A Tesla owner says he was locked out of his electric car after the battery died — an issue that he says would cost over $20,000 to fix

  • A Tesla owner went viral on TikTok after he posted a series of videos on issues with his Model S.

  • Mario Zelaya claims he was locked out of the car after the battery died, which would cost over $20,000 to fix.

  • Last year, a Finnish Tesla owner blew up his EV to protest a similar issue.

A Tesla owner said he was locked out of his Model S after the battery died — an issue he said the carmaker told him would cost over $20,000 to fix.

Last week, Mario Zelaya posted a TikTok video calling out the issue and it received over 15 million views.  In the TikTok, Zelaya said the battery on his Model S completely died, leaving him unable to get inside the vehicle or even access the ownership documents inside the car in order to sell it. The car also would not respond to a charge, he said.

"This is why you should never buy a Tesla people," Zelaya said in the video, calling the car a "piece of trash." He said he bought the car brand new for $140,000 in 2013.

A spokesperson for Tesla did not respond to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication.

The Tesla owner could have gained access to the vehicle manually by removing the front bumper or going in through the tire well, but he said he "didn't have time for that."

In an earlier video, the Toronto-based Tesla owner posted images of a service estimate from Tesla dated March 14. The estimate showed that a replacement battery for the electric car would cost over $28,000 in Canadian dollars or more than $21,000 US dollars.

The car needed the replacement after running for just over 77,000 miles, per the document the owner shared on TikTok. Tesla batteries are designed to run for 300,000 to 500,000 miles or about 21 to 25 years before they need to be replaced, Elon Musk has said. Last year, Electrek reported that Tesla owners have received battery pack replacement estimates between $20,000 to $30,000

Zelaya said in a separate video that he took the car in to Tesla after he received a "high voltage battery" warning message — an issue that could cause the EV battery to catch fire. He said he was told the issue would not be covered by a warranty.

The Tesla owner told Insider a request was put in for a free replacement battery given the circumstances, but that he was told that the request was denied by higher-ups outside the dealership.

When he later took the Model S into his country's regulatory agency, Transport Canada, the technicians told him the battery had rusted because the car's air conditioning unit's drain hose was positioned over the battery case and continually leaking water into the battery unit, Zelaya said.

In a video from last week, Zelaya said he was finally able to sell the car after paying $30 for new ownership papers. The TikTok appears to show the new owner prying open the front bumper to gain access to the interior of the car.

"That's going to be the end of my Tesla journey," Zelaya said in the video. "It's out of my life. Keep it out of yours."

It's not the first time that Tesla owners have voiced concerns over quality control issues. Last year, a man from Finland filmed a video of himself blowing up his 2013 Tesla Model S after he discovered a replacement battery would cost $22,600. The man allegedly also had a water-damaged battery.

In August, Vox reported that owners have filed thousands of complaints about Tesla's service centers. Last year, Insider reported that drivers were taking to social media to report issues with their brand new Teslas, including poor paint jobs and misaligned car panels.

Do you work for Tesla or drive one of its electric cars? Reach out to the reporter from a non-work email at gkay@insider.com

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