Tesla paint is specific to Tesla but it doesn’t have a great rating. It’s known to chip and flake easily. Let’s look at why this is and how we can make it better.
Tesla paint issues include flaking, chipping, and pitting. Repair is covered under Limited Warranty but this can be void if you attempt to fix it yourself or an external outlier is at fault, such as a salt state location.
In this article, we’ll look at the paint issues, how to avoid chipping and flaking, and how to repair them if necessary in the best possible way.
Is Tesla Paint Bad?
Tesla is known to chip, flake, and pit. The paint on your Tesla is a water-based EPA which could explain why it chips and flakes so easily. But lots of car manufacturers now use water-based paints so why is Tesla paint so prone to chips?
There are other items to be considered when we look at the reason for Tesla paint chips. Items like the depth of Tesla paint, and also external influences such as salt treatment in certain locations or even the products you are choosing to clean your Tesla.
Tesla EPA Paint
Very few car brands release full disclosure on all their products or components for fear of competition duplication. But Tesla’s company ethos lends itself to being as environmental as possible and it’s a given that they use water-based paints and plant extracts.
Water-based paints are as the name suggests – water-based – and this reduces the number of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which are much more prevalent in solvent-based paints.
Water-based paints are therefore better for the environment as they produce less toxic waste in both production and during the paint process.
They are less harmful to human health as they give off less vapor during the painting process. They are also less of an irritant when in contact with the skin during paint production than regular solvent-based paint. But not completely without danger and should still be used in well-ventilated areas and with the correct procedures in place.
Water-based paints can offer the same performance in terms of durability and longevity but are known to have lower resistance to external chemicals or cleaning products.
Although the performance gap between solvent and water-based is decreasing with time, there are still advantages of solvent over water, unfortunately.
Hidden Features You Need to Know – Today!
Is Tesla Paint Soft?
The answer to the question is ‘Yes’ Tesla paint is soft. Due to the water-based material and the makeup of Tesla paint, it doesn’t perform as well as some other car paints on the market.
When tested with the Wolff-Wilborn Test Hardener (the industry standard for paint hardness) Tesla paint was graded at an F, on a scale of 6B – 6H, with 6H being the hardest, compared to other car brands that score in the 3H margin.
The reality is that solvent-based paint produces a much harder end result than water-based but the EPA is striving to eradicate all paints with VOCs.
What makes Tesla paint chips easier is not only the softness of the paint but also the depth or lack of depth in the most important areas.
Is Tesla Paint Thin?
The paint on your Tesla is known to be relatively thin compared to other brands. Anything from 4-7 mils (up to 180 microns) is standard for most brands. However, it should be noted that different panels have different depths. The roof for example of most cars is thinner than the hood or the wings. But in a Tesla, the thickness varies greatly from the standard brand, with some measurements as low as 1-4 mil.
The thinner the paint, the more likely it is to chip or flake.
The paint on a Tesla may not be applied all at once, or by different people from day to day and so the discrepancy occurs.
If the paint has not been applied correctly, an ‘orange peel’ effect occurs. This is where the paint can lift and appear to bubble and take on a peel appearance. Paint needs to be applied with many coats, and each is allowed to fully dry and harden before the next layer is applied.
Contacting Tesla About Paint Issues
Tesla understands that they have paint issues. This can be from cracking, pitting, or discoloration. The cracking and pitting results from the paint production side of the build. If you notice any paint problems with your paintwork Tesla will work to fix the problem under the Limited Lifetime Warranty.
There are conditions to the Warranty Clause which include external factors. The paint damage can’t be the result of a crash, aftermarket extras added to the body of the car leading to rust spots, any area of the car that has been touched up, or any part of the car that has been exposed to chemical – be it an inappropriate cleaning product of road salting.
If you have attempted to repair any type of paint defect then this will void your paint warranty.
As soon as you notice a paint problem you should contact the Tesla Service Center – through the Tesla App – and schedule an appointment. Include as much detail as you can and attach photos of any problem areas, be it cracking, flaking, or pitting.
Another issue that some owners have come across with dissatisfaction is that individual panels, one or more have slightly different color tones to the rest. Or that the panel is fading or discoloring at a different rate than the rest of the car.
This could be caused by this particular panel having been painted at a different time of the day than the rest, and the mix is a different consistency. It happens, and unfortunately to a greater extent in Tesla as the production line is smaller than some larger brand manufacturers.
The Answer to Tesla Paint Issues
Tesla will fix your paint issues as discussed above but there are ways that you can protect your paint and prolong the life of the paint coating.
Tesla offers a paint protection film. This prevents chipping on the front bumper and bottom of the rear doors. On some Models, mainly the Y, this can come as standard but a number of owners have claimed that theirs didn’t have any, but it was installed at a later date when queried.
You can buy it as an aftermarket kit through the Tesla store. It is easily applied with a slip solution. of baby soap and water.
The process is as follows:
- Remove the film backing
- Apply the Left Hand Side rear
- Apply the Right Hand Side Read
- The two sides are not the same
- Apply to the contour of the car
- Do not have any overhang
- Use the squeegee supplied to remove any excess bubbles
This kit is also widely available through third-party sellers online and in-store.
Although it does a good job at preventing some stone damage it won’t eradicate all. The overall shape of a Tesla (all models) results in a lot of large flat surfaces (not aerodynamic) and planes which in turn throw small stones upwards.
The alternative to the protection panels is a ceramic coating or a car wrap. Both can be quite costly but they will protect your paint surface.
Tesla Ceramic Coating
A ceramic coating is not offered through Tesla, however before you jump in and install it, check that it won’t void your warranty. Most professional-grade applications will withstand the warranty process but always better to check first.
Ceramic coating is a liquid polymer, applied with an applicator, that bonds to the surface of your Tesla. It then requires time to cure and may require additional layers to achieve the desired thickness.
It basically acts as an additional layer(s) on top of the paint that is already quite thin to begin with.
Tesla Car Wrap
A car wrap is in essence the same as a Protection Film, but with the complete car being covered. I would advise that you seek a professional grade company to complete this for you.
The wrap is a thin layer of Thermoplastic Color Urethane (TPU) and acts as a barrier to prevent chips and scratches and also blocks UV rays.
The main advantage of a car wrap over ceramic coating is that a car wrap can be removed (using professional tools). Some TPUs also have self-healing abilities, when heated, the film can return to its original shape, filling in any minor gaps that might appear over time.
Both of these processes can be pricey. A ceramic coating can range from $600 – $2000 for a Model 3 and upwards again for a Model Y or S. Ceramic coating is very labor intensive. Each layer takes time to dry and harden. But the coating will last the lifetime of the vehicle.
A car wrap on the other hand can cost from a couple of hundred dollars for the area in front of the wheels (most likely the area for stone chips) to $8000 for a complete car.
The cost depends on the vinyl quality, the color or finish, the time it takes (usually up to a week), and the amount of car you are wrapping. If you are also including door sills then the cost can be considerably more.
A car wrap will last up to 7 years if you take care of it properly.
Can I Fix My Tesla Paint Chips?
The cost of a ceramic coating or car wrap is somewhat cost-prohibitive. You may have purchased your Tesla as a used car, and no longer can avail of the warranty or the chips are just from general wear and tear. So what is the alternative to coating or wrapping your car?
Well, you can invest in a touch-up kit. You can purchase these directly from Tesla at a cost of $60. It’s very important to follow the process exactly and also to match the color to the correct code of your Tesla (found on the label of your driver door panel).
White is not the same as Pearl White and Pearl White doesn’t ever match fully with the touch-up kit. In the sunshine, your Pearl White touch-up will definitely be noticeable.
There are many other alternatives available online that offer the same Tesla color matching and contain the same items in the kit (if not more) but if you are considering a third-party paint supplier, ensure that you read the reviews and pick a very reputable supplier. Nothing screams louder than mismatched dots on your hood.
Location of Your Tesla
The last thing I’ll mention is the location of your Tesla. Chipping occurs from small stones and debris coming in contact with your car but other elements can also degrade your paintwork.
Elements such as intense heat in sunny states can break down the paint with strong UV rays, and at the opposite end of the scale, if you live in a salt state (a lot of very cold weather). Salt can have a detrimental effect on your paintwork.
It’s not realistic to move state because of the paintwork on your Tesla but you will have to manage the paint more if you live in one of these extreme climates.
You can protect it from UV by storing it in the shade or in a garage, and by washing it thoroughly and regularly to prevent salt damage.
As mentioned the ideal cure for both of these climate occurrences is either Ceramic Coating or Car Wrapping but this is not cost-effective for every Tesla owner.
It is something to consider before purchasing a Tesla, however. How you will manage the extreme heat or cold and the paint challenges that arise from living in either.
I’ve written a ton on common Tesla issues, which, hopefully, you won’t ever experience, but if you do, we have you covered with these posts:
- Will Tesla Fix Interior Problems? Some – Know which Ones!
- Why Are My Tesla Windows Misaligned? Top Tips to Fix!
Check out the Tesla troubleshooting page for problem Teslas.
Check out the Tesla charging page for common Tesla charging problems.
Check out the Tesla category page for a list of popular Tesla posts.
If you are curious about other EV models, check out the EV FAQ category.
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