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


AAA Northeast Automotive Physician John Paul answers a question about the need to tow an electric vehicle after a power outage.

A 2021 Ford Mustang Mach E is seen charging at a Ford dealership in Wexford, Pennsylvania. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Q Suppose I buy an electric car and run out of power on the road, can AAA save me or do I have to be towed to a charger?

A. We have seen very few cases of electric vehicle owners running out of power. This is likely because 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 charge it. We are also pilot testing mobile electric vehicle charging throughout AAA Northeast.

Q My old Honda Accord will drive fine, then randomly shake and vibrate like someone is shaking the car. If I slow down it goes away for a while but eventually the shaking comes back. The jolt seems to come from the rear of the car. Nothing is felt through the steering wheel. Ideas?

A. I would perform a close inspection of the rear suspension for worn components. This is more than likely a combination of worn suspension components, worn shocks/struts, and out of balance tires. When you hit a bump, the tires shake. The other occasional and weird issue is that every once in a while, when aerating a flat tire, the air compressor adds just enough water to the tires to throw them out of balance.

Q I just changed the oil in my Toyota Corolla because the reminder light was on. The oil is full, but the light stays on. How can I reset it? The parts store where I bought the oil and filter said I needed 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 odometer reading A displayed. The second step is, while pressing the trip odometer reset button, turn the “ENGINE START STOP” switch or the engine switch to ON. Finally, keep pressing and holding the button until the trip meter shows 000000.

Q My 20 year old Dodge with a V-6 engine smells of fuel. I looked for leaks and found none, and the car still has the same mileage. Also the check engine light does not come on. What do you think it may be?

A. If you can find a store with an exhaust gas analyzer, the exhaust pipe 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 filler. One clue may be the absence of a check engine light. One area that will cause a fuel smell and not trigger a check engine light is a faulty/leaky fuel rail. This part supplies fuel to the fuel injectors. If it oozes fuel, the car will run fine but will smell of fuel. Fuel leaks are serious and could potentially cause a fire. Have the car checked as soon as possible.

Q I bought 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 key fob to last? My second question, if I start the car and leave the key fob at home, how long can I drive the car? The car dealer said about 20 miles, then I’ll get a warning, is that true?

A. From my own experiences, I’d say a key fob battery will last about five years, although some of them last much longer. The only time I’ve seen a shorter lifespan is when the button is held down for a longer period of time. This can happen if the key fob is in a purse, bag, or even a pocket. Replacing a fob battery is simple and inexpensive, and as a preventive measure, you can replace it every four to five years. Also keep in mind that almost all cars with push-button start and a key fob have a key built into the key fob in case of an emergency. Unless there is something very unique about your car, if you start it and then leave the remote at home, it will work until you turn it off or it is at running out of fuel.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Automotive Physician. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and is an ASE Certified Master Technician. Email your question to [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10am every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at


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