“I see thick white smoke from the front wheel arches around the headlights, frunk and front bumper while charging my Tesla.”
“…steam coming out off the passenger side of the frunk. It lasted for a few minutes before it stopped.”
Is that you right now? Wait, don't panic! There is nothing to worry about. This is a normal occurrence on electric vehicles like Tesla and is not indicative of any issue with the vehicle unless the smoke is black or smells bad.
Did that ease your mind a bit? Great! Now, let's talk about what's going on here.
So you're charging at a Tesla supercharger (or a rapid charger) when suddenly, you see white smoke from under your vehicle.
So what does the white smoke mean? What looks like a puff of white smoke is steam from water evaporating from a wet or moist surface on your Tesla that’s now getting hot due to rapid charging, causing condensation and steam in the cooler air. It's usually normal at this time of the year with cold ambient temperatures and humid or damp conditions.
When you're charging your Tesla vehicle rapidly (i.e. using a Supercharger or a fast charger), the battery gets hot. Sometimes, the car software makes it even hotter by preconditioning the battery to maximise efficiency.
In this post, I'll explain in detail what's happening when you see white smoke coming from your Tesla – and why it's nothing to worry about!
What Causes the Steam From Tesla While Charging?
Okay, so there's a logical explanation for this – your Tesla isn't actually smoking at a Supercharger.
There are a few factors and environmental conditions that can cause steam (that can seem like white smoke) to come out of the front of your Tesla when supercharging. Let's take a look at them.
1. It’s chilly outside
Supercharging warms the battery for optimum charging. In cold weather, the humidity in the air can condense on a cold surface like the battery pack and radiators and turn into water droplets.
When you charge your Tesla in cold weather, the battery pack gets hot along with other parts/surfaces. This evaporates the condensed water droplets into warm water vapour.
If you remember from high school science class, water vapour is invisible. So the white smoke you see is water vapour recondensed in the surrounding cool air – aka steam.
2. Humid or wet weather
Another common cause of thick white smoke/steam while charging your Tesla is wet weather.
When it rains, the water can splash up on your Tesla and get into places like the radiators, frunk (front trunk), wheel wells, and under the car leading to water/moisture build-up.
If you are in snow or icy conditions, the same can happen when the snow or ice melts and gets into these areas, or you could even have some snow stuck inside the radiator combs.
When this moisture is heated up rapidly, you'll see steam.
Now, whether it's wet/humid or cold, your electric vehicle is doing one of these two things while charging:
- the battery is heated up for optimum charging efficiency.
- the condenser (radiator behind the front grill) turns on with the a/c (HVAC system) to cool down the battery and prevent it from getting too hot. That's when the system switches from battery heating to battery cooling about halfway through a charging session.
You can also check out the below comments on the threads I found on the Tesla Owners UK community explaining this. BTW, this is quite a common question that gets asked by new owners, especially in winter months.
3. Model 3 with heat pump
If you have a 2021+ Model 3 with a heat pump, the white smoke coming from the heat pump is reported to be due to the super manifold with the heat pump on refreshed M3 models.
A TeslaMotorClub member who owns the heat pump version of the Model 3 booked a technician. Tesla ran a diagnostics scan and found no issues.
Here's the explanation after the diagnosis:
Well, now that you understand what's happening under the hood, let's quick look at what you can do when this happens.
What Can You Do?
Well, you don't need to do anything. As the water droplets dry off, the steam will dissipate and eventually disappear.
In the meantime, you can continue to charge your Tesla without any worries! Just keep an eye on the situation and make sure there's no actual fire. If everything looks fine, then don't worry – it's just steam!
Remember, steam is okay, smoke is not. You need to understand the difference.
So before you go ahead and call a Tesla technician, there are a few things you can check.
Is That Steam or Smoke?
- If you don't smell anything weird, it means when a cold battery is being heated for optimum charging, any condensed water on it turns into vapour. This vapour recondenses in the cooler atmospheric air, which is why you see the white smoke, a.k.a the steam. There's nothing serious, so you can continue charging.
- If you notice a burning smell, it's time to call a Tesla technician. If you notice an actual fire, you need to call the emergency services right away!
In most cases, though, in cold winter months with damp and humid conditions, this is a common sight and nothing to worry about. It's just harmless steam!
Just remember – if in doubt, always err on the side of caution and call a Tesla technician or emergency services. Stay safe out there!
Final Thoughts: Tesla Smoking While Charging
So there you have it.
To summarise, if you see some white smoke coming from your Tesla, don't panic – it's just steam! As long as you don't see an actual fire, don't worry – everything is perfectly normal!
I hope this guide has cleared any confusion and helped put your mind at ease about the white smoke coming from your Tesla.
Plus, the next time you see it happening or get asked about it, you can now explain what's going on! Consider yourself a Tesla expert now! 😉
Share this guide with any other Tesla owners you know, and feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.
Do you have any other questions about your Tesla? Or have you ever seen this happen before? Let me know in the comments below!
Stay safe and Happy Driving!