How to Jump a Car with a Tesla

In 2003, Tesla Motors began making electric sports cars, which hit the market in 2008. Their unprecedented performance gave other vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) a run for their money. After all, what could a Tesla not do? However, the question should be: what should a Tesla not do?

Due to their unique, low-voltage batteries, Teslas do not generate enough power to safely jump-start ICE cars, and therefore should not be used to do so. If you still need to jump-start a car with a Tesla, be aware that you run the risk of causing expensive damage to your electric vehicle.  

In this article, we take you step-by-step through the method of jump-starting a car with a Tesla as well as the risks and safety warnings to keep in mind before attempting to jump-start a vehicle with a Tesla. Read on to learn how to jump a car with a Tesla vehicle.

Steps to Jump-Start an ICE Car with a Tesla
Teslas have different components than ICE cars, thereby giving them other capabilities. Before jump-starting an ICE car with a Tesla, it is important to note the following:

  • Jump-starting an ICE car with a Tesla puts pressure on the latter’s 12-volt batteries and its DC/DC converter, especially during the winter when the Tesla needs high amps for cranking.
  • Tesla’s positive and negative battery terminals are specifically designed to charge and support its own 12-volt battery or to have itself jumped, but not to jump-start ICE cars.
  • The conventional internal combustion engine 12-volt batteries require a great deal of current that Tesla batteries are not designed to supply.
  • If Tesla’s 12-volt battery system is compromised by dropping too far down from the current being drawn from it, you may end up with two disabled vehicles.
  • If you choose to jump-start a car with a Tesla, you do so at your own risk.

No matter if you have a Tesla Model 3, S, or X, you can take the following steps to jump-start an ICE car with a Tesla:

Step 1: Preparation

When jump-starting a vehicle with a Tesla, begin by lifting the hood of the Tesla and removing the maintenance panel cover. To remove the maintenance panel cover, pull it from the top right, pivot the cover’s trim clips inward, and gently pull the raised section towards you, which will allow the cover to pop right off.

Next, remove the Tesla battery’s cabin intake trim cover. This is identified by a red, positive (+) battery terminal sticker. The positive battery terminal is located beneath the cover, while the negative battery terminal hides under the cover on the far-left side beneath two coiled wires. 

Step 2: Attach Jumper Cables

With the Tesla running, attach the positive (+) red jumper cable to the ICE car’s positive (+) battery terminal ground. Then, attach the other clamp of the positive jumper cable to the Tesla’s positive battery terminal ground.

To avoid damaging the Tesla or yourself, prevent the cables from making contact with metal components (i.e. battery tie-down bracket, etc.) and attaching the wrong cable to the wrong terminal.

Next, take the negative (-) black jumper cable and attach one clamp to the Tesla’s negative battery terminal ground. Attach the other clamp of the negative jumper cable to a piece of grounded metal in the ICE car, such as the bolt where the battery’s negative cable attaches to the chassis or a metal nut or bolt protruding from the engine.

You may see a small spark when connecting to an effective ground – this is normal. Keep in mind that connecting to the negative terminal in the ICE car may ignite hydrogen gas from the battery.

Step Three: Battery Charge and Disconnecting the Jumper Cables
Once you have successfully attached the jumper cables to their proper connections, wait about a minute to allow the Tesla to charge the battery of the ICE car. Most of the needed current (in excess of 100 amps) is drawn by the ICE car from the Tesla’s battery, not via the cables.

When disconnecting the jumper cables, do so in reverse order of how they were attached:

  • Disconnect the negative (black) jumper cable clamp from the grounded metal in the ICE car.
  • Disconnect the negative jumper cable clamp from the Tesla’s negative battery terminal ground.
  • Disconnect the positive (red) jumper cable clamp from the Tesla’s positive battery terminal ground.
  • Disconnect the positive jumper cable clamp from the ICE car’s positive battery terminal ground.

For safety and to reduce the risk of damage, do not attempt to start the ICE car before removing cables from the Tesla.

Step Four: Start the ICE Car
When the ICE car starts, keep it running for about 15-30 minutes to allow the alternator to charge the battery. If the ICE car does not turn over and is still not starting, shut off the engine and reconnect the jumper cables. Let the battery charge this way for another five minutes, disconnect the cables, and try to start it again.

If, after this, the ICE car still will not start, you may need to replace the battery and/or have the vehicle towed.

Warnings About Jumping a Car with a Tesla
When jump-starting any vehicle, there are certain safety risks involved. If you are attempting to jump-start a car with a Tesla, there are some other warnings to remember, as well:

  • Make sure to untangle your jumper cables before you start and wear proper protective gear.
  • Avoid getting your face close to the batteries, and never cross the jumper cables while they are connected to a car battery. 
  • Do not allow the cables or clamps to make contact with each other, or to dangle in the engine compartment.
  • You must have a good, clean connection between the jumper cables and the battery terminals.
  • Make sure the Tesla and the ICE car do not touch each other during this process – if the cars are touching while you try to jump the ICE vehicle, it may cause a dangerous, electrical arc. 
  • Ensure that all electrical components are turned off in each car. 

It is usually a good idea to check the owner’s manual of your vehicle before tampering with the engine or battery. Other technical and safety information is available in the manual and can save you time and frustration as well as help you avoid damage to the vehicle.

How to Jump-Start a Car Without Using a Tesla

If you are not familiar with the jump-starting process, there are a couple of different methods: using another ICE car or a portable jump-starter.

Use Another ICE Car

The steps for jump-starting an ICE car with another ICE car match the steps you would take using a Tesla. The only difference is that you do not need to let the running ICE car charge the dead ICE car; instead, you can just start the car that requires the jump-start and remove the cables.

Use a Portable Jump-Starter

Auto repair shops, auto parts stores, hardware stores, and plenty of online retailers sell portable jump-starter kits that you can purchase at reasonable prices. The nice thing about portable jump-starters is that they can get your vehicle started without you having to call and wait for someone with another vehicle to drive to you to help.