Can I Push Start a Tesla? Don’t do it!

There are several reasons your Tesla is flat. With an EV, It’s not as easy as a quick jump start to be back driving. This article will examine why it happens and what to do if it does.

A Tesla can not be push-started. To start a flat Tesla, you’ll need a flatbed tow truck to transport your car to a charger; a supercharger works best.

Everyone is so used to jumping (boosting) a gas car to get it back running, but an EV, and especially a Tesla, is a little more complicated. Let’s look at how to avoid running flat and how to get back moving.

Tesla service dept
Infographic - Can I push start a Tesla

Why is your Tesla Flat?

There are two different scenarios as to why your Tesla is flat or why you are considering a push start. My first piece of advice is – do not push your Tesla.

Tesla strongly advises that you do not push your Tesla. Pushing it will cause damage to the powertrain that allows the wheels and braking system to regenerate your batteries. Tesla will know what has caused this damage and will not cover it under warranty.

Scenario Number 1

Completely flat battery at your house due to the lack of charge. If the battery is flat due to a lack of charge, the best solution is to plug it in. Hopefully, you are within range of your charger. Plug in your mobile connector to the wall and plug in your car.

If you have a 120V charger, you will be here for a while. This is a much better option if you have a Tesla Wall Connector (TWC).

You are not recommended to allow your Tesla to drain below 5%. This is sometimes unavoidable if you have been on vacation or if you have had a prolonged power outage.

Another reason is an entirely flat battery due to driving it to 0%. This is not recommended either. In fact, Tesla notifications will try incredibly hard for this not to happen. Onboard computers are constantly checking the range of the batteries and will start to notify you of nearby charging stations.

At 65 miles range, you should definitely be thinking about heading to a charging station. The battery icon will progress from Green to Orange to Red on your dash. You will have a ‘buffer’ of approximately 10-15 miles of travel.

This is not at all ideal for your car. The thoughts of being completely flat on the side of the road are a disaster. Your car is not broken, but a flat Tesla is not the same as having no gas! No one can bring you a can of electricity.

Heed the warnings on the screen. It will monitor how far away a charger is and whether you can make it there.

Scenario Number 2

It may be that your onboard 12V battery is flat. This is a separate battery from the lithium-ion batteries that drive your car. The 12V basically allows you to open your car, turn on lights, mirror, touch screen, and any ancillary items. But a 12V battery has a 3-5 year lifespan and may not hold its charge as time passes.

So this is a bit of a nightmare as your 12V allows you to open the doors and the hood. But if it’s flat, how do you get around this problem? Well, Tesla has thought of everything.

You can get access to the battery connections to allow you to open the hood to gain access to the 12V battery. It’s a bit of a challenge, and steps must be followed to avoid damaging your car.

You’ll need a portable jump box and then follow the procedure below:

  • Locate the tow cover at the front of the car
  • By pressing the top right, it will release. Gently pull it towards you
  • Two wires will be visible (one will be connected to the cover) A black (-) and a red (+)
  • Connect the wires to your portable jump box (Red to Red) (Black to Black)

I’ve covered the Jumpstart process previously, which you may find helpful – Can you charge a Tesla with jumper cables?

This will give you enough power to release the hood latches and give you access to your 12V battery.

To Charge Your Tesla 12V Battery

You mustn’t jump/boost your 12V from another Tesla or a gas car. You can cause irreparable damage to your Tesla. You will need your 12V portable charger again.

  • Remove the dust cover – pull upwards
  • Remove the intake trim – again, pull upwards to release
  • Connect the 12V power pack to the 12V battery (Red to Red) (Black to Black)
  • Turn on the charger and wait for the interior screen to receive enough power to turn on

Once the car responds, remove the cables, return the covers, and plug your charging cables in to charge normally. You may have to buy a replacement 12V battery if the problem persists.

What if Your Tesla Battery is Flat and You’re Not at Home?

The biggest fear about owning an EV is range anxiety. So if you are in the middle of nowhere with no charging station available, you will run flat. Before you run entirely flat, try and pull into a safe area.

At this stage, your only option is to call AAA for a tow truck. (Your insurance may cover a tow truck). You need to tell them to send a flatbed tow truck when you call them. Your Tesla can’t be towed with either the two front or two back wheels raised. This will cause damage to the drivetrain. It is also a considerable hazard if a collision or a stone hits the underside of your Tesla.

You will also need to put your Tesla into Transport Mode

  • Put the car in Park
  • Secure the tires
  • Press and hold the brake
  • On the Touch Screen, Select – Controls – Service – Towing
  • Press Transport Mode until it’s ‘Blue.’
  • It can now be transferred to the flatbed.

To do this, you need to have some power, so I suggested not allowing for a complete battery discharge. To find somewhere safe to pull in for the transfer to happen.

If, however, your Tesla is flat, and you have no access to the screen, then you will have to request not only a flatbed tow truck but also that they bring wheel dollies with them to move your Tesla to the truck freely. It can’t be winched or pushed.

Finally, you must ensure the tires/wheels are secure using the 8-point tie-down method.

Once on the flatbed, ask the tow company to bring you and your Tesla to the nearest charging station. I’ve covered towing in more detail, which you may find helpful – What to do when your Tesla runs out of charge

Some tow companies are now explicitly geared towards rescuing EVs and have adapted their trucks with mobile charging units. This is also an option, but your car’s battery may be so depleted that it’s easier and quicker to go to a charging station.

Will Towing Charge a Tesla Battery?

So, in theory, your wheels moving with light brake pressure is the same as battery regeneration, right? And if you get a tow, it’s the same as charging on the go… Well, in theory, yes, but in reality, absolutely not. Without power going to your computers, your Tesla can’t manage the energy going to the powertrain, and the batteries will be damaged.

The only way to charge your car is to use the charging cable provided with your Tesla, or when the batteries are functioning normally, you can regenerate while braking.

In Conclusion

When your Tesla reaches a certain level, it will begin to notify you that you need to go to a charging station. It is very bad for your Tesla to become completely depleted. The only solution if this happens remotely is to pull over and be transferred to a flatbed tow truck.

Under no circumstances should you push your Tesla to try to start it. It will not work. You should not jump your Tesla. You will cause irreparable damage that Tesla will be able to diagnose, and you will not be covered under warranty.

Here are a few common questions folks ask about Teslas:

I’ve written a ton on common Tesla issues, which hopefully you won’t ever experience, but if you do, we have you covered with these posts:

Check out the Tesla troubleshooting page for problem Teslas.

Check out the Tesla charging page for common Tesla charging problems.

Check out the Tesla category page for a list of popular Tesla posts.

If you are curious about other EV models, check out the EV FAQ category.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is a technical writer here at EVjuicedup.com. He's a Red Seal qualified Auto Service Technician with over twenty-five years experience working on Classic and Modern Cars. He's worked for GM, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Audi, and VW main dealers.

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