What you need to know about EV maintenance, repair, and towing

Source: @Maniac_Marge with her Tesla on a Road Trip

Owning an electric vehicle (EV) requires less maintenance compared to a traditional vehicle. However, all vehicles need regular maintenance and will eventually need to be taken to a trusted and certified mechanic. 

Today’s EV’s require significantly less frequent (and intense) service when compared to their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. I’ve never met a person that particularly enjoys  getting their oil changed every few months or making routine or unexpected expensive trips to the mechanic. As an EV owner, many of those visits can be taken off your ‘to do list’ due to fewer moving parts and fluids to manage. 

Below is a table that demonstrates the difference in maintenance frequency between EVs and ICE cars. The table was adapted using a blog comparing two EVs maintenance schedules and a blog discussing typical maintenance schedules for ICE cars. 

Source: Torque News, CarGurus, 2021

EV certified mechanics  

If you’re buying an EV today, used or new, you’ll need to have a gameplan for where and when to get your EV serviced. Getting your tires rotated will be your most frequent maintenance with an EV, but maintenance not involving the brakes, drivetrain or battery doesn’t necessarily need to be done at an EV certified mechanic. 

There are several options for finding a certified EV mechanic. The best place to start are dealerships that sell the electric vehicle model you own or are purchasing. Keep in mind that not all dealerships are certified to sell or work on EVs, even if the company sells EVs. An alternative to dealerships could be third party mechanic shops that specialize in EVs. You can find your local shop by searching online (I recommend using the following keywords: “electric vehicle mechanic near me” in your preferred search engine). 

Fortunately, as EV’s become more popular, EV mechanics are in high demand and numerous training programs are available, such as the Tesla START Program, the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium program at WVU, and National Network for the Transportation Workforce’s program

Despite the popularity of some EV models and qualified mechanic services becoming more available, it can be difficult to locate a mechanic for some vehicles. For example, the Chevy Volt, requires a specific mechanic to work on it’s voltec drivetrain and there can be a significant wait time if the shop’s certified tech has a backlog. Additionally, EV certified shops may not be within towing distance. For example, here is a map of Tesla’s service locations. 

There are significant portions of the country that are not within a few hundred miles of one of these locations that could make any necessary repairs less than convenient. Fortunately, some auto manufacturers, such as Tesla, have mobile technicians that come to you and can be scheduled through the app for roughly 80% of potential repairs. 

Towing an EV 

If you do find yourself in a situation where your EV is in need of a tow there is one thing that you should know: Your EV may still be in gear. Some EVs do not have neutral settings so your vehicle could be damaged in the towing process. Always consult your owner’s manual, but if you aren’t sure, websites recommend having your EV towed on a flatbed truck instead of a hook and chain tow truck.

However, if you’ve found yourself on the side of the road and you just need a charge there may be additional options. As we mentioned in our long road trips article emergency mobile charging services are becoming more widely available. “Emergency mobile charging” is available in select markets through AAA, and there are products such as Blink’s portable ev charging stations, and lightning emobile and Sparkcharge. 

The emergency roadside charging services are not widespread by any means. However, SparkCharge’s recent partnership with Allstate and others to Launch BoostEV is promising. As EVs become more commonplace, these charging-as-a-service businesses will grow in footprint beyond large urban centers. 

But for now, if you manage to run out of charge outside of major city centers, you’ll likely need to call for a tow and please make sure it’s a flatbed. 

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