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Model 3 in Snow/Ice

We recently had ~6" of snow here in South Carolina which is a very unusual event. This got me thinking about my M3 LR and how it performs in the snow. I am postulating that my M3 LR is probably a lot "safer" than a regular ICE sedan in snow bc it is AWD and perhaps more importantly, you do not need to use the brakes to slow down as the car "engine brakes" aka regen braking. I experienced this this morning on some still icy roads and when I felt the car start to slip/slide. So I let off the accelerator entirely and my car came to a stop virtually immediately without use of the brakes (regen). I believe this thinking is in line with the general recommendation to NOT use your brakes in the snow/ice when sliding.

For my snowy brethren up north, what are your thoughts on this?
 
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Sophias_dad

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Tesla used to advise to turn regen to 'low' in winter because(I think) they were unconvinced as to the proper modulation of braking when regen was also involved. Now that they've removed 'low' as an option, I don't know what their advice is, or if they just automatically hogtie the regen braking if its cold outside or at the first time they see slippage with the regen.


AWD helps you get moving, and to some degree allows you to go around corners faster because all four wheels are(or can be) participating in propelling the car. On a 3/Y, I understand that the front motor is largely idle unless the rears are slipping or the accelerator is pressed pretty hard. AWD shouldn't be notably better than 2WD in slowing or stopping a car.
 
I’m up in Wisconsin and we haven’t had a lot of snow so far this winter but in my experience so far I’d say my M3 LR performance in winter weather is… fine. Actually I’d say it’s surprisingly similar to my last car which was an Acura TL type S with ultra high-performance all seasons on it.
Ultimately the tire needs a good grip with the road surface and whether deceleration happens with regen or with the brakes, the effect is the same. Don’t overdo it and you should be OK.
 
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I've owned nothing but AWD cars since 1990 (Grand Cherokees, Volvo XC70's and others). I think the M3 LR is as good as any of them in the snow, but I strongly recommend a set of winter tires, not just all season tires. And I'm a bit pissed that Tesla removed the low setting for regenerative braking. Last winter was my first one with my M3 and I took it out during a 10 inch snowfall. The first time I took my foot off the accelerator and the regenerative braking kicked in, I could feel the car begin to swerve just a bit, so I set the regenerative braking to low and the handling improved. One final word: if it's ice and not snow, stay home! No car, even with studded tires can handle ice very well, and if you hit black ice it's even worse.
 

pnwadventures

@bpr1de on Instagram
Mar 3, 2021
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You'll get a million responses here, some crazy, some dead on-point. Bottom line: for locomotion, priority is 1.) AWD, 2.) tires, and 3.) traction control system. For maneuvering and braking, priority is 1.) tires, 2.) traction control system, 3.) ABS. Note the prominence of tires in the equation.

Your AWD Tesla (of any model) has exceptional AWD & traction control. You need proper tires to complete the picture. All seasons are not winter/snow tires.

In my (significant) winter driving experience with this car in PNW driving conditions, there is no need to reduce the regenerative braking setting, provided you can be surgical with the accelerator - don't just pull your foot off suddenly when on snow/ice. The main thing is to drive appropriately for conditions: avoid combining maneuvers (don't brake and turn at the same time), decelerate gradually, and use the accelerator to regain traction

You may find Slip Start useful at times.

There are a lot of great winter/snow tires out there (snowflake-on-the-mountain rated). I've been happy with Nokians.

Tesla Model 3 AWD extreme snow conditions
More snow/ice driving
 
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Good tires are everything in snow. If you have AWD/FWD/RWD with summer tires or a worn out pair of all seasons, and there is snow, you're a danger to yourself and others on the road. For snow driving, brand new all seasons can be ok, but winter tires are really preferred. A fresh pair of snow tires in snow will feel like you're driving on dirt, even with a FWD car, the traction is insanely good.

Way too much emphasis is placed on AWD without concern for tires, and worse it lulls people into a fall sense of security. AWD will help you get going, but it doesn't help with turning, or breaking (all modern cars break with all 4 tires). Braking and turning are the most important dynamics if you want to avoid an accident.
 

tm1v2

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Oct 18, 2021
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Tires are definitely #1 for snow and ice performance. AWD is #2 and AWD systems are NOT all equal..not remotely. The Model 3 setup of dual motors with open front and rear diffs seems pretty good, better than many ICE AWD systems, not as good as the best ones (from a pure traction standpoint). Its rear bias is not ideal for snow and ice traction in my opinion, but at least in Track Mode you can adjust the power delivery balance, dial back Stability Control, and dial down regen all at the same time. I haven't driven my M3P in the snow yet but that's my plan - 50/50 power delivery (or even 60/40 front biased), Stability Assist all the way down, and regen all the way down/off. I'll play around with different settings and see what feels best to me of course.

I would normally not want Traction Control for snow and ice driving. If my right foot requests wheel spin I want the car to allow it. The one exception is with open diffs, like the Model 3 has, then TC's braking of individual wheels to limit slip is probably useful. That is all I might ever want from TC in the snow and ice though, and it's definitely inferior to having good limited slip diffs.

Real limited slip diffs can be great (and they're not at all created equal either, there are many different kinds with widely varying behavior), *but* any good ones would probably kill efficiency in an EV. The EV solution should be quad motors (per-wheel motors). Can't wait for small, sporty 4 door EVs with quad motors to become a reality.


AWD will help you get going, but it doesn't help with turning, or breaking (all modern cars break with all 4 tires). Braking and turning are the most important dynamics if you want to avoid an accident.

@ev_go123 I mostly disagree with this. AWD helps very much for changing and maintaining a car's direction in deep snow. And while AWD doesn't directly help with stopping, sometimes the added maneuverability helps to go around an obstacle without having to stop for it.

For actual stopping performance, besides the tires which are critical, the car's ABS and brake force distribution can make or break snow and ice stopping performance. My first AWD car had a terrible ABS system that kicked in way too aggressively, well before the tires all ran out of grip, and the brake balance never felt great either. Stopping distances were bad even with good tires, it couldn't put their stopping traction to use. My next AWD car had a fantastic ABS+EBD system and it was night-and-day better for braking. (It also had a much better and more advanced AWD system, and that too was very noticeably better for acceleration and turning under power.)

I haven't driven my Model 3 in the snow yet, but I've been very happy with its ABS and EBD (brake force distribution) performance in the dry and wet so far, including one complete panic stop on a highway (from full highway speed). It feels like those systems are tuned pretty well, though of course dry and wet are a far cry from the really slippery stuff, so I don't want to make any promises for snow and ice performance just yet. Hopefully next winter for me!

Tires are still the most critical aspect by far of course, but it's not an either/or thing if you care about snow performance. Snow tires, a good AWD system, and good ABS+EBD are a great combination to have. And let's not forget ground clearance. Model 3 is passable there, not great, not the worst. Some car makes get this right and maintain decent ground clearance in their sporty AWD cars (e.g. Subaru), and some do not (e.g. Audi). I'm actually tempted to lift my M3P slightly when I put my coilovers on, at least to M3LR height, and maybe slightly higher.
 

israndy

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Mar 31, 2016
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I'm actually tempted to lift my M3P slightly when I put my coilovers on, at least to M3LR height, and maybe slightly higher.

I have a Jeep and it came with some little pieces of metal hooked into the coil suspension that raised the car a bit, the previous owner towed a boat I guess they helped, I took them out and got better ride characteristics. I wonder if something like that is available for the Tesla M3 as it really doesn't have good snow clearance.

I do have snow tires on my original 18" rims, in the summer I have 19" rims with more efficient tires. I have chains too, incase I need them, as mine is the LR RWD original TM3. Even w/o AWD I have always been impressed with the cars ability to slow the tire spin when going up a hill on dirt or something, but I have had less success climbing my cabin driveway in snowy conditions with the M3 than I have with the Jeep using just beater All Seasons.

I'll have to play with the Slip Start function when we get snow again.
 

tm1v2

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Oct 18, 2021
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Btw the Model Y's "Off-Road Assist" sounds just right for snow driving. That option doesn't seem to exist in the 3 though, at least I haven't found it.

I bought an M3P primarily to get Track Mode, and snow driving is one of the situations I want Track Mode for. I don't think I would be happy with the Model 3's normal behavior in the snow (too much SC and TC intervention, too much rear bias in the power delivery). But one shouldn't have to buy the M3P just to get good snow behavior. The idea that only a CUV/SUV should get a snow-friendly driving mode seems painfully American...
 
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Here's my thoughts after driving a M3P this winter. We get severe winters, lots of snow, lots of ice. I have X-Ice tires. As others have said, there is nothing more important than tires. I am very happy with the X-Ice.

As far as traction, I don't really love how the Model 3 handles snow. The front motor won't kick in until it feels the rear slip. In moderate snow, that's annoying and not ideal. It delays the initial movement and is not as good as some of the other AWD cars I have owned. It is not a deal breaker by any means though. On the even more pedantic side, the Model 3 is heavy-handed with the brakes to stop the tires from spinning at all because of course it has an open differential so it kind of has to, but the ABS system is quite loud and makes a lot of clicks and pops. It works well enough, but is loud and doesn't feel premium at all.

As far as braking, your initial assumption of regen braking being better is unfortunately misguided. My car is a 2021 and never had the limited regen option so I can't say how it would be, but the Model 3 on slippery roads is unstable since it only regens on the rear axle. The rear can lock up a bit and cause the car to want to spin around. The car does catch this, but it is unnerving. As has been said, you can counter this by not letting off the accelerator suddenly on slippery roads, but it seems slow to react to the rear axle losing traction. I wish there was some regen on the front to balance it out, but there is not under normal driving anyway.

The car is also quite low, so it does plow the streets a lot.

It's a good car in the snow but not a great car. If there was a Snow Mode you could enable which would use the front axle more for accel/decel I think that would help a lot. When the back end gets squirrley under deceleration it is not a great feeling and if you were ever in a panic situation the first thing you would instinctively do would be to take your foot off the accelerator which would mean maximum regen on the rear and therefore instability.
 
you do not need to use the brakes to slow down as the car "engine brakes" aka regen braking
I'm not an engineer, but I don't think the interaction between the tires and the snow care why the wheels are suddenly slowing. In other words, the slowing by mechanical brakes or by motor resistance from regeneration results in the same potential disruption of the contact with a skid or swerve possible. So try to avoid abrupt slowing by regenerative and mechanical means. This disruption occurs in a stick shift ICE car with every shift, to some estent.
Please correct me (politely) if I am wrong.
 

tm1v2

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I'm not an engineer, but I don't think the interaction between the tires and the snow care why the wheels are suddenly slowing. In other words, the slowing by mechanical brakes or by motor resistance from regeneration results in the same potential disruption of the contact with a skid or swerve possible. So try to avoid abrupt slowing by regenerative and mechanical means. This disruption occurs in a stick shift ICE car with every shift, to some estent.
Please correct me (politely) if I am wrong.
Regen is different because the balance is different. On the 3 and Y regen is mostly or entirely done with the rear motor, even on dual motor cars. Very different from typical brake force distribution.

I believe Tesla implemented regen that way because the permanent magnet motor is more efficient and can pretty much bring the car to a stop with regen, unlike the induction motor. Most of the time that's all good, but it would be nice if a snow mode included regen with front/rear balancing like the mechanical brakes.
 

tm1v2

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Oct 18, 2021
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...which is basically the same issue as the car's normal power delivery split, which is heavily rear biased I assume for efficiency as well.

My armchair not-at-all-an-expert opinion is Tesla made a great choice with the permanent magnet rear and induction front motor pairing in these cars. The induction motor can effectively "idle" without drag, and just contribute when needed, while the permanent magnet motor does most of the basic driving work for maximum efficiency. And putting that permanent magnet motor in the rear gave us the car's playful RWD-feeling dynamics.

But when traction is really limited in the snow and ice, "playful" and "easy to rotate" can become more problematic than helpful. Since the torque and regen split are completely software controlled, in theory Tesla could give us a snow mode that sacrifices just a bit of efficiency for maximum use of limited traction, without the other tradeoffs that come from typical ICE AWD center diffs and couplers.

Track Mode with the right settings is pretty much that (except for regen it can only adjust the amount, not the bias, so in the snow you basically have to forgo regen), and it sounds like the Y's Off-Road Mode is also pretty much right for snow & ice. But that leaves regular Model 3 cars out in the cold. :(

Even in an M3P I'd probably rather use a snow-focused mode if one existed, than Track Mode with its peculiarities. (Can only enter it while in Park, and while you're in it the cooling system immediately goes into overdrive, probably the opposite of what you actually want in an EV in a freezing snowstorm.)
 
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Good tires are everything in snow. If you have AWD/FWD/RWD with summer tires or a worn out pair of all seasons, and there is snow, you're a danger to yourself and others on the road. For snow driving, brand new all seasons can be ok, but winter tires are really preferred. A fresh pair of snow tires in snow will feel like you're driving on dirt, even with a FWD car, the traction is insanely good.

Way too much emphasis is placed on AWD without concern for tires, and worse it lulls people into a fall sense of security. AWD will help you get going, but it doesn't help with turning, or breaking (all modern cars break with all 4 tires). Braking and turning are the most important dynamics if you want to avoid an accident.
This^^^ I wish I could "like" this twice. AWD may help keep you from getting stuck but will do very little for braking or turning.

My last car was AWD and was shod with Nokian Hakkapeliitta's. Awesome in the snow. The Finns know a little bit about winter driving. I have not yet purchased winter tires for my M3 SR+. My wife and I are now fully retired so if it gets bad we can just stay home. We have had very little snow this year so far so I may change my mind yet.
 
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The dual motor cars are not as rear-biased as they were last winter. I looked at ScanMyTesla while driving on snow and ice. Once the car detects slipping at the back, it starts using the front motor more than before. It gets used in regen and in acceleration, even in gentle actions (as opposed to just in hard acceleration like before). Eventually if the car doesn't detect slipping for a little while it will revert to a rear bias for efficiency.

As for the back sliding under regen... the only way for the software to find the traction limit is to go over the limit. Therefore, the tires will lock for a fraction of a second. Regen will lower quickly and the stability system will take over and ensure you don't spin out but you need to get used to it. The car will constantly try to raise the regen so it will hit that limit again. It's the only way to constantly be around the traction limit.

The car is still very "careful", preferring to brake all the time when trying to corner. It has a very understeering behavior which I don't personally like, but might feel safer for others.
"Slip Start" behavior also seems to have changed. This year it allows a bit more rotation of the car. Instead of just lowering the traction control activity, it seems to relax stability control a bit. I prefer to drive on snow and ice using that mode. Now, this might not be good for people that already feel nervous of the back slipping under normal conditions because of regen.
 

coleAK

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Oct 23, 2018
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I’m in Alaska, 4th winter with the LR AWD 3. 8th winter with Teslas. This winter came early, and we don’t salt the roads. My tires haven’t touched asphalt much since early October, been almost all snow/ice covered.

Tires are the #1 factor in traction for winter driving, period.

As for Regen. I put the car in Regen low and acceleration to “chill” when I switch to my winter tires (Hakka 9’s) in October and leave it in low until I take them off in ~May. I notice almost no difference in Wh/mi and regen will put the car into a straight slide vs controlled slide of ABS.

Compared to our other current cars. The 3 does well in the winter. Not quite as good as our Subaru Legacy or MB e 4Matic, better then the LX570. It’s Weight and somewhat wonky drivetrain/stability management software (front motor sometimes kicks in late) are why our other cars are slightly more stable/easier to drive.
 

Sophias_dad

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Lets not forget the OP is in South Carolina. Unless they are driving to the mountains, (s)he probably sees snow once a year and the entire state shuts down for it.

I'm sure in OP's position I'd stick with good performance all seasons and avoid the hassle of storage/switchover of winter/summer tires.
 

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