How do you get your car serviced when you live over 700 km from the Tesla service centre? What is long-distance Tesla servicing? Here is Arthur Hunt’s recount of his first service in Queensland, Australia.
By Arthur Hunt
As planned, the first service on our Tesla Model 3, after 2 years and 35,000 km, has been completed. I drove the car from Yeppoon to Mackay (360 km) one morning to meet the Tesla mechanic, Steve, who had driven down from Townsville (386 km). He was driving a Tesla Model S, which has been fitted out as a mobile workshop, full of tools and parts. The service included replacement of the cabin air filter and windscreen wiper blades, a check of the brakes (which he said were still as good as new), and a check of the tyres (which do not need replacing yet). He also replaced, under warranty, the noisy control arm in the front suspension. The total service cost was $202 and the cost of electricity for the 729 km return trip was under $25. An obliging friend provided overnight accommodation in Mackay.
Steve told me that he has only replaced brake pads once on a Tesla. This was in a car which had been purchased new by a woman who told the sales demonstrator that the regeneration when slowing down “felt funny” and had it turned it off. She had never turned it back on, relying solely on the brakes to slow down — and, as a result, wore them out and wasted a lot of energy.
For the trip to Mackay, I charged up to 95% overnight before leaving home. Comments on the PlugShare app told me that the fast highway charger at Carmilla was out of action, so I stopped earlier at Marlborough (130 km) to top-up to reach Mackay. The energy graph on the monitor showed that I would reach Mackay with about 5% of charge remaining. There was some heavy rain before Marlborough and the lane markings were often obscured by light reflected on the wet surface. I appreciated the assistance of the Autopilot, which kept the car on track and reduced the risk of a collision with any slow-moving vehicle ahead. Even when there is only one lane in each direction, I have gained confidence that the Autopilot will steer accurately to prevent any collision with an oncoming B-double travelling at speed. Of course, the car requires some reassurance that the driver is alert, through pressure on the steering wheel.
After the service was complete, I drove into the Mackay CBD and topped up the battery at the fast charger in one of the car parks. Another driver who was parked in his SUV in the charger space moved to allow access and commented that he had never seen anyone charge there before! I enjoyed the air-conditioning in the Mackay City Library while the car charged. The next morning, I headed home, bypassing the Carmilla charger, and arrived at the Marlborough charger with 4% charge remaining. I had kept the speed down to 100 km/h in the 110 km/h section to extend the range. There was no need to fill right up, as I was only 125 km from home, so I unplugged after charging to 45% battery level and 157 km range. On the final section, I had a detour due to road works, and I had rain, which activated the new wipers. As I was confident of reaching home, I concentrated on the road in the difficult conditions and dismissed the low battery alert. I got a shock when I pulled into the driveway at home with the monitor showing 0% battery level. As the car had no trouble ascending the final hill, I suspect that the battery indicator needs to be recalibrated. [Editor’s note: Actually, Tesla leaves a little reserve in there below 0%. Sometimes you have to take human psychology into account.]
We have received another over-the-air software update involving the cabin camera that points at the driver. We are now invited to help Tesla improve the intelligence of features that rely on the cabin camera by sharing analytics from our car. When enabled, cabin camera data will be shared with Tesla if the vehicle experiences a safety-critical event like a collision, or if cabin camera functionality requires diagnostics to perform. This data includes short cabin camera video clips to help the Tesla engineers to further develop future safety features and software enhancements such as collision avoidance updates. Drivers who prefer privacy can turn off this feature.
Many commentators express a desire for longer range for electric vehicles. Elon Musk has addressed this by stating that he could have built a Tesla with a much longer range but that handling, performance, and efficiency would suffer due to increased weight, and costs would be higher. Tesla’s Long-Range Model 3 weighs about 78 kg more than the RWD variant, and it offers 576 km of range to the RWD’s 437 km per charge. Improvements in battery technology may change the equation, but I personally would not wait for it. It takes about 30 seconds to connect our car to the charger at home and we are asleep while it charges. The additional charging time on occasional longer trips is balanced by time saved on non-existent trips to the service station to refuel for local travel.
Arthur Hunt is enjoying retirement on the Capricorn Coast of Queensland. He has a background in education and public service. He is currently a volunteer with the Coast Guard and environmental groups. He writes on electric vehicles for a local magazine.