Electric vehicles with bad batteries will be popping up more and more as they age out. But that doesn’t mean they’re scrap. Far from it. Gruber Motor Company in Phoenix, Arizona, has been a go-to for Tesla battery issues for years. While Tesla Roadster battery pack revivals are their specialty, the folks there recently took on a customer’s $10,000 2014 Tesla Model S with a bad main propulsion battery pack. Getting that replaced is a $20,000 proposition.
One little battery dying can brick the whole pack
Since a 2014 Model S is worth about $30,000 the trade-off is nil. The problem with the Tesla battery packs is that they are made up of over 7,000 lithium-ion batteries. It only takes one of those little batteries dying to brick the whole thing. The solution in this case was to take the battery pack out and replace the bad cell.
Taking the 1,200 lb battery pack out of the S is not a simple procedure, but Gruber Motors is set up to do it all day long. So their process can remove the pack, replace the cell, and install the pack back into the Tesla for $5,000. That’s not cheap, but that puts the new owner into a $30,000 Model S for $15,000.
Once the pack is out the multiple modules that make up the pack are tested. A voltage reading determines whether the cell is good or bad. Finding the bad cell narrows down the search. Each battery in the cell is then tested and in the case of this Tesla it came down to a single bad battery.
One bad battery pulls down the entire cell
The 3.6-volt batteries look like an AA battery but slightly larger. Since they are tied together in-parallel one bad battery pulls down the entire cell. What Gruber does is just snip the connections to that particular battery, then reinstall the module into the pack and install the battery pack back into the car.
It all seems fairly simple but of course, it takes the right equipment to pull out the pack. And it takes the right equipment and testing procedure to figure out what is wrong with the pack. So it is not something you would do at home. But having access to Gruber or an independent Tesla repair shop would work should you find yourself looking to get into a Tesla on the cheap.
It’s always fun to cheat your way into a car or repair to save some serious money. Finding a Tesla with a bad battery pack is somewhat uncommon as they usually hold up well. But they do come up for sale and knowing this trick and how much it will cost you to fix it could save you thousands of dollars. Happy hunting.