What Happens if My Tesla Runs Out of Power? Jumpstart Basics

When a regular combustion engine-powered car doesn’t start, we typically use the jump-starting method to bring it back to life. Have you ever wondered what happens to a Tesla when its starter runs out of juice? 

You can jump-start all Teslas. However, just like any other electric vehicle, Teslas can only be jump-started using a portable car jump starter kit or a vehicle that has a combustion engine. Jump-starting using another Tesla or any other electric car as a donor is not possible.

This article will deal with how a Tesla should be jump-started. Additionally, I’ll mention some of the safety measures and facts that every owner of this electric car brand should be familiar with when jump-starting their car. Enjoy finding out more about your favorite electric car! 

What Happens if My Tesla Runs Out of Power?

Running out of power in a Tesla is extremely difficult to do these days. A wide network of chargers, as well as a ton of different warnings, are just some of the things that make sure it doesn’t happen. 

Here are just some of the Tesla ranges for reference: 

Tesla ModelRange
Tesla Model S396 miles (637 kilometers)
Tesla Model 3358 miles (576 kilometers)
Tesla Model X333 miles (536 kilometers)
Tesla Model Y330 miles (531 kilometers)

Your electric car will do everything to warn you about the low battery levels and prevent you from getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, these situations still occur. 

If your Tesla runs out of power, jump-starting the car won’t help. In this situation, you can call roadside assistance that can provide a mobile charger or call a tow truck. Jump-starting is only effective when the 12V battery used as a starter gets depleted. 

The best solution to running out of charge in any Tesla model is prevention; making sure that the car has a full charge before you leave for a trip and regular charging stops along the way are the key to avoiding these situations. 

While jump-starting isn’t helpful with dead main battery issues, the car will likely need to be jumped once your Tesla is back in business. The jump-starting will be necessary since all Tesla models have a separate battery used for starting the car, among other things. Let’s find out more about this. 

Mechanic-Hand-Charging-Car-With-Electricity-Trough-Jumper-Cables
Jump-starting isn’t an option when your Tesla’s main battery that’s used to run the car is dead. However, just like any other car on the market, Tesla has a separate 12V battery that’s used to operate various electronics in the car. This battery can sometimes go flat due to age or electrical issues.
Photo: @feeling_lucky via Twenty20

Teslas and the 12V Battery

It is a common misconception that Teslas start using the power from their running battery, which replaces the engine. Instead, Teslas use a separate 12V lithium battery for starting. 

Here’s a brief list of some of this battery’s functions: 

  • Starting the engine. 
  • Powering the onboard computer and electronics. 
  • Running the lights, wipers, locking system, and other auxiliaries. 

This list shows that Teslas use a 12V battery for the same reasons regular gas and diesel-operated cars do. The only difference between electric and combustion engines is the way this battery recharges:

  • In combustion engines, an alternator is used to keep the 12V battery charged. 
  • On the other hand, Teslas and similar electric vehicles use the power from their main battery to keep the 12V battery charged. 

Another similarity between the batteries is their life expectancy. Just like a regular car’s 12V battery, a lithium 12V battery that comes with your Tesla is expected to last three to four years. Using software updates is just one of the ways Tesla tries to extend this period. 

Still, the 12V battery in your Tesla can’t last forever. Read on to find out what you can do when this battery goes flat and your car won’t start or even unlock. 

If you’d like to find out how to unfreeze a Tesla and why your Tesla won’t start, check out this related article that I wrote. I provide all the possible causes and fixes and should help you when you’re stuck next to the road somewhere. Rather read it now to be safe.

How To Jumpstart a Tesla

One of the potential reasons why your Tesla won’t start is a dead battery. As already explained, despite being a fully electric vehicle, all Teslas have a separate 12V lithium battery, just like most conventional cars.

Similar to combustion engine cars, there can be multiple reasons why your Tesla’s battery ran out, including:

  • Not running the car for an extended time. 
  • Extremely cold or extremely hot weather. 
  • Leaving your headlights or any other power-using features on. 
  • The age of the battery. 

Whatever the reason, there are only two potential solutions to the problem at hand: 

  • Order a new car battery, which is easier but more expensive.
  • Jump-start your Tesla. 

Before opting for a jump-start as the solution, all Tesla owners should be aware that this can be a dangerous process. To prevent injury and damage to the vehicle, it needs to be done the right way.

Jumper-Cables-For-Charging-Vehicle-Battery-Identify-The-Positive-And-Negative-Terminals

If you would like to see in detail info on how to Jump-Start A Tesla, you can read this article that I wrote.

Tesla Jump-Starting Procedure

Despite the common belief that starting an electric car in this way isn’t possible, jump-starting a Tesla is a fairly simple procedure. In fact, it’s the same as jump-starting any other car. 

Here’s how everyone can do it in just a few simple steps using nothing more than a pair of jumper cables and a donor car or a portable jump-starter:

1. Open Your Tesla’s Frunk (Front Trunk)

If your battery is empty, you obviously can’t open the frunk using the interior touchscreen or your keyfob.

The best solution here is to use the manual release lever. Most Tesla models have one of these levers located under the front passenger’s glove compartment (or under the wheel if you’re in the UK). However, what happens if you can’t open the doors to get to the frunk release lever? 

Here, the procedure of opening the frunk gets a little trickier. Have no worries, and follow these instructions to open the frunk in a Model S: 

All you’ll need to do is get behind the wheel well and pop off the protective covering toward the front of the car. Inside, you’ll find a string that you should pull to release the frunk hatch. You’ll need to repeat the process for both sides of the car. 

If it doesn’t seem clear, you can always refer to YouTube for help. Here’s a video that describes the process in detail: 

2. Lift the Plastic Panel Located Between the Frunk and the Windshield

This is the easy part; all Tesla models have a plastic panel that covers the battery and the fuse box. You should have no difficulties spotting it once your frunk is open. 

The cover is easy to remove. Simply grab the side that points to the windshield and lift. Once you’ve removed the panel, your Tesla’s 12V battery and the fuse box should be visible. 

Some Tesla models have further jump-starting instructions labeled under the panel. If your car has this label, simply follow the instructions. Tesla owners who can’t locate this label should proceed to the rest of the steps below. 

The only thing remaining to do in this step is to remove the protective cover over the battery. There’s a latch that’s holding it in place, just like with the larger plastic panel. Some force might be necessary to unlatch the cover.

3. Connect the Jumper Cables

This part of jump-starting a Tesla works just like any other car. Here’s how the procedure is done properly:

First, connect one end of the red jumper cable to the positive (+) terminal on the jump starter or the donor car. You should then connect the other end to Tesla’s 12V battery positive terminal. 

Second, connect one end of the black cable to the donor car’s battery negative terminal and the other end to your Tesla’s 12V battery negative terminal. 

12V-Outlet-In-A-Tesla-Model-3

On a somewhat related note, I also wrote a similar article where I discussed the 12v Outlet in the Tesla Model 3. You’ll also find out why it is “hidden” and how to use it exactly.

Why is it so important to connect the cables in this way? 

It’s crucial not to allow the red and the black cables to touch when one end of them is connected to the battery. The contact between the two cables will cause sparks, and it can potentially damage the car’s electronics. 

Also, keep in mind that it’s not necessary, or even recommended, to attach the negative jumper cable to a metal part of the Tesla’s frame, as some sources might suggest. 

4. Leave the Cables Alone for a Minute

Here’s another step that you should follow when jump-starting any car, even the non-electric ones:

Leaving the cables connected without starting the car with the dead battery is an essential part of the jump-starting process, and you should never skip it. By leaving the jumper cables on, you will allow your Tesla’s 12V battery to charge, which is extremely important with a battery that has gone completely flat. 

The manufacturer underlines that it might take several minutes for the 12V battery to gain enough power to wake up the touchscreen. 

After giving it a minute or two, you can proceed to the next step. 

5. Start Your Tesla

Start the Tesla as you normally do and leave the car running. Make sure that the 12V battery can gain charge from the battery that’s powering the car. 

If it isn’t the case and your Tesla needs to be jump-started again, your best bet is to go out and buy a new 12V lithium battery as soon as possible. The specifications for the battery are listed in your car’s owner’s manual. 

While useful in emergencies, jump-starting isn’t something any modern car can handle with no issues, let alone when done repeatedly. Getting your battery checked on a yearly basis is recommended for this reason. 

6. Disconnect the Cables in Reverse Order

The last step when jump-starting a Tesla, or any other car, is to disconnect the cables. This procedure should be done in reverse order compared to connecting the cables. Here’s how it should go:

Start by removing the black cable from the Tesla’s negative battery terminal and then remove the other end from the donor car or the jump starter.

Then, take off the jumper clamp from the Tesla’s positive terminal, followed by removing the same cable from the other end of the line.

7. Put the Protective Trims Back in Place

The final thing to do when jump-starting your Tesla is to put everything back in its original place.

After learning how to remove the trim, this part of the jump-starting process should be easy to do. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Return the plastic covers to their original position. Make sure that the 12V battery’s protective cover is back on before securing the plastic panel that covers the entire battery and fuse box area. The larger plastic panel might need a stronger push. 

Voila, you’ve successfully jump-started your Tesla. For any additional info and visual representation, you can see the detailed instructions in this YouTube video: 

Can You Use a Tesla To Jump Start Another Car?

Even though it might seem logical that you can use the process described above in reverse order and use a Tesla to jump-start another car, the manufacturer advises against this. 

According to the manufacturer, jump-starting should only be used as a last resort since the process can damage the car’s electronics. This recommendation doesn’t only apply to Tesla, but rather to most modern cars. 

The key element in jump-starting any car is whether the donor car’s engine and the battery can handle the stress of starting another car. As Tesla explains in their owner’s manual, there’s simply not enough power in the Teslas’ batteries to start another car safely, especially one with a combustion engine. 

Unfortunately, it applies to all Tesla models, from the top-of-the-range Model X to the significantly more affordable Model 3. 

Some Internet sources claim that jump-starting another car with a Tesla is perfectly safe, but I would trust Tesla over them and strongly advise against this. 

Conclusion

By following the simple steps listed in this article, you can jump-start any Tesla model in just a few minutes. Still, remember that it’s not recommended to use your Tesla’s 12V battery to jump-start another car. 


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Erwin Meyer
Erwin Meyer

Thanks for visiting evspeedy.com. The goal of this site is to be a helpful resource for Tesla and EV owners as this is where my passion lies. I was a TSLA shareholder before the hype and still am. I also believe in Tesla’s speedy mission to accelerate the world to a sustainable future.