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The high voltage systems on electric vehicles can be dangerous. So if you notice your Tesla smoking while charging, it’s worth investigating.
There are many reasons why a Tesla might create smoke while charging. Some are serious problems while others are routine events you don’t need to worry about.
What Is White Smoke?
If you notice white smoke coming out of your Tesla, you might not have anything to worry about. Infact, white smoke is most often water vapor or steam.
Tesla cars don’t create heat like combustion engines. But it is normal for their batteries, motors, and electrical systems to get warm. At times, it can be enough to vaporize water resting on these areas into steam.
And the result is white smoke. This happens more often in cold weather, in a similar way that exhaling air from your lungs does.
There are times when white smoke might show something more harmful. When that’s the case, it usually comes with a bad smell. It might have a slight blue or black tint as well.
Is It Okay for Tesla To Smoke While Charging?
In some conditions, it is normal for a Tesla to smoke while charging. But there are other times when it is not alright and you need to take action.
Acceptable smoke is particularly common in cold or wet weather. As the electrical system warms up during the charging process, you might see white vapor.
Your Tesla will turn on its heat pump to warm up the battery when charging in cold weather. This prevents damage as you don’t want to charge a cold battery. It will then switch to maintaining a lower temperature as the battery warms up. These swings in function and temperature can cause some white smoke.
But if the smoke is black or blue and has a strange smell, you should stop charging right away.
Black or gray smoke indicates something is burning. It is likely a plastic material that is around an electrical current. Blue smoke with a pungent smell may mean an electrical fire, which could be coming from your battery.
Do not charge or use the vehicle if you notice either one of these types of smoke.
Why Is Tesla Smoking While Charging?
Let’s review the main reasons why your Tesla might be smoking while charging.
1. Cold Weather While Charging
It is common to see some white smoke while charging a Tesla in cold weather, especially from the front grill.
The radiator at the front of your vehicle acts as a condenser. It sometimes releases a vapor that is more prominent and visible in cold weather.
2. Wet Weather While Charging
The same white vapor is also more likely during wet weather charging. Once again, there is an excess buildup of water. It turns to vapor as part of the charging temperature regulation process. It is no cause for concern, as long as it is white with no smell.
The refrigerant compressor or fan might also make noise during these charging situations.
3. Heat Pump
Tesla heat pumps are amazing devices. They help heat and cool your vehicle in an energy-efficient manner. One of the byproducts of this component is water vapor. As mentioned above, it is the most common in cold and wet weather conditions because:
- The heat pump first warms up the battery for charging. Then it shifts to cooling as the battery absorbs the energy
- Cold weather makes water vapor in the air more likely to be visible
- The excess humidity in the air during wet weather allows for more areas where it might evaporate off of
4. Plastic Parts Burning
If you smell plastic parts burning, be concerned. This could be some of the wiring harness, battery housing, or other parts starting to melt. This is a problem with the system.
Any battery can fail and release its energy in the form of a fire, Tesla cars included. These can be very hard to put out. You need to treat them with a lot of caution.
The battery and charger of every Tesla use advanced technology. They help it charge at a reasonable rate and stop when the battery is full. But in rare times, the battery management system or charge controller can fail.
If this happens and too much energy gets into your battery, you might see smoke, smell a foul odor, or notice fire.
6. Damaged Battery
If your battery is damaged by either running something over or a fault in the system, it can cause a fire. The fires that can come from Tesla batteries are very serious. They are high-capacity battery packs with a lot of energy stored inside.
If you ever suspect you have a damaged battery, make a Service Appointment. Get it tested and inspected right away.
7. Electrical Short
Every electrical system is made so that the current follows a particular path at particular currents and voltage levels. But life happens and so do electrical shorts.
A short circuit happens when the electricity flows through a path it is not supposed to. It may also exceed the ratings it needs to stay under.
Your Tesla’s wiring and electrical system incorporate fuses and safety items. These stop problems from getting out of control most of the time. But if you notice anything, such as a blown fuse, blue or black smoke, or a burning smell, it may be an electrical short.
Quick Check: Steam or Smoke?
There are a few easy ways to determine if the white smoke you see is steam or actual smoke from something burning. If the answers to these questions are “yes”, then it’s more likely to be steam:
- Does it dissipate quickly?
- Does the smoke feel wet or have moisture in it? (use care to avoid burns)
- Is it only around in cold or wet weather?
- Does it have very little if any smell?
What Should You Do for Black Smoking While Charging?
If you notice black smoke while charging, immediately remove it from the charger. Use the Tesla SOS button or call Tesla support for help. You likely need to have a professional take a look as soon as possible.
If you notice a fire, clear the area and call emergency services right away.
Smoke while charging a Tesla is usually water vapor. It happens when the temperature control systems help keep the battery warm or cool. But if you smell something foul or see any colored smoke, it’s likely a bigger problem.
Want to learn more about your Tesla charging system? Head over to our article on the Tesla Supercharger.