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Owner’s Manual Companion

by Moderator

This very useful article for owners and enthusiasts of Tesla’s vehicles was created by the long-time poster and relatively long-time owner, @J.T. We owe him a debt of gratitude for the last four years. It is currently maintained by @NKYTA, @JeffreyR, and @TeslaTap. We hope you find it useful as it decreases new posts on the Tesla forum for questions that have been already asked and answered.  🙂

If you can’t find what you want to know in the Owner’s Manual you’ll probably find it here. (Jul-2021 update)




Where is it?

Helpful advice before posting

  1. As of March 15, 2021, the Tesla forums became read-only.
  2. Search in the Tesla forum using the Search bar. Chances are it’s been talked about dozens of times. Also, TeslaTap’s Assistant Pro (TTAP) can filter spam, and improve the navigation & style of the Tesla forum.
  3. Please note that members of the Tesla forum are not privy to ANY time frames of ANY changes to ANY part of Tesla’s production.
  4. Tesla employees are generally not allowed to respond to posts. If you have a question you want Tesla to respond to, use the Contact form (not TeslaTap).

Quick Access

Including Pictures in the Tesla Forum

Image and video links in posts are not displayed but you can use TeslaTap’s Assistant Pro to make most images and video links automatically appear in-line.


Forum example where the video appears when using TTAP


In addition to the built-in forum search, you can use Google search supports the ability to limit search results to a particular site, so you can search for content on this forum using the following syntax in the search field:

site:forums.tesla.com  search terms

For example:

site:forums.tesla.com  autopilot

Here’s perhaps an easier method that eliminates the need to use the “site:” qualifier — just click the link below and enter the search terms:


Note the following:

  1. Search results might specify a different browser language than the one you’re using. The text will most likely be English, but dates and other keywords displayed by the forum software might be in a different language. If this bothers you, you can edit the URL of the search result and remove the language encoding.
  2. If you click on a search result and get a 404 Not Found error, it means the thread was either deleted, renamed (which changes the thread URL), or moved to a different forum. It takes time for the Google indexes to get updated to reflect those changes.


Tesla is a thinking person’s car. Some are ill-equipped for ownership.

  • The options, prices, standard equipment, and design can change at any time which makes it difficult to decide whether you want to wait for the next iteration or place your order and start driving the best car in the world sooner. Be aware that gallery and service center staff have no advanced knowledge of any upcoming/unannounced features so don’t blame them should something come along that makes you feel you should have waited.


What State of Charge (SOC) is best to promote peak battery health?

It seems like a really basic question, but our understanding of Lithium-Ion battery chemistry does not yield a “one size fits all” kind of answer. And Tesla’s position on this is “it depends.” One thing we do know for sure is that you want to keep your SOC above 20% and below 80%. That seems like a fairly big target, easy to achieve, but even that guideline has its detractors.

“My Service Center says to keep it charged to 90%!”

“The Set Charge screen shows 90% as the top end of Daily Use. Why would Tesla use 90% if it wasn’t good for the battery?”

The answer, unfortunately, is marketing. Range anxiety is the number one concern of new owners and prospective owners. So, if it was widely reported that Tesla boasts a 402-mile range on the Model S LR but only recommends charging the battery to 80% reducing the range to 322 miles people might start to lose confidence. Go into a gallery and look at the Dashboard of the cars on display. You’ll see most are kept at 100% SOC to demonstrate to shoppers the full range of the car. Now, we know keeping the car at 100% may be harmful for long periods of time, so it’s obvious that Tesla cares more about making the sale than the battery health of that car on display. Your Delivery Experience Specialist (DES) and your Service Center (SC) personnel will suggest charging the car at 90% to stay consistent with the marketing.

Many owners latch on to this “90%” rule for these reasons and add one of their own. “What if you need to make an unexpected errand and your car is only charged 70%?” My answer is, you drive to a Supercharger on the way add more electrons when you get low. Most people live within 150 miles of a Supercharger, or will soon, so it’s really not a huge concern for most people. “What if” adds a lot to the range anxiety of the uninitiated.

The only thing that cures range anxiety is owning the car for a few months and realizing that 95% of the time you might not even look at your rated range. You pack it in for the day, plug your car in, go to sleep and wake up to a car ready with more range than you need for almost all of your errands. Pretty nifty.

To add just a little more confusion to this topic you should be aware that when asked, Elon Musk and JB Straubel said that the “most comfortable” SOC for the Tesla battery is between 50% and 62%. So, if you need to keep your car plugged in for a couple of months at a time for vacation or travel set the charge level to 60%. This way Vampire Loss might take it down to 55% before recharging.

For a lot more on range see our Range University.

This brings us to the next highly debated section:

How often should I charge and should I keep the car plugged in even if it isn’t charging?

Tesla has made it clear as clear can be that it recommends keeping the car plugged in whenever possible. They even used to include in the glove box a card that said, “A Plugged in Tesla is a Happy Tesla.” Of course, people have asked why they should keep it plugged in all the time and Tesla came back with a very technical answer: “Because we said so.”

Of course, there are times when you can’t keep your car plugged in. But, there are times when Tesla can’t keep all of the cars at the factory plugged in so just how important can it be? Think of it this way. If you have your SOC set to 80%, and you keep the car plugged in all the time, a car that has 402 miles range or more at 100% SOC will always have at least 300+ miles of range whenever you get in the car. The chances of you running out of charge are pretty slim. A good habit to get into. However, if you thought you were going back out for the day and then didn’t, you might go to sleep and wake up to a car with only enough miles to get you stuck on the freeway. Not a good situation for Tesla should the local news get a hold of it. “Tesla Dies on Freeway Causing Massive Jam.” The story won’t affect Tesla owners, but range anxiety is the number one concern of non-owners, so it’s not going to help the cause.

Admittedly we do not all plugin our cars all of the time. But, most of the time we do. There’s really no good reason not to, and there might be some ancillary benefit, other than waking up to an adequate charge car, that we are not privy to. So, like Tesla and Nike say, “Just do it.”

Understanding Charging 

What’s Going On In My Battery? by @Anthony J. Parisio

Lithium batteries are very stable at receiving and giving power between 20% and 80% of charge. The curve is a straight line between these two points. That means it is like you are plugged into a wall outlet getting constant even power. In the period before 0% and 20%, they are very unpredictable. The 7000 cells in the MS pack can discharge at different rates that can lead to some cells having reduced capacity or even die over time.

The opposite end (80% to 100%) is also true. The 7000 cells in the MS pack can charge at different rates this might cause some cells to end up with reduced capacity or even die over time. The safest place to be is in the 20% to 80% range. I’m sure Tesla has some hidden space at the top and bottom of the range to keep you away from 0% and 100% but not all that much. They wanted to give us more range.

The reason this is true is that the lithium and graphite compounds used in the batteries are crystals. They grow and contract as the electrons populate and depopulate the crystalline structure. Crystals crack if you push them too far too fast! Cracked crystals are dead batteries. The electrons coming in and going out so fast and unpredictably at the top and bottom of the charge curve increase the chance of cracking. There is no known way to change this; it is the physics of the structure. See why the top and bottom are dangerous.

You will notice when using a Supercharger it will charge really fast at the beginning of charge time. As it gets closer to the top it will slow down. This ensures “not too much too fast.” This minimizes the chance of crystalline structure damage.

All this means is, stay below 80% and above 20% and your batteries will last many, many years. Occasionally going to 100% (which I will bet is not really 100%) is only okay if you are afraid you might not reach the next charge station.

Note To get a Supercharger where you want one

Note A great resource on home charging, plugs, and adapters

The EPA ratings of the Model S vary from 412 miles on the latest LR, to 390 miles for Plaid. The Model 3 LR has 353 miles of range. Most drivers won’t achieve these numbers on a regular basis due to the following factors:

  1. Elevation: Large elevation change is the biggest factor in Tesla’s range. When traveling up a steep incline, the battery will deplete much more rapidly than at the same speed on level terrain. Elevation drops are your friend, regen will add energy back into the battery.
  2. Weather: Batteries are less efficient in colder weather. Also, a lot of battery power is diverted to battery maintenance and cabin warming which affects reduces range. Wet pavement and snowy roads also reduce range.
  3. Speed: The faster you go the more energy it takes to overcome wind resistance.
  4. Acceleration: Just like in conventional cars jackrabbit starts wreak havoc on mileage. If you combine launching with driving fast, you will deplete the battery extremely fast.
  5. Tires: Summer tires are stickier than winter tires and reduce range. New tires need to be broken in and some owners have reported reduced range until they’ve put over 1000 miles on new tires.
  6. HVAC: AC does affect range a bit but not nearly as much as heat does.

It all comes down to Wh/m, Watt-hours per mile. An 85-kWh battery has 75.9 kWh of energy available to use. The remaining 9.1 kWh is reserved as a battery buffer to prevent bricking. So, we have 75,900 Wh of energy to go 265 miles in an S85 which means you’d need to average 287 Wh/mile to attain that mileage. JT’s lifetime Wh/m average is 346, therefore his rated range on a full charge gets me 219 miles. I live in the Northeast and naturally do much better in the warmer months (@307 Wh/m).

On the early S without the self-closing port door, if the charge port door is stuck closed and all the buttons are no help try the “karate chop”. Hit the right-most edge of the door with authority and it should pop open. Moisture on magnets or misaligned magnets is usually the culprit.

If your UMC is plugged in properly and there’s no green light try pressing the reset button on the back of the unit.

If your UMC doesn’t unlock, open the trunk, find a little door on the driver’s side, and pop it off. There is a small lever, which when moved, releases the Charging Plug. This was only on some cars – perhaps the 2014-2015 Model S and then all newer cars. (@drrob).


For the fastest response from Tesla about anything using the contact form on the Tesla website. Tesla wants you to be completely satisfied, but they are often slow to respond to contact information.

Operating Safely

This section goes over some important safety tips, including making the car safe and comfortable for pets and passengers while parked.

  1. Error! Water Damage & Safety
    1. Contrary to Elon’s joke about the Model S is like a boat, DO NOT drive through standing water. Tesla Technical Support warned, “This can permanently damage your vehicle.”
    2. Plus if the water is deep enough and moving fast enough you could be trapped and drown; be careful, be sensible.

To keep the accessories on for pets or passengers when you leave the car do one of these things:

    1. Have a passenger touch the screen and the accessories will come on; or
    2. Leave the door ajar and the accessories will not go off; or
    3. Use the E-Brake on the Control Panel and leave the car in Neutral and the accessories won’t go off; or
    4. You can also manage the climate from your phone in 30-minute intervals; or
    5. When parked, tap climate and select the option “Keep Climate On”. HVAC will remain on until the SOC goes below 20%.
    6. Error! ALERT:   If you leave by the passenger door everything will stay on until you turn it off from the MCU or reenter the car and open the driver’s door. This is by design, not a bug.
  1.  Lightning Information
    1. It is safe to sit in a Tesla vehicle and ride out a thunderstorm. Even if lightning strikes the car, you will not be injured nor will the car be damaged with the possible exception of a paint blemish where the spark contacts the car.
    2. Don’t try to Supercharge during a thunderstorm. A nearby lightning strike to a power line will find its way into the car where the resultant transient energy can damage sensitive electronic circuits throughout the car.


This section goes over some instructions and tips for getting and operating your Tesla. It also includes some enhancements to improve the whole experience.

  • Have a problem after delivery? In North America, call ownership at  +1-877-798-3752. You can also email ServiceHelpNA@tesla.com. You may find it’s easier and faster to just set up a service appointment from the Tesla phone app.
  • Door handles will NOT auto present after 48 hours of inactivity on the Model S.
  • Important! IMPORTANT: CELL PHONE INTERFERENCE. Cell phones can interfere with the key fob to car communication. Don’t keep them in the same pocket. A cell phone near your fob in your bag or purse may lock you out. The car does not “see” the fob and locks the car.
  • Yellow dotted lines on the energy graph are due to limited charging capability (regen) or limited power output (go). This can be because of a cold or full battery for the former, and cold, hot, or a low battery for the latter.
  • Important! IMPORTANT: COLD WEATHER OPERATION. We strongly suggest that any owner whose ambient temperature drops below 40°F prepare for the changes in vehicle range and operations.
  • You can attach a USB mouse to your car Some USB game controllers also work for the built-in games!
  • To change your Valet mode PIN do this: Press where it says you forgot the code and sign in using your Tesla account. Once you log in that way, the next time you enter valet mode you get to enter a new PIN. (proven)


This section goes over some instructions and tips for resolving common and not-so-common issues.

  • Rebooting solves many problems. If gremlins appear, press and hold both scroll wheels for 10 seconds to reboot MCU (Can be safely done while driving).
  • Warning REMOVE EVERYTHING FROM USB PORTS BEFORE REBOOTING.  (A bootable USB drive can cause boot problems)
  • For S/X prior to March-2018, to reboot the instrument cluster (IC) on your car hold both buttons above the scroll wheel. CAUTION: rebooting the IC in motion can be hazardous. Steering Mode may change, alert sounds will mute, the speedometer will be blank. Not used in newer cars or the Model 3 or Y.
  • To reboot both screens at the same time hold scroll wheels in for 40 seconds. (by @Amped Realtor)
  • To hard reboot the MCU (which takes longer to restart), press the brake pedal and hold the scroll wheels in for about 10 seconds until the center screen goes black.
  • After any software installation, some owners do a scroll wheel reboot.
  • Stuck Charge Cable?!! Remember if the doors are locked the charger cable is locked too.
    1. Hold down the cable connector button for more than 10 seconds; or
    2. Hold down the trunk button on the fob for more than 2 seconds (Model S or X); or
    3. Open the trunk, find a little door on the driver’s side, and pop it off. There is a small lever (available on some 2014-2015 Model S cars and most newer cars), which when moved, releases the Charging Plug. (@drrob)
  • Slacker problems? Try this
  • If the car won’t wake up press on the brake, hard, and do the scroll wheel reboot.
  • Important! CLUNK SQUEAL WHINE KNOCK THUMP CHIRP If your car is doing any of this checkout Tesla Tap’s Museum of Tesla Sounds and see if your sound is explained.
  • Is your calendar not Syncing? Try this tip from @KL: The calendar only updates when the Tesla app is on. So turn on the Tesla app every day that you want your calendar synced. It will only sync for today’s events and tomorrow’s.
  • If your Panoramic Roof doesn’t close after a software update here is a workaround until there is a bug fix: Just hold the pano roof close button on the screen for about 5 seconds. The bug is a false hand sensor trip. Holding the button overrides the hand sensor.
  • If you’re not getting the same rated miles on a charge as you had previously don’t fret; your battery is not dying. There is no accurate way to determine how many miles of range you will actually get out of a charge except to drive the car until it stops. What you see on your speedometer is a calculation based on an algorithm based on calculations of the state of charge of the battery: it’s a guesstimate. So, if a 90% charge got you 360 miles yesterday and today it only got you 355 just fuhgettaboutit and enjoy the drive. And if you tend to obsess about the number on your dash, a little electrical tape over the number will help. Or, change your readout to percentage and you’ll always see that exact percentage every morning. See our Range University for more details.

Contacting via Tesla Website

There are several ways to contact Tesla. If you have an idea or suggestion and are an owner, use the Contact link at the bottom of every Tesla page (not TeslaTap.com).  Select a topic like “Ordering a Tesla Vehicle”.

  • OTA updates take about 2-4 weeks to reach the entire fleet. We don’t know how it’s done.
  • Every new version is closely followed by sub-versions. which tweak the update. These are bug fixes. They usually don’t come with updated release notes. Go to Controls -> Software for your version number.
  • When the update is available for your car, an update notification will appear on your screen, and perhaps on your mobile device. You can initiate installation immediately or program the install to start at a later time. If you close the screen and did not set a time to install you can always touch the alarm clock icon at the top of the MCU to access the options.
  • An install can take from 45 minutes to as long as 2.5 hours depending on the scope of the update. While the car is installing the update it will appear dead at times, sometimes it will appear possessed. Regardless, you won’t be able to operate anything in the car until the install is finished. So, plan accordingly.
  • If you have a bootable USB drive attached, remove it before doing the update (ideally, USB flash drives for music or dashcam recording should not be bootable, but it could be if infected with a virus).

  • The Supercharger Superguide explains which stall is fastest to use when others are occupied.
  • Read this thread on advice compiled by @sbeggs for taking your Model S cross country
  • Experiment with travel conditions and range at evtripplanner.com
  • Here is @Blueshift’s excellent Supercharge Info which has very up-to-date status reports about new chargers.
  • Camper Mode When camping out in your car you can keep the Climate System ON by selecting camper mode from the HVAC panel by tapping the fan icon.
  • When staying at a hotel/motel where there isn’t a good cell signal, connect your vehicle to the WiFi if possible. This way your app will still work. (@mireille&conan)
  • For those with back issues or who get a stiff back after long rides, consider this suggestion: Increase the lumbar “out” and turn your seat heater on 3, whether or not you have a cold A/C in your face. Also, on a cross-country trip, my masseuse suggested using a tennis ball placed on the seat beneath my right glute, where the IT band travels. I also found it useful to place another between my lower right back and the seat. Apparently, long-haul truckers have been using this for decades. It helps! (@NKYTA)



The Owner’s Manual! You can read the owner’s manual pdf on any device by going to Tesla Account, selecting Manage on your car, and then Glovebox. The manual is also available in your car by going to Controls -> Software.


The Basics on Autopilot today:

  • Note Keep your hands on the wheel.
  • Note Keep your eyes on the road.
  • Note Keep your butt in the seat.
  • Note Keep the sensors clean.

Thanks to George Hawley for the information below.

  1. Autopilot is a catch-all term that includes a number of driver assistance features. It is not the automotive equivalent of autopilot in aircraft.
  2. Autopilot (AP1) features are only available in Tesla cars produced after September of 2014 that are equipped with a forward-facing radar transducer in the middle of the front of the car, a forward-facing HD camera in the front of the rearview mirror housing, and 12 ultrasonic sonar transducers, arrayed around the periphery of the car.  AP2 changed the design in cars made after October 2016 with 8 cameras, radar, and doubling the range of the sonar sensors.
  3. Basic Autopilot features are included with all Tesla cars today. For new purchases, there is also a Full Self-Driving (FSD) option you can buy with your initial order, or as an after-delivery addition. FSD is a set of features, many of which are still being developed.  In 2021 Tesla plans to offer a subscription service for FSD as an alternative to outright purchase.
  4. Autopilot with FSD currently includes Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC), Auto-lane change, Auto steering, Auto parking, and Summoning (operable both using the fob and using the updated iPhone app.) The Autoparking feature is parallel parking and perpendicular parking (the car backs into the space.)  Additional features are planned for the future.
  5. TACC enables the car to cruise up to a top speed of X mph set by the driver and to follow a vehicle, maintaining a distance that corresponds to the time it would take to reach that vehicle’s current position. The distance is also set by the driver. The control stalk is the small stalk located under the directional signal/windshield wiper stalk. The following distance basically sets the distance based on time to get to the location of the car in front of you. 1=.5 seconds and 7=3.5 seconds (i.e. 0.5 second intervals).
  6. TACC locks onto vehicles as small as a motorcycle.
  7. Autopilot functions are recommended for use in good weather on well-marked roadways, especially limited access highways. Functions depending on the camera are disabled when driving directly into bright sunlight.
  8. Autosteering requires hands on the wheel. It is disabled if there is no slight tug on the steering wheel by the driver is detected after about 30 seconds. The driver will receive a warning if the car senses that the driver’s hands are not on the steering wheel. After three warnings, AP is disabled until the car is stopped.
  9. Autopark is initiated by touching a prompting icon on the main screen. The icon appears after the car passes a candidate space. Autoparking requires the car to perform some internal calibration calculations and may not work when first tried.
  10. The ultrasonic sensors have a maximum range of about 16 feet in AP1 (first version) and about 30 feet in AP2 and AP3.
  11. Multiple software downloads have been delivered since the first availability of initial Autopilot features adding functionality and refining performance.
  12. Autopilot features require the driver to be constantly vigilant and prepared to take over control of the vehicle at any moment. It is a driver assistant feature, not full self-driving.
  13. Autopilot does not stop for a stopped object or vehicle that has not been previously tracked. FSD offers limited stopping with stop signs and traffic lights today.
  14. It is recommended to not use Autopilot in areas of road work or maintenance where there could be lane closures, mismarked lanes, or stopped vehicles in a lane.

  • Low profile performance tires wear quickly and provide a bit harsher ride.  Use non-low-profile tires for longer life and more ride comfort, at the sacrifice of some handling.

Tesla cars are activated through the use of a radio transmitter/receiver device in the shape of a miniature Model S or X, as appropriate. Model 3 and Y do not have a fob included with the vehicle purchase, but FOB can be bought afterward. This device is referred to in the owner’s manual as a key. It is referred to in Tesla’s FCC registration as a fob key. Most owners just call it a fob.

Its primary function is to act as a key to unlock and lock your car, to enable the car to operate, and to open/close the rear hatch, to open the front “frunk”, and in the case of the Model X, to open and close the side doors.

It contains a radio transmitter/receiver that emits and receives signals. For the Model S, Tesla uses 315 MHz in North America, and 433.93 MHz in the rest of the world. For the Model X, the fob only uses 2.4 GHz in the USA and may additionally use 315/433 MHz depending on the country. Each fob is uniquely encoded to operate a car with a designated VIN with an encrypted rolling code. The software in the car is able to recognize individual fobs and link them to the Driver profile of the person with that fob.

If the fob is not working, you can unlock the car and turn it on using the phone app.  In addition:

Model S: If the fob battery is low but not working there is a failsafe. For most 2013 and later cars, place the fob at the end of the passenger wiper that is closest to the center. For 2012 and early 2013 cars, place the fob on the passenger side fender.  In both cases, next press and hold a door handle for a few seconds and it should unlock.

Model X: Hold the fob on the driver’s side between the front and rear doors below the door opening and press the door handle for a few seconds. If this fails, remove the fob battery and try again.

The fob has a button-style battery to provide power, CR2032 in the case of the Model S, 3, and Y.  The Model X fob uses a CR2354 battery. It’s smart to keep a spare fob battery in the glove compartment.

The Model X fob batteries may not be commonly available. Order CR2354 online or at any Tesla service center. Battery life depends on usage, but 2-3 years is typical.

Fobs are not waterproof, and may not survive a washing machine. If this occurs, you can disassemble a Model S fob and try to dry it out.

More on Fobs:

Thanks to George H for the original contribution


Got an Idea?

  • All are coming “soon” (A four-letter word if there ever was one)
    soon adverb that time in the future about a minute after eventually but a second before pigs start flying.
  • Normally, no one in the Tesla forums knows when a car will arrive, new features will be released, or when that new update will get to your car.
  • Disclaimer: Tesla built a car, not a perpetual motion machine. Solar panels, wind turbines, wheel generators, and super magnets are not going to change that.


Fun bonus ‘easter eggs’ have been hidden by the clever programmers at Tesla.  Check out our list of easter eggs.