More than two years after Tesla initially told Jalopnik it was investigating why multiple brand-new Model 3s had their rear bumpers ripped off while driving on wet roads, the company effectively admitted there was a fault with the design and will cover the damage under the vehicle’s warranty.
A Tesla service bulletin dated July 31, 2020 obtained by Electrek describes the issue of bumpers falling off the Model 3 “when driving through standing water on a road or highway with poor drainage or pooling water,” deflecting any blame for a potential fault with the design of the car. However, the damage in these instances will still be covered. Here’s the full text of the bulletin via Electrek:
Repair Bulletin: This repair bulletin provides instructions on addressing a noted condition or possible customer concern regarding the operation of Tesla vehicles. These instructions should only be performed by trained professionals.
In rare instances, certain components on Model 3 vehicles built at the Fremont Factory before May 21, 2019 might be damaged when driving through standing water on a road or highway with poor drainage or pooling water. In these rare instances, the rear fascia might detach from the vehicle and harnesses and/or body fasteners/mounts might also be damaged. This document clarifies that damage caused during these instances is covered under warranty.
Inspect the vehicle for symptoms related to the condition. If symptoms are present and the vehicle is eligible, replace the rear fascia diffuser with one that has a covered opening for a tow hitch (with improved wade performance), make sure the vehicle is equipped with the updated front aero shield (1104312-00-B or later) and mid aero shield (1104313-00-B or later), and replace or repair any other component that was damaged as necessary.
The first time Jalopnik covered the issue, the owner reported the rear bumper flying off 30 minutes after driving the Model 3 off the lot.
Despite the bulletin’s claims that bumpers actually flying off were limited to a few “rare instances,” forum threads, Reddit and various social channels have been flooded with similar cases over the last couple of years. The latest video of a Model 3 to get a lot of attention for having its bumper fly off while driving was just a few months ago.
The bulletin also seems to confirm that Tesla changed the design of the Model 3's front and mid-body aerodynamic shields in May 2019, likely to deflect potential water spray away from the rear bumper, as well as the rear fascia diffuser.
But if you’re thinking about picking up a used Model 3, and you’re more confident now that this potentially catastrophic bumper failure may be covered by warranty, be aware that Tesla just changed its warranty policy. Instead of the previous four years or 50,000 miles of warranty coverage on a used purchase, it’s now been slashed to just one year or 10,000 miles. I guess Tesla won’t let you have it all.