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How Do Tesla Door Handles Work?

How Do Tesla Door Handles Work?

Tesla’s door handle design is quite innovative, given that the company incorporates sophisticated technology in every part of its cars.

Tesla’s approach to improving its cars’ range has received a lot of praise from electric vehicle enthusiasts. 

However, its door handles have had their fair share of controversies, leaving many people questioning whether the design is really worth it. Additionally, the company has different door handle designs for its four models.

Why is it so? How do they work? 

Read on to find out. 

How Do Tesla’s Door Handles Work?

Here’s how Tesla’s door handles work for a few of their models:

Model 3 and Model Y

The Model 3 has a simpler door handle design compared to other models. To open the door, you must push the wide section of the door handle with your thumb.

The handle will pivot outwards for easy grip, and you can proceed to open the door by pulling it or the door’s edge. 

Model X

The Model X’s doors have an electrical motor that automatically unlocks them when you approach the car with a key. All you have to do is pull the door handle and the front doors will open.

You can also configure the driver’s door to unlock automatically on your approach. Depending on the barriers and space the sensors identify, the door opens up just partially to avoid any damage.

The falcon wing doors of the Model X are simple to open and close with the touch of a button, a smartphone app, a key fob, or an accompanying icon on the touchscreen.

The falcon wing doors have several sensors that can identify people and objects, and if it detects an object, the door will cease opening.

The doors may alter their outward and upward movement in response to things it identifies in an effort to avoid coming into touch with the object.

Model S

The Model S has sensors that identify when a driver carrying a valid key fob is close to it. The mid-size sedan can sense the presence of the key fob that’s within one meter (three feet).

You can configure your Model S to allow passive entry automatically and unlock the doors. Go to Controls, click Safety, and then turn on Passive Entry. Afterward, press on the door handle, and it will extend. 
Tesla Model S 6

Alternatively, you can turn on the Auto-Present Handles setting to allow you entry into the electric vehicle without pressing the door handle. The door handle will automatically extend as you approach the car.

The good thing with the Model S is that the automatic door handle will automatically retract if no one enters it. 

Why Are Tesla Door Handles Flush With the Bodywork?

Tesla designs its door handles to sit flush with the bodywork to reduce drag and make the cars more aerodynamic. Though minimal, any additional drag negatively affects your gasoline car’s fuel economy or range in the case of electric vehicles. 

Also, protruding door handles contribute to wind noise, which may irritate some electric vehicle drivers. As a result, Tesla designs all its cars to be as smooth as possible and without unnecessary protrusions.

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

Unlike the Model S, which has a powered door handle, the Model 3 and Model Y flush handles need some pressing to open up.

And as they’re flush with the bodywork, you may experience a significant challenge during the winters and cold weather when the handles are frozen. What should you do?

According to Tesla, fist-bump the handle with force equal to knocking on a neighbor’s door until you break the ice. Applying excessive force may be detrimental as you may dent your car.

And as you already know, most Tesla repairs are pretty expensive. The Model 3 owners’ manual also advises applying WD-40 beforehand to the door’s pivot mechanism.

In an effort to warm the handle from the inside, you may also use the car’s app to turn on the climate control in advance.

What About Using Hot Water To Melt the Ice? 

Never pour hot water over your Tesla’s door, as the thermal shock may break the windows. A rapid increase in temperature can cause the glass to crack.

Secondly, Tesla door handles are electrically powered and have electronics in and near them, which may not be waterproof.

Water is a good conductor of electricity, and you may end up short-circuiting your Tesla’s electric system. 

Final Remarks on Tesla’s Door Handles

Tesla has different door handle designs for its lineup of luxurious electric vehicles. As we’ve seen, a significant shortcoming with the flush door handles is that they get quickly frozen during freezing weather conditions.

The most logical way to deal with frozen door handles is to first warm the electric vehicle for about 30-45 minutes. Afterward, give the handle a soft fist bump, and you can open the door easily before driving off. 


Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!