Tesla Model 3 Vampire Drain: How Bad It Is — and What to Do About It

By Muhammad Hassan •  Updated: 05/26/22 •  10 min read

It is . . . pretty . . . bad! 

Vampire drain WILL deplete your Model 3 battery and even damage it if you leave your car idle and unplugged for an extended period of time (maybe weeks or months) — or you might be experiencing it daily.

Whatever situation you’re in, it’s about time you learn how to get rid of . . . ummm . . . you can’t get rid of it actually (for many reasons that I will explain later). 

You can minimize it, though.

How? Let’s hop into the details.

What Is Vampire Drain on a Tesla?

Vampire drain (also known as phantom drain) is the phenomenon of excessive battery drainage when you leave your Tesla unplugged and idle for an extended period of time.

Consider your Tesla’s battery as a human and your Model 3’s built-in features (Sentry Mode, cameras, etc.) as a vampire. 

Just like a vampire drains the human body of blood, these built-in features drain your Tesla’s battery of power.

Hence the name vampire drain.

Here’s how the Tesla Model 3 owner’s manual describes phantom drain:

When left idle and unplugged, your vehicle periodically uses energy from the battery for system tests and recharging the 12V battery when necessary.


How Much Vampire Drain Per Day Is Normal on a Tesla Model 3?

I needed to address this question because first of all, you should know whether you’re even experiencing vampire drain (aka phantom drain) or not.

Here is the rule of thumb: If your Model 3 is losing more than 10 miles/hour or 3% of the battery every day, your car has got the bad condition of phantom drain (or vampire drain . . . ugh . . . you know they’re both the same by now, right? I’ll only mention either later in the article).

If the drainage is less than the abovementioned limits, it’s completely normal. Mostly, owners plug in their car overnight, so they don’t feel any difference.

But if you leave your Model 3 idle for weeks or months, this small drainage every day will constitute a significant amount of battery.

If your case is the latter one, read on to know the methods to reduce vampire drainage to the lowest possible percentage.

But before that, let’s discuss some real-world tests and case studies that actual Model 3 owners performed to quantify phantom drainage in general.

Model 3 Owners’ Vampire Drain Experiences, Case Studies, & Tests

#1: TimothyHW3

Regarding the drain, please watch the video. I am looking at around 2 kms or less a day. Like I said in the video, this depends on your outside temperature. Sometimes I even “gain” kms overnight, once the battery settles down.

But it should be 0.5% a day or something. This is my normal degradation for almost 4 months. I don’t update the car, because I like my current firmware version.

#2: Bjorn Nyland

Bjorn left his Model 3 at ~83% state-of-charge (SOC) for 22 days in the Norwegian winter. It lost 10.6% (or 69 km/43 mi) in that time. That’s about 0.5% per day (or 2 miles a day). 

#3: TidgesMum

I left my Model 3 long range unplugged for 5 days to see how much the battery drained.

I’m going on holiday soon and wanted an idea of how much it might lose while parked at the airport.

I have a 3-month-old Model 3 long range.

I turned off sentry mode, preconditioning, etc. It just had the doors locked and was running its basic functions.

It was about 10 degrees Celsius outside. The cabin temperature sat at 11′ each time I checked.

I looked at the app every 24 hrs and noted the number of miles range it had left…

That reassures me I can leave it for a week and I won’t come back to a flat battery.

I thought it might be useful info to share.

#4: PhilRogers

I have an 18-month old Model 3 SR+. When I’m at work, I park in downtown Chicago in a fully enclosed temperature-controlled garage in a high-rise office building. I am losing anywhere from 5% to 7% when parked, during my 8-hour work day. I have tried shutting off WiFi and that didn’t do anything. The car does appear to be going to sleep. I am not checking it on the app during the day. I do not have 3rd party apps like Teslafi running. I do not have Sentry Mode activated. I just park the car and get out, and watch from a distance as it flashes the lights, folds the mirrors, and locks.

This can be intermittent. For example, today I parked it at 70%. I’m getting ready to leave, and it’s at 69%.

I’m on 2021.24.10. My car has 28,000 miles on it.

#5: SpawnPoiint

Chris left his Model 3 at ~75% SOC for seven days at the Leeds Bradford Airport. It lost 3% of battery in that time. That’s about 0.42% per day

How to Minimize Vampire Drain: Settings to Lose Less than 1 Mile a Day

Before I tell you the tricks to minimize phantom drain, I’d like to address a question:

“What if your battery gets discharged to 0%?”

The answer is simple: You’re screwed… sort of.

First, you’ll need to tow your car to charge it. If your battery suffers any damage, Tesla may not cover those repairs under warranty — so that’s money from your pocket.

To ensure you never end up in this situation courtesy of phantom drain, here are tricks to reduce phantom drain to its lowest possible level.

Turn Off Sentry Mode

One of the most common causes of battery depletion in a Tesla Model 3 is Sentry Mode. It’s a feature that keeps your Tesla’s cameras on while the car is parked and starts recording if it sees something strange.

Despite the potential for major safety improvements, Sentry Mode stops your Tesla from properly sleeping. It should only be used when absolutely required and should be turned off when your car is safely parked to avoid phantom drain.

Here’s how to turn it on/off:

Go to Controls > Safety & Security > Sentry Mode > Turn it on/off.

Go to Security > Sentry Mode > Turn it on/off.

Avoid Using Apps

Apps, whether Tesla’s app or third-party apps like Teslafi or Tezlab, have the potential to be energy vampires. They can keep your Model 3 awake all day by pinging it for information.

Check the settings of your applications to see if they have any measures to prevent phantom drain. Many people have devised ways to keep the app from waking up your Model 3 when it’s asleep.

If that doesn’t help, disable all third-party programs for a while to see if your battery life improves. If it does, try reintroducing your applications one at a time to see if you can discover one that uses a lot of energy.

Turn Off Smart Preconditioning

Here’s Chris from the Chris Casacci YouTube channel walking you through the basics of smart preconditioning and how it works:

Explanation starts @ 2:01

The basic idea is that when smart preconditioning is enabled, the car will automatically determine your schedule, note a time when you usually leave your house, and start preconditioning your car every day a few minutes before the noted time.

This feature is very helpful if you live in a cold climate, but if you’re going to leave your car idle for a couple of weeks or months or you’re experiencing phantom drain on a daily basis, make sure to turn this feature off to prevent extra battery drainage.

Here’s how to turn it on/off:

Go to Settings > Vehicle > Climate > Smart Preconditioning > Turn it on/off.

Credit to Chris Casacci

Turn Off Smart Summon Standby Mode

Unless you want to use Smart Summon Standby Mode regularly, you should disable it. 

The thing with Standby Mode is that it keeps your vehicle on standby, preventing it from entirely sleeping as it can be summoned at any time.

Here’s how to turn it off:

Go to Controls > Autopilot > Standby Summon > Off.

Disable Car Alarm

Even though a car alarm is necessary for the safety of your electric car, it’s also responsible for consuming at least 1% of the battery every day, which in the long-term can constitute a big number.

If your car is parked in a safe environment, consider disabling it. Here’s how to do this:

Touch Controls > Safety > Security Alarm > Turn on/off.

Disable Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi access will prevent your car from going asleep, especially when it’s downloading updates, and that’ll ultimately result in excessive phantom drain. 

Make sure to turn the Wi-Fi access off before you leave your car. It can be done easily from the screen.

What Differences to Expect Between Battery Form Factors & Chemistries

Since August 2021, when Elon Musk tweeted about the LFP battery being introduced in the Model 3 SR+, most Model 3s have been coming with a lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery rather than the usual nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) battery.

Now the question is, what battery performs better against vampire drain: LFP or NCA?

Per my research, after going through actual owners’ case studies, I can safely say that LFP batteries perform way better against vampire drain than NCA batteries.

To back up my claim, below are two case studies that prove what I just said:

#1: Kelvin 660

>Here is my 3 month update on my SR+ LFP M3:

>Here is my 7-month update on LFP SR+ versus NCA SR+ cars.

>>For more information, visit this thread. Kelvin 660 has really gotten into details.

#2: Bjorn Nyland

In the video below, Bjorn Nyland left his Model 3 SR+ with LFP battery parked for 14 days to test how much battery is lost due to vampire drain. Check out the results he got:

It’s 0.36%. Whaaaaat . . . really?

Final Thoughts

Every EV suffers from vampire drain, and Tesla is no different. 

In fact, with all the third-party apps, Sentry Mode, climate control, and whatnot running all the time, Tesla beats all other EVs in this regard.

With the right steps, however, you can reduce it to the point you won’t even feel it ever. 

And if you’re leaving it idle for the next three, four, or even five months, you’ll still return to your car with enough battery left.

Just apply all the tricks explained in this article and I assure you, you’ll be fine (you can come for my head if it happens otherwise!).

Muhammad Hassan

Engineer by trade and writer by passion, Hassan is an automotive enthusiast who thinks EVs are the future. At TTU, he discusses the coolest features and products Model 3 owners look for -- so they can better experience their cars. In his free time, he enjoys tea, reading, and listening to podcasts.

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