Hot Door Handles

Hot Door Handles

Today, it was in the low 80's here in SoCal. My car had been sitting in the sun for about an hour. I went to open the back door and was startled by how hot the door handle was. Anybody in AZ or NV noticed a problem? I looked at all the other cars around me and all their door handles were painted ...none were chromed. Interesting.

Brian H | 24 November 2012

Did you try touching one of the others? Were they metal or hard plastic?

Larry Chanin | 24 November 2012

The firmware upgrade for auto extending door handles are being Beta tested.


Rod and Barbara | 24 November 2012

Yes, our Model S is parked outside in southern California and the door handles on the side facing the sun get quite hot, almost dangerously hot. Auto extending door handles won't solve this problem because you still have to reach inside the door handle and pull on it to open the door.

BYT | 24 November 2012

Is the handle thick enough so that maybe the inside of the handle doesn't get as hot as the exposed parts?

Rod and Barbara | 24 November 2012

@ BYT - No. I almost always unlock my car and extend my handles using my key fob to avoid getting smudges on the door handle. So I have limited experience of pressing on the outside of the handle with my thumb to cause the handle to open. In direct, bright sunlight the inside of the handle gets very hot. In this situation I usually just pull on the handle with a light quick pull just enough to get the door to pop open and then I grab the window to pull the door completely open.

BYT | 24 November 2012

Ah, darn! Well, thanks for the update

mrspaghetti | 24 November 2012


Thanks for sharing, you may have saved some of us future owners having burned fingies. I will be sure to park in the shade when possible and be careful opening the door when I can't.

Mark K | 25 November 2012

Hot handles in hot sun is not a Tesla-thing, it's a metal handle-thing.

If anything, TM's servo tuck-away handle is better shielded from solar heating than is typical on other cars.

Chrome as a finish actually fares better than just about any paint because its reflective surface rejects heat better.

That said, if you're having an issue with hot handles, here's a suggestion:

Open the handles with the fob (rather than touching), and if you want more finger protection apply a 1mm thick silicone rubber tape pad to the inside of the handle.

You won't be able to see it, but it'll give the surface you pull on a soft feel and plenty of thermal insulation. The heat transfer coefficient of the silicone rubber is very low compared to metal. (Think silicone oven mitts).

You can cut the tape to fit with scissors, and just press it on. McMaster-Car online is one place to get it.

BYT | 25 November 2012

@Mark, will that not block any sensors? The 1mm tape that is?

nickjhowe | 25 November 2012

Has anyone considered/tried 'clear bra' on the door handles to avoid smudges? Does it stop the touch sensor working?

Mark K | 25 November 2012

BYT - don't think so, since it senses when you press the outside of the handle.

Nick - Best stuff for that is 0.1 or 0.2 polycarbonate. (that's what paint armor is). As near as I could tell on the test drive, it senses pressure rather than merely contact (so ohmic contact with the chrome seems unnecessary). But someone can easily test this in their car by putting a post-it over it and trying to press through the paper.

vouteb | 25 November 2012

DIY car?

for $100k?


Mark K | 25 November 2012

My 100k MB SL has painted plastic sheaths over the handles. They still get hot, but they transfer the heat more slowly so they don't generally burn my hand.

Of course, Daimler has been making cars for a 100 years, and TM ... 100 days. But they have accomplished a lot in record time.

I think TM will figure something out here. In the meantime, our improvised solutions can give them valuable feedback.

Getting Amped Again | 25 November 2012

I think this is an issue that TM needs to address, not us. As an owner of over 15 different cars in the past 40 years I've never been burned by a door handle, even when it was over 100F and the car was in the sun.

As others have stated, it's the conductivity of the handles that transfers the heat easily which results in a rapid rise in your finger's temperature. That's why sitting on an aluminum bench that is 50 deg. F feels way colder than sitting on a wooden bench that is the same temperature.

Thanks to those that have some good ideas for a short-term fix, but this needs a permanent design solution and recall. The cost of one litigation for this (child's face, whatever) will dwarf the cost of the recall.

cpetrush | 25 November 2012

WOW! Seriously? How many times I have burned my leg on a hot tailpipe while unloading groceries. And there were no lawsuits. Keep a napkin in your pocket to pop the handle open if it's such a problem.

DouglasR | 25 November 2012

You could always move to Seattle. :)

mrspaghetti | 25 November 2012

Recall sounds like overkill. I doubt the handle gets hot enough to do any real harm, just discomfort.

jbunn | 25 November 2012

I'm in Seattle. If you touched your tongue on your door handle, it would stick. Be happy with your burned fingers.

Brian H | 26 November 2012

Squirt gun? Or water bottle? Water has way higher specific heat than chrome, should draw much heat away quickly.

petero | 26 November 2012

Perhaps TM should consider a retro solution - Fine leather driving gloves. Fashionable, effective, and a new profit center for TM.

Getting Amped Again | 26 November 2012 | November 25, 2012

WOW! Seriously? How many times I have burned my leg on a hot tailpipe while unloading groceries. And there were no lawsuits. Keep a napkin in your pocket to pop the handle open if it's such a problem.

@cpetrush - there is a presumption that a tailpipe is hot, not door handles. If they cause discomfort when it is 80F out, imagine what they're going to be like when it's 110F. You don't think TM is going to get sued if some eight year-old kid grabs the handle and gets a third-degree burn? (140F can do that in five seconds) Maybe you live outside the US in a less litigious country, but that's a lawsuit waiting to happen.

TM needs to do some testing at determine how much of an issue this is, and fix it. Those who want to carry a napkin around can do so.

Volker.Berlin | 26 November 2012

Getting Amped Soon, from a German perspective, the American solution to the problem would be a large sticker saying "Caution! Handles can be hot!" ;-) SCNR

mrspaghetti | 26 November 2012

@Getting Amped Soon

Keep in mind that, whatever the liability risk is, presumably every manufacturer who makes chrome handles also faces it. That would put Tesla in the company of at least Ford (I have a friend with a chrome-handled Explorer) and probably all the others as well. So if they have not yet been sued, Tesla probably won't be either.

I'm also thinking that if it's 110F outside, there aren't going to be many parts of your car one wouldn't get burned on if one were stupid enough to stay in skin-contact with it for 5 seconds.

Getting Amped Again | 26 November 2012

I just did an informal poll while walking through a large parking lot:

12 - metallic-looking handles that were actually plastic on the inside
1 - fully-metallic handle

My point is simply that TM ought to evaluate the severity of this issue through some testing and implement a fix like a clear insulating film on the inside. The Model S handle is unique (heavy metal casting that is concealed inside the body) and there might be a unique issue with its temperature on a hot day.

The fact that some knowledgeable people (Rod and Barbara) called them "almost dangerously hot" on an 80F day is enough to convince me there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

mrspaghetti | 26 November 2012

@Getting Amped - fair enough

Aside from the possibility of burning peoples' hands, this conversation makes me wonder whether heat build up has anything to do with any of the door malfunctions that have been brought up (e.g., handles failing to present, presenting but failing to open the door, spontaneously popping open, etc.) Overheated electronics can do weird things.

Getting Amped Again | 26 November 2012

@tesla.mrspaghetti - I think there is a very good chance you are correct about that. Another reason I hope Tesla QC personnel monitor these forums.

StephRob | 28 November 2012

I started a thread about this issue over at TMC:!
I agree that the handles get unacceptably hot even in relatively mild weather if in the sun for a few hours. It's really going to be a problem for those in much warmer, sunnier climates. There is no way my kids could have opened those handles on that side of the car.

dborn | 28 November 2012

It gets up to 40 or occasionally 43 degreesC in Australia. In fact, those temps are expected in the state of Victoria tomorrow!!!! (43 is 109.4F!!!)

kidjay | 14 July 2013

So my 9 year old daughter was basically in tears today after grabbing the door handle after our MS sat in the Southern California sun for about 3 hours today! Her fingers were red across her four fingers from grabbing the handles! They are dangerously hot and I'm having to use my shirt under my hand to open the doors!

Time to start entering through the hatch with the remote!!!!

JAFIC | 14 July 2013

How about using the fob to open the windows down and then opening it from the inside ? Would that work ?

cwmenne | 14 July 2013

How about sticking a strip of foam tape on the inside face of the handle (the side you pull against), as an insulator against your fingers? Seems like a simple solution that will be nearly invisible.

Iowa92x | 14 July 2013

If the air temp is 100, the chrome handle will be 100 too. Not seeing how the handle is hotter than air temp. 100 won't burn.

LEvans | 14 July 2013

I think this is easy to fix in a future redesign of the handles by Tesla. My Mercedes E550 has keyless go and I never have issues with the door handles getting too hot. What Mercedes has done is have a hard rubber/plastic insert on the inside of the door handle so when you pull it activates a button that unlocks and opens the door. Even on the hottest days the interior surface of the exterior door handle I make contact with my hand is comfortable.

cwmenne | 14 July 2013

@Iowa92x, I think the handles can get hotter than ambient temp. Since they are retracted inside the door, it is entirely likely that the inside cavity of the door can get significantly hotter than ambient temps, especially on a dark colored car, not to mention the chrome can get quite hot from the sun as well.

I agree with WEB_SRFR that it would be an easy fix for Tesla to add a plastic part on the inside surface, but I also think a strip of foam tape would work just as well for retrofit on older cars.

PBEndo | 14 July 2013

I would like to verify that the handles can get VERY hot, for anybody that thinks we are just complaining.
I tried some foam tape but, it wouldn't stay in place. I am interested in hearing about any other solutions.

cwmenne | 14 July 2013

@Pbendo, besides not sticking, did the foam work well enough to protect against the heat? If so, try a better adhesive (I could believe standard adhesive probably wouldn't do well with the heat). 3M makes a very good contact adhesive that works with neoprene & rubber, it's called 1300L and that would hold up well with the heat if applied properly.

eAdopter | 14 July 2013

Ditto. VERY hot, even here in WA where temps normally only reach mid-80's.

I haven't tried this, but I suspect a PPF from 3M or XPEL would insulate the hand from the heat. It could be attached to both surfaces, outer and inner, for pushing and pulling respectively. Has anyone tried this?

tobi_ger | 14 July 2013

Could the door handles be coated somehow to prevent the heating?

Kleist | 14 July 2013

Door handles are shiny silver which is probably the best color/coating to prevent heating from the sun.
However metal is a very good heat conductor, stores heat well and being hidden doesn't help to cool. Maybe a plastic coating on the inside could help to reduce the heat transfer.
Whith air outside in the 80 the inside gets easily up to 140 inside in the sun... I would expect the door handles to be a similar temperatures. When I approach my hot car I open the rear hatch, rool down the windows and extend the door handleswith the FOB and by the time I reach my car hot door handles are not a problem for me.

EclecticCitizen | 15 July 2013

The Phoenix heat and sun have made my handles scalding hot in recent days. The kind of shocking pain that makes you withdraw your hand reflexively and shake it while trying to hold in expletives. It seems to cause intermittent malfunction of the door handle too, so the driver handle won't open and have to use the back door first.

Everyone is suggesting some type of insulating strip, but won't that interfere with the touch-sensative door opening? The handles are not mechanical, they function based on touch. I'm not sure the technology, but I expect that if you put an insulating strip, you therefore are not touching the handle itself and you won't be able to open the door. Any engineers know if its similar to the touch screen? If so, you should be able to apply a screen-protector-type layer, but not foam or rubber.

eAdopter | 15 July 2013

I'm not sure, but I think the handles are "pressure sensitive", not "touch sensitive" so an insulating strip should work. I've also seen pictures from owners who used XPEL on the handles and assume the handles still work.

Getting Amped Again | 15 July 2013

@Kleist is correct. It's all about conduction. Your skin is mostly water, and that water heats up to absorb the heat given off by the thing you're touching. If that thing can continue to efficiently conduct heat into your finger, very quickly it causes pain. The S door handles have mass and conductivity - it's a perfect storm of pain. The very same handle made of plastic, at the very same temperature, would be less harmful. (Sit on a wooden or aluminum bleacher watching a soccer game in 30 degree F weather - it's night and day)

Insulating the inside part of the handle with an insulating adhesive film could easily remedy this problem. TM engineering?

shamrockceo | 15 July 2013

Could wrapping the handles in a chrome car wrap help? At least until an official proper fix is established by Tesla?

AmpedRealtor | 15 July 2013

Tesla should sell us special Tesla oven mitts...

Kleist | 15 July 2013

+1 AmpedRealtor
July special only $55 per pair available on line in your cars color.

LionPowered | 15 July 2013

Out of stock

michael1800 | 15 July 2013

@ LionPowered - lol

Kleist | 15 July 2013

Back in stock expected in Nov/Dec to avoid freezer burns.

tobi_ger | 15 July 2013

"coming soon" in your country of choice.
Our Norwegian friends will get heated door handles, though.

Jolanda | 15 July 2013

You can paint plastidip in the inside. When it does not isolate enough, paint an extra layer.