Phone as key not always working

Phone as key not always working


I just got my model 3 on Friday and I noticed on several occassions in the past 3 days that the "walk up to the car with a phone that's configured as a key" feature has not worked. At which point I have to take out my wallet to get the key card, or open the Tesla app on my phone, press on the "unlock" button and wait 5-10 seconds for the phone to actually connect to the car and unlock it.

Have others experienced this, or is this a potential issue with my car? If you have experienced it, wondering if you've pinpointed what type of circumstances this typically happens in.


hokiegir1 | June 4, 2018

I had sporadic issues as well. I just changed a phone setting (Pixel 1 on Google Fi network) to not optimize the Tesla app, which allows the app to continue to run in the background and I've had significantly fewer problems. If I don't wake the car before I go out to it now (such as opening the app to turn on the AC ahead of time), I sometimes have to press the door handle -- then the screen inside will turn on telling me to use the card, but if I press the handle again, the door will open. Basically, the first press "wakes" it, then the second unlocks it.

This all comes with the disclaimer that I've heard sometimes, just after delivery, it takes a few days for the paperwork to finalize and the phone key may not work right after delivery for a couple days.

SolarCharged | June 4, 2018

Every few days I too have had problems unlocking on the first try. But then I read somewhere on this forum that keeping the phone in your back pocket may interfere with the Bluetooth signal (unless you walk backwards toward the car!). I have been keeping my iPhone 6s+ in my front pocket ever since with no problems. Except one time the door didn’t unlock, then I realized my phone was in my back pocket! It has only been 3 days but I wonder if others have tested this theory.

michael | June 4, 2018

I have to re-try (as in, touch the door handle multiple times) fairly often, but I have never yet had to resort to pulling out the key card. Usually 2nd or 3rd try is enough. This is with an iPhone in a pocket.

metz123 | June 4, 2018

Mine is getting worse. I used to have 100% bluetooth recognition when I walked up to the car. Over the past 2 weeks I have to pull out my phone, open the app and unlock the car 50% of the time. I never have to resort to pulling out the key card but I give up after pulling on the door handle 2x and having it still locked. It sucks to see degradation of functionality.

SolarCharged | June 4, 2018

@michael, I should have emphasized for me, the FRONT pocket works better than the BACK pocket... so far.

sjm4660 | June 4, 2018

I too received my car on Friday, Yea!

So far, the phone (Samsung S7) has worked every time with the car unlocking first press of the door handle.

SolarCharged | June 4, 2018

Sjm46, do you keep your phone in your front, or back, pocket?

cornellio | June 4, 2018

Mine usually works fine, but when it doesn't, just opening the Tesla app (without pressing unlock) usually does the trick. Also switching bluetooth off and on helps (using iPhone 6)

For iPhone you need to set location access to Always for the Tesla app, to allow it running in the background.

dmm1240 | June 4, 2018

I saw where Musk told Consumer Reports the key card system doesn't work as well as hoped and that they planned to do something about it. I see fobs in you M3 owners' futures. Really, the fob is the way to go. The card was one of the things I personally didn't like about the M3 when the feature was announced. I have a MX and the fob works fine, though your Tesla can miss that you have it if it's buried in a pocket.

jjaroundtheclock | June 4, 2018

just close your Tesla app and open it again and will work

MarylandS85 | June 4, 2018

From others’ reports on this thread, here are some of the fixes that have been tried with various degrees of success. For reference, I use an iPhone X and my wife an iPhone 7 Plus, both running the latest iOS software. In every iteration of the Model 3 firmware since I got it (2018.10.4 and newer), we have both had near perfect phonekey function. I keep my phone in my front pocket. She keeps hers in her purse.

1. Make sure your phone is not “optimizing” or otherwise limiting the Tesla app’s function to save battery. For iOS, this means don’t have your phone in Low Power Mode (the one that makes your battery icon turn orange). Also, in the Settings app, go down to the Tesla app options, make sure Location is set to “Always” and make sure “Background App Refresh” is set to on. I can’t tell you how to do this in Android.
2. Make sure your Tesla app has been run since you last rebooted your phone.
3. Obviously, make sure Bluetooth is on. This is how the app communicates with the car as phonekey.
3. If you own more than one Tesla, make sure you have the app “pointing” toward the correct vehicle. We have a Model S, and this is the most common reason we’ve had a fail on our phonekey function (which has been rare).
4. If you’re still having issues, try quick fixes like turning Bluetooth on and off, putting your phone into Airplane Mode and then back, and/or opening and/or rebooting the Tesla app, or simply open the Tesla app and tap on the lock/unlock icon a few times. I’ve never had to do any of these things, but others have tried it with variable success.
5. If you continue to have issues, try rebooting the car and your phone.
6. If still no luck, try removing your phonekey from the Locks menu on the car screen. Then add it back from scratch. You’ll need your keycard to do this.

Good luck!

igor | June 4, 2018

Thanks for everyone's comments, I've turned off Android's "optimize battery" setting for the Tesla app and see if it helps or not.

As for fob vs card, I too would prefer the fob since I could keep it on my keychain like a normal car, and wouldn't have to pull out my wallet. At the point where I'm toggling bluetooth settings, airplane mode and other fiddling, I would rather just use a normal fob (if I could) or card, though it is pretty annoying.

Hopefully the optimization trick will work. Thanks again!

johnmann | June 4, 2018

"I read somewhere on this forum that keeping the phone in your back pocket may interfere with the Bluetooth signal"

I would be quite surprised if that is really the issue. I have done tests while approaching my car at a distance with the Tesla app open and watching for when it connects. So far it has always connected when I'm anywhere from 130 to 90 feet away. The doors can't be opened from that distance, so it must have some means of determining proximity beyond just being connected. Perhaps back pocket versus front pocket could make it think you are just slightly further away so that the doors won't unlock. I'll have to do some more experiments on that. I keep my phone in a side thigh pocket that makes it easy to access while sitting down and it never fails for me, so maybe that's equivalent to having it in my front pocket from the cars perspective.

MarylandS85 | June 4, 2018

You’re assuming everyone has the same body habitus as you. I’m no physicist, but I can guarantee that some of my patients’ robust American sized bodies likely block a lot of Bluetooth signal. :^)

Let us know how it goes. I’m all for Tesla offering a fob, but I would not buy one myself. Since the phonekey works so so well for me, I wouldn’t use the fob. I love going places without a fob in my pocket. I also have no house or work keys, so all I have are a wallet and my phone. It’s a great experience. If it works.

johnmann | June 4, 2018

MarylandS85 - "You’re assuming everyone has the same body habitus as you"

I agree that flesh can make an effective RF blocker.

igor | June 5, 2018

Will report in a few days (currently my wife has the car on a trip).

@MarylandS85 I agree with you I'd strongly prefer the phone (assuming it works) for many trips, though for regular commuting to work the fob would be nice since I'd just keep it in my bag. I'm assuming here that the fob works from a distance using some sort of RF like other modern fobs, rather than having to touch the car like with the current model 3 key.

doyleb | June 6, 2018

I had some phone unlock issues early on but between the 2018.18 update and a Bluetooth update on my Pixel 2 it has been working flawlessly. Even walking up to the back of the car to open the trunk first works immediately every time. I've always had the habit of placing my phone in a front shirt pocket when entering a car to avoid sitting on the phone. I guess that habit is really paying off now!

Using my phone as the key is really an icing on the cake item for me on this car. Not carrying one more thing in my pocket? Yes please! Even if a fob was offered for this car I would never consider it. My phone key could stop working entirely I'll still take the current card in my wallet over having to keep a fob with me again.

Haggy | June 6, 2018

", I too would prefer the fob since I could keep it on my key chain like a normal car, "

The Model 3 is not a "normal car" and I don't have a key chain. One thing I hate about fobs is having a pocket full of them, or leaving most of them home and having to make an active point of seeking one out when I need to use it.

drscott | June 6, 2018

I had this problem this past week regularly. Had to use key card 6-8 times. Screen said connect with bluetooth, but bluetooth was on and connected to car. I could use controls (open trunk, flash, honk, etc), but could not open doors or drive without using card (phone key not connecting). Quitting and restarting app (iOS) didn't work. RESTARTING the iPhone corrected all. Now app works and phone key connected.

Pepperidge | July 20, 2018

I had the same issue and figured out how to solve the problem.
Keep the smartphone in my front pocket or turn around. It seems like human body is reducing BT strength quite a bit if you keep your phone in your back pocket.
firmware 2018.18.13 - iPhone X

Daryl | July 20, 2018

Front pocket, back pocket, doesn't make a difference for me. Usually starts to work if I go in and out of airplane mode.
Still a hassle! Tesla should make fixing this a top priority.

vinaypathak2 | December 17, 2018

Hi folks. I've got my Model 3 for about two weeks now. I've never noticed the car lock itself after I walk away. I always have to use my phone app to hit "lock" in order to lock the car. Is there anything I can do to get it to "autolock" after I walk away, as described here? The phone key works because it always "unlocks" for me as long as I have my phone with me.

truthandwhale | December 17, 2018

@vinaypathak2 auto lock on walk away only works with the phone as key (not the card) and you need to have the option set to "auto lock on away" on the controls screen.

tigerkc | December 17, 2018

Walk Away Lock

You can lock your Model 3 without taking your phone out of your pocket by turning on the “Walk Away Lock” feature. On the touchscreen, just select “Settings” then go to “Locks” to turn it on.

vinaypathak2 | December 17, 2018

@truthandwhale and @tigerkc, I did exactly as you suggested and it worked like a charm. Thank you so much!

douger1la | December 18, 2018

I think the problem is related to the phone. Whenever my phone-as-key stops working, I usually reboot my phone and then it starts working just fine. Usually for 1-2 weeks, though it hasn't stopped working in a while recently.

krbabu | January 18, 2019

douger1la is probably right. The problem is the iPhone or, perhaps, the Tesla App on the iPhone. Turning Bluetooth OFF, and then back ON, seems to do the trick.

jer1776 | January 19, 2019

I have this issue at least once a week where the door does not unlock when I touch the handles. I either need to pull my phone out of my pocket and open the app in my iPhone. This also happened twice when I try to open the trunk. Of course each time these issues occurred my hands were full, so it was annoying to have to put things down to then dig into my pocket for my phone. I have owned the car for a month and this is quite a disappointment. I have done the recommend fixes, which were log out of the app and even removed the app and reloaded.

I know it is not my phone as it has happened to my wife twice and she rarely drives the car. Tesla, if you are monitoring this forum you need to fix this ASAP!

rweinberg7 | April 23, 2019

The service center said the problem was generally limited to Iphone X and Tesla and Apple were working on a fix. However after reading these comments, either they're not working on it or assigned to incompetent staff. If the car can read most other phones and the Iphone X about half of the time, one would think the solution shouldn't be so difficult. Very frustrating, especially when your hand are full and need to get out the key card, or reboot. If they can't fix, Tesla should offer a key fob free of charge.

Marzipan | April 23, 2019

I have the issue with my iPhone Xs Max .... but all I need to do is turn on the screen (not even unlock) and it works. Pretty annoying, But I already got used to sliding my hand in the pocket and press the screen on button once.

For me, there is no need to unlock, start the app or anything like that, just pressing the phone screen on button once ... but sounds everyones problems are slightly different.

Kary993 | April 23, 2019

I was told by the SC that Tesla is aware of an iPhone issue and will fix at some point. I find it fails if my phone is at all behind me like my back pocket, but not say in a leather bag with an open pouch on the side, that works.

keydel | April 23, 2019

I had this issue with my iPhone. Toggling Bluetooth resolved it completely.

dmastro | April 23, 2019

Marzipan | April 23, 2019
I have the issue with my iPhone Xs Max .... but all I need to do is turn on the screen (not even unlock) and it works. Pretty annoying, But I already got used to sliding my hand in the pocket and press the screen on button once.

For me, there is no need to unlock, start the app or anything like that, just pressing the phone screen on button once ... but sounds everyones problems are slightly different.

This is the same issue I have - iPhone X

This only affects unlocking the car. It locks fine without waking up the screen - although perhaps because it's likely my screen wakes up as I get out of the car and put the phone in my pocket.

kcheng | April 23, 2019

No issues with iPhone X or Xs Max.

gilles.emeringer | May 23, 2019

I had now twice the issue that I was unable to open my model3 with my iphone6. When trying to open the door with the handle, alarm went on and I couldn't open the car anymore with my iphone6 nor keycard and with the app. Car was completely locked. I had to call Tesla to open it remotely. Any ideas what could be the problem? Maybe the car did not recognize the phone at first and then turned into security mode, but it's for sure a bigger problem and should not happen.

apodbdrs | May 23, 2019

Try putting the phone on airplane mode for a couple of seconds, then turn airplane mode off.

phil.lienhardt | May 24, 2019

Brought this up with Service Center in Geneva a few days ago (same thing happens to me since delivery in Switzerland 2 weeks ago).

Response was it will be fixed with next incremental release.

To be confirmed...

ILoveMyModel3 | May 24, 2019

I will work every time if your phone is in your hand and not in your pocket, backpack, or bag.

Kary993 | May 24, 2019

on top of not opening if in back pocket, I too have phone in hand and the door will not unlock unless I wake the phone up. This happens occasionally.

Randkthorn | May 25, 2019

9 months now and mine has never completely failed. Occasionally I need to wait a second and retry door handle. If no go, turning Bluetooth on and off has always worked. iPhone 5e

Hugues1965 | May 25, 2019

@phil.lienhardt when did you place your order online ? Place mine on April 29th, no VIN yet, but scheduled delivery date in Geneva on June 18th.

xenius | May 30, 2019

My wife has this with her Pixel 1 (also project Fi network) problem constantly. Yet with my Pixel 3 I never seem to have the problem. Not sure what gives. But tempted to try having her switch phones to see if that makes it better.

jimglas | May 30, 2019

If the app is open to the M3, mine always works

crmedved | May 30, 2019

I have a Pixel 1 and also have problems. It pretty much always works at home, but when I go into a store, it almost never works when I come back out. It is definitely the phone. I have to reach into my pocket and press the lock/unlock button on the side of the phone... the car will immediately unlock when I do that. Note, my phone doesn't actually unlock when I do that as it requires fingerprint or password. It just wakes up.

Can't wait until my work upgrades my phone in like 5 months!

CST | May 30, 2019

I've been having a lot of issues since the .12 release - even when the app is open, I need to enable airplane mode and then disable it.

bcb2220 | May 30, 2019

You need to do the following:

1) in the Bluetooth icon on the car > delete and forget the device.
2) walk out of the car and lock it with the card
3) on your iPhone (sorry idk what I would do for androids) > make sure the car is not listed in the Bluetooth settings (if it is, forget it)
4) turn off your iPhone > turn it back on
5) open the car with key card > sync and add your phone as device for the car again and it should solve your issue.

stebo1 | May 30, 2019

Are you all putting the app options as “Always” and not just “while using the app”? It drains the battery faster but I have never had a problem with my iPhone as long as I have kept the settings turned to “always”

From Settings, go to Tesla app, top option is Location - that should say allow location access “Always” (not “While using the app” and definitely not “Never”)

bcb2220 | May 30, 2019

^ this.

Kary993 | May 30, 2019

@stebo1 - have always had the app set at ALWAYS, still need to get the iPhone out of back pocket or bag for the car to recognize and on occasion have to wake phone to unlock car.

Goose66 | May 30, 2019

I have the same problem if 1) my phone is in the same pocket with my keycard for work, or 2) I have the phone in my right front pocket and my work keycard (NFC) and my Tesla keycard are both in my right rear pocket together. While the combinations and circumstances are wonky, the one thing I do have confidence of is that it occurs when I have my work keycard on my person (as opposed to in my backpack or left back on my desk).