This Is How Tesla Autopilot Works on Ice

This Is How Tesla Autopilot Works on Ice

Are you considering getting a Tesla as your next vehicle, but you live in a snowy area? Driving in winter conditions is part of everyday life for those that live in the north. Because life must continue when the weather is bad, you want a car that drives well in the snow and ice. So, how well does Tesla autopilot work in icy conditions?

The autopilot feature on Tesla’s vehicles will continue to work in snowy or icy conditions. Before using autopilot in the winter, make sure each of the cameras and sensors is clear of ice and snow. If they are not clear, the autopilot will not work.

The good news is that Tesla’s autopilot continues to work in winter weather as long as the cameras are not blocked. Keep reading to learn more about driving a Tesla in the ice, snow, winter driving tips, and how Tesla vehicles drive in other weather conditions.

Tesla’s Autopilot on Ice

Tesla’s autopilot works by using eight cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors. These cameras and sensors continuously scan the surroundings of the vehicle to detect the following:

  • Animals
  • Objects
  • The road
  • Vehicles

The autopilot feature includes traffic-aware cruise control and autosteer. Traffic-aware cruise control is a feature that allows you to use cruise control that adjusts to the speed of the surrounding traffic. Autosteer helps keep your car driving between the lines while traffic-aware cruise control is activated.

While both of these features are incredibly useful, what happens when the weather gets bad? Can you still use autopilot in ice?

When the weather gets bad, Tesla autopilot can still be used in the snow and ice. As long as the cameras and sensors are clear, the autopilot will work as normal. There are even reports of autopilot helping to gain and keep control during bad weather.

If you plan on driving your Tesla during a big snowstorm, make sure the snow isn’t covering the cameras as you are driving. If it is, the Tesla autopilot may quit working. After an ice storm, always take the time to defrost the car and clear the sensors.

Some people have reported losing control of ice while Tesla’s autopilot is activated. In the cases reported, the Tesla vehicles regained control instead of being involved in a car crash.

Are Teslas Good in the Snow?

Before you buy a Tesla, it is important to understand how they do in the snow. Overall, Teslas do a good job driving in the snow, but their low ground clearance may cause some issues with getting stuck. Here are the factors that determine how well a vehicle drives in the snow:

  • All-wheel drive
  • Ground clearance
  • Tires
  • Weight distribution

Keep reading for a breakdown of how Tesla vehicles perform in each of these categories. This should help you decide if you want to drive a Tesla in the snow.

All-Wheel Drive

One of the first factors to consider when determining how well a car drives in the snow is if it is an all-wheel-drive vehicle. Cars that are two-wheel drive only will have a much harder time maintaining traction in the snow.

Some Tesla vehicles are all-wheel drive, meaning they will do better in the snow than vehicles that are not all-wheel drive. Tesla models with all-wheel drive include the new Model S, Model X, Model Y, and Model 3. If you have an older Tesla, you may or may not have an all-wheel-drive version. Look at your owner’s manual to know for sure.

Teslas with all-wheel drive have dual motors. This means that one motor controls the tires in the front of the car, and the other motor controls the tires in the back. This gives you more traction than most other types of vehicles.

Ground Clearance

Another thing to consider when deciding if a car drives well in the snow is the ground clearance of the vehicle. If a car is low to the ground, it will have a harder time driving through the snow, and it may get stuck.

Here is the ground clearance of different Tesla models:

  • Model X: 8 inches
  • Model Y: 6.6 inches
  • Model 3: 5.5 inches
  • Model S 4.6 inches

While none of these are ideal for extreme amounts of snow, they are acceptable for regular amounts. If you plan to drive your Tesla in several feet of snow each day, you may want to consider getting a different vehicle. With that being said, most Tesla’s do just fine in a few inches of snow.

If you do live in a snowy area and plan to get a Tesla, the best option for you is a Model X or a Model Y. While these models are more expensive than some of the other options, they will allow you to reliably get through the snow.


When choosing a car to drive in the snow, you should consider the tires that come with the car. Fortunately, you can put snow tires on pretty much any vehicle, so even if the car doesn’t come with snow tires, you can replace those on the vehicle.

In most cases, all-season tires are best for driving in the winter. Having good tires allows your car to maintain contact with the road and allows you to steer and brake as needed.

Weight Distribution

The weight distribution of the car is another thing that determines how well it will drive in the snow. If the weight is evenly distributed across the front and the back of the car, it will drive better in the snow.

The weight distribution in a Tesla allows it to do well in the snow because the battery is located in the middle of the car. The centered battery helps the car maintain traction while driving in wintery conditions.

Tesla Winter Driving Tips

If you end up purchasing a Tesla and find yourself driving it in the winter, there are some helpful tips to improve your driving experience. These tips will make driving safer, make it easier to see and keep you comfortable. Keep reading to learn more about Tesla winter driving tips!

Use the Scheduled Departure Feature

One of the best winter driving tips is to use the scheduled departure feature. By using the scheduled departure, you can program your Tesla for the time you plan on leaving. This will allow the vehicle to warm up and melt off any snow or ice. Using the scheduled departure feature also allows you to save energy while on the road.

This feature works great for people that work at the same time every day. You can set a schedule so that your Tesla is always ready to go.

To use scheduled departure, go into the climate control settings, turn on preconditioning, and then schedule.


Even if you don’t schedule your departure, you should still precondition your Tesla before driving in the winter. Preconditioning gives the car a chance to warm up so that it is at the optimal driving temperature. You can also use the option to defrost your Tesla.

To use these features, start by going into the climate control settings. From there, you can turn on the precondition or the defrost option. If you have downloaded the Tesla app, you also can start these features using the app. The app is super convenient on chilly mornings when you don’t want to go outside.

Watch Your Energy Usage

If you are not careful, your Tesla may use a lot more energy while driving in the winter. This is because it uses more of the battery to keep the vehicle running and the inside of the car warm.

To save energy while driving in the winter, try driving at a moderate and steady speed. If you drive too fast, too slow, or make frequent stops/starts, you will use an excess of energy. Tesla has a built-in Chill feature to help control your acceleration while it is cold outside.

To conserve even more energy, consider lowering the temperature inside the vehicle. The seat warmers use less power than the central heating system, so consider using those instead is possible.

Watch For the Snowflake Symbol

Driving your Tesla when the battery is cold is a bad idea. If the battery in your Tesla is too cold to drive, a snowflake symbol may appear on the dash. This means that the battery is too cold to use all the energy it has stored.

Here is how you make the snowflake symbol go away:

  • Charging
  • Driving
  • Precondition your Tesla
  • Scheduled departure

If you start driving your Tesla and notice the snowflake symbol, know that it should go away after driving. While driving does warm the battery up, it is still best to precondition before driving.

Move Your Windshield Wipers

Like with any other vehicle, you should always lift your windshield wipers if you know that a big snowstorm is coming. If you do not, your windshield wipers will be stuck to your windshield the following day.

Getting windshield wipers to defrost can be difficult, and it is not safe to drive if they are frozen. Driving with frozen windshield wipers can make it impossible to see in bad weather.

Reposition Your Mirror

In addition to moving your windshield wipers, you also should reposition your mirror before a big winter storm. Tesla has a feature where the mirror automatically folds in when parked. You should deactivate this feature so that your mirror does not freeze while folded in.

To turn on this setting, start by accessing the control settings. From there, choose either the vehicle or the quick controls option. This will depend on the Tesla model you have. After that, disable the Mirror Auto-Fold feature. If you live in an area that snows often, it may be best to disable this option for the entire winter to avoid frozen mirrors.

Clean Off Important Areas

Before you start driving your Tesla after a snowstorm, it is important to clean off all the important areas of your vehicle. Here is what you need to clean off before hitting the road:

  • Cameras and sensors: As mentioned earlier, you must keep your cameras and sensors clear to use autopilot or other self-driving features. Always check these are clear before driving.
  • Charge port: If your charge port is frozen, the Tesla will not be able to charge as it should. The best way to defrost the charge port is by using the preconditioning feature.
  • Door handles: Before opening your Tesla, check to see if the door handles are frozen. If they are, gently remove the ice from the handles.
  • Mirrors: Before starting your vehicle, check to make sure the mirrors aren’t frozen. If they are, manually adjust them.
  • Windows: Your windows need to be clear of ice so that you can see. If they are frozen, use the preconditioning feature set to defrost.

Winter Charging Tips

Now that you know all about caring for your Tesla in the winter, what about charging the battery? Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your car charges in the winter:

  • Charge when the battery is warm
  • Use the navigation system
  • Plug your Tesla in a while, not in use

Keep reading for more details on these charging tips!

Charge When the Battery Is Warm

The best time to charge your Tesla battery is when the vehicle is warm. If you can, try to wait to plug in your Tesla until after you reach your destination. This will ensure that your battery is warm when you begin charging.

If you cannot wait until you reach your destination, precondition your vehicle before charging. This will warm the battery up enough to charge.

Use the Navigation System

If you plan to charge your car after you arrive at your destination, use the navigation system to let your Tesla know where you are going. Using the navigation system lets the car know that it will soon be charging. This allows the vehicle to ensure the battery is warmed up and ready to go before reaching the destination.

On average, it takes around 45 minutes for the Tesla battery to heat up. If you are going on a trip less than 45 minutes long, you should go ahead and let the Tesla precondition while driving. If you are going on a long trip, this should not be an issue.

Plug Your Tesla in When Not in Use

During the winter, you should leave your Tesla plugged in while you are not using it. Leaving your Tesla plugged in is good for the battery because it retains heat. Instead of the battery keeping itself warm, it can rely on the charging system.

How Do Teslas Do in Other Weather Conditions?

Overall, Teslas do a pretty good job driving in the snow. If you consider getting a Tesla, you also need to know how they drive in other weather conditions!

Here are some other conditions that you need to consider:

  • Fog
  • Rain
  • Wind


When driving in the fog, be sure to use the same precautions that you would when driving in any other vehicle. Make sure that you slow down, use your low-beam lights, and watch out for other vehicles.

While Tesla’s autopilot should continue to work, if the conditions are too bad, the cameras may not be able to sense the surroundings.


Because Tesla vehicles have an even weight distribution, good tires, and decent ground clearance, they do a good job driving in the rain.

Just like with snow, one of the main concerns is keeping the cameras and sensors clear. If it is raining so hard that the cameras and sensors are blocked, you may not be able to drive with the autopilot activated.

Most of the time, the cameras and sensors stay clear on their own, but you may need to wipe them off. Mud is also likely to cover the cameras and sensors while driving in the rain.


Like while driving other cars, you need to be cautious driving your Tesla in the wind. The wind can blow the car around and make it more difficult to control. In a Tesla, the wind may affect your battery range.

If you are driving against the wind for an extended amount of time, your battery may drain faster than you would expect. If you notice that you are driving during a windy day, use your Tesla to locate the nearest charging stations. The last thing you want is to run out of power because of the wind.

Driving Your Tesla in Inclement Weather

Are you wondering how well a Tesla drives in the ice and snow? If so, now you know! Overall, Tesla’s are fantastic vehicles for winter conditions. Tesla vehicles have good control in snowy weather, and the autopilot will continue to work. The main concern with a Tesla is getting stuck in the snow. As long as you aren’t driving in deep snow, you should be fine!


The articles here on are created by Greg, a Tesla vehicle and Tesla solar expert with nearly half a decade of hands-on experience. The information on this site is fact-checked and tested in-person to ensure the best possible level of accuracy.

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