives you a 400V shock when you touch it? It's obvious what the better solution is so that's how it was designed. Things happen sometimes and its always better to fail safe.

Now if the failure mode had been the opposite this would be an entirely different story, even possibly brand ruining.

I know Teslas have a history of reliability issues, but I thought they've gotten better recently.

And one story will convince you otherwise?

I think the general level of abysmal service from Tesla these days, plus the inability to casually sever the network connection/tracking, is the reason I will cancel my cybertruck order.

My wife saw a Kia Stinger in a parking lot the other day and started drooling over it. “Why didn’t you get this one??” I asked her to remember the horror stories we have gone through with our Ford dealership, I told her Kia service would be worse by 5 orders of magnitude.

You are being downvoted, but poor customer service is a real reason to avoid certain car brands..

And by all accounts I've heard, Tesla customer service for the Model 3 is legitimately poor. The car needs much less routine maintenance, but if anything goes wrong, it seems to take anywhere from several weeks to months to get the car back.

Seems like more of any issue with your local dealership than the manufacturer. In my area, dealerships for entirely separate manufacturers will often have the same owners, so from that perspective, it hardly matters where you go.

I don't disagree. Except this was dealing with Ford HQ to resolve an extended warranty disagreement. I also had to do something similar with the first luxury car I dealt with. You see, extended warranties climb up the food chain since the manufacturers have made the decision it's cheaper to fix the problem than to ignore it (A * B < C in the famous fight club reference). They also need to authorize it.

Luxury car was a fight but they caved relatively quickly. Ford is an ongoing saga that has now taken longer to simply prove there is a problem than it took for luxury car to resolve the whole ordeal. Kia would likely be worse since they were selling Stingers at a huge markdown for awhile. I'll pass and stick to Toyota which hasn't had any major reliability problems in the past decade on their vehicles and have great service centers (in my very large metro area)

None of that has changed since you pre-ordered your Cybertruck. Maybe you just needed an excuse to cancel??

I think I’ve just thought about it a lot more. I don’t think I want a vehicle where my location is tracked 24/7 without my consent.

Fair enough. I am kind of with you in that boat.

I love the technology that Tesla is producing. But I hate the risks associated with using such technology

>no offer of a loaner or any kind of temporary transportation

Why would you expect that from Tesla? Its part of every decent insurance in Europe.

>Why would you expect that from Tesla?

because literally every manufacturer that sells cars that are more expensive than economy sector vehicles offers loaners at their dealerships fairly casually (in the US).

Granted, it's usually a function of the individual dealership, but it's extraordinarily common.

>Its part of every decent insurance in Europe.

it's a common coverage in the US, too. What's uncommon is involving insurance for warranty work. It'd be more common if the repair work triggered some kind of extended insurance contract from a third party.

Electrical fails harder than mechanical. The problem with EVs is they are 100% electrical.

Not only is this the first time we've ever had a long-term car suffer a catastrophic failure while parked, it's also an extraordinarily rare case of any car leaving us stranded, something unacceptable for any new vehicle, particularly one that costs $57,690 and with merely 5286 miles on the odometer.

Can anyone shed light on if this is a widespread issue, or is this an edge case? This article reads like a rant.

Not too long ago, you discovered out your vehicle was dead because it wouldn't start. It would flash a light if you were lucky.

This time, there was no offer of a loaner or any kind of temporary transportation

That sucks, maybe the only notable comment in the entire article.

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