Tesla S Front - Air Strut Replacement 2012-20 Models

06/23/2022

Do you have questions or tips? Just give us a word at post@teslasuspension.com 


INTRODUCTION

This blog post is mainly based on procedures for replacement of air struts in Tesla Service Manual for Model S. It covers both rear wheel drive (RWD) and dual motor cars (DM, or AWD), left hand side (corresponding procedure on the right side).  Large parts of the manual are followed, except for the procedures to depressurize the air strut and the order of the work. Differences between the 3 versions of air struts introduced in the period, are also more highlighted:

(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. 

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 are unsure, it is better to take our Vigor® air strut shocks to a local workshop, and ask them to do it. 

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 the car.

TESLA PARTS CATALOG NUMBERS

The Tesla Parts Catalog numbers for these items are: 

1) 6006351 as main number, followed by variants of 00C, 00D, 04A.  It fits pre-facelift vehicles with rear wheel drive cars (RWD) produced between 2012 and March 2016, air suspension type Smart, Standard and Plus.

2. 1030608 as main number, followed by variants of 00c, 01A. It fits pre-facelift vehicles with all wheel drive (AWD) produced between 2014 and March 2016, air suspension type Smart, Standard and Plus.

3. 1067361 as main number, followed by variants of 00C, 77C (AWD) and 77B (RWD). It fits facelift vehicles manufactured from April 2016 onwards, with standard air suspension type.


REMOVAL

  • Tesla Service Manuals first point is to depressurize the air suspension. It's done by a laptop with toolbox connected to the car. Obviously, except for Tesla itself, and a few private workshops, we must instead do this manually, or let it be. See below for the steps recommended.   
  • Remove the rear underhood. 
  • Remove the wheel arch liner, if best access is wanted.
  • Release the nuts (x3, 15mm, torque 39Nm) ) that secure the air suspension module to the shock tower. In picture 1, we see the nuts on top of a pre-facelift air strut. Picture 2 shows a corresponding facelift air strut, with the valve entrance located in the middle.
  • Release the air pressure line from the chassis rail clip.
  • NOTE. When installing the new air strut, hitting the upper holes can be a bit tricky. If you have an assistant available, it's a little easier.
  • Loosen the air nipple that fasten the pressure line (10 or 12mm, torque 2-3Nm).
  • For pre-facelift versions, this is indicated by the red arrow in picture 1. You detach the air nipple from a residual pressure valve. This releases air, but mostly from the 6mm hose.
  • For facelift air struts in picture 2, we see that the pressure line (4mm) inlet is at the top, and that the air nipple is attached directly to the strut. If you loosen this, and compress the air strut s bit, the bellow will also be emptied. 
  • Depressurize the air strut for pre-facelift versions: we recommend at this point to do so. Use a polygrip plier (picture 3), or appropriate tool (picture 4), to carefully loose the residual pressure valve from the air strut (picture 5-6), and release air from the bellows.

  • NOTE 1. It may be that the air in the bellows needs a little help to be pushed out. This is after you have loosened the valve(s), and removed the bolt that attaches the air strut to the lower control arm. Particularly, it applies if you are standing in the garage, only jacked up on one side. The strut attachment/or lower fork leg, may be difficult to get over the arm. It will help a bit to have both sides jacked up. Having air suspension on 'low', with the least possible pressure in the shock absorber, may also be a good thing.
  • NOTE 2. Feedback from customers, suggests it might be a good idea to put such a jack stand under the thick hub part of the brake disc (other type of stands under the lower control arm should also work/use protection). Lower the jack very carefully, to decompress the air bellows. At this point, you may attach the new valve with the plastic plug, to the old intakte at the top. This prevents air from getting back into the bellows. Then, raise the jack again. Now the air strut becomes properly compressed, and the distance between the shock mount at the top and the suspension is large enough, so that you should be able to relatively easily release the lower part of the strut from the arm.
  • NOTE 3. You can remove a pre-facelift air strut, even if you do not depressurize it /releases the residual pressure valve. But you may, accordingly, run into problems due to the downward pressure. You can try to push the arm down, but if you are too heavy-handed with the suspension to pull out the air strut, this can cause the height sensors to go out of calibration. This also applies, if you jack down carelessly to compress the damper in note 2 above. In such cases, you may have go to Tesla for adjustment.
  • NOTE 4. An alternative that some people prefer, is to loosen the control arm itself, but only on the wheel side (thereby avoiding wheel position control afterwards). The strut/lower fork leg should come out easily when the arm is open at one end. Another tip is to use a jack strap to push the air strut together. In general, the stabilizer bar can also be loosened to get more room. But anyway, all this is a lot of extra work. Which you largely get away with, if you get the old air strut properly compressed from the start.

  • The image shows the brake attachment for a pre-facelift RWD air suspension module. The air strut in a vehicle with dual motor (AWD) and later facelift versions, looks different. Pictures at the end of the blog gives you a view of this.
  • Be aware of the orientation of the clip that attaches the brake hose to the air suspension module.
  • Release the clip (upper red arrow in picture).
  • Remove the nut and bolt that attach the air strut to the lower arm - lower red arrow in picture (21mm, torque 140 Nm).

  • Use a hammer/mandrel or appropriate tool to get out the bolt.
  • Carefully compress the air strut with some force, and release it from the lower arm.
  • Remove the air suspension module.

INSTALLATION

For AWD models:
  • If you have bought air suspension without the lower fork strut (or received a loose one), you must first install this. Commonly, you get it in place with simple hand power. See video 1 below (from Vigor® manufacturer).
  • But in some cases, you must help it out. Extra corrosion paint down at the air strut, can make the fork leg to meet resistance. We do not recommend using a hammer to knuck it into place, as this scratches up the anti-corrosion paintwork.
  • Instead, use a large screwdriver and extend the span of the fork strut (video 2). Or apply a chisel (video 3).
  • The method shown in these videos, is also good to use if you're going to disassemble a lower fork strut from the old air suspension (can often be reused).
  • Supplementary subtitle in English, you turn on via the settings wheel icon at the bottom.
  • NOTE. Feedback from pre-facelift AWD customers suggests that it may be a good idea to start the assembly without the lower fork strut mounted. There are of course various ways to install an air strut. But if you go for this approach, attach first the air strut into the top three holes and fasten the nuts, but just enough so that it hangs there. The fork strut is then slid down over the link arm. Angle both the air- and fork strut correctly, and put them together. Put in place the main bolt and the screw for the fork strut. Then, tighten everything, but finish with the screw on the fork strut, so that you get the correct orientation in relation to the air strut. On the left side, it can be a bit difficult to get to the screw on the fork strut, as the head of the screw points inwards and the arms and drive shaft are in the way. You can, if no other other solution present itself, just grind down an key, as shown in the picture below, thus getting enouch room to tighten the screw.  Alternatively, use a wrench with a ratchet function and attach an allen bit to the screw. You should then be able to turn it around quite easily and also fasten properly.

Video 1 Hand power

Video 2 Screwdriver

Video 3 Chisel


  • Installation procedure is otherwise the reverse of removal. Some additions. First, do the following steps to resecure air suspension lines.
  • Remove the collet with a flat blade screw driver (picture 1)
  • Remove the collet (arrow one in picture 2)
  • Pull out the mounting nut from the air pressure line. You can discard them. 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 removing it with the screwdriver.

  • Secure and check the new fitting, ie. mounting nut, collet, and plastic plug (picture 1-2).
  • HAND-tighten the new mounting nut, collet and plastic plug into the nipple. Note that the plastic plug holds the fitting together before and during installation (picture 3). 
  • Remove the plastic plug from the fitting (picture 4).
  • REMBEMBER. Tighten the mounting nut with an appropriate tool (10 or 12mm, torque 2-3Nm).
  • 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 (picture 5).
  • Lightly pull on the air pressure line to make sure the line 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.

  • NOTE. Pre-facelift air struts are mostly pre-filled with air from the factory to about 50psi/ 3,5bar (operating pressure when driving is in the range 7-9 bar), thus keeping the sealings rings in place. You can also depressurize these air struts before installation, prior to working with the fitting, although this should not be necessary. It can present some challenges of its own, because the pressure in the bellow pushes the cover downwards, keeping sealing rings in the air stut in place. In some cases, although very rare, the cover may come loose when the pressure releases. If so, just make sure that the cover meets the sealing rings in correct mannee when the bellows is filled with air.
  • But in any case, be aware of the following: pre-filled air struts allows you to set the car safely on the ground after jacking it down, and then let the compressor fill the system (mainly to the pressure line) with air.
  • If you install a facelift air strut, or one that has no pressure in it, the recommendation is, on the other hand, not to put the car all the way down on the floor with the jack, but low enough so that it has good clearance to normal/standard height. Then, start the car, turn off Service mode (or disable Jack mode), and wait for the car to lift from the jack. The compressor will run for a while, as you now have to add more air to the bellow. NOTE. Never inflate an air strut by starting the car/compressor before the wheels are safely on the ground.

Next, ensure that the clip that secures the brake hose to the air suspension module is installed correctly:

  • For pre-facelift vehicles with rear wheel drive (RWD): the hose and the clip are installed from the same direction.
  • Ensure that the clip is fully seated, with the "fingers" both remaining on the bottom side of the retaining bracket.

Top view (correct) 

Bottom view (correct)


  • For AWD vehicles produced 2014-March 2016 and later facelift versions: the clip is installed from the rear.
  • Ensure that the clip is fully seated, with the "fingers" both remaining on the bottom side of the retaining bracket.


Top view, (incorrect) 

Top view, (correct)

Bottom view, (correct)

NOTE. The easiest thing for air struts with fork, is to simply unscrew the whole brake hose attachment from the fork leg (touque 7Nm). Using bits and a ratchet, this is done in a moment. 

  • Make sure that all air pressure lines are securely reconnected before continuing.
  • Reinstall arch liner and wheels.
  • Lower the car. 
  • Turn off the Service mode (or "Jack" mode) of the air suspension system on the screen menu.
  • Remember that all doors must be closed.
  • Let the compressor work to pump air and adjust the system. It can take some time.
  • Do a test drive and try the height adjustments, and you're ready to go.