Elon Musk may have officially bought Twitter, but his purchase doesn’t seem to have bolstered his other businesses. Tesla stock has fallen regularly since late October when the company issued a rare physical recall for problems with certain cars’ seatbelts.
The recall affected more than 24,000 Model 3 vehicles, including 2017 through 2021 year models. These cars may have had their seatbelts reassembled incorrectly during servicing, making them no longer adequate for keeping passengers safe during a crash.
This is far from the only recall Tesla has issued in the past few months, but it is one of just a few that have required owners to go in to have their cars serviced. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between a physical and digital recall, the risks the problems pose to owners, and how you can get help if Tesla can’t fix your car for good.
Difference Between Physical and Digital Tesla Recalls
Physical recalls are the most common type for most manufacturers. These are notices sent to owners informing them that they should take their vehicle to a manufacturer’s dealership to get a potentially dangerous physical problem fixed. Historically, this was the only type of recall possible, but Tesla has changed that.
In fact, Musk has taken to complaining on Twitter that the term “recall” is outdated. After a digital recall in September, he tweeted, “The terminology is outdated & inaccurate. This is a tiny over-the-air software update. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no injuries.”
There’s a reason Musk specified “over-the-air” in his comment. Teslas come with the ability to update their software through WiFi and 5G connections. This allows the company to resolve supposedly minor glitches without the need for owners to visit a mechanic.
This is both a blessing and a curse for Tesla owners. The company also pushes non-vital updates that add new features through over-the-air connections. Like any other software updates, these can introduce new problems. As a result, Tesla regularly needs to issue digital recalls to fix problems introduced by previous updates. This includes issues like one faulty update that caused cars to start applying the emergency brake for no reason.
That’s why any physical recall is considered a rarity for the brand. Tesla attempts to fix all problems by way of software updates before even considering a physical recall. This may be because there are only 223 Tesla locations in the entire country, making it difficult and time-consuming for many owners to get physical fixes performed. However, not even Tesla can use computers to fix faulty seatbelt construction, so owners need to visit a dealership to resolve the issue.
Tesla’s hesitancy to issue physical recalls should concern owners. It demonstrates that the brand may not have the time or resources to physically fix vehicles if there is a significant manufacturing issue. Furthermore, since Teslas are relatively low in number, it takes longer to determine whether a physical problem is a consistent manufacturing defect or a flaw in a single vehicle. In combination, these factors mean Tesla owners must keep a close eye on their cars if they start having physical issues.
What to Do If Your Tesla Has Reoccurring Problems
So what should you do if you think your Tesla has a physical manufacturing flaw? Waiting for a recall that may never occur isn’t a reliable means of addressing the issue. You may need a more hands-on approach to get your car repaired, replaced, or refunded.
The best way to accomplish this is by ensuring you follow California’s lemon laws. A lemon law claim can help you get your car fixed or your money back. Your vehicle may be eligible if:
- It’s still under warranty
- It has a problem caused by the manufacturer
- The problem was discovered within 18 months or 18,000 miles of taking ownership, whichever is less
If your vehicle meets these criteria, Tesla must fix it at no cost to you. You can take it to a Tesla dealership, and they should repair the problem on your behalf? But what if the issue comes back?
California grants manufacturers “a reasonable number of attempts” to repair problems for good. There are three definitions of a reasonable number:
- If a problem is relatively minor and unlikely to put you in danger, the manufacturer has four chances to repair it. You can file a lemon claim if it comes back a fifth time.
- If the issue is dangerous or potentially deadly, the manufacturer only gets two attempts to repair it before you can file your claim.
- If your car is in the shop for manufacturing defects of any kind for 30 or more days while under warranty, you can file.
In all of these cases, you have grounds to request that the manufacturer refund you what you’ve paid for the car or replace the vehicle entirely. It is their responsibility under consumer warranty laws. If the original product did not safely fulfill its purpose, they must return your money or replace the defective model with one that works.
Get Help With Your Tesla Lemon Claim
If you have a lemon of a Tesla, you don’t have to sit back and accept it. If it’s still under warranty, like more than half of most models, you may be able to file a lemon claim against the manufacturer. If you think you have a case, you can discuss your claim with the law firm of Johnson & Buxton — The Lemon Law Guys.
We have experience on both sides of lemon law cases. We’ve worked for big car companies, so we understand the techniques they use to avoid these claims. We use that knowledge to help clients around California pursue successful lemon law claims. Schedule your consultation today to learn how we can help you.