I recently purchased a Tesla Model S and one of the only things I have had an issue with is the door handles not triggering the door to open every time. With handles that don’t mechanically open the door, they are essentially just sensors that detect a tug and trigger a solenoid or similar mechanism to unlatch the door.
The phenomenon would occur one in twenty pulls or so, making it an annoyance, but then finally stopped working altogether on my rear passenger door. I invoked the warranty and Tesla came out and replaced the handle mechanism.
It was fascinating to watch and I’ll do a more detailed write-up shortly with some of the juicier learnings, but one thing I learned that surprised me is that Tesla actually changed the entire design of the door handle mechanism in the newer Model S cars being sold today vs my older version.
The specific change is related to the number of micro switches in the handle and the way the handle operates. I learned from a Tesla insider that the new handle mechanism has 3 micro switches as opposed to 2 in the older cars.
The older handle mechanism would pop the handles out so that the inner wall of the handle sat flush with the rest of the body of the car. The newer handles still pop out but leave the inner wall of the handle a bit recessed. Check out the pics below for a visual:
This change seems minor but really improves the feel and function of the handles. Leaving the handles sitting a bit recessed allows them to move out slightly when pulled on, resulting in the handles feeling more like a typical door handle that moves out when pulled. The older handles don’t move at all when pulled on to open the door, which takes a bit of getting used to after decades of pulling door handles that physically move.
It was curious to me that Tesla changed out one handle on my car, leaving the new handle sitting recessed with the rest sitting flush. I have since confirmed with Tesla Service that the other handles are similarly acting up and will have them replaced at my next service appointment, but thought the approach to service was interesting vs. what feels like an otherwise purist approach to service.
Images by Kyle Field