We all find ourselves in a silly pickle from time to time. I don’t know how many times I’ve accidentally locked my keys in my car (when that was still possible). But what are the options these days when you’ve lost your Tesla key? Can you actually start your Tesla without a key?

It is possible to unlock, start and drive your Tesla if don’t have your key card, key fob, or other linked NFC key device. You can log into the Tesla app on your phone to unlock your car. You can even use your friends’ phone to log into the Tesla to open your Tesla (if it is authenticated). This can be done on any Tesla.

If you want to find out exactly how all this is done, check out the rest of this article.

How To Drive a Tesla With a Phone Instead of a Key

Here is how to drive your Tesla using your phone as a key:

  1. On your Tesla’s screen press the car icon, then select Locks.
  2. Press the plus button and select Add Phone Key.
  3. Download and open the Tesla Mobile App.
  4. Press the Phone Key button in the Tesla app and press Start to begin searching.
  5. Once your phone and car are connected you can confirm the pairing by presenting a key card.

Since you have to present a key card to pair your phone and car for the first time, you should do this when you get your Tesla!

Did you know you can use your smartwatch (like an Apple watch) as a Tesla key too? It’s true! Check out Life Wire’s article on controlling a Tesla using a smartwatch for more info.


Tesla Motors has implemented more and more layers of security over the years, and it has paid off. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, Teslas are almost 90% less likely to get stolen than other car brands.

Pros and Cons of Using Your Phone as a Tesla Key

Here are the pros and cons you may experience from using a phone as a Tesla key:

Pros of Using a Phone as a Tesla KeyCons of Using a Phone as a Tesla Key
More convenient. You always have your phone on you, so it’s easy to use your phone as a key.You lose access to your car if your phone dies.
Passive entry. If you have your phone in your pocket, your car will automatically unlock when you touch a door handle.Tesla users online have noted bugs, like inconsistent passive unlocking.
You can use the above chart to weigh the pros and cons of using your phone as a Tesla key and help you decide the best option for your lifestyle.

If you’re still on the fence about how you should unlock your Tesla, I recommend checking out Kobra ToldYa’s YouTube video on the different ways to unlock a Tesla.

Kobra ToldYa does a great job weighing the pros and cons of key card vs. phone unlocking. Kobra ToldYa also compares a couple of other unlocking methods, like using a fob and ring.

Protect Your Tesla After Losing Your Key Card

Don’t worry if you lost your Tesla key card! There’s nothing to worry about as long as you perform a couple of preventive measures. 

If you lose your Tesla’s key card, you should stop any finders of your key card from accessing your Tesla by requiring a pin and disabling your missing key card.

On a somewhat related note, I wrote a similar article that will give you further insights on What To Do if You Lost Your Tesla Key. Check it out!

How To Enable a 4-Digit Pin on Your Tesla

Here is how to enable a 4-digit pin on your Tesla:

  1. Open the controls on your Tesla’s screen and navigate to Safety & Security.
  2. In Safety & Security, select the Pin to Drive option.
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen to set up a 4-digit pin.

Once your 4-digit pin is set, you won’t have to worry about any lucky keycard finders driving off with your Tesla. However, to ensure any keycard finders can’t access your car, you must take another precautionary step.

Did you know?

Teslas have a Sentry Mode—a security feature that monitors activity around the car and activates visual and sound alarms in case of a break-in attempt.

” EV Stories EVS_Tesla_Model_S_Car_Key_Angel_Car_Background” by EV Stories is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How To Disable a Tesla Key Card

Here are three easy steps to disable a Tesla key card, taken from the Tesla Model 3 Owner Manual:

  1. On your Tesla’s screen, open the Controls and find your way to Locks.
  2. Select the key you’d like to delete by pressing the trash can icon in the Locks menu. The Locks menu will display your keys in order of recent uses. To easily identify which key is missing, use the key you have to unlock and start the car, and your not lost key will be at the top of the Locks menu.
  3. Confirm your choice by presenting an active key card.

Now that your vehicle requires a pin and your missing key card is disabled, you can rest easy knowing your Tesla is secure from any kind of theft.

Fun fact:

It’s nice to be cautious, but a fun fact about Tesla is they’re among the least stolen cars. This means you don’t have to worry about car theft too much, even if you lose your key.

How To Start Tesla Without Key Card

If you’re a Tesla owner or planning to become one, or you drive a tesla already, you might be wondering about keyless driving and how to start your Tesla without a key card.

Well, the good news is that you can access and drive your Tesla without a fob. Tesla has introduced several innovative features that make keyless driving a breeze.

One of the ways you can start your Tesla without a key card is by using the Tesla mobile app. Once you’ve downloaded the app on your cell phone, you can link it to your Tesla vehicle and gain access to a range of features, including unlocking and starting your car.

It’s like having a digital key right at your fingertips. Just imagine the convenience of being able to unlock and drive your Tesla with just a few taps on your phone.

What Is Valet Mode Tesla?

Another option for starting your Tesla without a key card is by using Valet Mode. Valet Mode is a feature available in Tesla vehicles that allows you to restrict access to certain functions of your car when someone else is driving it.

In this mode, you can temporarily disable access to features like the glovebox and trunk, ensuring your personal belongings are kept safe.

Valet Mode can be activated and deactivated through the touchscreen display in your Tesla, providing you with added security and peace of mind.

Where To Put Tesla Key Card

Now, let’s talk about the Tesla key card. Although you can drive a Tesla without a physical key, you may still receive a key card as a backup or for situations when you prefer a tangible option.

The Tesla key card is a slim, credit card-sized device that uses NFC (Near Field Communication) technology to communicate with your vehicle. To start your Tesla with the NFC card, simply tap the card against the designated area on the center console. Once the car recognizes the key card, you’re good to go!

When you buy a Tesla, you get two key cards. I recommend placing at least one of these cards into a safe place in your home so that, should you lose the second card, you still have a card.

When adding a new key to your Tesla (either a phone, a key fob or a key fob), you have to authenticate the procedure with an already-linked key. That’s why storing your spare key card in a safe place is advisable!

Can You Start Tesla Without Key?

Absolutely! As mentioned earlier, Tesla owners will be able to unlock and start their vehicles without a traditional key fob.

With the Tesla app installed on your smartphone, you can take advantage of keyless driving. Just open the app, authenticate yourself, and use the app’s controls to unlock, start, and drive your Tesla. It’s a seamless and convenient way to access and operate your vehicle.

Can You Drive Tesla Without Key Or Phone?

You can drive a Tesla without a key or phone, but it does come with some limitations. In case you don’t have your phone or key card with you, you can use the Tesla keyless entry feature as a backup.

With this feature, you’ll need to have set up a unique PIN code for your vehicle. Simply enter the PIN code on the car’s touchscreen display, and voila! You’ll be able to start your Tesla even without your phone or key card. It’s a handy option to have in case you find yourself without your usual access devices. However, this is only an option if your Tesla isn’t locked!

To use someone else’s phone to log into your Tesla account on the Tesla app, you have to authenticate it with an existing key. So if you have no existing key with you, you won’t be able to use someone else’s phone.

What is a Key Fob?

A key fob is a small, electronic device that serves as a wireless remote control for your car. In the case of Tesla vehicles, the key fob allows you to unlock, lock, and start your car with the push of a button. It operates using radio frequency signals to communicate with your vehicle’s onboard systems.

The key fob typically contains buttons for various functions, such as locking and unlocking the doors, opening the trunk, and sounding the car’s alarm. It’s a convenient and widely used method for accessing and controlling your vehicle’s basic functions.

However, with Tesla’s advanced technology, you have additional options like using your smartphone or key card to access and drive your Tesla without relying on a traditional key fob.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Let Someone Drive Your Tesla Without the Key?

You can let someone drive your Tesla without the key. On the Tesla website select “Add driver”, “Car access”. Follow the instructions. You can also log in with your credentials on another person’s phone.

Check out these 20 great gift ideas for yourself or a Tesla fanboy.

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Erwin Meyer
Erwin Meyer

A renowned Tesla enthusiast, and successful entrepreneur, enlightens global audiences through his compelling EV narratives. Discover more about his electric journey on his About Me page. Venture to read Erwin's incredible story that's reshaping the future of motoring. Want to spark a conversation with Erwin? Visit his Contact page, and let’s electrify the world together.