Can you flat tow a Tesla? RV Users Want to Know

Would it not be nice if you could have your electric car with you on your EV trips.  Traveling state to state, charging your EV for pennies, and then taking trips into cities without the hassle of packing your RV at Walmart with the other RVs would be heaven.  Well, I did some research to see if you could simply tow a Tesla behind an RV instead of dealing with a huge flatbed trailer.

Can you flat tow a Tesla? You cannot flat tow a Tesla because it will cause bearings and gears to overheat.  When a Tesla is flat towed while in neutral, the cooling system is not running which means that the spinning of gears will heat up the bearings and gears and damage the Tesla.  A Tesla is very precise in its set up, if you were to tow it just a few miles, you could damage it. The manual recommends towing using a flatbed truck.

Why a flat tow of a Tesla should be avoided is mostly because the warranty could be voided.  If it was proven that the damage is the type that occurs due to a flat tow, you could be stuck with a large bill that the warranty will not cover.  This would increase your insurance premiums if you were to claim this amount with your insurance company.

Tesla does not cover this damage because they claim that the gearbox is lubricated mechanically only.  If the tesla is off, the gearbox will turn while being flat towed, damaging the gearbox due to a lack of lubrication.

Some owners claim that the car cannot be flat towed just because of the way that is designed.  It is not set-up to be pulled.  You would have to attach the cable to the bumper, there are no support hinges in the front of the vehicle.  Nevertheless, there are some attachment points that are for pulling, but they are just to attach the car once is on a flatbed truck for towing.  Using those attachments would not be advisable.

So, there are ways to tow safely a tesla, what are they?

Can Teslas Be Towed?

Yes, Teslas can be towed in such a way that the warranty will not be voided.  I read in the Tesla Model 3 manual the section on how to tow.

  1. You have to put the model 3 in neutral to tow it. Click here to see a premium tow hook for the Tesla Model 3 that is available at Amazon.
  2. It cannot be towed with all of the wheels on the ground.
  3. The rear motor will be working if the rear wheels are made to turn.  This could damage the gearbox.
  4. The vehicle could even catch on fire because of overheating.
  5. You need to contact Tesla Roadside for towing or any damages will be not be reimbursed.
  6. You can tow at a speed of 5 km/h for 30 feet only while the Tesla is set to Transport mode
  7. You have to tow with a flatbed truck or similar vehicle. It does not matter which direction you mount the Tesla, forward or backward are both fine.
  8. If a flatbed is not available, you can tow using dollies and wheel lifts. Nevertheless, do not travel faster than 35 miles per hour. Plus, ensure that you stay below the limit assigned to your specific dolly.
  9.  A dolly might sound fine, but Tesla does not cover any personal, bodily, or car damage if you use the dolly and wheel lift method to tow.
  10. Also, you need to aware that the Tesla with the engine off is still able to spit out high voltage electricity.
  11. If you have an accident while towing the Tesla, the emergency personnel need to test to see if a charge is still present or someone could be electrocuted.

Is the fact that a Tesla has to be towed on a flatbed truck an industry-wide situation?  Can you flat tow an electric vehicle in general?

Can Electric Cars, in General, be Flat Towed?

You cannot flat tow electric cars.  The main reason is that when an electric car is turned off, the wheels cannot be disconnected from the motor that is electric.  A gas car is different, the wheels can be disconnected mechanically from the gas engine; thus, they can be flat towed safely.

I have read about an owner that traveled through the Rockies while his Nissan Leaf was being towed with the front wheel on a dolly.  He stated that no damage was caused.  I scanned the manual for the Leaf and they state that it is OK to tow with the front wheel raised since they are connected to the electric motor at all times.  Nevertheless, they suggest that you use their towing assistance program to have a tow.  Just wanted to point out that if damage occurs when towing by a tow company, any damages are not covered by the limited warranty.

Other than a close to flat tow of a Leaf, I could not find any mention of a totally electric car that can be towed with all wheels spinning.  Nevertheless, there are a few hybrids that are close to allowing a flat tow according to their warranties.

Hybrids that can be flat towed, is this true?

Is it true that is safer to flat tow some hybrid cars than the typical electric car.  I found two hybrids that seem to state that you can use dingy towing for them.

  1. Ford Fusion Hybrid – You can tow it using dingy towing, but you have to make sure that you run your engine for around 5 minutes before towing it.  Also, run the engine again for 5 minutes after every 6 hours of towing. Plus, every day during your trip, make sure that idle the engine for another 5 minutes. This should keep the gearbox well lubricated.
  2. C-Max Hybrid – You only have to run its engine for 1 minute at the beginning of each flat towing day.  Also, you should run the engine for a while after every 6 hours, just like with the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

I looked into whether or not Lexus suggests that flat towing is ok for their hybrid cars.  They state no since the towing will overcharge the battery through regenerative charging.  Overcharging the hybrid battery for an extended period of time can damage it.

Besides trying to flat-tow a hybrid or an electric behind an RV,  what if you were to tow a dead EV?  Would the chance of a fire still exist due to overheating the gearbox?

How do you Tow a Dead Tesla?

You need the touchscreen to put the Tesla in the tow mode.  What do you do if you cannot access the touchscreen commands?  I have read about someone that had a Tesla in his garage that he needed to tow, but he cannot access the commands to put it in tow mode.  When a Tesla is OFF, you need to enter the PIN in order to turn it on.  Guess what? That has to be done with the touchscreen.  With a dead Tesla, the phone app will not work as a workaround to use the tow mode.

The workaround is strange but here is what I have surmised:

  1. You need to get into the trunk to get access to the dead 12v volt battery.  You can open the truck by using wiring the emergency cables that are inside the left side of the bumper.
  2. Now you need to somehow jump the 12-volt battery in order to charge it enough to revive the dead Tesla.
  3. Once a tickle of power goes into the 12-volt battery, power will start to go to the main battery.  Then you can start to charge the Tesla with a wall plug.
  4. Hopefully, you now should be able to access the touchscreen to switch to tow mode.

How to put the Tesla Model 3 in Tow Mode

In order to get your Tesla onto a flatbed truck, it might have to be towed a short distance.  How is this done so that the engine does not get damaged? The answer is that you need to switch the Tesla into the Transport mode. Here is how to do so:

  1. You need to ensure that the 12v battery is working since you need to power up the touchscreen to make the tow mode work in the Tesla.
  2. Another requirement is that you have the key with you for the Tesla, it is needed as verification before you can switch over to transport mode.
  3. Now place the Tesla in Park.
  4. Place your foot on the brake
  5. On the touchscreen, press controls – service – towing
  6. Once you see ‘transport mode’, press and hold it in until turns to blue.
  7. Now the Tesla can be slowly towed onto the flatbed truck or winched. Buy at Amazon a License Plate Tow Hook for a Model 3 Tesla by clicking here.

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