Securing the Model S While Surfing

Securing the Model S While Surfing

I'm considering buying a model S.

I live in Hawaii and when I go surfing I don't want to take my key fob with me. With a traditional key, I can lock it in a lockbox and secure the lockbox to the body/frame of the vehicle. Does the key fob fit into a lock box? Would the proximity of the key fob in the lock box to the car allow a stranger to open my door? Have any owners run into this situation and if so what do you do?


jackhub | May 25, 2013

Gee, I don't think I would surf in my Model S. ;>}

SamO | May 25, 2013

You have to take the key with you. Hiding is the only option if you leave it behind.

Kleist | May 25, 2013

Make pouch out of alu foil or use a metal box ( altoids ) and put that is a lock box. As long you put it an rf tight metal enclosure the car can not communicate with the fob. I keep an empty altoids box in my car for the fob in case I want to sleep in car, but keep strangers out.

SamO | May 25, 2013


Genius. But how do you lock the car from the outside with the Fob in foil and altoids box?

Kleist | May 25, 2013

You lock the car by pressing the fob on the roof once and then put the fob in the metal enclosure. Just tested it and works.

bsimoes | May 25, 2013

If you surf near a business, like a restaurant, perhaps you could drop the fob off with a reliable person there. OK, I can hear the jokes now; yes, it works better to surf in the ocean...ha, ha!

SamO | May 25, 2013

Where do you hide the KEY?

Brian H | May 25, 2013

The fob is the key. No other exists.

stevie_scott | May 25, 2013

Al foil shielding makes sense, thanks. What about surf board rack? Anyone fit a surf rack? Pics? Comments?

akikiki | May 25, 2013

Psst, Hide it where you wish to hide it. But take the 2032 flat battery out of the fob and the fob is "turned off", until you put it back in.

kelly | May 25, 2013

Okay, I'm a SoCal surfer as well and this challenge has been on my mind since I took delivery of the car 7 months ago. Here's what I've come up with thus far.

1) The first quick solution was a "zip lock" bag of sorts called "LokSak". It's basically a heavier duty zip lock bag, which I purchased on Amazon. (I purchased the 5" x 4" which was the smallest I could fine). It works well. I zip it shut and drop it in my wetsuit (at the small of my back) and go. The nice part about this is you can easily test the bag and confirm it's water tight.

2) Next came the idea of using Silicone Tape, which I hadn't ever heard of until I saw it at a boat show and when I saw it the light bulb went off. Great product. The brand I have used is called "Rescue Tape". It comes in 1" and 2" rolls. I've used the 1" as it was readily available at the marine supply store. I first wrapped the key fob with one layer and minimal overlap and tested it in the sink. Everything seemed fine, but I thought I'll cut the tape off and check inside....and found some moisture. The key was fine, but needless to say this made me nervous. I tried again and this time pulled the silicone tape really tight (which is key) and went around the key twice to make sure the silicone tape (which adheres to itself) had plenty of chance to do so. I tested again, and cut the tape off (note the tape does NOT stick to the key fob which is nice) and it was bone dry. So, I've used this for awhile, but it made the key a bit bulky and much less attractive. So, idea #3 was born....and the best one yet....

3) Plasti Dip - A liquid rubber product you can buy in a 14 oz. can for about $12. First I tested it by dipping the key in half way and let it dry. (I wanted to see if the Plasti Dip would stick to the key and make it difficult/impossible to get off when it was time to change the battery, which it didn't surprisingly.) So, then I fully dipped the key, from a paperclip, let it dry (directions say 4 hours minimum before use), put it in a sink full of water, pulled it out, dried it off and proceed to peel off the Plasti Dip coating (which was easy). Again, the key was bone dry and I finally found the perfect solution for me.

My final configuration is a thin nylon string (like what you find at the end of a digital camera strap) and then two coats of the Plasti Dip, which fully coat the key fob and a small portion of the nylon string. I've only been using it for about a month now, but the Plasti Dip is surprisingly strong....and now I've got a key ring loop if I want to add it to my key chain, which I've gotten used to not having. I suppose it will save my key when it goes into the washing machine by mistake. I figure it's only a matter of time now that I don't keep it on a key chain!

Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to post pictures! I'm laying home with flu and I've lost my patients so the text is all I've got for you for now.

Brian H | May 25, 2013

How many of your patients died? You must have a lot of patience. ;)

To post, the pix must be hosted on a website, like imageshack or tinypic or Flickr. They may have special posting URLs or code. If not, grab the picture URL from the context menu. Use in the following HTML:

<img src="URL" width="600">


kelly | May 27, 2013

This is an attempt to post a picture of the LokSak (heavier duty zip lock bag) with a key fob inside. This is one of three tested waterproof options I've come up with.

kelly | May 27, 2013

LokSak & Fob photo IMG_2392_zps7a41b79d.jpg

kelly | May 27, 2013

LokSak & Fob photo IMG_2392_zps7a41b79d.jpg width="600">

kelly | May 27, 2013

LokSak & Fob photo IMG_2392_zps7a41b79d.jpg" width="600">

kelly | May 27, 2013

Plasti Dip Can & Fob photo IMG_2394_zps92113e90.jpg

kelly | May 27, 2013

lol....I felt like I was the dying patient...butt (literally) feeling better now. (stomach flu) Making I figured out how to post a picture, but don't understand how to adjust/control the size.

Brian, can you provide any further instruction...I'm in uncharted waters...

Robert22 | May 27, 2013

Voila. Behold the OtterFob!

Very nice Kelly, thanks for posting. Feel better :)

nickjhowe | May 27, 2013


When you copy the 'share' code that starts with <a href=... or <img src=... if the code already includes a "width=" item, change the number to be 600 to make it fit here; also delete the height="..." bit so that the picture retains its aspect ratio. If it doesn't, find the bit of the code that starts with <img src=... and find the > sign. Add width="600" just before it.

You should be good to go.

kelly | May 27, 2013

OtterFob! I like it! (Here's a pictures of the back of the OtterFob...hopefully).

Thanks Nick...your instructions were clear to see if it works!

kelly | May 27, 2013 worked! Sorry, I could have done this in one fell swoop...if I only knew what I was doing!

Here's a picture of the Silicone Tape Option. (I'll let Robert22 come up with a name for it, as he seems to be good at that.)

And here's another picture of the "OtterFob" after it shed his (or her) first "test coat" (its inside out in this picture). Once I pierced the "Plasti-Coat" it peeled off easily because it doesn't stick to the keyfob, which is great...and will make changing the battery (when the time comes) much easier!

Stevie_Scott, you can go ahead and place that Model S order...where there's a will, there's a way!

Alex K | May 27, 2013

They do make clear Plasti Dip, so the Tesla logo and art would still be visible:

TheAustin | May 28, 2013

When I go stand-up paddleboarding, I use a regular ziplock baggie...I don't ever fall in, so I've yet to "need" the ziplock bag...But obviously I feel a lot more secure knowing that if I did, it would be protected. I have a heavy-duty water-proof clear ziplock wallet-type thing somewhere that came with a pair of surf trunks...I'll be using that when I can dig it up from whatever "safe place" I've squirreled it away in. But I bet most surf shops carry things like that, have you tried you local shop?

As for a roof rack, I use a couple of foam beams that are specifically designed to sit on the roof of a car...Next time I have my board on the car, I'll take a couple of photos.

In the meantime, happy surfing/boarding to all my fellow watermen :)

defmonk | May 28, 2013

A very timely thread. Waded in this weekend to call the kids out of the surf. Forgot the fob was in my pocket...of course, a "rouge" wave came in and wet me to the waist. Even though I don't think it was submerged at any point, enough water got in to fry the fob and the battery. Bummer. A $400 dip in the ocean!

Vawlkus | May 29, 2013

Hmmmm.......... Would it be easy to take the battery out of one fob, dip it, and use that as your 'wet work' key? I know there's a spot where a key without a battery can be placed to unlock and start the car.

therealmach3 | May 29, 2013

I wonder if Liquipel would agree to treat the keyfobs. I've used this on my last two iphones and my ipad. Never actually dropped it in water to test, but I grab my phone while I'm in the shower etc and have had zero issues.

defmonk | May 29, 2013


Actually, that's a great idea for recycling my "dead" key (as a third wet duty key). Can you also start the car from the "magic spot" under the wipers or does it just open the doors?

nickjhowe | May 29, 2013

A dead key in the cup holder should allow the car to be started.

surfer54 | May 29, 2013

If you have the pano roof it has pockets to attach a roof rack. It's the same roof as on a Mercedes. So mercedes racks work as well as other brands.

kelly | May 29, 2013

I have not been able to find the "magic spot" to get the fob to work without a battery. (I've heard passenger windshield by wiper blade or lower corner, or over right front tire, but nothing.) Has anyone actually had success with that feature yet? I haven't tried it in a while, but even the person I spoke with at Ownership Experience wasn't sure about that feature yet.

nickjhowe | May 29, 2013

From the Model S User Manual, page 3:

"If Model S can’t detect your key, the instrument panel displays the message “Key Not Inside.” Put the key in the center console cup holder (and away from other devices such as cell phones) where Model S can best detect it."

Robert22 | May 29, 2013


Was the wave really red? (rouge vs. rogue)

BrianH hired me part-time ;p

Brian H | May 29, 2013

Red tide is bad news. A rogue rouge wave would be terrifying!

ddruz | May 30, 2013

Per email correspondence with Walter Franck, ace Tesla rep, the key FOB will not work anywhere without a battery. With a LOW battery it should open the doors when placed on the windshield as indicated in the manual.

I specifically addressed this question in writing to Tesla because it is one of the things I had them test when I picked up my car. The car did not open when the FOB had its battery removed no matter where the FOB was placed.

my | July 31, 2013

Another solution is to put your fob in a realtor doorknob lockbox and hang it off of one of the wheel spokes. I have been using the "MasterLock Portable Key Lock Box 5406D Home Realtor Rental Security Medical". Maybe Tesla could integrate fingerprint tech to lock/unlock the vehicle?

SAS | May 18, 2014

This is an unfortunate design flaw. It would be best to have a physical key integrated into the fob like my current car has (BMW). Having to use plastic bags, key boxes, etc. is unacceptable. Was about to order a car but this is a real issue for surfers and others who go in the water.

LEvans | May 18, 2014

@SAS: I guess buying a modern Mercedes is out for you as well because their current keys are all electronic. Yes you have a blade key embedded in there but that is only for bypassing the lock to open the trunk and valet lock the glove box but you can't start or drive the car with it. Basically this same situation would exist with a modern Mercedes. | May 18, 2014

You can leave the FOB in the car (in a metal container to prevent unlocking). Then just use a waterproof phone to unlock the car! Ok, maybe that's a dumb idea, but as bonus you can always text while you surf!

SamO | May 18, 2014


That's my exact solution. Otterbox in the back pocket. Also get great pics of the sea life!

flodrab | May 18, 2014

"where do I put the key to my $100,000 car while I'm surfing?"

this is why the terrorists hate us :-)

GoBlue88 | May 18, 2014

I've always used one of these. They come in various thicknesses, so you can get one thick enough to hold the key fob, a few credit cards, some cash, etc. Wear it around my neck and stick it down my back inside my wetsuit before I zip up. That way I can't lose it in a wipeout, and it isn't bothersome while paddling out like it would be if it was in front.

GoBlue88 | May 18, 2014

That said, you probably don't use a wetsuit in Hawaii too often, so not sure if this solution would work for you. A rash guard would probably work just as well. Just need some protection from losing the thing.

Kutu | May 18, 2014

I scuba dive, in springs and the ocean, and have considered a couple of options. One option is to use a metal, lockable case with a cable secured to the car - either to a wheel or maybe rear bumper support. A lockable, cabled pistol case would work.

Another option is a keyed momentary contact switch mounted to a bumper support well up under the car. The switch would be wired off the rear emergency hatch button. If this option is used then the Fob would be left in a metal container in the car. This option requires splicing into the cars wiring and, maybe, drilling a hole in a hidden location.

In both cases, the metal container would function as a Faraday shield blocking the RF signal.

jamie@ | May 18, 2014

@Kelly So Cal Surfer ... hello from the opposite Coast!

Transporting an SUP ... I prefer to avoid placing a rack on the glass roof .... would like to install a trailer hitch to pull a small trailer where I can rack up to four boards. Is a trailer hitch doable on the model S underbody?


RUNS KWH | May 18, 2014

Hmm, good to know a replacement FOB cost $400. We run on the beach quite a bit and I always bring along my cell phone with me. If I lock the Tesla by leaving the key fob in an Altoids tin box, will I be able to unlock the car with my iPhone?

Also, why doesn't Tesla just allow the car to run via cell phone? I'm sure that this would be an easy programming change.. wouldn't it?

just an allusion | May 20, 2014

A Zip-Loc bag, folded up and tucked away in the inside/hidden waistband pouch of the board shorts always does it for most critical electronic devices. | May 20, 2014

@RUNS KWH - I agree allowing the car to run via Cell phone would be fairly simple software change, but I doubt it will be made available.

I think the concern is a phone is more likely to be stolen than a car key (although this may be a case of tortured logic).

A second concern is someone hacking via the API and then drive off if the API allowed turning the car on. By not providing this feature, the worse someone can do is unlock the car. While I believe Tesla's security is strong and this scenario is unlikely, just the perception of a risk may be enough to prevent Tesla from offering it.