What Happens if Your Tesla Runs Out of Battery?

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If your Tesla runs out of battery, you might have enough battery to get to the next charging station. But when it drains completely, your Tesla will come to a gradual stop. You will need a flatbed tow truck or a mobile charger to get moving again.

This article provides all you need to know about what happens when a Tesla runs out of battery. We’ll review what you can expect and how to fix it. 

Table of Contents

    What’s Different From Running Out of Power in an EV and Running Out of Gas?

    When electric vehicles such as Tesla models run out of power, it is not the same as gasoline-powered cars. The behavior and ways to fix it are different.

    For example, when you run out of gasoline and the engine stops, the car immediately goes from full power to no power. An electric car will usually have a short moment of limited power. It may not be able to reach high speeds, but it might provide a small chance to move to the shoulder or get off a busy road.

    Instead of having someone bring a can of fuel, you’ll most likely need to have your EV towed to a charging station. You might be able to find a mobile charger or you could use a portable generator with sufficient output.

    The towing technique is also different. You can tow many cars with two wheels on the ground. But not Teslas. To tow a Tesla, you must use a flatbed tow truck that gets all four tires off the road.

    What Happens if the Tesla Battery Goes to 0 miles?

    Your Tesla’s touchscreen will show the battery level and remaining range. When that meter shows 0 miles (or km), you still have some emergency battery remaining.

    You can usually drive another 10-20 miles (16-32 km) at 65 mph (105 km/h) after the touchscreen says it’s dead. The specific range depends on the battery and driving conditions. 

    Once that reserve runs out, your Tesla won’t maintain a constant highway speed. If you are traveling at speed, it will slow down as the battery drains completely. If you are trying to speed up when this happens, you might not get to more than 15 mph (25 km/h).

    After a short moment of this low-speed driving, the vehicle will come to a complete stop and put itself in park.

    What Do You Do if Your Electric Car Runs Out of Battery?

    If your Tesla runs out of battery, you should contact roadside assistance. They should send a tow truck or a mobile charger.

    Roadside Assistance

    Free Tesla roadside assistance is part of the Basic Vehicle Limited Warranty coverage. This lasts for the first four years or 50,000 miles of any Tesla. You can request roadside assistance through the Tesla app:

    • Open the Tesla app
    • Choose ‘Roadside’
    • Select the appropriate issue and add any necessary information
    • Choose ‘Request Help’

    You can also get roadside assistance as part of insurance policies or a AAA membership. If you have this and your battery dies, call your insurance or the AAA provider to request help.

    You can also call a tow truck company directly. The downside is that you’ll have to pay for the service out of pocket.

    Tow Truck

    If you run out of battery and a tow truck comes to help out, Tesla cars have unique needs that a tow driver may not be aware of.

    First, you must request a flatbed tow truck. Towing Tesla cars with two wheels on the ground can damage crucial parts.

    Second, you will need to put the Tesla into ‘Transport Mode’ before pulling it onto the flatbed tow truck:

    1. Park the vehicle and secure the tires
    2. Press the brake pedal to keep it in place
    3. Select ‘Controls’ on the vehicle’s touchscreen
    4. Then choose ‘Service’ and then ‘Towing’
    5. Push the ‘Transport Mode’ button until it turns blue
    6. Now the tow truck can pull the Tesla onto the flatbed

    Mobile Charger

    Some roadside assistance providers offer a mobile charger. These are often gas-powered generators that you can use to charge your battery. Wait for enough charge so you can make it to an outlet or another charging station.

    The professional mobile chargers will use a generator that can quickly and safely charge your Tesla. These are usually generators with at least 10 kW power on a 240-volt outlet that use a pure sine inverter.

    If you can get someone to bring you a generator, you can charge your Tesla battery. It needs to have a pure sine inverter. You can use generators as small as 4,000 W but it will take more time to charge.

    How To Open Tesla Doors or Charge Port if It Has a Dead Battery? (All Models)

    If your high-voltage battery is dead, you’ll still be able to open the doors and charge port. These systems run on a separate 12-volt battery.

    If your 12-volt battery dies, basic functions like the doors and charge port covers won’t work as usual.

    Open Doors From the Inside

    Every Tesla has a way to mechanically open the doors in the event of a 12-volt failure. Here is how to open the driver door of each model from the inside when the 12-volt battery is dead:

    • Model S and Model X: Simply pull the interior handle all the way out.
    • Model 3 and Model Y: Pull up on the manual door release located in front of the window switches.

    There are rear door releases that are either under the carpet near the base of the seat or on the door by the speaker area. These can be more difficult to use. Check your owner’s manual for details.

    Open Doors From the Outside

    If you are outside the vehicle and cannot access these mechanical releases, you will need to jump the 12-volt battery by following these steps:

    • Pop the cover off of the tow point near the base of your front bumper.
    • Some Tesla vehicles have cables that stick out. You can jump the 12-volt battery from there.
    • Other models have straps to manually release the frunk:
      • Pull the strap labeled ‘1’ first, then the strap labeled ‘2.
      • Remove the plastic shroud at the base of the windshield. 
      • Connect jumper cables to your 12-volt battery.

    Open Charge Port or Manually Release Charger

    To manually open the charge port on a Tesla without 12-volt power, simply press the base of the charge port door. It will release and you can flip it up to access the charging port.

    Our Verdict

    When your Tesla shows zero battery level, you can usually drive for another 10-20 miles (16-32 km). If you don’t make it to a charging station in time, your car will come to a gradual stop. Then you’ll need to get a flatbed tow truck or mobile charger.

    To learn more about your Tesla charging needs, read our Tesla Supercharger article.

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