Rear Drive Unit Failure (Model 3)

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Nautilus

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#1
So Nautilus is in the shop.

  • LR RWD built June 2018, delivered October 2018, with just over 12,000 miles on her. I've been on 2019.36.2.1 ea322ad since the preceding Friday 11/8. She had been behaving just fine. Data points below are taken from my TeslaFi logs.
  • Tuesday 11/12 I charged her from 46% to 80% at home. I typically charge to 80% from between 30% and 50%, so this was normal.
  • With the new software, I wanted to test the Auto-departure features, so I bumped the charge limit to 85% and set my departure time for 8:00am. As expected, she began charging early Wednesday morning at 5:23am, presumably to complete before 6:30am.
  • Charging stopped prematurely at 82% at 5:59am.
  • I came out in the morning to two error messages on my screen that alternated:
    • "12V power reduced, Vehicle may shut down unexpectedly."
    • "Car needs service, Car may not restart."
  • I also had a message on my phone app: "Your car suffered a failure and will no longer drive. Contact Service Center"
  • Pressing on the stalk would not put the car in drive. I tried both the two button/brake pedal reboot, and the one on the control screen. Nothing. So I contacted roadside service via the phone app.
  • A couple hours later (presumably after some over the air diagnostics) a flat-bed was dispatched to take the car to the local Service Center (luckily only 10-15 minutes from where I live).
  • In anticipation of the flat-bed arriving (90 minutes from dispatch, as Tesla told me it would be), I went out to the car to pop the frunk and get the tow eye. I was able to unlock the car, but as a last gasp, the drivers window slowly crept down to 1/3 open, and the screen went blank. The 12V battery had died.
  • The flat bed arrived and with minimal drama the car was loaded and transported. When I confirmed that the driver had towed a Tesla before, he smiled and said he'd been towing Teslas for six years! He did seem to know all the tricks.
  • I followed the flat bed in my son's car to the service center and explained the situation to the desk supervisor while the flat bed unloaded Nautilus out front. They said it would take them an hour or so to figure out what the issue was, given their current workload. Fair enough.
  • After an hour, my car hadn't been brought into the shop, but they informed me they had been continuing over-air diagnostics, and more detailed hands-on troubleshooting would be required before they could determine the problem. Hindsight tells me they may have been feeding me a line and simply couldn't get to it. Service Center offered me a loaner (early Model S 85D), which I accepted. I'd drive back over later in the evening with my son to retrieve his car and that way we'd both have mobility the next day.
  • I then realized I needed my ID badge and hang tag out of my car. That's when the wisdom of the drivers window going down 1/3 became evident. We were able to reach into the car and use the emergency release to open the door, rather than being locked out with no easy way to get into the car short of connecting a 12V power source!
  • I'm glad I took the loaner. The next day (now Thursday 11/14) I received a text from the service center: "We have completed the diagnosis on your Model 3. We found there to be an internal failure of the rear drive unit. We have ordered the new drive unit and expect to have it here by Monday. As soon as the part arrives we will reach out to you and let you know an ETA (sic) of completion".
So we'll see what they have to say on Monday. Since they have the car, I've also asked them to replace the left outer taillight since it has condensation in it. I also expect them to perform the charge pin replacement, and any other relevant service bulletins. I'll keep everyone posted.

(edit - corrected typo)
 
Last edited:

JasonF

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#2
That makes sense, as I've read a lot of the motor failures cause the main battery fuse to pop. That means no charging, and no 12 volt battery maintenance.
 

Frully

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#3
Sorry to hear, but still relatively painless...at least it remotely told you of the failure instead of you just walking up to a failure when you tried to start it during a time of need.

Best of luck for a quick turnaround - which I expect will be quick, since as swaps go it's only a handful of bolts and wires.
 

tencate

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#4
Sorry to hear, but still relatively painless..
That's kind of a fear of mine, what happens in New Mexico if this (or similar) happens to Max. No SC, flat bed it up to Denver? Hopefully these sorts of problems are extremely rare (which I suspect is true but fingers crossed). I kinda think that with about 50k on the car, if something bad is going to happen it would have happened already. :)
 

Frully

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#5
That's kind of a fear of mine, what happens in New Mexico if this (or similar) happens to Max. No SC, flat bed it up to Denver? Hopefully these sorts of problems are extremely rare (which I suspect is true but fingers crossed). I kinda think that with about 50k on the car, if something bad is going to happen it would have happened already. :)
Agreed. It's about 15% of the reason I went with AWD - the redundancy to limp home.
 

Dogwhistle

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#6
Agreed. It's about 15% of the reason I went with AWD - the redundancy to limp home.
Only if the front motor fails. They are controlled in series, so a rear motor failure also takes out the front. Redundancy capability is no better than RWD. I remember a thread a while back confirming this is the case, but can’t find it.
 

JMart

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#7
Sorry to see this happened. Hopefully it's a quick fix. They seem knowledgeable at the Indy service center.
 

Nautilus

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#8
I've got to admit, if it had to happen, it happened under the least painful circumstances. I don't garage the car, which would have meant a 90 degree maneuver (garage too full of junk to fit any cars....), and the car was backed up the driveway since that's how I position it when charging due to the position of the charger and length of the charge cord. The flat bed simply had to back up the driveway, lower the ramp and badda bing. His biggest concern was making sure he didn't ruin the grass on each side of the driveway as he was maneuvering into the best position, which I thought was very considerate. I had actually already decided I was working from home that day before the car failed, so I was simply on teleconferences while waiting for the tow to show up.

And I have the benefit of the SC being so close by.

(edit - corrected yet another typo).
 
Last edited:

Quicksilver

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#9
I've got to admit, if it had to happen, it happened under the least painless circumstances. I don't garage the car, which would have meant a 90 degree maneuver (garage too full of junk to fit any cars....), and the car was backed up the driveway since that's how I position it when charging due to the position of the charger and length of the charge cord. The flat bed simply had to back up the driveway, lower the ramp and badda bing. His biggest concern was making sure he didn't ruin the grass on each side of the driveway as he was maneuvering into the best position, which I thought was very considerate. I had actually already decided I was working from home that day before the car failed, so I was simply on teleconferences while waiting for the tow to show up.

And I have the benefit of the SC being so close by.
Out of curiosity, how did he loaded the car onto the flatbed? drag the car up the ramp using the tow eye? I am thinking that the car was not in "Towing" mode since you had no power to switch the car to tow mode. These questions are probably answered in other threads but since this is a fresh incident, I figure I ask. Thanks!
 

Feathermerchant

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#10
All you need is a jump start battery to power up the 12V and you should be able to put it into tow mode.
I always carry one but not in the front trunk.
 

Nautilus

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#11
Out of curiosity, how did he loaded the car onto the flatbed?
This was the impressive part (albeit not "by the book"). First, he did not use the tow eye or put the car in tow mode. HERESY! I hear the masses crying.

Based on him having said he'd been towing Teslas for six years, I decided to have faith that he knew his craft, much like a junior officer on a ship sometimes just has to have faith that the chief babysitting - I mean working for - the JO knows the best way to get some things done.:)

In a situation like this, the back wheels are locked, but the front wheels turn freely. Basically, he lined up the flat bed, tilted it, and then VERY carefully backed the tilted flat bed under the car, scooping it from the pavement much like a spatula would scoop a pancake. It was an iterative process, whereby he would back the truck carefully, get out and manipulate the flatbed hydraulics, back into the cab to back up some more, and so on. He repeated this process until the back wheels were just short of the flat bed, still on the pavement. He then connected some hooks to the front axle (HERESY! I hear again), and then GENTLY pulled the car another 9-12 inches onto the flat bed, with the locked rear wheels dragging. With the wheels just barely on the flatbed (i.e. most of the car behind the back axle was hanging off the end of the flat bed), he tilted horizontal, and strapped the wheels secure.The flatbed only left two minor scrapes on my driveway and never touched the bodywork of the car, although it came VERY close.

I mentioned to the driver that he could have popped the frunk by connecting a 12V source to the wires behind the little door in the front bumper to which he replied "Yeah, but in my experience, half the time that doesn't work".

He then reversed the process at the Tesla Service Center, leaving the car precisely in a parking space out front. I can't imagine that "dragging" the car for that short distance inflicted any additional damage on the car. Cars skid with their brakes locked (anti-skid notwithstanding) for distances much longer than that. I did take pictures and videos, but posting to YouTube is not my thing. I may try to post a couple static photos later, but that doesn't do justice to what he did.
 

Nautilus

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#13
I also received a text from the Service Center late yesterday (Monday) afternoon with the following update:
This is Tesla Service. We are awaiting a final part to start the repairs on your vehicle and anticipate at least getting a start tomorrow. We are thinking that we will have the vehicle complete on Wednesday or Thursday, but we will follow up again before then nonetheless.

I also received a notification from my Tesla app this morning that there was a software update ready to be installed (even though I'm already on 2019.36.2.1), and then shortly later that the update failed. Not sure what they were up to, but I'm not going to tinker with any software updating from my phone while the service center has the car. I'll leave that to them.

... And just now got the notification that a software update is available again. It's reinstalling 2019.36.2.1.
 
Last edited:

Quicksilver

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#14
This was the impressive part (albeit not "by the book"). First, he did not use the tow eye or put the car in tow mode. HERESY! I hear the masses crying.

Based on him having said he'd been towing Teslas for six years, I decided to have faith that he knew his craft, much like a junior officer on a ship sometimes just has to have faith that the chief babysitting - I mean working for - the JO knows the best way to get some things done.:)

In a situation like this, the back wheels are locked, but the front wheels turn freely. Basically, he lined up the flat bed, tilted it, and then VERY carefully backed the tilted flat bed under the car, scooping it from the pavement much like a spatula would scoop a pancake. It was an iterative process, whereby he would back the truck carefully, get out and manipulate the flatbed hydraulics, back into the cab to back up some more, and so on. He repeated this process until the back wheels were just short of the flat bed, still on the pavement. He then connected some hooks to the front axle (HERESY! I hear again), and then GENTLY pulled the car another 9-12 inches onto the flat bed, with the locked rear wheels dragging. With the wheels just barely on the flatbed (i.e. most of the car behind the back axle was hanging off the end of the flat bed), he tilted horizontal, and strapped the wheels secure.The flatbed only left two minor scrapes on my driveway and never touched the bodywork of the car, although it came VERY close.

I mentioned to the driver that he could have popped the frunk by connecting a 12V source to the wires behind the little door in the front bumper to which he replied "Yeah, but in my experience, half the time that doesn't work".

He then reversed the process at the Tesla Service Center, leaving the car precisely in a parking space out front. I can't imagine that "dragging" the car for that short distance inflicted any additional damage on the car. Cars skid with their brakes locked (anti-skid notwithstanding) for distances much longer than that. I did take pictures and videos, but posting to YouTube is not my thing. I may try to post a couple static photos later, but that doesn't do justice to what he did.
Wow! Thanks @Nautilus for the details. That sounds very interesting...apparently, the driver has done this before. :) I would be a bit concern if this was happening right in front of my eyes! Glad it all went ok. So, the moral of the story is you don't need to use tow mode, tow eye or even popping the frunk.
 

skygraff

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#15
The software thing happened to me as well. They told me, later, that they had to reinstall the fw to initialize the new du so they should probably change the way that is communicated to the app just in case overattentive owners interfere with their process.

Obviously, each du fail is potentially different but, even though it was failed, there should’ve been a way to get the rear wheels rolling. Even if they were seized, I feel like your super stud tow driver could’ve used skates rather than drag your car. Mine also eschewed the tow hook and, instead, looped the axels but he never moved the truck as he simply pulled the car up. The car did keep popping out of tow mode but the driver did a trick with the gear stalk and brake which bypassed the UI and kept it free rolling (no, it wasn’t neutral but I wish I’d taken notes).

Hope the new du (yours and mine) lasts forever.
 

Nautilus

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#16
I think when I get the car back, I will put the tow eye in the bottom of the center console. I could put it in the trunk, but I'm afraid it could get locked in there as well if the 12V is dead (not sure if that latch is mechanical or electronic). I suppose I could crawl through to the trunk from the back seat in a pinch, but I'd prefer not to. That still leaves open the issue of getting the car into tow mode with a dead 12V battery. I'm not sure if the flat bed driver had any dollies with him, but you're right if he's out all day towing Teslas, then perhaps he should have some on hand.

I did witness at the service center while I was waiting for the initial assessment, another car get moved from the parking lot into the garage by the technicians putting four hand-lift dollies like these under each of the four tires, then using a forklift to tow the car into the garage by the tow eye, while several technicians maneuvered the car as it rolled around on the dollies. Presumably my car was moved indoors the same way, as later in the evening when I went back to get my son's car, I could see Nautilus inside, with the wheels still up on the same type of dollies, and my frunk open.
 

GDN

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#17
I think when I get the car back, I will put the tow eye in the bottom of the center console. I could put it in the trunk, but I'm afraid it could get locked in there as well if the 12V is dead (not sure if that latch is mechanical or electronic). I suppose I could crawl through to the trunk from the back seat in a pinch, but I'd prefer not to. That still leaves open the issue of getting the car into tow mode with a dead 12V battery. I'm not sure if the flat bed driver had any dollies with him, but you're right if he's out all day towing Teslas, then perhaps he should have some on hand.

I did witness at the service center while I was waiting for the initial assessment, another car get moved from the parking lot into the garage by the technicians putting four hand-lift dollies like these under each of the four tires, then using a forklift to tow the car into the garage by the tow eye, while several technicians maneuvered the car as it rolled around on the dollies. Presumably my car was moved indoors the same way, as later in the evening when I went back to get my son's car, I could see Nautilus inside, with the wheels still up on the same type of dollies, and my frunk open.
Isn't the tow eye in the frunk because that is the only place that truly has a secondary way of applying power and gaining access? If you have no power at all the doors nor the trunk will open will they? I'm thinking it is better left in the frunk.
 

JasonF

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#19
Leave the tow eye in the frunk. That's very important, because the tow drivers have smartphones. If they have to tow one and the owner isn't around, they'll look up the Tesla tow eye, and that they can pop the frunk open using their jumper cables, and the tow eye is in there. If they don't find it where they expect, they will still tow your car, except they'll pull it by the front suspension instead.
 

Nautilus

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#20
Those are all fair comments. The event that had me thinking about putting it in the passenger compartment was that the last thing my car did before the screen went out and the 12V died completely was that the driver's side window lowered about 1/3 of the way so a person could reach in and open the door with the manual release (as i did at the service center to retrieve my hang tag and work badge from the car).

Perhaps the window lowering was pure coincidence. It wouldn't make much sense if the car was parked out somewhere unattended when the battery dies and the window simply opens, exposing the inside of the car to the elements and perhaps bad guys.

I'll leave it in the frunk.