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Winter with a Tesla

It’s the time of year when this forum starts to get new winter related posts. Thankfully there is already a wealth of information in the forum.
We’ll take it as read that few people read the manual and the advice it contains for cold weather.
Let’s start with probably the most common query as temperatures drop -

Where did my miles go?
Put very simply, batteries don’t like the cold. They like to work at an optimum temperature and your car will do all it can to keep them at this temperature. That means it will use some of the energy in your battery to heat them up and to keep them warm. This obviously uses more energy than in summer when the ambient temperature is higher. It also takes a wee bit of time to get the batteries warm so they will be less efficient before they come up to temperature. You’ll also lose more energy when charging in winter as the batteries have usually got to heat up to charge as efficiently as possible. If you are heading to a Supercharger the car will automatically preheat the battery during your drive. This can seem to be a bit variable, but depends on a host of factors such as outside temp, battery temp, distance etc. Even if you are not heading to a supercharger to charge, you can trick the car into pre-heating by selecting a supercharger as the destination in the navigation. The car should start to preheat and when you arrive at your non-supercharger charger the battery will charge faster due to it being a bit warmer.

Keep an eye out for the snowflake icon on the screen. this indicates that the battery is cold and the car has reserved some of the capacity. You’ll probably notice it when your battery capacity or miles remaining jumps up. This is the car releasing the reserved capacity now that the battery is warm.

Aside from batteries there is at least one other component that likes to stay warm - the driver and possibly passengers. If it’s cold outside more energy will be needed to heat the cabin and therefore there will be less available to drive the wheels. This also applies when you’re sitting in the car while charging.

Also the weather can have an impact on your efficiency too. While in the UK & I we can get heavy rain in the summer, it is much more common in winter and is therefore more noticeable. Thankfully Tesla have started to incorporate the weather in trip range calculations, but I’m not sure it will accommodate the 4 seasons in one day we get here.

What does all this mumbo jumbo mean to you? It means that you will get less range with your car than you did in the summer. There are lots of threads that delve into this deeper if you want to understand how it impacts you.

Incidentally ICE cars are impacted by cold weather as well. They are just so inefficient that the loss due to the cold is less obvious and a lot of the waste is heat which can be quite useful at this time of year.

What Tyres?
As the weather starts to deteriorate people’s thoughts will start to drift (no pun intended) to the best tyres for winter use. If you can afford them and can be bothered with changing them, then winter tyres offer the best performance in sub 7C temperatures. Nowadays though you also have very good all season tyres. Again plenty of threads that deal with the pros and cons of each type and what size is needed for various Tesla models. Just don’t make the mistake this driver did by thinking that AWD makes your car invincible.

Your tyre pressures will also be affected by the cold weather. Pressure drops by about 1-2psi for every 10C drop in air temperature. Therefore if you pumped your tyres up in the summer, by the time winter comes - and don’t forget those cold autumnal mornings - you could see quite a substantial drop in your tyre pressures. It is also not uncommon for each tyre to have different temperatures especially first thing in the morning. I often see this when one side of the car has been heated by the sun and the other is in shade. I’ve even seen just one tyre heated by the sun and the rest at a much lower pressure. Keep an eye on them and follow best practice for winter use.

Windscreen washer
The size of the fluid reservoir can be found in the manual. What you put in it has already been discussed and this is largely a matter of personal choice. What you used in your last car will likely work in your Tesla, it ain’t that special.

Ice, ice baby
Frosty mornings also bring frozen windows, doors, charging ports etc. There are some precautions you can take to mitigate the impact of these, but there are also some good threads in the forum about what can go wrong and how to get in your car if something is frozen.

Cold windows can sometimes lead to condensation on the inside and occasionally ’steam/smoke’ when charging. It’s not unusual for the tail lights in particular to be affected. Lots of posts about what Tesla consider to be ‘within spec’ for this.

You may also hear your car making more noises than usual. This is likely the heat pump moving heat around the car and battery. It’s even mentioned in the manual along with some sample sounds.

If you have an LR or Performance you’ll have 4 wheel drive, but that doesn’t mean you can drive like Hannu Mikkola in snow and ice. Without decent tyres, see above, you’ll just slide in a potentially expensive manner. A RWD car with winter/All season tyres will out perform an AWD car with summer tyres in these conditions.

If you have any other links to existing threads then please post them. Most of all, use the search function, it's not our first winter :)

49588601437_2eacee773a_b.jpg

"Tesla Model 3 Bola B16" by Bola Wheels is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.
(Note: Above Image added by TMC admin)
 

Adopado

Well-Known Member
Aug 19, 2019
6,552
5,078
Scotland
For newer owners I would just make the general comment that Teslas are great in the winter! The ability to warm your car before even leaving the house is a delight on a cold winter morning! (And the car doesn't need to sit on your drive spewing fumes for your neighbours to "enjoy"!) The cars are well balanced compared with many ICE vehicles. Traction control is well tuned and when combined with plenty of weight on the driving wheels normally gives a reassuring ride. For those who choose to go the whole hog and get winter tyres they are quite a revelation! My SR+ is only driving the rear wheels of course but there are proper 4x4 trucks which are struggling in conditions where I can calmly drive around (if the trucks are not on winters). The info in the OP by @init6 gives you the low-down on how the cold will affect range and general battery performance ... it is what it is ... you are forewarned ... and there's really no need to worry! (Hey, I don't even have an efficient heat-pump car ... or the bigger batteries in the LFP RWD or the LR/Performance models ... and this will be my 4th winter in a Model 3 yet it's no problem at all.)
 

Adopado

Well-Known Member
Aug 19, 2019
6,552
5,078
Scotland
I'll just add in a mention of door handles (Model 3 and Y). In some less common scenarios it is possible for the car to have been soaked by rain followed by a sudden freeze. The flush door handles live in a little "bucket" that can end up freezing. I recommend a squirt of WD40 in the pivot area (in advance ... only a couple of times per winter season). This greatly reduces the likelihood of the handle getting stuck. You can give the fatter end of the handle a very firm thump with the heel of your hand if necessary. We have recently been given a new facility via software update that allows you to unlatch the driver's door without even having to move the handle (using the app) so this could be another solution. (I've not had to use this new action in the frozen handle scenario but it certainly unlatches the door successfully.)
 
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MrBadger

Badger out
Jun 17, 2019
9,595
7,222
Surrey, UK
And as with any car that has a frameless door, if the glass freezes over it can make the window unable to drop to open. But you can preheat the car to avoid this and it generally only takes a few minutes to melt the ice enough that the window will drop.

I've owned various cars (at least 3 off top of my head) with frameless doors for over 35 years and I can honestly say that I have never had issues with them in the same way that our Tesla struggles. Maybe its that it needs to drop the windows before opening, so freezing along the top of the of the door/bottom of the window is an additional issue (and needs far more than a few minutes to clear), but its not the same as any car that has frameless doors. With all of mine, winter was a non event (ie same as any other framed door car door) opening wise.
 
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Adopado

Well-Known Member
Aug 19, 2019
6,552
5,078
Scotland
I've owned various cars (at least 3 off top of my head) with frameless doors for over 35 years and I can honestly say that I have never had issues with them in the same way that our Tesla struggles. Maybe its that it needs to drop the windows before opening, so freezing along the top of the of the door/bottom of the window is an additional issue (and needs far more than a few minutes to clear), but its not the same as any car that has frameless doors. With all of mine, winter was a non event (ie same as any other framed door car door) opening wise.
I thought all frameless cars dropped their windows to allow the door to open? I had an early BMW Mini that did ... and oh my goodness, it certainly suffered in the winter!
 
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And as with any car that has a frameless door, if the glass freezes over it can make the window unable to drop to open. But you can preheat the car to avoid this and it generally only takes a few minutes to melt the ice enough that the window will drop.
On a previous car where this was an issue, I found a recommendation to coat the rubber with a product called “gummi pflege” and it worked quite well, although I’ve not really needed it on the M3 as I preheat the car as well.
 
I have a single trip to a ski resort in the alps this winter and am really wondering if I should be forking out £1000 for changing my brand new OEM (summer) tyres with winter ones. Used to have M+S Crossclimate before so never really wondered before... I have a pair of snow socks in the frunk so I'm compliant with the law but the problem with those is that you shouldn't put them on if there's still a bit of tarmac, and when there is already a thin layer of snow and you forgot to stop to put them on, well, it's already too late....

I'm also wondering when to switch on the toggle 'Off-road assist' on the Model Y if the road is moderately slushy... The manual is not abundantly clear on that (Model Y Owner's Manual | Tesla)
 
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I would make sure that, your correct for all the countries that you are driving through.
I know Germany you are required to fit winter tyre's, between the 1st of November and 31st of March, regardless of weather,
I believe that's incorrect. In Germany fitting your car with winter tyres depends on the weather and is not limited to a certain period of time.
Full source: Winter tyres

France has a regulation for between 1st November and 31st March, but having snow chains in the boot is sufficient.
 

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