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Winter Driver: Extremely hazardous

Discussion in 'Model S: Driving Dynamics' started by smuseby, Feb 22, 2019.

  1. smuseby

    smuseby Member

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    Last week, I drove from the SF Bay Area to Lake Tahoe. Above 5000 feet, it was snowing (heavy flurries), snow on the surface, temperature 29-31F, on a two lane highway (US50).
    We stopped for 2 hours while an avalanche was cleared, and then resumed travel in the dark. Soon, the road was barely visible through our iced windshield, with occasional white-outs from blown snow. I was reluctant to scrape the windshield due to concerns that I would be hit by a sliding vehicle, but when I was able to scrape it, it quickly frosted again.
    While the traction was superb, there are serious Model S winter driving shortcomings:
    • The front windshield defroster is grossly underpowered, inadequate to keep ice from forming, and it was barely freezing
    • There are no heaters at the base of the windshield to keep the wiper blades from freezing
    • There are no heaters to keep the windshield spray nozzles free of ice
    • There is no wiper blade or spray nozzle to clear the rear windshield
    • There is no spray nozzle to clear the rear camera
    • Because I was unclear as to the meaning of the blue vs orange indicator on the front windshield defroster, I discovered there is no Tesla User Manual when there is no cell service
    • Without internet access, when I attempted to tune into an AM station for road conditions, I discovered that there is no AM radio
    I drove slowly, peering through 2 to 3 inch gaps in the frozen windshield. When we finally arrived at Lake Tahoe, I spoke with a Model X driver at a super charger who reported a similar issues. It was an absolutely terrifying experience which we survived. With a couple of exceptions, I would expect these features on any modern automobile, and certainly all of them on a car costing $100,000.
     
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  2. Peteski

    Peteski Active Member

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    I presume this one didn't have the winter "sub-zero" pack which includes, among other things, wiper blade defrosters and water nozzle heaters.
     
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  3. smuseby

    smuseby Member

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    Correct - I didn't purchase that package. However, 29F is nowhere near 'sub-zero'.
     
  4. Kuhz

    Kuhz Active Member

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    You had instant ice forming on the windshield in 29 degree weather?
     
  5. smuseby

    smuseby Member

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    I did - and so did the Model X.
    When I placed my hand at the base of the windshield, the defrost air was barely warm - entirely ineffective. I set the defroster on both the orange and blue settings, with no discernible difference.We also experimented with manual settings: max fan, upper vents only. Nothing worked.
     
  6. Peteski

    Peteski Active Member

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    So you decided to use the car for a ski trip, but didn't think it was worth purchasing the sub-zero pack, and then you complain about the wipers and nozzles freezing up? What you are really pointing out here is the obvious that anyone intending to use their Tesla in wintery conditions ought to get the sub-zero pack - which is now standard on new models.
     
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  7. smuseby

    smuseby Member

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    Well - two thoughts pop to mind:
    - sub zero is about 30 degrees below where I was, so I suppose as with the 'auto pilot' nomenclature, the labels are at best meaningless, and
    - every car I have ever owned had a defroster that worked, an am radio, and a user manual 24/7; more recently, they have all had heaters for the wiper blades and nozzles.
    I don't recall the cost of the sub-zero package, but I believe it was expensive and included heaters for the rear seats.
    By the way, I'm a huge Tesla fan. After owning this car for a year, I was shocked and disappointed to discover these deficiencies. I attribute the fact that all the items on my list are not standard equipment/performers to the car being in beta development.
    I was motivated to post my experience as a heads-up to others (and Tesla engineering???). I'm pleased to hear that the standard package now includes wiper and nozzle heaters, but those are only two items on my list.
     
  8. JzCastle

    JzCastle Member

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    Sorry to burst your buble and being a bit harsh here but this is mostly user error/s.

    We have 4 months of winter here in Finland and my Model S has been the best winter car I have ever had. No, I don't even have the winter pack in my 2017 S75D. The last two months it's been pretty much constantly below 20F and even down to -13F so I do know what I am talking about.

    • The front windshield defroster is grossly underpowered, inadequate to keep ice from forming, and it was barely freezing.
    Never seen this, even below -10F. You just sometimes need to manually adjust the AC to blow air to the front window. Turn inside aircirculation off and AC on.

    • There are no heaters at the base of the windshield to keep the wiper blades from freezing
    Sure, this happens sometimes but you need to manually clean the wipers before you drive. Affects many other cars than Tesla. As long as your washer fluid is filled with antifreeze and not only water, it will keep the wipers also clean or at least almost clean but totally operational.
    • There are no heaters to keep the windshield spray nozzles free of ice
    There is no need as long as you have antifreeze in your washer fluid. They will be clean and do not freeze.
    • There is no wiper blade or spray nozzle to clear the rear windshield
    There is no need for this. You manually clean the window before you drive and/or/either use the rear window heater. It will keep it clean, no problems with this.
    • There is no spray nozzle to clear the rear camera
    This one I agree to, it would be nice. But I manually clean it if needed.
    • Because I was unclear as to the meaning of the blue vs orange indicator on the front windshield defroster, I discovered there is no Tesla User Manual when there is no cell service
    Double click on the front window button and it will blow everything on 11 to the front window and turn the heat to maximum.

    I should add that sometimes you indeed have to use manual AC settings and turn on the outside aircirculation but otherwise I have had not problems with my Model S during winter months.

    Again, sorry you had troubles but I strongly disagree with your statement that Tesla has serious shortcomings or that its a terrible winter car.
     
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  9. SSedan

    SSedan Active Member

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    The defroster set to the second click "orange" works great for me near Green Bay, we will see true sub-zero in the coming days, saw -26f actual temp a month ago. Maybe your messing with all the settings you set it wrong.

    Far as crying about the meaning of sub-zero, let's just presume being a global company they were speaking in C not F
    Tesla is not responsible for your poor choices, cheapness, impatience and lack of basic reasoning skills in deciphering the blue vs red defrost settings, and crappy driving weather.
     
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  10. Ande

    Ande Member

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    So you did not get the winter package.
    In Norway we often drive in -10...30°c , having no such issues.
    Wiper fluid need to contain enough alcohol.
    Rear camera, with entire rear will be covered with 1..4cm snow in most snowy conditions anyway, and people can back up using side mirrors.
     
  11. dark cloud

    dark cloud Active Member

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    I would add sometimes driving in wintery conditions you don't want to heat up the windshield which causes the snow to melt and stick; you are better off keeping it cold and all the snow blows over it, no wipers required.

    However if you heat the cabin up to toasty temperatures of course it is just a matter of time before the windshield warms, the snow melts on it, and then driving at highway speeds with the wind chill factor causes this to freeze, where even if one has the windshield wiper heater it cannot overcome the windchill of -30 Celsius; you gotta pull over and clear the ice from the wipers.

    And yes I wish they would have contained the rear camera with a cover that only opened when you engaged reverse; then it would keep clean.
     
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  12. Corsair

    Corsair Member

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    I usually pull over and get my kids to clean it every 50 km or so :p

    But applying RainX on the rear cam lens does help a bit.
     
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  13. Incredulocious

    Incredulocious LEAF → RAV4EV → Model 3 → Model Y

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    Are you aware that the type of windshield fluid available for sale in the Bay Area and other low elevations in California (and provided with new vehicles) is not capable of preventing freeze-up when traveling in the more extreme environment of the mountains in California?

    From CARB’s web site: Freezing Temperatures: Selecting Effective Windshield Washer Fluid :
    You can buy working anti-freeze windshield fluid from stores in the Tahoe area (as I do) or, I believe, online.
     
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  14. Incredulocious

    Incredulocious LEAF → RAV4EV → Model 3 → Model Y

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    #14 Incredulocious, Feb 23, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
    Also, I posted recently about the higher power defrost mode in the Model 3 but I don’t know if this applies to the Model S and X – this is from my recent experience in the Tahoe/Truckee area during the same recent storms as well:

    (The “long night” I refer to was the many hours spent trying different routes to get from the west side of Lake Tahoe to the north side in the midst of multiple road closures, accidents, whiteout conditions and heavy snow. But at least the windshield was clear!)
     
  15. RDoc

    RDoc S85D

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    The defroster certainly isn't great, but your description sounds well beyond that. If that's the best it can do, make a service appointment, that's not right.

    As others have said, you need antifreeze windshield fluid.

    The rear camera is a complete crock. If there's any rain, salt, slush it is pretty much instantly obscured.
     
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  16. R8M3MS

    R8M3MS Member

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    While I have only had my Model S for 1 month (a late 2016 90D without subzero package) I have put almost 2500 miles on it driving exclusively in winter conditions up and down the mountains through several major storms here in Montana (drive at least every week between Billings and Big Sky). Temperature has never been above 40F and has been as low as -25F (air temp not wind chill). The Model S has been an exceptional winter driver. Heater and windshield defroster and back window defroster have worked great. I only wish I had flushed out the poor quality windshield washer as this was a used California car so that does freeze up. But ice on the windshield with the defroster on the RED mode means something is wrong with your car. Traction control is also excellent. I am driving on new Michelin X-ice tires.
     
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  17. Peteski

    Peteski Active Member

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    Sub-zero is just a fancy name for a winter pack, which most other cars have as an optional extra too. Even in the relatively mild UK winters I find these extras worth having and they certainly would have helped your situation here.

    Not saying it would have solved all your issues, but I would be wary of taking any car without a winter pack to a freezing ski resort.
     
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  18. ucmndd

    ucmndd Well-Known Member

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    About eleventy thousand Bay Area pleasure seekers with no understanding, experience, or preparation for driving in the mountains in historically heavy snow last weekend prompted the CA Highway Patrol to post things like this:

    BDE9257A-9F96-411C-94C1-547B86551CA0.png

    B3A940F5-8962-4524-8EAB-1C6C3E71C1E2.png

    Be prepared. Know how your car works. Don’t skip out on the $1500 cold weather package on your $100k car if you actually expect to use it in cold weather and heavy snow.

    I’ve never experienced the issues you describe with the defroster, even without the cold weather package.
     
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  19. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    My former S and current X have been fine for the 7 Canadian winters I've been driving them except for one annoyance: The wipers cannot be lifted and left elevated from the glass to prevent freezing and to facilitate cleaning out the gap where the normally sit between the hood and glass. I know there are many articles/posts saying don't do this, but I call BS on that. It is very common to see and I had been doing so for over 40 years with no problem.
    standing-up-wipers.jpg
     
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  20. smuseby

    smuseby Member

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    Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful replies. Below are a few more details:
    • I've been driving in ice and snow for about 50 years, having lived in New Hampshire, Connecticut and owning a house in Tahoe for 30 years. The traction on the Tesla was great - nothing but praise there. My issues were all related to poor visibility and no access to the user manual and AM radio
    • I traveled to Tahoe on last Thursday, before all the CHP messages above. As for I80, it was closed for 24 hours.
    • I use -15F window washer fluid. The issue was that the nozzles were iced up.
    • The gap between the windshield and hood was solid ice - not packed snow, ice. The wiper blades were covered with ice and entirely ineffective. I couldn't pull to the side of the road because not only is it two lanes, the shoulder was covered with mounds of snow, not to mention cars with crappy tires and incompetent drivers: pulling over was dangerous.
    • IMO, covering the camera wouldn't help - a little squirt of washer fluid would eliminate foggy and wash of road crud. I wanted to know what was happening behind me - the road is full of tailgating idiots, and I pull over to let them pass.
    • I'm glad Tesla now includes some of the features as standard. Not living in Minnesota or Finland, the sub-zero package struck me as overkill for California and the occasional trip to the mountains. The snow storm last week was very unusual.
    Am I the only person who finds the lack of the owners manual in local memory, and no AM radio a serious issue? We were stopped for 2 hours, and moving slowly for another 90 minutes. For most of that time, we had no idea what the conditions were - access to the emergency AM radio station could have been helpful. Why would any company make cars without AM radios? Pretty basic feature. Same thinking for the users manual. During this memorable trip, I was entirely focused trying to drive with visibility through little peepholes on the windshield, while I was trying to get my wife (who is a little fumbly when it comes to computers) to work the heater and radio. It was not a great spousal moment.
     

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