YouTuber Fixes Tesla for $700 After $16,000 Repair Quote From Company

A YouTuber has shown how he fixed a Tesla Model 3's damaged battery pack for just $700 after the vehicle's lessee was quoted $16,000 for a repair by Tesla.

Rich Benoit and Steven Salowsky from the channel Rich Rebuilds posted the video on Sunday, sparking a conversation about consumers' right to repair, especially when it comes to cars.

The Tesla's lessee, identified only as Donald, damaged the car's cooling system after striking road debris. According to website The Drive, on Tesla Model 3s, a coolant line attaches to a nipple located on the battery pack underneath the car. In this case, the debris had cracked the flange, causing coolant to leak from the battery pack.

Donald took his car to an official Tesla service center, only to be quoted $16,000 for the repair. The service center insisted the entire battery would need to be replaced, as the damaged part was molded into the battery pack's outer shell.

"I say otherwise," said Chad at Electrified Garage, the third-party electronic vehicle service center that worked on the repair with Benoit.

After browsing online, Donald reached out to Rich Rebuilds for help. The YouTube video of the repair, which has been watched more than 500,000 times, shows how Electrified Garage cut out the battery pack's nipple, cleaned it up and threaded it back into the outer shell using a brass fitting. The final bill was just $700.

Although the video's makers said they were not "bashing" Tesla, they did point to concerns around the repair policies of various companies.

"There is a disconnect between manufacturer and repair/service. The remedy here is having skilled technicians available at service centers to properly diagnose issues with solutions that are not wasteful, or overly extreme in cost. Rather than a full battery replacement, we demonstrate the point of failure and resolve it," said Steven Salowsky, who stars on and manages the Rich Rebuilds channel.

Donald was originally told by Tesla that if he chose to have the company repair the car, it would also keep the damaged battery pack, which can be sold for thousands online. He cited a New Jersey consumer protection act, which prevents service facilities from refusing to return a replaced part.

"We want to drive the importance of having third-party repairs," said Benoit in the video.

Salowsky explained why they feel so strongly about Right to Repair to Newsweek, adding: "Many manufacturers are intentionally making things to expire, or fabricate certain components in less expensive materials that may not hold up as well just to reduce cost to them, but the same price to consumers. The compromises are staggering."

"There's [also] a gatekeeper on the components, the tools, or the information to diagnose one's vehicle, electronic, or piece of equipment. It's glossed over with being for safety, but if a company has overbearing control—we end up with situations like this. Right to Repair is imperative to balance the wheels many people can learn or become qualified to repair virtually anything, but we need that to be truly attainable or possible in the first place."

That's not to say they encourage any DIY attempts to fix your Tesla in your own backyard though, as Salowsky told Newsweek. "Electric vehicles only have more concerns currently because it is a newer technology with fewer specialists. High voltage is dangerous, truly, though so is an unskilled person fixing any motor vehicle."

On July 9, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that aims to open up competition in various industries.

One part of the order pledges to "make it easier and cheaper to repair items you own by limiting manufacturers from barring self-repairs or third-party repairs of their products."

Tesla doesn't support third-party repairs and currently has policies against salvaged vehicles.

The company states: "Until Tesla can confirm that the vehicle is in compliance with Tesla's safety standards and vehicle specifications, Tesla does not perform or support repairs involving the HV (high-voltage) battery systems in the vehicle because of the potential for the salvage vehicle to have sustained damage that: Makes the vehicle unsafe to drive, makes the vehicle unsafe for any repair technicians that might work on the vehicle or might damage Tesla equipment, such as Superchargers"

It is as yet unclear how Biden's executive order will impact company policies on at-home or third-party repairs, but Salwsky feels it's a step in the right direction for his cause. "Though there is still work to be done. We need to strengthen regulations on manufacture support, and the ethics behind it. It's not just offering the component, but at a price that doesn't discourage the repair [and make them] hard-pressed to buy something new instead. It boils down to sustainability. We cannot perpetuate this cycle, and the more education and improvements we make will bring forth a better future.

Newsweek has reached out to Tesla for comment.

Updated 7/15/21, 1:19 p/m.. ET: This article was updated with comment from Steven Salowsky.

Tesla Model 3 on the street
Tesla Model 3 parked on a street in the Silicon Valley town of Mountain View, California, on October 28, 2018. A YouTube video showing the repair of a Model 3 has gone viral. Smith Collection/Getty Images