Can You Tow an Electric Car if it Breaks Down?


Like many other people, I opted for an electric car due to its lower operational cost and environmental friendliness.

Due to the tightened environmental regulations, there is an increasing worldwide acceptance of electric vehicles. 

By 2020, there were about 6.8 million battery-electric cars globally. 

The electric models have moving parts like tires, and batteries so they might break down at the least expected time. 

One of the biggest concerns for most electric car owners is whether they can tow their car in such a case. 

So, I decided to research this, and here is everything that I gathered. 

Can You Tow an Electric Car if it Breaks Down?

You cannot tow an eclectic car with any of the wheels on the ground. Attempting to tow an electric car with any of the wheels on the ground will damage the engine. The best way to tow an electric car is with a flatbed truck.

Many tow companies are already prepared to tow vehicles on flatbeds, so this is only a small limitation when it comes to towing electric cars.

There are some other things you should 

Read on so you’re well equipped with everything you need to know to protect your electric vehicle the next time you need to have it towed.

How Do You Tow an Electric Car?

Sometimes your electric car may run out of charge in the middle of your journey due to miscalculation. 

Other times you might park it in a space where you probably shouldn’t park. 

In such cases, you will need to tow the vehicle to the nearest charging spot or the appropriate area. 

Most manufacturers still insist that you shouldn’t flat tow electric cars.

This is because these cars lack a transmission and instead use electricity for braking and accelerating, so you can’t disconnect the wheels from the motor. 

Towing a vehicle in such a state can damage the powertrain. 

In regular cars, the neutral position allows you to pull the vehicle to recovery without rotating the engine components or transmission. 

But for electric cars, once the wheels turn, they turn the motor as well. 

If the system contains a liquid cooling system turning the motor at high revolution per minute while the system isn’t working overheats the motor. 

The rise in demand for these vehicles has pushed roadside assistance organizations to develop equipment that supports electric vehicle driving. 

Luckily, there is an emergence of new technology that allows towing electric cars safely. 

The rescue patrols can fix the freewheeling hub to the rear wheels of the broken vehicle so you can safely tow it without damaging vital components. 

By fitting the temporary wheels on the car, you allow the wheels to turn independently of the axle. 

This will reduce the time you need to tow the vehicle, especially if it breaks down in an unsafe location. 

It’s good to note that some electric vehicles have a neutral mode. 

If you own a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, you can turn them to neutral to disconnect the motor from the drivetrain before towing. 

But for most brands, you will always need a flatbed truck, whereby the entire car sits on the elevated trailer, so no wheels remain on the ground. 

You should never tow the vehicle with the front wheels or four wheels on the ground, even if your car has a neutral mode. 

For example, Nissan leaf has a front-wheel drive, meaning that the front wheel should never be in movement unless you are driving the car. 

Similarly, most Tesla models have four-wheel drive, so the wheels should never spin unless you are driving. 

Always refer to the user manual for any towing warnings or recommended methods.

When Do You Need to Tow Your Electric Car?

Although electric cars are very convenient, you may still face some potential problems while on the road. 

Some of the common problems with electric vehicles that call for towing include:

Flat Tire

Just like any other vehicle, your electric car may end up with a flat tire. 

Keep in mind that these vehicles are relatively heavy due to the battery, which puts more pressure on the tires. 

One of the easiest ways to fix this issue is by changing the tires at the roadside. 

Unfortunately, due to limited cargo space in some models, they might not have a spare tire. 

In such a case, you will need to tow your vehicle. 

Battery Problems

Electric vehicles can also run out of battery charge

Unfortunately, you cannot charge the car in the middle of the road. 

So, you will need to call a tow to bring your vehicle to the nearest charging station. 

Alternatively, you can ask the towing company if they have a truck that can charge your car wherever you are. 

There are some claims that electric vehicles can regain their charge while towed by another vehicle. 

While this might have worked for some, it can invalidate your car’s warranty. 

It’s even illegal in some states, and you will want to confirm this. 

Brake Issues

Electric vehicles also develop brakes-related problems. 

If you notice such issues and continue to use the car, it might lead to accidents. 

So, immediately call the right towing company to take the vehicle to the nearest servicing center. 

Accidents

If your electric vehicle gets into an accident, some vital components can get severely damaged. 

You will need to tow the car to your mechanic to assess and fix the broken parts.

Mechanical Breakdown

If you neglect regular maintenance, your electric vehicle will break down at the least expected time. 

Sometimes this can occur when you are on the road, and it’s impossible to move the car on your own. 

Once you begin to notice issues with your vehicle, move it to the side, and tow the car to your mechanic for complete analysis to ensure safety and prevent damaging the components further. 

Transporting the Car

Whenever you want to move your electric car from one state to another, you will need to tow it to save on time and ensure that the vehicle arrives at the destination in perfect conditions. 

How Do You Find the Neutral in Your Electric Car?

Most electric vehicles don’t have an actual gearbox where you can turn the car to neutral. 

However, a few Teslas have a neutral mode which acts a similar way with the neutral gear. 

It allows the wheels to move without affecting the motor. 

Other models have a dedicated transport mode that helps limit the speed and restricts battery drain. 

If your car has a transport mode, you should only engage it when towing or while loading the vehicle on the truck. 

Leaving the car in such a position while driving for a long journey and at high speed can be dangerous. 

To get the car to the neutral position, turn the shift knob to the left and hold it for at least three seconds. 

The display below the shift knob should light up the letter N. 

This is possible only if you need to recover the car after a breakdown and have the keys. 

It’s impossible to use this method once the battery dies. 

In such a case, you will need to jumpstart it. 

But, if you park your vehicle in a place where you can’t access the front of the car, getting the car into neutral can be a bit of a challenge. 

You will need to tow it in a flatbed truck. 

Also, the vehicle features an electronic parking brake that you can only activate if you have access to the car, meaning that you can’t disengage it. 

How Do You Safely Load Your Vehicle on a Towing Truck?

You need to refer to the user manual to guide you in locating spaces where you can attach the tow chains to your vehicle. 

Most Tesla models have a tow hook at the lower left side of the front fender. 

You might need to take out the cover to access the tow eye slot. 

Next, rotate the tow eye counterclockwise until it feels secure. 

You can now attach the tow chains to the tow eye, turn the vehicle to neutral if possible and load it on a flatbed truck. 

It’s good to note that some cars may not have the tow hook and other manufacturers prohibit users from using the slot to pull the vehicle. 

For instance, although the Nissan Leaf has permanently attached rear and front tow hooks, the manufacturer recommends that you only use them to hold the car in place during transportation and not for towing purposes. 

The Bottom Line

No matter the type of car you own, you can prevent the need for towing services if you keep up with proper maintenance. 

However, if you have an electric vehicle, unforeseen circumstances like a dead battery can push you into seeking towing services. 

It’s therefore essential that you understand the basics when it comes to towing such a car. 

Keep in mind that an electric vehicle is a substantial investment, and you wouldn’t want to damage or replace vital components sooner than expected. 

Always work with a company that has the right towing services for your vehicle. 

Keep in mind that it’s best to tow electric cars on a flatbed trailer to save on time and protect the car as well. 

John Nelson

You can find John stringing a hammock from the back of his SUV to a tree camping in the outdoors most weekends during warmer weather. John loves the outdoors and the freedom four-wheel-drive vehicles offer.

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