Cold Weather Best Practices

To ensure that Model 3 provides you with the best ownership experience possible in harsh cold weather conditions, follow these best practices.

Before Driving

When snow and ice accumulate on your vehicle, moving parts, such as the door handles, windows, mirrors, and wipers can freeze in place. To achieve maximum range and performance, it is helpful to warm the cabin and Battery before you leave. There are several ways to do so:

  • Touch Schedule, available on both the charging and climate control screens, to set a time when you want your vehicle to be ready to drive (see Scheduled Charging and Scheduled Departure).
  • On the mobile app, navigate to Climate to customize the temperature at which you want to heat the cabin. This also warms the high voltage Battery as needed.
  • On the mobile app, navigate to Climate > Defrost Car to melt snow, ice, and frost on the windshield, windows, and mirrors. This also warms the high voltage Battery as needed.
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    Note
    Tesla recommends activating climate settings at least 30-45 minutes before departure (see Climate Controls). Preconditioning times depend on outside temperature and other factors. The Mobile App will notify you once your vehicle has reached the desired preconditioning temperature.
  • In extremely cold weather or icy conditions, it is possible that your charge port latch may freeze in place. Some vehicles are equipped with a charge port inlet heater that turns on when you turn on the rear defrost in cold weather conditions. You can also thaw ice on the charge port latch by enabling Defrost Car on the mobile app.
  • Warming the Battery using Scheduled Departure or the mobile app before driving can also reduce charging time at a Supercharger or third party fast charger, especially if the Supercharger or third party fast charger is close enough that Trip Planner does not have sufficient time to precondition the Battery (see Warming the Battery Before Supercharging).

Removing Ice From Door Handle

In severe winter conditions, ice buildup within the door handle can prevent the door handle from opening. The process for freeing a Model 3 door handle is slightly different than other door handles; you can usually remove the ice with a few forceful bumps to the door handle using the bottom of your fist.

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CAUTION
Remove any jewelry or objects that can damage the paint prior to performing the procedure, and do not attempt to use tools or excessive force.
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Note
Preemptively applying WD-40 to the door handle pivot pins can help prevent ice buildup inside your door handle.

Perform the following to remove ice from the door handle:

Animation of the following process.
  1. If your vehicle is equipped with black door handles, press the frontmost part of the door handle to initially try release light or moderate ice buildup.
    Arrow pointing to the front of the door handle.
  2. Forcefully press the rear-most part of the door handle to try to open the door handle.
  3. Working in a circular pattern around the perimeter of the door handle, use the bottom of your fist to forcefully bump the door handle to break and release the ice buildup.
  4. Aiming for the rearmost end of the wide part of the door handle, use the bottom of your fist to forcefully bump the door handle. Increase the intensity of the bumps as necessary, repeating steps 1 through 3 until the ice is removed and the door handle can be opened.
    Warning IconA warning icon, calling your attention to a possibly risky situation
    CAUTION
    Never bump the vehicle so hard as to cause a dent; the force used should be similar to knocking on your neighbor’s front door.
    Image of a fist with a target overlayed on the rear of the door handle.
  5. Once the door handle is able to move, open and close it a few more times to release any remaining ice buildup. Make sure the door handle is fully pressed in (retracted) prior to entering the vehicle, and check that the door is fully closed before driving away.

Applying WD-40 to Door Handle Pivot Pins

In severe winter conditions, applying WD-40 to door handle pivot pins can help prevent ice buildup that might immobilize the handle. Consider applying WD-40 to the door handle pivot pins if you are expecting freezing rain, heavy snow, or icy conditions. Reapply as needed.

Warning IconA warning icon, calling your attention to a possibly risky situation
CAUTION
Read and observe the instructions and warnings provided by WD-40 prior to performing this procedure.

To apply WD-40 to the door handle pivot pin:

Animation of the following proces.
  1. Open the door handle and prop it open using a folded towel or other soft material.
  2. Attach the provided straw to the nozzle of the WD-40 bottle.
  3. Put on eye protection.
  4. Place the end of the straw next to the pivot pin and spray it for approximately one second, taking care not to accidentally spray other components.
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    Note
    Rest the end of the straw on the top of the spring around the pivot pin to better aim the spray.
    Warning IconA warning icon, calling your attention to a possibly risky situation
    Warning
    Make sure eye protection is worn when performing this step.
    Straw next to the pivot pin with an arrow pointing to the pivot pin.
  5. Remove the towel or other soft material used to prop the door handle open.
  6. Pivot the door handle in and out approximately ten times.
  7. For a second time, place the end of the straw next to the pivot pin and spray it for approximately one second, taking care not to accidentally spray other components.
    Informational PurposesAn informational icon, calling your attention
    Note
    Rest the end of the straw on the top of the spring around the pivot pin to better aim the spray.
  8. Remove the towel or other soft material used to prop the door handle open.
  9. Pivot the door handle in and out approximately ten times.
  10. Perform this procedure on the other three door handles.

Windows

  • On the mobile app, navigate to Climate > Defrost as mentioned previously. Your vehicle heats the driver and passenger windows to melt ice that could prevent windows from moving.
  • Model 3 automatically makes a slight adjustment to the position of the windows to make it easier to open doors in cold temperature.
  • Use the mobile app to schedule a service appointment for Tesla to provide hydrophobic coating to your windows for a nominal fee.

Mirrors

If ice buildup is expected when parking, turn off Auto-Fold Mirrors. Touch Controls > Auto-Fold. Ice can prevent exterior side mirrors from folding or unfolding.

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Note
Side mirrors automatically heat as needed during preconditioning, or when the rear defroster is turned on.

Wipers

If you expect snow or ice to build up when parked, touch Controls > Service > Wiper Service Mode. This raises wipers against the windshield so they can defrost when the windshield defrosts (see Wipers and Washers). You can also turn on wiper defrosters (if equipped). See Climate Controls.

Tires and Tire Chains

  • Use winter tires to increase traction in snowy or icy conditions. You can purchase winter tires on http://www.tesla.com (see Seasonal Tire Types).
  • Tire chains provide additional traction when driving in snowy or icy conditions. Check local regulations to determine if tire chains are recommended or required during winter months. See Using Tire Chains for more information.

Your vehicle’s tire pressures will drop in cold ambient temperatures. If the TPMS indicator light appears, inflate the tires before driving. The tires will lose one PSI for every 10° F (6° C) drop in outside temperature (see Tire Care and Maintenance). Proper tire pressures help protect tires from potholes and improve range when properly inflated.

While Driving

Cold weather can increase energy consumption because more power is required for driving, cabin and Battery heating. Follow these suggestions to reduce energy consumption:

  • Use seat heaters to keep warm. Seat heaters use less energy than the cabin heater. Lowering the cabin temperature and using seat heaters reduces energy consumption (see Climate Controls).
  • Slow down your driving and avoid frequent and rapid acceleration.

Regenerative Braking

Regenerative braking can be limited if the Battery is too cold. As you continue to drive, the Battery warms up and regenerative power increases (see Regenerative Braking).

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Note
Limited regenerative braking can be avoided if you allow enough time to precondition your vehicle or if you use Schedule to precondition Model 3 before your departure time (see Scheduled Charging and Scheduled Departure).
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Note
Installing winter tires can result in temporarily reduced regenerative braking power but after a short period of driving, Model 3 recalibrates to correct this.

Blue Snowflake Icon

Icon of a blue snowflake.
A blue snowflake icon appears on your touchscreen when some of the stored energy in the Battery is unavailable because the Battery is cold. This portion of unavailable energy displays in blue on the Battery meter. Regenerative braking, acceleration, and charging rates may be limited. The snowflake icon no longer displays when the Battery is sufficiently warm.

Warming the Battery Before Supercharging

By using Trip Planner (see Trip Planner) to navigate to a Supercharger, Model 3 pre-heats the Battery to ensure when you arrive at the Supercharger, the Battery temperature is optimal and ready to charge. This reduces the amount of time it takes to charge.

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Note
Tesla recommends using Trip Planner to navigate to a Supercharger for at least 30-45 minutes before arrival to ensure optimal Battery temperature and charging conditions. If the drive to the Supercharger is less than 30-45 minutes, consider preconditioning the Battery prior to driving (see Before Driving).

Autopilot

To ensure optimal Autopilot performance, keep the sensors free of snow, ice, mud, and dirt (see About Autopilot).

After Driving

Leave Model 3 plugged in when not in use. This uses the charging system, rather than the Battery itself, to keep the Battery warm (see High Voltage Battery Information).

Scheduled Departure

When parked, plug in Model 3 and use the Schedule settings, available on both the charging and climate control screens, to set a time when you want to precondition Model 3 (see Scheduled Charging and Scheduled Departure). Your vehicle determines the appropriate time to begin charging so it is complete during off-peak hours and the cabin and Battery are warm by your set departure time. For more information, see Scheduled Charging and Scheduled Departure.

Charge Port

  • If your charge port latch freezes in place and a charging cable becomes stuck in the charge port, try manually releasing the charge cable. See Manually Releasing Charge Cable.
  • Use the mobile app to precondition your vehicle to help thaw ice on the charge port latch so that the charge cable can be removed or inserted (see Mobile App).
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Note
You can also prevent the occurrence of a charge port latch freezing in place by using the Schedule settings (see Scheduled Charging and Scheduled Departure).
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Note
If your charge port latch is frozen in place, it may not lock the charging cable in place when inserted, but it can still charge at a slow AC rate even if the latch is not engaged.

Storage

If you leave Model 3 parked for an extended period of time, plug the vehicle into a charger to prevent normal range loss and to keep the Battery at an optimal temperature. Your vehicle is safe to stay plugged in for any length of time.

When not in use, Model 3 enters a sleep mode to conserve energy. Reduce the number of times you check your vehicle’s status on the mobile app, as this automatically wakes up your vehicle and starts normal energy consumption.