How The Tesla Model S Door Handle Works And How To Fix It – Videos


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.

The Tesla Model S door handle assembly.

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.

Source: CNET Roadshow, Boost Brothers via YouTube, Tesla Motors Club

Categories: Tesla, Videos

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35 Comments on "How The Tesla Model S Door Handle Works And How To Fix It – Videos"

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Oh yes, please let me have one of those $70k cars that even the door handles break regularly on.

Seriously Tesla, get your crap together.

Better that vs a $40K car that will cost $40K in maintenance and gas over its lifetime, plus with the pollution burden left to the younger and current generations.

Seriously gas, get your crap together and get out.

Nice response. Not.

Seriously, Telsa should drop the gimmicky stuff like these door handles, falcon doors, digital button to open the glove box, etc, etc

Complication, cost and reliability risk for zero practical benefit.

I agree whole heartedly with the ‘get your crap together Tesla’ crowd. However one small defense of the falcon wing (the least defensible thing I reckon). This is a vehicle that can cost in excess of $100k. At that price we are leaving soccer mom and bad weather land and heading for ‘Going to the fundraising ball’ crowd. One where the vehicle hasn’t ever sat out overnight in the cold and the doors freeze shut and mostly is in California or some other temperate location and nobody got in/out in heavy rain, etc. Basically ‘Maserati country’ the land of the impractical. And for this, it’s greatest contribution to Tesla is thusly twofold.

1. High margin and large cash flow with small volume creating maximum assistance to the balance sheet while Tesla ‘gets its crap together’.
2. Lots of publicity, cachet, brand building as innovative.

Practical? No. Neither is a Maserati.

It really is the best response.

Complaints about the pollution left by oil burning vehicles are on point.

I love the flush auto-present handle on my Model S! Very cool when it automatically “presents” itself as I walk up to the car… makes the car seem alive!

A rather common and practical drawback is doors/handles freezing shut in winter. I have nasty problems with my van’s sliding doors freezing shut in freezing rain or even just having the whole vehicle warmed up and then turning it off and letting it stand and that snow that melted while your car was warm is now causing the seal to be wet then freeze. The door seals just don’t seal tight enough to keep moisture out.

Perhaps if they are going to go with such gimmicky handles, they could also make them heated sort of like the external heated mirrors.

I don’t want the door handlers to “present” every time I walk past the care in the garage, so I have this function turned off.

…oops! …past the CAR …

No doubt the auto-present door handles are cool… but to this engineer, they are a gimmick, not necessary, and just one more thing to break. (same with the flush mechanical door handle on the Model 3; though it may not be as prone to breakage as the S door handle, it is still an extra unnecessary movement to open the door [push in one end to pop out the other, then pull?! Sorry, but that’s dumb])

@Kootenay EV Family said: No doubt the auto-present door handles are cool… but to this engineer, they are a gimmick…”

@Kootenay, So how would you as an engineer go about designing a car door handle to be both surface-flush and non-gimmicky? Or are you saying your ok with the added drag for simpler non-flushed door handles?

Who really cares if they gain you .25 miles of range when they cost you $800 to repair.

Something like this is simple, elegant, and proven to be more reliable.

On a expensive car like the S there is a need for fancy stuff like this. For the cheaper TM3 the handles are mechanical and cost nowhere near $800 but are nicer than the one you presented. Like it of not these type of handles will become the norm….don’t believe me?…just go to an auto show and see what many manufacturers have on their future models/prototypes.

Well that .25 extra miles per 280 miles of range over the lifetime of each car spread over a fleet of 2,000,000 cars would end up saving around 350 million miles. This electricity saved would equal in equivalent gallons of gas around 4.75 million gallons.

Of course there aren’t 2 million Teslas on the road but eventually there will be more than that. Just imagine if they could get rid of the side mirrors.


“So how would you as an engineer go about designing a car door handle to be both surface-flush and non-gimmicky?” Not to suggest Kootenay is right, because he’s not, but it still seems pretty “gimmicky” to me when the TM3 has an electronic system rather than a mechanical system to control the door latches. We know this must be the case, since the front doors have separate mechanical emergency release levers. I see nothing wrong with the TM3 door handles being mounted flush, or with having to press in on one end to pop out the other end to use the handle. But when you pull on that handle to unlatch the door it should engage a mechanical latch mechanism. Fewer things to go wrong in that case, and they wouldn’t need an emergency backup mechanical system to allow the door to open in case of power failure. Of course Tesla wants to enable things like using a cellphone app to lock and unlock the doors, but other cars have a system that locks all the doors at a push of a button, while still allowing the door latch/lock system to function mechanically. So why doesn’t Tesla do that? Yeah,… Read more »

The KISS demographic is a pretty narrow one but might be worth pursuing.

“…to this engineer… the flush mechanical door handle on the Model 3… is still an extra unnecessary movement to open the door [push in one end to pop out the other, then pull?!”

Apparently “this engineer” isn’t aware of the advantage of flush door handles in reducing drag.

Fortunately, Tesla’s engineers are aware of that factor.

“Sorry, but that’s dumb”

Are you aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect? You just demonstrated it.

Advantage it is, but negligible, especially considering a car still needs rear-view side mirrors … by law!!

So the point is, yes, we understand the advantage, yet most people would opt for regular handle, if that was an option, especially if you live north of California …

as a model S owner,
Thx for the informative video mr Yoney.

You’re welcome!

What a ridiculously over-engineered gimmick. It looks cool and would probably have a place on a movie set but out in the real world it’s a fragile and expensive component that adds weight yet no ergonomic advantage over a simpler door handle.

It’s sort of like a mini-disaster version of the Falcon Wing doors.

I love Tesla but damn do they make some stupid engineering decisions. One wonders how much time and money was squandered on such gimmicks while bringing the Model 3 into production. How much sooner could the Model 3 have been ready if not for all the engineering dead ends resulting from a bunch of guys sitting around smoking dope and saying “hey dude, wouldn’t it be cool if like when the driver walked up to the car, it wagged it’s trunk at him like a pet dog?” “Duuuuude, that’s profound, man! Let’s try it bro!”

And if you lose power in a crash, you get to uncover the manual release mechanism behind the speaker grill. WTF?!?

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous


Another Euro point of view

OK, I see, so we all want EVs partly because they are much simpler than ICE, you know less moving parts etc..etc…

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

I know RIGHT!!!!….. WTF?

I wish they would’ve left this thing out of the TM3.

If Tesla builds something simple, some folks say it isn’t a luxury car, it is too simple.

If Tesla builds luxury touches, some people say it is too complex, keep it simple.

There is no winning. Tesla should just stick to what they are doing, improve where they can just like every car company, and keep building great cars. Because there is no making everybody happy.


Another Euro point of view

I can agree with that, each brand needs to find its own recipe.

Those people are talking about gilding their car in chrome and burl wood. To them that is luxury. They want their car to look like Louis XIV’s bedroom.

Oh and don’t forget to slather the cockpit in buttons, lights, useless gauges and knobs.

With all of the money saved not having all of that stuff you would think the Tesla would be appreciably less expensive, but no, you have to pay that $$$$ for the battery.

I agree with the technical people here who have voiced a comment. Except I’ll say what at least some of them are thinking. This is doubtless the Replacement Heavy DUTY model (since all of the Lighter duty things all broke – I was told that by a tesla tech that 100% of the originals have been replaced). If the presenting handles only essentially have two final positions, they don’t need shaft encoders, 3 micro switches, and a canbus controller right there. They need 2 wires, 2 diodes, and a SINGLE microswitch with a c-shaped (old screen door) bistable mechanical latch, and they can keep that 1/200th hp, 70 RPM gearmotor, apparently the only ‘non-toy’ in the whole assembly. (Apparently a small linear-actuator was deemed ‘too much money’). Open and close would be the polarity on the wires. Then that joke of a racking gear would NEVER hold up in our February winters. For those who say this is gimmicky, I’ll agree, but there is no reason why you can’t have something that works instead of this piece of junk version 2.0. The german who is offering a stainless steel rack for 60 euros shows that if one guy can come… Read more »

I’d like to try a DIY repair for my 3rd door handle that has stopped presenting in the 5,000 miles since my warranty expired, instead of paying Tesla $700+ for a new handle. (They thought I should be happy since the price has dropped from $900 the first time.)

Anyone know where I can purchase the < $2 paddle and the ~$30 microswitch? Link?

Try DIGIKEY.COM but I’d be surprised if any of those cheesy microswitches were that much.