Preparing your Tesla for Winter Driving:
15 Hot Tips for the Cold Weather
You may not be thinking about snow and ice while you’re blasting down a hot desert highway at ludicrous speed, but… as our friends from the north remind us, winter is coming.
Teslas are among the safest vehicles on the planet – even during winter. Prepare your Tesla for cold weather: (i) Precondition to minimize decreased regenerative braking and range (ii) know how to open frozen door handles/charging ports (iii) keep cameras and sensors clear (iv) install winter tires and floor mats.
Winter is Coming: Preparing your Tesla for Winter
Does the thought of winter have you thinking about a move to the tropics or switching out your Tesla for a traditional combustible engine vehicle for the cold season?
We’ve thought about it too! But we love our Teslas year-round and, with a little preparation, our winter EV driving has been relatively stress-free. In fact, every person on the EVehiclePro team is a real Tesla driver and has driven in the worst winter conditions across North America. So we know how to keep you and your Tesla safe, efficient and free of frustrations.
The EVehiclePro team has your back! We tell you what to expect with your Tesla, and how to prepare for a safe and efficient driving experience in the depths of winter.
The EVehiclePro team are real Tesla drivers who have driven in the worst winter conditions.
Do Teslas Have Problems in the Winter?
We’ve driven our Teslas during some pretty harsh winters, and wouldn’t say there are “problems” – but you will definitely need to prepare for these possibilities:
- Reduced range
- Decreased regenerative braking
- Potential for frozen door handles, side mirrors and charging port
- Reduced visibility from ice or snow on windshield
- Reduced quality of Dashcam/Sentry Mode videos from obscured cameras and sensors
- Potential for water and salt damage to the interior floors
- Potential for debris and clothing stains on white seats
- Need for winter tires to get a grip on snowy roads
Whether your Tesla has seen many winters, or has only travelled on clear and sunny roads, keep this Tesla Winter Preparation Guide handy so you don’t white knuckle your way through winter.
How to Prepare your Tesla for Winter
1. Protect your Floor with High Precision Floor Mats
We recommend these sleek, high precision 3D laser-cut floor liners that are designed to fit perfectly in Tesla vehicles. The raised walls and non-skid bottom seamlessly keep debris on the mat and off your carpet. Unlike many other rubber mats, these mats are odourless and non-toxic. These floor mats are also super easy to clean – just wipe or rinse off with water.
After a year of driving, our top recommendation is 3D Maxpider Floor Mats.
2. Keep Tesla Seats Clean with Castile Soap Spray
Tesla’s snow white vegan leather seats are stunning! Keep them that way by removing winter’s damaging salt, sand, slush and dirt.
Wipe seats with Castile soap and water once or twice a month, or as needed.
- Remove dirt, small stones, salt and debris first with a soft dry brush to prevent scratching the seats.
- Keep a spray bottle of Castile soap and water in the car. This one has a sleek design and fits perfectly in the glovebox. Note that Castile turns cloudy in cold temperatures, but this doesn’t affect its performance.
- Keep alcohol-free baby wipes on hand for quick clean-ups. (One of our partners reminded us of a recent Tesla date night where a glass of red wine was enjoyed – and spilled – watching the sunset!)
3. Avoid Wearing Dark Blue Jeans
When indigo dyed fabrics like blue jeans are damp (by snow, slush or perspiration), it is possible for color to transfer onto vegan white seats. Keep a clean white towel in your car to sit on and clean any color transfer with Castile soap and water immediately.
Read our other white seat cleaning tips here.
4. Soft Telescopic Snow Brush
Use a soft brush to clear snow from the exterior, that will not damage your vehicle’s paint. Our Model Y owners insist on a long handled brush that can reach across the whole windshield and roof.
Will not damage your vehicle’s paint
safely sweep snow and scrape ice off your car day or night, without damaging its paint, trim, or glass.
5. Get a Grip with Winter Tires
The grip between a tire and a snowy road surface can make the difference between a safe stop and a dangerous slide. In addition to the car’s velocity and the condition of your brakes, it’s tire friction that determines stopping distance – so choose the right winter tires for your Tesla.
6. Keep a Tire Repair Kit in your Vehicle
Tire pressure drops in cold weather. Don’t worry – your Tesla will alert you to changes in tire pressure with a message on your touchscreen.
7. Replace Windshield Wipers
Keep your vision clear. Salt, slush, snow, ice and shorter daylight hours make it harder to see.
Replace windshield wiper blades at least once a year at the start of winter.
Do you live in an area with lots of rain or snow? Frequently used blades may need to be replaced every 6 months.
8. Prevent Wiper Blades from Freezing to the Windshield
Prevent blades from sticking to your windshield by repositioning wipers when parked outdoors. If the weather calls for snow or ice weather, place your wipers in Service Mode. In all models:
– Tap Controls > Service > Wiper Service Mode > On
9. Top Up Winter Washer Fluid
Replace your all-season windshield washer fluid with a winter formula to resist freezing. Keep your reservoir filled and check levels monthly, as de-icing fluids can evaporate more quickly.
Some drivers prefer to use Rain-X, which has water-beading technology to minimize streaking and keep windshields cleaner for a longer time. Check before using this type of washer fluid product on tinted windows.
10. Prevent Frozen Handles, Mirrors and Charging Port
How to Prevent Frozen Door Handles
Ice buildup can cause Tesla door handles to freeze, making it a challenge to enter your vehicle. Prevent this by lubricating door handle pivot pins to prevent ice buildup.
- Prop open the handle and apply WD-40 to the pivot pins
- Pivot the door handle in and out approximately 10 times
- Repeat the process.
How to Open Frozen Door Handles
If you didn’t lubricate door handle pivot pins at the start of the season and now are faced with frozen handles, don’t panic. Tesla gives us a simple solution.
For vehicles with black handles, Tesla recommends this:
- Press the large (rear-most) part of the handle to try and loosen the handle. If this doesn’t work, apply some force with your hand to the small part (forward-most) of the handle.
- If this still doesn’t work, remove all jewelry or objects from your hand that could potentially scratch or dent the car and use your fist to pound the area around the handle in a circular manner. End with a few forceful bumps to the large (rear-most) section of the handle.
- Once the handle moves, open and close it a few times to release remaining ice particles. Fully press in the handle and ensure the door is securely closed before driving.
Use the Defrost Car function on your Tesla app to help melt ice from side mirrors.
Turn off Side Mirror Auto-Fold
Prevent accidental damage to your mirrors by deactivating the Mirror Auto-Fold feature on your vehicle’s touchscreen:
To de-activate Mirror Auto-Fold in Models S and X:
-Tap Controls > Vehicle > Mirror Auto-Fold
To de-activate Mirror Auto-Fold in Models 3 and Y:
-Tap Controls (bottom left of the touchscreen)> Mirrors > Mirror Auto-Fold
Frozen Charge Port Latch
If your charge port becomes stuck due to freezing or icy conditions, select Defrost Car on the Tesla app to defrost and unstick the latch.
A frozen charge port will still allow AC charging at lower rates with a blinking amber indicator.
Some vehicles have a charge port inlet heater that is automatically activated when Rear Defrost is selected.
11. Keep Cameras and Sensors Clear for Safety
When cameras and sensors are obscured by snow, ice or debris, some features can be affected such as Autopilot, or Sentry Mode and Dashcam videos. It can also block views from mirrors and back up or lane assist cameras.
- Use the Defrost Car feature on your mobile app to melt snow and ice from windows
- Wipe cameras and mirrors clear of ice and snow with a soft cloth. We like to keep 2-3 of these cloths in the glovebox.
- Manually open and close mirrors to break up ice and restore function
12. Precondition your Tesla
Preconditioning helps to conserve energy. Warming your vehicle before driving can also keep moving parts like mirrors, door handles, wiper blades and the charge port latch from becoming stuck from freezing rain, ice and snow.
Reduce winter anxiety with these tips:
- Warm the cabin before driving. On the Tesla app, choose Climate to select the cabin temperature. This also warms the battery.
- Melt ice, snow and frost on mirrors, windshield and windows by using the Climate>Defrost Car feature on the mobile app. This also warms the battery.
- Use Scheduled Departure to precondition your vehicle 30-45 minutes before your scheduled drive. The app will notify owners once the car has reached the set preconditioning temperature.
13. Shift your Driving Habits
Conserve energy and help your vehicle’s range during the winter with a small shift in your driving and charging habits:
- Drive at moderate speeds
- Use Chill Mode or limit frequent and rapid acceleration and deceleration
- Keep the cabin temperature as low as comfortably possible. Choose seat heaters and heated steering wheel for added comfort
- Keep your Tesla plugged in when you’re not using it. This uses the charging system, rather than the battery, to retain heat.
Set one of your Trip Meters to zero and rename it to “Winter Driving” to keep track of your Wh/Mi and distance driven
14. Be Prepared with a Safety and Survival Kit
No one ever expects to be involved in an accident, or witness one. But that’s exactly why it’s imperative to carry a safety and survival kit. It’s even more important to carry one in the winter, where storms can cause lengthy delays and cold conditions can compromise a Tesla’s range, battery life and ability to keep you warm.
Your winter safety and survival kit should include:
A Source of Heat
Pack a blanket, candle (in a glass jar) and lighter/matches.
Stuck in a snow storm with low battery? Reduce the cabin temperature and use the seat heaters instead.
Roadside Safety Items
Keep a driver safety kit in your vehicle with flares, road signs and a collapsible shovel to dig out of snowbanks.
- Need a Tow? Contact Tesla Roadside Assistance first, through the app. If this isn’t possible, contact a tow company with a flat bed and experience with Teslas.
- If you need to exit your vehicle when pulled to the side on a busy road or highway, exit through the opposite door to the traffic.
First Aid and Health
Always carry a First Aid Kit. At the beginning of each winter season:
- check the condition of the supplies
- replace expired items
- review how to use first aid supplies
Add these items to your first aid kit in case you are stranded in a winter storm:
- a bag of nuts or snack bar
- essential medications. If you or your regular passengers require essential medications (e.g. for diabetes, heart conditions, epilepsy, panic disorders), consider keeping 1-2 extra pills in your first aid kit. Weather delays are stressful enough without worrying about missing medications.
- if children or pets travel with you frequently, consider extra food, water, snacks, diapers and other essential items
Keep Pets Safe and Warm with Dog Mode
If you have to leave your vehicle in the winter with a pet inside, use Dog Mode. Pets get cold too, and bitter temperatures can cause frostbite, changes in consciousness and even death. Use Dog Mode to keep your pet at a comfortable cabin temperature.
15. Keep your Phone Charged
Batteries drain more quickly in cold temperatures. Not only does winter weather affect your vehicle, but it also affects your phone, which is key to operating your vehicle and accessing the Tesla app.
One of our drivers took her dog on a long winter hike and returned to the vehicle with a dead phone because the -20 degree temperatures had rapidly drained the battery. Fortunately she was able to borrow a phone to call her partner and have the car unlocked remotely.
- Keep your phone charged. Use your vehicle’s charging pad or an upgraded phone holder and charger.
- Carry a rapid charger to boost your phone if the battery is low.
- Carry an alternate key such as the Tesla key card or ring.
Teslas are really heavy, so do I really need winter tires?
Tesla vehicles weigh from 4,065 lbs to 5390 lbs (1,844 kg to 11,883 kg) – approximately 30% more than comparable non-electric vehicles.
Although some people believe that a heavier vehicle resists sliding on icy road conditions, weight does not play a significant role in stopping distance. Rather, speed, the condition of brakes and friction between the tires and the road are better predictors of stopping distance. So, make sure your brakes are in good condition, and you have a good set of winter tires.
Should I worry about ice and uneven snowy surfaces scraping the undercarriage?
Although you may be closer to the ground than some other vehicles, Tesla’s undercarriage shields are titanium tough and can generally withstand driving over accumulations of hard snow, ice or uneven terrain. Ground clearance ranges from 4.6 to 6.2 inches on the Model S, depending on the setting. Model 3 is 5.5” from the ground, and the Model Y has the highest clearance at 6.6”.
Do Tesla vehicles have problems in the winter?
Tesla vehicles have some of the same problems that combustible engine vehicles have in the winter like gripping snowy roads and damage from water, salt and debris. Tesla drivers also need to expect reduced range and reduced regenerative braking, frozen door locks, mirrors and charging port, and reduced quality of Dashcam/ Sentry Mode videos from obscured cameras and sensors.
Should I spray my Tesla with anti-rust protector to protect from winter salt damage?
Tesla has a limited warranty on body and paint repair that includes rust damage. Avoid applying anti-rust protection products to your vehicle, as it will void this warranty. Instead, rinse off salt and debris frequently and purchase a high quality set of floor mats.
How fast will the battery drain during the winter?
The rate your battery drains depends on the exterior temperature, how many features you have running e.g. Sentry Mode, and your driving habits.
To test energy drain in cold weather, Model 3s were left idling outdoors in -15 degrees F temperatures (average) with the interior cabin temp set at 65 degrees. Camp Mode was activated to maintain the cabin temperature. These vehicles lost 2.2% of their battery energy per hour and had a maximum idle time of 45 hours.
Other reports have suggested that Tesla vehicles can lose up to 30-40% of distance (range).
Should I precondition my Tesla in the cold weather?
Tesla drivers should precondition their vehicle in cold weather to conserve energy, warm the cabin, and keep moving parts like mirrors, wiper blades, door handles and the charge port latch from freezing shut. Use the Scheduled Departure feature for regular drives to work and school.
How do I get frozen door locks to open on my Tesla?
If the door handle is frozen due to ice buildup, Tesla suggests that you forcibly press the fore-most and then the rear-most areas of the handle (don’t use tools).
If this doesn’t work, use the bottom of your fist to bump the area around the handle in a circular pattern (first, remove jewelry or other objects that could damage paint). It should require no more force than knocking on a door. Then pivot the handle open and close several times.
How do I prevent Tesla door locks from freezing?
At the beginning of winter, lubricate door handle pins to prevent handles from locking due to ice buildup. While propping open the door handle, spray WD-40 on the door handle pivot pins, then pivot the handle open and close about ten times. Repeat.
What do I need to prepare my Tesla for winter?
Build a kit for yourself or as a gift for your favorite Tesla owner! In addition to winter tires, these are the best items to keep Tesla drivers safe and stress-free during the cold weather:
– Custom Floor Mats
– Telescopic Snow Brush
– Tire Repair Kit
– Windshield Wiper Blades
– Rain-X Windshield Wiper Fluid
– Driver Safety and Survival Kit
– Rapid Phone Charger
– Soft Dry Cloth
– Castille Soap and Spray Bottle
– Baby Wipes