Can You Open a Tesla Glove Box Without Power?

Tesla cars are frequently held up as paragons of modernity and style, offering high-tech features galore, and capabilities that are designed to go beyond any simple “wow” factor. There’s almost nothing in a Tesla that’s done in the ‘regular’ way that you might expect from other cars.

One interesting question that has arisen more recently from these many “innovations,” however, is that of the Tesla glove box, or glove compartment depending on your local vocabulary. One of the first things buyers notice when they sit in their new Tesla is that the glove box doesn’t open with a conventional handle as you might expect it to. Instead, it works via the central touchscreen.

This presents us with an interesting potential situation. If Tesla cars rely on the central touchscreen to open the glove box, then what would you do if you needed to access the glove box but found yourself completely without power? Would the glove box still open for you? This is the core question of today’s blog.

Do All Tesla Models Come Without a Glove Box Latch?

The black and white interior option within a Tesla Model 3
The button-less glove compartment of the Tesla Model 3

Yes, it’s now the standard feature on all Tesla models across the range that the glove box can only be opened via the main touchscreen. The procedure for opening it is essentially the same, with some slight differences in the exact location of the button used for opening the box.

Users first have to bring up their car settings by pressing on the car icon on their screen. They then navigate to the “Controls” section, which is at the top of the screen so it should show up automatically after pressing the car icon. The “Open Glove Box” button will then either be in the upper section of the screen next to the “Fold Mirrors” and “Child Lock” buttons, or in the bottom left corner.

Pressing on this will open the glove box, which afterward then has to be closed manually. Pressing the glove box button again will not close it up, much to the dismay of some users. Besides the button on the main screen, there is also the option to open the glove box using a voice command “Open glove box” or “Open dropbox”.

Once again, these will open the compartment, but can’t be used to close it. It must be closed manually.

Customer (Dis)Satisfaction with Glove Box

The absence of a manual latch on the glove box is actually quite controversial among Tesla owners and fans:

  • Some see it as a great security feature, since now it is also possible to apply a PIN code to the glove box, which has to be entered in order to unlock and gain access. Should your glove box contain important documents or other objects you don’t want others to see or take, then it’s easy to see why such a feature would be to the owner’s advantage.
  • However, many others see the glove box mechanism simply as a classic example of Tesla’s overengineering of problems; a reinvention of the wheel, if you like. There are YouTube videos that will show you the ways of opening the glove box, which some commenters claim is evidence enough that Tesla has only created a new problem, not a solution to anything.

Should the action of opening one’s glove box be complicated enough to warrant a YouTube instructional video? This is a point that continues to divide opinion.

Can the Tesla Glove Box Be Opened Without Power?

Now we come to the core question of today’s blog. We now know how the glove box is opened on a Tesla, but can it be done without power? Is there a simple solution Tesla has built in as a failsafe and backup, or is it a monumental pain in the backside to get it done? Let’s take a closer look at this Tesla problem.

Our research revealed that if you’re driving a Model 3, then there is certainly a way you can open the glove box manually, but still not via any conventional method, and certainly not in any way that Tesla intended their customers to be opening that glove box.

Tesla Model 3

One YouTube creator gave some time to create a video that explains how you can open the Model 3 glove box even when there’s no power in the vehicle:

At the side of the Model 3’s glove box, between the dash and the door, there’s a removable panel that pops out without the help of any additional tools. The owner can then take a hook-shaped tool like an allen key/wrench and use it to pry into the hole/gap on the left-hand side of the opening.

Once in there with the allen wrench, it’s possible to move a catch that controls the door to the glove box, which then pops the door open. It’s not the most convenient solution, but it is possible and it can be done even when the car is completely powered down. The bad news is that the same removable panel that one needs to do this on the Model 3 is distinctly absent from other Tesla models.

Other Tesla Models

Cabin of a Tesla Model S showing the glove compartment touchscreen and more
Cabin of a Tesla Model S showing the glove compartment, touchscreen and more.

If you’re driving a Model X, S, or Y, then what can you do when your Tesla is out of power but you need to get into the glove box? Owners of these models have told very unfortunate stories about times when they have been involved in serious collisions, leaving the car smashed up and thus unable to activate. In these conditions, valuable items stowed in the glove box can’t be accessed.

Many of these owners complained that they were unable to subsequently get into the glove box to access these important, sometimes financially valuable items either because there was no working powered button to open it, or because the insurance company or current holder of the wrecked vehicle prevented them from forcing it open with a crowbar or similar tool because it would cause additional damage to the vehicle — as if it would really be worse than anything that had happened to the outside! 

Charging the 12-Volt Battery

One solution that has been put forward to remedy this is for Tesla owners to pop their hood open and access the fuse box at the front of the car. In the middle of the fuse box is an unlabeled black bolt with a “+” sign on it.

By connecting the positive lead of a jumper cable to this bolt, and by grounding the other somewhere in the car, and waiting for a few minutes, they claim, limited power can be restored but enough to power the main screen and then access the glove box.

If you can supply power to your 12-volt battery, you might be able to provide enough juice to get the screen and basic functionality of the car working, but you shouldn’t take that as a guarantee, especially if the car has been in an accident.

If it’s purely a question of having zero power, then it should work, but if any systems have been damaged by a crash, then you might have difficulties with this method.

Tesla Owners Aren’t Happy — And They’re Right! 

To conclude, it’s fair to say that there are arguments both for and against the particular approach to glove box design that Tesla has used on their models. It certainly provides a stronger level of security, and makes it more viable as a secure lockbox for valuable items.

However, the lack of any practical manual failsafe seems silly, and has left many feeling frustrated when they need to get into the glove box in an emergency situation but can’t.

To us, it seems rather an overengineered solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. The average Tesla driver isn’t a CIA agent, so why do they need added security in the glovebox? If glove box security were really so important, wouldn’t more OEMs consider it?

Take the Volkswagen ID.4 as an example, a vehicle that has not been praised for the size of its glove box, but at least they have kept it a standard manual opening.

In the end, Tesla might have been successful in creating a clean-look interior design, and a very secure glove box solution, but for the everyday needs of most people, the glove box isn’t the convenience it should be, and in bad situations can even become a liability. Therefore, if you’re a Tesla owner and are frustrated with or worried about the glove box arrangement, we say that you’re right about that.

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