Tesla is known for its high-tech innovation and futuristic outlook but the overall build quality sometimes comes up short. Let’s take a look at why that is.
Tesla will fix any panel gap issues in your new car if you notify them within 100 miles of purchase, and the panel gap exceeds the factory’s specification.
In this article, we’ll look at the consequences of panel gaps and what you can do to address the problem.
What is a Tesla Panel Gap?
Tesla first launched back in 2012 but in 2018-2019 it became the market leader in EV production. Unfortunately, increased popularity led to more orders than they could physically cope with in their manufacturing facilities, and quality control began to suffer.
Panel gaps are one of these failures. What is a panel gap? Panel gaps are spaces between the door, frunk, and trunk panels that are significantly wider than a standard vehicle and are noticeably off-sync.
The standard is 1/32 inch but in a Tesla this could be as much as 1/16 inch or more than double the norm.
For most Tesla owners the problem is not an issue, but sometimes the gap is so big that it can result in other issues such as aerodynamic problems or just really jarring with the overall look of the car.
And yes, as a new owner of a car that has cost upwards of $40k, I want it to look and drive perfectly. Why should anyone settle for less?
What is the Process for Tesla Fixing a Panel Gap?
When you receive ownership of your new Tesla, either at a designated address or a Tesla dealership you have up to 100 miles to report any problem you have with a panel gap or gaps.
A panel gap is not a given that Tesla will correct it. It has to be more than the factory specification but finding out what the specification is is not always easy.
Because of the way that Teslas are produced the panel gaps are not always a standard measurement. They may be different from side to side as well as from car to car. So a gap on the passenger side might be very noticeable but the driver’s side can be perfect.
It’s not considered a recall as not every Tesla is identical. If you make a Service query (within 100 miles) Tesla won’t automatically make the repair.
The answer that most Tesla owners receive is that the gap is within the specifications. It’s not a recall as it’s not causing any safety issues and apart from cosmetics, you can still drive your car as normal.
Unless the panel gap is causing a major issue, like the door won’t open or close, or the frunk or trunk won’t open or close, it’s unlikely that it will be seen as an urgent issue by Tesla.
If your Tesla has just arrived and there is a panel gap that is screaming at you, then the best advice is that you reject the delivery and opt for a new model. That’s not to say that the next one will be any better and you will have to wait for the new delivery date, which can be lengthy.
If they do agree to a fix, the fix might not be what you imagine. Don’t expect that your car will automatically be brought back to the factory and new panels fitted.
Hidden Features You Need to Know – Today!
As it’s not seen as a recall, the go-to fix will be a Service Engineer deployed to your house. You must notify Tesla through the Tesla App and give as much detail as possible about the panel gap problem, including images of the gaps and that you have not yet reached the 100-mile limit.
A Service Engineer will arrive and assess the panel gap and the symmetry between it and the corresponding side (if there is one) and make a judgment on what needs to be done.
The go-to action is that one gap is decreased and one is increased to align the symmetry. Or if the frunk or trunk is the issue rubber grommits or spacers will be adjusted if the side of one panel is sitting higher or lower than the other.
Problems that Occur with Panel Gap Fix
Fixing your panel gap may be a problem that you want to avoid as it can lead to other problems that can in turn be more noticeable. The main one is paint chipping or scuffing.
Adjusting panel gaps involves tools that will change the hinge distance on doors or where trim needs to be lifted. Soft tools should be used but this doesn’t always occur. There are many customer complaints online that panel adjustments have been carried out without 100% consideration for the paintwork.
Your car will be covered under warranty if chipped during a repair but you will then need to leave it at a Tesla Service Center for most likely a few days, as a paint touch-up is not a five-minute job.
Apart from the scuffing of paint, there is a chance that the panel gap adjustment can lead to exterior road noise.
The noise may not have been noticeable before but now that the gap is evened on both sides, this can sound like a hurricane with acceleration.
I would prefer to live with a slightly misaligned panel than excessive road or wind noise. When you begin to adjust hinges and seals they never quite sit correctly in the long term. Seals are going to degrade over time anyway and if they have previously been altered, that bit of give is not there in the future when it is required and at that stage, you might no longer have a warranty.
Used Tesla with Panel Gaps
Your new Tesla might only be new to you. The used Tesla market is thriving with some models selling on a par with their original price tag. If this is the case, then your 100-mile buffer is well and truly gone but the panel gap might be causing you some visual irritation.
The Model 3 and Model Y have been known to display trunk panel gaps. This has been somewhat adapted and corrected by Tesla quality control in that 6 rubber adjustment pads have been added. These can be moved either in or out to obtain a more level panel thus reducing the appearance of the gap.
Don’t overadjust as this can lead to further problems with the rear quarter panels. Two full turns is about the limit. The same can be done for the frunk panel gap.
Gaps on Tesla door panels pose a greater difficulty. Your doors are aligned through the interior hinges. To make an adjustment you will have to either loosen or tighten the hinges. This is not a quick and easy fix and you can end up with a bigger door problem than you began with, doors not making a complete seal and hence not locking properly or at all.
Unless you are confident about your ability to correctly adjust the door I would leave well enough alone. The general consensus is that Tesla is just a slightly quirky car and that an oversized panel gap is widely accepted as the norm.
Will the build quality improve in the future? More than likely yes. But the reality is Tesla is not Ford or Toyota and doesn’t have the experience behind them that top manufacturers do. But he’s doing a helluva job keeping up!
Do Panel Gaps Matter?
The reality is that panel gaps do not affect driver safety and are not considered cause for a recall.
It’s a sign that not much attention to detail was made in the production stage, mainly due to the lack of a large-scale assembly line.
Tesla has improved on early models where the gaps were so large that owners were somewhat embarrassed.
In saying that, if you are considering buying a used Tesla then I would definitely check out the panel gaps on any cars that you go to view. Significant gaps and misalignment can also be caused by a previous impact. This is for sure something you should check out as repaired panels that no longer fit can denote the body or frame of the car is distorted.
It’s a good idea to check the car’s full history before parting with your hard-earned dollars. Some panel change movements are going to show on any car that has some age to it. Rubber seals and hinges begin to degrade and sag over time. But overly large gaps suggest something else is occurring, especially if only on one side of the car.
Are Panel Gaps in Tesla Vehicles Normal?
The answer is, unfortunately, Yes. Tesla is just not as good at assembly as its larger rivals. They don’t have the factory experience to correct everything and still keep on top of the enormous orders. Well, how come the Porsche Taycan doesn’t have the same issue, I hear you ask?
Simply, the answer is Mr Musk wanted to provide EV technology to the masses, and with the rise in popularity of the Model 3, with an affordable price tag of $40,000 he couldn’t keep up with the demand and also produce an exceptional quality build.
The result is a fantastic EV car, that people can afford, but lacking in superior finish.
For most Tesla owners this is ok. They’re so delighted to own a Tesla that they simply don’t care that the panel gaps are twice or maybe even three times that of the Porsche.
I’ve written a ton on common Tesla issues, which you hopefully won’t ever experience, but if you do, we have you covered with these posts:
- Why is my Tesla steering wheel hot?
- Will Tesla Fix Interior Problems? Some – Know which Ones!
- Why Are My Tesla Windows Misaligned? Top Tips to Fix!
- Will Tesla Fix the Info Screen? What year was it made!
Check out the Tesla troubleshooting page for more 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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