This often only applies to cars from 2014-2018 it would see but regardless it might still happen to your 2018+ Model S as well.
The Model S has one of the lowest aerodynamic drag figures of any production car. Retracting door handles help achieve this. They retract when the car starts to move, and open automatically when a key holder approaches the driver’s door. After a delay of about a minute, if nothing else happens, all the handles retract and the interior lights go out. If you are in the car and want to allow someone to enter, just press the button on the end of the gear selector that is used to set park and the handles will present.
The mechanism is complicated with actuators and microswitches. Unfortunately, Tesla appeared to not have run any life tests on handle operation, and early cars had failures of the driver’s door after about 20,000 miles, other less used doors failed at a higher mileage. On later models, the wire was anchored correctly and the defect eliminated. The original gear (the Revision A part) is weak around the pivot, so after a certain amount of the door handles presenting, it snaps and falls off the mechanism, so your handles don’t pop out when you unlock the car.
There are three main problems:
Issue 1 – Internal wires breaking
Possible symptoms: Doors handles may extend but they won’t open the door
The issue: Initially, the problem was due to the way internal wires to a microswitch were anchored. All the wire flexing was done where the wire joins the microswitch, as a result the wire broke and the handle stopped working.
Parts to replace: Loom & Switches 1016009-00-E about £41 from Tesla (The wiring loom consists of two microswitches and about 25cm of wire and connectors.) You can also buy from third parties such as EV Tuning
How to fix: Speak with Tesla this is a known manufacturing defect and most are fixed FOC – If you don’t get anywhere with this or want to do the work yourself watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjIjlF99cZk
Have Tesla fixed this in later models? Yes the wiring has changed so it’s not an issue / less of an issue.
Issue 2 – Gear / Cog Broken
Possible Symptoms: The door handles don’t extend from the body of the door
Issue: Gear / Cog failure or heavily worn
Part to replace: Padded gear 1042845-00-B £0.92 + labour to fix (or free under warranty / consumer law) / or a DIY approach. Tesla will also replace for between £170-£450 per door handle…
How to fix: Speak with Tesla this is a known manufacturing defect and most are fixed FOC –
Have Tesla fixed this in later models? Yes they’ve upgraded the parts to make them last longer
Issue 3 – Misaligned handles
Possible symptoms: Handles ping back in abruptly or don’t extend smoothly
Issue: On all Model S the handle can be wrongly mounted so that it jams on the bodywork of the car. You can easily check this by seeing if a small slip of paper can be passed between the chrome handle and the body of the door; it should be able to be passed all around the chrome handle. This fault can be fixed with a ranger visit or a visit to your local service centre. Tesla advises not to squirt a product like WD40 to release the jamming. Again, if your car is outside warranty, you should be able to make a case for a manufacturing assembly defect.
Part to replace: Adjustment needed
UK consumer law is pretty clear so worst case this should protect owners but if the car is under warranty of course Tesla will fix this.
If your car is under warranty this can be replaced by a Ranger coming to you or a visit to your local service centre. If your car is outside warranty, you should be able to make a case as it is an admitted manufacturing defect. In short a product should last a reasonable period for the expected length of ownership of the product.
How much is a new handle from Tesla?
Tesla will also replace for between £170-£450 per door handle…
Can I fix this myself (e.g. if my car is out of warranty)?
It will depend on the fault but yes many have over the years, that said under UK consumer law you should first try and escalate this and give Tesla a chance to fix, considering this is a known fault and in the opinion of many owners should have been a recall there is a strong chance Tesla will fix this free of charge.
These are probably the parts you need. If the handle fails to extend, it’s probably the gear. If it extends but fails to open, it’s probably the loom, but worth changing to the new gear design too at the same time.
Padded gear 1042845-00-B £0.92
Loom & Switches 1016009-00-E about £41 (The wiring loom consists of two microswitches and about 25cm of wire and connectors.)
You can also get 3rd party garages to fix this as well.