It's cold! Winter is here. So it’s a good time to review some of the things you should be aware of when it comes to driving your Tesla in colder weather. Whether you've just recently moved to a colder climate, or just want some winter driving advice, here are a few Tesla tips as the temperature continues to drop.
OPTIMIZING WINTER RANGE
Whether you're driving an electric car or a gas-powered one, cold weather will lower the efficiency of your vehicle. With a Tesla, you'll quickly notice a drop-off in range. Electric cars like to keep their batteries in an optimum operating temperature range. Your Tesla will use a lot of energy to warm up the battery every time you get in your car.
It's worth taking a few measures to combat this issue. Here are nine quick tips to maximize your range in freezing temperatures:
- Setup Scheduled Departure
- Remain plugged in
- Defrost through the Tesla App
- Chill Mode
- Limit acceleration
- Use winter tires
- Use navigation (for automatic preconditioning)
- Don’t check app too often
- Use seat heaters instead of A/C
Scheduled Departure: Tap ‘Charging’ > ‘Scheduled Departure’ > ‘Schedule’ > ‘Depart At.’
Precondition: Open the Tesla app and tap ‘Climate’ > ‘Turn On.’
Defrost: Open the Tesla app and select ‘Climate’ > defrost icon.
Not only will this allow your Tesla to charge during off-peak hours which could lower your electricity bill, but it will also warm up both your battery and cabin by the time you plan to depart. This saves your car from having to use its own energy to warm the battery.
Additionally, if you plan on Supercharging, make sure to set the Supercharger as your navigation destination. When a Tesla is directed to navigate towards a Supercharger, it automatically begins pre-heating the battery to allow for faster charging when you finally get there.
Regardless of whether or not you need extra range, during the wintertime, you should leave your car plugged in whenever possible. This will allow the car to use energy from outside the battery to stay warm. Remember: a healthy battery is a happy battery. Not only will you minimize range loss and maximize performance, but you’ll also keep your battery from unnecessary degradation.
As a general practice, if you're expecting an extremely cold night, then it's a good idea to move your wipers from their default resting position entirely away from the windshield, or at least in a position where heat from the cabin could melt ice that might have caused your wipers to freeze to the windshield.
To be able to raise your wipers, Tesla has an option to put your wipers in ‘service mode’ which will bring them to move to the middle of the windshield. You can find the button in:
‘Controls’ > ‘Service’ > ‘Wiper Service Mode’ > ‘On’
Keep in mind that this will not allow you to lift the wipers to stop contact with your windshield. However, owners have suggested placing small objects at the base of the wipers to wedge them and have the wipers lift off the surface just slightly. Regardless, in this position, any heat from your cabin should make contact with the windshield and melt any ice that binds your wipers.
If you are someone who likes to have your mirrors auto-fold, it may be in your best interest to turn off the auto-fold feature during cold weather. In freezing temperatures, it's possible for your mirrors to be frozen in their closed position. When they're trying their best to break free (unsuccessfully), it’s possible to burn out the motors. To find the option to turn off auto-folding mirrors you can go to:
Model S/X: ‘Controls’ > ‘Vehicle’ > ‘Mirror Auto-Fold’
Model 3/Y: ‘Controls’ > ‘Quick Controls’ > ‘Mirrors’ > ‘Mirror Auto Fold’
If your mirrors happen to freeze shut, Tesla recommends manually opening and closing them to break the ice.
To warm the car up, Tesla has implemented a defrost feature to their app. With it you can begin to defrost your windows prior to stepping outside. The defrost feature is also recommended by Tesla to use prior to charging. With extreme conditions, the charge port can freeze over leading to a slower charge rate. The car will indicate a frozen charge port with a blinking amber light.
If you are someone who has fully embraced one-pedal driving, then you might have to adapt during wintertime. You might want to consider setting your regenerative brake strength to the lowest setting available. This is done simply for safety reasons. Strong regenerative braking could potentially be too aggressive in icy conditions and might cause your Tesla to potentially lose traction and slide. It obviously will come down to individual weather conditions, but it should be something you're aware of — especially when the streets get icy.
Regardless, the cold weather might force you to use your brake pedal whether you like it or not. If you're driving around with a cold battery in cold weather then it won’t accept energy from the regen system and as such, you will have to brake on your own. Thankfully your Tesla should inform you whether or not your braking has been reduced, allowing you to prepare. A blue snowflake icon next to your range will display when both your regenerative braking and power is decreased. Once the battery gets back up to a reasonable temperature, regen braking (and power) should return.
While on the topic of safety, it’s probably best to disable performance mode. Tesla performance in cold weather is already impacted negatively and there’s no reason to go drag racing against snowmobiles.
You're not going to be speeding through icy streets, at least not safely. Therefore, it's recommended that you switch your power to "chill mode" to limit the amount of torque that's delivered to the wheels — this lowers the risk of your tires losing traction. The switch to a lower power level should also help you with countering range loss in cold weather too.
Want more tips for Tesla winter driving? For more advice, be sure to check out what Trevor Page at Tesla Owners Online had to say about improving your Tesla during the coldest months. And that's not all. Tesla influencer and EV expert, Aniseh Sharifi, has some excellent tips to help "winterize" your Tesla. At the end of the day, follow just a few of these simple steps and you can really level up your experience driving electric this winter.
An earlier version of this article appeared on EVBite. EVBite is an electric vehicle specific news site dedicated to keeping consumers up-to-date on any developments in the ever-expanding EV landscape.