When Tesla Goes In the Shop (bound to happen sometime) - How Will They Respond?

When Tesla Goes In the Shop (bound to happen sometime) - How Will They Respond?

Being a subject matter expert of sorts in the workplace safety field, we're often asked about electric cars and how they will change the way service technicians are trained.

Of course the answer is yes, but not necessarily in the only way they are thinking.

The advanced Tesla technology requires its own level of first-of-its-kind training and won't likely be seen entering a jiffy lube any time soon for a "top off", but some time in the future these high tech vehicles and others like them will be visiting lesser qualified facilities and the workers there will need to not only be trained on HOW to service them, but more importantly - how to be safe while doing so.

More in-depth details here:

Question for fellow Tesla enthusiasts:

If you were to bring your car in the shop, would you ask if they know the proper safety procedures to work on the car, or is that their responsibility?

hfcolvin | 18 April, 2014

If my fuel filter needed to be changed on an ICE car I wouldn't ask the service manager if he lets his guys smoke while doing it. I wouldn't ask similar questions for comparable work on an electric car.

PaceyWhitter | 18 April, 2014

Just bring it to a Tesla service center.

dglauz | 18 April, 2014

I never ask anybody if they know how to safely do their job. Why would I? it is their job to know how do do, including the safety aspects.

Mireille and Conan | 18 April, 2014

This seems silly to me; I certainly don't check if the chef can cut vegetables without personal injury each time I go to a restaurant....

If someone can't safely work on electric vehicles, they should have a job other that servicing electric vehicles. How could this possibly be the customer's responsibility?

nkwazi | 18 April, 2014

Had a service tech out recently to replace a faulty HPWC cable.
He was super safe and took multiple steps to ensure the power was really off. After turning off the main breaker to check the power was really off, the tech donned superheavy duty rubber gloves before using a voltmeter to test for voltage at the HPWC input terminals. He

If this is an example of Tesla safety, we have nothing to worry about.

Sudre_ | 18 April, 2014

I am with most others here. I see no reason to ask the electric car repair man if he knows how to safely work on an electric car. I would ask the repair shop if they can do work on an electric car. I doubt a shop will take the car in for service if they know it's electric and have no idea how to service it.

Good old OSHA 70E. The new regs for arc flash. If you do not know the power is off you have to put on an arc flash suit before touching anything potentially hot including just testing to see if it's hot. Very few contractors are up on it yet.

The suit is basically a thin fire resistant set of long sleeve overalls, gloves and a wrap around tinted face shield.

Michalscheck | 19 April, 2014

@ nkwazi - great story about the service experience. Glad to see they are taking the proper steps to deenergize.

Definately can see the group's opinions' perspective of "their work, their responsibility." I agree with this from a consumer level. But from workplace safety perspective - this won't solve the problem, only ignores it.

I suppose my real question was more centered around our confidence that the "non-tesla" employees will show the same amount of due caution (long term) as the current Tesla service employees. I agree, it's not our job to ensure they do their job, but as these cars do enter non-Tesla facilities "do we think the workers will be safe."

As far as the analogies of ensuring chef doesn't cut fingers and the like - I get it, but isn't this a little different? Vegetable and Knives have been around for awhile. A/C systems aren't exactly new.

This will be the fist time in automotive history that on a massive scale the technical understanding of the fundamentals, energy source magnitudes, and consequences for not doing it correctly are all increased exponentially...simultaneously. Most consequences for servicing current vehicles end in pinched fingers, burns, and possibly amputations (if servicing it while running). While there are high voltage areas with capacitors and distributors, it's unlikely you'll be electrocuted by this - more likely just embarrassed when you're shocked by the high voltage, low amperage scenario (more like static shock than wall socket shock).

While it might not be the vehicle owner's problem, who's responsibility should it be to ensure service technicians remain safe? (the normal answer is "it's your responsibility to ensure your safety." But the question here is - who ensures the proper tools, training and procedures are in place and standardized in order to allow the technician to "choose" to be safe.

1. Tesla's (and the like as others follow suit) - To put more engineering in to prevent inadvertent shock (or arc flash) when servicing?
2. OSHA's (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) - To ensure the workers have adequate safety training and programs in place (like lockout tagout and NFPA 70e)?
3. Shop owners who employ these techs?

For a little background on workplace safety pespective -

Tesla does have a cord cut for emergency situations and responders. What if that was replaced with a lockable switch just like machine makers use for industrial equipment? This could be coupled with an easy to follow procedure for deenergizing the car for heavy maintenance. Placing that procedure right where the potentially "unskilled" tech will see prior to servicing and having it still be available for emergency responders as a re-usable cut-loop.

OSHA does oversee all US workplaces to help ensure their safety, but the statics have shown they are a little under staffed and under equipped to even police the current high-hazard industries. Adding all of these new areas of potentially high-hazard will likely go uninspected by OSHA until theirs an accident. Note: There are ~5K workplace deaths annually and ~8K amputations. That number doesn't change much year to year.

In a perfect world, yes PaceyWhitter said the solution best - owners should only bring their cars to Tesla. But we know this world is not that perfect and neither are unexpected service scenarios.

Michalscheck | 19 April, 2014

Also, for anyone wanting a little more info from the workplace safety's perspective and lockout-tagout:

There are links to stats there that may change your perspective. (Also, check the NEWS section for stories of recent deaths, etc. that are from servicing equipment even more simple than the Tesla.)

And in my experience, it's never hurt to learn something new. :)

Velo1 | 19 April, 2014

I little OT, but I visited our neighborhood fire department so they could see a Model S and understand how to deal with the car in the event of an accident. In the frunk, Tesla has a warning label for Emergency Responders about what to do. So the FD personnel took photos, examined the label and procedure for dealing with the car. It was time well spent, plus they all enjoyed some Tesla time and short test drive.

Michalscheck | 19 April, 2014

@Velo1 - Great idea and very inspiring. So good of you to offer your time (and car) to teach like that.

jordanrichard | 19 April, 2014

Since only 1 of the 3 service/maintenance items on the car deals with the battery (coolant), there is nothing special about the car. Rotating tires, alignment, brake fluid change can be done by anyone. They just need to be sure to place the lift pads directly under the lift points on the car.

Pungoteague_Dave | 19 April, 2014

Seems like OP is selling something. Maybe not, but I read an underlying agenda in the "question." Because of various patent protections and long term warranty coverage on major components, I do not anticipate significant third party service work for many of the car's components. Any competent repair shop can already handle the brakes (Brembo), tires, or body work. Beyond that, the mother ship has to be involved anyway. They are not going to sell motors or electronic components to third party service shops, and volumes are too low for aftermarket manufacturers to care enough to make non-OEM replacements. What little service we need will come mostly from Tesla. You can get you Apple screens replaced by others, but they sell those in million-unit batches.

JohnGlenney | 19 April, 2014

Elon has stated that he does not want service to be a for-profit business (unlike the traditional dealer model). This will be a disincentive to establish 3rd party repair shops, since they will not be able to undercut Tesla on price. This may be another reason Tesla took this position, to insure all electrical repairs are performed by Tesla.

Pungoteague_Dave | 19 April, 2014

TM may say it isn't for profit, but practical reality is they are charging superior shop rates and parts mark-ups. Their $47k price for an 85 battery, has a bigger markup than the original car, if the $30k cost talk is to be believed. Elon said that years ago, but in reality, the service centers are run as profit centers and the managers are bonused accordingly. I just put on new tires and happily paid more than I would have anywhere else, because I "support" the cause and desire one-stop shopping (and service responsibility), but they are not doing you any favors at the Service Centers.

church70 | 19 April, 2014

They must be making money but there's lots of ways to put spin on that

TFMethane | 20 April, 2014

@myfastlady: due respect to a Tesla legend, but I have to disagree... I recently posted about how one tire company undercuts Tesla significantly on tire prices, and that company is certainly not running a charity.

I speculated that Tesla probably pays it's workers more and gives better benefits.

QUOTE: "I doubt a shop will take the car in for service if they know it's electric and have no idea how to service it." UNQUOTE

I have to respectfully disagree, as well. Many mechanics like to learn by doing. It's much cheaper for a shop to take your money and learn on your car than it is for them to pay someone to teach them.

TFMethane | 20 April, 2014

@sudre: They can charge you labor hours when it takes them extra time to figure out how to do something.

Roamer@AZ USA | 20 April, 2014

Darwin is constantly proving his theory.

Roamer@AZ USA | 20 April, 2014

TFMethane, jiffy Lube will be happy to give you their complete service at a discount. Just laughing at other shops working on Tesla. There is just not much to do. You seem to be surprised that you can buy tires cheaper from people that only sell tires. In 44 year of driving and hundreds of cars I have never bought a tire from a car dealer shop.

Not sure I will buy replacement tires fromTesla or even buy a tire they recommend. When I am due for replacement I will see what's on the market that I like and go from there. It's really not a big deal to buy tires from people that sell tires.

TFMethane | 20 April, 2014

@Roamer: agreed on the tire point. Someone who specializes in tires will probably do the tires better and cheaper (if they are honest and fair dealing). Same is probably true of brakes.

Regarding the "not much to do" comment, though. Just had my annual done yesterday, and they did a pretty thorough inspection. They fixed a broken air intake vane that I never would have even noticed. I dunno, there are probably a bunch of little things that wear out that makes a trained annual once-over worth a few hundred bucks.

But for generic stuff like brakes and tires: best to shop around.

Michalscheck | 20 April, 2014

@Pungoteague_Dave - funny you say "selling something" when our learning center is all free. :) Either way, you may all gasp when I say this, but our company (just like Tesla) actually is *gulp* for profit too.

My motto is:

Price (and profit) only matters in absence of value.

It's hard to explain what I'm talking about without giving references (hence the link to the free learning center). Also, not sure how many of you here would actually be our target client (maybe 1 in 100,000), so that would be a pretty inefficient use of my time as CEO.

My real motivation is to actually shed light on what I do see as a real concern - over time (5-10 years from now) we can't say that all electric cars (not just Tesla) will be serviced by OEM only.

With actual workplace fatality, electrocution, and amputation stats so staggeringly high from working on even simpler equipment (like exhaust fans and conveyors many of times), it's my guess that if there is not additional planning put in place we'll see a significant jump in unnecessary deaths due to this game-changing technology trickling down to the mass service centers.

Here's another link (no selling) that should help show you how these people are dying so you can better understand my vantage point as SME in workplace safety:

While I support the idea of "voting with your dollar" I too will be taking my specialized vehicles to their respective mother ship for every bit of service need just as I would other products I've owned in the past with similar brand/technology positions (iPhone). That said, however, I do not have faith that everyone will be so brave to pay a ~50% (or so) premium to cast a vote with their dollar to change tires/brakes. And when those "for profit" businesses see a $100K car in their shop for $700 (tire/brake) service while Tesla OEM service can rack up $47,000+ in service for more technical repairs, the temptation will be too great for the market not to make the leap and offer competitive 3rd party repair. The temptation will be even greater as the market base builds where Tesla will loose control of what 3rd party parts are available (motors, higher performance parts, capacitors, bigger/better batteries, etc.)

I don't believe in Darwin's theory (survival of the fittest) applicability when it comes to workplace safety. Too many people say that as a cop out of responsibility. Not implying the car owners are responsible, but when workplace safety managers, fellow co-workers, and business owners say that, it tends to impede progress towards real safety focused solutions that will save lives of people just like you and me - who are just trying to do their job quickly and efficiently. Those ~5k deaths annually each have an individual story, and I doubt they are all because Darwin would say they are just the "weaker" of the bunch. They are the often the most dedicated, hardest working, and talented. Just got caught off guard and paid the ultimate price.

Back to Tesla (and future cool electric cars) - It's up to people just like us to pre-think about the future before it happens to ensure the ripples that will happen are the ones we want. If people HAVE to die (and I'm sure with 400V advanced systems going out there, they will) then let's make sure that whatever can be done will be done to protect them as much as possible (and practical).

Mark22 | 20 April, 2014

How much training is needed for "don't cut orange cables"?

Mechanics have been dealing with high voltage cables for years and should know what they mean.

I've taken my Teslas to third party shops for tires and alignment work. Anything else though goes straight to Tesla.

Michalscheck | 20 April, 2014

@mark22 - First of all, I agree with you in that they should be trained not to do something idotic. Also agree about 3rd party simply maintenance and Tesla heavy maintenance.

That said however, what happens when your Tesla gets T-Boned and you take it to the local body shop with a good reputation?

Having worked in a body shop myself at a young age, I can say this is where the can of worms is opened - anything can happen to those orange cables that are very hidden in the subframe and would be easy to inadvertently come in contact with by unknowing / untrained people depending on the severity of the repair.

Quick Insurance / Car Repair Fact (at least the last time I heard it...may have changed):
A car is not considered "totaled" by Insurance companies until the cost of repair exceeds 70% of the car's replacement value.
This means for an ~$100K car, If your accident involves $50K in repair, you will be getting it fixed. (depends on your insurance company's policy/preferences/etc.)

I've seen the entire front of cars ripped off, entire engines and crumple zones replaced with one from a junk yard and the car welded right at the A-Pillar - all without totaling the car. And this was a Pontiac Grand-Am. Imagine what a Tesla could go through and still get fixed.

You might always take it to Tesla, but I doubt Tesla is going to get into frame straightening, bondo work, and painting as a full service solution. Even if they eventually do (or have a recommended network), that doesn't mean everyone feels the same as you (or can afford to do that).

Also, the argument isn't only about what YOU in particular would do, but more specifically "what should be done about the certain quantity that inevitably will find their way outside of OEM".

Lastly, the argument of "they should know what they (orange cables) mean" isn't a good argument when you can see workplace fatalities so high from very trained employees making mistakes that would be easy to avoid with proper safety procedures. Take a look at the link and search "electrocution" to see how many died from that same logic - "they should have known."

TFMethane | 20 April, 2014

Isn't there a way to disable all high-voltage systems for major repairs? There should be.

Michalscheck | 20 April, 2014

@TFMethane - Currently the process that is available for non-Tesla facility employees is to cut the loop and involves cutting a section out of the loop that I'm assuming is only control power for the High Voltage system.

The easiest "fix" might be to replace that loop with a lockable switch that can be re-used by non-emergency personnel during other situations that might warrant it.

This is only based on my limited knowledge of their systems based on rescue information. If others have insight/experience of a better way to cut power for service, I would like to see it.

Pungoteague_Dave | 20 April, 2014

The battery can be dropped to remove the high power electrical source. This whole thread remains a solution looking for a problem. If a technician messes with a Model S electrical system and is killed in the process due to lack of training, he gets what he deserves and it IS Darwinism. My point regarding your business agenda here is made in your wordy and uninformative, yet unconvincingly alarmist objective.

Michalscheck | 21 April, 2014


You have your point - some might say a cold hearted one, but certainly your entitlement. If your loved one was the untrained worker, would you feel the same way?

Judging by the ideas presented by others (and my own), many workers who are not killed every day owe their life to people willing to keep an open mind and not look at everything as black/white.

This thread topic is not looking for a problem (or suggesting that Tesla is unsafe in any way) - simply pointing out that forecasting potential issues that might crop up as an advanced technology becomes more mainstream.

In order to keep everyone else on track (not trying to change your mind Pungoteague_Dave)

As Tesla (and OTHER mainstream all-electric cars for that matter) become more common place - Who's responsibility is it to ultimately ensure service techs (3rd party primarily) stay protected as much as possible (balancing practicality of course).

There are links in this thread to very helpful workplace stats that show thousands of fatalities annually when even simpler equipment are serviced by untrained techs annually.

RE: According to Pungoteague_Dave's comment on Darwinism this 21 yr. old worker deserved what he got on his 1st day of the job then when he was killed after doing what he thought was correct:

To clear the air - No hidden agendas here Pungoteague_Dave - I'm assuming you do not have workplace safety experience which may be the reason we do not see eye to eye.

Roamer@AZ USA | 21 April, 2014

@Michaelcheck, There may be more training going on than you realize. When I brought a Nissan Leaf home very early in the Leaf production my neighbor, who is a fire Capt, couldn't wait to open it up and see all the safety disconnect items he had already been trained on. Same thing happened when I received my first Tesla in March 2013. Yep he had already trained on it.

The body shop that recently repaired some minor front end damage had been factory trained and certified to work on Tesla's.

Even the tow truck driver that loaded up my daughters burned up Lexus ct200h was aware what to do when it caught fire again as he was driving with it loaded on his truck. He had the proper extinguisher and pulled over and put it out. This was after the fire department had already put it out and released it for transport. Note, fire did all the proper steps but when you are dealing with a melted down mess there is only so much can be done.

I think you give industry to little credit for adapting to new things and training employees. | 21 April, 2014

Interesting thread. I'll only add that in a crash, the battery pack has it's own shock and smoke sensors and will disconnect the battery electrically (and inside the battery itself) from the rest of the car. Orange cables should not be energized after this type of crash, but it's still prudent to assume they are.

I'm sure there is some way to re enable the battery, but it appears that only Tesla's service group has that knowledge.

Brian H | 21 April, 2014

lose control
whose responsibility

Your lock-out box idea seems to be the quickest and most widely applicable suggestion.

Pungoteague_Dave | 21 April, 2014

@michaelcheck - you say "To clear the air - No hidden agendas here Pungoteague_Dave - I'm assuming you do not have workplace safety experience which may be the reason we do not see eye to eye."

I have unfortunately experienced more than my share of worker ineptness and accidents in my career as a shopping center developer and owner. I have personally seen an improperly secured safety system fail, causing a skylight washer to fall to his death in front of me. Every major mall or office building project ever built involves multiple injuries and generally a death or two. Projects like tunnels invariably involve multiple deaths, try as we might to avoid them. Safety is a major concern of mine personally. I simply do not see the Models S safety-related repair issues as arising to the level of consumer concern. A moron is aware of the high voltage and potential risks. Telling a worker to avoid crossing with the red and black wires in an EV is akin to telling a electrical contractor to be careful when removing an electric breaker panel cover. It goes without saying.

Red Sage ca us | 21 April, 2014

Honestly, I read Elon Musk's quote of Service Centers not being a profit center as meaning simply they would "...not be a customer runaround, wallet gouging, profit grinding center..."

That is, customers won't have to worry about the particular things that dealership service centers decide are billed at a certain hourly rate, even if they only take a service technician five or ten minutes to complete.

Or, those accessories and options that have a 10,000% markup just because they are available at a dealership counter.

Or, that a purposely faulty part design would be installed as standard, so that you would have to replace it multiple times over the years at your own expense, before it was finally recalled.

Brian H | 21 April, 2014

Also, that applies to the whole operation; they may make a profit on some items or services, and take a hit on others. It may be up to the station mgr how to balance those off.

TFMethane | 22 April, 2014


"they may make a profit on some items or services, and take a hit on others. It may be up to the station mgr how to balance those off."

Agreed. The biggest enemy of justice is expediency, which is more likely the motivation for price gouging at a "zero profit" operation.

If you can push a couple unnecessary tire replacements, you can roll over and concede to an angry customer who is demanding a discount on something else.

Brian H | 22 April, 2014

I was talking about the degree of profit-centeredness of a TM SC, and the fact that some items would generate profit, some a loss, with the intent for it all to wash.

TFMethane | 22 April, 2014


Yes, I was saying the same thing, only imagining real scenarios that would result in per-item losses for the service center.

I doubt that they automatically price any service to generate a loss for them. Most of their loss would come from inefficiencies in scheduling, and giving people discounts for smiles, complaints, whatever.

In order to even out those losses, they have to do something. either they have to stop comping people when they are angry, or they have to push high-margin service items, like tires.

We're on the same page, except you're writing as if the plusses and minuses were all planned out somehow. I'm saying that managers are making decisions that push things positive and negative everyday, and they have to hit their no-profit target just like any other service department has to hit their 20% profit mark (for example).

The same things will go on, just dampened a bit by the reduced profit margin of zero.

TFMethane | 22 April, 2014

When I was a kid, I thought communism seemed like a pretty nice idea... everyone works as much as they can, and everyone gets out of it what they need. I assumed they didn't even use money in Russia. I learned later that everything worked pretty much the same over there, because you always need money.

When I first started working for the VA, I thought that, well, the government pays for all this, so they must just put in requisitions for supplies and payroll from DC, and it just works. I later learned that there is the same accounting and billing for everything, and the hospital gets paid by DC just like any other hospital gets paid by insurance companies.

There are only so many ways to skin a cat, and there is nothing about Tesla's service department that makes it fundamentally different from any other service department. It's not a free love colony, it's a dealer service department.

NKYTA | 22 April, 2014

and there is nothing about Tesla's service department that makes it fundamentally different from any other service department.

Whoa. I guess it depends on how you define fundamental.

The goal of the mega dealership down the road is to make as much profit as it can while actually keeping customers. The goal of a Tesla service center is to be revenue neutral and keep its customers happy. That's a pretty fundamental difference to my mind.

J.T. | 22 April, 2014

One of the staff at my Service Center used to work for Mercedes as a mechanic. It was routine to discover the need for a wheel alignment on 75% of the cars that came in for service. Of course, the customer would thank the service department for being proactive and discovering something that might cause excessive tire wear down the road.
At that Merc Dealer profits were fundamental and that's the difference.

Brian H | 23 April, 2014

One of the easiest ways to make a loss on a service is not to charge for it. Many experiences of that documented here.

Michalscheck | 30 April, 2014

wow, great comments everyone - love the varying perspectives of who is responsible for safety.

The one thing that sticks out most is the comment about the lexus hybrid burning to the ground and the tow truck and fire dept workers all new what to do.

The part that sticks out in the above summary isn't only that they knew what to do (which is fantastic), but that the Lexus caught fire and battery burned....why wasn't Lexus strung up in the media like Tesla was for the select incidents?

Or maybe they were and I missed it. Seems to me that lots of folks out there (*Tesla Competition, media folks in NY, etc.) like to make moutains out of mole hills.

As far as overall safety goes - Yes, high voltage can be dangerous. Lithium can "rapid vent" (a.k.a. catch fire), but how safe are our current vehicles in comparison? While we might not get shocked with several hundred volts, we could be drenched in flammable liquid, exploded with flammable fumes, poisoned with toxic gases, etc. all becuase of the inherent fuel source - gas vs. lithium battery.

All in all, I would feel safer sitting on a frame stuffed with lithum battery than I would if it were filled with combustable and toxic fuel.

Still...a lockout switch might be a good solution for those poor Darwinian folks that didn't pay attention when they were cutting into the car.