What do you do with a flood damaged Tesla Model S?

Rich works in information technology near Boston, Massachusetts. In his spare time, he likes to buy salvage vehicles and return them to as-new condition. His latest project is a 2012 Model S 85 that was damaged in a flood.

Buying salvage cars is always a risk. Generally, there is little information available to inform the restorer what happened to the car. In Rich’s case, he didn’t find out until he got the car home and started taking it apart that the damage was from salt water, not fresh. How and where the flooding took place he has no idea.

Rich paid $14,000 for the car, delivered to his house. That’s about $100,000 less than what the car sold for originally. It was well equipped when new, including air suspension and premium sound. The flood waters reached about half way up the car.

The first bit of good news for Rich was that the 17″ touchscreen and the car’s computer were still in operating condition. Those pieces would be quite expensive to replace.

One benefit Rich had was that Massachusetts law requires manufacturers to make service manuals available to owners. There is a verification process to make sure the person seeking access actually lives in the state. Even after all the checks were completed, Rich still had to pay Tesla for access to the manuals. The price is $95 a day, or $3,500 for a full year.

The first part of the project was removing the waterlogged seats and carpets. The battery had shut itself down automatically, but Rich was careful to remove all power cables just to be sure. He has yet to figure out how to remove the 1,200 pound battery pack, but assumes it is completely destroyed.

Rich is now on the hunt for a Tesla Model S that has been damaged above the centerline of the car but is intact below it. That way, he will be able to merge the pieces of both cars and hopefully emerge with one working car when he is done. Exactly where he will find such a donor car is unclear.

And when will the project be done? When he is driving the car, says Rich. He is taking his time, learning as much about the car as he can. So far, he says he is highly impressed with the build quality of the Model S.

There is always the possibility that Rich could find himself with a new career when this project is done. There are very few private mechanics who know how to work on Teslas. As more of them get sold, there may be a demand for someone with his unique skills. He is not ready to give up his career in IT just yet, but can see where there might be an opportunity to do so down the road.

Posted by Steve Hanley

Steve Hanley is a car nut and Formula One addict who occasionally drives his Mazda MX-5 on track at HPDE events. He has been known to drive to Nova Scotia just to see the lupins in bloom or to Watkins Glen for a weekend of historic racing. He writes about automobiles, technology and travel from his home in Rhode Island.

  1. It is my understanding that Tesla will not certify a vehicle that they did not service. There are certain parts available only through Tesla, with Tesla refusing to sell them to those not affiliated with the company. A similar owner of a Tesla damaged in an accident, who bought it to restore to service, was successful in getting it almost there but not only could not get the remaining critical parts but Tesla would not certify the vehicle, consequently the restorer was unable to license the vehicle. One of the TV shows focused on How Things Work eventually bought the Model S to disassemble it for the show.


    1. I think you are correct, Randy. While we all celebrate the wonders of Tesla, there is a dark side to The Force.

      Thanks for your comment.


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