Rich Benoit stumps for the right-to-repair movement, pushing uncooperative manufacturers to make it easier for owners to fix stuff themselves.
To resuscitate a flooded Tesla, first extract any dead fish. Then strip out the leather—it may be infected with mold spores. And scrape salt from the car’s corroded high-voltage batteries. Finally, Rich Benoit explains, harvest parts from other damaged Teslas. (Don’t expect much support from the manufacturer, who’d likely prefer you just buy a new vehicle.) Benoit, a Boston-based IT manager, has been stripping apart e-cars for the past three years and chronicling the endeavors for more than 400,000 YouTube subscribers. Now he’s crowdfunding to open his own shop for totaled Teslas.
In 2016, Benoit purchased his first fixer-upper, a waterlogged Model S rotting in a New Jersey auction yard, for just $14,000. “It was essentially a science experiment,” he explains over his day job’s lunch break. Tesla wouldn’t sell him replacement parts, so to save Dolores—he named the car for the Westworld protagonist—Benoit went all in, shelling out thousands for another wrecked Tesla he found online. After six months of transplants (and one fish extraction), Dolores was on the road. Benoit gifted it to his wife and promptly sold their minivan. “When I tell someone I’m repairing a flooded car, they run away,” Benoit says. “When I tell someone I’m repairing a flooded electric car, they run even faster. But I’m following Tesla’s overall mission: sustainability and recycling.”SIGN UP TODAY
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On his YouTube channel, “Rich Rebuilds,” Benoit stumps for the right-to-repair movement, pushing uncooperative manufacturers to make it easier for owners to fix stuff themselves. (Last fall, Tesla released detailed diagrams of all its car models.) But it’s not all shop talk—Benoit also discusses mundane family life and his favorite fails. Once, he installed used Tesla batteries into a 1970s Disney electric princess cart. It managed a few jaunts to a nearby office parking lot and an appearance at an electric vehicles show, but the buggy eventually exploded in a friend’s garage. Benoit wasn’t distraught; the project, he told his viewers, was “just for the lulz.”
Corporate stinginess aside, Benoit admires Tesla’s vision. (Then again, he named one of his cars Angela, for the Westworld robo-seductress played by Elon Musk’s ex-wife, actor Talulah Riley.) He even hopes to convince some Tesla engineers to come run his future shop; three, he reports, seem willing. In the meantime, Dolores is due for some touch-ups. Her machinery occasionally belches out odd clicks and clunks, and her door handles don’t always cooperate. Just signs, Benoit says, of natural aging.