Does Tesla Model 3 Have a 12V Outlet?

By Zac Ludicrous •  Updated: 09/09/22 •  9 min read

Does Tesla Model 3 have a 12V outlet? If it does, where is it located? Why is it kept hidden? What accessories may be connected to it? And how does it influence the range of your Tesla? 

We’ll go through these and many more related queries that Tesla owners have regarding the subject and discuss the answers from head to toe.

Here’s a one-liner response to your question, though: “Yes! Tesla Model 3 is equipped with a 12V outlet.”

After scouring the internet for tons of information, fact-checking, and visiting several forums and blogs, I have developed this factual article that will not only answer all your questions but also give you remedies to your common 12V problems!

So without further ado, let’s get right into the details.

Where Is the Tesla Model 3 12V Outlet Located?

This little 12V outlet is located under your armrest in the center console. For a new user, locating this 12V outlet can be as hard as sneaking a little witch in the woods. 

The image below shows its location quite clearly:

does the tesla model 3 have a 12v outlet
Credit to Tesla

Being hidden away in the center console yet easily accessible to the user not only adds to the aesthetic of Tesla’s interior but also strips down the old fancy clustered look!

How to Access This Hidden 12V Outlet

Tesla designers have hidden this 12V plug in such a way that accessing it can be difficult for certain newcomers. But don’t worry, all you have to do is:

Here’s a quick tutorial from Kimavi YouTube channel:

What Is the Power Source of the 12V Outlet in the Tesla Model 3? 

As we all know, Tesla comes with two different battery packs; one is the main battery pack that is basically responsible for all the basic operations, such as providing powertrain and energy for the air conditioner and cabin heater and charging the other secondary 12V battery. 

Astonished? Yes, your Tesla Model 3 comes with a secondary 12V battery, and guess what? It’s the actual source of power of the mini 12V outlet. 

Well, taking care of the secondary 12V battery is quite crucial. Though this secondary 12V battery might look insignificant to you, it has some really significant operations to deal with, such as:

  1. Providing power to all the lights, media unit, windows, locks, etc. 
  2. Acting as an energy backup when the main battery starts dying
  3. Powering the 12V outlet and gadgets if connected

Any sort of gadget that you connect to your 12V outlet has a direct influence on your 12V battery’s performance. So to save yourself from any unfortunate situation, I’d recommend equipping your Tesla Model 3 only with the OEM 12V battery.

Wanna Plug a Gadget Into the 12V Outlet? Keep This in Mind…

To keep your Tesla healthy and avoid unnecessary interventions with Tesla’s system, it’s recommended to only plug Tesla OEM accessories into the 12V outlet.

It’d be better to avoid aftermarket products, unless you’re sure of their quality. But if an aftermarket accessory is the only solution, try to find authentic aftermarket accessories that actual owners have vouched for. Many accessories claim to operate on 12 volts but, in reality, actually need more power to operate properly.

For instance, a member of the Tesla community told about his unfortunate experience regarding an aftermarket accessory. Here’s his conversation with fellow owners:

Monday morning I had low air in my tires so I figured I’ll top off. I plugged in my portable air compressor (same 12 amp one I’ve used for years in my ICE car) and when I tried to use it, the “fuse” blew. I waited a few hours to reset and it blew again.

Next, when I sit in the car and step on the brake, I plugged it in and it worked…

So I figured I’ll just step on the brake then go pump air, nope. It blew again…

The portable air compressor works when I’m sitting in the driver’s seat, but the fuse blows when I get out and actually try to pump air into the car.

Next, I just tried a phone charger and it works no matter what. Probably due to lower amps?

Do we really need someone in the driver’s seat to use the full power of the 12V socket?


Replying to his query, ewoodrick said, 

It’s a pretty common problem in all cars. You just were lucky that it didn’t happen in your older car. So many of these air compressors are really cheap and while “rated” at 12A, could be pulling a LOT more, especially on startup.

Kirby64 said,

Sitting in the driver seat has no impact on whether or not you’re getting ‘full’ amperage out of the 12V input. Do you have the compressor attached to a tire when you test this in drivers seat? If not, it’s not under full load so it won’t draw full current.

Alternatively, if you DO have it connected to a tire while in drivers seat with no issues… it’s probably just a coincidence. As the compressor heats up, the motor could start drawing more amps. So as you use it more, eventually, ‘pop’.

My suggestion: You should pull the accessory out as soon as you observe any problems or unusual activity, such as lights or alarm messages. Then never use that accessory again with the Tesla 12V outlet. If the unusual activity results in damage to your Tesla, reach out to the service center as soon as possible.

Gadgets That Can Be Safely Plugged into the 12V Outlet

I’ve prepared a list of some of the safest and most useful gadgets that you can plug into the Model 3 12V outlet. Check them out:

#1: YANTU Cigarette Lighter Adapter

This device has a wealth of unique features, such as a three-plug vehicle charger and a dual USB cigarette lighter socket.

Over one 12V outlet, these plugs are more than adequate for GPS, dash cam, and other portable equipment.

The most peculiar of all its features is a battery voltage monitor that works in real time to safeguard the battery and extend its service life. It’s reasonable to claim that it enhances its effectiveness a hundred times!

An owner termed it a “must-have for Tesla owners.” That speaks a lot of its quality! If you’re looking for a cigarette lighter adapter, this is definitely it.

#2: EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump

For the purpose of refilling your car tires when they get low on air while on the road, this portable air compressor is your best bet. The most attractive quality of this air compressor is its quietness. While most air compressors are really noisy, this one is reasonable and not deafening.

Using this air compressor is also really simple. Its functioning is fairly straightforward, and the instructions that come with it are very clear.

Its only drawback is that it gets a little warm, and there is a big, clear caution notice on the device that states as much. But as attested by customers, it’s nothing to be concerned about.

#3: Dual-Port USB Car Charger Adapter for Apple and Android Devices

Great for charging phones, tablets, and other devices, this two-port 24-watt USB car charger taps into Tesla’s 12V DC adaptor.

With its device recognition, charging can proceed as quickly as possible — up to 2.4 amps per port or 4.8 amps overall. 

It’s compatible with a variety of devices, including iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, iPad, iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad Mini, LG, Nexus, and HTC.

This charger also has built-in safety features such as overload, short-circuit, and overvoltage protection. Being a compact and incredibly portable 12V charger, it can be the next best addition to your Tesla driving experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Model 3 12V power outlet always active? 

The 12V socket will work if you’re charging your Tesla’s high-voltage battery or driving this beast on the road. It’s also active while your Tesla is performing routine chores like communicating with the smartphone app.

As soon as you park it out somewhere and your Tesla has no routine work pending, this 12V outlet is dead.

However, if your Tesla Model 3 is in Sentry Mode, the 12V outlet will keep working.

When does the 12V outlet have no power?

If your Tesla is not charging or being driven on the road and has no regular task to execute, the 12V outlet is dead and has no power.

Does using the 12V affect the range of your Tesla?

The Model 3’s 12V outlet is powered by a secondary 12V battery, which is charged by Tesla’s primary power pack. Thus, plugging any gizmo into the 12V outlet places an indirect demand on the main power pack through the charging of the 12V battery, which may lead to the reduction of your Tesla Model 3’s range.

Bigger gadgets have bigger energy cells; therefore, more power and energy are utilized, reducing battery range significantly. Furthermore, if devices use more than 12 volts, they may malfunction. Therefore, you should avoid plugging them in in the first place.

Can I jumpstart my Tesla using the 12V outlet?

No, and you shouldn’t try this either! Because even trying to jumpstart your Tesla Model 3 via this 12V outlet can cause havoc to your Tesla’s system. Per Tesla, trying to jump-start your Model 3 using the low-voltage outlet is a bad idea. Doing so can pose serious damage.

Final Thoughts: Does Tesla Model 3 Have a 12V Outlet?

Queries addressed! Confusions resolved! The whole fiasco regarding the 12V outlet was nipped in the bud!

So in conclusion, even if the Model 3 cabin has lots of USB connections, this little 12V outlet in the center console may still have a highly beneficial use in exceptional scenarios.

Keeping in mind all the preventive cautions, such as avoiding consistent usage of any gadget for a long time while driving or charging or even when it’s parked, you can plug almost anything that consumes 12 volts or less into this tiny outlet in the console, creating no to very little effect on the battery capacity.

Zac Ludicrous

Mechanical engineer by profession. TSLA shareholder before the hype. EV enthusiast all day long. Zac enjoys learning about the future of battery technology, autonomy, and EVs. He considers Tesla Model 3 the most important vehicle of the 21st century -- and is in a quest to improve the ownership experience of every Model 3 owner he possibly can.

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