What Happens When You Park A Tesla For Three Months?

My wife and I have a summer place in a camping community in Connecticut. When we owned a Nissan LEAF, it sat parked in our carport in Florida for three months. During that time, it lost about 2 percent of its battery charge. But the LEAF was not a “computer on wheels” the way a Tesla is. So, when we went north this summer, we were curious how much battery power would be used by our Tesla Model Y before we got back.

Fortunately, the Tesla app makes it easy to stay in touch with your car at all times, so we were able to monitor things from afar. Before we left, I charged our Model Y (cleverly called Wylie — every car has to have a name) to 86%. Then we headed to the airport.

I was a little nervous, not because I thought there would be a problem but because this was something new in my experience. I wanted to not worry about Wylie sitting with a fully depleted battery for weeks or months. We have a neighbor who agreed to drive the car every few weeks. I showed my neighbor how to plug it in, but he wasn’t comfortable doing that, so I hoped it wouldn’t be necessary.

After a week, I checked in on Wylie using the Tesla app. The battery was at 84%, which gave me a hint that my concerns were not realistic. After a month, it was at 79%. After 2 months, it was at 71% and when we arrived home last week, the battery still had a 64% charge remaining.

Parking A Tesla For The Summer

There are several things you need to do before you park your Tesla for an extended period of time. First, turn off all the features that can draw power, like automatic temperature control for the passenger compartment (which prevents the temperature inside the car from getting above 40°C/104°F for up to 12 hours after you leave the car). Dog Mode, Camping Mode, and so forth should all be disabled. Sentry Mode is a matter of personal choice, but depending on how often it’s triggered, it can use a lot of energy. Wylie was parked under a carport that kept it out of the sun in a condo community with 24 hour security. There aren’t a lot of ruffians roaming about who might decide to mess with it.

If it were parked at an airport or other public facility, you might want to activate Sentry Mode for your own peace of mind and to have a video record if any miscreants create mischief while you are away. I cannot report how quickly Sentry mode depletes the battery because I did not have it turned on during my absence. (Editor’s note: Sentry Mode can deplete the battery a ton. We used to live at an apartment complex where there was a lot of foot traffic around the car and the battery drained quickly when Sentry Mode was on. I assume it’d be similar at an airport.)

My neighbor did drive the car around for a few miles every two weeks, primarily to knock the rust off the brake rotors and keep the 12-volt battery charged. Heat is tougher on those batteries than cold, so I wanted to make sure it survived the summer in Florida.

He used my Tesla key card to access the car and it took him a few tries to get it to work. He assumed he was supposed to hold it in front of the camera on the door pillar, which someone unfamiliar with the car might assume is the proper method. The first time he checked on the car, he called me and I walked him through the process.

Then in late August, he called me to say he couldn’t get the car to lock when he was done driving it. There were some workers in the area and he didn’t want to leave the car unlocked. Rather than impose on his good nature, I simply locked the car remotely using the app. He thought that was way cool.

Lessons Learned

Wylie used about 25% of its battery power during the three months it was parked — roughly 8% a month. So, if you are concerned about leaving your Tesla unused for a while, don’t be. Just remember to shut down the systems and features that can draw more power and walk away.

Having a carport or garage is a distinct plus. Cars parked in the Florida sun can easily get as hot as 120°F inside, or more. That’s not good. As it was, when I checked the app, Wylie never got hotter than 85 degrees inside all summer long. As noted above, there is a feature that will automatically activate the air conditioning if the cabin temperature gets too high, which is a good thing, but if the AC is running regularly, battery power will decrease accordingly. Other than that, leaving your Tesla unattended for a significant period of time should be no problem.

When my wife and I got back to Florida a few days ago, there was Wylie sitting just where we left it. We were able to climb in and go for groceries with no drama. The tire pressure monitor said it was time to put some air in the tires, so I found an air pump (I carry a battery powered air pump in the frunk but it’s a little slow) and aired up. All 4 tires were at 38 psi, which may seem like plenty, but the sticker on the B pillar on the driver’s side says 42 psi is recommended. Once I added about 5 pounds of pressure to all 4 tires, the warning light went out and all was well.

The Model Y Vacation Takeaway

Since my experience represents a sample size of one, extrapolating from my results is problematic. Still, I had no issues leaving Wylie parked for 3 months, which is comforting since my wife and I go north every summer. Having my neighbor take the car around the block twice a month was nice but not necessary.

What I did find, however, is that my neighbor was completely baffled by the touchscreen. He couldn’t set the AC temperature or turn on the wipers or listen to the radio. I know Hertz and other rental companies are ordering a bunch of Teslas and I wonder if their customers are happy with the “computer on wheels” experience. Most of us get in a rental, adjust the seat and mirrors, drop it in drive, and go. Operating a Tesla requires a tutorial.

I have to say, after owning Wylie for 9 months, the touchscreen is my least favorite part of the Tesla experience. Maybe it’s because I am older and my brain has atrophied, but my son-in-law has had a Model Y for 2 years now and my daughter is reluctant to drive it because it is still terra incognita to her. Maybe she inherited limited brain capacity from her father.

I peruse the reddit EV forum regularly and saw a post recently from someone who traded a Model Y for a different electric car and was overjoyed to have real buttons on a real dashboard again. To me, the Tesla touchscreen is not intuitive. It forces me to do what it wants me to do rather than doing what I want it to do. I know Tesla is selling gazillions of cars worldwide, which makes me an outlier, I suppose. But when I read that Tesla is thinking about doing away with the two remaining control stalks, I shake my head and ask why.

Elon thinks of a car as just a horizontal elevator. To me, it is so much more than that and I wish Tesla would stop sanitizing the driving experience to the point where much of the joy of driving is squeezed out of the experience. Your mileage may vary. See dealer for details.


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