Tesla Model S: 11 Common Problems (Solution Guide)

The Model S was first sold in 2012  and was Tesla’s first real attempt at a mass-market, high-volume production vehicle.

It introduced a lot of the things that we now take for granted in any Tesla — like the blisteringly fast acceleration, class-leading range, a gigantic touchscreen, and lots of other cool tech.

Despite its success, the Model S has had more than its fair share of complaints regarding build quality, technical glitches and parts failures.

If you’re having problems with your Model S or just doing some research, this guide is here to help.

1. Tesla Model S Keeps Rebooting

Lots of owners have reported having problems with the touchscreen on their Model S rebooting or restarting on its own at random times. 

This is usually caused by software glitches that cause the car’s Media Control Unit (MCU) to crash and restart. Usually, it will fix itself after a restart or you may need to wait until after a new software update is pushed.

If the screen is constantly restarting while you’re driving, here are some fixes you can try.

Close All Apps and Unplug USB Devices

When you have several apps running at the same time, such as Spotify, navigation and the browser, the car’s MCU is running at its maximum capacity.

Try closing out all the running apps to free up memory and computing power and observe if the issue reoccurs. 

It’s also a good idea to unplug any USB devices such as flash drives and hard drives.

Some devices may have incompatibilities with the vehicle that’s causing the MCU to crash.

Reboot the Car

You can also try clearing out any software bugs and glitches by forcing a manual reboot.

All you have to do is hold down the two steering wheel buttons until you see the startup procedure on the screen.

A lot of people also say that stepping on the brake pedal while holding down the steering wheel buttons actually forces the car to do a hard reset.

Check the MCU

If the touchscreen is still acting up, there might be something wrong with the hardware itself.

Check if the 12-volt battery is still healthy because a failing one might not be able to send enough power to the MCU — causing it to constantly restart.

Teslas made prior to 2018 also used the first generation Media Control Unit — more commonly known as MCU1.

These older MCUs used eMMC flash storage which had a reputation for premature failures.

When the flash storage goes, the entire MCU has to be replaced.

2. Tesla Model S Alarm Going Off

The Model S alarm can be triggered by any number of things. Loud noises from passing vehicles or even from the battery’s cooling fans when it’s too hot can set off false alarms.

It could also be caused by software problems, incorrect settings or even faulty hardware like sensors.

If you have Sentry mode turned on, you can check the footage if anything hit your car while you were away.

If the footage doesn’t show anything abnormal, here are some things you can try.

Check the Settings

If the alarm goes off when you open the door after the car is summoned, you might have the Walk Away Door Lock enabled and have an exception for your ‘Home’ location.

This setting keeps the door unlocked, but it sometimes forgets to deactivate the alarm.

A lot of owners have just settled on making sure to manually unlock the car before opening the doors to make sure the alarm is disabled as a workaround.

Check for Bugs

Aside from software glitches, actual bugs or insects trapped inside the cabin can also set off the Model S alarm.

Leave the doors open or go for a drive with the windows open to give any bugs that may be trapped inside a chance to escape.

If this still doesn’t solve the issue, use some bug spray to kill off any pests that may still be hiding inside the cabin.

Try a Hard Restart 

A system reboot or a hard restart can usually clear out any software bugs that could be causing false positives with the alarm and/or sentry mode.

To do a hard restart on the Model S, just step on the brake pedal while holding down both scroll buttons on the steering wheel until the touchscreen goes blank and lights up again.

3. Tesla Model S Keeps Beeping

Beeps and chimes are pretty normal for a Model S — just like in any modern vehicle.

In most cases, the beeps and chimes will be accompanied by a notification on the touchscreen that tells you what the noise is all about.

Your Model S could be beeping because of features like:

  • Parking assist sensors
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Speed limit warning

Here are some other reasons why your Model S could be beeping at you.

Open Doors and Hatch

If you try to drive off without fully closing the doors, frunk or hatch, the car will emit three quick beeps to try and warn you of the error.

There should also be a notification on the screen telling you which door is still open.

If the doors, hood and hatch are closed properly but the car is still beeping and warning you that they’re open, you might have a faulty sensor.

You can also try adjusting the rubber stoppers on the underside of the hatch to make sure they’re not sticking out too much and keeping it from closing properly.

Forgetting to Put the Car in Park

If you try to exit the car while it’s still in Drive, Reverse or Neutral, you’ll hear a beep as it shifts to Park by itself.

The car will also beep if you lift yourself out of the driver’s seat temporarily because of the car’s seat weight sensor.

It’s basically thinking that there’s no one sitting in the driver’s seat.

If the car continues to beep for no reason, your best bet is to take it to a service center so that it can be properly diagnosed.

4. Tesla Model S Door Keeps Opening

Issues with the doors and door handles are common with the Model S. 

Many Model S owners have reported that their passenger or driver door will randomly open on its own while the vehicle is parked and sometimes even while it’s moving.

Check the Door Handle and Latch

One of the first things you can try is to adjust the screw that limits how far the handle extends outward when it is presenting. It may be opening up too much which inadvertently triggers the latch release.

If this doesn’t solve the issue, you need to figure out if the problem is being caused by a faulty door handle, latch, microswitch or controller.

Usually, a trip to the service center or even a regular mechanic can nip this problem in the bud.

If you’re only having problems with the passenger doors, a quick workaround you can try is to set the car to unlock only the driver door until you find a more permanent fix.

5. Tesla Model S Won’t Connect to WiFi

The Model S will sometimes have difficulty connecting to WiFi even if other devices are able to connect to the same WiFi signal from wherever the car is parked.

This is a pretty common issue with a lot of Teslas, but here are some quick fixes that you can try.

Reboot the System

If you are encountering errors when trying to connect to a WiFi signal, you can try restarting the MCU to clear out any bugs that may be causing the issue.

Hold down the two steering wheel buttons until the screen turns off and turns back on and you should be able to reconnect with no problems once the system is up and running again.

Connect to a 2.4GHz WiFi Signal

5GHz WiFi has faster speeds but also has much less range than 2.4GHz WiFi signals.

If the car is automatically connecting to a 5GHz signal but isn’t getting a good connection, click on WiFi settings and click ‘Forget Network’.

You can then force it to connect to a more stable 2.4GHz connection since it’s no longer automatically trying to reconnect to the 5GHz signal all the time.

Add a Wireless Repeater or Park Closer to the Router

Try parking the car in a different position so that it’s much closer to the router that’s broadcasting the WiFi signal.

If the router is pretty far from the vehicle, extending its WiFi range using an extender or a mesh network is the only viable solution.

Use Your Phone as a Hotspot

If you can’t download an update because of WiFi issues, you can always use your phone as a mobile hotspot and let the car download updates using your mobile data instead. 

This is the quickest solution and won’t require buying additional equipment or too much additional troubleshooting.

6. Tesla Model S Screen Keeps Freezing

A frozen or unresponsive touchscreen is a fairly common problem for the Model S. 

It can occur on both the older MCU1 and the newer MCU2 infotainment systems.

Usually, an unresponsive touchscreen is caused by a software glitch, but it can also be a symptom of failing hardware.

Here are some things you can try to narrow down the cause of the issue.

Reboot the MCU

The simplest solution to get back the normal functionality of the touchscreen is to simply reboot the MCU.

To do this, simply hold down the two steering wheel buttons and wait for the infotainment system to restart.

Rebooting the MCU should close out any apps that could be causing the issue.

Some activities like listening to Internet radio, using the browser, or even simply reading the owner’s manual are notorious for causing the MCU to become unresponsive. 

Unplug All USB Devices

Incompatible USB devices or corrupted files stored in USB thumb drives and hard drives can also cause all sorts of errors and software glitches. 

Unplug everything that’s connected via USB then observe if the issue reoccurs.

It’s also a good idea to reboot the system after unplugging your USB devices to make sure the system is starting from a clean slate.

Disconnect the 12-Volt Battery

If holding down the steering wheel buttons isn’t doing anything, you can disconnect the 12-volt battery to force the car’s computers to shut down.

You’ll have to open the hood and remove a couple of plastic covers to access the 12-volt battery.

Disconnect the battery wire from the black negative terminal and wait a couple of minutes before hooking it back up. 

Take it to the Service Center

If you’re still encountering issues after trying out the basic troubleshooting steps, your best option is to take it to a service center. 

The issue could be caused by a defective MCU that needs to be replaced.

They can also check if there’s something wrong with the car’s firmware and do a software update to clear out any issues.

Related: How Long Do Tesla Model S Last?

7. Tesla Model S Won’t Wake Up

The Model S should wake up from deep sleep mode whenever you fire up the Tesla app on your phone. The app lets you communicate with the vehicle and control certain features and settings.

Some owners have reported experiencing problems communicating with their cars because it’s stuck in sleep mode and not waking up as it normally would.

Here are some things you can try if you’re unable to wake up your Model S.

Check the Cell Reception

The car needs to be connected to the Internet using a cellular connection for it to be able to listen for wake-up commands.

If there’s no cell reception in the area or if it’s parked in an underground garage, it won’t be able to receive any commands remotely from your phone — unless you’re close enough to the car for it to connect via Bluetooth to your phone.

Reboot the Car And Restart the App 

If you’re having issues waking up the car, try rebooting the car’s computer by holding down the two scroll wheels on the steering wheel. This should clear out any software glitches that could be causing the issue.

You can also try turning your phone’s Bluetooth off and on again, as well as restarting the App to refresh its connection with the vehicle.

Some people have also reported that reinstalling the app can help.

Unlocking and opening the doors should also get the vehicle to wake up.

Check the Battery

If the car is not powering on at all, there might be a problem with either the 12-volt or the high voltage battery. 

You can try jump-starting the 12-volt as you would in any other vehicle and see if that gives it enough juice to power on the car. 

A bad ground can also produce similar symptoms, as well as lots of other strange electrical issues.

You can check if the ground wire is connected properly by opening up the frunk and removing the tub.

Otherwise, you can have the car towed to a service center.

8. Tesla Model S Charge Port Keeps Opening

Some owners have reported that their charge port door won’t stay closed and keeps opening randomly. This usually happens while the car is parked, but some have reported that it will also happen while the car is moving.

Early model years of the Model S had manual closing doors while newer cars have a motorized door.

Check the Key Fob 

Try removing the key fob’s battery to check whether there’s a stuck button on the fob that’s causing the charge port door to be opening on its own.

If the charge port door stays closed, try cleaning the key fob to get the button unstuck.

If this doesn’t help, you might need to get a new key fob.

Check the Charge Port 

Dust and moisture can cause the charge port door to randomly open. Try wiping down the inside of the door and the charge port to clear out any unwanted debris that could be interfering with the sensors.

In most cases, sudden issues with the charge port door are usually caused by some sort of hardware failure. There might be a problem with the door, the sensors or the whole charge port. 

Luckily, these are very easy and cheap to replace and it’s best to have a service center take a look at it.

Related: Where are Tesla Model S Made?

9. Tesla Model S Trunk Won’t Close

Lots of Model S owners have reported having trouble with the rear hatch not closing all the way or not locking shut. 

You can still drive around even if the rear hatch is not completely locked down. The weight of the hatch will keep it closed, but it will move a bit when you hit bumps. The car will also beep relentlessly if you drive around and it senses that the rear hatch is open.

To fix the issue permanently, here are some things you can try.

Check the Latch and Actuator

If the rear hatch is not staying closed even if you slam it shut, then the latch itself may be broken.

You can replace it yourself or take it to a service center.

The Model S also has a cinch actuator or motor that pulls down the hatch to lock it.

If the actuator is defective, the hatch/trunk won’t close on its own. 

This actuator also tells the car that the hatch is closed.

So even if you’re able to close the hatch and keep it locked down, the car will still think that the hatch is open.

You’ll need to replace the actuator to get it working normally again. 

You can replace the latch and the actuator yourself if you’re fairly handy.

You just need to take off a bunch of the trim pieces to access the defective parts.

10. Tesla Model S Not Locking

The Model S won’t lock the doors like it normally would whenever:

  • A key fob or phone key is left inside the car
  • The hatch, frunk or one of the doors is still open

If you’re having trouble with the Model S door locks, try these basic troubleshooting steps first.

Try Other Door Locking Methods

Whenever you have problems locking the doors, you should first make sure that there are no other key fobs or phones that have been registered as phone keys inside the car or anywhere near it. 

You should also check the screen for any error messages for open doors or an open hatch that could be preventing the doors from locking.

Door locking issues can also be brought about by lots of different things such as:

  • A weak key fob battery
  • Malfunctioning door lock buttons on the key fob
  • Signal interference
  • Poor cell signal if you’re trying to lock the doors using the Tesla app

Trying out different ways to lock the doors should help you narrow down what is actually causing the problem.

If you’re unable to lock the doors using the key fob, try using the Tesla app on your phone instead.

You can also click on the ‘Lock’ icon on the touch screen and the doors should automatically lock upon exiting the vehicle and closing the doors.

Lock the Doors Manually

The Model S has a setting called Walk-Away Door Lock which should automatically lock the doors when you walk away with the key fob or if it no longer detects the key for some reason.

You can also set it so that it won’t automatically lock when you’re at home.

Lots of Tesla owners have reported that the Walk Away Lock function tends to be unreliable. 

If you have it set to exclude your saved ‘Home’ location and you park your car a few houses down the road, it still thinks you’re at home and won’t automatically lock the doors when you walk away.

If the car doesn’t shut down after you exit the vehicle and close the doors, the seat sensor could be malfunctioning and making the car think there’s still someone inside the vehicle which would cause it to keep the doors unlocked.

Fixing this will require a trip to the service center to get properly diagnosed.

You can also just disable the auto-locking feature and lock the doors manually every time you leave the vehicle unattended if it’s too inconsistent and unpredictable.

11. Tesla Model S Won’t Forget Bluetooth Device

 Some Model S owners have encountered issues when trying to delete phones paired via Bluetooth.

Usually, the screen will just continually show a dialog box with a spinning icon after clicking on ‘Forget This Device’.

If this happens to you, here are a couple of things you can try.

Let it Run Overnight

Several people who have gotten stuck on the screen that just shows ‘Forgetting Bluetooth Device’ were eventually able to successfully remove the paired device by leaving it alone for several hours.

If you try to interact with the screen or reboot the MCU too soon, the process usually cancels itself out.

Delete All Bluetooth Devices

If the problem persists even after leaving the car alone for several hours, try disconnecting and forgetting your primary device first. 

Once the currently connected device is removed, you can try to remove all other paired devices next.

It’s also a good idea to delete the car from the phone’s Bluetooth settings and remove the phone from the car’s key list under the ‘Controls’ and ‘Locks’ settings beforehand.

Reset the Bluetooth Module

If your Model S was made before April 2018, you also have the option to reset the Bluetooth module.

To do this, go into the ‘Controls’ menu and select ‘Reset Bluetooth’ under ‘Service’.

Perform a Factory Reset

If all else fails, you can reset the car back to factory settings which should delete all of your personal data and any settings you have previously configured.

To perform a factory reset, go into ‘Controls’, click on ‘Service’, then select ‘Factory Reset’.

Related: How Long Will a Porsche Taycan Last?