You can handle this.
One of the first things typically taught in design class is a guiding principle for both coursework and life itself — KISS (keep it simple, stupid). It seems the engineers at Tesla might have benefitted from this idiom around the time the door handles on the Model S were designed. Then again, given the the list of things they were asked to make the door handle do — pop out from its normal position, flush with the body of the car, when the key fob comes into proximity or when it's slightly touched — maybe this is as simple as it gets. Still, it is one part (well, assembly, really, as we'll see) that has a history of failing on the Model S and X.
Why does this design fail? Funny you should ask. Bozi Tatarevic, who knows more about these handles than anyone outside of a Tesla service center rightly should, has put together a couple of videos that demonstrate how the mechanism functions, points out were the most frequent failure points are, and how they might be fixed.
Along the way, we learn about all the individual parts that make up the assembly, including a main module, a 3.3 watt DC motor from Igarashi Electric Works, a position sensor from Interlink Electronics, three microswitches, wires, and a couple of zip ties. Oh yes, and a "paddle gear" made from a cast metal, which has a tendency to break.
Interestingly, the paddle gear is now purchasable from Tesla for $1.18, which is much cheaper than having an $800 out-of-warranty repair bill some have said it might cost from an official Tesla service center. Depending on the value of your time and the extent of your mechanical aptitude, do-it-yourself seems like the route to go.
You might think these videos will basically be a snooze fest, but without resorting to cheap gimmicks, our door handle sensei keeps us engaged throughout (either that or we're bigger nerds than we even knew). Now, Mr Tatarevic begins his videos with the handle assembly already removed, so we've added some bonus footage below that instructs on how to safely remove the door panel from the car to gain access to the part. After watching these videos, we are confident that if you ever suffer from this Model S malady, you can handle it.