Cold weather tips for Tesla drivers in Canada

If you’re reading this, it’s probably that time of the year, or getting close to it. With the cooler weather and lower temperatures, comes a whole new set of things to think about as a Tesla owner.

Whether or not this is your first Canadian winter with your Tesla, below you’ll find some helpful hints and tips to make sure your winter driving in the best EV in the world is the best experience it can be.

Cold weather effects on the Tesla battery

Probably the biggest impact the cold weather will have on your Tesla is the affect on your vehicle’s battery. Depending on how cold the temperatures get in your part of Canada, you can expect to see up to a 30% decrease in range and efficiency. That would be at the upper end of range loss for severely cold temperates (think less than -30ºC ). While you may be used to efficiency numbers in the sub-130Wh/km during the summer, expect much higher numbers during the winter, anywhere from 150Wh/km for West Coasters to 200+Wh/km for colder parts of Canada.

Along with the reduced range as a result of the low temperatures, your regenerative braking will also be impacted, possibly enough that it won’t work at all (you will get a “Regenerative Braking Disabled” warning message) until the battery has had a chance to warm up.

How to improve Tesla battery efficiency in winter

Model 3 drifting in snowDespite these challenges, there are some things you can do to mitigate the effects of the cold weather on your battery. First is to set your overnight charging to end as close as possible to your departure time in the morning. If you’re set to leave for the office at 7.30am, set your charging to end as close to 7.30am as possible. This will ensure your battery is warm when you leave, increasing the efficiency of your vehicle and also increasing the amount of regenerative braking available to you.

Currently the on-board Tesla charging system only allows you to schedule a charging start time, not a time when you want the charge the finish. Hopefully this will come in an over-the-air (OTA) software update soon. Until then, there are a couple of options.

1. Start your charge and see how long it will take to charge to your desired percentage. If it says 3 hours, stop the charging and schedule it to start approximately 3 hours before your departure time. If it’s very cold and you’re parked outside, give yourself a bit of a buffer as your battery might drop a few percentage more during the night until your charging begins.
2. Use a third-party app like StatsApp for iPhone (is there an Android like app out there that we don’t know about?), which can do more sophisticated charging scheduling like I mention above. We’ve been using this app for about a week now and love it so far, so expect a review (and possibly something else for our readers ;)) soon.

Bonus tip, turn on your heated seats and climate control using the mobile app about 5 minutes before you leave to warm up the cabin of the vehicle. If your Model 3 is plugged in, this will also warm the battery at the same time, increasing your efficiency and the amount of regenerative braking available when it is time to leave. You may have to turn on climate control more than 20-30 minutes prior to departure for to heat the battery, depending on the outside temperature.

Create a winter driver profile

To get the most out of your Tesla, and to have the safest driving experience in snow and ice, you will want to either turn off or limit some features of the vehicle. Rather than having to do this every time you get into the vehicle, set up a new winter driving profile with all these settings already saved for you. Then whenever you get into the vehicle, you just have to select that driver profile, instead of navigating the menu to change multiple settings. If you live in an area that has snow for several months at a time, you may end up using this profile the entire time. We recommend your winter driving profile have the following settings:

  1. Turn on Chill Mode
  2. Set regenerative braking to low
  3. Set Autopilot following distance to 7 (max)
  4. Set Emergency Lane Departure to warning instead of assist

Tesla winter driver profile

Turn off auto-wipers

If you live in a part of Canada that gets a lot of freezing rain and ice-build up, you might also want to turn off your Tesla’s auto-wipers during winter. When you get in your car, there is a chance that the auto-sensing wipers might turn on because of the ice-build on the sensor, potentially damaging your wipers. If you need to use your wipers, simply hit the button on the end of the left stalk, which will not only activate your wipers, but also bring up the wiper controls on the display. From there, you can select the speed you want your wipers to be on.

Put wipers into “Service Mode”

Another trick to prevent damage to your wipers during snow and freezing conditions is to put them into “Service Mode” when exiting the vehicle. This raises them up slightly from their usual rest position in the well. When they’re a little bit higher, they’re on part of the windshield that is warmed up when you put the defroster on. When you’re ready to go, your wipers won’t be frozen to the windshield, so there’s less chance they’ll be damaged in winter conditions.

Avoid ice and snow build-up on cameras and sensors

Something you might overlook is that many of the safety features on the car, and especially autopilot, require the cameras to have a clear view of its surroundings. If any of the cameras or sensors on the bumpers of the vehicle are obstructed by snow or ice, performance of these safety features can be impacted. Familiarize yourself with the location of all your cameras and sensors, and clear them off before beginning your drive.

Tesla also recommends applying Rust-Oleum Never Wet Top Coat to help prevent snow and ice buildup on the front of your vehicle.

Avoid frozen windows and door handles

Tesla Model 3 frozen door handleA problem with having frameless doors like on the Tesla Model 3 is that in very cold weather the window can freeze and you will not be able to open the door safely. This problem is not unique to Tesla’s, but can happen with any car that has a frameless window. Using a silicone based spray like this WD-40 Silicone Lubricant Spray on the rubber around the windows will prevent them from freezing to it.

Another potential solution is to pre-heat the vehicle before you need to leave. This will help with both the problem of windows freezing, your door handles freezing, and increasing the efficiency of your battery and amount of regenerative braking available to you.

Keep your snow brush inside your Tesla

If you are parking outside and there is snow in the forecast, you will want to keep your snow brush inside your Tesla and not your trunk. That’s because due to the design of the trunk, when you open it, all the snow that was sitting on top and on the rear window will slide and fall into your trunk. If you keep your snow brush inside your Tesla, you will easily be able to retrieve it and brush off the snow, without ending up with a trunk full of snow.

Get proper winter tires

This is probably one of the simplest but most effective things you can do to make sure you’ll be able to handle almost any winter weather condition. A proper snow tire with the snowflake symbol (or M&S for milder winter weather like on the west coast) is what you want to ensure the best traction in snow and ice.

A proper set of tires is particularly important if your Tesla comes equipped with ‘summer’ tires, like the Performance Model Y.

Obviously the # 1 cold weather tip for any Tesla driver is to park your car in a garage, if possible. If that’s not possible, following these tips will make your winter driving experience that much better.

Got any other cold weather tips for your Tesla? Let us know in the comments below!

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