Rich Rebuilds is quite a popular figure on YouTube. He, along with his team, is famous for his automobile custom builds and transformations. He tries out different projects on used vehicles which are most of the time much cheaper than the market price. These projects include restoring a Model S at just $6,000 and retrofitting a Model S with a V8 engine.
While most of his projects are of the “fun type”, he was recently able to help out a guy with some repairs on a 2021 Model 3. While the work wasn’t very difficult, what was impressive was the cost at which Rich managed to get it done. He managed to help the owner save more than $15,000, which is a massive amount.
Tesla Asked A Customer $16,000 for Repair
The protagonist of this story is Donald Bone, who had recently leased a 2021 Model 3. This brand new vehicle, unfortunately, went through some debris and a small particle shot inwards towards the battery and hit a coolant tube. This meant that the battery wasn’t getting sufficiently cooled, which was a major risk. And as any normal customer would do, Donald took his vehicle to a nearby Tesla dealership in New Jersey. In his head, he was thinking of repair costs of around $700-800.
Shockingly enough, Tesla quoted a much, much higher repair cost. The dealership said that the debris had hit the opening of the coolant tube just near the battery wall, and so, they couldn’t service the issue without replacing the battery. And this would cost around $16,000.
Obviously, Donald did not have that kind of money lying around. His insurance policy also did not cover this kind of repair. He tried to approach different garages but in vain. Finally, he was ready to take out a loan to cover the repair costs. He then found out about Rich’s garage and shipped his vehicle there, three states away.
Rich and His Experience
Incidentally, Rich’s garage has previously worked on a very similar issue. The difference, however, was that the first instance had an older car, owned by a guy named Pete, that was 2 months out of warranty. Tesla had quoted Pete a price of $20,000 for battery replacement. He then brought his car to Rich. They found out the problematic battery module and replaced it. The entire service cost Pete just $5,000.
The issue with Donald’s situation was that the debris had cracked the nipple of the battery opening. A nipple is basically a pipe connector that has threads on both sides on its outer surface. We can then screw two pipes from either side and connect them. This is right at the wall of the battery pack, which is why Tesla had quoted a humongous amount. They couldn’t access the port of the battery pack through normal servicing.
What The Garage Did
The idea was simple – they needed to use a different nipple. However, the outer part of the original component had a few mechanical connections for the coolant tube. So, they used an ingenious method.
The team first cleanly cut off the damaged nipple. They then polished the surface of the battery pack wall where the nipple had to be attached. They then took a new nipple, cut threads into the battery pack wall, and inserted the new nipple into these new threads with some sealant to prevent coolant leakage. Finally, they also cut threads of the same size on the damaged nipple and screwed it onto the new nipple from the outer side.
Simply put, instead of having a two-part system, they added a third element in between and used some sealant to seal off the issue, quite literally.
Rich’s Opinions on Tesla’s Service and Repairs
Pete, who had a similar issue, is now one of the satisfied customers of Rich’s garage. The team had used a similar technique on Pete’s vehicle, and the car has run over 27,000 miles (43,000 km) on the same battery.
Rich also commented on some previous Tesla dealership and service experiences. One time, a customer had to get the FM module in his vehicle replaced. Tesla quoted a price of $1,600. However, the guy at the dealership told him that if he was able to procure the FM module from a third-party vendor, he could get it fixed at a minor price (labor costs only). This seems like a good way to keep the customer happy.
The issue, however, with Tesla’s servicing is the quality of workers. In order to keep expenses low, Tesla mostly trains workers for replacing assemblies and not individual parts. This reduces the probability that a worker will be able to sort out small issues within assemblies. That is why, Tesla quotes higher repair costs, as they have to end up replacing entire assemblies.
You can watch the entire video here:
The good thing is that we have people like Rich who can get these things done. The guy who worked on Donald’s car also said that replacing some of the components in Tesla vehicles is slightly easier. Since the company mostly uses plastic, you don’t have to work at high pressures or temperatures. So, replacing small components becomes easier.