Wednesday, April 8, 2020

FINALLY FIXED: Failed to turn on climate, Climate keeper unavailable due to system fault

Ever got this message when trying to pre-warm your car from the app:
Failed to turn on climate

Or this message when you car is parked:

Climate Keeper malfunction
Well here is my little story:

I bought the Model 3 in Sept '19 and didn't really need to use the pre-warming feature much, nor the AC. As it started getting colder, I would attempt to use the pre-warming and seat heaters via the app and it worked sometimes and didn't other times. Opened a service ticket and was told that it was a known software bug which would get fixed.

As the winter went on into the really cold temps, and various software updates to the car came including 2020.8.1, and the issue did not go away. It reached a point in January, where the only way to pre-warm was to leave a door slightly cracked open, which defeats the purpose of pre-warming. Somewhat manageable in the garage at home, but definitely not in public parking e.g. airport.

I rebooted the system (hold both buttons, foot on brake and both buttons, power off using system and wait 2 mins, waited for full moon and worse garlic necklace, etc). I tried it while charging and not charging, after being driven, while on LTE vs. WiFi, reinstalled mobile App, used a different phone, disabled other services that ping the API, etc. all to no avail. Read as many posts about this as possible and no dice.

The main symptom:
Once the car is parked and goes to sleep. Using the app to turn on climate control (temperature and seat heaters) works, but only once. It will accept the command to turn on climate control and any adjustments to temperature and seat heaters. This state lasts for about 30-40 seconds after which the climate control turns off by itself and the app reflects the off state. This is important, as exiting the app and assuming the climate control is working would miss the symptom. Any subsequent attempts to turn the climate control on via the app result in the error message : "Climate Failed to turn on climate".

Additionally, if any door is left slightly open, or a driver is in the seat, or the care is being drive, the climate control both from the car and the mobile app works just fine in this case. If the vehicle is parked after driving, it will work fine sometimes immediately after parking, but definitely will not once the car goes to sleep.

Related symptoms:
Once the vehicle is put into park, after a few seconds the message "Climate keeper unavailable due to system fault" appears in the climate control screen. The airflow and heating works fine, but the error appears nonetheless, after driving a few 100 yards, the message disappears and does not re-appear until the vehicle is parked again. This is again not obvious unless the climate screen is used often and it does not seem to affect the system function much.

I continued to press the issue with Tesla with more cases and finally was asked to diagnose the AC system.

How to diagnose the AC system without checking refrigerant pressure
Best not to be driving to disallow air from outside.

1. Sit in the car and turn the system temperature to HIGH with fan speed at 10 and Re-circulation off (air from outside) to ensure AC is not ON. Set the vents ON to all 3 directions (floor, face and windshield)
2. Once the car gets nice and toasty and you can really feel the warm air coming in (this was important for me as I was troubleshooting the AC with the outside temp in the 30's). Turn the system OFF.
3. Quickly: Turn the FAN to 1, turn the temperature quickly to LOW (lowest setting), direct the air to face only (off from windshield and feet), turn ON re-circulation.
4. Now turn the FAN up to 10 and put the back of your hand in front of the vents blowing air. The air will be warm, but not hot, and will start to cool, but wait to see if you really get cold air coming out.

If the air does not get very cold in a minute or so then there is an issue with the AC. Remember not just cool air being pulled, does the air actually get chilly? After I explain this to the Tesla service adviser, they promptly scheduled a visit to the service center.

The prognosis and resolution:
The AC system had absolutely no refrigerant in it. It turned out that there was a bad seal in one of the AC lines and all the refrigerant had leaked out. I am not certain if this happened over time of it was like that from the factory. Nonetheless, it took them about 4 hours to find the issue and fix the problem then recharge the system.

Once the system had been fixed and I tried the app at the service center, I was able to control the climate - both on and off - multiple times. Also, it did not turn off after a few seconds and for the first time to my recollection, I was able actually see the arrows which indicate air flow turn BLUE when the temperature was set to LOW, indicating that AC was ON. Maybe I had never used before now, no way to tell, but it seemed new to me.
Blue lines - Cooling and AC running
The other symptoms that I observed were that my side view camera fogged up once of twice during very cold days 0 F days. This issues explained why it would defog.

The frustrating thing about all of this was the time it took for Tesla to troubleshoot the issue, and the fact that a lot of online forms simply stated "Climate keeper unavailable due to system fault" is just a warning and it should go away. Clearly the designers of the system wanted to let the user know something is amiss and it should be fixed. What is worse if that one would think that the AC is working all along, since the AC button can be used without any error and the error messages and symptoms disappear while driving.

In conversation with the Tesla service technician, the climate control system does a system check and if any component has failed it behalves as it did. To this end, while my case was no refrigerant in AC line, others have talked about various sensors on the HVAC system of the car going bad and having to be replaced.

I hope this helps others get to the bottom of this issue.