Tesla smoking while charging – steam or smoke?

Tesla electric vehicles are well-known for future-proof technologies and exceptional reliability. Whereas, several weirdnesses may dilute those who want to buy a Tesla car. You’d have a lot of doubts about the future purchase, had you heard about white smoke coming while charging before.

First of all, we should mention that this phenomenon isn’t that frequent, and almost always turns out to be a regular one. Let’s learn how to distinct sorts of steam/smoke one from another, and what we can do with this knowledge.

tesla smoking while charging

Is that so? Is Tesla smoking while charging?

In short, that’s true, Tesla’s battery has a peculiarity: when being charged it heats significantly, and its structure promotes the fumes’ appearance.

Although, the white smoke while charging may be alarming in some cases, for instance, electric wire problems.

And Tesla owners shouldn’t confuse these two kinds of steam/smoke, by no means.

However, we’ll start with things seemingly irrelevant to the subject. But you may be sure that eventually, it all boils down to the steam/smoke issue.

Supercharger technology and its weaknesses

Tesla cars have already embodied lots of unique techs, but one of the most mind-blowing of them is the Supercharger. This technology implies, that Supercharging – for just 15 minutes – adds an extra 200 miles of the way.

But the lithium-ion battery pack is extremely sensitive to cold weather and needs some pre-conditioning. It means that it should be pre-heated to temperatures around 104 degrees Fahrenheit to be charged appropriately and to provide the best performance. This is actually for all lithium-ion batteries like those in any e-bike and smartphone.

How do Tesla owners pre-condition the battery pack?

The simplest way to pre-condition electric vehicles’ battery packs is just to let’em stand in a warm garage for a while. Of course, it won’t be heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but at least it will be much warmer than the cold ambient temperature.

Another straightforward way to pre-condition the battery is using the “Climate control” function. This automatically makes it heat along with the inner space of the car.

Tesla model S and model X have the built-in option “On-route battery warmup”, designed especially for a preliminary heating of the battery.


Ice melts

Returning to the white smoke coming off the Tesla car while charging session: the Supercharging of the battery warms it significantly. This heat should be removed from it, and the heat pump along with the super manifold will do it while charging.

This extra heat is gathered on the radiator, and the heat pump work is run by the Tesla HVAC system (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning).

The fact is that water vapors are being condensed on the radiator during battery pre-conditioning, since if the ambient temperature had been below the zero mark before that, the refrigerant would be frozen, hence catching water vapors from the cooler air on the radiator’s surface.

The quantity of moisture accumulated on the radiator depends on the air humidity, thus the cold, wet ambiance promotes its increase.

When the Tesla car is being charged through the Supercharger, the battery temperature raises and the HVAC system diverts the heat with the help of the heat pump to the radiator. The water condensed on it evaporates, forming some kind of steam.

Some Tesla newbies likely confuse it with the real smoke coming when actual fire appears.

Such a scary phenomenon emerges only when the outdoor temperatures are below the water-freezing level, and is completely safe for the electric vehicle.

How to distinguish between normal and abnormal vapors?

Using a thermal imager is the most straightforward way to understand whether this is a serious problem with the battery pack.

You can just scan the charging battery (switch it off the charger first) with a thermal imager, to see if it is overheated. Without the pre-conditioning, its temperature must be approximately the same as of ambiance.

The standard pre-conditioning procedure provides the battery heating up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. All temperature levels above this must alert about its overheating.

The battery can be slightly overheated, however, if the electric vehicle stands not far from a heat source, or because of some insignificant technical issue, especially if the car got into a car accident.

If the situation runs out of control, you can consider using a fire extinguisher or even calling emergency responders or fire crews.

More facts about the overheating

The color of the steam/smoke that emerges from underneath your electric vehicle matters – gray or whatever else color, besides white, is bad.

The thick smoke is likely to be a sign of some battery or electric wire troubles.

All kinds of smells, except for the smell of steam or fog (we’re sure, you know how their odor, don’t you?), must alarm you about the troublesome situation.

When the battery goes bad and overheats, it’s followed by irregular sizzling noises. Pay attention to changes in habitual car sounding.

The appearance of smoke coming, sparks, or even actual fire inside the car or the wire isn’t normal as well. If it’s already stark, you’d better call emergency responders, fire crews, or anybody from the staff if you are at the service station.


What’s my course of action if I see Tesla smoking while charging?

If the white smoke resembles steam or fog, outdoor temperatures are below zero, and you don’t feel the smell of burning, likely, you shouldn’t do anything but wait.

Just keep an eye on the charging procedure, whereas scanning the battery with the thermal imager, if you have one, is also a good idea.

Hot weather problems

Unfortunately, lithium-ion batteries are quite sensitive to ambient temperature.

And if you notice steam when it’s cold outdoors, it’s less likely to be the consequence of the troublesome battery, rather than normal.

Whereas, in a very hot environment electrolyte evaporates faster than the battery is designed for, hence it drains and damages it. Electrolyte vapors tend to burn as well, producing white smoke followed by an electrical fire. Beware of such situations, it may end up in an explosion.

Avoid battery pack overcharging

Battery overcharging ensures electrolyte evaporation as well, leading to the consequences, described in the previous paragraph.

The Tesla official charger won’t let you overcharge the battery, but the unofficial equipment doesn’t guarantee it to the car owner.

Controlling the process will be mandatory if you charge your Tesla using a third-party charger.

Battery demolition symptoms

If the battery pack is smoking while charging, it may mean that it has exhausted its resources. Therefore, the Tesla owner will consider replacing it sooner or later.

Professional diagnostics run by a Tesla technician in official service centers are strongly recommended in such situations.

Things to infer

Let’s resume all we have known about the Tesla smoking while charging phenomenon. First, this thick steam/smoke is the most likely to be normal water evaporating, especially when cold weather conditions happen, along with high air humidity.

Otherwise, white smoke while charging should warn Tesla’s owner, since it can not only be the symptom of the battery problems but also precede its ultimate failure.

If you have any doubt about whether it’s smoke, don’t hesitate to stop charging and seek the advice of a Tesla technician.



Is it normal for your Tesla to smoke while charging?

White smoke is the most likely to turn out to be water vapour, perfectly normal when charging the battery with a Tesla supercharger in cold weather conditions. Such “smoke” appears when the condensed water from the radiator surface turns into water vapour when it starts heating.

What happens if you overcharge Tesla?

Overcharging Teslas is not allowed. It is charged at your own risk. Using plugs, the battery maintains its charge depending on the limits given to the user (start time, start time of the next day).

If Tesla is charged with an unofficial charge, causes like black smoke, short circuit, and inability to reach the full charge may occur.

Why does Tesla make noise while charging?

These sounds come from your vehicle floors and occur whenever your HV battery expands or contracts to adjust to changes in temperature during operation. Whereas it’s followed by smoke coming from behind the wheel arch and there’re no outdoor icy conditions, it may occur to be a problem.

Is it OK to leave Tesla charging overnight?

Keep the Tesla Plug on wherever you can. This keeps it warm while charging. The onboard system automatically prevents excessive charges. If you charged it with an unofficial charger, you would notice Tesla ran a warning.

Cameron Mason

I have been fond of cars since childhood. I have always been interested in knowing the principle of their work, as well as the structure. Therefore, I liked to help my father dismantle cars and fix them. Then I went to college with a degree in mechanical engineering. After all, I decided to connect my life with cars.

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