How to update a Tesla without wifi: Is it possible?

One of the benefits of owning a Tesla is that the company frequently releases software updates designed to improve the driving experience or offer better in-car features and entertainment.

Understandably, Tesla owners are often keen to install these updates and see what new features they have to offer.

But what do you do if you’re in a location without wifi when you hear that an update is available? Is it even possible to update a Tesla without wifi?

In this article, we explain how Tesla software updates are delivered and what to do when you’re in a location with no available wifi network.

Can I install a Tesla update without wifi?

Unfortunately, you cannot install a Tesla update without a wifi connection. There is no way to force your Tesla to update via the cellular network, even if you have a Premium Connectivity subscription.

If your Tesla is in a location without wifi – and you really want to update your software as soon as possible, rather than waiting – then you have two options:

1. Move to a place where a wifi connection is available.

2. Create a wifi hotspot in your current location.

Let’s look at each of these options in more detail.

Finding wifi for a Tesla update

You don’t need to be connected to your home wifi network to update your Tesla. A public wifi network will be fine, as long as you can connect and as long as download speeds are fast enough.

Interestingly, in 2022, Tesla started installing Starlink satellite connections at some of their Supercharger locations. One Twitter user shared a video, filmed in Lexington, Kentucky, showing how his Tesla automatically connected to ‘Tesla Service’ wifi and began downloading updates. It also made it possible for him to stream movies via the Starlink connection.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, very few Superchargers include Starlink wifi. You may therefore need to find an alternatively public wifi network if you want to update your Tesla while out and about.

Some places where public wifi can often be found include:

  • Coffee shops
  • Restaurants and takeaways
  • Retail stores
  • Public buildings, such as libraries

We recommend using a service like WiFi Map to find a public wifi network near you.

In many cases, you will need to be a customer and/or ask staff for a password in order to connect to public wifi. And, unfortunately, even once connected, public wifi is often slow and unreliable.

If you are connected to a public wifi network then you should try to park your Tesla as close as possible to the building in order to get the best possible connection.

Creating a wifi hotspot for your Tesla

The alternative to taking your Tesla to wifi is to bring wifi to your Tesla!

Assuming you have a signal, and a data plan on your cell phone, you can create a wifi hotspot wherever you may be.

The steps to do this will depend on your phone but, for example, on iPhone, you can go to Settings / Personal Hotspot and create a wifi network from there.

Once you’ve set up a hotspot, you can then connect your Tesla to this new wifi network and download the software update ready to install.

The most important thing to note here is that the download will use your cell phone’s data allowance. As software updates can be quite large, you should only update your Tesla in this way if you’re sure that you have a sufficient data plan.

How long the download takes will depend on the cell phone signal where you are. If the signal is poor, you may find that downloading the update takes a long time or even fails entirely.  

Why can’t you update a Tesla via LTE?

You may have heard that your Tesla has an ‘LTE’ cellular connection, which allows Tesla to update the vehicle over the cell phone network rather than over wifi. 

This is true. However, the LTE network is only used for safety-critical updates, and these updates can only be initiated by Tesla.

You cannot use LTE for standard software updates and there is no way for you to trigger updates via LTE, not even if you have Premium Connectivity.

If you want to update your Tesla, you’re going to need a wifi connection!