Model 3 on the snow - so far, so ok

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  • Winter is here and the forum is starting to get flooded with cold weather threads and posts. Please heed the suggested threads and posts before you post something related to cold weather. This is a great place to start: https://model3ownersclub.com/threads/teslas-in-cold-weather.5271

PatrickM

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#1
One of the big questions is the RWD now vs. wait for AWD question. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado and we do not get substantial snow very often, the streets are snow free at least 46 weeks out of the year in a typical year and usually even better than that. Fort Collins (and Denver) are kind of famous for snowstorms that are followed by warm weather so snow usually doesn't last very long.

But on Saturday we had a rare (for us) combo of freezing rain followed by light snowfall and I specifically took the car out early in the morning to see how it did on what was mostly an ice rink with a bit of snow on top, and it did ok. It basically drives better than any RWD drive car that I've personally ever driven, but it still drives like a well-behaved RWD car. On a straight line, the tires would spin a bit, but not too bad. On turns it was a bit squirrelly with a tendency for the rear to fish tail out a bit so I was sliding around a bit - particularly on turns. The traction control seemed pretty solid and I didn't see a way to disable it, not that I would normally want to disable it anyway, The aggressive regen put me into at least one slide at one point early on and so I toned down the regenerative braking in the menu option. But once I got the feel of the car, I was cruising around - slowly - with a minimal amount of trouble, and this was about as bad as it gets in Fort Collins barring a an extremely rare blizzard - freezing rain is nasty stuff.

I don't think I'd take it in the mountains to go skiing in a storm, I intend to buy and carry four sets of chains or cables (RWD you need to do all 4 wheels, not just the rear or front), but I am content with my decision to get RWD now. It was ok in the snow - I slid a bit but once I learned the car, I thought it was ok.

(Edit: changed original post to fix a typo where I meant weeks and typed months)
 
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Wilson

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#4
One of the big questions is the RWD now vs. wait for AWD question. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado and we do not really get real snow very often, the streets are snow free at least 46 months out of the year in a typical year and usually even better than that. Fort Collins (and Denver) are kind of famous for snowstorms that are followed by warm weather so snow usually doesn't last very long.

But on Saturday we had a rare (for us) combo of freezing rain followed by light snowfall and I specifically took the car out early in the morning to see how it did on what was mostly an ice rink with a bit of snow on top, and it did ok. It basically drives better than any RWD drive car that I've personally ever driven, but it still drives like a well-behaved RWD car. On a straight line, the tires would spin a bit, but not too bad. On turns it was a bit squirrelly with a tendency for the rear to fish tail out a bit so I was sliding around a bit - particularly on turns. The traction control seemed pretty solid and I didn't see a way to disable it, not that I would normally want to disable it anyway, The aggressive regen put me into at least one slide at one point early on and so I toned down the regenerative braking in the menu option. But once I got the feel of the car, I was cruising around - slowly - with a minimal amount of trouble, and this was about as bad as it gets in Fort Collins barring a an extremely rare blizzard - freezing rain is nasty stuff.

I don't think I'd take it in the mountains to go skiing in a storm, I intend to buy and carry four sets of chains or cables (RWD you need to do all 4 wheels, not just the rear or front), but I am content with my decision to get RWD now. It was ok in the snow - I slid a bit but once I learned the car, I thought it was ok.
You have really long years in Fort Collins!
Also thanks for the info.
 
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LucyferSam

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#6
Here in Iowa we've had solid snow cover on our roads for the last 2 weeks or so (finally melted off the roads yesterday), and while it's definitely taken some getting used to the different handling of the RWD on snow it is slightly more stable than my FWD Camry was (factory Primacy's on the 3, also had Primacy's on the Camry but don't remember which variant). I'll probably get snow tires for next year as I'd prefer a little more stability and after a year of wear the factory tires will be a little worse on the snow, but they have been perfectly usable so far.
 

Michael Russo

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#7

NJturtlePower

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#8
I intend to buy and carry four sets of chains or cables (RWD you need to do all 4 wheels, not just the rear or front), but I am content with my decision to get RWD now. It was ok in the snow - I slid a bit but once I learned the car, I thought it was ok.
Not correct chain usage according to Tesla who specifically states, "
Note: Chains should only be installed on the rear wheels of the Model 3 and only on 18" tires. The use of non-recommended tire chains has been shown to cause suspension and other vehicle damage."

In my opinion true winter tires will do you better than chains in everything but deep snow, which honestly the Model 3 is not cut out for due to its low ground clearance. Improved traction AND braking is key.

https://shop.tesla.com/us/en/catego...tesla.car.accessories.model.3.m3.wheels.tires
 

Runt8

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#9
One of the big questions is the RWD now vs. wait for AWD question. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado and we do not get substantial snow very often, the streets are snow free at least 46 weeks out of the year in a typical year and usually even better than that. Fort Collins (and Denver) are kind of famous for snowstorms that are followed by warm weather so snow usually doesn't last very long.

But on Saturday we had a rare (for us) combo of freezing rain followed by light snowfall and I specifically took the car out early in the morning to see how it did on what was mostly an ice rink with a bit of snow on top, and it did ok. It basically drives better than any RWD drive car that I've personally ever driven, but it still drives like a well-behaved RWD car. On a straight line, the tires would spin a bit, but not too bad. On turns it was a bit squirrelly with a tendency for the rear to fish tail out a bit so I was sliding around a bit - particularly on turns. The traction control seemed pretty solid and I didn't see a way to disable it, not that I would normally want to disable it anyway, The aggressive regen put me into at least one slide at one point early on and so I toned down the regenerative braking in the menu option. But once I got the feel of the car, I was cruising around - slowly - with a minimal amount of trouble, and this was about as bad as it gets in Fort Collins barring a an extremely rare blizzard - freezing rain is nasty stuff.

I don't think I'd take it in the mountains to go skiing in a storm, I intend to buy and carry four sets of chains or cables (RWD you need to do all 4 wheels, not just the rear or front), but I am content with my decision to get RWD now. It was ok in the snow - I slid a bit but once I learned the car, I thought it was ok.

(Edit: changed original post to fix a typo where I meant weeks and typed months)
Great info, thanks! I'm a bit hesitant going with RWD but I've heard Teslas do very well.

Also, I test drove a Model S today, the sales guy mentioned that in the snow you should turn regen braking down to low to prevent slides, guess he actually knows what he's talking about :D
 

PatrickM

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#10
Not correct chain usage according to Tesla who specifically states, "
Note: Chains should only be installed on the rear wheels of the Model 3 and only on 18" tires. The use of non-recommended tire chains has been shown to cause suspension and other vehicle damage."

Wow. Good to know. Thanks for the correction.
 
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#11
Hi Patrick. Live in Highlands Ranch, just south of Denver, have configured and waiting for VIN and delivery. Have similar thoughts about front-range Colorado winter and roads. Was wondering if since this post you had had a chance to drive in any additional snowy conditions and, if so, how it went and if you're still thinking of going with chains or possibly getting snow tires (or neither).
 

PatrickM

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#12
As you know it's been an unusually mild winter so there hasn't been much chance to drive it in any really big storms but the ones that we have had have all been fine. I tell people that it drives a bit like my old Prius except that it slides a bit differently when it does slide. But it seems to me to drive ok - but not great - in a bit of snow. About as well as a typical ICE compact car, but with different handling that takes a bit of getting used to. But we had at least one ice storm about 5 weeks or so ago where we had frozen rain followed by snow and that was a pretty slick night and I saw other cars and pickups sliding around and I just drove slowly and all was fine.

So on the one hand, I don't know what I don't know and we haven't experienced any really big storms since I got the car in Feb. But on the other hand, everything that we have had has been fine... and that's on the stock tires.

A bunch of my co-workers ask me if they should wait for AWD or get RWD for their Model 3 orders and that's a hard thing for me to comment on because I really just wanted my car and so the concept of waiting wasn't going to happen and everyone has different expectations for cars. But I have zero concerns that I personally made the wrong decision - I am always one of those people who would work from home in a storm because my Prius was the opposite of an all-weather vehicle and now I have the same thing with the Model 3 except that I also don't want road grit scratching it. :) So my plan is to watch the weather and stay home when the forecast is bad. If you do a lot of winter driving and staying home is not an option when we have one of roughly 5-10 days out of the year when it really storms, then wait for AWD, but if you have an alternate car or can just not drive the Model 3 when it's insane outside, then I think the RWD works pretty well in Colorado and I have no regrets about my decision.
 
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#13
Thanks, definitely not waiting for AWD, will hopefully get it in 2-4 weeks. Was just wondering stock tires vs. chains vs. switching out to winter tires (which I've never done on previous vehicles, including my 2006 Prius). Think I may just go with stock tires and see how they do through next winter (assuming we have a winter).
 

PatrickM

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#14
Thanks, definitely not waiting for AWD, will hopefully get it in 2-4 weeks. Was just wondering stock tires vs. chains vs. switching out to winter tires (which I've never done on previous vehicles, including my 2006 Prius). Think I may just go with stock tires and see how they do through next winter (assuming we have a winter).
I hope for the sake of our water supply that we don't have another winter like this one next year. But yeah, that seems like a plan.

I had a plan to buy cables on Amazon and carry them around but I never actually did it.
 

Sabine

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#15
Thanks for this info.

I live in Alberta and have winter/snow-covered roads for about 4 - 5 months out of the year, possibly longer. I have NEVER driven a RWD and am seriously hesitating getting one. That said, the US:Canada exchange rate sucks at the moment and I do NOT make 6 figures ... and I absolutely need the extended range, so I'm wondering if I can manage without AWD. 1.5 years ago I hit black ice on the HWY and crashed my vehicle, so I'm extra apprehensive at this point in time (though really, will AWD save me when there's black ice?). Just voicing my consternation as I don't want to drop a whole lot of money only to find out I can't handle the vehicle on icy roads or in deep snow.

Anyone from Canada have any experience to share?

Also, I am currently renting a very small house. I do have access to a (cough) garage (it's crap) which would allow for 110 charging. Does this work on a Model 3? I walk to work, so it'd be used just for grocery shopping and long distance trips to bigger cities. The city I live in does not have a Supercharger.
 

Runt8

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#16
Thanks for this info.

I live in Alberta and have winter/snow-covered roads for about 4 - 5 months out of the year, possibly longer. I have NEVER driven a RWD and am seriously hesitating getting one. That said, the US:Canada exchange rate sucks at the moment and I do NOT make 6 figures ... and I absolutely need the extended range, so I'm wondering if I can manage without AWD. 1.5 years ago I hit black ice on the HWY and crashed my vehicle, so I'm extra apprehensive at this point in time (though really, will AWD save me when there's black ice?). Just voicing my consternation as I don't want to drop a whole lot of money only to find out I can't handle the vehicle on icy roads or in deep snow.

Anyone from Canada have any experience to share?

Also, I am currently renting a very small house. I do have access to a (cough) garage (it's crap) which would allow for 110 charging. Does this work on a Model 3? I walk to work, so it'd be used just for grocery shopping and long distance trips to bigger cities. The city I live in does not have a Supercharger.
AWD helps you get started, but it does next to nothing to stop you (there are some differences with traction control, but traction control only works if your tires actually have traction). The best thing you can do for any car, RWD, FWD, or AWD, is to use good snow tires in the winter. After seeing all the videos and reading comments about how good RWD Tesla's handle in the snow, I'm not very concerned.

As for 110 charging, you will get somewhere between 3 and 5 miles per hour. You need to figure out how long you will have it plugged in each day vs. the number of miles you drive to determine if it's sufficient for you.
 

Sabine

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#18
AWD helps you get started, but it does next to nothing to stop you (there are some differences with traction control, but traction control only works if your tires actually have traction). The best thing you can do for any car, RWD, FWD, or AWD, is to use good snow tires in the winter. After seeing all the videos and reading comments about how good RWD Tesla's handle in the snow, I'm not very concerned.
Thank you for your reply. I did test drive a couple of RWD SUVs 1.5 years ago, and they handled fairly well on the snow-covered streets despite being top heavy. I'm just sharing the thoughts in my head (I should probably stop doing so) as my biggest fear is, as you said, not being able to get started as I live in an older neighbourhood, on a one-way street, where there isn't much "wiggle room" when the roads are slick and there's lots of snow on the ground. Guess I just better make sure I have good insurance coverage.
 

Archaebald

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#19
... though really, will AWD save me when there's black ice?
This is a topic on which there seems to be as many opinions as there are discussants (ping @KarenRei) ;). Where I live, winter conditions seem to be similar to your (although black ice is not so common, usually we have stable below-zero degrees and compressed snow/rugged ice on the streets). From my experience (i.e., opinion in disguise...) FWD, RWD, or AWD is a matter of which tires you prefer loose traction when driving "agressively"/irresponsibly. Although AWD DOES help you get going, I have never experienced any situation were AWD has been absolutely necessary. Even when driving were I shouldn't, e.g., in DEEP snow where the car eventually ended up resting on the undercarriage rather than the tires, RWD/FWD has been sufficient to get out of the situation (after some digging...) I have found proper winter tires - NOT "all season" - and adjusting your speed to the road conditions to be the A-Z of safe winter drivning, way more important than the type of drivetrain you have. You just have to accept you will not always be the first out of the trafic lights during winter..
 

KarenRei

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#20
It's about the difference between static and dynamic friction. Static friction is the force resisting you move at all. Dynamic friction is the force trying to slow you down once you are moving. With tires, you always want to be dealing with static friction; on any given tire, once you pass the limit, you're sliding (the amount of force that will "break" your traction varying depending on your tires and the amount of lateral force being applied to them). This force can come from a number of things - braking, cornering, accelerating, or even simply maintaining speed. Remember that all of that energy you're burning to maintain your speed is going into traction force on your tires, even if you're not accelerating; it's just a much greater amount of force when you are accelerating.

Since there's more force on your drive wheels, they lose grip first. This can happen when accelerating hard, accelerating normally out of a turn, or simply maintaining speed if the road is slippery enough. In a RWD car, if the rear tires lose traction but the front tires maintain it, you fishtail, as the front wheels keep going where they were aimed, but the rear wheels slide out to either side.

With AWD, the lateral force on the tires from braking or cornering remains unchanged, but the force from acceleration or maintaining speed is halved. The odds of having at least one drive tire on a good surface is also doubled. Lastly, if you do lose traction, you're more likely to lose it on both the front and rear, avoiding fishtailing.

I often experiment on my pickup during the winter, which I can switch between AWD and RWD. I'll go around a corner and accelerate on my way out of it (like a person normally does), but at a speed that's deliberately too high for the road conditions. If I'm in RWD, the amount of acceleration needed to lose traction on the rear wheels is a lot less (sometimes, on a really bad road, barely anything), and the truck heavily fishtails. If I'm in AWD, I have to gun it a lot harder to lose traction, and the whole truck slides evenly, just taking the corner wide.

Statistically, AWD vehicles in a given vehicle class usually have lower accident rates in the winter. However, the accidents are often more severe because the speeds are higher. Sadly, a lot of people compensate for their better handling on icy conditions simply by driving faster. It should go without saying, but don't do this. ;) It's like people who respond to having AP by spending their drive fiddling around with their phone.

And it should also go without saying... but AWD is not an excuse to not put winter tires on. ;)
 
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