2021 Tesla Model S Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Steering and electrical system issues are among the top complaints from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

Tesla ranks as the most valuable automotive brand worldwide. It is also the leading electric vehicle brand. According to Statista, Tesla boasts a growth rate of more than 157% for 2021, after selling a record 627,350 units in the first three-quarters of the year.

Founded in 2003, Tesla launched its first car, Roadster in 2008. It introduced the first Tesla Model S four years later, in 2012. A five-door hatchback, luxury electric sedan, the Model S is Tesla’s flagship model. There are currently 2 trims. They are the standard Model S and the Tesla Model S Plaid that was launched in June 2021. Motoring journalists describe this as the third generation Model S.

But there are parts shortages. Media reports published in November say that Model S and Model X cars are sold out, probably until 2023. These reports say the Plaid is still available. Additionally, Tesla announced recently that no new vehicle models will be introduced in 2022. This is because of supply-chain bottlenecks.

There are also constant complaints about Tesla Model S cars manufactured in 2021. For example, there are 34 complaints on file with the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) alone.

There are also two ongoing investigations that date back to 2014-2021 and 2018-2021 Model S cars. Both relate to electrical system components.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2020   2022

Most Common Problems

According to 18 of the complaints lodged with the NHTSA, the most common problems with the 2021 Model S relate to the electrical system and steering issues. Forward collision avoidance is another big gripe, with 6 Model S owners lodging complaints.

There are also 4 lane departure-related complaints, 3 relating to wheels, and 2 that describe issues with vehicle speed control. Activation of the horn, which is located on the right-hand side of the steering wheel, is a problem highlighted by 4 of the 9 complaints categorized as Unknown or Other.

The remaining 7 complaints hinge on other components namely airbags, back-over prevention, exterior lighting, seats, service brakes, structure, and suspension.

2021 Tesla Model S Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Unknown Or Other
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Forward Collision Avoidance: Adaptive Cruise Control
Electrical System
Service Brakes
Vehicle Speed Control
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings

Electrical System Problems

There are 9 complaints about the electrical system. These range from the chime that starts when the car starts playing continuously while the car is on the road, to auto-drive malfunctions.

Other problems relate to HVAC system malfunctions, the instrument cluster screen and main information screen shutting down while driving, and the rear parking safety camera failing multiple times.

One new car owner describes how the instrument cluster screen went blank about 20 times when the car only had about 45 miles on the clock. This resulted in the driver losing control of the car.

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Problems with Steering

A total of 9 complaints highlight steering problems, including power steering malfunctions.

One complaint describes how, while on autopilot, the car misjudged the road curve, veered off the road, and crashed. The front right tire blew out and only the side airbags deployed. Tesla roadside assistance refused to help, saying it was an accident rather than a self-driving issue. The car is at a repair facility and the owner has been told the damage will cost $28,000-$30,000 to repair.

Several mention what they describe as a dangerous yoke steering wheel that is difficult to maneuver.  Three mention the horn issue, adding to the 4 complaints categorized under  Unknown or Other.

One complainant notes: “Finding a little button among other little buttons to sound the horn is impossible when the driver is under stress and needs to use the horn.”

Another says,” There is no way to hit the horn. It’s unbelievably dangerous.”

Forward Collision Avoidance Problems

Automated functions also seem to be the cause of some forward collision avoidance problems. For instance, one complaint says the car braked hard twice for no apparent reason, which would have been “a serious safety concern if a car had been behind me.”

A similar complaint states the car hard-braked multiple times when in cruise control when no other vehicles were in view.

Another complaint describes how the car turned left on autopilot and hit the cement barrier of the freeway. “I reported this to Tesla so they would take responsibility for their risky autopilot software. But they don’t care and told me I can report it to NHTSA. It doesn’t matter to them even with all the documented proof I have.”

What to do if your 2021 Model S is a Lemon? Your Lemon Rights

If you find you have bought a lemon you can try and negotiate a settlement with Tesla. They have an Owners’ Rights Notification document that acknowledges Tesla owners’ rights in terms of lemon law and describes the process to follow when making a claim. But, as some Model S owners discover, including the driver who hit the cement barrier (see above), it’s not that easy.

An owner whose rear parking safety camera constantly fails was told: “Unfortunately this is a known concern and is under investigation and there is nothing we can do at this time.”

Another owner who had issues with the car’s steering and wheels says: “Tesla refuses to investigate the issue beyond test drives. The Situation could deteriorate quickly resulting in my inability to control the car while driving. It is a very SERIOUS matter.”

An owner reporting an auto-drive malfunction that resulted in the car crashing into a car in front of it was told, “the car is fine.” This was after a safety inspection following the accident.

Just because Tesla has a dispute settlement process doesn’t mean you have to follow through with it on your own. Lemberg Law specializes in lemon law and can minimize your stress by doing it for you. It’ll cost you nothing because the law says Tesla must pay the legal costs.

We have helped many car owners get replacement vehicles, and have negotiated buy-back agreements or cash settlements from manufacturers. All you need to do is contact us so that we can evaluate your case.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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