We Have To Talk About The Tesla Model 3's Windshield Wipers A Sec Here (UPDATED: We Were Wrong)

I know we sometimes get accused of giving Tesla more than their share of guff here (to be fair, we also get accused of fellating them, so, you know, can’t win) but I noticed something about the new Model 3 that I really feel like deserves mention. It has to do with the windshield wipers, but sort of encapsulates most of my issues with Tesla in general. UPDATE: I clearly got this wrong. See the full update below for details.

I noticed the issue first here in this video explaining the Model 3's user interface on that big, central screen:

You don’t actually have to watch the whole thing. I’m not a monster. Here’s the important bit:


Yes, it appears the all-new, ultra-high-tech Tesla Model 3 has two-speed wipers. You know, exactly the same as my 1973 Volkswagen:

Well, to be fair, on my Beetle, it’s more like Painfully Slow and Somewhat Less Slow, but you get the idea. Two-speed wipers were woefully out of date back in 1973, when most cars had at least a medium setting, or, even better, an intermittent setting.

My question here is why the fuck does the Model 3 only have two-speed wipers? This may not sound like a big deal if you live in Los Angeles or somewhere where you don’t ever drive in the rain, but, trust me, it’s a big deal.


I drive in rain regularly with a car with only two-speed wipers, and it sucks. You’re constantly turning the wipers off and on. Intermittent wipers are a fantastic invention, and most modern cars—low end to high-end—have intermittent wipers where you can adjust the duration of time between wipes. It’s fantastic.

On a car with just slow/fast wipers, as I mentioned, you’re always turning the wipers on or off as you emulate the action of intermittent wipers manually. On my car, this is annoying but not that big a deal, because the wipers are turned on and off via a stalk on the steering column. You don’t need to take your eyes off the road or anything.


The Model 3 seems to have a stalk control for wipers as well, but it looks like the stalk only turns them on or off, and doesn’t change speeds.

That means to change the two wiper speeds, the Model 3 uses that touchscreen. You pretty much have to move your head and eyes over to the screen to target your finger accurately on the smooth, unvarying surface of that screen. You’re not going to be able to speed up those wipers by feel.


That means you’re going to be taking your eyes off the road in wet, rainy conditions, when stopping distance and visibility are already impaired. Wiper speeds may seem like a trivial thing, but it’s the sort of little detail that compounds other situations and leads to becoming something that actually makes the car more dangerous than it needs to be.

Has anyone who worked on the Model 3's wiper system or UI ever driven in the goddamn rain? If you’re going to needlessly cheap out and just have two speeds, then at least put the all the wiper controls on the freaking stalk that’s already there so you don’t have to find a stupid slider control on a touch screen like you’re putting your phone into airplane mode.


If you really want the controls on the touchscreen, then update your stupid wiper-motor control software to include an intermittent mode, or, even a mode that increases wiper speed with the car’s speed? A rain sensor would be even better, but you’re on a budget, sure. Just an intermittent mode should be fine.

Look, I like the Model 3. I think it’s a great design. But stupid details like this can make or break a car. There’s no reason why a 2017 car should have wipers that were outdated in 1975. It’s crazy. The car is easily one of the most advanced automobiles available, and it’s being hamstrung and safety-impaired because someone just hasn’t thought things through.


Add an intermittent mode, Elon, and send out one of your updates, and take your bows on Twitter for being so amazing. But, dear god, take care of this shit.

Two-speed wipers.

Update 1:35 p.m. I got an email from someone who claimed to be sitting in a Model 3 this very second, and they told me there are indeed intermittent wipers. Great! I asked for a pic so I could see, and I’ll post it when I get it and freely admit I’m a big dummy assface who’s a big dumb idiot.


Update 2:07 p.m. OK, here’s what the Model 3-dweller told me:

You already have a picture. Look at the 3 buttons on the bottom row of the graphic below the video. The left one turns the intermittent wipers function on. From there, you can choose between Hi and low.


In the explainer video, the guy on camera says that button on the left is for the washer. So, maybe the video is wrong and that button actually is for intermittent wipers. Okay, great.


It’s still a shitty UI if you can’t really tell what that button is for, and there’s still the issue of having to look down to a touch screen to turn intermittent on or off, and switch speeds. It still sucks.

They already have the damn stalk; the stalk works, it demands no optical attention, and could do everything these screen buttons do.


So, I’ll happily state that I’m a jackass for being wrong about intermittent wipers, but this still isn’t a great setup. So there.

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Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)