I just passed 15,000 miles in my 2019 Tesla Model 3 SR+ and had a brief service visit. I figured this was a good time for an article on my service needs and experiences so far. This is service up to 3 months short of 2 years and, as just noted, right beyond 15,000 miles.
Additionally, during my recent service visit, I got guidance on recommended or necessary service for the next few years, which I think could be useful to share broadly.
Tesla Model 3 12V Battery Replacement
The service I got was a 12V battery replacement. I got a warning on the Tesla touchscreen when I went to charge one day that I needed to replace the 12V battery. Happily, one of my young daughters didn’t see the warning pop up before me and purposefully or accidentally close the notification before I saw it, because after dismissing the message, I didn’t see it or any other notification about this again. (They are often jumping to the front to watch or play something when I go to plug in, so I really could have missed the message and then had the car die on me.) It seems odd that Tesla doesn’t have this message remain somewhere (notification screen, app, etc.) until the issue is resolved, but at least the girls didn’t get to it before me (this time).
When I was at a Tesla Service Center a few months before that, I had already seen various forum discussions about Tesla vehicles getting this warning or dying without notice due to a dead 12V battery, so I made sure to ask the service tech about it at that time. He said that you should get the battery replaced quickly after getting the warning. The car will still drive for a few days before the battery dies, but not for very long. So, I got to work and requested Tesla service to replace the 12V battery almost immediately.
I scheduled service via the app for an opening a few days later. The app indicated that it could be a mobile visit (also known as Ranger service), meaning I didn’t have to take the car to the service center — a Tesla technician just came to me.
My car is still under warranty, so the battery swap was complimentary. I didn’t realize that beforehand, so it was certainly a nice surprise.
Tesla Service Schedule
Back in the old days, Tesla used to give Model S buyers a multi-year maintenance schedule. In fact, you had to follow it or pay a fee, if I recall correctly. However, that wasn’t super popular, new Tesla cars improved week after week, even Tesla’s earliest vehicles proved the lack of need for much service, and Tesla discontinued the service schedule. That said, Teslas still do need some service.
Not knowing much about it and having an experienced Tesla employee right there to interrogate, I asked the technician a few more questions when he was in my driveway and he offered up seemingly clear and convincing answers. He told me that the following service should be done at the designated timeframes:
- Tires should be replaced as the tread gets to low. He told me mine need to be replaced in the next 2,000–3,000 miles or so — between about 17,000 and 20,000 miles. That sounds early, but it’s apparently quite common with the Model 3 (ymmv). I’ll be sure to write an update in a couple of months or so.
- After 2 years, the car should have a brake fluid flush.
- After 4 years, the coolant should be replaced.
- After 4–6 years, the AC desiccant should be replaced.
Not too bad.
Previous Tesla Model 3 Service
Before now, I had a minimal amount of service to check a few things (which didn’t really need checked), to replace the AC filter (which had gotten mildewy in the Florida heat and humidity), to rotate the tires, and to glue a little trim in slightly that I thought might be sticking out too much.
A new HVAC filter cost $34 and a cleaning supply cost $16.50. Tesla Service labor would have come to $39.75, but it was done pro bono. Tesla had just recently pushed out an over-the-air firmware update to help limit how much this happened and how often the filter would need replaced, and it was basically serviced without charge this time because of how soon after buying the vehicle it needed to be done (a bit more than a year into ownership).
I also asked them to check on several minor things, which they did for free.
Lastly, and the reason for going in, I had my tires rotated, which cost $35.
Almost one year prior, in December 2020, I stopped into the service center to have them check a few things. Though, it was all minimal and nothing needed to be done, so the cost was $0.
Having owned a BMW i3 for 9 months before the Model 3 and having visited BMW service a handful of times, one area where BMW did better is its service center was also much more attractive, with a big TV, a bunch of snacks and coffee options, and a nicer and more open view. The Tesla service center, a rather new one and certainly not a regional hub, is much more barebones and almost warehouse-like. It’s not exactly an inspiring place. That said, BMW dealers make a solid profit on service and charges well beyond their costs for many things, whereas Tesla has held the view since Day 1 that service should not be a profit center and everything Tesla Service does is basically at cost.
All in all, I’m very happy with Tesla Service. A few things could be a bit better, but there’s very little to complain about and there’s a lot to be thankful for. It’s mostly simple, quick, and convenient. Also, although there’s still the tendency there to worry that you’re going to spend too much on something you don’t need fixed or serviced yet, the nice thing with Tesla is that you know it’s not trying to suck every dime out of you — it’s not looking to make service a profit center at all. Just don’t expect to be pampered too much and wooed for the same reason.