Drop It Like It’s Hot: Tesla’s Design Flaw Leads to Flying Bumpers in Certain Model 3 Vehicles

published: 2020-11-02 18:30 | editor: | category: News

Tesla has recently come clean about a design flaw in its Model 3 vehicles manufactured before May 2019. These vehicles have rear bumpers that are prone to falling off when driving over puddles or in rainy conditions. Sources close to the automakers indicated that Tesla’s warranty does provide coverage for such damage, meaning Model 3 owners experiencing these bumper defects are encouraged to reach out to Tesla for repairs.

Although the Model 3’s bumper situation is not exactly news, what’s remarkable is that Tesla admits the faulty bumpers are the result of a manufacturing defect as opposed to external causes.

As previously mentioned, the affected vehicles are specifically from the Model 3 lineup manufactured before May 2019 in Tesla’s Fremont factory. Investigations reveal that liquid and dirt may accumulate in and eventually clog up the seams between the vehicle’s rear fascia and body. Over time, driving over large bumps in the road can cause enough vibration to separate the bumper from the vehicle itself.

According to Eric Bolduc, an auto mechanic based in Canada, road surfaces in some colder regions are prone to being covered with sand. Bolduc has repaired at least 25 Model 3s for rear bumper damages from sand accumulation, sometimes removing upwards of 15 kg of sand from a single vehicle. Bolduc’s repairs are well-documented on his YouTube channel.

▲  The pile of debris on the floor was extracted from within the car’s rear bumper (Source: TechNews, via Antirouille Bolduc)

Much like sand accumulation, water accumulation can also result in mechanical failures. This is particularly common in areas with constant rainy weather. Once enough water has been accumulated in the vehicles’ weak spots, driving across puddles of any size can cause bumpers to detach from the vehicle due to excessive water accumulation. This was what puzzled Tesla auto mechanics when repairing vehicles with detached bumpers, since most drivers claimed that they had driven across only a small puddle before their Model 3s’ bumpers fell off.

Now that the truth about the Model 3’s defects has come to light, Tesla is recognizing that the bumper detachments occurred because of a design flaw. The company is now offering free repairs to Model 3 owners that suffer from this problem. Naturally, this offer is as of yet unavailable in Taiwan.

However, detached bumpers are merely one incident out of the many Tesla-related mishaps in the news in the past couple of years. Incidentally now that this has been officially recognized as a manufacturing defect, perhaps the next candidate to be recognized as such is the Model Y’s “flying roof foible”.

Earlier this month, the sunroof of a brand new Model Y flew off as the owner was driving home after acquiring the vehicle. Unlike the Model 3’s bumper incidents, Tesla did not wait for almost two years before addressing the defect. The company was quick to respond, as it has already issued recalls in the U.S. market. Model Ys that are recalled will have their sunroofs thoroughly inspected to avoid potential accidents in the future.

Worth mentioning is that fact that all Model 3s manufactured after May 2019 have been designed with a new drainage system, leaving the vehicles much less susceptible to dirt accumulation. This should effectively reduce incidences of detached bumpers – at least in theory.

(Image Credit: Rebekah Rimsay )

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