What Happens When Your Tesla Model 3 Door Handles Freeze Shut?

  • Tesla’s door handles sit flush to help the cars be more aerodynamic
  • Tesla says to just whack the doors free, but not too hard
  • Warming your Tesla Model 3 from the app first is recommended

For most people, the biggest issue they have with their new car’s door handles come winter is simple. Are they covered in snow? “Man, my hands are gonna be cold.” That’s it. However, flush-fit door handles like the ones found on the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y present an entirely different issue. One that some Aston Martin owners can sympathize with.

A Tesla Model 3 door handle
The door handle on a Model 3 | Salwan Georges via Getty Images

Tesla Model 3 door handles look that way for a reason

The problem arises when snow comes, as it often does in the winter. Then, predictably, the door handles can be frozen shut. Ice and snow build up over the flush handles, and suddenly you can’t open your Tesla Model 3. Let’s work backward and deconstruct things. Why are the doors on some EVs flush? While not flush with the bodywork, even the Porsche Taycan’s door handles don’t protrude.

It’s all down to aerodynamics. Your car, be it an EV or a conventional gas one, has to fight against the air to get moving and stay moving. That fight between your metal brick and the air can severely affect your miles-per-gallon rating (or range in the case of the Tesla Model Y and 3). So, designers at EV manufacturers the world over shave protrusions off the car to help it cut through the air. Porsche does it best, allowing access to the door handle while also keeping things clean from an aerodynamic standpoint. Tesla? Not so much.

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What happens when your door handles freeze?

A Tesla logo covered in snow on a Model 3
Teslas in the snow | Artur Widak via Getty Images

On the Tesla Model Y and Model 3, the door handles sit flush (above). In order to open them, you have to do it like you would on an Aston Martin. Only those guys probably aren’t driving their Aston in ice and snow. Push at one end of the handle, and pull the door open from the other. But if it’s frozen shut, you can’t get a grip on the handle to tug it free from ice. So, Tesla’s approach is rather simple. You gotta whack that m’fer. But not too hard.

That’s not a joke about Tesla build quality, either. The Model 3’s manual says you should first remove “any jewelry or objects that can damage the paint prior to performing the procedure.” Tesla also says to refrain from using “tools or excessive force.” The Model 3 manual also suggests preemptively applying some WD40 to the door’s pivot mechanism. You can also use the car’s app to fire up the climate control ahead of time in an attempt to warm the handle from the inside.

Don’t pour hot water on your Tesla Model 3’s doors

The door handle on a Tesla Model Y
The door handle on a Model Y | Smith Collection via Getty Images

The one thing you should not do is pour hot water over your Tesla doors. First, this is an electric car. C’mon. Second, those electronics in and near the door handle likely aren’t waterproof. They’re not supposed to be. Finally, you might end up getting some on your window, which could produce some undesirable effects. It seems to us the most logical solution is to simply warm the car first. It’s an EV, so no chance of a “puffing” ticket here, and a win-win, as you get to walk out to a warm car with functional doors.

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