There are still many myths surrounding electric vehicles despite nearly every mainstream automaker offering at least one, and some automakers appear to be actively leaning in to the misinformation machine. Tesla recently posted a chart to its Twitter account filled with such hilarious bullshit that I needed to explain why it shouldn’t be trusted. Most of the ICE stuff will never apply to the first owner of a new vehicle, and Tesla’s understating the maintenance requirements of its own cars. Let’s take a closer look.
Minimal maintenance = less $ vs comparable ICE vehicles pic.twitter.com/hAGV3jxABw
— Tesla (@Tesla) April 12, 2023
[Editor’s Note: Where’s the oil change? That’s the most obvious and frequent thing you need to do to a gas car. -DT]
According to an iSeeCars study that examined more than five million cars, the average new car buyer keeps a vehicle for 8.4 years. Line that up with the Federal Highway Administration’s research showing that the average American drives 13,476 miles per year, and we’re looking at 8.4 years and 113,198 miles of motoring for the average new car buyer before they decide on something new. Those are the numbers we’ll be using to give an accurate picture of why the average American new car buyer can’t trust this chart.
Back in ye olde days, it was common for automatic transmissions to have dipsticks, drain plugs, and recommended service intervals. The concept of lifetime fill got off to a rocky start when owners of several vehicles found that their transmissions became boxes full of neutrals. However, most conventional automatic gearboxes now feature a car manufacturer-recommended lifetime fill interval, and it’s reasonable to expect no issues within 8.4 years and 113,198 miles of driving. While it’s still best to change automatic transmission fluid periodically, many first owners don’t change transmission fluid and don’t experience any ill effects.
We’re not living in the era of copper spark plugs anymore.
With advancements in long-life iridium-tipped spark plugs, some popular vehicles like the Toyota Corolla have a spark plug interval beyond the average first owner’s life with the car. That aforementioned Corolla can go 120,000 miles or 12 years before the spark plugs need changing as evidenced by the maintenance manual screenshot above, well beyond how long the average new car buyer keeps their vehicle.
Battery And Cables
Battery cables are considered lifetime parts and have been for decades. They’re just so simple that they don’t fail often, so replacing a perfectly functional battery cable is asinine. It’s so much non-recommended work for such little improvement. As for 12-volt batteries, Tesla also uses them, although the company has started installing lithium-ion low-voltage batteries in some models that should theoretically offer improved lifespan. However, it doesn’t take much poking around to find accounts of premature 12-volt lithium-ion battery failure on forums and stories in the media. Given the track record of the 12-volt lithium-ion batteries, I wouldn’t expect them to be lifetime parts.
Hoses last a long time and are typically replaced on an as-needed basis. It’s common for hoses to last more than a decade, which means that the average new car owner probably won’t have to replace them during the ownership period. In addition, electric cars aren’t free of hoses. The one you see in the picture above is from a Tesla Model 3, as that car still uses hoses for various cooling functions. Many are even made out of the same molded plastic you’d find under the hood of many new cars. [Ed Note: Though it’s worth noting that Tesla strays away from rubber hoses, instead using nylon].
Power Steering Fluid Is A Thing Of The Past
In a vast majority of cases, power steering fluid isn’t something most new car buyers have to worry about. Virtually every manufacturer save for a few driver-focused obsessives like McLaren use electric power steering now, either with a column-mounted electric motor or a rack-mounted electric motor providing assistance. See the BMW steering rack above? It’s really not very different than this Tesla Model Y rack:
Not only do these systems boost fuel economy over hydraulic power steering by reducing parasitic loss, they also allow for certain advanced driver assistance systems like lane keep assist. Electric power steering is maintenance-free, meaning a well-executed system should cost absolutely nothing over the term of car ownership.
People Aren’t Replacing Mufflers Left And Right
You’d really think Tesla would know a thing or two about stainless steel. This family of alloys has been used in automotive exhaust systems for decades now because of its great resistance to corrosion, and we’ve been seeing results for a while. A stainless steel muffler is considered a lifetime part with no recommendation on replacement interval, and even muffler failure in rust belt states often occurs after more than a decade of all-weather use. If the average driver is trading in their vehicle after 8.4 years and 113,198 miles, they’ll likely never have to worry about muffler replacement. [Ed Note: Tesla should have maybe mentioned catalytic converters, since those are being stolen all the time, and they’re expensive. -DT].
What Tesla Forgot To Mention
In addition to the maintenance requirements Tesla listed in the Tweet, there are a bunch of additional maintenance items worth keeping in mind. Tires are a huge expense on many electric vehicles for a variety of reasons. Lots of torque and heavy curb weights combine to be hard on tires, and replacement costs are often expensive due to specific compounds for reduced rolling resistance and noise. A single OEM-spec replacement 235/45R18 Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season tire for a Tesla Model 3 costs $300.99 from Tire Rack, while the equivalent OEM 225/40R18 Michelin Primacy A/S for a Toyota Corolla XSE costs $246.63. That works out to a difference of $217.44 for a full set of tires. For a premium car comparison, an OEM-spec 225/45R18 Pirelli Cinturato P7 all-season run-flat tire for a BMW 330i costs $254.40 from Tire Rack, working out to a difference of $46.59 per tire or $186.36 for a set of four.
In addition, electric vehicles still require all the typical steering and suspension maintenance of combustion-powered cars. They still have dampers, bushings, ball joints, and tie rods that can wear out over time. Unless we miraculously figure out mag-lev roadways or something, suspension wear is just a fact of life.
Oh, and even though electric vehicles rely heavily on regenerative braking, they still require periodic service brake maintenance. Tesla recommends cleaning and lubricating brake caliper hardware every year or 12,500 miles on the Model 3 if its driven in an area that salts the roads in winter. Brake fluid should also be periodically flushed regardless of climate, because brake fluid is hygroscopic – it absorbs water.
Here’s something else that Tesla doesn’t mention in its Tweet: Every six years, it’s recommended to have the air-conditioning desiccant bag on a Model 3 replaced, a true oddity in the automotive kingdom. As the first Model 3s aren’t six years old yet, there isn’t much information out there on cost, so expect this to be a surprise.
Add in the cost of wiper blades, brake discs, and brake pads as cherries on top, and the conclusion is clear. Although Tesla vehicles require less maintenance than gasoline-powered cars, they aren’t nearly as maintenance-free as Tesla touts. Then again, what did you expect from a company that advertises a Level 2 advanced driver assistance system suite as “Full Self-Driving”?
(Photo credits: Tesla, ZF, Toyota, Optima, eBay, BMW, Walker)
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Sums up Tesla : Decent idea ruined by ego/incompetence. Slam dunk would have just been saying no oil change ever, instead they do this. Well done.
How does Tesla think they can get away with such obvious lies?I feel embarrassed for them
I have seen a lot of comments that Teslas have much faster tire wear than typical vehicles of similar size (not necessarily mass). Give the crazy prices for tires these days, that alone could be a big equalizer. I remember when 350-400 bucks bought an entire set, now that’s the price of one Tesla tire.
Tesla forgot to mention the cost to delete the yoke and replace it with an actual functioning wheel.
Also, where I live, if you get a puncture in a tesla tire, good luck finding a shop to plug it or have a replacement in stock.
A wealthy, tech-loving acquaintance got their first Tesla last year and they are already selling it, because of the constant flat tires. They stopped driving it after dark, because potholes and foreign objects in the roadway are certain to burst a tire. Add to that the delays in replacing them and there are no more Teslas in their future. A Rivian R1S is supposed to arrive in their driveway in May.
I still have a tube of Wynn’s power steering additive that came with a used-car warranty I bought with a 1992 Geo Metro in 1998. Both the Metro and the ’96 Tercel that replaced it had “Armstrong” (unboosted) steering, and the last two cars I’ve had have EPS.
Well, I have just replaced hoses on one of my ICE cars..
-But it’s a Citroën DS from 1967. The 55 year old ones started to look a bit stiff and dry, so to not get any leaks I replaced them preemptively 😎 The battery on that same car is from 2012..
The Teslas also have hoses in the HVAC and battery cooling system. With the quality of rubbery parts nowadays I don’t think they will last even 50 years.
My Figaro had a new set of the correct fitting new quality tyres not so long ago: $150 for the whole set. Man, I do love old cars!
I did hoses and a heater core on my MGB. It is a horrible job that I NEVER want to do again.
You have a heater? You lucky bastard!
My only source of cabin heat in my old TR-3 was what little rose through the hole in the transmission tunnel.
I had to replace at least one hose on my ’72 Citroen GS — in 1978.
Both of your cars are awesome. I hope to see a DS in person someday.