Can You Install Air Suspensions Yourself? - Tesla S Rear 2012-20 Models

06/26/2022

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DO IT OR NOT?

For pre-facelift RWD vehicles, the simple answer is yes. The same goes for all facelift variants, in production from April 2016. For AWD pre-facelift versions, the picture is a bit more complicated. We do not recommend starting, if you are not sure how to deal with the problems outlined in point 4 & 7 below. 

In any case, and regardless of version, you should know what you're doing. If you are unsure, or this makes you feel uncomfortable, it is better to take our Vigor® air strut shocks to a local workshop, and ask them to do it. If, on the other hand, you have some skills and the right tools, for all facelift versions and the RWD pre-face at least, you can manage to get new air struts fitted to the car in an afternoon.

TECHNOLOGICAL CHALLENGES

The largest hurdle doing this yourself, is the challenge to depressurizate an isolated air strut. One of the first points in Tesla Service Manual, is to do this by using a laptop, with a toolbox connected to the car. Obviously, except for Tesla itself, and a few private workshops, we must in our case do it manually, or just let it be. 

Below is a detailed overview of each replacement step, illustrated with text and images. It shows differences/similarities in the installation of air struts for 3 versions of the Tesla S: 

(1) The RWD version 2012-16 (pre-facelift) is the starting point. Differences are then shown to 

(2) AWD vehicles produced from 2014 to March 2016 (pre-facelift), and 

(3) AWD/RWD vehicles from April 2016 onwards (facelift). 

The adaptive/active air suspension type is not covered in this review. 

Mostly it concerns the rear left side, but some picures are from the right hand.  You also get an introduction to the procedures in some DIY Youtube videos, for RWD pre-facelift and AWD facelift versions, respectively. Switch on English subtitle via the settings wheel icon at the bottom.

DISCLAIMER

Be cautious not to start any work of this sort without having the necessary skills and knowledge. Teslasuspension.com is not responsible in any way for your action in this regard. If you still go ahead, remember to put the air suspension in Service mode (or activate "Jack" mode) on the screen menu, and secure the car from free rolling and falling. Always follow standard safety instructions for raising and working on a car.

TESLA PARTS CATALOG NUMBERS

The Tesla Parts Catalog numbers for these items are:

Left side 

1. 6006352 as main number, followed by variants of 00C, 00D, 04A, 04B, 06B, 06C, 07A, 07B.  It fits pre-facelift vehicles with rear wheel drive (RWD) and all wheel drive (AWD), produced between 2012 and March 2016, air suspension type smart, standard and plus.

2. 1067461 as the main number, followed by variants of 00C, 25C (AWD) and 26B (RWD). It fits facelift vehicles manufactured from April 2016 onwards, with standard air suspension type.

Right side

1. 6006353 as main number, followed by variants of either 00C, 00D, 04A, 04B, 06B, 06C, 07A, 07B. It fits pre-facelift vehicles with rear wheel drive (RWD) and all wheel drive (AWD), produced between 2012 and March 2016, air suspension type smart, standard and plus.

2. 1067466 as the main number, followed by variants of 00C, 25C (AWD) and 26B (RWD). It fits facelift vehicles manufactured from April 2016 onwards, with standard air suspension type.

Pre-facelift RWD

Facelift AWD


REMOVAL

TOOLS TO USE

1. Jack (preferably low profile and 2 tons lifting capacity) 

2. Hydraulic jack (or equivalent to support the air strut)

3. Jackpad 

4. Pliers for bolt caps 

5. Support buck 

6. Wheel stop 

7. Pipe set 

8. Extra pipe extension 

9. Wrenches 

10. Torque wrench

11. Rust looser (bolt attachment can be tight) 

12. Some cable / strips (or equivalent to secure park brake) 

13. Screwdrivers (for plastic nails, collet on mounting nut and star groove screw on brake hose attachment) 

14. Combination hammer and mandrel or equivalent (if bolt is tight) 

15. Knife and glue (if reusing shock sponge) 

16. Black paint (if reusing mounting plate)

17. Work lamp (good to have) 

18. Air hose cutter (as needed) 

19, Tool for removing plastic clips/wheel arch lining


1. AIR SUSPENSION IN SERVICE MODE/"JACK" MODE

  • Before jacking, put the air suspension in Service mode (or activate "Jack" mode) via the screen. 
  • If this is not done, the compressor may start running during operation, which must not happen. 

2. REMOVE THE WHEEL ARCH LINER

  • Remove plastic nails (x8), nuts (x2, 10mm, torque 3Nm) that attach the wheel arch liner to the chassis (picure 1). NOTE. Regarding the nuts x2, 10mm, torque 3Nm: these are fastened on screws, which are welded to the inner screen. These skrews break very easily. Use oil or rust remover, and do not loose and tighten them too hard.
  • The number varies, depending on model. In our case, there were 11 plastic nails in the wheel arch itself. In addition, 3 plastic nails and 2 screws (10mm, torque 3Nm) had to be loosened from the underside (picture 2 & 3 - note that the pictures are from the cars right side). 
  • Then the entire wheel arch liner is removed (picture 4). 
  • To loosen the plastic nails, use a small screw driver or equivalent tool (picture 5). Easiest to pull out the clips with an appropriate tool (picture 6).

3. REMOVE THE PARKING BRAKE

  • Put the car in tow mode (picture 2). 
  • Use wheel stops to prevent the car from rolling. 
  • Loose and remove the bolts (x2, 16mm, torque 57Nm) that fasten the caliper (picture 1). 
  • Use a cable, strips or similar and secure the park brake in the chassis (picture 3 - note that the picture is from the cars right side). 
  • Of course, you can also disassemble the connector to the electrical motor in order to move the park brake.
  • NOTE. Feedback from customers indicate it should be possible to replace the air strut without removing the parking brake. By just detaching the power cable of the parking brake, it give sufficient room to counterweight and pull out the main bolt holding the air strut. But this may vary from model to model.

4. MOVE THE BRAKE HOSE ATTACHMENT

  • Relase the star groove screw on the brake hose attachment (red circle in picture 1)
  • Bend carefully the brake hose attachment out of the way (picure 2). On RWD pre-facelift and all facelift versions , you will now have sufficient room to take the air strut out to the right, with the low end first.
  • For pre-facelift AWD, this is not always the case. After you have removed the brake hose attachement, a stud will stick out (red circle in picture 3), and get in the way for moving the air strut. The only possible alternatives are, as far as we understand:
  1. to loosen the 'susp upper link' (OEM no. 1027421-00-E, picture 4). This should provide enough room to allow the bottom of the air spring to drop all the way down next to the drive shaft, while at the same time prying out the top of the damper. Note that the bolt for the arm is screwed steel in aluminium, with a torque of 140 Nm. Therefore, be very careful, and lubricate well before loosening, so that nothing breaks (see further in point 7 below).
  2. Feedback from customers shows that the link arm in point 1 does not need to be touched, if its possible to depressurize the air strut beforehand. For facelift versions, it should be sufficient to loosen the air nipple. The bellow is then emptied. For pre-facelift air struts, the residual pressure valve must also be loosened (see point 8 below). It is difficult to get to, and you may only manage to loosen the nipple/valve after you have let the air strut down a little. Then, by pressing it together, there should be just enough room to pry the damper out. NOTE regarding assembly: Our Vigor® air struts are depressurized before they are shipped, both the pre-facelift and facelift variants. This makes them easier to work with / they can be pressed together. However, don't be too harsh. If you press them all the way together, this can damage the bellows. Also make sure - especially for the pre-facelift variants - that the 'cover' below does not move out of position and displace the sealing rings, which are located just below. REMEMBER in all cases: never put a car on the ground without jack support when the bellows is deflated.

5. RELEASE CLIPS THAT SECURE THE AIR PRESSURE LINE

  • Release the clips (x3) that secure the air pressure line to the chassis. 
  • The number varies, depending on model. In our case, there were x2 clips. 

6. SUPPORT THE AIR STRUT

  • The picture illustrates how you can use a simple hydraulic jack to support the air strut. This is when you remove the bolt that secures it to the knuckle (note that the picture is from the cars right side).
  • Particularly, this is important since we have not followed Tesla Service Manual, and depressurized the air bellow.
  • A small pressure from the knuckle below, and an even greater pressure from the air strut above, squeezes the bolt a bit. It can sit quite tight.
  • Use the jack as support to reduce the stress, as much as possible. 
  • The support is also good to have when you take the air strut out/in (weights about 8 kg).

7. REMOVE THE BOLT

  • Remove the bolt that secures the lower part of the air suspension module - picture 1 (21mm, torque 140Nm).
  • Use plenty of rust remover, the nut can sit hard. 
  • Bolt head counterweight likely required, 21mm (picture 2). 
  • Use a hammer and mandrel or equivalent to knock out the bolt. 
  • Tesla Service Manual recommends loosening the 'susp upper link' (picture 3). But for pre-facelift RWD and facelift variants vehicles, this should not be necessary in order to get the air strut out (cf. point 9 below). For the pre-facelift AWD version, however, it might be necessay (cf. point 4 above). Please note, that this entails quite a bit of extra work, compared to what is presented in the YouTube videos. You need to detach the height mechanism, which is fasten to the arm. Recommended to clean and lubricate the joints again when you assemble. The height is controlled exclusively by a small sensor that sits in the assembly against the link arm. You don't need to touch this. In this way, you also do not have to do any calibration afterwards. However, be aware that if you loosen the rear of the link arm, a check of the wheel position is required. So preferably avoid this.

8. LOOSE TOP NUTS AND VALVE

  • Remove the nuts (x3, 15mm, torque 40Nm) that secure the air suspension module to the body (red arrows picture 1). 
  • Note that you need some good pipe extensions (picture 3).
  • Tesla Service Manual recommends at this moment to loosen the air nipple, 12 or 10mm, torque 2-3Nm. For pre-facelift versions, this is indicated by the yellow arrow in picture 1. By doing this, you detach the air nipple from the residual pressure valve. Air is released from the hose and a bit from the bellows, until a spring clamp mechanism in the residual pressure valve closes the outlet at approx. 3 bars. For facelift versions, shown in picture 2, we see that the air nipple is attached directly to the air strut. When you loosen this, almost all the air will seep out from the bellows, making it movable and easier to disassemble. Do so, if access is okei.
  • NOTE. Regarding depressurization of the pre-facelift air struts, we can at this point illustrate how you manually may do it: after releasing the air nipple from the residual pressure valve, you can use pliers, or a spesialized tool (see picture 4), to loose the entire pressure valve from the strut (picture 5). Let the air in the bellow flow out, and the stress on the bolt that fasten the lower part of the strut eases.
  • But, it is very cramped and difficult to get to, both for loosening the air nippel off the residual pressure valve, and the pressure valve off the air strut itself.
  • In fact, you save a lot of time, if you just take the entire air strut straight out, with the residual pressure valve, air nipple and the hose attached (picture 6). For the AWD version, however, it may be an advantage to take off the air nipple/residual pressure valve at some stage. Then, you don't have to loosen the link arm, and according to customer feedback, just enough room is provided to pry the air strut out by pressing it together (cf. point 4 above).
  • In any cases, be careful not to damage the air hose during the work.

9. REMOVE THE AIR STRUT FROM THE VEHCLE

  • The air strut rest under some pressure onto the knuckle. 
  • Illustrated in picure 1: you have to push the air strut against the chassis with some force, straight ahead, hold it tight, it weights about 7 kg. 
  • Let it fall 3-4 cm, support the top with your left hand.
  • Illustrated in picture 2: move the air strut leaning sideways out to the right side of the brake caliper.
  • Remember not to twist the air pressure line.
  • Its quite flexible though, and follows easy as long as you are careful.
  • Its the only way to get the air strut out, as long as not the 'susp upper link' is removed (as can be the case for other versions, cf. point 4, 7 & 8 above).



10. SNAP OFF THE COLLET FROM THE AIR LINE

  • Use a flat blade screwdriver to loose the collet (picture 1)
  • Snap off the old collet (arrow one in picture 2)
  • Discard the collet and nut. NOTE. Good to keep them as spare parts until you have installed the new fittings, and you are sure everything work as it should. In that case, do not destroy the old collet, when releasing it with the screwdriver.

11. REMOVE THE MOUNTING PLATE (CAN POSSIBLY BE REUSED)

  • Remove the nuts (x3, 15mm, torque 39Nm) that secure the adapter plate to the air spring module. 
  • Nuts can be discarded, but the plate can possibly be reused, and attached to the new air suspension module. New nuts are included.

12. REMOVE THE SHOCK SPONGE (CAN POSSIBLY BE REUSED)

  • The shock sponge attached to the top of the old air strut can also possibly be reused. But check the condition. If its decayed and too soft, it functions poorly. Then you should go for a new pair.
  • Use a sharp knife and cut it off (picture 1).
  • Fasten it in the corresponding place on the new air suspension module with a little glue. 
  • In picture 2, we see the new air strut with a reused mounting plate (after a coat of paint) and shock sponge. 


INSTALLATION

13. Installation procedure reverse of removal, except for...

  • ...a few points, which is important to follow closely to avoid leakage.
  • NOTE. This is easiest to do before putting the air strut back in. The pictures above are from a RWD pre-facelift model, but similar procedures on other versions.
  • HAND-tighten the new mounting nut, collet and plastic plug into the residual pressure valve. Note that the plastic plug holds the fitting together before and during installation (picture 2 & 3). 
  • Remove the plastic plug from the new fitting (picture 4). 
  • REMEMBER! Tight the nut with an appropriate tool (10 or 12mm, torque 2Nm). Not many have such a small torque wrench. But you must pull enough that you feel that the o-ring is compressed well, but not so hard that you destroy it, of course.
  • Remove about an inch of the air pressure line if there is a lot of wear. Use a hose cutter to get a square and clean cut.
  • Pry carefully the air pressure line a little bit inside the fitting, so it's ready to go. Then, use a little force (not too much, of course) and quickly push the line all the way in (picure 5). 
  • Lightly pull on the line to make sure that it is fully secured to the collet inside the mounting nut (picture 6). 
  • If it gives in (it should sit tight), you have done something wrong, and the process must be repeated.
  • If you can't make it, there are alternatives (we recommend this method for all facelift variants). First, insert the nut onto the hose. Open the collet slightly with a screwdriver. Then thread it - with the conical end first - after the nut, until it reaches approx. 2-3mm into the hose (or as far as the old one went). Squeeze the collet very carefully and lightly together with pliers. Insert the nut into the conical end of the collet, so that they sit well and tightly together. Then, screw the whole thing into the air strut. Be careful, the collet is very easily damaged.

  • NOTE. All our Vigor® air struts are depressurized before they are sent out to customers (operating pressure when driving is from 7-9 bar). This makes them easier to work with, they can be pressed together. However, and as mentioned above, don't be too harsh. The bellows can be damaged if it is pressed all the way together. For the pre-facelift variants in particular, it is the pressure in the bellows that pushes the strut/piston down, and holds the sealing rings in place. Without pressure, you must therefore ensure that the lower 'cover' does not come out of position during work. Also make sure that the 'cover' meets the sealing rings correctly when the bellows are filled with air.
  • REMEMBER ALSO. When you install air struts without pressure, never lower the car all the way down to the floor with the jack, but only low enough that it has good clearance to normal/standard height (or where you put the height in service-mode). Then, start the car, turn off service mode (or disable Jack mode), and wait for the car to lift from the jack. 

14. LET THE COMPRESSOR RUN

  • After you have fitted the new air strut to the vehicle, and jacked down the car, switch as mentioned above off the Service mode (or deactivate "Jack" mode) for the air suspension in the screen menu.
  • Remember that all doors must be closed.
  • The compressor will start, fill the system with air, and adjust the pressure (height calibration is not necessary as the sensor has been left alone). 
  • Its done in an instant (couple of minutes)
  • Check that the height is correct. 
  • Take a test drive, try the air suspension levels, and you're ready to go.