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The door handle of the Tesla Model S is not just a simple lever; it is a complex ballet of some moving parts. In fact, you need an expert to explain its mechanism. If you are curious to know how it works, keep reading. In this post, we are going to explain how Tesla door handles work.

A few words on the door

Tesla doors are known as Falcon Wing Doors, and they are expensive and complicated gimmick. When you look at the door, the first thing you notice is the designer’s staggering attention to details.

Tesla is known as a company that always strives for a difference. The door handle of Tesla Model S pops out and greets you. And there is a very complex mechanism behind it. But complexity almost always goes hand in hand with unreliability.

When you look at the doors, you can guess that the doors can fail in many ways. In this sense, a traditional door handle is more reliable than that of the Tesla Model S. The replacement cost of the unit is $900, which is a big deal even for those who can afford this car.

Curious users and enthusiasts often want to know: how do Tesla door handles work? This post will at least partially satisfy that curiosity. Keep reading!  

What is it like?

No other production car has so few aerodynamic drag figures as the Model S. It is achieved with the help of retracting door handles. As the car starts to move, they retract. If you are a key holder and you approach the driver’s door, the handle will open automatically.

If nothing else happens after about 1 minute of delay, the interior lights go out and all the handles retract. Sitting in the car, if you want someone to enter the car, all you have to do is to find the gear selector and press the button located on the end. The handle will pop out.

The mechanism has actuators and microswitches. Unfortunately, no life test was run on handle operation. As a result, after about 20,000 miles, the driver’s doors of early cars had failures. For less used doors, failures happened a bit later.

The company figured out where the problem is. It was because of the way the internal wires were anchored. Technicians had to fix the wires where the wires meet the microswitch. As a result, the wire got disconnected and the handle ceased to work. If your car has not reached the time limit of warranty, a ranger will come to you and replace the door handle.

If the car is outside warranty, making a case is a good idea, because the company has admitted this manufacturing defect. Later models eliminated the defect by anchoring the wire correctly. There are some video tutorials that can help your repair it yourself.

How it works

The mechanism of the door handle is very complex. Even trained engineers often ask: how do Tesla door handles work? To understand the mechanisms of Tesla door handles, you have to look at the handle assembly of the front left. This handle assembly is located inside the door, and everything happens in this part. Now we will try to explain how it works.

Let’s first focus on the side of the assembly that faces the driver. It goes into the door, and the actual visible door handle is on the outside. This is where the chrome piece bolts on to and gets presented. There is a slot where the door handle fits in. When you unlock the car, a few sensors, motors and microswitches dictate the actions of the door handle.

Let’s try to explain some of the wirings. The wiring goes into the door handle assembly of the car. It is important to note that all this wiring does not connect to the rest of the car. It just connects to the stuff in the handle. The wiring is used to get power and signal from the car.

The red and the black are the 12-volt positive and the ground. The green and blue wires are the canvas wires. The door modules run on the can to network. And when this is plugged into the car, the red and the black wires give it power, and these two wires give it signal from walking up to the car.

There is a mini internal control module in the assembly. That signal goes down the wire and goes into a control module. A few actions happen from there. If the control module tells the door to open, a little motor pushes the handle out, and the handle pops out.

If you walk up to the car, the motor gets signal from the module and pops the handles out. Thus the handles are presented to you. Similarly, if you walk up to the car and you push the door handle in, it also presents. A few microswitches make it happen. So, how do Tesla door handles work? The function of the door handle is greatly indebted to its microswitches.

Here, the microswitches act as sensors. On the side, there is one microswitch activates the process. It works as one of the sensors and tells the module that something is being pressed. In the same function, there is another microswitch that does the same thing when pressed. The main function of the microswitch is to tell your position.

Functions of the module

If the module sees that the microswitches are not in a position where they need to be, the module sends a signal to the motor. The motor moves the gear assembly and thus pushes the handle.

Most of the wiring is connected to VLO ZIP ties, and that is basically the fastening system. There are a few Trox bolts and there are some butyls that are waterproof. A part of the harness is unfastened. The parts are held in by security clips. You can easily split and remove them.

The first piece of the main harness that goes to the rest of the car can be easily removed. In the same way, you can remove the zip tie that holds the line. Once that is removed, you can easily split out the rest of the harness. How do Tesla door handles work? You can not really understand the mechanism unless you open the module.

There is a harness for the microswitches, and they are connected together. This harness goes directly to the module. There is another pair of wires which are used for LED lighting. Other than that, there are some cables that go down to the motor.

Once it is split up, it is fairly straightforward. You can examine it by popping out the motor. If you unbolt the motor, you can see the wiring harness that goes to the motor. It also has the same type of security clip. The motor can be separated just by lifting up the tab and pulling it right.

It is a DC motor and it has two wiring signals going into it. It has a gear drive and the gear drive matches a little gear assembly. It pulls the handle in and out and interacts with the motor switch. There is a stop that holds the handle from going back too far in.

Final words

So, how do Tesla door handles work? They work in a complex way, and it is hard for a DIY enthusiast to understand the mechanism. The door handles are far more complex than ordinary car door handles. If you want to learn more about the mechanism, you can do your own research.

However, many users and technicians, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, think that the handle is over-engineered and it could be a bit less complex. Complexity is not always a mark of sophistication.

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