We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Tesla Winter Driving Features You Need to Know About

Pre-heat that steering wheel.

Tesla driving in the winter snow.

If you just bought a new Tesla and are experiencing your first winter, you’re probably wondering how cold weather affects electric cars. Thankfully, Tesla has several neat cold-weather features you’ll want to check out and use.

Tesla vehicles actually have all sorts of technology inside and out. Many of which set it apart from the competition. One is the “cold weather mode,” also known as the Tesla subzero weather package. And on models without this, Tesla still provides numerous features to handle the elements.

So, why is this important? Well, you can do several things, from warming the car, defrosting frozen door handles, or preparing the battery for fast charging when it’s freezing cold. Here are some of the many Tesla winter driving features you need to know about.

Tesla Cold Weather Package

Two Tesla cars driving in the winter.

Tesla’s cold weather or subzero weather package varies a bit from model to model, and it has changed over time as new features arrive on different cars. Some include heated seats, heated wiper blades, and other adjustments.

If you have a Model S or X after 2017, it likely already has the cold weather package or got it from an OTA software update. Model 3 and Y vehicles may have some of these options, but not all. On a cold wintery morning, you’ll enjoy heated seats and steering wheel, heated wiper blades, remote start, and the car can defrost the windshield or side mirrors. Those are just a few of the many potential features of the vehicle. You’ll want to check your owner’s manual or software suite for more details.

This package also includes additional climate options and takes advantage of countless other weather-related things for the battery, charging, charge port, and more.

Scheduled Departure Mode

Tesla car and app open while charging.

As temperatures dip, your electric vehicle’s range will drop slightly, and it’ll take longer to recharge. And while this isn’t nearly as big of a deal as some EV-haters make it out to be, it’s still something owners will want to consider.

Lower temperatures will decrease your range, but heating the interior cabin or turning on heated seats will use the battery, thus lowering the range. Thankfully, Tesla offers all sorts of schedule departure options in its mobile app.

With the scheduled departure, owners can set a timer for when they plan to leave. This is especially helpful in the winter and more so if the vehicle is plugged in. That’s because the car will automatically pre-condition and warm up the battery, getting it to ideal operational temps. EV batteries like to stay at the same temperature as humans, so the car will warm up the cells.

Depending on your model and preference, the scheduled departure will also kick on the heated steering wheel and seats or turn on the interior cabin heater. Doing all this before you start driving delivers a warm, cozy, comfortable ride, especially while it’s still plugged in. It’ll also help increase your mileage during winter driving. Basically, this will warm the car and battery before you unplug it and head onto the icy roads.

Defrost Windows, Door Handles, and Wiper Blades

Tesla interior and display

Whether you’re using scheduled departure or not, the cold weather button on the infotainment display will give you all sorts of things to work with. And even if you’re still in the house, not ready to leave yet, you can access the same features.

Most Teslas have the option to defrost the windshield and rear window. And while all cars have a defrost mode, enabling this from inside the house is quite nice. And if you don’t park in the garage, you’ll want to take advantage of the heated door handles, side mirrors, wiper blades, and even the windshield washer nozzle. Those are options on select vehicles and can be pre-heated before you walk outside.

With earlier Tesla models, owners complained about frozen door handles and windows during the winter. To the point that some owners couldn’t open the door and get in their vehicles. Now, most newer models can heat up the car and defrost the door handle, ensuring you’ll be able to quickly open the door and escape the harsh outdoor elements.

You can even turn on the heated wipers, which will warm the washer nozzle so you can clean a dirty windshield, and it helps melt away snow simultaneously.

Battery Pre-Condition with Navigation

Tesla superchargers in the winter snow
Ingrid Maasik/Shutterstock.com

When actively driving during the winter, you’ll want to use the scheduled charging feature to pre-condition the battery. Similar to the scheduled departure mode, your Tesla navigation system can help you find the nearest Supercharger station.

During the winter, If you schedule a recharge from the navigation screen, your Tesla will automatically kick into action and pre-heat (pre-condition) the battery ahead of time to the ideal operating temperature for fast charging. It knows when to start because the navigation system knows when you’ll arrive.

Not only does this help avoid battery degradation, but it’ll ensure the fastest charging speeds possible at any given location, regardless of the weather.

Charge Port Heater

Tesla Model 3 charging and covered in snow.
Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock.com

Similar to a door handle getting frozen shut, some Tesla owners have experienced a similar situation with the charging port or the charge port door latch. Like Tesla thought to install a heater near the Sentry mode cameras, it also added a heater to the charging port and latch on select vehicles.

For example, most Model 3s have an option for owners to get an upgrade that will defrost and warm the charging port. This isn’t something you have to think about or remember to turn on. If you’re using the scheduled departure or charging systems that pre-condition the battery, the car is smart enough to check temperatures and defrost the charge port latch if needed.

Essentially, when the weather turns to frigid cold temps, your Tesla is smart enough to handle it.

A Few Other Tips

Tesla Model 3 for 2022

Electric vehicles actually handle cold and snowy weather quite well. Regenerative braking keeps you from sliding around, and many EVs have AWD, which also helps with traction during the winter months. The situation isn’t as bad as some make it sound.

It’s also a good idea to upgrade from all-season tires to snow tires or at least something better equipped to handle the elements. Upgrading to snow tires may depend on where you live, but it’s not a bad idea if you get lots of snow.

Owners may also want to consider different driving modes, like chill mode, which tones down torque and acceleration. This can also help offset any range loss due to the weather. And, in general, you’ll want to use safe driving practices during the winter. No hard acceleration, keep hard braking to a minimum and be aware of your surroundings.

And finally, try to use the car interior heater as little as possible. While using the AC or heater does lower range, it’s not a ton, but every little bit counts. Tesla suggests using heated seats instead of the cabin heater to preserve the battery.

In closing, following a few simple steps will give you a better, warmer, and safer experience driving your Tesla this winter.

Cory Gunther Cory Gunther
Cory Gunther has been writing about phones, Android, cars, and technology in general for over a decade. He's a staff writer for Review Geek covering roundups, EVs, and news. He's previously written for GottaBeMobile, SlashGear, AndroidCentral, and InputMag, and he's written over 9,000 articles. Read Full Bio »