Tesla: Rain Can Cause Model 3 Bumpers to Detach

Tech 21-10-2020 ExtremeTech-RSS 26

Early in the Tesla Model 3’s life, there were reports of poor build quality, with one analysis from the CEO of Munro & Associates claiming, “The [trunk edge] gaps on the car are like you can see them from Mars.” Later reports have indicated that Tesla improved quality control over the first Model 3s to roll off the line…but there have also been videos of Tesla bumpers falling off during rainstorms.

Initial reports of the problem date back to early 2019, but while Tesla appears to have fixed the issue within a few months, it didn’t get around to telling anyone about it until today.

Rainy, With a Chance of Bumper

First, the service bulletin, which reads in part:

In rare instances, certain components on Model 3 vehicles built at the Fremont Factory before May 21, 2019, might be damaged when driving through standing water on a road or highway with poor drainage or pooling water. In these rare instances, the rear fascia might detach from the vehicle.

While this is a rare event, it’s completely unacceptable that the public is only finding out about it now. Having the bumper of your vehicle suddenly detach isn’t just dangerous for you, it’s incredibly dangerous for anyone driving behind you.

Tesla’s service bulletin is over at Electrek. It states that vehicles that have driven on roads with poor drainage or through standing water are eligible for warrantied repair. Customers whose vehicles have been flooded or were driven through deep water are not covered by this bulletin.

The service bulletin does not address whether Tesla will be reimbursing owners for repairs they may have had to pay for on their own, or for the cost of replacement bumpers. Given that the problem began in late 2018 and affected vehicles were shipped until May 2019, it is not clear if anyone who has had the problem is actually outside the warranty period yet.

The other concern is that Tesla hasn’t put out a general recall notice to all owners so they know to bring their vehicles in for servicing. Recalls don’t literally mean that you give up your car — it means Tesla tells you, “Bring it in here so we can fix it.”

It’s not clear how many Model 3 owners have been affected by this, but Tesla should make every effort to replace the rear bumper on every Model 3 that shipped before May 21, 2019. Anyone who tries to swerve out of the way of a sudden, unexpected road obstacle risks colliding with someone in another lane or running off the road. Anyone who suffers such an event is, at best, left with a badly damaged vehicle that probably isn’t street legal, since bumpers are typically required. Customers have an incredibly reasonable expectation that their vehicles will not disintegrate under rainwater. If any customers paid out of pocket to fix this problem, for any reason, Tesla needs to reimburse them. Every vehicle potentially impacted by this issue should be recalled for service.

Feature images by Logan Jamal, who owns the vehicle in the video above. 

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