Why Connect to WiFi?
Tesla recommends connecting to WiFi while at home if you have a network connection available. Often, software updates through WiFi get priority over those Tesla sends over the cellular connection. You can also use WiFi to tether the vehicle to the internet through your phone. This can save you money after the free period of free cellular connection expires, or if you have a poor cellular connection in your normal travel area and have a better connection via your phone.
- 2.4 GHz WiFi (All Model 3/Y and S/X cars built after Feb-2018 have 5 GHz support as well).
- Must use WPA or WPA2 security, or no security (The obsolete WEP standard is not available)
- Allows a VPN with UDP without a short timeout (see technical below for explanation)
- WiFi must have an internet connection
Making a Connection
One the display, tap Controls, and then at the top of the display, tap on the signal strength indicator. If no WiFi is connected the icon may be a cellular icon, or may be a WiFi logo.
A list of available and previously set WiFi connections will appear. In the example below, it is connected to the WiFi “HoneyPot”.
Tap the one you want and if never accessed before, enter the password for your WiFi router. It will remember the connection and automatically connect when in range. If you travel to another location and it has WiFi, you can use the same process to add additional connections. You can also tap Wi-Fi Settings to add a new connection, password and mode.
We’ve identified a minor Tesla bug that if your password has a single quote symbol, the password will be rejected. This should be an allowable password character and we’ve laboriously confirmed all other symbols on a US keyboard work fine in a password.
Most Tesla sales offices and service centers have free WiFi. Many Superchargers also now have free WiFi. These local networks connects automatically without needing any entry. If your vehicle is in for service and has an open service order, and the vehicle needs a new update, the update is normally downloaded automatically while at service.
The vehicle’s WiFi antenna is in the right side mirror housing on both LHD and RHD vehicles. The best signal strength occurs with a minimum of walls and objects between the antenna and your WiFi router. The image below shows the mirror with the back removed. The smaller rectangular antenna on the left is the WiFi antenna. The larger antenna is for cellular.
The vehicle’s WiFi hardware is located behind the main display in the older S/X, or in the MCU module in the 3/Y and the newer S/X LR/Plaid. When a connection is made, Tesla uses a VPN (Virtual Private Network) with UDP (User Datagram Protocol). What this means is the data passed through the connection will be secure and low-latency.
Testing in Your Vehicle
When the vehicle is connected via WiFi, at the top of the main display the five-bar cellular signal strength indicator changes to the WiFi icon with arcs for signal strength indication.
You can try any of these three easy tests:
- Maps – Move the map to a new location or zoom out. The gray areas should fill in quickly.
- Music – Select Streaming and select a category to play. Confirm the music plays.
- Web – Select the browser and enter a site like Tesla.com or TeslaTap.com. The site should display, although the page loading can be quite slow, especially on older vehicles with MCU1.
We built a WiFi Meter app for Android phones and tablets. While we don’t think you need it (and it costs all of $0.99), it may be helpful to some. It gives you a far more precise indication of signal levels at different locations, a speed test and a number of other WiFi details and helps to explain what it all means.
When the vehicle is using WiFi and you drive away outside its range, the vehicle automatically switches to the cellular connection. This switchover can take a few seconds, and if you’re listening to Streaming music, it may force the next song to start playing, even if the prior one was not completed. It seems more transparent when switching from cellular to WiFi.
Many owners find they get a weak signal in the Tesla from a home router. Typically, the router is far away from the garage and the signal must penetrate many walls, greatly reducing the signal level. If the tests above are slow or erratic, you may want to improve the signal to your vehicle. Solutions to consider include:
- Move the location of your WiFi Router
If you can move the WiFi router closer to the vehicle, it should increase the signal strength. Often hard to do, so one of the other solutions may be required.
- Get a new WiFi router
If your router is more than a few years old and/or a bottom end cheap router, it likely performs poorly in general. Most routers that are provided by your Internet provider are also usually bottom end devices that will contribute to the problem. Look for a premium WiFi router that connects to your internet connection. Note that there are different connection types – DSL, cable modem or Ethernet to your internet equipment. See below for our recommendations.
- Get a WiFi Extender (also called repeater or booster)
These devices are located halfway between the router and your Tesla. It picks up your WiFi signal and then re-transmits it – extending the range of your WiFi. The device only needs a power plug – no other wires are necessary, although most also provide one or more router ethernet ports. See below for our recommendations.
- Move your vehicle to a better position
You may get some improvement by just moving the vehicle. Position the vehicle so that the right side mirror is closer to your router.
Doesn’t work or you never get updates
Here’s our list of possible fixes:
If WiFi had been working fine, but just stops working, try a reboot in the Tesla. Press in both scroll wheels for about 15 seconds, until the main display goes black. A reboot takes less than 120 seconds, but WiFi may take some additional time to get reestablished – less than 4 minutes.
- Remove and Reconnect
Go into the vehicle and select the antenna icon at the top of the display and go into WiFi. Remove your current connection, reconnect and enter the password.
- Use 2.4 GHz WiFi (S/X built prior to March-2018)
Most WiFi routers use 2.4 GHz or a mix of 2.4 and 5 GHz. If your router is set to only accept 5 GHz or perhaps a setting of “N only”, the vehicle will not connect. Change the router’s settings to allow 2.4 GHz. Newer high-end routers allow both 2.4 and 5 GHz communications at the same time, which may be beneficial for your situation. Model S and X built after February 2018 include hardware and software to support 5 GHz, as does all Model 3s and Model Ys.
- Change Router Band
On your router, check if the router is set to a congested or non-supported band. The Tesla hardware support bands 1-11, the standard in the USA. Some countries allow additional bands that Tesla cannot use, so if you’re outside the USA, be sure to use bands 1-11. Due to reduced interchannel interference, channels 1, 6 and 11 can often be a bit more reliable than other channels.
- Use WPA/WPA2
On your router, confirm your WiFi is set up for WPA or better WPA2. If you are using the obsolete and insecure WEP standard, the vehicle will not connect. It will connect if you have no security, but we don’t recommend anyone leave a WiFi router set to No security. It’s not an issue for your vehicle, as all communications are encrypted.
- Unblock VPN connections
While most routers have no problems with VPNs, some may have an option to block/allow VPNs or it has a firewall that blocks a VPN. Check your router to see if there is a VPN blocking option and set it so it does not block VPNs. VPNs use port 1194. Some routers have a firewall that blocks everything other than ports 21, 80 and 443. Allow port 1194 as outgoing. Note this is not the PC’s firewall, which doesn’t matter. This is a setting within the router itself and does not affect the security of your network.
- Change UDP timeouts
Some routers have a short UDP timeout that can screw up Tesla updates and downloads. If you can find UDP timeouts (not all routers have this option), for Unreplied and Assured, set the values to 60 seconds.
- Switch to a Guest Network
Most routers today offer a guest network option with a separate SSID WiFi Name. Some complex home systems that have a DLNA server in the network (even if wired), seem to cause connection problems with the Tesla and/or make the Tesla keep connecting and disconnecting. A guest network connection on a separate IP, without any DLNA servers, often makes it all work.
Auto connects at one place, but not another place
For example, it works at home, but will not auto-connect at your summer cabin. Check if both locations use the same WiFi SSID name. Only the details from one SSID name can be saved. If this is the case, change one of the WiFi SSID names so that they are not the same.
Recommended WiFi Routers
There are hundreds of WiFi routers, but like most products, there is considerable variance in the quality of WiFi supported, features and price. We’ve compiled a list of highly-rated WiFi routers over a range of prices that could enhance your WiFi to your Tesla and other devices in your home. All support dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, have Gigabit Ethernet ports, and support the standards – 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. Prices are the street price as of Jan-2023 and may change.
|Other||WiFi 6, WPS
|WiFi 6, Mesh
|WiFi 6, WPS
|WiFi 6, WPS
MU-MIMO – allows multiple simultaneous communications on different channels. Especially desirable with 4K video and other devices on the WiFi network.
Use an extender to provide more quality WiFi coverage in your house or garage. There are quite a few low-cost extenders in the $20-40 range, but most lack power and/or feature that you may want for other devices in your house. All those below support dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz and support the standards – 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. Prices are the street price as of Jan-2023 and may change.
|Other||WiFi 6, One Mesh
|WiFi 6, WPS