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Do Teslas struggle in cold weather?

Tesla owner struggling in snow despite all-wheel drive shows value of winter tyres

An American YouTuber has released a new video underscoring how little grip summer tyres provide in wintry conditions, and how even the most advanced all-wheel-drive and traction control systems can be thoroughly flummoxed if wheels aren’t shod in rubber that’s appropriate for the weather.

The video shows Emery Lindeman attempting to drive his Tesla Model 3 Performance from Salt Lake City, Utah, across the Sierra Nevada mountains back to California and being caught out in a snowstorm that he said he hadn’t expected so early in November.

In the video, Lindeman is seen struggling to maintain grip as the snow begins to fall, despite the dual-motor Tesla’s all-wheel-drive system — the snow deepens as he rises higher into the mountains.

At points Lindeman was reduced to speeds of less than 10mph, thought for safety reasons he eventually conceded defeat and stopped to call for a tow truck — at the eye-watering cost of around $1,000.

Lindeman’s actions were exemplary given the conditions — he slowed right down and formulated a back-up plan, pulling over when conditions really became hazardous. However, he acknowledged that it was a mistake on his part not to have anticipated the snow en route and said that he expected he would have fared much better in the minor snowfall had his car been fitted with winter or all-season tyres.

How winter tyres would have made the difference

Winter and all-season tyres are specifically engineered to cope with more extreme conditions than summer tyres, which are chiefly biased towards low rolling resistance (and therefore improved fuel economy), reduced noise, higher speeds and the dispersal of lower volumes of surface water.

Winter and all-season tyres are typically made from softer compounds that are more effective at lower temperatures (winter tyres really come into their own below seven degrees Celsius) with the tread pattern cut in such a way as to disperse water and slush to the outside of the tyre.

YouTuber Emery Lindeman gets caught out in the snow in his Tesla Model 3.

Tiny grooves across the width of the tyre — known as sipes — open up under the weight of the car greatly increasing grip on snow and ice; this tends to generate more in the way of road noise and vibration than a summer tyre would, which is one of the reasons that winter tyres are generally unsuitable for year-round use and why all-season tyres feature less siping than ones exclusively built for cold weather.

Earlier this month, took to a skid pan to test the differences between summer and all-weather tyres and found that whereas in the past all-season tyres offered “worst of both worlds” performance, the technology has improved to such a point where they could now provide a viable year-round option for UK motorists.

While the grip levels weren’t as high as those of dedicated winter tyres, the all-season tyres did offer a significant increase in low-grip performance versus summer tyres, which, in theory, could allow drivers to handle cold weather and light snowfall without the need to keep a set of winter tyres in the shed.

For those who live in parts of the UK where snowfall is a regular and sustained occurrence in winter months, however, he did say that it still made sense to keep winter tyres on standby.

YouTuber Emery Lindeman gets caught out in the snow in his Tesla Model 3.

While vehicles with all-wheel drive can provide a useful degree of extra traction in the winter, in particularly poor and slippery conditions, they can be rendered next-to-useless without the appropriate tyres.

Lindeman lessons

In light of the fact that the majority of British drivers maintain summer tyres all year round, Lindeman’s behaviour is a salutary lesson in what to do if caught out in unexpectedly bad weather on a set of unsuitable tyres.

Knowing that he was heading into some potentially poor weather, Lindeman topped up his Tesla’s battery at a charging station to ensure that even if he did become stranded, he had light and heat available.

Upon realising that he could no longer safely control the car at higher speeds, Lindeman slowed down to a point where he could, but, understanding that such speeds were well below typical driving speeds for the road, turned on his hazard warning lights to make his car extra visible in the dark and snowy conditions.

YouTuber Emery Lindeman gets caught out in the snow in his Tesla Model 3.

When he was no longer able to safely control the car even at those lower speeds, he pulled into the hard shoulder with his lights and hazard lights on and waited for a tow truck rather than risk a crash by proceeding further.

Tips for driving in snow has an in-depth article covering everything you need to know about driving in tough winter conditions, and here are a few quick things to bear in mind.

Slow down

Your braking distances and ability to control the car are all going to be negatively affected in slippery conditions, so slow down to a point where the car isn’t getting away from you and you can stop in good time.

Keep your distance

Leave at least a ten-second gap between you and any cars in front to account for longer braking distances.

Drive smoothly

Harsh, sudden steering, braking or throttle inputs can upset a car’s composure and cause it to skid, so be as smooth and gentle with your movements as possible.

Don’t be afraid to brake

With modern anti-lock braking (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC), if you find yourself driving on black ice or starting to skid don’t be afraid to stand on the brakes as the computer on a modern car will do its best to control the braking at each wheel and stop the car from spinning, while bringing the car to a halt as quickly as possible. It could stop a bad situation from getting much worse. If you drive a classic car, however, pumping the brakes (know as cadence braking) is better than standing on the pedal, as it allows the wheels to rotate a little at a time to provide some control (this is basically what ABS does).

Turn on your headlights

The Highway Code says you must use headlights when visibility is “seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet)”.

Related articles

  • After reading about a Tesla struggling in the snow, you should read about how to drive on snow and ice, which includes a full list or rules and things to pack in the car
  • If you’re planning a trip to the Alps in your car, here’s what you need to know about driving in Europe after Brexit
  • Also, check out this near-miss of a bus that lost grip on ice

Practice these tips to get the most out of your Tesla this Winter

It’s cold! Winter is here. So it’s a good time to review some of the things you should be aware of when it comes to driving your Tesla in colder weather. Whether you’ve just recently moved to a colder climate, or just want some winter driving advice, here’s a few Tesla tips as the temperature continues to drop.

Above: Tesla Model S driving in the snow (Source: Tesla)

Optimizing Winter Range

Whether you’re driving an electric car or a gas-powered one, cold weather will lower the efficiency of your vehicle. With a Tesla, you’ll quickly notice a drop-off in range. Electric cars like to keep their batteries in an optimum operating temperature range. Your Tesla will use a lot of energy to warm up the battery every time you get in your car.

It’s worth taking a few measures to combat this issue. Here are nine quick tips to maximize your range in freezing temperatures:

  1. Setup Scheduled Departure
  2. Remain plugged in
  3. Defrost through the Tesla App
  4. Chill Mode
  5. Limit acceleration
  6. Use winter tires
  7. Use navigation (for automatic preconditioning)
  8. Don’t check app too often
  9. Use seat heaters instead of A/C


On the topic of charging at home, you should make complete use of the scheduled departure feature that was added via their Tesla software updates.

Scheduled Departure: Tap ‘Charging’ > ‘Scheduled Departure’ > ‘Schedule’ > ‘Depart At.’

Precondition: Open the Tesla app and tap ‘Climate’ > ‘Turn On.’

Defrost: Open the Tesla app and select ‘Climate’ > defrost icon.

Not only will this allow your Tesla to charge during off-peak hours which could lower your electricity bill, but it will also warm up both your battery and cabin by the time you plan to depart. This saves your car from having to use its own energy to warm the battery.

Additionally, if you plan on Supercharging, make sure to set the Supercharger as your navigation destination. When a Tesla is directed to navigate towards a Supercharger, it automatically begins pre-heating the battery to allow for faster charging when you finally get there.

Plug In

Regardless of whether or not you need extra range, during the winter time you should leave your car plugged in whenever possible. This will allow the car to use energy from outside the battery to stay warm. Remember: a healthy battery is a happy battery. Not only will you minimize range loss and maximize performance, you’ll also keep your battery from unnecessary degradation.


As a general practice, if you’re expecting an extremely cold night, then it’s a good idea to move your wipers from their default resting position entirely away from the windshield, or at least in a position where heat from the cabin could melt ice that might have caused your wipers to freeze to the windshield.

To be able to raise your wipers, Tesla has an option to put your wipers in ‘service mode’ which will bring them to move to the middle of the windshield. You can find the button in:

‘Controls’ > ‘Service’ > ‘Wiper Service Mode’ > ‘On’

Keep in mind that this will not allow you to lift the wipers to stop contact with your windshield. However, owners have suggested placing small objects at the base of the wipers to wedge them and have the wipers lift off the surface just slightly. Regardless, in this position, any heat from your cabin should make contact with the windshield and melt any ice that binds your wipers.


If you are someone who likes to have their mirrors auto-fold, it may be in your best interest to turn off the auto-fold feature during cold weather. In freezing temperatures, it’s possible for your mirrors to be frozen in their closed position. When they’re trying their best to break free (unsuccessfully), it’s possible to burn out the motors. To find the option to turn off auto-folding mirrors you can go to:

Model S/X: ‘Controls’ > ‘Vehicle’ > ‘Mirror Auto-Fold’

Model 3/Y: ‘Controls’ > ‘Quick Controls’ > ‘Mirrors’ > ‘Mirror Auto Fold’

If your mirrors happen to freeze shut, Tesla recommends manually opening and closing them to break the ice.


To warm the car up, Tesla has implemented a defrost feature to their app. With it you can begin to defrost your windows prior to stepping outside. The defrost feature is also recommended by Tesla to use prior to charging. With extreme conditions, the charge port can freeze over leading to a slower charge rate. The car will indicate a frozen charge port with a blinking amber light.


If you are someone who has fully embraced one-pedal driving, then you might have to adapt during wintertime. You might want to consider setting your regenerative brake strength to the lowest setting available. This is done simply for safety reasons. Strong regenerative braking could potentially be too aggressive in icy conditions and might cause your Tesla to potentially lose traction and slide. It obviously will come down to individual weather conditions, but it should be something you’re aware of — especially when the streets get icy.

Regardless, the cold weather might force you to use your brake pedal whether you like it or not. If you’re driving around with a cold battery in cold weather then it won’t accept energy from the regen system and as such, you will have to brake on your own. Thankfully your Tesla should inform you whether or not your braking has been reduced, allowing you to prepare. A blue snowflake icon next to your range will display when both your regenerative braking and power is decreased. Once the battery gets back up to a reasonable temperature, regen braking (and power) should return.

Chill Mode

While on the topic of safety, it’s probably best to disable performance mode. Tesla performance in cold weather is already impacted negatively and there’s no reason to go drag racing against snowmobiles.

You’re not going to be speeding through icy streets, at least not safely. Therefore, it’s recommended that you switch your power to «chill mode» to limit the amount of torque that’s delivered to the wheels — this lowers the risk of your tires losing traction. The switch to a lower power level should also help you with countering range loss in cold weather too.

More Tips

Want more tips for Tesla winter driving? For more advice, be sure to check out what Trevor Page at Tesla Owners Online had to say about improving your Tesla during the coldest months. And that’s not all. Tesla influencer and EV expert, Aniseh Sharifi, has some excellent tips to help «winterize» your Tesla. At the end of the day, follow just a few of these simple steps and you can really level up your experience driving electric this winter.

An earlier version of this article appeared on EVBite. EVBite is an electric vehicle specific news site dedicated to keeping consumers up-to-date on any developments in the ever-expanding EV landscape.

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