What to Do if Tesla Runs Out of Charge – Top Tips to get you home!

Your Tesla can only hold a certain amount of charge. If you find you’re out of charge, don’t panic. In this article, we’ll tell you exactly what you need to do.

When your Tesla is out of charge, you must call Roadside Assist and get a charge boost or a tow.

Tesla dashboard
Infographic - Tesla out of charge

Tesla Almost Out of Charge on the Roadside

Tesla onboard computers constantly monitor your batteries and the range left on your car. If you have only 10% left, your Tesla will begin to alert you that you need to stop and charge your car. Your dash range will signal from Green to Amber to Red (or from Yellow to Red).

It will locate the nearest charger in your vicinity, and you need to drive to this location immediately. This may be a location you have already driven past, as it will be the nearest to you, not necessarily the nearest in your direction.

Unless you are sure that an alternative charging station is not showing up on your map, I will take heed of the warnings.

Your Tesla may be telling you that you have 20 miles range, but you do have an extra 10-15 miles of a built-in buffer.

However, this depends on your driving style, your speed, and the current weather. The range is reduced if it’s very cold outside. So don’t rely too much on those extra miles.

Roadside Assist

My best advice is if you are very low on the range and not likely to make the next Supercharger, don’t risk depleting the battery fully. Leave the highway and find a safe place to pull over and seek Roadside Assist. Allowing the battery to go to zero makes transportation more difficult. We’ll look at this further in the article.

Pulling off the highway with a small amount of charge allows you to convert your car to ‘Transport Mode’ if needed.

When you have found a suitable place, you need to contact Roadside Assist. You do this through the Tesla App on your phone.

  • Open Tesla App
  • Select Roadside Assist
  • Select the relevant issue (i.e., flat battery/ no charge)
  • Request Help

Your car must be in warranty or extended warranty to avail of Roadside Assist. (4 years or 50,000 miles). You must know that the Free callout does not cover towing or battery boost because of the available zero range. There will be a charge to tow you to your destination (max 50 miles) or for the Roadside Assist to boost your charge.

Roadside Assist strives to be with you within the hour. They will bring your car to a charging station or your home. Some tow companies now specialize in EVs and will have charge facilities onboard. If your battery is very low and the nearest station is far away, I would suggest this option is not worthwhile. It would be quicker for you to be towed to the nearest charging station. (and most likely cheaper).

Towing your Tesla

Towing a Tesla has a very specific process. A Tesla can’t be towed with wheels raised from the ground. This can be detrimental for two reasons:

  • Damage to the Drivetrain
  • Potential hazard from the Lithium-Ion batteries

Damage to the Drivetrain

Teslas are designed with regenerative brakes and batteries. When your Tesla is on the road, all the kinetic energy available from braking is regenerated into the Li-ion battery. When the car is moving but not running, this causes damage to the drivetrain.

Li-ion Potential Hazard

When the underside of a Tesla is exposed, there is a chance that a stone or other debris could hit the batteries, which are located on the underside of the car. Lithium is highly reactive in air, and any damage would cause an explosive reaction.

Transport Mode

When the tow truck arrives, they will assess the situation and the best solution to get you moving again. If the option is to tow you to the nearest charger, then you must first put your car into Transport Mode.

  • Put the Tesla in Park
  • Press and Hold the Brake
  • On the screen, select Controls – Service -Towing
  • Hold Transport Mode until it is Blue

It’s now safe to transfer your Tesla to the flatbed truck. Whatever you do, don’t push your Tesla. This has the same effect as towing with two wheels off the ground and will damage the drivetrain.

Transport Mode is the main reason why you should avoid letting your Tesla battery go to zero. You will be unable to perform this task.

Completely Flat on the Roadside

If you are completely flat on the roadside, thinking you had another 10-15 miles range, but you were traveling at 80mph instead of 60mph and now have zero range and no way of moving your Tesla, you have bigger problems. No one can bring you a can of electricity.

I wrote a post about exactly that which you may find helpful – What to do when your Tesla battery dies

And Roadside Assist will be even more expensive because they now need to transfer your car onto the flatbed using ‘dollies.’ These wheels go under your own wheels to allow the towing company to move your car easily. A Tesla can’t be winched or pushed onto a flatbed trailer.

We all live life on the edge sometimes. You believe that you will make it to the next Supercharger but believe me, your Tesla has insider knowledge. It can calculate how far your range is, how far the next Supercharger is, your current driving habits, and the weather outside.

Believe your onboard computers’ power when they tell you to go and charge. It’s a brave person that ignores the range of notifications. And it will cost you dearly as it is not a standard callout.

Tesla recommends that we keep our batteries charged between 20-80%. This is not just because they don’t want you stranded on the side of the highway. It’s more to do with prolonging the life of your battery. Allowing the battery to deplete to 0% is really bad news for your Li-Ion.

Each time the battery hits zero, some of the cells will die and not recover, meaning that a future full charge is no longer available or possible unless you have the cells replaced.

By reading the onboard computer history, Tesla will know why the cells are dead and will charge you accordingly.

When all is said and done, it’s much more of a problem to run out of electricity than it is to run out of gas, but like everything in life, it does sometimes happen.

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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