Does the Tesla Model 3 have a 12-volt outlet?

by James Bartlett | Updated On: April 12th, 2022
Tesla Model 3

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Want to watch DVDs whilst on a long journey? Spotted a small circular connector on the Model 3 dashboard but not sure what it is? Looking for the 12V connector but don’t know where to find it?

The Tesla Model 3 12 volt outlet is located in the center console’s rear compartment. However, not everyone knows what this outlet can be used for. The tesla model 3 12 volt outlet is suitable for accessories requiring up to 12A continuous draw (16A peak, 144 watts).

What is a 12V outlet?

The 12V outlet in any car harks back to the days when cars had a cigarette lighter built into the dashboard. These lighters were a 12V circular socket with a lighter unit which you pushed and removed to light a cigarette. The lighter could also be removed to allow other low-power equipment to be plugged into the connector.

Over time, the fashion to include a cigarette lighter in a car has fallen into obscurity, but the habit of keeping the 12V circular connector has remained. Tesla has kept this habit by including the same 12V connector in the Model 3.

Where is the 12-volt outlet in a Model 3?

The 12-volt outlet in a Model 3 is under the central console lid. The position of the 12-volt outlet fits in with Tesla’s “first principles thinking”. This is Tesla’s philosophy of stripping down problems to their basics, then working your way up. Located in the middle console, the 12-volt outlet is hidden but still accessible. This allows the Model 3 to maintain its clean interior and avoid a cluttered look.

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When can I use the 12-volt outlet?

white tesla

Power from the 12-volt outlet is available in a Tesla Model 3 whenever the vehicle is considered “awake”. A Tesla is awake any time it is connected to the user’s phone, or of course when it is being driven.

Other examples of when the car is awake are during the use of features such as summon, preconditioning, cabin overheat protection, keep climate on, dog mode, camp mode, and sentry mode. The vehicle is also awake whenever the low voltage battery is being charged or is in use.

What can I use the 12-volt outlet for in my Model 3?

One useful application for the 12V is the powering of a mini DVD player for the kids to watch in the back of the car. A mini DVD player uses fewer than 20 watts, so can be connected to the 12-volt outlet in a Tesla Model 3. Two other popular uses of 12-volt outlets are the powering of heated seat warmers and also electrical air fresheners.

However, it’s important to remember to turn these off or disconnect them from the outlet when not in the car (see Safety aspects below). Heated seat warmers with a 12-volt connection designed for this application are about $ 50. However, these are not sold by Tesla, and therefore have safety implications (again, see Safety aspects below).

It’s also possible to connect a portable vacuum cleaner to the 12-volt outlet. This isn’t something you’ll likely be doing whilst driving, so it’s important to keep use of a portable hoover connected to the 12-volt outlet to a minimum to avoid draining the car’s 12-volt battery.

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Dashcams are also a popular use of a 12-volt outlet. This might be useful if the dashcam in your Tesla fails for some reason and you are going on a road trip.

Will the use of the 12-volt outlet reduce the range?

tesla driving

Leaving an accessory plugged in does not necessarily deplete the Model 12 volt battery. However, the 12-volt battery is charged from the car’s main power pack. The use of any instrument connected to the 12-volt power outlet will therefore put demands on the power pack through the charging of the 12-volt battery and therefore have an indirect impact on the range from a single charge.

Safety aspects

To prevent excessive interference with Model 3 electronics, Tesla recommends that only Tesla accessories are used with the 12-volt outlet. This means that things such as third-party power inverters should not be used.

If you do use a non-Tesla accessory and notice malfunctions or unexpected behavior such as lights or alert messages, it would be wise to unplug the accessory from the 12-volt power socket and stop using it. Also, be aware that some products are available with the brand name “Tesla” but are not original products actually from Tesla.

However, the power socket and an accessory’s connector can become hot. Extended use of the 12-volt power socket should therefore be monitored and not left unattended. Tesla states that attempting to jump-start Model 3 using the low voltage power socket is a bad idea as doing so can result in damage.

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