What Is the Future of Car Maintenance?

Written: October 14, 2021

In August, I wrote about my experience in finishing a second three-year lease and starting a third lease on the Tesla Model S. As discussed, Tesla is determined to automate the entire sales and delivery process for their cars. What about car maintenance after the delivery process?

To discuss maintenance of an electric vehicle (EV), it is helpful to first consider the things an EV does not have.

  • Does not have nearly 200 moving engine parts. An EV utilizes electric motors which have about 17 moving parts, compared to a conventional internal combustion engine, which has about 200.
  • An EV has a single speed “transmission” of sorts, but it doesn’t have gears to turn compared to a traditional motor vehicle with multiple gears and speeds, which are connected by an engine crankshaft. The drivetrain in an internal combustion engine vehicle contains 2,000+ moving parts.
  • No muffler
  • No exhaust system and pipe
  • No radiator water and antifreeze
  • No engine oil
  • No transmission fluid needing replacement
  • No gas tank

There are some maintenance items for an EV. In the case of a Tesla Model S, the company recommends replacing the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) cabin filter every three years. Air conditioning service to replace the A/C desiccant bag for better longevity and efficiency of the air conditioning system is also recommended every three years.

Tesla recommends cleaning and lubricating all brake calipers every 12 months or 12,500 mi for cars in cold weather regions. I have found no need to do this during either of two completed three-year leases. As for brake service, I find I use the brakes very little, even less so with the latest Model S. The regenerative braking system of the Tesla charges the battery while slowing down or going down an incline. When you take your foot off the pedal, the car slows down considerably. I cannot verify this, but an acquaintance told me he drove his Tesla from Poughkeepsie, NY to the JFK Airport without ever touching the brake pedal. This may sound hard to believe but if you drive a Tesla, you can see how it may be possible.

What about warranty issues or need for a repair? The Tesla app has a Service option on the homescreen. You can select the type of issue you have and schedule a visit from a Tesla Mobile Service Technician. I had an occasion this month to see if it would be as easy as advertised. The left rear door handle got stuck while retracting to the flush position. It only happened once, but I decided to have it looked at, and requested service using the app. On the scheduled day, there was a knock at the door. It was the Mobile Service Technician who had just arrived in a company owned Tesla Model X. The car was stocked with all the commonly used parts. He fixed the problem in about 15 minutes. Parenthetically, as he was leaving he said he loves working for Tesla because he gets paid to drive one of their cars every day.

I believe the service experience I had is the future of car maintenance. Use an app to get a mobile technician to come to wherever you are. In today’s system, you make an appointment, drive to a service center which may not be convenient. Wait in a lounge which may or may not have good Wi-Fi and with a TV playing something you may not want to hear. In all my years, I don’t think I have ever experienced an appointment which was on time and fixed the issue quickly.

Electric cars are going to change many things in the world’s economies. Tesla is not alone in the transformation, although I continue to believe they have a considerable lead. As previously discussed, the ordering and delivery processes have been streamlined and automated. Friends have told me they experienced the same thing with other brands. Car maintenance and recalls by Tesla are mostly by over-the-air Wi-Fi. Others have been very slow to adopt the approach, but they will figure it out. The next phase of the evolution is self-driving. The technology is mostly there, the throttle is regulatory. At some point we won’t need to own or lease a car. When we want to go somewhere we will just use an app to request a self-driving car to come get us.