Tesla Long-Term Parking: Strategies to Minimize Battery Drain at the Airport or at Home

By Nicki Schill •  Updated: 07/14/22 •  6 min read

Imagine coming home from a lovely vacation only to arrive back at the airport with your Tesla’s battery drained. Now you’re stranded.

Well, that’s the fear of a lot of Tesla owners when they leave their vehicle sitting for an extended period of time.

Most drivers are used to plugging in their vehicles overnight, so the idea of not having it plugged in for days at a time can be worrisome.

Sometimes it’s just not possible to have your Tesla plugged in while you’re away. Not all airport parking lots are equipped with chargers yet, so chances are, you will have to leave it unplugged.

Well, have no fear. Long-term unplugged parking for your Tesla is possible without complete battery drain. We’ll share some tips on how to minimize battery usage while you’re gone.

Leaving Your Tesla Parked Long-Term: What to Expect

It can be a bit concerning to leave your Tesla unplugged for days at a time, but don’t worry.

As one driver discovered, nothing earth-shattering will happen to your Tesla, but you can expect to lose a tiny bit of charge/range per day.

Tesla owner Josh White had to leave his Model 3 SR+ at the airport unplugged for 11 days. Before parking, he charged it up to the maximum level to give himself as much charge as possible.

It’s a smart move to charge up your Tesla just before leaving it behind, so time your charging session accordingly.

Josh arrived at the airport with 210 miles or 338 kilometers left in range. The car sat in ideal weather conditions, around 64℉–71℉, only dropping a few degrees overnight.

He turned off Sentry Mode and the Auto Climate Control settings to avoid unnecessary drainage and kept his use of the Tesla app to a minimum.

Upon arriving home after 11 days, Josh had only lost 1.2 miles or 2 kilometers from his range. Nothing to worry about there.

But as he notes near the end of his video diary, turning back on the Climate Control features to make his ride home more comfortable ended up quickly costing him another 3 miles in range in just one hour.

This is key for owners arriving home and remotely turning on Climate Control to make sure your Tesla is warmed up before driving. You want to make sure you’re not waking up the Tesla too early and zapping your range.

Another owner left her 2018 Tesla Model 3 unplugged for 32 days, and while she worried about vampire drain, when she arrived back home, her Tesla had only lost 15% of its battery.

This works out to only 0.47% daily battery drain. On average, most owners can expect to lose about 1% per day.

That means you can leave your Tesla unplugged for a significant amount of time (we’re talking months) before ever really being in danger of returning to zero range.

Understanding Sleep Mode

Your Tesla will eventually fall asleep when it’s left idle and unplugged. This is considered Sleep Mode.

If no activity in your vehicle has occurred for 15 minutes, your Tesla will go into Sleep Mode. 

This way, the vehicle powers down certain internal systems and scanners to reduce the drain on the battery.

Again, it’s important to note that by opening up your Tesla app to check in on your vehicle, you’re essentially waking it up. It actually stays awake as long as you have the app open, so that’s a surefire way to waste charge unnecessarily.

When you’re leaving your vehicle for long periods of time, (like owner Josh did) only check the app once while you’re away. This helps minimize the time the vehicle is awake and lets it stay in its Deep Sleep Mode.

Actions & Settings to Minimize Battery Usage While Parked

Let’s do a recap of what we’ve learned so far to avoid battery drainage when you leave your Tesla unplugged.

Turn Off Sentry Mode from the Safety & Security Control Menu

This is the biggest one as it will eat up your battery at a rate of 1 range mile per hour as it continuously monitors and scans the environment around your Tesla, keeping it awake. It’s a great security feature, but if you are leaving your car unplugged and are worried about drainage, it has to be turned off.

Turn Off Cabin Overheat Protection

Again, a great feature for a comfortable, temperate drive, but if you’re leaving your Tesla for a while, you won’t need this turned on.

Turn Off Summon Standby Mode

Similar to Sentry Mode, this lets you autonomously summon your Tesla in the parking lot, but it requires sensors and cameras to power it. Not necessary when you’re leaving your vehicle for days on end.

Ensure Your Doors, Frunk, and Trunk are Closed

Having these ajar can send alerts to the vehicle, causing unnecessary drainage.

Stop Checking the App

Like a sleeping dog, best to let the app lie. Waking up your Tesla every hour just to check in is a guaranteed way to drain its charge.

The Ideal Environment to Leave Your Car In… If You Can

Obviously, you’ll want to start by checking to see if where you’ll be parking your Tesla offers any kind of charging so that you don’t have to worry about range loss on your return.

But as other drivers discovered, that’s just not possible all the time.

You’ll want to scope out a covered spot like an underground parking garage if possible so your Tesla doesn’t have to face the elements or deal with varying extreme temperatures.

But remember, even if you can’t find an ideal, climate-controlled spot, the worst you can expect is 1% drain per day.

Also, try to get in as much charge as possible (around 90%) before leaving your Tesla unplugged for days at a time.

Is There a Future “Airport Mode” Coming?

Similar to Car Wash Mode, many Tesla owners would probably benefit from an “Airport Mode” that adjusts the proper settings with one tap. And many have upvoted this idea.

A long-term parking mode or airport mode would be beneficial and would automatically turn off the aforementioned settings needed to keep the battery from draining.

Maybe with enough demand Tesla will consider this in the future, but nothing seems to be on the horizon for now.

Final Thoughts

I think we can safely put to bed any real worries about returning home from the holidays to find your Tesla absolutely drained in the parking lot.

With a max of 1% being drained per day (and even less when you turn off certain modes and refrain from opening the app), you’ll never have to panic again.

Nicki Schill

Nicki Schill is a writer and content marketer out of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. As the former Geotab Marketing Manager, she’s got loads of experience in electric vehicles and fleet electrification. She’s a tech blogger and marketing guru who enjoys all things Canadian like hockey and poutine.

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