The sudden failure of Tesla Model S self-presenting door handles as a result of component failure is a common and often aggravating experience for many early owners.
The design of the earlier Model S door handle was comprised of cheaper, cast components that often led to breakage, which Tesla finally addressed in the 3rd Gen of Model S door handles.
Under warranty, the answer is simple; call the service center, and schedule an appointment for a replacement, but for many early Model S owners, their warranty has been long gone, and thus stuck with an expensive repair bill that ran upwards of $1000.00 per self-presenting door handle. It also requires a special calibration that only the service center can perform.
The owners of the Electrified Garage have addressed this common issue with a comprehensive DIY Model S Door Handle Rebuild Kit that any handy person can tackle.
The kit includes a stronger machined stainless steel gear, a new e-clip for retaining the pivot gear on the shaft, Original Equipment Panasonic replacement micro-switches, push nuts to hold the vapor barrier securely, and new door panel clips.
Here’s a basic guideline on how to repair your Model S door handle.
To remove the door handle assembly
- With the door opened, pull the hatch into a position as if you were opening the door.
- Pop off the trim piece with a flat tool, like a flathead screwdriver. Do not apply excessive force.
- Use a Torx T30 bit to remove the two screws behind the door hatch.
- Use the 9mm socket wrench to remove the single bolt that lies under the door handle.
- Use your hands to pop the speaker grille off from the bottom portion of the door.
- Then grab the underside above the speaker and the door handle and pull the door covering off firmly.
- Remove any wiring that connects the door covering to the door itself. This includes lights, speaker system wires, and door sensor connectors.
- Use a Torx T20 bit to remove the door cover panel. There will be five screws to remove.
- Use a flathead to push the rubber gasket through the hole on the panel that was most recently removed.
- Use a flathead to push the switch on the side of the door. This will trick the window into thinking the door is closed, which will push the window glass upward. It will give you easier access to screws at the top of the door frame.
- Use a trim removal device or flat tool to remove the small white piece from the door panel. This secures the door handle harness into place.
- Unplug the door handle harness.
- Remove the two black plastic door covers from the door panel that are shown below. This is done by simply pressing from the back of the pieces with your hand.
- Use a 10mm socket wrench to remove the two bolts that are in each of these two holes and another that lies within the open space in the center of the door.
- Push the door handle on the exterior of the door back into the door assembly. Use your right hand to stabilize the door and your left hand to push the door handle in.
- Reconnect the blue window power wire into the appropriate connection point. This is located at the bottom of the door. Once this is completed, roll the window down and disconnect the connection once again.
- Grab the top chrome-colored trim piece located at the top of the outside of the door. Gently remove this piece by slightly pulling and working your way down the piece. Do this gradually and try not to remove it in one pull. It could damage the trim or the door itself.
- Remove the bolt located under the chrome trim piece. It is easiest to do this with a regular wrench and slowly loosen. You can wrap the wrench in electrical tape to prevent possible scratching of the window glass.
- Reconnect the blue window power connector once again and roll the window all the way up. Once the window is rolled up, disconnect the connector wire once again.
- The door assembly can then be pulled out. Pull in a firm, controlled fashion.
To repair the door assembly:
- Remove the vapor cover from the assembly. This is usually connected with zip ties. Be careful to not cut any wires while removing.
- Remove the five centrally located bolts with the correctly-sized Torx bits.
- Remove the motor, which is the small cylindrical black piece held in by these bolts.
- Remove the two screws that maintain the position of the door handle.
- Remove the pin that is housed on the rear side of the assembly. This can be lubricated with WD-40 and pushed out with a pair of needlenose pliers.
- Install the new gear into the door assembly by pressing down on the door handle.
- Slide the pin back through and make sure the center notch on the pin is aligned with the middle slot. Install a new metal clip from the kit in the center notch.
- Reinstall the screws that were removed in Step 4.
- Resecure the main power wire for the door handle to the bottom of the assembly with zip ties.
- Reinstall the motor from Step 3 and resecure it with the appropriate screws.
- Resecure all wires with zip ties and reapply the vapor cover.