Can You Flat Tow a Tesla Model 3?

By Nicki Schill •  Updated: 11/30/21 •  8 min read

So you’ve got yourself a motor home or RV with intentions of hitting up the great outdoors.

Making memories on the open road is certainly appealing considering how cooped up we’ve all been lately.

But if your plans include towing along your Model 3 to drive around at your final destination, you might have hit a snag.

Although you might want to have your Tesla along with you for the journey, it might require some more planning than you think.

Because unfortunately, the Tesla Model 3 cannot be flat towed.

It’s actually a problem across all EVs as you need to have a vehicle with a transmission to disconnect to be able to flat tow, and you can’t do it with a vehicle in neutral.

Tesla actually warns against it as there are lots of risks associated with flat towing that can lead to extensive repairs. 

Here’s a quick explanation of flat towing:

Flat towing means that all four wheels of your Tesla would be on the ground, with the transmission in neutral and a tow bar attached to the front bumper. 

It’s the cheapest, fastest method for towing a vehicle on vacation behind an RV.

You’ve probably passed by lots of vehicles on the highway getting towed by an RV or motor home. They look just like this:

can you flat tow a tesla model 3
Photo Credits: tremec-blog

You shift the car into neutral, and the clutch plate disengages from the engine so that the power plant and the wheels can rotate freely.

But electric cars like your Tesla don’t work like that. 

Instead, there’s a battery powering an electric motor that’s connected to the wheels.

Basically, you cannot disconnect the wheels from the motor, and that’s a big problem even if you put your Model 3 into neutral.

Why Can’t I Just Tow My Model 3 In Neutral?

Some RV owners are adamant, wanting to simply put their Model 3 into neutral and tow them behind. 

Tesla’s electric parking brake is inactive when it’s in neutral and the wheels aren’t locked, so you’d think that it would operate the same to flat tow the vehicle. 

The problem is a heated one.

When the car is off and in neutral, the cooling system stops as well.

This leaves your Model 3 and a bunch of its components open to overheating if you were to flat tow and drag it along the road.

The wheels keep moving, the gears spin, and the bearings heat up.

This is when the cooling system would normally kick in to provide some relief.

However, if you’re in neutral, that’s not going to happen, and overheating is a serious problem.

Not only that, but also you’ve now voided the manufacturer warranty because Tesla explicitly states not to flat tow.

But Wait, I’ve Heard I Can Charge My Tesla If I Flat Tow It?

If you’re going to ignore Tesla’s many warnings that it’s not good to flat tow your vehicle, you may come across a little phenomenon known as tow charge.

It’s true that you can charge your Model 3 by towing it in gear because you’re relying on regenerative power to put juice back into the battery using the motor as a generator.

Tesla enthusiasts have put this fact to the test with real-world experiments like these owners towing a Model 3 with a Ford Raptor.

The Tesla soaks up the kinetic energy of it being dragged and stores that into its battery for a little extra charge.

While flat towing can be done (and you do get a bit of charge back while doing it), it’s worth noting yet again that Tesla does not recommend this practice at all.

So what’s the alternative for towing your Tesla? The best method for towing is to get a flatbed trailer.

The Right Way To Tow Your Tesla Model 3

There’s really only one right way according to Tesla, and that’s to use a flatbed trailer.

This is an excerpt straight from the Tesla manual: “Use a flatbed trailer only. Do not TOW! To avoid damage, follow instructions exactly as described.”

First things first, you’ll need to do a couple of things inside the control panel to make sure your Tesla can be towed:

  1. To start, disable any self-leveling features like the air suspension options that your Tesla has.

    You can do this by navigating to your Controls menu and then setting your ride height to the highest level possible. Then select “Jack.” This will override your active suspension technology and allow your vehicle to move freely without damaging any of the suspension.
  1. Next, place the Tesla in “Tow Mode” from the Controls menu again. Choose the E-Brake and Power Off options before selecting “Tow Mode.” Now your vehicle will stay in neutral even after you’ve exited.

It’s important to note not to activate “Tow Mode” until your Tesla is hitched up.

For a full explanation and detailed instructions, here’s the full instruction manual from Tesla on roadside assistance with all the steps needed on how to hook up your Tesla to a flatbed trailer.

It can’t be any clearer that this is the way that Tesla recommends you go.

Renting a flatbed trailer makes sure you won’t put your Tesla through any irreparable damage, which is the ultimate goal.

Plus, they’re not that heavy, so your motor home or RV can easily tow them. 

They come with their own braking system, so you only need to supply power through electrical connections.

Among the downfalls of the flatbed trailer is that you have to go through a couple extra steps loading your vehicle on instead of just hitching it up. Plus, there’s the added cost to purchase as a good flatbed can be big bucks.

It might be best to look into rental options instead for transporting your Model 3.

Both U-Haul and Penske have car carriers for rent that will work for your Tesla, with U-Haul rentals coming in under $60/day.

As mentioned in this thread on Tesla Motors Club though, the weight of the vehicle will dictate what the rental companies will deem acceptable for their car carriers.

So if your Model 3 is an all-wheel drive, you might have too much weight for their carriers.

If all this sounds too much work for you, there might be an easier way to enjoy the outdoors, thanks to Tesla’s new Camp Mode.

Try Camping In Your Tesla

Tesla built Camp Mode for their more outdoorsy drivers, allowing you to turn your vehicle into a nice, comfy, and breathable cabin.

When activated, Camp Mode maintains airflow, interior lighting, temperature, and even music.

Simply fold down those back seats and you’ve got yourself a sweet camping setup for those adventurous trips.

To enable Camp Mode, make sure your car is in park and then touch the fan icon at the bottom of the main screen to tap on the “Camp” icon.

Charge percentage to run Camp Mode isn’t even an issue as Elon tweeted that users can run it with as low as 5%, and running it for 8-9 hours only consumes around 10% of the battery.

can you flat tow a tesla model 3

Tesla puts a lot of thought into what their drivers are looking for out of their vehicles, constantly improving and coming up with cool features like Camp Mode.

They also consider those of you who might want to use your Model 3 to do a little towing of your own.

The Tesla Model 3 Can Seriously Tow

With the premium tow upgrade on the Model 3, you’ve got yourself a machine with towing capacity over 2,000 lbs.

You can watch this video from InsideEVs US to see the Model 3’s towing abilities in action.

They cover driving techniques while you’re towing to lessen impact on performance and dive into what the consumption levels look like when towing.

Spoiler alert: Your consumption is going to be a lot higher!

But if you’re already factoring that in, it’s still going to come in cheaper than renting a full-size truck for your towing needs.

Plus, it’s way more convenient to be able to use your own Model 3 to get the job done.

Conclusion: Can You Flat Tow Your Tesla Model 3?

So while you might not be able to flat tow your Model 3, there’s always the option of getting yourself a flatbed trailer to get your vehicle where it needs to be.

If the wilderness is calling your name now, why not try the Camp Mode for a little stargazing in your own vehicle while towing up any other camping necessities you might need.

Nicki Schill

Nicki Schill is a writer and content marketer out of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. As the former Geotab Marketing Manager, she’s got loads of experience in electric vehicles and fleet electrification. She’s a tech blogger and marketing guru who enjoys all things Canadian like hockey and poutine.

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