By on June 10, 2016

Tesla Model S Ball Joint

by Mark Stevenson and Bozi Tatarevic

A day after former TTAC editor-in-chief and current Daily Kanban blogger Edward Neidermeyer hit out at Tesla regarding suspension failures and Tesla’s supposed customer bullying through a goodwill agreement on Wednesday, the electric vehicle manufacturer hit back.

According to Neidermeyer’s post, a 2013 Tesla Model S owner on the Tesla Motors Owners forum experienced a ball joint failure at around the 70,000-mile mark, and the owner referred to Tesla for a fix. The automaker offered what’s commonly known in the industry as “goodwill assistance,” which covered half the $3,100 total cost of the repair, as the Model S was out of warranty.

However, the vehicle owner and Neidermeyer took exception to part of the written goodwill agreement as it seems to include a non-disclosure clause, which Neidermeyer contends could dissuade other Tesla issues from reporting issues to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and subvert the federal vehicle issue reporting process.

Is Tesla silencing its customers via threat of litigation? And is this ball joint issue even a problem in the first place?

Pass the ball joint

At the center of the story is the detailed failure of a ball joint from a 2013 Tesla Model S.

The report of upper ball joint failure started in a thread on the Tesla Motors Club message board titled “Suspension Problem on Model S,” where the poster — known as gpcordaro — stated that his left-front hub assembly had separated from the upper control arm and rendered his car inoperable.

After an inspection performed by Tesla employees, the EV manufacturer informed him that the “ball joint bolt was loose and caused the wear” and deemed the damage “not normal,” the poster states. He also posted pictures of a severely rusted ball joint that had separated from the control arm.

The joint appears to have become contaminated at some point, causing the damage. The ball joint’s condition is consistent with water and salt contamination and usually the result of a torn or missing ball joint boot.

There are multiple ways that the ball joint boot could become damaged, ranging from a manufacturing fault that may not have sealed it properly to abusive driving in adverse conditions.

Modern ball joints usually last in excess of 100,000 miles unless they are manufactured improperly or exposed to extreme conditions. Damage can usually be detected by a clunking sound when going over bumps or by a shimmy in the steering due to the gap inside the socket. Continued driving on such a ball joint will result in the metal further wearing away and a failure similar to that described by the poster.

The failure of the Tesla’s upper ball joint requires further investigation to determine whether it is a systemic issue or an isolated one. The design of the ball joint and how the suspension is loaded all play a role in whether failure is imminent in salty conditions.

A similar case of failure in the 2000 to 2003 Dodge Durango and Dakota models resulted in a recall after the NHTSA stepped in. The determined failure in that case was the result of using a two piece ball joint that could separate and come out of the socket. It was fixed by replacing it with a one piece design. DaimlerChrysler stated that it would conduct the recall at the request of NHTSA but would not consider it a safety defect.

gpcordaro explained in the forum thread that his Tesla was driven on a rutted dirt road in Pennsylvania, in addition to paved roads covered in salt and brine during winter months that he’d likely traverse with the car. It’s possible that driving on a rutted road would cause damage to the ball joint boot, rendering it useless.

Considering his vehicle was out of warranty when the ball joint failed, the Tesla owner was on the hook for the repair, but the case was sent to Tesla management for goodwill consideration.

Uppercut with lower ball joint

Tesla released a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) for the lower control arms on the Model S that instructed its service centers to add wedge-lock washers to lower ball joints in order to tighten them up and prevent premature wear of the ball joint and knuckle. Daily Kanban tied this TSB to the failure described by gpcordaro and stated that Tesla might be following a GM-style path of using TSB’s instead of recalls to resolve safety issues.

While the TSB shows that control arms and knuckles might be damaged to a point that they need to be replaced, Tesla noted that it considers it a non-safety-related issue. The TSB requires further investigation as it may indeed pose a safety risk if the knuckle or lower ball joint break.

However, the TSB is completely unrelated to this particular failure. It details lower ball joint issues, and not the upper ball joint that’s described by gpcordaro.

Goodwill isn’t just for Volkswagen diesel owners

In the last few months, we’ve heard a lot about goodwill in relation to Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal. However, there’s another kind of goodwill that’s more prevalent and not as often discussed.

Goodwill, in dealer and repair shop circles, typically consists of performing maintenance and repair work for free, or providing a financial benefit to a customer experiencing a recurring issue. A repair shop, dealer, or manufacturer may offer goodwill for common issues that arise outside of the warranty period for a particular model to maintain or increase customer satisfaction. It’s handled on a case-by-case basis, and usually takes customer loyalty into consideration.

In the case of this Model S, Tesla made a goodwill offer to cover half the cost of the ball joint repair — with strings attached.

It’s not uncommon for a goodwill offer to be extended with a conditional agreement. A simple Google search will turn up results for boilerplate templates that include certain conditions in exchange for accepting the offer. Those conditions exist because sometimes consequences arise from performing goodwill repairs.

However, the Tesla goodwill agreement includes something else entirely: a non-disclosure clause:

The Goodwill is being provided to you without any admission of liability or wrongdoing or acceptance of any facts by Tesla, and shall not be treated as or considered evidence of Tesla’s liability with respect to any claim or incidents. You agree to keep confidential our provision of the Goodwill, the terms of this agreement and the incidents or claims leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill. In accepting the Goodwill, you hereby release and discharge Tesla and related persons or entities from any and all claims or damages arising out of or in any way connected with any claims or incidents leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill. You further agree that you will not commence, participate or voluntarily aid in any action at law or in equity or any legal proceeding against Tesla or related persons or entities based upon facts related to the claims or incidents leading to or related to this Goodwill.

It’s that non-disclosure clause that Neidermeyer argues undermines NHTSA’s ability to act on defects since, as he puts it, the clause “represents a potential assault by Tesla Motors on the right of vehicle owners to report defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s complaint database, the auto safety regulators sole means of discovering defects independent of the automakers they regulate.”

NHTSA Communications Director Brian Thomas, when speaking with Neidermeyer, explained, “NHTSA is examining the potential suspension issue on the Tesla Model S, and is seeking additional information from vehicle owners and the company.

“NHTSA learned of Tesla’s troublesome nondisclosure agreement last month. The agency immediately informed Tesla that any language implying that consumers should not contact the agency regarding safety concerns is unacceptable, and NHTSA expects Tesla to eliminate any such language. Tesla representatives told NHTSA that it was not their intention to dissuade consumers from contacting the agency. NHTSA always encourages vehicle owners concerned about potential safety defects to contact the agency by filing a vehicle safety complaint at SaferCar.gov.”

Tesla, in a blog post titled “A Grain of Salt,” which attacks the story and Neidermeyer, posted a different take on the language used in its goodwill agreement on Thursday.

From the post:

The basic point is to ensure that Tesla doesn’t do a good deed, only to have that used against us in court for further gain. These situations are very rare, but have sometimes occurred in the past. We will take a look at this situation and will work with NHTSA to see if we can handle it differently, but one thing is clear: this agreement never even comes close to mentioning NHTSA or the government and it has nothing to do with trying to stop someone from communicating with NHTSA or the government about our cars.

It’s worth noting that while the agreement doesn’t necessarily gag a customer from speaking to the NHTSA specifically, it’s ambiguous and doesn’t limit the people or organizations a person entering into this goodwill agreement aren’t allowed to contact.

That said, it could easy be seen as a way to dissuade those who receive goodwill assistance from Tesla from reporting issues to the NHTSA.

Whether the goodwill agreement has any teeth is another issue entirely.

We asked our aptly named TTAC contributor and lawyer Andrew Justus for his take.

“The agreement won’t likely be enforceable to prevent customers from discussing the fact their vehicle was repaired by Tesla or the nature of their repairs. If such an agreement was enforceable, automakers could keep their warranty repairs secret from consumers and regulators. It would also prevent customers from using state lemon law remedies.”

Andrew then emphasized, “If lemon laws could be waived, some other automaker would have tried it by now.”

And any possible litigation arising from such a breach of contract would be a public relations nightmare for Tesla.

“Pursuing litigation to stop someone from talking is fraught with peril,” said David Scott of Hansell McLaughlin Advisory, a public relations firm that specializes in executive-level crisis management.

“There’s a false notion of control on behalf of certain companies. The threat of a lawsuit sends a very strong message of intimidation. The idea of an over-looming threat just doesn’t bode well for a company. This is a hyper-vigilant legal team trying to protect themselves against people saying bad things.”

Instead, the best plan is to communicate the issues, and how you plan to fix them.

“It is a very transparent world. Your actions will be found out eventually. Tell people what the problem is. Tell them who is impacted. That puts everyone’s mind at ease,” said Scott.

And that’s what Tesla has done, though the EV manufacturer’s press team or Elon Musk himself seem to have gone overboard in their portrayal of Neidermeyer.

From Tesla:

We don’t know if Mr. Niedermayer’s (sic) motivation is simply to set a world record for axe-grinding or whether he or his associates have something financial to gain by negatively affecting Tesla’s stock price, but it is important to highlight that there are several billion dollars in short sale bets against Tesla. This means that there is a strong financial incentive to greatly amplify minor issues and to create false issues from whole cloth.

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111 Comments on “Ball Joints Out of Whack at Tesla and Daily Kanban...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Hey! That’s my old hip!

    • 0 avatar

      First poster needs to pretend to be BTSR … so … is it a Hellcat hip?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Tesla’s (aka Musk’s) response is chilling and should firmly dissuade people of any notion that Elon Musk is any sort of “hero” or “champion of the people” or “brave challenger of the corporate status quo.”

      He’s a piece of $hit, Palin and simple.

      • 0 avatar
        Rnaboz

        Did you mean to say “Plain” or was this a slight at Alaska?

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        The response reminds me a lot of China’s current official statements regarding the UNCLOS suit filed by the Philippines. Not just pulling the victim card but trying to inflict paper cuts with it.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Too bad, I guess I’ll have to toss Musk in that sack along with Jobs.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        yep. Tesla is going to have to learn that they are a car company, not a tech startup. The proper response to a NHTSA comment is not to throw a f***ing temper tantrum. Why so many people seem to think this company is the second coming of Christ is beyond me.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          In the category of No Fanatic Like a Convert, it will be entertaining if the affluent, high-functioning folk who can buy 6-figure vanity cars and are till now ardent Teslites come to feel not only physically endangered but chumped and insulted by a tech company’s arrogant refusal to accept that distinction.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I see nothing anywhere where Tesla has publicly thrown a tantrum about a comment from NHTSA.

          The only thing was they got a little snippy at ed because of his post and its implications.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            none are so blind as those who wish not to see. when there was talk of a recall after a few Model Ss had their batteries punctured by road debris, St. Elon threw a few public hissy fits. and now he’s whining that there’s a “conspiracy” against Tesla since NHTSA has weighed in on this suspension issue.

            personality cults never go well.

  • avatar

    This is why you NEVER give “highest reliability” scores till at least 6 years down the road.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    I’ve been wondering for just how long that car’s front suspension was a sloppy mess of play from worn ball joints. At what sort of interval are these electric cars being inspected for worn suspension components?

    This is the sort of stuff that is inspected in England and Germany to deem a car roadworthy. Not sure about Germany but in England I think it is colloquially referred to as having passed MOT.

    According to Tesla’s website the car gets a multi point inspection every 10k miles.

    https://www.teslamotors.com/support/service-plans

    Was this car being serviced at the suggested intervals by a Tesla Service Center and were those inspections being carried out thoroughly?

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Most “multi-point inspections” aren’t looking for broken suspension internals, particularly, that I’ve ever seen – and of course not everyone pays for the extended 4 year service plan.

      In America, very few states inspect *anything* other than emissions compliance and perhaps “the lights work”.

      Normally around here people take a vehicle in to have the suspension serviced when they notice unacceptable behavior in it, or there’s a sudden, catastrophic failure.

      (N.b. to Europeans – this does not, in fact, lead to a huge number of Horrible Disaster Because Of Worn Suspensions.)

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        If your service center’stage multipoint inspection is not looking for broken suspension or worn steering and suspension components, go somewhere else. Not only is the shop jeopardizing your safety, but they are shooting themselves in the foot. This is how technicians and repair facilities earn their livelihoods.

        • 0 avatar
          fishiftstick

          That’s good advice if you own almost any other car. There’s always another dealer somewhere, and if they’re all incompetent scumbags you can go to an independent.

          You can’t do that with a Tesla: the manufacturer is the only dealer, and good luck getting parts if you are anyone else.

          • 0 avatar
            healthy skeptic

            @fish

            If Tesla sticks around long enough, there will be independents for them as well.

        • 0 avatar
          Joe Btfsplk

          Absolutely! Add in brakes and you’ve got what keeps independent shops open these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Many mfgs call out for an inspection of suspension boots for tears in their regular service schedules often as early as 12-15K.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        But Pennsylvania DOES inspect ball joints. If this Tesla owner lives in PA (the story said he drives there), then it should have been caught.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          But only cars registered in their state, which brings up the question does the owner have a “corporation” in Montana and the car is wearing Montana plates?

          Of course the other possibility is that like so many places with annual inspections the system is corrupt beyond belief and many people pay the money, get their sticker w/o the “inspector” touching or even seeing the car.

          Owner “I don’t want anyone but the Tesla service center touching my car”

          Inspector “for an extra $20, CASH, I can do my magic no touch inspection”.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Although ball joints usually last a long time, their life is very short once the rubber boot protecting them is compromised. This can happen at any time, on any vehicle, for a variety of reasons. The only proper solution is to inspect important chassis parts as part of regular maintenance. If this vehicle was regularly serviced by Tesla, then it was a failure of the technicians performing those services. A torn boot should easily be caught during a regular service, and the part replaced way before it gets to the point in the photo.

    Tesla accusing Mr. Neidermeyer of shorting their stock is pretty childish, especially with no evidence. A major automaker has to be above such things.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I agree that a major automaker should not stoop to Nedermeryer’s level, or the level of the daily kanban. Heck no one should stoop that low let along the purveyor of a luxury automobile.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        But….wait.
        Hold on a sec before we shoot the messenger.

        It’s the implied inserted part of the repair contract that has me wondering here. Not the repair.
        And Ed’s position is, if I read him right, IF they have had these types of implied warnings, perhaps others have not notified the gov of the repair and other issues.
        That is the situation here….

        And as for telling us Ed might be manipulating the stock price, I can hardly stop from choking on my laughing.
        This clown Musk is ALWAYS manipulating his stock with vague and hints of future great things t come.
        Hell…he just began to sell a car not yet designed!
        If that isn’t manipulation, what in hell is!?

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          I agree, and I wasn’t badmouthing Ed, but pointing out that Tesla’s reaction is ridiculous.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            I agree…and I wonder what happened.
            I wasn’t even responding to your post.
            Very weird….
            You words don’t even seen to fit with my post.

            Was this supposed to go somewhere else?

            I tried to reply another time here and my reply section appeared under another post…

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      This is click-bait journalism. Ball joints commonly fail on 70k mile cars. Particularly those driven on salty roads. Even on cars that cost $100k.

      Tesla went out of their way to make the customer happy; Mercedes or BMW would have just shrugged and said, “well, your car has been out of warranty for a long time.” Volvo 850s and hundreds of thousands of GMT360 platform trucks had ball joints with high failure rates at shockingly low mileage. There were TSBs for in-warranty cars, and out-of-warranty owners were on their own. (I know – I was one of those GMT360 owners!)

      So what is Neidermeyer’s motivation for writing this article? That there’s a non-disclosure clause in Tesla’s settlement agreement? For a repair that Tesla did not have to subsidize in the first place? This is not news.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    maybe they weren’t expecting their rich customers to keep their Teslas for so many miles.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    My 18 yr old, 400k mile Corolla has the original ball joints.

    • 0 avatar
      jf1979

      That may be a result of where you live as much as the vehicle, here in metro Detroit with our excessive use of road salt, and pothole infested roads, suspension parts seem to last 75-125k miles regardless of brand.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      As much as that warms the cockles of my Toyota-branded heart, I will also agree with jf that suspension wear is massively variable according to road surface and a given driver’s willingness and ability to dodge potholes or to just hit them without paying attention. I preemptively replaced my lower balljoints on my ’96 4Runner at 127k miles this spring, the old units were still plenty tight, but LBJ failure on 4Runners of my vintage comes with little warning so I wanted to play it safe. My brother has original balljoints on an ’89 MPV that has seen heaps of dirt road abuse, they too somehow are still serviceable.

      I just got back from a visit to Siberia, a taxi driving friend of mine who uses a ’06 Lada 2107 as his workhorse has to rebuild his entire front end (all control arm bushings, tie rod ends, balljoints) EVERY YEAR. The roads in this particular part of Siberia are a literal moonscape of potholes, in some areas people have resorted to hopping curbs and driving entirely on the dirt shoulders. His ‘nice’ car is an ’05 Camry with a zillion KM on it that likewise needs pretty frequent attention. He says all it takes is 2-3 good hits on the same big potholes and the struts can blow. I think truck manufacturers should open up a destructive test facility down there. The default vehicle of choice for monied folks over there is a Land Cruiser 200 or Prado 150 (our GX460 with more basic options and smaller motors).

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    1) “You agree to keep confidential […] the incidents or claims leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill” is hard to read as anything but a prohibition on reporting it to NHTSA.

    2) I don’t think Tesla *intended* to prohibit that, and a simple language change to clarify that reporting defects to NHTSA or other regulators is explicitly allowed under the NDA would fix that.

    3) I still think it’s a little shady to demand you not tell anyone about the problem; I mean, cars have problems. If I was researching a carmaker, I’d look *positively* on “there was a problem and they took care of me out of warranty”; that’s above-and-beyond stuff.

  • avatar
    td0g

    Elon Musk is a man child. What other CEO responds personally in such a way to blog posts.

    The fact is, the car is near 5000 lbs., yet in spite of the fact that it weighs as much as a V8 Toyota Tundra, and boasts acceleration and braking G numbers of a Nissan GTR, it has suspension comparable to a Hyundai Elantra. Suspension worn out in 70k? OF COURSE IT IS! The waver that the owner had to sign is standard document all manufacturers have, they pay for something out of warranty to keep you as a customer, they don’t want you telling all your friends to expect the same treatment. Elon could have ignored this but no, he’s the master of the Streisand effect.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I hereby propose that the Streisand effect be renamed the ‘Fat Axl’ effect going forward.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “The fact is, the car is near 5000 lbs., yet in spite of the fact that it weighs as much as a V8 Toyota Tundra, and boasts acceleration and braking G numbers of a Nissan GTR, it has suspension comparable to a Hyundai Elantra. Suspension worn out in 70k? OF COURSE IT IS!”

      do you even know the first thing about suspension design?

      • 0 avatar
        td0g

        Yes? Especially Hyundai, having built several of their rally cars. The first time I took the wheels off a Tesla I had a good laugh.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Gen 1 Volvo XC90s and Land Rover Discovery 3s are much the same way IMO. Massive weight that just overwhelms the undersized components. In the case of the Volvo, blame the midsize sedan roots. In the case of the Land Rover, blame the 6000lb curb weight caused by having both a frame and a reinforced unibody sitting on top of it.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Have you guys seen the Model X “Big Windshield Fix”? It’s a chintzy visor!

  • avatar
    mason

    Is this the actual picture from the customer?

    I’ve seen my share of broken ball joints and have never seen one that rusted. The ball rotates in the socket every single time the wheel is turned or the suspension flexes. The sheer weight of the vehicle and close tolerances should prevent any rust from ever accumulating on the ball like that.

    This one looks like it’s been sitting in the bottom of the ocean since 2013.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      In the rust belt they will do that if the boot is compromised. The salt water washes out the grease and then rust forms on the joint. People will keep putting off the repairs until this happens.

      • 0 avatar
        mason

        But you see,I live in the rust belt, a few miles inland from one of the Great Lakes. Our county sees the highest average snowfall (read: LOTS of brine, beat heat, and calcium treatment 5 months out of the year to go along with a humid climate year round). Stuff rusts outside in the middle of summer here. It’s a nasty environment, and I have NEVER seen a ball joint like that on a 12 year old vehicle let alone a 3 year old vehicle.

        Very doubtful that is the actual picture at this point

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          If you work in auto repair for a few years you will see these kind of ball joints. It requires a torn boot, and ignoring the symptoms for too long. I hadon’t a couple similar ball joints and tie-rod ends that I took off customers’ cars. I gave theme to various service advisors so that they could explain ball joints and how they can fail better.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            While I don’t live in the rust belt I have never seen any ball joint that looked like that. The area that is continuously loaded should show some smooth and shiny parts where it scraped back and forth in the socket w/o grease. Also you usually but not always see damage to the socket portion from the ball popping out.

          • 0 avatar
            mason

            Per my first post, I’ve seen a number of failed joints. None had heavy corrosion like the picture above. Some rust yes, but there is heavy scale accumulated as well as pitting on the ball pictured above. The tolerances do not permit the promotion of rust scale as heavy as that on a 3 year old vehicle that is used even somewhat regularly.

            Should be evidence of metal on metal contact.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            As stated above it takes some neglect by the vehicle’s owner. The tolerance may be tight originally, but as the joint wears out, this increases. You can see a few shinny spots on the otherwise pitted ball where it was still making contact with socket.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            the only time I’ve seen anything that bad was the outer tie rod ends on Neons and PT Cruisers. I guess in an effort to nickel-and-Daimler them down, they were made out of thick stamped sheet steel (instead of cast) with the ball-and-socket joint pressed in. The design virtually guaranteed contamination would get in and push the (non-replaceable) grease out. They would typically last about 40,000 miles before they were in danger of separation.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “This one looks like it’s been sitting in the bottom of the ocean since 2013.”

      I agree completely – even if the boot comes off, there should be plenty of grease in the joint, and water won’t remove it, only solvents.

      This ball joint looks like it was NEVER lubed.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        It’s an “upper” control arm, so the cup is turned down. The grease will run down with heat/friction. No way it left the factory without grease, wouldn’t have gone nearly this far.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Still don’t get how it could possibly have so little bright area when rusty old train rails still have a clean & shiny crown if at all in use.

        • 0 avatar
          shaker

          “It’s an “upper” control arm, so the cup is turned down…”

          OK, but the ball would trap some grease above it, which would continue to provide *some* lubrication as the joint rotated. Also, moisture would not collect in the joint cup if it’s facing down (unless submerged)

          That ball looks like it was subjected to an accelerated-aging test with no lube at all – note that the extreme pitting (for a 3-4 y.o. part) is the same all the way around, it should be less where the ball was contacting the socket with *some* trapped grease.

          I’m not insisting that I’m right, but it’s not what you would expect to see, given the age of the part, and the description of its use (abuse).

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I think Tesla’s intent is to prevent themselves from getting a reputation for fixing out-of-warranty cars. But it doesn’t come across that way.

    This particular problem should have been caught during the annual Pennsylvania state safety inspection, which states in PUB-45, Section 175.80:
    “Inspect suspension system and REJECT IF one or more of the following apply:
    (i) The ball joint movement is in excess of the manufacturer’s specifications.”
    This publication also provides a Suspension and Ball Joint Guide in Reference-12.

    Ed’s been on an anti-Tesla campaign for a while, so it’s a little hard for me to support his whistle-blowing.

    In this specific case, Tesla found the car’s undercarriage to be caked with mud, and said it required TWO wreckers to extract it from its residence – one just to get it to the main road, and another to haul it to the repair shop. They felt the damage was quite extraordinary, but were willing to cover half the cost anyway just to make the guy happy.

    As a PA resident, I can tell you that a torn ball joint cover, kept moist by a layer of dirt fed by salt-laden roads, is a bad recipe. But I’ve never seen one look as bad as the one in the photo, which makes me wonder if the owner ever had the car inspected by the state or by Tesla.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “which makes me wonder if the owner ever had the car inspected by the state or by Tesla.”

      That was on my mind too. Tesla’s warranty is 4 year or 50,000 miles. Had the owner noticed a shimmy or a noise early on, he might have been able to avoid this altogether. And as you point out, Pennsylvania’s state law requires an annual inspection… so someone dropped the ball (joint).

      I have mixed feelings about this case, regarding both Tesla and Niedermeyer. But your take seems reasonable.

      • 0 avatar
        td0g

        The car was out of warranty. When a ball joint breaks on any other car out of warranty, it doesn’t make the news. I never would have heard about this one if it wasn’t for Elon throwing yet another fit.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Unless it’s widespread, e.g. the aforementioned 2000-2003 Dakota/Durango. If a random vehicle has a failure just outside the warranty, that’s one thing (a fluke.) If they’re *all* failing just past the warranty, that’s still a problem.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Shouldn’t that site be “BanBan” in honor of the other proprietor of it??!! ;-)

    (Read: Former EIC with weird “Japan-ame” predilections? Or just horridly-poor taste? Not to mention a ban-hammer that wouldn’t quit, hence the original question!)

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    That picture is mighty suspicious looking to me. Those pits are massive and there is no sign of shinny metal except for just a couple of the high spots. There is also no sign of tearing of the metal around the socket which is usually evident when a ball has popped out of its socket.

    Also a joint that is this corroded and supposedly with enough erosion to pop out of the socket w/o damaging it would have been making a lot of noise, causing unusual tire wear and making the car hard to keep going where you point it.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      not in my experience. suspension wear happens gradually enough that you don’t really notice it; you subconsciously adjust to the minute changes in handling over time. I remember getting into people’s old land barges (think old Fords with recirculating-ball steering gears) which had so much slop that the steering wheel had about 45 degrees of play on “center.”

      besides, based on the two Model Ss I’ve driven, any noise from a failing ball joint wouldn’t be audible over all of the creaks, squeaks, and rattles from inside the car.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Typical Tesla/Elon arrogance on the wording of that “Goodwill Agreement”. If they truly don’t intend to include talking to legal counsel, government agencies, etc., why didn’t they reply with “Hey! Our bad! That’s not what we meant! Here’s a new agreement for you to sign!”

    Certainly the bit about: ” You agree to keep confidential our provision of the Goodwill, the terms of this agreement and the incidents or claims leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill.” doesn’t exclude the government (or legal counsel) in any way, so it’s disingenous to say that it “doesn’t mention the NHTSA” when a reading of the plain language would seem to say that EVERYBODY is on the “keep confidential from” list.

    Instead, of admitting it’s a poorly-written document, Elon personally launches an ad-hominem on Neidermeyer, while implying that the guy just might be in cahoots with short-sellers.

    Talk about a thin skin; has he hired Trump’s PR team?

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    Rutted dirt roads in Pennsylvania. Isn’t that what crossovers are for?

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Yeah. I don’t want to cut Tesla any slack for their stupid non-disclosure clause, but who buys a low-slung luxury sedan to drive over rutted roads? No surprise the suspension is hammered.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry. When you toss a car into the mass market, this is to be expected. No, it isn’t right, and yes, a truck is the correct tool, but your product IS going to end up on dirt roads, somewhere, somehow, most likely in the hands of someone who isn’t a dirt road driver. I occasionally worked a Rally, in one of the Course cars. The Course car was always a rental. I’ve seen pickups, SUV, Vans, and sedans take the abuse of a dirt and tarmac rally, driven flat out on closed roads, and after a bath, returned to the rental company. While surely outside the rental agreement, save an occasional tire, the cars worked when they were returned. An extreme example, but your shiny Tesla is gonna get beat on out there by someone….so it has to survive…

  • avatar
    ajla

    Now, Elon’s people are going to have Ed taken care of. He’s going to end up in an Iowa corn field buried next to Ozbag.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Almost like Billary Clinton sending out the hits on the trailer trash women who claim sexual assaults by her man Billie.
      I think she said it was Bimbo Eruptions?????
      Always….attack the messenger!!! Full steam ahead.
      Deny, deny, deny….that isn’t me on camera and not my stuff on that dress!
      Hope for a quick reboot of the 24/7 news cycle and the media to bail you out.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> He’s going to end up in an Iowa corn field

      Why bother with Iowa when you’ve got a rocket capable of reaching Mars?

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Gee – this reminds me of American Honda and their threat toward me over an automatic transmission failure after 9k miles on a new car; “We have more lawyers than you can afford and we will win in court.” Goodwill was not in their vocabulary, however…

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      There’s no way Honda would decline a transmission repair on a 9000 mile new car. I called BS on that.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        Nope, not BS. Cost me $3200 for a re-man auto through Honda for a ’98 Civic. Reverse gear stripped out, Honda said “operator error” and stood by it. That was the BS of it. Dealer was formerly Hidy Honda in Beavercreek, Ohio. I spoke with the service manager, Hidy himself and the Honda Zone Manager who personally told me about his lawyers. I’ll never, ever buy another Honda product because of those shitheads.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Sure they would – just blame driver abuse.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @bullnuke:

      I’m sympathetic. I fought American Honda for 20 months on my new 05 Odyssey, and eventually won a small settlement in lemon law court. In this case, a power sliding door that they repeatedly failed to fix, starting on Day One of ownership.

      They don’t play nice.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        There’s a big difference between a dealer being unable to properly repair your door, and refusing to cover a transmission repair on a 9000 mile vehicle. Your situation is what lemon laws are for. Bullnuke’s story is either completely made up, or there are some major things he isn’t disclosing. I have never seen or heard of any manufacturer declining such a repair. I know plenty of Honda techs, and they always talk about how Honda covers so many failures even out of warranty. Transmissions being a bit of their week point, get replaced all the time. At 9000 miles their isn’t any reason to decline warranty repairs on a vehicle without some serious outside influence. Either this car came in with a gaping hole in the transmission or it had a branded title, etc…

  • avatar
    rpn453

    $3100 for a ball joint?

    The failure itself isn’t necessarily unusual. It could happen to any vehicle if the boot gets torn and the resulting clunking is ignored for an extended period of time.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I was waiting to see just how long it would take for someone to mention the price which is beyond outrageous unless they replaced all the control arms and maybe did the tie rod ends too.

      • 0 avatar
        td0g

        Honestly the price for any repair on these cars never surprises me. Elon is just passing on the “savings” of not having dealerships.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        I’d still consider it an outrageous price if they replaced all control arms and tie rod ends. And brakes. And shocks. Throw a new set of tires on there too and it’s starting to seem reasonable.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        a lot of cars press the ball joint into the control arm. the service part is typically the joint/arm/bushing assembly.

        if you want to just replace the ball joint, you have to go to the aftermarket for something like MOOG and find a parts jobber with a press. probably nothing in the aftermarket for Teslas yet.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      $3100? That’s almost as much as Audi would charge!

      Thankfully it’s still less than a brake job on an Infiniti with the optional red calipers.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    I have a lotta rich friends.
    They all have a lotta cars costing 70K and more…even family members with Tesla.
    Few of them could even tell you where the ball joints are…let alone inspect them.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah but I’m betting that those people take their cars in for semi regular service and they rely on the fact that their receipt says the xxx point inspection will reveal something as important as impending suspension failure.

  • avatar
    vvk

    70k miles is not that unusual for a ball joint to wear out. Tesla should not have covered the repair. On the other hand, a ball joint should cost $15.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      yes it is a bit unusual. my (Neon) SRT-4 had 170,000 on the original ball joints (yes, I inspected them) and those miles were all on Michigan’s much loved roads.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Wow…. Am I only one here surprised at the chintzy-looking lower control arm? That’s not what I’d expect to see on an expensive Tesla. Thin gauge stamped steel fastened to the ball joint body is pretty pathetic. Take a look at any modern German luxury car and you’ll see MUCH more robust aluminum control arms that are both strong and lightweight. I guess Tesl a has to cut costs somewhere….

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Why are you surprised at all? Of course they’re cutting corners compared to the Germans and the Japanese luxury marques to even lose as little as they do per unit with their costs.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        Just looks really sketchy to me….even if it was on a cheap economy car. But on an expensive Tesla that has a high degree of performance, it’s very surprising to me.

  • avatar
    Tandoor

    Mr Cordaro has a YouTube video where he’s got left and right control arms out of the car to demonstrate their badness.
    Search “Tesla failed control arm and ball joint.”
    The rubber boots appear to be in good condition. The ball joints are trashed and the control arms don’t look well either.
    Tesla only makes themselves look ridiculous getting in a flame war. If they want to respond, say what they will and won’t do, but say nothing bad about anyone. You know, act like a professional.

  • avatar

    Meanwhile Elon on Twitter today with:

    “Of greater concern: 37 of 40 suspension complaints to NHTSA were fraudulent, i.e. false location or vehicle identification numbers were used” (https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/741411531582115841)

  • avatar

    I’m quite surprised that when you take delivery of your new Tesla, that there isn’t a startup screen with a EULA, and a big “ACCEPT” button.

    You know, with all sorts of evil you must agree to use the program, er, car.

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    As a long-time TTAC reader, I’m pretty sure the guy’s name is Niedermeyer (not Neidermeyer or Niedermayer or whatever).

    Just sayin’. :)

  • avatar

    Am I the only one who thinks that $3,100 is a bit steep for replacing a ball joint and control arm? That job should cost hundreds, not thousands.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      Elon would probably argue it is a job that is within the realm of Ben Franklins.

      31 of them, to be precise.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Even with Elon paying 1/2 the bill, I would’ve told him to shove it. Tesla needs to bring “replacement parts” down to earth, or the cars will be complete throwaways after 100K miles. Any machine shop should be able to sub in, off-the-shelf ball joints, for a fraction of Elons super inflated nonsense.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        But you’re not likely to buy a new S or X. I’m confident Musk knows precisely what most concerns those who are and neither longevity nor maintenance costs are huge with them.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Not so easy to just sub in a more common ball joint since the casting on that one seems to be riveted between the two layers of the control arm. However its not like there aren’t aftermarket companies that supply OE style replacement control arm assemblies and aftermarket performance companies that make high performance up grades for all sorts of cars. So I think that at least a few of them will gear up to offer replacement parts eventually. Once the aftermarket companies gear up that will likely force them to lower prices at least somewhat.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          I’ll bet it uses a ball joint shared by various other brands, if not it’s easy enough to drill out the knuckle for a slightly oversized shank, and rivet it to the arm.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    That control arm looks kinda wimpy – at least the part I can see. And no, that doesn’t look like an off-the-shelf ball joint. Probably a Tesla-only part.

  • avatar
    Fastdriver

    $3,100 for a ball joint! I really want to see Tesla succeed, but frankly, that’s beyond crazy. $500 for ball joint, maybe $750. Tesla needs to get in-front of supporting maintenance for a reasonable cost. That’s one of their clear advantages, given the reduced complexity of their vehicles. e.g. I can easily buy a Porsche, but if I have an engine problem, what a financial nightmare… and seeing how Porsche’s handled the IMS bearing issue, what should a person expect? Tesla has every opportunity to show the class, design responsibility, and reasonable support of e.g. Toyota, or Honda, or even GM – in making wear components, and replacement knowledge available. There will be 150k mile Teslas… a lot more in the next 2-3 years … who will fix these cars? And will there be an aftermarket for some of the non-electrical parts?

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I have a Lexus that’s used up more ball joints in 280,000KM than my three previous GM cars did in a total of 800,000KM (not to mention other suspension parts).

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