Tesla Model 3 headrest bubbling? What causes it, and how to prevent it

Tesla Model 3 bubbling headrests
Images via Reddit

If you are a long time Tesla Model 3 owner, you have probably heard about the issue of bubbling headrests. If you weren’t aware, you are now after seeing the picture above.

Why is it important to know about this potential issue? There is no repair, meaning you have to replace the entire headrest, and it is not covered under warranty. But according to Tesla, there are steps you can take to avoid this from happening to you.

The Problem

Looking at the picture above, it is pretty clear what the problem is. After a while, Model 3 headrests can develop distinct bubbles in the area where you head touches the headrest, almost as if someone has taken a blow torch to it. The affected area can range in size from small to large, but either way the damage is permanent.

The Cause

The bubbling occurs because your hair, and subsequently your head oils come in contact with the “vegan leather” interior of the Model 3 headrest. Combine the chemicals found in those with extended contact at high temperatures (e.g., parking your car outside in the summer), and a bubble can form.

A Canadian Model 3 owner who experienced this issue contacted Tesla mobile service in an attempt to get his headrest replaced. Here is the official explanation from the mobile ranger as to the cause:

“The root cause is related to the vegan polyurethane resin (PUR) being susceptible to swell under the action of certain chemicals, some of which are found in cosmetics and head oil within a certain pH spectrum. When there is extended contact with the chemical at high temperature (a hot car), the chemical diffuses into the coating, it swells, overwhelms the adhesive holding the coating to the textile, and the coating delaminates. A bubble is formed. The chemicals need to be on the viscous side to dwell on vertical surfaces, so creams and gels are usually involved. This also means they have a low vapor pressure and are not volatile, so they don’t evaporate…they have plenty of time to diffuse into the material if they’re not wiped away quickly.”

How much to replace the headrest?

Since there is no repair, the only option is to have the entire headrest replaced, which as we mentioned previously is not covered under warranty. This is not cheap and will cost you $368 CAD.

How to Prevent Bubbling

A much cheaper option is to try and prevent the bubbles from forming in the first place. As mentioned by the mobile ranger, the key is to wipe these oils and chemicals away as soon as possible by cleaning your headrests regularly.

According to Tesla, the best option for this is to use baby wipes. These are very inexpensive, like this package of 64 wipes for under $3 on Amazon. Simply keep them in your car and wipe down the headrests at regular intervals, perhaps once every week to be on the safe side.

After investigating this issue further, I took at a look at our Model 3 headrests very closely to see if I could see any potential issues. The driver side headrest appears to be ok, but the passenger headrest appears to be showing what may be a precursor to the bubbling. Passenger headrest

It is tough to see it in the photo, but there is a definite bulge in the lower part of the headrest, similar to what is seen in the right side photo in the image above. It isn’t very visible in normal light, but I’ll definitely be wiping it down with baby wipes and keeping a close eye on it from now on.

Have you experienced bubbling headrests in your Model 3? Have you checked yours after reading this story, and found a similar issue to ours? Let us know in the comments below.

About Darryn John 2901 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-chief of Drive Tesla Canada | Darryn@DriveTeslaCanada.ca Have a Tesla tip? Email tips@driveteslacanada.ca, or DM us on Twitter @DriveTeslaca