Panel Gaps Be Damned: Tesla Patents New Fix


What gaps?

The company is working on a new type of clamping assembly that will hopefully result in a noticeable improvement in vehicle build quality in the near future.

While I may be subject to the Tesla crowd burning a Ford Mustang in front of my apartment building, the fact is that the build quality of some Tesla vehicles leaves a lot to be desired. One of the most pressing items on their short list of urgent tweaks & improvements is clearly the issue with loosely fitting body panels. However, the carmaker seems to be on it – as revealed by a recently published patent.

Tesla is working on a new type of clamping assembly that would allow them some flexibility between panels during manufacturing. This would then allow their workers to fine tune the alignment and fitment of the body panels during the vehicle’s final assembly process.

This newly published patent is called “Clamping Assembly for Securing Together a Pair of Adjacently Located Panels.” In the patent application, the carmaker describes a simple, but a rather effective way of addressing the misaligned body parts issue. Furthermore, Tesla notes how the conventional clamps – usually used to attach various body panels to the frame of the vehicle – are not effective in connecting body panels and their individual tolerances due to their rigid structure.Diagrams depicting Tesla’s design for its new clamping assembly. [Credit: US Patent Office]

Tesla explains new system like this:

“The present invention was derived in light of the foregoing challenges, and it is an object of the present invention to provide a clamping assembly that provides flexibility in securing parts that are manufactured to larger dimensional tolerances and in which play is necessary between adjacent parts during, or after, assembly. The clamping assembly of the present invention can accommodate misalignment of the part or parts owing to variances in one or both parts during manufacture and/or necessary play between the parts by allowing flexibility in adjusting the positions of the parts relative to one another in one direction while still securing the parts to one another. That is, the clamping assembly secures together a pair of manufactured parts, in which the manufactured parts require play along at least one direction while confining the movement of the parts in a second direction.

Diagrams depicting Tesla’s design for its new clamping assembly. [Credit: US Patent Office]


“According to certain embodiments of the present invention, the clamping assembly includes a retainer member. The retainer member may have a U-shape groove that allows for the insertion of a tab member and a narrow retaining throat that confines a bulbous portion of the tab member in multiple directions. For example, once inserted into the groove of the retainer member, the tab member with the bulbous portion is confined from moving vertically and horizontally. Once inserted into the groove of the retainer member, movement of the tab member with the bulbous portion is possible by sliding the tab member and the bulbous portion thereof relative to a plane P 2 of the groove, i.e., by sliding the tab member and the bulbous portion into or out of the page. Thus, with use of the clamping assembly disclosed herein, some play or flexibility between two panels is possible, and the panels can be adjusted relative to one another during assembly.”

In more ways than one, the Tesla Model 3 is an amazing vehicle. However, the alignment and quality issues are something you can’t disregard. The quality issues most notably came to light when Detroit’s Sandy Munro started his teardown of an early production Model 3. It was then when he discovered that the vehicle’s panel gaps were so inconsistent, that they reminded him of a Kia from the 90s.

Naturally, Elon Musk tackled the issue and issued a company-wide statement. The recent batches of the Model 3 showcase significantly improved build and quality control. And this patent should improve the builds even more.

Source: Teslarati

Categories: Tesla


Leave a Reply

22 Comments on "Panel Gaps Be Damned: Tesla Patents New Fix"

newest oldest most voted

Paying attention, learning, improving. It’s a 9 year-old company, still new. Still learning, getting better. Folks who hate Tesla love to dismiss that little fact. What the company has done in the time period they’ve done it defies logic. Nice work Tesla, keep it up!

Learning – yes, but it’s not like they are building a car in a vacuum. There are many examples of “good” that they could have looked at.

And most car manufacturers are not in a vacuum either. They should be checking Tesla for examples of how to build an EV that performs beyond what those companies are doing now.

Found on Tesla’s website. “Tesla was founded in 2003 by a group of engineers who wanted to prove that people didn’t need to compromise to drive electric – that electric vehicles can be better, quicker and more fun to drive than gasoline cars. ”

The Roadster is 10 years old.

So, I don’t know where you get your 9 year-old from…

Wow, 11 downvotes for just pointing out some “fact” isn’t right. Even though it’s easily provable that it isn’t (there are 2008 Roadsters!) this isn’t even an opinion!

That’s why Trump will win again. People don’t care about facts, they care about their team, the side that they are on, the person they are a fan of, their savior.

Upvote for your very good point about people who don’t car about facts and only about their team. Now, (even if I didn’t downvote, nor upvote, ModerneMarvelFan’s comment), about the facts as they really are, I think that it is fair to say that Tesla only have an experience of 6 years, at most, of sustainable “mass” assembling cars (since they produced some 23.000 Model S in 2013). Before that, they were not more than an “artisan manufacturing” auto-maker.

Nope. An artisan wouldn’t make a car with an obvious flaw like huge panel gaps.

…or poor range, or slow performance or slow charging, or ugly, or….but most do.

Still the company is more than 9 years old. Apple isn’t 11 years old, just because they started mass producing phones back then…

I get why people downvoted my comment, it contains an opinion you can disagree with. But apparently people think you can also disagree about facts nowadays, and you need no argument to do so.

This is great but not sure if it’s necessary. My Model 3 (built 10/18, so very recent production) has excellent build quality. I let several of my most detail oriented friends look it over (some might call them anal) and they can’t find a single flaw in the paint, panel gaps, etc. Very pleased with the quality of the vehicle, and it is literally a blast to drive!

Agree completely, got two TM3s and both have flawless body panel alignment and great overall build quality.

“Loosely fitting” is an odd choice of words. I am “anal” to a point – but shouldn’t we all be when spending $50,000 on a new car? I picked up my Model 3 on a chilly fall day during “delivery hell” week. My Tesla Delivery Center sent 220 new Tesla owners home that Sunday night. My car being last or second-to-last, at 10:30pm. Being nighttime, I was worried I’d find numerous fit or paint problems the next day. Tesla had my car parked somewhere inside and wouldn’t allow me to go over the car in the light – as all the other dozens of Tesla M3 owners were doing. Two people there to pick up their cars showed me apps and forum posts set up for M3 owners to do “20 point inspections”, etc. on pick up day. To my relief, my car’s paint is flawless red multi-coat. No orange peel, no issues. Not one stitch of the interior was imperfect and everything looked very nice. My two issues were the rear passenger door, while looking nicely centered, chrome strip joined well, was a hair different than the rear door fit on the other side. If both sides were exact,… Read more »

Article OP VANJA KLJAIC said: “…the build quality of some Tesla vehicles leaves a lot to be desired. One of the most pressing items on their short list of urgent tweaks & improvements is clearly the issue with loosely fitting body panels…”


My 2018 Tesla Model 3 has no “loosely fitting body panels” and the overall build quality is very good… same goes for my 2015 Model S.

Yikes!!! 😳 The Reddit dude should have refused delivery of his Model 3 when he saw those atrociously misaligned panels and humongous panel gaps. Downvote me all you want, but that misalignment and panel gap is completely unacceptable.

It’s bad enough that quality control at the factory let it pass inspection, but it’s completely inexcusable for the delivery center at the Tesla store to prep the car for delivery and offer it to the customer in this condition.

I’d say it’s impossible that both the quality control team at the factory and the car prep team at the Tesla delivery center did not notice this patently obvious flaw. They both saw the misalignment and panel gap, but didn’t fix it. Instead they hoped the customer would take delivery with this obvious flaw (he indeed did take delivery) in order to maximize their delivery numbers for the month.

comment image

Now show the rear bumper where the rear end accident occurred.

Nah the poster is a Tesla fan who loves his car and has posted how great it was on a 1,000 mile road trip to Lake Tahoe. You can see the misaligned trunk in the pic from that road trip.

But at the same time he’s been waiting 3 months!!! for Tesla to get an Tesla-approved body shop to fix it, pet the owners comments from the road trip link.

Here are some more pics:

This patent has nothing to do with PANEL GAPS!

As far as I can make out from the diagrams (Figs 6, 7, 9, and 10) and the text, this patent has nothing to do with panel gaps. It describes a plastic clip assembly which attaches large, slightly flexible plastic items to the metal body (specifically the fenders – e.g. the trim panels each side of the frunk.

My 2015 Model S has clips similar to those shown in the diagrams – the difference being that the clip itself is bonded to the fender with double-sided tape. Those in the patent application are designed to be plugged into rectangular slots, punched in the fender during manufacture.

The new clips would allow for much faster assembly, perhaps also facilitating the use of robots for the task.

The many suggestions below, scoffing that Tesla is making much of simply doing what legacy manufacturers have been doing for decades, simply indicate the authors have not understood what they are commenting on.

Vanja, I think you may have misinterpreted the intended purpose of the clips . . . 😁

Exactly, thanks for pointing it out.
Clips that allow the connected piece to move in one direction have been around for quite some time. I didn’t even understand how Tesla managed to patent this… I recently changed clips holding the underbody of my 1999 car (parts number 4A0805163 if you want to see pictures) and they are working on a similar principle: They are inserted in a slot of the part in which they can move and so allow for slightly different positioning.

similar to the wooden shims I’ve been using in woodworking/cabinet making for years…. 😉