Tesla's haphazard service intervals and Model 3 suspension woes earn it last place at technical inspection failure rankings
Not long ago, German aftermarket car parts giant Meyle teased its own take on improving Tesla's sometimes squeaky OEM suspension that has to face different challenges that those in gas-powered vehicles. According to the parts maker, the sealing of the control arm ball joints in Tesla vehicles is often insufficient, resulting in water damage.
They argue that the ball joint capsule is missing when it comes to ingress and corrosion protection. When coupled with the excess battery weight and max torque of electric vehicles from the get-go, the damaged control arm can sometimes yield and break without warning as some owners can attest to, even at highway speeds.
While Meyle is selling its own solution in terms of reinforced control arms for Tesla vehicles and can be chalked off as somewhat biased, a glimpse at the latest technical inspection failure rankings in Germany reveals that there might be some merit to their claims.
There, the Model 3 occupies the unenviable last place, with the whopping 14.7% of Model 3s unable to pass the infamous TÜV technical inspection certification test. In Germany, all vehicles are subjected to the rigorous roadworthiness inspection every two years and can get a fail mark for a number of issues.
In the case of electric vehicles, these are mostly with the suspension wear. Another issue is that their brake discs and calipers are often out of shape as they get used so little because of all the energy recuperation driving.
The chief problem with Tesla, however, and TÜV explicitly mentions this in the comments to their latest technical inspection failure ranking, is the lack of scheduled service intervals. As the TÜV SÜD expert Wolz puts it:
Electric cars need less maintenance? Only partially true! And especially affected is the drivetrain given that no fluids or moving parts need to be replaced. We didn't expect that the Tesla Model 3 would perform so poorly. However, the result confirms our hypothesis that electric cars also need to be maintained regularly.
Tesla doesn't require pit stops at regular intervals like most other carmakers which, according to TÜV, reflects poorly on the owners' stimulus to keep up with preventative maintenance. Thus, when they go to the next inspection, things have already deteriorated to the point that suspension and brake parts need to be replaced to pass the test.
TÜV reiterates the observation that the extra weight that electric cars carry results in more frequent suspension issues, giving the often wobbly Renault Zoe axle as another example. The Zoe, however, gets rejected just 5% of the time, in line with the average for its class and age, while the Model 3 remains "permanently last" in the ranking, mainly because of the lack of service interval requirements by Tesla.