How to Open and Lock a Tesla without Your Phone

How to Open and Lock a Tesla without Your Phone

You’ve been out with friends all evening and have been extolling the virtues of your new Tesla. Now that the night is through and everyone’s ready to leave, you remember that you didn’t charge your phone last night. You usually use the phone app to unlock the car. And you have a model that didn’t come with a key fob. So, what do you do?

How to open and lock a Tesla without your phone. Fortunately, outside of the phone app, there is another method of keyless entry for a Tesla: the key card. Simply ap the key card against the driver’s door frame and the car unlocks. 

Tesla doesn’t want you to panic if you find yourself locked out of your car. Let’s look at a couple of other options you have if you find yourself locked out without a phone. 

How Keyless Entry Works on a Tesla

Not only will your Tesla unlock remotely, but it will also lock itself. There are settings you can activate for several different features. For this moment, let’s focus on the keyless entry.

There are two different ways you can manage your Tesla’s car locks:

1. The key card provided by your car dealer

This works the same way most hotel room keys work. To use your key card to unlock your vehicle, simply tap it on the window frame of the driver’s door, and your door will magically unlock.

Once you have completed this process, you have 15 seconds to sit in the driver’s seat and depress the brake pedal to start your car. 

If you get distracted or are in the middle of a conversation and don’t get the pedal depressed within the 15 seconds, you don’t have to get back out of the car and start over. There is also a sensor on the console. Simply place your key card on the console sensor, and your 15 second time allotment will restart.

2. The Tesla app on your smartphone

Because your car is equipped with Bluetooth functionality, you will be able to communicate with your automobile via your smartphone. To do this, you will first need to complete the three-step authentication process:

  • Your first step is to download the Tesla mobile app from your phone’s app store. 
  • Next, you will sign into your associated Tesla account using your username and password for your account.
  • Once you have successfully signed into your account, you will need to use your key card to go through the rest of the authentication process.

Other Options for Unlocking Your Tesla

What if you find yourself outside of your locked Tesla without a key card or a smartphone? You have two different options to use as a workaround.

  • Borrow someone’s smartphone, download the app, and sign into your account. You can enter your car via any smartphone that is signed into your account.

The downside of this solution is that now you’ve enabled someone else to have access to your car. If you choose this option, it is strongly recommended that once you’re in your car, you sign out of your account on that phone and delete the app.

  • Call the Tesla service center. Once you walk through a verification process with one of the representatives, they will be able to remotely unlock your car for you.

Remote Access: Security Concerns and Updates

We live in a fast-paced information environment. That usually means that nearly as soon as new technology is released to help make things easier for owners, hackers are feverishly working to figure out how to break that code and take advantage of unsuspecting individuals.

All it takes is a quick internet search, and you can find a few examples of people whose Tesla was stolen by nefarious individuals using a ghosting app to mirror the owner’s authentication from their smartphone. 

There’s also an instance of one thief stealing a rental car he had previously rented by calling the service center and gaining access. Since those instances, Tesla has implemented safeguards to make either of these examples a less likely occurrence.

Tesla’s Sentry Mode

To guard against theft, in early 2019, Tesla began rolling out what they branded as “Sentry Mode.”

Sentry mode means that your vehicle’s security system acts as if there is a guard watching your car while it is unattended. If you have activated this process via the car’s control panel, you can expect the following unique protection:

  • When you have activated the Sentry Mode function, your car goes into a standby mode during which its external cameras can detect and react to potential threats.
  • Minimal threats, such as someone leaning against the car, triggers an alert that displays a message on the touchscreen indicating the cameras are recording. This allows you to know the system identified a small threat while you were away.
  • Severe threats, like someone breaking one of your windows, send the car into the “Alarm State.”

What Happens in Alarm State?

In addition to the cameras recording information, when alarm state is triggered, the following happens:

  • A loud car alarm sounds, 
  • The center display brightens 
  • Music begins playing cranked to maximum volume.
  • The mobile app sends a notification to the car’s owner, letting alerting them that an incident has occurred. 

Continuously Recording Dash Cam

The dashcam feature allows the Tesla owner to insert a USB drive into the car and download a video recording of the issue that begins as of 10 minutes before the threat was detected.

Check out this news report from Portland, Oregon, showing the  feature in action. A vandal jumped on a Tesla-owner’s hood and jumped on the windshield several times resulting in a terribly cracked windshield that needed to be replaced. 

Fortunately, the Tesla owner had activated the Sentry Mode, and the security system’s cameras caught the entire incident – including the face of the vandal. 

Tesla Models with Keyless Entry

Based on Tesla’s website, there are currently three models that offer keyless entry.

Model S
The Model S is a sedan that has seating for five adults. Some of the other basic features included on the Model S are: 

  • 28 cubic feet of cargo space 
  • A large 17-inch display touchscreen,
  • Heated everything! Front and back seats, steering wheel, and side mirrors
  • Retractable, lighted door handles
  • 373 miles of charging range
  • A 15-minute supercharger recharges up-to 130 miles of charge to your car’s battery.

Model 3
The Model 3 is touted as Tesla’s most affordable model at a $35,000 base price. Although it is a smaller vehicle, it still offers seating for 5 adults. Additional basic features are:

  • 15 cubic feet of cargo space,
  • A 15-inch center console touchscreen
  • Heated front and back seats
  • 322 miles of charging range
  • A 15-minute quick-charge at one of the 14,000-plus supercharger stations adding 172 miles back onto your battery.

Note: Speaking of options for unlocking your car, this is also the only model Tesla with an optional key fob. It is available for an additional cost, exclusively on the Tesla online shop.

Model X
The Model X is Tesla’s version of the SUV. It offers seating for up to seven adults and:

  • 88 cubic feet of cargo room
  • A large 17-inch touchscreen display
  • The ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds on the standard 20-inch wheels or up-to 3,500 pounds on the optional 22-inch wheels,
  • Heated front and back seats, steering wheel, and side mirrors
  • Falcon wing back doors that raise up for ease of vehicle entry and exit
  • 328 miles of charged driving range
  • A 15-minute visit to the supercharger station puts up-to 115 miles back on your car’s battery.

Other Tesla Models That Don’t Specify Keyless Entry on the Maker’s Site

Although none of these models specifically mention keyless entry on the Tesla website, it only seems logical, based on their price-points, that they would also offer the keyless entry feature, among others.

Model Y
The Model Y is Tesla’s cross-over option. Like the Model X, it offers seating for up to seven adults and has second-row seats that fold flat for more storage space. It also offers:

  • 66 cubic feet of cargo room
  • A 15-inch center console touch screen
  • An immersive sound system,
  • Front and rear heated seats and side mirrors
  • Side mirrors that offer auto-dimming and power-folding
  • A 300-mile driving range
  • 168 miles added back to your battery after a 15-minute visit to the supercharger.

The sci-fi future is here in Tesla’s Cybertruck. If you want something that is virtually indestructible, this would be your option. The Cybertruck offers:

  • A nearly impenetrable shell (“exoskeleton”) made of ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel and armor glass,
  • A towing capacity between 7,500+ pounds to 14,000+ pounds (depending on whether your order the single, dual, or tri-motor option),
  • 100 cubic feet of storage,
  • Driving distance between 250+ miles and 500+ miles (again, depending on the single, dual, or tri-motor option)
  • A truck-bed shield for better aerodynamic performance.

Roadster (Available for Pre-order Only)

This snazzy little two-door hotrod starts at a pre-order reservation price of $250,000. The price tag matches its top speed of over 250 miles per hour – not that you could legally drive it that fast. It also claims to have:

  • Seating for four adults
  • A removable panel that can be stored in the trunk to offer a convertible-like experience,
  • An incredible 620-mile driving range
  • Ability to go from 0-60 in 1.9 seconds

Semi-Truck (Available for Pre-order Only)

A what? Yes, a semi-truck (without the trailer). Tesla offers: 

  • A 300-mile range and also a 500-mile range model
  • The 300-mile preorder reservation is about $170,000
  • The 500-mile range reservation starts at about $200,000
  • 0-60 miles per hour in just 20 seconds with 80,000 pounds of payload
  • Four independent motors on the rear axels giving it the ability to go up a 5% grade at 60 miles per hour. 

The website also claims to offer over $200,000 in fuel savings, but it doesn’t indicate over how much time that $200,000 is spread.

Other Features Tesla Offers

Keyless entry is a cool option, but what if you’re not ready to give up your key? 

Key Fobs

Don’t worry. Your new Tesla will come with two key fobs that are synced to your car. You will still need to set up your driver profile on your main screen, but the key fob will give you that extra level of confidence if you’re just not ready to trust all of that technology stuff yet.

The Model 3 was originally designed to work with only the key card and the smartphone app, but owners wanted to have the added assurance of the fob they’re used to having. Tesla listened and responded. Model 3 owners may purchase a key fob on the Tesla website.

Key fobs, however, have been found to have vulnerabilities. The original manufacturer of the Model S key fob used encryption that wasn’t tough enough for hackers. The Model 3 fob is manufactured by a different company and doesn’t support passive entry – meaning that you need to intentionally press the button on the fob to open your Model 3.

Charging Accessories

Part of the beauty of an electric car is the ability to avoid the pump. To make sure that you don’t have to go to the Super Charger station all the time, Tesla has developed systems that you can have installed in your home to keep you streamlined and efficient.

The wall connectors come in either silver or black and cost about $500. It can be placed in your garage or outside – it’s approved for both uses. It does need to be installed by a licensed electrician, but once you have it, you will be able to charge your car from zero battery to full charge in as little as seven hours.

You’ll need to have a 40 or 60-amp dedicated circuit breaker, depending on your Tesla’s model. If you are installing two or more chargers, you’ll need a dedicated 100-amp circuit breaker.

These appliances increase your charging ability by up-to 50 percent and come with a 24-foot cable, which will provide plenty of reach.

For on-the-road charging, there are several adapter options you can look into:

  • The NEMA Adapter Bundle
  • A Corded Mobile Connector
  • The CHAdeMO Adapter

Other Car Manufacturers that Offer Smartphone Apps

Tesla isn’t the only carmaker that offers keyless entry via your smartphone. There are several others out there, but some require additional connectivity or subscriptions. Some of those manufacturers are:

  • Acura. This app also offers real-time diagnostics, programming your destinations to the navigation system, and scheduling maintenance.
  • BMW. Bavarian Motor Works actually has three different apps. One of them offers the keyless entry option, changing your car’s internal temperature, and – this is huge in an airport or mall parking lot – finding your car.
  • Buick. They not only offer remote lock and unlock, but also remote start and stop as well as the real-time diagnostics and vehicle locator.
  • Chevrolet. For affordable manufacturers, Chevy seems to have advanced options, also allowing for the scheduling of service, roadside assistance, and managing a WiFi hotspot.
  • Ford. They have two separate apps. One for remote access functions for most of their cars, but also a separate one for the plug-in hybrid owners to help- they manage their vehicle’s battery life and range.
  • GMC. Similar to Chevy, GMC offers some additional alternatives to include sending your trip planning to your car’s navigation system.
  • Honda. This app offers a feature the other makers don’t discuss – specific parking reminders. This may be the same as the car location feature others offer, but it specifically speaks to parking.
  • Volvo. In addition to a lot of the options we’ve already covered, Volvo’s app offers a driving journal showing where the car has been driven. (This would be a very helpful feature for parents of driving teenagers.)

You get the idea – there are a lot of other options out there, but you would want to have specific conversations about what their recovery options are for you if you were to lock both your keys (or key card) and your smartphone in your car at the same time.

Making it Work for You

As with most any other new experience in your life, it is reasonable to expect an adjustment period when you take possession of your new electronic vehicle (EV). Some of the Tesla owner’s forums talk about some design frustrations:

  • The trunk is hard to get closed.
  • The autopilot function tends to bounce between the lines of the lane.
  • Sometimes the auto-braking function brakes later and harder than the driver prefers.
  • Latch release labeling can be confusing.

Even with that in mind, the most common among those owner posts have nothing to do with the ability to charge the vehicle. In fact, one of the features offered by the vehicle’s navigation system is providing detailed distance and location to the nearest supercharger station. This takes the guesswork out of managing your trip and helps you enjoy the trip even more.

There are very few who would ever recommend going back to a traditional gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle once they got used to driving their electric car. Many feel the benefits are just so much greater in their EV than they ever had in their former car.

You’re the only one who can truly make that decision, but it may be worth taking a test drive and sampling that lock and unlock app for yourself. After all, what better way to be assured that something works than to try it out in advance?

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Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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