Tesla Model 3 Issues – The good, the bad and the down-right ugly

Problems and complaints are piling up. Could you be stuck with a lemon?

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

The Tesla Model 3 received a ton of fanfare before its release. But now, the smoke has cleared, and many early adopters are left with buyers remorse. The all-electric compact car turned out to have a higher price tag – and lower build quality – than expected.

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Tesla Model 3 Problems

You’d think a battery-powered sedan would have superb electronics. Yet,many owners are complaining of problems with the car’s onboard technology. Plus, there are accounts of flat-out shoddy construction – bumpers falling off, sunken hoods, the list goes on and on.

One consumer review on Cars.com reads, “Let me first say I used to be a fan of Tesla and Elon, now on my 3rd Tesla, I expected a great car. My model 3 spent over a month in the service department during the 4 months I owned it. Service was just part of the issue, the model 3 wouldn’t start twice, leaving me stranded. They replaced the battery and it still had issues.”

The owner who wrote the above message is not alone. Of course, many of the naysayers got early production vehicles, which had bugs that may have since been worked out. Other complaints are from people who can’t adjust to the Model 3’s quirks, or want it to be just like the Model S.

Regardless, These are some of the most common problems found with the 2018 Tesla Model 3so far.

Wonky touchscreen infotainment system

These days, the infotainment system is the centerpiece of any cockpit and the Tesla Model 3 is no exception. A massive, 15-inch touchscreen sits prominently in the middle of the dashboard. And it’s used to control almost everything in the car.

As high-tech as this unit appears, rumors abound that it’s worse than a PC hopped up on Windows Vista. According to Edmunds.com, during its editor’s long-term road test of a Model 3, the infotainment system had the following problems:

  • Nav screen going haywire: zooming, scrolling, pinching, pixelating all at once.
  • Audio system turning on by itself at full volume.
  • Audio display randomly moving up and down the screen without any command from a human.
  • The backup camera screen (which displays on the infotainment screen) did not appear when reversing.
  • The screen went completely dark on startup, no music or operation. Restarted the car. The screen worked; the backup camera did not.
  • Icons on the map screen flickering.

Perhaps the best quote from the Edmunds review is this: “Audio system came on and went to full volume all by itself while the car was off, locked and unoccupied. I heard it from 100 yards away. “Who is that joker playing his stereo so loud I can hear it from here?” Oh, it’s Elon. I turned it down, but it kept wavering up and down as I started driving, working against my repeated attempts to dial it down. Then it blasted all the way to maximum. My ears are still ringing two hours later. Fixed after reboot. Not sure about hearing damage.”

Green Car Reports had a similar issue when it test drove a Model 3, borrowed from a reader. Of the experience, Editor-in-Chief, John Voelcker wrote, “Before we were even able to visit the owner, the car had to go back to the Tesla service center to have the central touchscreen replaced.”

Amidst other complaints, the actual owner of the vehicle is also quoted as saying, “I have found the car twice in the garage, locked, with the stereo blasting at full volume for who knows how long.”

Questionable fit and finish

The Model 3 was supposed to be released as a 220-mile range model that cost around $35,000. Instead, the car that shipped was a $50,000, 310-mile variant. Needless to say, buyers want a seamless fit and finish when they fork over that kind of cash.

Regrettably, there have been many owner accounts of Model 3 cars with misaligned – and sometimes, detached – body panels.

One owner tweeted that his bumper fell off after only 30 minutes of ownership. Another shot back a response tweet saying he’d had a similar experience. Of course, there’s no way to prove these bumpers actually, “fell off in the rain”, but it’s intriguing nonetheless.

Another Model 3 owner claims that, upon delivery of his car, he found the hood had sunk down below the fenders. Once again, this is the internet and there’s no way to prove it. Still, the pictures are thought-provoking.

A more reliable source, Edmunds, relayed of its Model 3 that, “The passenger vanity mirror fell off completely. Installed and held on only by double-sided tape. Reinstalled by pressing really hard on the mirror.”

Car won’t unlock or drive

There’s one thing a car has got to do – and that’s drive. But at times, the Model 3 isn’t capable of performing this fundamental task.

During their long-term test of Elon’s all-electric wonder, Edmund’s editors found that the car, “Would not recognize keycard in or on the console and hence would not go into gear. It did, however, unlock the car. Workaround was to force quit the app and restart the app. Then it would allow the choice of Drive or Reverse.”

Further into their test, after the car had already been into the service center for repair, the editors had another problem: “The car will not shift into Drive or Reverse upon startup. “Vehicle Systems Are Powering Up. Shift Into D or R After Message Clears.” Have to wait for it to power up. A loud click comes from the rear of the car as if a drive shaft is engaging and the message on the screen goes away.”

Later on, the editors were confronted by a disturbing message: “Cannot Maintain Vehicle Power. Car May Stop Driving or Shut Down.” The vehicle did not actually shut down, but surely the experience was unnerving.

Another owner claims to have had the same problem, only this time, the vehicle really did shut down. Later, Tesla technicians diagnosed the vehicle as having a “failed high-voltage controller.”

Some owners state they haven’t even been able to get into their Model 3, let alone drive it. Mark Schey of Morristown, N.J., reports not being able to get into his carwith either the key card or iPhone app.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Tesla pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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
  • Steven R

    I took delivery of a Tesla Model 3 on 9/22. Tomorrow it will have been in the shop for 30 days. First, the high voltage converter and 12 volt battery had to be replaced, which took from 9/29 until 10/1. Second, the entire car has to be re-painted due to over spray. I dropped it off on 10/6 and was told it would take 1 1/2 weeks. The service center has not responded to an email that I sent on 10/19 asking for a status.

    According to VA law, 30 days of warranty repairs within 18 months deems to car to be a lemon, and I have only had possession of the car for two weeks out of the 6 since I took delivery.

    I am considering DMing Elon tomorrow on Twitter and see how he responds, or if.

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