Tesla Model 3 in Deep Snow: Owners Put Their Cars to the Test

By Zac Ludicrous •  Updated: 08/07/22 •  11 min read

Ah, the winter season!

For experienced drivers, it’s the season where you can drift without having to deal with excessive tire damage.

tesla model 3 deep snow
Credit to Karl Stone

For others, it’s the season where you experience that oh-shit moment, followed by a hand on your head — or maybe both hands on your head 🤦 

Credit to model3guy 

You don’t want to face what the model3guy had to face — and yes, chains are not a good idea. 

What’s a good idea then?

Don’t worry, I have tons of ideas. 

Let’s dive into the best solutions to help set up your Model 3 for the winter and avoid those mini heart attacks. 

Is the Tesla Model 3 Good in Deep Snow?

The answer to this depends on how deep the snow actually is. 

You could be living in the southern part and getting less snow, or you could be living up north and having lots of snow.

tesla model 3 deep snow

To know if your Model 3 is going to perform well on snow, let’s look at its ground clearance first, which will give us a first impression of its snow prowess.

The Tesla Model 3 has a ground clearance of 5.5 inches, so if you’re traveling on snow deeper than six inches, you’ll likely get stuck. 

Even more stuck if you happen to have the summer tires or all-season tires on. 

If the snow is not more than six inches, you can easily plow your way through. 

Here’s a video by TFLnow where a Tesla Model 3 goes through snow without a problem with all-season tires. 

It briefly gets stuck at one point, though. 

If you’re looking at normal snowy conditions with salt on plowed roads, the snow mode will do wonders and give good stability, which I will explain in a bit. 

With city driving on snow less than four inches deep, you might even get away with the all-season tires that come with the vehicle. 

However, there is this notorious black ice which tends to make things a little extra slippery. 

We often notice black ice when it’s already too late. 

Let’s see if the Tesla Model 3 can keep you on the road.

I will dive deep into the snowy regions and see how the Model 3 performs there, as stated by owners.

1. Engineering Explained: (AWD) Performance Model + Winter Tires

Below-freezing temperatures with plenty of ice on the road poses no significant challenge for the Model 3 Performance, as can be seen in the video. 

Engineering Explained drove his on curvy mountain passes, and the traction was really good. 

It all boils down to the tires you have on your Model 3. 

You must have a good set of winter tires for the best winter performance. 

All-season tires are not good enough for snowy conditions, and summer tires will only give you the feeling you get while skating on ice — but this particular skating, you can’t control. 

2. Tom Harrison: Rear Wheel Drive Model 3 + All-Season Tires

Tom Harrison shared his experience by putting it this way: Even the slightest bit of acceleration initiates (Tokyo drift) sliding mode.

So it’s best to put on some good winter tires. 

If you’re wondering what winter tires would work best on your Model 3, you can check out this link

Tom also gave us an update with winter tires installed. And not to my surprise, the performance was way better — even better than any other car he has driven, he said. 

Winter tires are your best bet when there are patches of the notorious black ice on the road. 

With the latest snow driving assistance tech, paired with snow tires, you can get traction even on inclines without a hitch.

3. RLEE: Subaru AWD Instead of His Model 3 in Winter

From experience, RLEE said that the Model 3 has no problem with handling snowy conditions. 

He further explained that his Model 3 RWD performs better than other RWD cars because there is no engine weight up front. 

He had been using winter tires on his 2019 Model 3, but with his 2021 Model 3, he chose a different route and put on all-season tires. 

It’s obvious that he prefers the AWD vehicle sitting in his garage for the winter instead of the Model 3 RWD. 

If you don’t happen to have an extra AWD vehicle in your garage and a Model 3 RWD is your only option, you can get through the winters without a hitch — given that you have good winter tires. 


After going through hundreds of reviews and dozens of videos, here are my takeaways:

❌ Model 3 RWD with summer or all-season tires sucks.
✅ Model 3 AWD with summer or all-season tires is okay-ish.
✅ Model 3 RWD with winter tires would work. 
✅ Model 3 AWD with winter tires rocks. 

I have learned from the reviews that the Model 3 RWD with dedicated winter tires performs better than the Model 3 AWD with all-season tires. 

AWD vs. RWD in Snow: How Different Are They?

Now coming to the powertrain understanding. 

If you have the Performance model, it will be more stable than the (non-Performance) LR and SR models. 

The non-Performance models with rear-wheel drive will go sideways, and if you’re not a drift person like me, you will feel a little scared when the rear end bails on you.

And it will bail on you if you don’t fulfill its need for winter tires. 

tesla model 3 deep snow
Credit to Spokesman.com

Or you can just learn how to drift, and you will have nothing but smiles on your face while driving a rear-wheel drive in snow.

I am the kind of person who would use 100% rear-wheel drive even on a Performance model while flooring it on the twisties. 

If you don’t know how to drift and would likely avoid the sideways chaos, I have some great tips to help you keep your Tesla Model 3 RWD contained. Stay tuned!

Tesla Model 3 in Snow and Ice: What You Need to Look Out For 

Apart from the drivetrain configuration, two other factors will contribute to the overall stability of the Model 3 in snow and ice: 

  1. Tires
  2. Regenerative braking


It’s best to use winter tires when entering the sliding fun season. 

Credit to Tom Harrison 

The tread on winter tires is specially made to provide maximum grip on snow, ice, and slush. 

Summer tires are a big no for snowy roads, and all-season tires are a little meh compared with the dedicated winter tires. 

And if you happen to have all-season tires on the RWD model, you’re going to get a lot of oh no no no no, maybe coupled with oh, safe — so it’s best to avoid these situations. 

The Fast Lane Car YouTube channel puts it best — it’s all about the tires and not the car, which is backed up by Tom Harrison’s experience.

Summer tires and all-season tires won’t be able to give you traction if you happen to drive on slippery roads. 

The result will look something like this.

tesla model 3 deep snow
Credit to faraways

And like this. 

Credit to Mostly Montana 

Apart from the type of tire, you need to look out for the tread depth. 

The tread on your tires shouldn’t go below 4 mm, which is when you will experience hydroplaning. 

Less tread would also mean you won’t be able to claim insurance money in case of an accident. 

You can simply use this very inexpensive tread measuring device.

So make sure that you have a good set of dedicated winter tires and keep an eye out for tread wear. 

The top tread on winter tires is somewhat better than the tread underneath — which means that new winter tires will give you a much better grip the first season compared with the second one. 

Regenerative Braking

The regen on snowy roads might give you a panic attack every now and then. 

The wheels will lock for a split second when the regen is at its full. 

The science behind regen is that the quicker you take your foot off the accelerator, the more braking you will get.

So it’s best to take your foot off the accelerator gently. 

On certain models, you can adjust the regen braking. 

If you can change the regen setting, it’s best to opt for about 25% or turn it off completely.

You might not be able to temper with the regen settings on the latest models as the option is only available in older Model 3s. 

However, with the latest update, you might not have to temper the regenerative braking as the system is now better adapted to snowy conditions, thanks to the snow mode.

The power of AI. 

How Snow Mode Works — and How to Enable It

The latest software update will turn on the snow mode as soon as it detects a slip. 

You don’t have to turn it on manually. 

So how does it work?

Well, it works by distributing the power to the front wheels. 

Normally, even on AWD, your Model 3 will most likely be at a rear-wheel bias to save charge because the motors on the rear wheels are much more efficient than those in front. 

The front motors are the induction motors that can be triggered off intermittently without a problem. 

In normal conditions, they are not working constantly like the rear ones. 

The rear ones are different from the front ones and would kick in even when you put the settings on 100% front-wheel drive. 

Basically, there’s not much you have to do to get the snow mode to turn on. 

The vehicle will detect if your tires are slipping, and the snow mode will come to life — and your front wheels will take up the juice, and the result would be somewhat less efficiency. 

All these changes make sure that you get maximum grip on snow. 

However, if you drive following the ABC of snow driving — always careful — the snow mode will likely turn off after the system fails to detect any slip in around 10 minutes or so. 

It turns off to save that extra charge going into the front motors.

Once a slip is detected, the snow mode will turn back on.

To understand the numbers behind all this process, you can refer to this in-depth video by Bjorn Nyland that explains the power distribution with and without snow mode. 

Really thorough explanation

From the comments, user Mati mentioned that there has been a huge improvement with the latest software update. 

User Dave had also given praises as he noticed this at the start of winter this year, and it was nothing but amazing.

And the list goes on. 

The community has been loving this new update — so much grip, even enormous, according to one of the owners.

Final Thoughts 

With the new snow mode, you won’t have to sit on the edge of your seat.

The system will take care of winter driving by keeping the slips to a minimum. 

Should you go for all-season tires with the introduction of snow mode? 

Still no. Keep in mind that if you come across deep snow or black ice, all-season tires will bail on you. 

Summer tires? A big no

No matter what model you have, a good set of winter tires is the best insurance for you and your family in all winter conditions. 

So the answer to winter driving is tires, tires, tires, and tires.

A complete set of four winter tires is what you need.
To know which tires are best for your Model 3 in the winters, you can refer to my detailed article here.

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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