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Model 3 Door Handles - Here is how they actually work

Luke42

Member
Mar 31, 2016
48
59
Urbana, Illinois
Does pre-heating the car's interior alleviate that concern? You can run the car's climate control remotely and automate it if you want. That might make the overall heat envelope of the car warm enough to prevent icing or melt ice.

It doesn't really, except in mild weather. Winter temperatures in my part of the world run from 0F (with 30kt winds) to well above freezing. In my experience, pre-heating the inside is good for removing ice from the windows (that's what the defroster and the aide vents are for), but it doesn't do much for the ice on the metal parts of the car.

Sometimes preheating the interior for 30 minutes or so can make a door easier to open, if you're really patient, but I'd rather yank the doors than waste that much energy.

Rember that proper cars have some insulation for both noise control and thermal control, just like houses.
 
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Luke42

Member
Mar 31, 2016
48
59
Urbana, Illinois
You might want to know that the highest average snowfall in the lower 48 states occurs in California about 180 miles from the Tesla factory. There are plenty of snow testing areas near the factory.

I live in the Midwest, but have spent the past four years working with tech companies in the bay area. The people I know from there have a tough time imagining the weather that we consider normal put there.

With a bery few exceptions, I don't think they're spending much time up in Tahoe or elsewhere in the Sierras.

Plus, mountain weather is quite different from plains weather.
 
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diamond.g

Active Member
Nov 5, 2015
2,442
1,411
Moyock, NC
You use the door handle to yank the door open after the ice gets in the seams between to door and the car. I've probably put a good 50lb pull on the door handles on my Toyota at times. And that's assuming you can get to the door handle at all (not a problem with conventional door handles).

With sliding doors on my minivan, I sometimes have to climb inside, unlatch the door and shoulder-check it to get it open. An alternative (when rear facing car seats are installed) is to roll down the windows, grab the window frame, and give it a sharp yank to free the door. And that's on a car where they actually thought about this stuff. Having to do that is acceptable on a $10k beater, but not so good on a $35k forever car.

Conventional door handles don't impede the process of opening a car that's covered in ice. This is a serious design requirement that Tesla needs to consider in order to sell cars outside of mediaterranian and tropical climates, and I haven't seen any indication in the current design that it's been considered at all.
Would having a car cover help? I am sure Tesla will sell a few (I don't have a garage for my house either).
 

Subhuman

Member
Aug 1, 2013
538
1,032
United States
You might want to know that the highest average snowfall in the lower 48 states occurs in California about 180 miles from the Tesla factory. There are plenty of snow testing areas near the factory.

We are not talking about snow here. Freezing rain/drizzle that completely encases the vehicle in a 1/2 layer of ice. Snow is not an issue. I have nearly ripped door handles off trying to get my door open and have had to crawl through the hatch to get into the a car before. While freezing doors are not specific to Tesla the fact that it could further impede (as Luke42 perfectly stated) opening the doors is an issue. The plus side of Tesla is remote climate control. This would potential elevate some door freezing issues but still might not remove the 1/2" of ice covering the door handle.
 
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mspohr

Well-Known Member
Jul 27, 2014
10,227
12,831
California
You might want to know that the highest average snowfall in the lower 48 states occurs in California about 180 miles from the Tesla factory. There are plenty of snow testing areas near the factory.
I live in that area (Lake Tahoe) elevation 6200 feet. Highest average snowfall... it's snowing today, in fact.
Occasionally we get ice storms which freeze up the handles of the cars. My Land Rover is the worst to get unstuck. When things are bad, I just pour hot water over them and they free up easily.
Anyway, speculation on Model 3 (I have two on order)... If the handle is just a switch to release the electrical lock, then the fob or phone app could do the same without touching the handle. Of course, there is always the problem of the entire door being iced up around the edges which has happened to me a few times... then it's back to the hot water.
BTW, we have two Supercharger stations in the small town of Truckee. Some have speculated that the second one was installed because a lot of Bay Area Tesla people have second homes here (no doubt used for cold weather testing of the cars). It's also on the I-80 route to the Gigafactory just down the hill.
Tesla is a California company but it's not just warm weather and beaches. We have mountains (highest peak in the lower 48 states) and lots of snow only a few hours away from the factory.
 
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Luke42

Member
Mar 31, 2016
48
59
Urbana, Illinois
From what I understand the handle is moved mechanically by the force of your hand, while the door is unlatched electrically.

If the door is frozen shut, unlatching it doesn't do much. You've got to give it a sharp yank.

Now, if I can roll down the windows (not always a good idea when they're covered with ice) AND unlatch the door from my phone, I might be able to give the door a hard enough yank the window frame hard enough to get it open when it's frozen.

I use a procedure like that when the sliding doors on my minivan freeze shut sometimes. I don't usually need to do it on swinging doors, because the leverage works a lot better - a solid yank on the door handle will usually do.

Rime ice can get pretty thick. Its usually just under 1/8", but I've seen it as thick as 3/8". The front door handles on the Model 3 look very exposed, and the year ones are less exposed because the body crease back there might catch some of the ice.

I plan to buy the Model 3, and I'm thinking of putting down a deposit on a second one. But I really hope the Tesla engineers spend some time with a garden hose and a deep freezer to test the car's ability to be operated when its encrusted with ice abd snow before the design is finalized.... Because those flush door handles look like a real usability nightmare in my climate, at first glance. I really want Tesla to win on this one.
 
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DR61

Member
Apr 14, 2016
561
628
Gold River, CA
We are not talking about snow here. Freezing rain/drizzle that completely encases the vehicle in a 1/2 layer of ice.
We have that frequently in our place near Soda Springs/Donner Pass (I80) in California's Sierras. Every car I have had up there has had frozen doors on occasion. Just have to unfreeze them with hot water and/or windshield de-icer.
 
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int32_t

Tesla Spotter
Nov 21, 2015
627
417
Calgary area, AB, Canada
The L-shaped handles look pretty slick. That's great!

I'm pretty sure that the handle-popping-out part is 100% mechanical with no motor action involved. When you pull on the handle (or once it's pressed in far enough, whatever) the door is electronically unlatched. If I'm not mistaken, this electronic latch is much like the Model S. You can pull the door open with one finger because the latch undoes itself. This mechanism doesn't fail, it's the auto-presenting door handles that fail. I have no reliability concerns about this design.
 
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melindav

☰ 2018
Apr 10, 2016
741
885
Vancouver, WA
It was mentioned in another video (maybe the MT at the Gigafactory?) that the 'handle' works as a push button, that then activates a door popper (as in what may be on a custom tuner car without any exterior handles).
 

Az_Rael

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jan 26, 2016
5,665
8,962
Palmdale, CA
I worry about the part of the handle you pull on being so thin. I would rather have a beefier portion to yank on in the aforementioned ice scenario.

I used to live in North Texas, and a couple of times a year I would come out to a car with a thick layer of ice making the doors hard to open.
 
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PV1

Member
Aug 28, 2013
56
19
Pittsburgh
Correct. The door handle lever action is totally mechanical and actuated by your finger, and it appears to have a dampened spring return. The motor you hear is the power latch inside the door, the same as used in the S, X, and Roadster to release the door.

Perhaps Tesla could study the seal design on the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, as I never have had a stuck door, unlike the car I had before where frost would glue the door shut, regardless of the door handle being free. I would be more concerned about door seal design vs. the door handle.
 

Luke42

Member
Mar 31, 2016
48
59
Urbana, Illinois
Icing is a corner case that won't happen that often. When it does, you'll just have to break the ice off probably. I don't see that as a design fail, more like just a weather annoyance. I remember I once had to get in my car through the trunk and exit through the sunroof because of icing. That car was entirely mechanical. Wasn't really a design issue. It was just weather.

It depends on where you live.l as to whether ice is a corner case. It's a corner case for Bay Area residents, for sure.

Where I live (south of Chicago), icing is a frequent event. I've lived here 8 years, and I've probably had to chip ice off of my windshield 100 times, and I've gone at least 5 days in a row where I've had to free the sliding doors on the minivan using shoulder-checks or window-frame yanks. At some point nature wins, of course, but why put the Tesla at a disadvantage?

What I'm pointing out is that all appearances suggest the flush door handles shown on the Model 3 will become unusable when coated with a very small amount of ice -- way less than what would be required to create a problem on a conventional door handle.

That's a design fail in my book.

The parts bin handles used by Toyota, Honda, Ford, et al have solved this problem by allowing you to get your hand behind the handle to give it a hellacious yank. When you do this, the ice falls off of the moving/flexing parts of the handle, and you're on to the problem of actually opening the door (which may be frozen shut around the weather stripping).

Their solution to this is boring but very effective:
http://images.hgmsites.net/lrg/2009...n-i4-auto-le-natl-door-handle_100242593_l.jpg

I hope Tesla has some sort of clever way around this problem that I haven't thought of. The obvious ones (The Model S's retracting door handles and the Model X's robot doors) look like budget busters, and having a heated door handle seems like it would cost time and kwh. I think I'd pay extra for cheap door handles like the one in the picture above.

P.S. My minivan has an electronic latch on the liftgate. It works fine in snow and ice. The switch is under the license plate overhang where its protected from ice buildup, and where you can give it a hellacious yank when you need to. Our Prius used something similar, which so.worked well. Again, it was protected from ice buildup by being underneath an overhang, and it gave you pretty leverage to yank open the door. I've never had a problem with either of these systems, but neither one has a lever which swings out through an area that's likely to be ice-encrusted a couple of dozen times a year.
 
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ProphetM

Member
Jun 1, 2015
552
609
Las Vegas, NV
Now, if I can roll down the windows (not always a good idea when they're covered with ice) AND unlatch the door from my phone, I might be able to give the door a hard enough yank the window frame hard enough to get it open when it's frozen.

I don't think the Model 3 has window frames. Above the window sill there is nothing on the back doors, and on the fronts there is only the triangle containing the side view mirrors. I had a '97 Subaru Legacy that was the same way. I quite liked that car.
 

voip-ninja

Give me some sugar baby
Mar 15, 2012
4,124
5,242
Colorado
You might want to know that the highest average snowfall in the lower 48 states occurs in California about 180 miles from the Tesla factory. There are plenty of snow testing areas near the factory.

America's snowiest places? Weather.com lists them

Not true. Truckee comes in at #4 and that is only when limiting to places with 1,000 year round residents. If you drop down to ranger stations and small mountain villages, you wouldn't even be in the top 30 where you are. There is a ranger station at only 5500 feet in Oregon that has gotten over 600 inches in a single year.
 

AustinPowers

Total Smeghead
Jan 27, 2012
2,065
1,162
Frankfurt, Germany
Manual or automatic... It wouldn't bother me because I think the handles fit into the Tesla ethos.

Not trying to pick on you, but a remark like that from someone living in South Florida seems more than a little condescending towards all those living in areas where problems like those Luke42 described are commonplace.

I am all for Tesla's ethos per se, but when I have my car covered in ice and want/need to to open my doors asap, then I don't give a sh** about said ethos, then I just want my smegging doors to open.
 
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diamond.g

Active Member
Nov 5, 2015
2,442
1,411
Moyock, NC
It depends on where you live.l as to whether ice is a corner case. It's a corner case for Bay Area residents, for sure.

Where I live (south of Chicago), icing is a frequent event. I've lived here 8 years, and I've probably had to chip ice off of my windshield 100 times, and I've gone at least 5 days in a row where I've had to free the sliding doors on the minivan using shoulder-checks or window-frame yanks. At some point nature wins, of course, but why put the Tesla at a disadvantage?

What I'm pointing out is that all appearances suggest the flush door handles shown on the Model 3 will become unusable when coated with a very small amount of ice -- way less than what would be required to create a problem on a conventional door handle.

That's a design fail in my book.

The parts bin handles used by Toyota, Honda, Ford, et al have solved this problem by allowing you to get your hand behind the handle to give it a hellacious yank. When you do this, the ice falls off of the moving/flexing parts of the handle, and you're on to the problem of actually opening the door (which may be frozen shut around the weather stripping).

Their solution to this is boring but very effective:
http://images.hgmsites.net/lrg/2009...n-i4-auto-le-natl-door-handle_100242593_l.jpg

I hope Tesla has some sort of clever way around this problem that I haven't thought of. The obvious ones (The Model S's retracting door handles and the Model X's robot doors) look like budget busters, and having a heated door handle seems like it would cost time and kwh. I think I'd pay extra for cheap door handles like the one in the picture above.

P.S. My minivan has an electronic latch on the liftgate. It works fine in snow and ice. The switch is under the license plate overhang where its protected from ice buildup, and where you can give it a hellacious yank when you need to. Our Prius used something similar, which so.worked well. Again, it was protected from ice buildup by being underneath an overhang, and it gave you pretty leverage to yank open the door. I've never had a problem with either of these systems, but neither one has a lever which swings out through an area that's likely to be ice-encrusted a couple of dozen times a year.
The easiest and cheapest solution would be to include door poppers. It is what we used when we slammed our trucks and shaved the door handles. I think the poppers were like 20 bucks a pop retail and would force the door open after the latch was released. The only downside I see would be having the doors pop open by accident and having to manually shut them.
 

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