Why is My Tesla Steering Wheel Hot? Don’t ignore it

The Tesla steering wheel has a range of functions, from turn signals to voice commands. But during everyday use, should the steering wheel be hot? Let’s look at reasons why it might be.

Reasons the Tesa steering wheel is feeling hot include:

  • Heated Steering Wheel is active
  • Ambient Temperature is high
  • Scroll lights are active
  • Electrical issue

In this article, we’ll examine why the steering wheel is hot and why it shouldn’t be.


Heated Steering Wheel is Active

The most common reason for the Tesla steering wheel to feel hot is that the heated steering wheel option is activated.

All Teslas sold after November 2021 come with a heated steering wheel. Previously only the Long Range Models had this add-on.

Tesla completed an OTA (Over the Air) update to install the heated steering wheel option. Generally, Tesla sends out a Tweet when something new is available, but not always, and this was one of those occasions.

Because of this, owners might not realize the option is available.

So how is my steering wheel hot if I didn’t even know I had the option? The usual explanation is someone else was driving your car and activated it.

There are two ways to activate the heated steering wheel:

  1. Through the infotainment screen
  2. Voice activation

Infotainment Activation

To activate onscreen:

  • Select Climate Control
  • Touch the Fan Icon
  • Select the heater
  • Select the Steering Wheel icon
  • Turn On or Off
    • The Icon will turn RED when the heater is ON

Voice Activation

The voice activation button is located on your Steering Wheel. To activate:

  • Press the button (microphone icon)
  • Say, ‘Turn On the Heated Steering Wheel
  • Say, ‘Turn Off the Heated Steering Wheel’ to deactivate

The benefits of a heated steering wheel

The benefits of a heated steering wheel are great. Warm hands are more responsive to driving, thus making for a safer journey. The warmer the steering wheel, the greater your grip, which is also better for a safer driving experience. And, of course, who doesn’t like the idea of warm hands on a frosty morning?

Downside to a heated steering wheel

There is a downside to having a heated steering wheel, but it might be outweighed by comfort.

In an ICE (internal Combustion Engine) car, the heat generated from the engine is used to heat the cabin, but in an EV, this energy has to come from your battery. Anything that requires extra heat will be a high consumer of your precious range. The heated steering wheel uses 90-100 watts per hour compared to your heated seat at just 57 watts.

To combat the extra draw, you’ll notice that the steering wheel doesn’t maintain the full heat consistently.

Parts of the wheel become cooler as time passes, and areas of the wheel cycle into 50-50 and 25-75 proportions. Your steering wheel will remain warm but not as hot or complete as when first activated.

Ambient Temperature

Although it might not be our first thought, your steering wheel could be hot because of the ambient temperature outside.

The steering wheel can become very hot if parked in direct sunlight. The windscreen resembles a magnifying glass, and the steering wheel absorbs the heat.

So much so that the vegan leather on the steering wheel can blister, it usually blisters at the top where the wheel is in direct sunlight.

As the steering wheel cools, the blistering may ease and even disappear, but it will reappear if exposed to the sun in the future.

The prevention solution can be to purchase a windscreen protector to prevent direct light on your steering wheel and dash.

You can also activate Cabin Overheat Protection:

  • Select Controls
  • Select Safety
  • Select Cabin Protection On

The Cabin Protection will automatically activate when the temperature reaches 40C in the cabin unless deactivated. However, it does use battery energy to maintain the lower temperature and will reduce your range. The Cabin Overheat Protection will deactivate if your battery drops below 20%.

It will only stay active for 12 hours. If this time has elapsed, then not only will your steering wheel become hot, but your entire can become dangerously hot if the heat continues.

Scroll Lights

Looking more specifically at the steering wheel, the scroll wheels on your steering wheel can become heated if they are lit. The light is low and generally won’t generate enough heat to be noticeable. There is the option to turn the lights off.

  • Select Controls
  • Select lights
  • Steering Wheel lights On or Off

If your scroll wheels are metal, then there is a chance they will become too hot. As before, a windscreen protector will reduce the direct sunlight on the steering wheel and prevent them from overheating to the extent you can still touch them without hurting your fingers.

Electrical Issue

The Tesla steering wheel is full of technology. It controls Right and Left signaling, lights, scroll buttons, wipers, voice commands, and the horn.

That’s a lot of elements in addition to steering the car, not to mention an airbag.

So all of this doesn’t happen by magic. There’s a lot of technology in your wheel, but the added element of the heated steering wheel can lead to something going amiss and heat being generated for no reason.

If you can rule out everything else we have discussed so far, then the heat in your steering wheel could be because of a short. We should never ignore a problem with our steering wheel that is unexplained.

Opening your steering wheel is not recommended or advised, and your warranty will be void if Tesla thinks you have been playing with the internals of your wheel.

Log a service call with Tesla through your app if you have an electrical issue.

  • Open the Tesla App
  • Select Service
  • In ‘Details,’ give as much information as possible about the problem, including any photos or videos you might have

Tesla has had steering wheel recalls in the past. 40,000 Model S and Model X vehicles from 2017-2021 were recalled on advice from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) due to a steering software problem.

This problem was corrected with an OTA update, but it’s not to say that other electrical problems can occur. Any new changes that you notice on your steering wheel, heat or otherwise, should always be investigated.

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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