Can You Jump Start A Tesla [Or Can A Tesla Jump Start Another Car]?

“The world and all its most magical adventures exist in the space between cannot and should not.”


That’s not technically a quote from anyone, but it should be. And if you use it, then it will be! Which rather proves its cyclic point.

Another thing that proves its point is the owner’s manual for Tesla vehicles, all versions of which, irrespective of model, say your Tesla cannot be used to jump-start your friend’s internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.

What it actually means is that you absolutely “should not.” It goes on to explain that if you try it, you risk doing all sorts of damage to your lovely shiny Tesla. So it means you cannot do it without the potential consequences.

Two points are essential there

Firstly, nothing can be done without at least the potential of some consequences – see examples of crossing the road and getting knocked down. And secondly, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because if the manual tells you there may be consequences if you do something, it advises that you shouldn’t do it. Then you do it anyway, and there are consequences.

Those consequences are all on you (and your wallet). It’s the same as when your laptop has a sticker saying removing the hard drive will invalidate your warranty. You’re in the country of the mavericks now, and anything that goes horribly wrong is all on you.

So what’s the thinking on why you shouldn’t jump-start an ICE vehicle with your Tesla?

Essentially, it’s because electric vehicles are powered by much lower-voltage batteries than ICE vehicles. It’s equivalent to asking a goldfish to jump-start a great white shark. It can technically be done, but we’re betting the goldfish comes off worse from the experience, and in all probability, the boost it gives the great white is barely enough to twitch a tailfin.

But can you, at least technically, do it? Yes, you can. You shouldn’t, but you can. Here’s how:

You should attach your Tesla’s 12V battery to that of the ICE car. And then wait a while. It does technically have the pushing amps to give the ICE battery some juice, but importantly, before you turn the key on the ICE vehicle, disconnect your Tesla from it because of… consequences, remember?

That’s the main point. It’s not like charging an ICE vehicle from an ICE vehicle. Suppose you turn the key on the ICE vehicle before disconnecting, then those consequences will happen to your Tesla.

Not least because the computer software that keeps a weather eye on the condition of your Tesla’s 12V battery might have an identity crisis if it registers what you’re up to. And nobody wants a computer with a nervous breakdown at the heart of their shiny new electric vehicle.

The point, ultimately, is that while it’s technically possible to jump-start an ICE vehicle with a Tesla, it’s

  • a) not that great an idea,
  • b) not without risk to your Tesla and your wallet, and
  • c) not the simple half-a-minute job it might be in an ICE vehicle.

It’s also, let’s face it, the least smart option. If you want to help out an ICE vehicle and you have a Tesla, the intelligent choice is to remember that you live in the 21st century.

Run a Google search for local mechanics on your smartphone, call them up, and tell the ICE vehicle driver their help is on the way. Then you go about your electrically-powered day without the consequences of jeopardizing your battery or your computer software.

Can you jump-start a Tesla with a gas-powered vehicle?

Yes, you can. It’s not exceptionally straightforward to do this either, but it does at least come without the potential dreaded consequences of doing it the other way around.

The trickiest part of charging your Tesla battery with an ICE vehicle is getting to your Tesla battery. Of course, this is also difficult if you’re trying to charge an ICE battery with your Tesla. It’s just that it fades into the background against a lack of wisdom and potential consequences to your battery-monitoring software in that instance.

To get under the hood of, say, your Tesla Model 3, there are some steps you need to go through.

Firstly, remove the tow eye cover. You should see two black and red wires.

No black and red wires? Stop immediately – your Tesla is clearly run by magic, and you should replace the tow eye cover and never look under it again.

Got your wires? OK – assuming your Tesla battery is dead, you will have to go the long way around to do this. First, hook up the ICE vehicle to your wires using standard jumper cables. Then, when there’s juice flowing to the wires, you should be able to open the front trunk, where your battery is.

Yes, the black and red wire thing was to give you enough power to open the hood. So now we’re on to stage 2.

When your hood is open, find the maintenance panel. It should be towards the inner part of the hood. Remove the panel, but obviously, don’t fling it from you with contempt in your heart. You’ll need it once you have power in the battery again.

Once you’ve removed the maintenance panel, you should have access to your battery, and from that point, if you had the first idea what to do to jump-start an ICE car when you began all this, the process is strikingly similar. Attach jump leads from the ICE car battery to the Tesla battery. Charge the battery.

Replace the maintenance panel, close the hood, and tidy away your red and black wires. Then, go about your day with a song in your heart and probably a beverage of their choice, owing to the owner of the ICE vehicle that saved your electric bacon.

If there isn’t a good samaritan in a gasoline-powered vehicle in sight then you’ll need a tow, but before you order the tow service, read the protocols of towing a Tesla.

Final Thoughts

So to recap. Yes, you can jump-start a Tesla from another car. If you try to jump-start an ICE car from your Tesla, though, not only is there the ever-present risk of consequences to your battery and the sanity of your computer software, but it’s also not even the most intelligent way to deal with an ICE car with a dead battery. So remember you’re in the 21st century and call for help from a qualified mechanic instead.

And since we are here on the topic of Tesla why not find out why you can’t use Tesla autopilot to drive you home drunk and also how secure is a Tesla from theft?