Fixing Model 3 Charge Port That Won’t Unlock [Step by Step]

Fixing Model 3 Charge Port That Won't Unlock [Step by Step]

Tesla is currently the gold standard of electric cars. They own the market, especially the upscale portion. Not only are Tesla electric cars good for the environment, but their style is part of what they sell. Dashboards that are controlled with a touch, cars that self-park, camera-controlled, with sleek looks. It is all there.

Yet, their price and overall cool factor does not necessarily mean they work perfectly all the time. Just like any high-tech performing machine, Tesla’s can have problems, whether it is an update fixing a bug or problems charging your battery. Here is a step-by-step list of walking you through a stuck charging port door on a Tesla Model 3.

Read the Manual

Naturally, the first step will be to examine the manual. If you have a problem opening your charging door, consult the manual. Because this is Tesla, the manual is not in your cluttered glove box. The manual is accessible via the touch screen in the front of the car.

In order to access it, touch Controls > Service > Owner’s Manual. This should allow you to find an answer to any of your questions. If you have a more detailed question, you have to go to the Tesla website, log into your account and search accordingly.

By now, you should know the charging port is on the driver-side rear of the car. If you do not, the manual tells you. The port is part of the rear taillight. Making sure your car is unlocked and parked, the simplest option is to use the charging port cable. When in close contact, the button on the cable should release the port.

If that is unsuccessful, the manual provides other options. Overall, this is the easiest and most likely option to fixing your locked charging port. Of course, accessing the manual is dependent on other factors, such as a charged car, working touch screen and updated software system.

Opening the Charge Port Using the Manual

The manual for the Tesla model 3 provides clear and easy to follow instructions on different ways to open your charge port. In the first section of the 2020 manual, the most common method to open your charge port is stated: press the button on your Tesla charge cable. 

The manual suggests using the touchscreen in the front of the car. But it may not be obvious at first glance where to look. You have to use the App Launcher to open the charging application. Once opened, pressed Open Charge Port.

Before relying on unorthodox or dangerous methods of opening your charge port door, try using the following methods:

  • Using the touchscreen inside your Tesla, launch the Charging app through the app launcher and press “Open Charge Port”
  • Press the charging icon where the charging status is displayed on your touch screen
  • Navigate to the “Cards” area on your touchscreen, find and press the charging icon, then choose “Open Charge Port”
  • Looking at the charge port door, unlock your Model 3 or authenticate using your phone, then press the button underneath your charge port door. You may have to try this a few times to find the right spot. 
  • For Model 3 owners with the key fob accessory, you can press down on the rear trunk button for 1-2 seconds to open the charge port door

Assuming your charge port door is not stuck due to unique circumstances, these different methods for opening your charge port door should work. Make sure to go through each method before relying on alternative solutions, as most Model 3 users have a high rate of success using these methods.

Phone Application

When in doubt, make sure you have downloaded the Tesla App to your phone. Also, make sure your phone and Tesla App are current and up to date. Using the Tesla App, follow the instructions to release your charge port door.

The Tesla app gives you a comprehensive overview of your Model 3. This is the best place to start when you have any problems with your Tesla, including problems like unlocking your charge port door.

If the instructions on the Tesla App do not resolve your issue, then you can also visit this Tesla forum page. This forum page features other people who have had similar problems with their charge port doors and offers potential solutions that may be useful to you. We will discuss this forum page in much more depth later in this guide.

Two Possible Complications

Some Tesla users have mentioned this problem, so it is worth highlighting. Once the charge port door is open, a white “T” in the Tesla design is highlighted. You have two to three minutes to start charging before the door closes. If it does, do not be surprised. Just follow the touchscreen instructions above to re-open the port door.

If you park your Tesla outside and are experiencing very cold temperatures or ice, this might be a reason for not being able to open the charge port. The cold weather could affect the car even if you are parked in a garage, be patient while the car warms.

Some Tesla’s have a heater that is installed in the charge port. If your car has this option, the heater will be activated when you defrost the rear window. You are also able to use the app on your phone to thaw ice on the port door by allowing preconditioning.

Still Will Not Open

There is a good chance that if your charge port is locked and you can not get it open, it may be time to give a call to Tesla at 877-798-3752. However, customers have not had the highest success rate when it comes to giving help from Tesla.

Truth be told, Tesla owners love their cars but do not love the company’s customer service. In a 2017 poll of Tesla owners, only 42% of responders claimed to have an excellent experience at their service center. While wait times have grown longer and appointment times are proving more difficult to get.

But, the majority responders, 70% of them, said they received an excellent experience when Tesla sent a technician to their home. However, if you are on the road or chagrin up at night, this is not a good option. Later in this article, we will talk about how to arrange for a technician to help you using the Tesla mobile service.

So, if your charge port door is still stuck, and calling Tesla or waiting for a technician is not an option, and the above suggestions have not worked, what do you do? Because our list is great, we have compiled some of the best fixes from the internet not mentioned in the manual.

Do Not Do This

In the Tesla Model 3 Manual, there is a large warning. No one wants you breaking your very expensive car, or worse, injuring yourself. The manual tells you, “Do not try to force the charge port door open.” It is up to you if you take their advice.

Of course, because it is the internet, you can find all kinds of not recommended options. Again, do not hurt yourself or damage your car, but owners have tried the following. Some Tesla owners who have used a key to slide it into the port door to pry it open. While others have used their fingernails or even a skinny, flat screwdriver.

We discourage any desperate attempts to open your charge port door, as these attempts will likely put you or your car in harm’s way. Taking a deep breath and staying calm in situations like this is important for finding effective solutions. The purpose of this guide is to provide these solutions at no cost to you.

Credit Card Option

Not all is lost in terms of prying the locked charging port door open. Unless you are on the phone with Tesla, we recommend listening to them in regards to prying your locked door open. If you are really in need of a charge and cannot get a hold of Tesla. Try this. Fortunately, it has even been suggested by Tesla.

Model 3 owners have said they were told via telephone with Tesla assistance to use a Credit Card. You may hear some clicking noises when opening. If you do, close the charge port door and try the steps listed above using the touch screen.

Overall, since this option has been mentioned by Tesla, it gives you a decent shot at solving the problem. Almost everyone has a credit card or something similar, and the instructions are simple.

This is a convenient option if you need to access your charge port door more urgently and do not have to try other methods. This option is obsolete, but in the short term may allow you to pry open your charge port door.

Soft Reboot

Remember, this is a highly advanced machine running on computers and programs. You may have to try the time-honored tactic all men have tried with basically anything electronic. Reboot the car. Here is how to do a Soft Reboot.

Place the car in the park position. They recommend finding a safe spot to park. While you can reboot on the road, stuck in traffic, it is not advised. Once in Park, press and hold the scrolling buttons found on your steering wheel. After one to three minutes, you should see the Tesla emblem appear and your touch screen returning to normal.

Once rebooted, attempt the steps listed above to open your stuck charge port door. Overall, this is a relatively easy solution that is low on risk. With today’s electronics most people are used to having to reboot a system every now and then.

Hard Reboot

Hopefully, the soft reboot works; you got your port door open, you are charged up and ready to go. If not, there is another reboot option, the Hard Reboot. Follow these steps to perform a hard reboot.

You will be turning off your Tesla’s main computer, not just its touchscreen. Make sure you are in a safe place to pull over and put the car in park. The car cannot be in operation. Just like the soft reboot, press and hold the scrolling buttons on the steering wheel. While doing so, press down on the brake pedal.

Continue holding these three mechanisms down until the touchscreen powers on and you see the Tesla symbol. Perform the unlocking steps on your charge port noted above.

The hard reboot is slightly more complicated but provides similar advantages to the soft reboot. Just make sure you are in a good, safe spot to proceed with the hard reboot. Hopefully, you will be on the road soon after.

Tesla’s Not Endorsed Reboot

If you are comfortable working on cars while also performing a reboot not endorsed by Tesla, here is another option. You can find this path on the internet, but this list is about putting everything in one spot; this is much more complicated (you need tools), slightly dangerous and not endorsed by Tesla reboot.

Again, find a safe place to pull over, put the car in park, turn it off, and open the front hood. You will find the car’s battery near the windshield. Take the cover off of the 12 volt-battery.

You must use a 10-mm wrench to unhook the cable that feeds into the battery. Once done, wait 30 seconds, re-attach the cable, turn the car on, and proceed to unlocking your stuck charge port. If you are nervous about messing with the battery and shutting down your car, do not attempt this. You may lose all user information as well.

Overall, this is a tricky operation and one that you really should not try unless you are comfortable working on cars. Since Tesla does not endorse this method, you may risk damaging your car and wallet if you go astray. We recommend proceeding with extreme caution on this one.

Software Update

While technically not a reboot, our next suggestion for unlocking the tricky charge port door does fall-in with working on the computer system. Do not worry; you do not need a wrench or the ability to work under the hood. Make sure your Model 3s software is updated.

Open the software tab on your car’s touchscreen. If your software is not up to date, you should see a notification on the screen. You can update the software immediately or schedule to do it at a later date. For faster downloading, make sure you have a strong wi-fi connection.

Along the same lines of the soft reboot, most of us are comfortable with updating software. This is an easy solution for a frustrating problem.  If you are unsure how to install the software update, please, keep reading.

Installing Software Update

The point of updating the car’s software is that this may automatically fix the locked charge port. If you are computer illiterate, here a simple way to install the software update.

On the touchscreen, if you see an update is available, touch the yellow clock icon. From there, you can select how you want to update the software. By taping the yellow icon, you can schedule an update for a future date and time. The yellow clock will turn white.

You can start updates from your Tesla app or press Controls > Software to find out if an update is available. Remember, you cannot operate your care while the software is updating. Hopefully, once the software is downloaded, you can use the steps above to unlock your charge port door.

Of course, this can be a time-sensitive fix. Do your updates as soon as possible, and perhaps you can avoid the locked charging port door ahead of time.

Software Bug

Not only will updating the Tesla software possibly give you a solution to the locked charge port door, but there is another possible problem with the car. A bug in the application software.

For example, some Tesla owners complained in 2019 that some versions of the software updates included a bug that prevented them from opening their charging port. But, Tesla corrected the problem in another software update. Most owners said the problem went away after they installed the new software.

Software bugs are very uncommon, especially given the frequency of updates that Tesla vehicles undergo each year. Oftentimes, these software bugs are avoidable by taking the time to update the software on your Model 3, which only takes minutes to do.

Keeping software bugs to a minimum is a really good reason for keeping your software up to date. Tesla constantly updates their software. Updating your Tesla software is simple and easy to ensure that your Tesla operates properly and diminishes the possibility for software bugs.

Manually Releasing Charge Cable

Technically, this next step is used to release the cable you use to charge your Model 3. But, some Tesla owners have found success in releasing their stuck charge port door after completing this task. Here is how to manually release the charge cable.

This should not matter if you cannot open the charging port, but ensure the Tesla is not charging before doing any of these steps. Go to the inside of the rear trunk. On the left side, pull down on the charge port’s release cable.

You may have to look for the release cable. It can be placed in the opening of the trunk’s trim. Once pulled, attempt to open the charge port by pressing on the door, as described above, or using the touchscreen instructions.

Overall, manually releasing the charging cable has seemed to work for a lot of Model 3 owners. It is definitely one of the more popular online solutions, even though it is designed to work for the charging cable and not the charging port door.     

Getting Help From a Technician With Tesla Mobile Service

With the Tesla mobile service, you can send for a technician to help you find a solution to your problem with the charge port door. This option is best for extreme circumstances where you need immediate access to your charge port door. If none of the previously discussed methods worked, then a technician might be your best bet.

According to the available data on Tesla owner responses, over 70 percent of respondents rated the Tesla mobile service experience as “excellent.” This is a very reassuring figure if you are looking into using the Tesla mobile service to get the help of a technician to open your charge port door.

As previously mentioned, this is a last resort option if you have no success opening your charge port door with other methods. Calling for a technician is very inconvenient if you are on the road and is not possible if your area does not have good reception or is not covered by your service provider.

The Tesla mobile service sends a technician directly to your location with the click of a few buttons on the Tesla app interface. This process is simple and easy, but will require some patience since you have to wait for a period of time for the technician to arrive at your location.

Combined Solution

This next solution might require a little dexterity and coordination. You also might need a friend to help out since this is a combined solution from two previous suggestions. Also, part of this one falls into the Do Not Do This header. But, if you are in a pinch, give this solution a shot.

Using one hand, go through the above steps of Manually Releasing the Charge Cable. With your other hand, most likely your left, use a fingernail to get a finger inside the locked charge port door. Do these tasks simultaneously and you may just get that locked port open.  

As we said, this is a little more risky because you have to force open the locked door. But, a lot of owners have claimed success using this method and might be good enough if you really need to get on the road.

Charging Cable Problem

Here is some good news, the problem might not be with your charge port at all. The bad news, the problem might be caused with your charging cable. If you are on the road, this is an unlikely problem. If you are at home, keep reading.

Some owners have reported that Tesla assistance has told the charging cable might not be talking to your charging port on the Model 3. Assistance also told one owner to give the locked charging port a quick karate type chop to the back of the locked port. Do not hit the car and injure yourself or your car.

In the case that your charging cable is not communicating with your charge port properly, then you may need to get your charging cable replaced or have a technician do some repairs. Keep in mind, your charging cable is not the only way to open your charge port and the manual provides other convenient methods you can use.

If you are on the road or in an isolated area, then calling for a technician may not be possible. Additionally, waiting to have your charging cable to be replaced may not be a suitable option for you. Make sure to verify whether you are having a charging cable problem with a Tesla assistance spokesperson before taking a course of action.

Random Problems

The following are a combination of solutions found on Tesla help forums. They may not be the most common problems or solutions but they may be helpful. These are all suggested by Model 3 owners on Tesla forums.

One owner said, no one could be in Model 3 when attempting to open the charging port. The owner made the point he thought it was a security mechanism with the car. Get all passengers out and go through any of the various steps we have mentioned. 

Another owner mentioned there may be a malfunction in a sensor in the changing port door. This may require a visit to Tesla or from a technician but at least you will have an understanding of the problem.

Another owner said he could only open the stuck charging port door if another door was opened on his car. He suggested the back door nearest the charging port. Opening the trunk is also a possible solution. None of these are long term fixes but they might be worth a try if you are in desperate need of a charge.

Broken Part

If none of these options have worked it is possible a part within the port door is broken. At this point you may have to pry it open using a credit card (see above). Open the charging port door and in the upper corner search for a trapezoidal metal insert. That piece allows the door to open when pressed from the outside.

If able to get it open, and that piece is missing you can try a simple fix before taking it in for service. Use a washer or double sided tape to replace the missing metal piece. It should help in opening the door when you press on it from the outside.

However, if your simple fix falls off, in all likelihood the charge port door will be unable to open again. So, charge up, get going and take it in your Model 3 for a proper repair job.

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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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