Model S "Axle" problems

Model S "Axle" problems

So I have a 2013 Model S P85. I purchased it in 8/2013 and it has been a great car. I drive a lot, and it was getting expensive to lease. Suffice it to say I was a little leary of purchasing a car because it would have over 50k miles in less than 2 years, yet still would owe a lot of money on an expensive car which would likely be upside down at that point in its life. Nevertheless, after listening to how inexpensive the maintenance would be and how bulletproof these cars are because of so few moving parts, I took the plunge.

My Model S now has almost 75K miles and is 2 1/2 years old. It is of course out of warranty. I started noticing a "clunk" noise when I accelerate at times. Also, the windshield wipers would stop working on high, manually or when the rain sensitive mode switched automatically to high, the wipers would stop. Pretty dangerous in Florida pouring rain. So I bring it in about 3 weeks ago and they tell me that the wiper motor is broken and the drive unit is also broken. The drive unit is under warranty for 8 years/unlimited miles, but I am out of warranty for the wiper motor. So I reluctantly shell out over 500$ for the wiper motor and get my car back.

It seemed fine initially but within 10 days the clunk had returned, but this time worse, clunking almost all the time with acceleration and deceleration as well. So I make another appointment, have to wait almost 2 weeks for them to pick up may car, but I had a trip planned and coordinated the two.

They pick up the car yesterday and take it to the dealer. I am on vacation and just as I am finishing my second margarita, I get a call that the problem is in both rear axles. This is not a warranty issue they say and they have to replace both rear axles. It will be about 1200$ for each axle and there is a lot of labor involved, so it will be about 3400$!

So I almost lose it. I ask to speak to the service manager, he gets on and listens to me rant for 5-10 minutes. I probably threw in a few "F" words, and he wasn't happy with that, but I am pissed. I took a leap of faith on a new car that supposedly has very few moving parts, something happened to BOTH axles at the same time, and they are blaming it on "wear and tear". In fact the service manager told me this happened on a Mercedes of his.

So I tell him I never heard of axles going bad, especially 2 at the same time, and the whole reason I bought this car is because it was sold to me as pretty much bulletproof for these types of things, and now you are telling me that you misdiagnosed my problem as a drive unit issue but now it is really BOTH axles? I'm not buying this. He told me the car wasn't misdiagnosed. I'm not sure what you call it when you are told there is a problem, apply a fix, and the problem is still there and then you are told it is really something else. In my world, that is called a misdiagnosis. They keep blaming it on so many miles, but one of their major selling points continues to be that miles really shouldn't matter in these types of cars because there are so few moving parts. I can assure you that the 2 Suburbans I have had each went into the mid-100K mile range with nothing like this.

So all this happened yesterday, and to his credit, he is going back to Tesla to see what he "can do", but nevertheless, at this point I feel frustrated and exposed. I was considering trading up, but my 2 1/2 year old car, purchased for over 100K, was valued at only 41K. I know that is not much different than if I purchased an S class or BMW, which has been my habit in the past. Nevertheless I have leased the past 3 or 4, and even with paying for the extra miles, after 3 years I was done with no long term exposure. Now I am stuck with an almost 3 year old upside down car that has already had major issues with the drivetrain. Not really sure what my options are, but to be told that I have to spend more than 4K on a less than 3 year old car seems very frustrating. If this is going to happen to their cars as they get to "middle age" it does not portend well for Tesla's future...

TesMD | March 26, 2016

Sorry to hear about this issue and I totally understand why you are frustrated. In my opinion, this is not normal wear and tear and should be covered by warranty. I also drive alot and have always leased and had over 90k miles in 3 years on my MB before I returned it and did not have any "axle" issues. So, I don't think it is normal to have axle issues at 75k. Additionally, there were reports of this issue circulating a while back while not sure if true or not, still is concerning. I hope that Tesla comes up with solution and fixes this for you under warranty. I have over 30k miles in a year on my leased car as well and for this reason, I am considering shelling 4k doolars to buy the extended warranty for up to 100k miles.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 26, 2016

I too am sorry to hear your problem, but try to look at the numbers to see the financial significants of this issue for you. First compare the cost of extended warranty VS your current expense and ask for a current trade in value given the status of your car. That is when you will have additional facts that will either enhance or reduce your frustration.

I also agree there should be at least some warrantee because the rear axle(s) should be considered part of the 8 year drive train protection.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 26, 2016


EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 26, 2016


AmpedRealtor | March 26, 2016

I, too, am sorry to hear of your problems. Having rear axle failures after only 75,000 miles is worrisome. I've driven all of my cars over 100,000 miles and never had such problems. My Acura Integra had 220,000 miles when I sold it, the worst thing that happened was a cracked radiator and a hose leak. My VW Jetta had 110,000 miles without any failures. My Toyota Prius had 120,000 miles when I sold it and I only had to replace the 12v battery. Our Toyota Highlander is going strong after 70,000 miles. Never had a rear axle failure or anything remotely similar after so few miles. I would not be happy either.

Don't powertrain warranties by other manufacturers cover axles/transaxles? I think some do. Tesla's "drive unit warranty" is not akin to a real powertrain warranty from other manufacturers. Tesla's drive unit warranty is really just an "engine warranty", nothing more.

jordanrichard | March 26, 2016

No other car's axles are subjected to the amount torque in both accelerating or decelerating. I don't mean to defend Tesla and this too gets my attention, but comparing front wheel drive cars with significant less torque loads to a Tesla is misguided. Also, I have never heard of axles being covered by a powertrain warranties in other cars. Tesla's drive unit warranty is akin to an engine and transmission warranty, since the gear reduction box is part of the DU.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 26, 2016

@Amped, I think you should include the gearbox/gear reduction system that has been problematic early on. Those problems were somewhat unique to Tesla because of the high torque (gear wear) and magnetic flux (bearing failure) which may extend to the drive shaft (spline wear) as part of the drivetrain. If it turns out to be a design flaw or manufacturing flaw, either way it should be a warranty issue unless abuse can be shown .

kawdennis | March 26, 2016

Very sorry, I can truly understand the way you feel, I have the exact same P85 as yours, also I bought mine in September 2013, at about 40,000 my touchscreen went out, of coarse Tesla took good care of me and replaced it for free, I said to my self I'd better buy the extended Warranty for $4,000 and the service for $1,900 because I really couldn't afford a major issue after 50,000 miles, I sure hope things work out for you

TesMD | March 26, 2016

Regardless of how much torque is generated by the car, there should not be axle issues at 75k miles. It would be a design flaw if the axle is not able to withstand the torque generated by our cars for the first 75k miles. Obviously with Tesla, they might have not done testing of cars to see how they hold up after racking up thousands of miles. This is/will be a major issue for most/all of us if the "axles" need to be replaced at 75,000 miles, not to mention a PR nightmare. So, I hope Tesla will cover this under warranty and make changes to their design for future cars if this becomes a persistent problem with all the cars manufactured so far.

AmpedRealtor | March 26, 2016

To be fair, I've only read about two incidents in the forums involving axle replacements including this one. The other incident I remember involved hitting a huge pothole - more like a chasm.

hammer @OR-US | March 26, 2016

"To be fair, I've only read about two incidents in the forums involving axle replacements including this one. The other incident I remember involved hitting a huge pothole - more like a chasm."

P_D has also had axle failure on the front but his was very early, seemed to be a manufacturing defect.

RVC | March 26, 2016

To the OP, also sorry to hear about your predicament. Axle failures at 75k miles---almost unheard of, for any car, I would think. We've had over 200k miles on previous Volvos and Civics, and currently over 100k on a 6 y/o Prius and a 12 y/o Civic. No axle issues whatsoever. I imagine we would have heard from others with that amount (or more) of mileage on their MSs if it wasn't such a rare occurrence. Agree with others here----Tesla should cover this for you, and, going forward, include this in the "drivetrain" warranty to avoid a PR disaster if more of these cases crop up as more of us rack up the miles.

buchholtz3 | March 26, 2016

Bummer. I hope it all works out to your satisfaction.

KidDoc | March 26, 2016

This type of story is why I plan to buy the extended warranty when the base expires. At 41k now.

tes-s | March 26, 2016

Even with the major problem, you are still below the cost of the extended service plan - so far.

California85D | March 26, 2016

I think I will buy the extended warranty when the base expires as well. I'll just sleep better that way.

Solarwind | March 26, 2016

Just had the 24K checkup on our 14 month old P85D. I mentioned to the tech I though I had a vibration under acceleration. He test drove and replaced both front drive shafts, no questions, no charge, and no more vibration. I would think your drivetrain warrantee would fix yours also.

Pungoteague_Dave | March 26, 2016

@Amped "To be fair, I've only read about two incidents in the forums involving axle replacements including this one. The other incident I remember involved hitting a huge pothole - more like a chasm."

My FRONT axles were both replaced under warranty on my P85D in May 2015 on a car delivered in 12/14. I had no symptoms, did not know there was a problem - they found whatever issue existed during the initial 12k service.

Solarwind | March 26, 2016

@P_Dave My car's date is 12/30/14. I almost forgot to mention the problem, when I did they were going to replace only one, but it would be trial and error and they didn't have time, so just replaced both.

Solarwind | March 26, 2016

@P_Dave My car's date is 12/30/14. I almost forgot to mention the problem, when I did they were going to replace only one, but it would be trial and error and they didn't have time, so just replaced both.

JAD | March 26, 2016

Low powered cars don't have issues with axels, but Porsche and other high powered cars do. Turbos are known to destroy axels. You launch a lot and physics will eventually kill anything. Just too many forces destroying things. Most people at the race track carry extra axels as they are a common failure point.

cbennet1 | March 27, 2016


cbennet1 | March 27, 2016

I tried to write a synopsis of what happened but the spam filter was blocking me. The service rep called me and said they wanted to keep me as a customer for life. They fixed the axle somehow but didn't replace them. After multiple tests they seem fine. Glad they did this but still a little skeptical. I think bilateral axle failures after only 75 k miles should not be seen as wear and tear and should be covered under the 8 year warranty. Oh well, we will see what happens...

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 27, 2016

Glad to hear this!
Basted on your description of the noise it suggests the spline fit at either end had become sloppy. This can be a result of socket wear or axle wear or both (possible lubrication problem). It is possible the socket at either end was replaced improving the fit. I haven't been able to find an explosion view of Tesla's axle design so this is just a guess. I do however doubt they would do a cheaply temporary fix just to get you out of their hair. At least now you should get an un-discounted trade in value and a good chance of long term serviceability.

GIdoc | March 27, 2016

No axel problems but I did have my windshield wiper motor broken recently at 27K mile and had to be replaced. Was done under warranty but I was told by the person who replaced it that it will be a good idea to purchase the extended warranty on this care because it is an early VIN (around 30k) and repairs can be expensive.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 27, 2016

Found this picture and it looks like there has to be a U joint of some type on both ends protected by a rubber bellows. It is possible that could be a source of the noise as well so no shaft change would be necessary.

Solarwind | March 27, 2016

Tesla uses constant velocity joints, 4 on two wheel drive cars and 8 on four wheel drive. While these are fairly trouble free there is a lot of ways for them to fail. there are roller bearings running back and forth in the metal cup groves / ridges you see in the picture. The most common way of failure is if the rubber should fail, water, dirt get in and in a short time it is junk. when speaking of axel replacement it includes both CV joints. The shaft itself is inexpensive.

Pungoteague_Dave | March 27, 2016

The joint (it is a constant-velocity joint, not a u-joint) is what fails, but to replace it the entire axle (called a half-shaft) must be replaced. The rubber boot visible in the picture can be replaced if damaged, but the CV joints and bearings are not serviceable.

Pungoteague_Dave | March 27, 2016

@solarwind, you beat me to it.

PBEndo | March 27, 2016

Was the vibration you experienced similar to having a tire out of balance?
I have had a low level vibration/shudder that feels similar to an out of balance tire for a long time now, easily a year, probably much longer. It has survived tire rotations and tire replacements and the service center says they can't reproduce it so they can't fix it. I am getting frustrated.

Solarwind | March 27, 2016

@ PBEndo The vibration I felt was only under acceleration and at low speed. Didn't notice anything at HWY speed. It was like a shudder when accelerating out of a corner, did not have to accelerate quickly. It is possible to have a CV joint vibrate all the time but you should feel a difference between load / no load , speeding up, slowing down.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 27, 2016

@Solar, so what's the theory on how they fixed it without changing the axle!

rxlawdude | March 27, 2016

I would love for Tesla to shaft me a warranty fix claiming the "drive unit" doesn't include the shafts.

Solarwind | March 27, 2016

@Edward as per my first post, they replaced both front axels.

cbennet1 | March 27, 2016

So unfortunately, I am out of town and don't get back until Tuesday. I am planning on going over there and have been them explain to me exactly what they fixed it. In addition, I am quite disappointed because in Florida The extra $4000 extended warranty was unavailable and I did not even know about it. Evidently they recently allowed it to be purchased, but nobody sent any letters to affected model S owners that were previously not able to purchase this warranty. At this point, since my car has over 50,000 miles I am unable to purchase the warranty, however perhaps it became available before my car hit 50,000 miles but I was never alerted to this. This is disconcerting and unfortunate.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 27, 2016

@Solar, what am I missing? He has a P85, with no front axles! The OP said:

"I tried to write a synopsis of what happened but the spam filter was blocking me. The service rep called me and said they wanted to keep me as a customer for life.

They fixed the axle somehow but didn't replace them. After multiple tests they seem fine. Glad they did this but still a little skeptical.

think bilateral axle failures after only 75 k miles should not be seen as wear and tear and should be covered under the 8 year warranty. Oh well, we will see what happens..."

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 27, 2016

I was talking about the OP's issue not yours.

Solarwind | March 27, 2016

@ Edward, sorry i misunderstood, my guess is something was replaced and OP was not told. Those parts can be replaced separately with more labor involved, but something was replaced to fix a clunk as that indicates slack / wear.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | March 27, 2016

@Solar, we agree then! \;-)

PBEndo | March 27, 2016

Email me at my username @

Dhnelson26 | April 29, 2016

My 2013 model S P85+ has 49,700 miles and is in the shop right now because of a clicking sound when you accelerate/decelerate. Just got a call from the sevice center telling me that they are replacing the rear axle.
Rear tires have less than 9K miles and needs replacement.
Otherwise the car has been a joy and maintenance free for the last 2 and a half years

williamweiss21 | April 29, 2016

@75K - same thing for me - two new axles - although I got the $4K extended @ 49K and all was paid.

Sh3xCod | May 25, 2016

I have had my 85D since March 2015. It is an early build 85D with vin P704XX. So fa I have done ca.15000miles /23500 km.

A month from the delivery I started to notice the vibration only during moderate and hard acceleration.... ever since then I complained to Tesla Norway.... Dec/15 last year they have changed drive unit and ''drive shafts'' with half-shafts presumably CV joints changed with it as well..... it kind of suppressed the problem (at that time I thought it was gone...) it took less then 5000 km for the problem to come back.

3 day ago I delivered car on service and they tested the car and confirmed vibration problem. The problem is b/w 40km/h - 55km/h under acceleration

In addition this problem comes back at high speed on highway 120km/h+. Very noticeable at 150 then you really feel vibration in the entire car..... like on a massage chair.

Today I got drove not more than 50m away from SC returned back with the same problem.

This time they changed front half-shaft (it is black part goes right from the gearbox to the front right wheel on this pic (it is on left side on the pic):
Exclusive: Tesla Model S P90D: A High-Speed 5- or 7-Seat Electric Rocket Ship

Tomorrow I go to SC for another fix/testing.....getting pissed on Tesla a bit...but still adore my car.

I really wanted to hear if your problem was solved? And what was the fix?

Pungoteague_Dave | May 26, 2016

I never had any symptoms before the front half shafts were replaced in May 2015 on my 12/14 P85D at about 15k or thereabouts. This is why I cancelled my order for the Ludicrous upgrade - apparently Insane mode puts out enough stress when launching.

carlk | May 26, 2016


It would not be a big issue if it's caused by CV boot leakage long as if you catch it early. It usually would not happen catastrophiccally. That's probably a good reason for not skipping annual services. I had CV join problem way back with my FWD car which would make a clunking sound when I turn the steering wheel. That's after the oil change place told me about the CV boot leackage which I ignored because I thought they were just trying to con me. Never again.

MilesMD88 | May 27, 2016

Thanks for your post. Was considering Ludicrous upgrade on my May 2015 PD build. On the fence, think I''ll pass now. Blue Angel is fast enough, no extra stress required..

UCE.GOLOWKA | May 27, 2016

I too experienced a vibration under moderate to heavy accel. Front axles were replaced at about 9K miles on my 90D. Now, at about 13K miles I am getting some vibration during accel, but only between 30-40 mi/hr. Monitoring it for now. I will bring it in if it gets worse.

henrik.thyregod | June 14, 2016

Cbenet1, what was the fix og your axle problems?
Did they tell you?

Brgds Henrik

brett4600 | June 16, 2016

My 2013 Model S 85 had the clicking on acceleration and deceleration. Vibration felt around 45 mph on road. They just told me they replaced the axle under warranty. 25K miles. Getting worried about having an early low vin model.

runswithscissor... | June 8, 2017

So I have this right rear clunk, and had the drive unit replaced. Clunk still there, reported repeatedly. Now, with 90k miles, Tesla says I will have to pay, regardless of when I reported and how many times they checked the problem. I didn't know that telling me they couldn't find the problem allows them to wait out the warranty period. I think they should fix the problem as reported for years now. If the sound is merely annoying, and not a premonition of catastrophic failure, I will be disappointed but not outraged. I like my car, but they should own the repair.