What happens if my electric vehicle runs out of power on the road?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question about whether an EV must be towed after running out of power.

A 2021 Ford Mustang Mach E is seen as it is charging at a Ford dealer in Wexford, Pa. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Q. Say I buy an electric car and run out of power on the road, can AAA rescue me or will I need to be towed to a charger?

A. We have seen very few cases of EV owners who have run out of power. This is most likely due to the fact that many EV owners who charge at home start the day with a fully charged battery. Currently in most areas we will tow an electric car to the nearest charging station or home to recharge. We are also pilot testing mobile electric vehicle charging throughout AAA Northeast’s territory.


Q. My old Honda Accord will drive fine then randomly shake and vibrate as if someone is rocking the car. If I slow down, it goes away for a while but eventually the shaking returns. The shaking feels like it is coming from the rear of the car. Nothing is felt through the steering wheel. Any ideas? 

A. I would perform a close inspection of the rear suspension looking for worn components. More than likely it is a combination of worn suspension components, worn shocks/struts, and out-of-balance tires. As you hit a bump it causes the tires to shake. The other occasional and weird issue is from time to time when airing up a flat tire, the air compressor will add just enough water to the tires to throw them out of balance. 

Q. I just changed the oil on my Toyota Corolla because the reminder light was on. The oil is full, but the light is still on. How do I reset it? The parts place where I bought the oil and filter said I need a special tool to reset the light. 

A. No special tools required. The first step is to turn the “ENGINE START STOP” switch or engine switch to OFF with the trip meter A reading shown. The second step is while pressing the trip meter reset button, turn the “ENGINE START STOP” switch or engine switch to ON. Finally, continue to press and hold the button until the trip meter displays 000000.


Q. My 20-year-old Dodge with a V-6 engine has a fuel smell. I have looked for leaks and can’t find any, and the car still gets the same mileage. Also the check engine light is not on. What do you think it can be? 

A. If you can find a shop with an exhaust gas analyzer, the tailpipe probe makes a very good sniffer. The leak could be a saturated carbon canister, which is part of the evaporative emissions system, or a leaking gas tank or fuel fill. A clue may be the lack of a check engine light. One area that will cause a fuel smell and not trigger a check engine light is a faulty/leaking fuel rail. This part delivers fuel to the fuel injectors. If it is seeping fuel, the car will run okay but will produce a fuel smell. Fuel leaks are serious and could potentially cause a fire. Get the car checked as soon as possible. 

Q. I purchased a new car for the first time in 20 years and it has a key fob to lock and unlock the doors and a button to start the car.  How long can I expect the battery in my remote key fob to last? My second question, if I start the car and leave the fob home, how long can I drive the car? The car dealer said about 20 miles then I will get a warning, is that true? 


A. Based on my own experiences I would say a key fob battery will last five years or so, although I have had some last much longer. The only time I have seen shorter life is when the button is held down for a longer period. This could be if the fob is in a purse, bag, or even in a pocket. Replacing a fob battery is simple and inexpensive and as a preventative measure you could replace it every four to five years. Also keep in mind nearly every car with push button start and a key-fob has a key built into the fob in case of emergencies. Unless there is something very unique about your car, if you start it, then leave the fob home, it will run until you shut it off or it runs out of fuel. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at


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