Tesla Won’t Start With Phone – Quick Fix!

One of the great advantages of owning a Tesla is using your phone as a key to drive and lock/unlock your car. But what if your phone won’t work? Here’s a quick fix. Read on to find out what to do.

The top reasons your Tesla won’t start with the phone include the following:

  • Bluetooth is disconnected
  • Key set up incorrect
  • Logged out of Tesla App
  • App is not running in the background
  • Phone needs an update
  • Tesla needs a reset

This article will examine why your Tesla won’t start with your phone and how to fix the problem.

Tesla Dashboard

Bluetooth is Disconnected

To start your Tesla with your phone, you simply have to have your phone with you, sit in the vehicle, press the brake, and select Drive or Reverse. However, the phone key doesn’t always work.

The most common reason your Tesla fails to start using your phone is that the Bluetooth has disconnected.

To check the connection:

  • Sit into your Tesla
  • Ensure both the Touchscreen and your phone are powered on
  • Enable Bluetooth on your phone (if not enabled)
  • Select the Bluetooth icon on Controls
  • On-screen
    • Add new device
    • Search
  • Select your phone from the list
  • Enter the pairing number
  • Select Confirm

Your phone must be a ‘Priority Device’; otherwise, your Tesla will revert to the last connected device. This is often the case when more than one person drives the Tesla.

There is a pretty common issue with Tesla and Bluetooth I wrote a post about recently, which you may find helpful – Tesla won’t forget Bluetooth

Phone Key Setup is Incorrect

For your phone to work properly as a key to both drive and lock/unlock, it must be set up correctly in your car settings.

To set up a phone key:

  • On the touchscreen Select Vehicles
  • Select Locks
    • Add a lock
    • Screen will show the smartphone icon on the left and the key fob/ key card on the right.
  • Bluetooth must be connected
  • On your phone Open the Tesla App
  • Select Phone Key
    • Set up Phone as Key
    • Select Start (phone will search for Tesla)
  • Place your Key Card on the center console or at the cupholder
  • Phone will then pair as a key
  • Allow Location Services on phone

You must then go to Locks on the touchscreen to adjust the preferences.

On the touchscreen:

  • Select Locks
  • Activate Walk-Away Door Lock

When your phone is connected, it will show up as a key in the app and be listed as a key in the lock area of the touchscreen.

If your Bluetooth is not connected, then there can be problems with the phone as a key. On the touchscreen, ‘Allow Mobile Access’ must be enabled.

  • Select Controls
  • Safety
  • Allow Mobile Access

Several steps must be completed on your phone and the touchscreen. If any steps are missed or not fully completed, the phone won’t fully connect.

Many mobile phones will automatically disconnect Bluetooth when the battery drops below a certain level.

Logged Out of Tesla App

Your Tesla App allows you to do most things, but you must be logged into the app to drive using your phone.

Your phone can log you out of the app if updates are required or an OS (Operating System) update is required.

Usually, signing back into your account will do the trick, but if the issue is recurring, it’s a good idea to delete and reinstall the app.

  • Press and hold the app
  • Confirm you wish to delete
  • Go to Google Play Store or App store
  • Redownload Tesla App
  • Install
  • Log in as normal

Although you have the app installed, it’s also essential that it continues to run in the background. We’ll look at this now.

App is Not Running in the Background

Some apps require that they run consistently in the background. Tesla app is one such app. This is easily set up on your phone.

iPhone Setup

  • Go to Settings
  • General
  • Background App Refresh
    • Toggle On

You can specify just the Tesla App to run if you don’t want all apps to be running in the background.

Android Setup

  • Select Settings
  • Connections
  • Data Usage
    • Mobile Data Usage
    • Select Tesla App
    • Turn On – Allow Background Data Usage

Having your app run consistently means it is always up to date and less likely to log out.

Phone Needs an Update

Often when you’re having difficulties with your Tesla, your phone is the problem. Updates are essential, but they don’t prevent your phone from working. But it can cause some of the apps to be glitchy. Like updates with your Tesla, it’s essential to keep your phone as up-to-date as possible.

To check for an update:


  • Go to settings
  • General
  • Auto updates On/Off
  • Download and install any available updates


  • Go to Settings
  • Select System
  • Update

Within the Google Play Store, you can update apps automatically.

  • Open the Google Play Store
  • Select Profile icon
  • Settings
    • Network Preferences
    • Auto update

This will ensure that no matter what settings you have on your phone, the app will always be up to date.

Tesla Needs an Update

If you have tried all of the above and are still having trouble with your ‘Phone as a Key,’ I suggest you do a Hard Reset of your Tesla.

Hard Reset

  • Put your Tesla in Park
  • Remove any auxiliary items plugged in, i.e., phones and USB drives.
  • Press and hold the Brake
  • Hold both scroll wheels on your steering wheel for 10-15 seconds
  • The touchscreen will go black
  • Tesla Logo will appear
  • When everything is back fully, your car should be working without issue.

The Hard Reset will reload your Touchscreen and all electronics momentarily. It doesn’t delete any information, but like all computers, your Tesla needs a restart now and again.

I’m confident that re-pairing your ‘Phone as a Key’ and re-logging into your account will allow you to start and drive your Tesla.

I’ve written a ton on common Tesla issues, which hopefully you won’t ever experience, but if you do, we have you covered with these posts:

Check out the Tesla troubleshooting page for problem Teslas.

Check out the Tesla charging page for common Tesla charging problems.

Check out the Tesla category page for a list of popular Tesla posts.

If you are curious about other EV models, check out the EV FAQ category.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is a technical writer here at EVjuicedup.com. He's a Red Seal qualified Auto Service Technician with over twenty-five years experience working on Classic and Modern Cars. He's worked for GM, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Audi, and VW main dealers.

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