After such a long waiting period, the day finally comes when your brand-new Tesla arrives. You’re excited to start your new electric-car lifestyle, and have everything ready to say goodbye to the gas station forever. You get in your car and set off, only to hear a sort of click or even a small whine every time you accelerate, and even when you slow down…what’s going on?
These aren’t the type of sounds one associates with a top-end premium-price car like a Tesla, be it electric or gasoline. This isn’t some old banger off of Craigslist, right? So why are Tesla owners taking to the online forums even in 2022 to complain about these noises? What is causing them? In today’s blog, we’re going to talk about the issue in more detail.
Background: What’s the Problem
According to many Tesla forums, people are complaining of an isolated noise, most typically a knock or a click, that occurs first when they accelerate beyond about 10-mph, and then sometimes the same noise when slowing back down to about the same level. The sound invariably comes from the rear end of the car, but many owners say that they weren’t able to pinpoint the sound so precisely.
The noise seems innocuous enough, especially as it doesn’t appear to affect the actual performance of the car, nor does it typically result in any kind of warning light or pop-up warning message from the Tesla system. But it’s irritating nonetheless. Some owners on the forums have gone as far as to say it’s an “aggravating” sound that can even be heard from the outside as well as the inside. Most importantly, it’s not something that people would generally expect from a brand-new car of any stripe, but perhaps in particular from a Tesla that they’ve been waiting weeks or months to be delivered.
Looking closely at buyer feedback, it would be easy to think that it’s only the Model Y and Model X models that are experiencing this problem, but we have found that it has also been reported on the Model 3, meaning it could potentially affect the entire range. As to what is causing it, we’ll look at that in the next section.
What’s Causing the Noise to Occur?
The most burning question in most people’s minds on this topic concerns what exactly it is that’s causing these unwanted noises. Electric cars are meant to be seamless, high-tech, and modern, so clunky knocking sounds that belong in old ICE (internal combustion engine) cars is the last thing one would expect. A number of ideas have emerged as to the cause of the sound, some of which we have listed below:
Loose/Faulty Rear Axle
The primary suspicion is that the sound is emanating from the rear axle, where improperly tightened nuts, as well as a lack of proper lubrication, is causing the knocking sound to happen while accelerating and decelerating. It seems that in these cases, the sound was worse the more harshly one accelerated or decelerated.
The axle spline, in many cases, was drying up and in need of greasing. Many who took their car to the Tesla Service Center found that greasing up the rear axle properly and checking the lug nuts was generally a good fix and worked well. However, it didn’t work for everyone, showing that this might be a multi-cause issue and while the sounds are similar, they’re actually being caused by different things.
In particular, there were several reports online of the clicking coming from one of the rear seats. One driver reported to Teslamotorsclub.com that he was actually able to reproduce the sound himself by tilting the seat in various directions. At the time he was in contact with the Service Center but had received no reply on it just yet. It’s possible that the seat wasn’t fitted properly and was thus clicking slightly in and out of position as the car accelerated and decelerated.
This didn’t prove to be much of a mainstream cause, however, and there haven’t been many other users finding that the clicking is coming from the seat. It does offer people an option to check, though, if the noise has become bothersome and has been around for a long time. Perhaps knowing that it was the seat all along could help allay fears of something more serious, and set them off on a path to getting the seat repaired and the noise removed.
One other theory on the source of the noise was that it was the solenoids closing in order for the brake and “Hold” function to work as and when it should. While there were some who found this plausible, the vast majority believe that it doesn’t make sense for that to be the noise when accelerating. It’s hard to find further details on this potential cause, but it seems that it’s not the likely main cause, as we’ll see from the next point.
Tesla’s Response to “Known Issue”
It does seem that since the issue started being reported in earnest around 2020-2021, Tesla have already addressed the issue and acknowledged it as a fault that they need to work on. According to these Tesla sources, “the noise is coming from where the subframe bolts up in the rear of the vehicle.” They also confirmed that while it is certainly an annoyance, it doesn’t not present any real safety concerns. In other words, nothing is about to fall off!
As of 2022, no mainstream fix for this noise has been announced as such, but Tesla is apparently still working to address the problem. If ultimately the issue is multiple cars not getting key bolts fastened in properly, or axles not being greased properly, then the fault lies somewhere in the production line and in particular in the quality control inspection processes.
What Should I Do If I Hear This Knocking Sound?
There are videos of people on YouTube working on Tesla cars exhibiting clicking sounds to try and solve the problem. However, as you’ll see in the link we shared above, the work itself is highly technical, and even this YouTuber brings in a former Tesla engineer to help. The challenge is getting to the parts that are in need of attention, and that too is one of the reasons that Tesla hasn’t come up with a viable solution just yet.
So, what should you do? Here are some ideas:
Make an Appointment at the Service Center
It may sound like the most obvious advice, but it remains also the soundest plan, too. If all you get is a written record of the presence of the sound, and of what action the Service Center takes, that’s still a good thing further down the road. These are exactly the types of abnormality that you have to report early if you want to be taken seriously later on and get the help you need to fix it — possibly even as a ‘goodwill’ job from Tesla. If they knew nothing of it and you drive the car for a long time with the noises happening, they may decide that you caused the issue yourself.
Try some of the solutions that were mentioned above. Check the rear seats, and then check the axles to ensure bolts are fastened as they should be and that the axle is properly greased up. If these solutions offer no relief, then it could be a more fundamental problem as described by Tesla themselves. Once again, the written record of your previous visits can prove useful when trying to get access to whatever fix Tesla comes up with later on.
Try to Recreate the Sound to See if There are Patterns
Another useful thing to do, if possible, is to try and isolate the causes of the noise and identify precise patterns or conditions under which it happens. The more precise you can be about the noise — what it sounds like, when you hear it, how it happens, etc., then you help to make the task easier for the Tesla Service Center when determining exactly what’s wrong.
Don’t Try to Fix it Yourself
Finally, Tesla is saying that this issue with bolts and/or grease is not yet a safety concern. However, getting beyond the casings and seams and trying to put this problem right yourself could result in your car becoming more dangerous for others who drive or ride in it. Should your tinkering result in the problem becoming worse, then your own repairs could render any help from insurance companies a moot point!