A non‐isothermal finite element (FE) model for the injection stretch‐blow molding (ISBM) process of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles is presented in this paper. The constitutive behavior of PET is modeled by the physically based Buckley glass‐rubber model in form of UMAT in ABAQUS. The heat transfer between the stretch rod, the preform, and the mold is modeled. Particular attention is paid to thermal and contact modeling, material model, and selection of proper element types. Extensive FE simulations are carried out to model ISBM of a 20 g‐330 ml bottle made in plant tests. Comparisons of numerical results with the measurements demonstrate that the model can satisfactorily predict the bottle thickness and material distributions. Significant nonlinear differentials are found in strain, temperature, and temperature reduction rate in both bottle thickness and length direction during the process. A volume approach is therefore necessary for accurate predictions of final bottle properties because they are governed by orientation and crystallinity, which are highly temperature and strain dependent. Parametric studies on contact modeling and heat transfer coefficient are also conducted and the results are discussed. Polym. Eng. Sci. 44:1379–1390, 2004. © 2004 Society of Plastics Engineers.