My Urban Car

MyUrbanCar Top Tesla Model 3 (& Model Y) tips for new UK owners

We think Tesla Model 3/Y are probably the best Teslas and probably the best EV. We’ve got some tips to help you make the most of it and find a way round its quirks

General Tips

Regenerative breaking

Please please always set regenerative braking to “on” or in “normal” mode. By using your electric motors as brakes when you take your foot off the accelerator you

  • Soon find its a better more relaxing way to drive and for much of the time you will rarely need to use the brake pedal at all
  • you’ll get more range because your braking energy goes back in the battery
  • you’ll make the air cleaner. Brake pads produce particulate emissions that go into peoples lungs (and even the bloodstream) and causes harm to many parts of the human body. Using the motors is not polluting
  • you’ll save money on maintenance as your brake pads will last many times longer.

We understand that the latest Model 3’s may now default to having regen braking.

If something doesn’t work on your Tesla

Some people have referred to the Model 3/Y as a “computer on wheels”. Like a computer if something doesn’t work then rebooting the Model 3 is the first port of call to fix it.

  • For a basic reboot just push both scroll wheels on your steering wheel when parked. You can even do this while driving but you do lose the screen with all info including speedometer and controls so it is not recommended unless parked. If something more fundamental isn’t working then look at “if autopilot becomes unavailable”

If autopilot becomes unavailable

While the names autopilot and full self driving will remain controversial until Tesla’s really can drive themselves without driver input, they remain great features. Even in Europe where they haven’t been updated or improved, they take the stress out of long motorway journeys. Sometimes though becomes unavailable for 2 reasons

  1. Autopilot is upset with you
    If, while autopilot is engaged, you accelerate above the maximum speed allowed for autopilot, it will demand you take over the driving for the rest of that journey
    Solution – stop in a safe place when convenient (NOT the hard shoulder), exit the vehicle along with all passengers, walk away and lock. When you return autopilot should be available again.
  2. A technical issue.
    In an extreme case this may require a service visit but mostly these 3 things will resolve the issue
    a) wipe clean your cars external cameras – if autopilot can’t see it can’t run. They are located at the top of the windscreen, on the front wings, in the door pillars and 1 on the rear. Then lock, walk away and reopen the car.
    b) a more complete shutdown is accessed via the “safety” tab. You need to be safely stopped with a timing device handy. Press the shut down button, everything shuts down and you mustn’t touch anything for 2 minutes. At the end of the 2 minutes press the brake pedal. This reboots the cars systems.
    c) a final fix is when parked press the recalibrate camera button on the service tab before going on a longer drive. After a certain number of miles the camera’s recalibrate.. a display should indicate progress.

To creep, roll or hold…

In the driving menu you can set how your model 3/Y stops

Creep – this will be most familiar if you’ve driven automatic cars before. If you release the brake the car moves forward or backwards, slowly. If you take your foot off the accelerator the car will slow to a creep speed but won’t stop until you brake. Probably the easiest especially for low speed parking manoeuvres

Roll – Not actually tried this but I imagine when you come down to below a speed where regen braking works the car simply keeps going as far as it will roll!

Hold – if you take your foot off the accelerator pedal the car uses regen braking first and then brakes to bring you to a complete stop with limo driver smoothness. I chose this but it does take getting used to when parking as you have to use the accelerator to move. If Elon reads this perfection would be hold but using creep in a parking space!

Over the air updates

You will quickly discover that the free updates via WiFi provide great updates that add features, fix issues and even boost range or performance. Usually updates arrive every few weeks but sometimes 2 will a couple of days apart. Some will be major and describe new features. Some will be minor.

The model 3 needs wifi to download software. In my experience even on phones that offer a wifi hotspot the Tesla is reluctant to download updates, Different phones may work.. mine is IOS on an up to date Iphone.

Connecting to home wifi may be easy.. or like me you may have a house with no driveway, street parking & a small front garden. In this case if you find that even parked in the street outside is too weak. Top tip.. if it definitely won’t connect facing in one direction turn the car to face in the opposite direction! My own model 3 will only consistently connect and download when the passenger side (left side) is closest to the home wifi router.

Once a download is complete you will be asked to install it which takes around half an hr. Only install an update when the car is still connected to wifi. Occasionally the car will be missing a few files for an update. If you are connected to wifi it will simply fetch them. If not connected, missing files can stall the update, leaving you unable to drive the car until it aborts (allow up to an hour for this!)
You start an update from inside the car but its much easier to do it via the phone app. You don’t have to be near the car. Just pick a time when the car won’t be needed for up to 40 mins..usually less.

Using Voice Control

Does it work? Yes. Is it perfect. No. Just press the right steering wheel button.

Voice control works pretty well especially for

  • navigation.. “navigate to Manchester” or “Navigate to home” or navigate to charger” to open charging choices on the map
  • for selecting music “Play Dua Lipa” or “play album Dark side of the Moon”
  • for adjusting heating “I am hot” will decrease the cabin temperature
  • “set fan speed to 7” or “set temperature to 19 degrees” works well
  • switch off climate control
  • “Open menu” works fine but searching from the new menu bar (top left) doesn’t seem to be accessible yet.. the search just looks for songs instead.
  • a little strangely the command for turning the drivers seat heater up or down is.. “my butt is hot” or my butt is cold”
  • Open charge flap is… “open butthole”
  • You can also choose to “play source bluetooth”
  • You can also change screens displayed with commands like “show map” “show web browser” or “show energy graph”, “open phone contacts” “open trip”
  • “open frunk” works fine but open trunk or boot doesn’t.

Where it is less reliable for me is things like “send message to fred blogs” or “phone” or “call” a contact on your phone. Sometimes it will misunderstand and want to navigate to something that sounds similar like “fred blogs hardware shop! If it does inadvertently switch your destination just press on the address box and your last destinations will be listed to choose from.

TIP: if you model 3 struggles with a word try a different accent! Perhaps I’m too posh for it to understand but when I say “Navigate to Watford” it nearly always wants to send my to “Waterford”. Play “Paul Wella” is also a problem. Solution? Try another accent.. a classic New Joisey American accent works best for me and you can really ham it up if you want to!


In my view the best way to travel between UK and mainland Europe and much much lower in CO2 than the ferry. Tips?

  • If you splash out on flexiplus they do have Tesla superchargers by the dedicated lounge in Calais but too few (only 2 bays) and they are not reliable as at August 2022. If you really want to charge use the 8 Supercharger units in the main terminal instead otherwise you’ll end up joining most flexiplus customers topping up in Maidstone!
  • Unexpected bonus which may work on your car. You can use any Eurotunnel delay to watch a film both before an after you board the train. What surprised our family was that while watching “Mr Grey” the buffer or connection was enough for the film to carry on playing all the way from Calais to UK for the entire journey through the channel tunnel

Cleaning your wipers

Like on any car leaves or muck can settle around wipers sometimes but the because they are tucked close under the bonnet cleaning is tricky. Luckily if you click on the service and maintenance tab there is a wiper service option which parks the wipers in a higher and easier spot for cleaning.

Auto wipers

The auto wipers weren’t very effective early on but an update has sorted this. They now work so effectively that you will rarely need to use the manual control.
If you do need to adjust to manual wiper control then a quick push on the left column stalk (same button you hold for a wash/ wipe) gives a single wipe and also puts manual wiper options on screen for you. Handy

Auto lights

Like many cars the Model 3 likes putting dipped beam headlamps on when its sunny or in fact whenever you start a drive even in daylight not just at night. Hopefully Tesla will figure out a solution but in the meantime if you see lights come on at the wrong time switch from auto to off or sidelights manually on the main menu. You can also when safe to do so bring up a lights menu by flashing your headlights. Pushing on the stalk does this too but the car will then be in main beam so not recommended. Annoyingly light settings reset every time you switch off. Using the headlights when not needed may cut your range.

The car uses google maps. This is a great feature. It means for most destinations other than a private house you can simply type the name of a hotel or business or doctors surgery and you don’t need postcodes or addresses.
Navigating to chargers (mainly Tesla ones) just means putting your finger anywhere on the map and then selecting the electric charger symbol. Once you do all the nearest Tesla chargers are listed inc your battery charge on arrival. The system in UK is still limited for non Tesla chargers but new updates will change this over time.

Tesla/ Google maps Navigation problems

Overall navigation works well but there are a few issues.

  • It isn’t always great at leading you to Superchargers once you are at the relevant car park, service areas or hotel. The location if the Superchargers on the map is generally spot on.. it’s just google as no clue how to get you there so you may have to zoom in and work out the last 2 minutes yourself! This is especially true in Europe.
  • When you’re on the road it’s not always easy to get the lane or turning right on complex roundabouts and motorway junctions because
    roads that are not on your route are not always clearly displayed ( just grey like rivers and railway lines) and the car doesn’t zoom in close enough at key moments.
    Also the voice instruction and summary for roundabouts is often just wrong and doesn’t match the map, telling you to take the first exit when it should be the third etc

Speed limit recognition

After recent updates Model 3s and Y’s now reads speeds signs on local roads and finally now on motorways.

There are some issues though. Remember these systems read any sign they see – so particularly on dual carriageways they may read signs for off ramps and side roads etc. On many European motorways there are lower limits for trucks and caravans, for off ramps and finally for corners which are not cancelled afterwards. All these mean the system should be used with common sense.

  • On motorways as at Sept 2022 the system will now try to pick up 50mph limits on Motorway roadworks or electronic variable speed limit signs on smart motorways either. Do not rely on the speed limit sign in the car on motorways. We have found the reading of electronic speed signs is still patchy for now and sometimes resets to 70mph when the lower limit still applies.
  • some UK local authorities prefer painting local speed limits on the road instead of the via signs. The Tesla (and I suspect other speed limit readers) don’t currently look at numbers on the road- either they need to learn or proper signage will need to be installed.
  • Bear in mind the car registers the change of limit when you pass the sign. This is likely to mean that as you pass a 30 mph sign coming into a village you could be doing more like 60mph than 30 mph. This means on cruise control in a county like Bedfordshire with a penchant for using forward facing speed cameras just past the sign you could land a hefty ticket! No doubt a future update ensure you slow down to the correct limit by the time you reach the sign!

Setting cruise control speed

You can set “current speed” as your default which, for most drivers, is what you want do do. All you need to do is go to the “autopilot” tab. Just choose “set speed” as “current speed”. We would recommend this instead of choosing speed limit partly because of the issues in the section on speed signs, and partly because if there is much traffic around you it is unlikely to be doing exactly the speed limit

Even having set this as a default you can press on the speed sign while driving to change the cars cruise speed to speed limit when needed.


With a big boot, more space under the boot and a handy frunk as well the Model 3 is very practical. If you’re a towny that likes walks in the country the frunk if perfect for walking boots and wellies ( in bags to keep it clean!)

Charging ⚡️

Tesla Superchargers

Buying a Tesla gives you sole access to the Supercharger network in the UK. They usually have at least 8 stalls and they are the best rated chargers for ease of use, speed and reliability.
Money Saving tip
The the price of Tesla Supercharging is significantly cheaper than most public chargers in August 2023. As a rule of thumb paying 10p more per kWh will increase your charge cost by around £29 per 1,000 miles or £8.70 for every 300 miles.

Each Supercharger can be priced differently and prices can change regularly so if you’re setting off on a long trip have a glance at the Superchargers on your route on the Model 3 screen and see if any expensive ones can be avoided. It’s worth noting that Tesla are now use peak and off peak pricing. At the time of writing this is 39p per kWh off peak and 43p at peak time of 4pm to 8pm

Tips for a faster charge

  1. Try and avoid the older chargers offering less than 250kW.
  2. For older 150kW chargers & below look at the number of each charger and which are a or b as you arrive
  3. if there are spaces that aren’t next to another car choose them
  4. Always try to choose the chargers labelled “a” not “b” when you can

Why? On 150kW and below each charger pair eg 9a and 9b share a 150kW supply. If both are in use they share this between them but “a” stalls usually get more! On a 120kW shared connection you only get 60kW each which is very slow.

Why do public chargers charge my Tesla more slowly

For some reason Tesla hasn’t deigned to offer a option to push a button and manually begin battery preheating before a charge. Instead it preheats the battery only when you start navigating to a charger that the car lists on the map. You could fool the Tesla by pretending to navigate to a Supercharger but this assumes you know the way to the public charger yourself as the car will be guiding you to the wrong place. Also if there is a Supercharger nearby then you would probably be using it!

Opening the charge port!

Like a “Windows” PC there are several ways to do this

  1. press once on the charger flap when the car is unlocked and it should open
  2. use the app on your phone
  3. from the screen in the car
  4. when at a Tesla charger there is a small circle image on top of the supercharger connector handle.. press on it and your flap opens!
  5. or use the “open butthole” voice command!

Remember the car has to unlock the charge port specifically at the end of any charge via app or vehicle screen or Tesla charger button.

Fastest way to charge on long journeys

Both your Tesla app and the car allow you to set how much to charge the battery.
On many routes there will be a string of Tesla Superchargers on your way. It is quicker to stop more often for a quick 15 to 20 min charge up to 60% or 70% than to stop less often and charge to 100%
Charging is quickest when the battery is between 10% and 60% full. After that is becomes progressively slower. The difference can be big.. over 100 miles of range in 10 mins at peak compared with under 10 miles at the end of a 100% charge.

EV database has put this on a charge curve graph. Here is the dual motor long range as an example

When to charge to 100%

Times when it makes sense to charge to 100% are:

  • before a long journey
  • if you need it to reach the next Supercharger (best assume a 50% safely margin so allow 150 miles range for a 100 mile journey)
  • if it’s the last supercharger before you enter an area of slower public charging

Pros and cons of the RWD base model now just called “Model 3”

This updated model delivered from some point in December 2021 onwards has a different battery chemistry. There are 3 big differences compared to the previous RWD model

It is slower.. just under 6 seconds 0-62mph (so still no slouch) but it now has an official WLTP range of over 300 miles and it’s batteries are happy to charge to 100% all the time. If you have this model then your range really won’t be that much less than a long range dual motor charging to 80% in daily use!

Supercharger to avoid – Gretna Green

Gretna is a key link on the west coast between (England M6)and Scotland (A74M). The problem is there are only 4 stalls and they are old units that slow down when all are in use. As a result there are often long queues.

Top tip – even if you are heading North on M6 stop at the Penrith Southbound Supercharger if you don’t have enough range to skip Gretna and reach Abington on the Scottish side heading to Glasgow. Travelling south charge at Abington to reach Penrith. The distance between them is just under 100 miles and both are less busy and have 8 stalls. Remember Tebay Northbound Services do not have any Superchargers yet. There is a nearby motorway exit.

Tesla destination chargers

These are much slower and are usually in hotels, restaurants and other destination. As far a I know the establishment always has the right to limit these for their own customers.

Phone in advance and ask politely if in doubt – most establishments are helpful and one was happy to let me charge around 100 miles worth as long as I bought a cup of tea! Just remember that Tesla do not bill you at destination chargers & the venue pays for the power you use. So it is reasonable for you to expect to make a purchase or offer to pay something for the power you use especially at smaller businesses.

Locking your Model 3 Top Tip 🔒

Safely leaving passengers in your Model 3 when you leave vehicle – Please read!

The Model 3 automatically locks and engages your alarm when you (Or rather your mobile phone) walk away from the car. Very handy but surprisingly this happens even when you nip into a shop leaving wives, kids and mother-in-laws inside. Quite quickly the alarm will go off.
The Model 3 alarm includes a playing a deafening level of a heavy metal type music inside the car. To avoid coming back to shaken passengers with ears ringing use dog mode or camp mode when you are going to leave the car. Accessed on via the climate menu they not only keep the car at temperature- they disable the alarm till you get back!

One thing that prevents the car locking

Rather embarrassingly I rang Tesla when my model 3 wouldn’t lock. Turned out I’d pressed to boot release then forgot..leaving it open. If the car doesn’t lock check boot and doors are properly closed!

Range & power consumption

The basics

Your model 3 gives you a standard fixed range figure based on Tesla’s average power consumption. On my dual motor thats 250 watts per mile but this could be different on your car. In some situations my car actually consumes anything from 180 to 350 watt hours per kWh. In my first 8,000 mainly winter miles the average has been 295 Wh/ mile.
Power consumption will be up (and range down) at higher motorway speeds, when you use aircon, heating, lights and wipers, and in cold weather.
Power consumption can be very low in warmer months without ac, downhill and on A roads and in motorway speed restrictions!

The Energy graph

  • This takes up your map area on your screen so not ideal to keep up when you navigate but it has 2 modes
  • Consumption gives you a big graph. There are 2 horizontal lines one of which is dotted. One shows the Tesla expected consumption eg 250W per mile and one shows your actual consumption. Looking at the expected consumption will tell you what consumption your standard range estimate is based on.. On one side it also tells your watt hours per mile over the last 5, 15 or 30 miles and at the other end an accurate estimate of your range based on that. Because this range is based on how much power you are actually using on this drive it is more accurate than the main Tesla range indicator
  • Trip is much simpler. It shows what % of battery you have now and predicts how much you are predicted to have at your destination as a % of the battery.

Only if you have not upgraded to V11! Use the “cards” tab – wipers/trip/tyre pressures

The “cards” tab on the bottom right of the screen is handy for lots of things. By swishing left or right you get easy access to some useful stuff without navigating through menus including:

  • If you want to set wiper speed manually it’s here. Pressing the button at the end of the indicator brings it to the front.
  • The trip meter. Doesn’t sound that exciting but the trip meter is the best way to keep an eye on your energy consumption when on the road. Scrolling up and down gives consumption on this leg of a trip, since you charged, since you reset the trip meter and finally since the car was new. For example as a rule of thumb on my dual motor
  • 250Wh per mile matches my Tesla average figure. If your Tesla is basing its range on a different level of power consumption (eg 225 Wh/mile then your real range will be decided by whether you are using more or less than that.
  • 270-280Wh per mile is what you should get on the motorway in summer at around 70mph
  • 290-350Wh per mile means you’re using more power because of speed or because higher power consumption of heating or aircon or outside temperature is cold. Remember at this level your range may be reduced from 300 mile to nearer 230!
  • by contrast a warmer weather and long set of 50mph motorway roadworks may get your power usage near or even under 200Wh per mile. For that section you would be getting up to 375 miles of range if the roadworks were long enough!
  • The tyre pressures are shown here.. swish right I think. They only work after you have started driving.

The Tesla App

App features you probably know about

The Tesla app has lots of features including:

  • locking
  • showing charging info and adjusting how full you want the battery and opening unlocking and opening your charge port
  • booking a service
  • turning on climate to heat or cool the car before you get in.

App features you might not expect

  • Top of the list is (apart from summon which has to connect only on Bluetooth under EU regs!) your phone app connects to the car via mobile data connection. So you don’t have to be anywhere near the car to use them
  • For example.. say a friend wants to drop off a parcel for you and you are on a train 40 miles away.. you can open the rear boot (wouldn’t recommend the frunk as it’s more awkward to close), they can put the item in the boot, close it and then you can lock it again.
  • If you go into “controls” top left is “Vent”. Try clicking on it when you’re near the vehicle. You’ll see all 4 windows drop a couple of inches. This means you can start to cool the car on a hot day just before you reach it. You’ll see the button on the app now says close. So if you wonder if a window was left open on your Model 3 the app will tell you and you can close it.. from anywhere.. on the train.. in an airport lounge.. on the other side of the world.
  • Sentry mode is the security feature that uses the cameras on the Model 3 to record suspicious activity. It works well but saps a lot of energy when active. I used it at Gatwick parking and lost around 100 miles of range in a week in winter. Thanks to the app I saw my range getting smaller and turned off sentry mode.. while I was in France!
  • If you are planning to go somewhere in your Tesla then you can look up on your destination in google maps at home beforehand using any mobile device that has the Tesla app installed (this includes Tablets like ipads). Once you click on directions then click on the “…” next to the box saying current location you can send your destination to your car Navigation so when you get in its all ready to go.

We also have a review of our first 8,000 miles here and also tips on longer distance trips in an EV

David Nicholson

David Nicholson Is the founder of Rivergecko Ltd & MyUrbanCar which provide consultancy and advice for drivers and fleets to speed the transition from dirty fossil fuel transport to clean vehicles powered by renewable energy on land water and air.

The @MyUrbanCar twitter feed is a source of news & reviews of electric & plugin cars and vans in the UK.
The @rivergecko twitter feed & websites bring news and opinion on cleantech transport including cars, vans, buses, trucks, shipping, rail & aviation as well as autonomous vehicles & renewable energy, air pollution & motor industry news.

David Nicholson has worked as an underwriter at Lloyd's of London since the 1980's. His interest in technology goes back many years including interactive mapping, apps, green tech, boats, solar and cars.