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How to winter-proof your Tesla so you don’t end up like these TikTok influencers

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Tips for a better electric experience in the cold

A snowy blizzard is coming down and a Tesla rear wheel and rear door can be seen through a layer of snow sliding off
Tesla Model 3 trying to break through the blizzard
Image: Umar Shakir / The Verge

Online influencers have been vital to the success of many products on the market today, none more so than Tesla. Online creators are fond of showing off the car and its features, which helped spur Elon Musk into the spotlight as our first influencer CEO. But now that it’s wintertime, some influencers are noticing their Teslas aren’t faring that well in icy conditions.

One of the first things people notice about electric cars is how quiet they are due to the lack of a combustion engine. But in a TikTok trend titled “Things I hate about my Tesla” user Tesla Flex shared how it’s hard to clean ice off the front of the car since there is no heat energy coming from under the hood.

Another Tesla influencer who goes by Jay Fay on TikTok also expressed frustration about cleaning the hood and headlights, as well as the wheel wells, which build up ice from lack of heat energy waste.

@tesla.flex

The plaid handles so well in the snow it’s so fun to drift #tesla #modelsplaid #teslatok #fyp

♬ Mii! - VooDoo

Frameless windows on cars like some Subarus and BMWs can stick easier in wintery weather since many of them need to retract when opening — and it’s no different in a Tesla.

Kristen Netten, a Tesla influencer, posted a timelapse video on Twitter about how preconditioning the car from the app can take some of the cleaning stress away. Unfortunately, the same feature does not help with the freezing of the flush door handles of all Tesla models — as demonstrated by Tesla Lord on TikTok.

Cars not properly equipped for the winter can have trouble climbing snowy hills, and HolaSeattle on TikTok shared how the Model Y is unable to make it up a steep street. It isn’t clear whether the car was outfitted with winter tires, but that would certainly be a prerequisite to make it up a road like that.

This is a closeup of the backside of a passenger side view mirror, which is folded and has ice around the joints. An ice scraper is being used to break it.
Unlocking the car was met with terrible motor noises as the mirrors failed to unfold. Remember to keep them unfolded or else start bashing some ice.
Photo by Umar Shakir / The Verge

In my first two years of owning a Model 3, I didn’t have any issues in the cold — but that’s because my apartment had underground parking. After that, I learned a thing or two about how to treat a Tesla in the cold.

Here are some tips to reduce the pain of owning a Tesla in places not called California:

Set your mirrors to not auto-fold when locked. I like that the car by default folds the side-view mirrors when parking. It keeps it safer from people knocking into them and also provides a good indication of the car being locked. The problem in the winter is that it can freeze up and that requires some risky ice-breaking with a scraper. The mirrors themselves have heaters, but it would have been nice if the joints did as well. So disable the “auto-fold when locked” setting.

Two cars are parked in a white snowscape with a forest backdrop and snow has built up on the hood of the Tesla
Don’t let snow build up on the Model 3’s hood. Same goes for the Focus Electric in the back... it won’t melt itself off.
Photo by Umar Shakir / The Verge

Periodically brush off the snow from the headlights and hood throughout the snowfall. There’s no engine-wasting thermal heat, but that means the hood and headlights will just become an ice sheet, affecting visibility in the dark and preventing access to the frunk. Avoid this by periodically brushing the headlights and hood off. And please, avoid using a metal shovel.

These are not quite winter tires, but the Michelin CrossClimate 2s are working well for me in the snow.
Photo by Umar Shakir / The Verge

Get a set of winter tires. Having winter tires on a rear-wheel drive Tesla like mine gives you better control in the snow than an all-wheel drive Tesla without winter tires. It’s easier to have two sets of rims with summer and dedicated winter tires (like the Michelin X-Ice or Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3) pre-mounted and balanced so that you could swap the wheels yourself when the season changes.

Depending on your needs, you could also opt for all-season tires. Some can be good for summery temperatures like the Michelin Pilot Sport AS, and some can be okay in light winter conditions like the Continental ExtremeContact. I personally have the Michelin CrossClimate 2’s mounted on original 18-inch Aero rims right now. But be aware that many outlets like Costco no longer install them on Teslas due to a speed rating change. (Please do your own research before going this route; your tire warranty may be invalidated.)

By the way, if you have a performance Model 3 or Model Y, you may have summer tires on them. Please change them if you’re in a cold climate (although it seems Tesla is now shipping them with all-season tires).

Set the wipers in service mode before snowfall. It’s common practice to flip up your wipers before it snows, but it’s easy to forget about the wipers in a Tesla since they hide in the hood.

This is a closeup of the charge port door of a Model 3, with the Tesla T logo lighting up green and a J1772 plus Tesla adapter plugged in. There is snow and ice stuck around the whole port and door.
While charging, the port actually stays a bit warm. But you should still clear the ice on the charge port door and the frame before unplugging and closing.
Photo by Umar Shakir / The Verge

Keep the car plugged in and schedule preconditioning / charging. When Teslas are plugged in and charged up, they use AC power to preheat the car and battery — which can melt snow off the glass, pre-condition the motor, and give you better range with a warmer battery. If you schedule both the departure time and the charging time (via the Tesla app), you can automatically preheat the car before you leave and also time it to run in the tail end so that the plug will be warmer and less likely to be frozen in the port.

Be patient when opening and closing doors. After you precondition your car (and the app notifies you that it’s at the desired temperature), the windows should no longer be stuck to the rubber seals of the door, making it safe to open since it needs to retract a bit. The handles are not warmed, so carefully knock ice off of it and press into the handle pivot with your thumbs until it pops out. Try to clear the crevices of the handle so it doesn’t immediately get stuck again.

Use Summon to roll your Tesla out of a snow fort. I added this in because I did this recently: After shoveling my driveway, I knocked a whole lot of snow off the Tesla and wanted to clean that up. The handles and doors were still frozen, so I summoned the car to drive over the snow fort… then shoveled it out the way without risking a scratch to the car. In the motion, it also dropped more snow off.

And last, but certainly not least: Set the right expectations about range since a cold battery is likely to lose some of its charge. Yes, doing the math is best (calculating how many watt-hours per mile the car is averaging and dividing that by your battery pack size) but the car does that for you on the fly. The issue is the car won’t immediately know at the start of the drive how many highway miles it will get in below-freezing temperatures. Even though you might see a range on your car that’s close to or above 300 miles, expect it to be more like 240 miles (in my experience) when driving over 65mph.

It gets worse the colder it gets: in a 700-mile trip I took from Baltimore to Chicago in December 2018, my Model 3 was averaging 450 Wh per mile in a cold 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.4 degrees Celsius) stretch to just outside Pittsburgh, making the effective range 167 miles (75kWh battery in my 2018 Model 3 Long Range) and added an extra charge stop to the trip.

Electric cars are finally breaking out of the niche vehicle market as more people realize the benefits and share their experiences online. Influencers love to promote their trendy lifestyles and purchases to millions of people, so it was only a matter of time before they chose electric cars like Teslas. Hopefully these tips will save current and future owners — and influencers — from new-car frostbite when going all-electric.