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Ice strikes again (door handles and frameless windows)

David29

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Aug 1, 2015
2,272
1,963
DEDHAM, MA
I thought I had learned how to manage the Model S door handles in cold weather during the past two winters. But today I experienced a new wrinkle in this challenge.

We had snow, then rain yesterday, followed by a freeze last night. I cleaned the snow off the car late in the afternoon, hoping that would make my job easier today. From my condo window, the Model S looked free of ice as it sat in the parking lot this AM.

But it wasn't.

I preheated the car for a few minutes (it was about 28F) but not long. When I got out to the car and it unlocked, neither of the driver’s side handles presented. I could hear the door handle motors straining to present the handles. No, there was no ice on the outside of the door blocking the handles. Instead, the rain had puddled in the concave top surfaces of the handles, and then frozen. (See photos.) As you might know, ice expands when it freezes. (That's why we can skate on frozen ponds.) So, the frozen blobs of ice were blocking the handles from presenting. By pounding on the handles and prying a bit, I was able to get the driver's door handle open. That was the only way to stop the poor little motor from trying to force open the handle. I used an ice scraper to chip out the blobs of ice from all four handles. (Fortunately, there are some gaps around the handles and the handles have some up/down flexibility. Otherwise it could have been even harder to get the handles out so I could work on them.)

So, add the concave top surfaces of these handles to the (short) list of foolish and unfortunate design errors Tesla made when designing this car.

Meanwhile, when I tried to open the door, the driver’s window would not slide down into the door. This surprised me. There was no visible ice on it – I would have scraped the ice from the glass if there were. Instead, there must have been water on the glass below the gasket, enough to freeze and cause the glass to hang up as it tried to move down into the door. I closed the door as best I could and cranked up the heat to maximum while I worked on the other door handles. Eventually I managed to get the door shut with the window glass properly in its gasket groove. Trying the other windows with the door switches, none would move at first. But I did not need to open them before starting on my trip. As I drove, I heard a couple of clunks, which I guess were the glass panes letting go as the ice on the glass melted from the heat. After 20 minutes or so, I tried the door switches to move the windows. Two of the remaining three moved, the third would not, until another 10 or 15 minutes had passed.

I hate these frameless windows! In winter, they are a royal pain. Yes, it is true that if I had preheated the car for another 20 minutes or so, most likely the driver’s door would have moved easily. But I did not need to preheat that long otherwise, and I was running a bit late for an appointment. In previous winters, I had learned the necessity of being sure the windows were free of ice before attempting to open them. That usually meant scraping ice off, paying particular attention to the ice in the joint between the glass and the gasket at the bottom of the frame. But I do not think I experienced any previous instances like today, in which the windows looked free of ice, but apparently had hidden ice on the glass within the door. Another lesson learned!

And by the way, this is another reason to set the auto-present handles so that only the driver’s door unlocks, at least in winter. At least, that will minimize the wear and tear on the other door handle mechanisms – you can heat the car and try to melt any hidden ice, and the motors might avoid straining to push open the handles with accumulated ice. It’s an annoying inconvenience to passengers, but it might extend the lives of the door handle mechanisms.

Note about the photos: All four handles accumulated water in the same way, on the concave upper surfaces. Three are shown. I used an ice scraper to chip out the ice.

20180208_083341.jpg
 

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iluvmacs

Member
Jan 27, 2014
489
829
Madison, WI
Been having both issues here in WI too. I had a door handle successfully present recently, but then wouldn't go back in due to the ice on top. Frameless windows are pointless on anything that's not a convertible. Ugh.
 

jaguar36

Active Member
Apr 10, 2014
2,097
1,894
NJ
The frameless windows is not a 'California thing' Lots of other makes have had frameless windows. I've had Thunderbirds and BMWs with them as well. Personally I love them, makes getting in and out of the car a lot easier in the summer when I leave my windows down all the time.
 
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David29

Supporting Member
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Aug 1, 2015
2,272
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DEDHAM, MA
The frameless windows is not a 'California thing' Lots of other makes have had frameless windows. I've had Thunderbirds and BMWs with them as well. Personally I love them, makes getting in and out of the car a lot easier in the summer when I leave my windows down all the time.

Well, it could be that other manufacturers have some tricks that make these windows less susceptible to winter. I don't have any familiarity with how other companies make them, never having had a car with them before. But they sure seem to be impractical to me, as Tesla has implemented them, in freezing weather. In my opinion, it is the single worst feature of my Model S, with a big potential for operational hassles and for premature equipment failure. Could be wrong.
 
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Max*

Charging
Apr 8, 2015
6,672
3,835
NoVa
That's not bad, wait till your mirrors freeze closed. And you can't use an ice scrapper to chip away at it, because the ice isn't visible.

And yes, I've had my windows freeze, my door handles freeze, etc.
 

David29

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Aug 1, 2015
2,272
1,963
DEDHAM, MA
That's not bad, wait till your mirrors freeze closed. And you can't use an ice scrapper to chip away at it, because the ice isn't visible.

And yes, I've had my windows freeze, my door handles freeze, etc.

Right, I have had that. Which is why I disable automatic mirror folding in cold weather. Just not worth the risk of having a mirror frozen in the folded position.
 
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turbosetch

Member
Oct 18, 2016
24
22
United States
My biggest issue here in Alaska has been the charge port freezes open or shut, occasionally the charger end itself will actually freeze in the port. Another issue is the air suspension will fail to adjust height. Otherwise been good. -4 degrees F today!
 
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David29

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Aug 1, 2015
2,272
1,963
DEDHAM, MA
My biggest issue here in Alaska has been the charge port freezes open or shut, occasionally the charger end itself will actually freeze in the port. Another issue is the air suspension will fail to adjust height. Otherwise been good. -4 degrees F today!
Ah, yes -- I did not mention in my post that there was also ice in the charge port. The charging cable was stuck in the port, so it took a bit of extra force to break that free. Then there was a bit of ice that temporarily blocked the door from closing snugly. That ice was short-lived, so it was a non-issue this time.
 

arcus

Active Member
Aug 11, 2017
1,302
965
Denton, TX
I am sure this came up gazillion of times before, but wouldn't it be nice if the key fob or Tesla app allowed you to engage the mirror defroster or roll down the window (so you can use the indoor handle to open the door)? Better yet, make these door handles heated as well?
 

SSedan

Active Member
Jul 24, 2017
2,948
2,589
Greenville Wisconsin
I believe Kman has a video about the new firmware running defrost with cabin heat when preheating.

I am in Wisconsin too, first winter with a Tesla, turned off the folding mirrors as soon as the cold weather hit. Door handles have been completely fine, windows freeze fairly often, charge port a time or two. I park at work to maximize solar exposure to whatever is frozen.

What about waxing handles to stop water accumulation?

Was -4F this morning, have seen a fair number of mornings in the -10 to-15f range this winter. Generally though when good and cold things are dry enough to not be an issue, even if it snows it stays fluffy and doesn't cause issues. It is the just below freezing weather that is a hassle.
 

Lon12

Member
Oct 12, 2015
864
1,091
Calgary, AB, Canada
My driver side window had some ice on it just the other day. When I left the parking lot and tried to open it to activate parking lot gate it stuck half way down. Tesla fixed it the next day. Said they had to replace the window regulator. Some days I wish we still had the old crank window handles.
 

Exiom

Member
Nov 29, 2017
206
111
Hong Kong
I don't live in extreme cold weather and never had... but I was wondering... would there be any danger of damage... (most importantly... glass breaking) if one were to pour moderately warm water (obviously not too hot to cause glass to break but enough to melt the ice) onto the parts involved... such as driver door handle/window/charge port etc... would this safely and easily melt and free the parts?
 

David29

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Aug 1, 2015
2,272
1,963
DEDHAM, MA
What about waxing handles to stop water accumulation?

I do not think that would help, but I have not tried it. The chrome handles are pretty slick already. The problem is that the handle top surface is concave, effectively a little trough, so it naturally accumulates water. Wax would not alter that.
 

David29

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Aug 1, 2015
2,272
1,963
DEDHAM, MA

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