Teslas are the most popular electric cars in the US, and for a good reason. One common question people have is how to set up tesla sentry mode.
To use the Tesla dashcam and sentry mode, you will need to enable the feature and install a flash drive into the console. Your Tesla will record any threat to your car and allow you to save the footage on your USB drive, making it easy to identify thieves and people who damage your vehicle.
So, let’s go into the details and talk about what Tesla’s dashcams can do and how to use them. I’ll teach you about the features of the dashcams and sentry mode, the kinds of USB drives to use, and how to set up your security cameras in your Tesla.
- Does Tesla Have a Built-In Dashcam?
- What Is Tesla Sentry Mode?
- Is Tesla’s Dashcam Always Recording?
- Does Tesla Dashcam Record Audio?
- What Size USB Drive Do I Need for the Tesla Dashcam?
- Best USB Flash Drive for Tesla Sentry Mode
- How Do I Format a Flash Drive for the Tesla Dashcam?
- How Do I Set Up Tesla Dashcam and Sentry Mode?
Does Tesla Have a Built-In Dashcam?
Tesla’s dashcams are some of the most advanced on the car market, and they keep your entire vehicle visible and safe.
Tesla has a built-in dashcam, but it has much more than that. Every Tesla includes eight cameras, with four near the dashboard, two on the sides, and one on the back. These cameras can record security footage on a USB drive whenever your car is threatened.
Teslas have always included multiple cameras to make navigation, assisted driving, and security more advanced. These dashcams and side-cams record footage of the area around your car while traveling, allowing you to save files whenever you want.
One thing to note is that Teslas also have a cabin camera, which will track your movement and notify you if it detects that you are distracted, falling asleep at the wheel, or displaying erratic driving behavior.
However, this camera does not record footage, and it only uses a motion sensor to detect your movements. So, you won’t ever be able to save footage of your car’s cabin with your Tesla.
Pro Tip: What can you do if Sentry Mode is not showing footage anymore?
If you suddenly have any trouble with your Sentry Mode / Dashcam and the camera is no longer showing up on your display, take the USB drive out of your car and check it on your computer. It may be that the disc isn’t even full and that the cameras were no longer recording. You might also be getting error messages about a USB drive not working. This will probably be a case where your USB can not handle the speed any longer due to software updates. An ideal USB drive would be the Samsung T7 1TB SSD Drive. If you have any trouble formatting your new drive in the car, just add a “TeslaCam” folder to the root directory on your computer. That should sort all your USB issues.
What Is Tesla Sentry Mode?
In 2016, the federal statistics for car theft went up significantly, indicating that one car theft or attempted car theft occurred every 40.8 seconds in America. The engineers at Tesla, who wanted to prevent these statistics from rising, quickly got to work on tech that could prevent car theft, damage, and hit-and-runs.
By 2017 all Teslas included “sentry mode,” which is a feature that can record the area around your car, even while the Tesla is parked and turned off.
Tesla sentry mode uses motion sensors and cameras installed around your car to detect when a person or another vehicle has come too close to your car. Sentry mode is activated when your vehicle is parked and when the feature is enabled.
Anyway, on a similar note, I also wrote a helpful and somewhat related article on how to set up Sentry Mode and all its features. Check it out!
When someone comes near your vehicle, the “alert” mode is triggered, which will turn all of the cameras on and start recording footage of the threat.
If someone attempts to enter your Tesla or damage it, or if there is an accident, your car will trigger “alarm mode.” When your vehicle is unattended, alarm mode will turn your radio on at the highest volume setting and start the car alarm. If you have the Tesla app on your phone, you will also get a notification of the attempted entry.
However, you will have to enable it and plug a USB drive into your car to use sentry mode.
To review the footage, you can plug the USB into your computer. Alternatively, in Teslas made in 2018 and later, you can check the video footage on the touchscreen in your vehicle.
To learn more about how sentry mode works in Teslas, check out this short video from The Washington Post:
Is Tesla’s Dashcam Always Recording?
Teslas have advanced dashcams that will catch people who threaten your car in the act, but your vehicle will erase the footage if you don’t save it.
Tesla’s dashcam is always recording, but it only records an hour of footage on a loop. So, once you drive for an hour with your dashcam on, your car will start to overwrite the recorded footage. Your vehicle will only save a video if it detects a threat or if you manually save it.
Teslas continuously record footage from the cameras in case of an accident, theft, or damage. However, this footage won’t save itself, which can help you maximize your data storage space and protect your footage from other people such as police, hackers, and thieves.
If sentry mode is enabled and you have a USB drive plugged in, your Tesla will only save footage if someone touches your car, activates the alert mode, or manually saves the footage.
If you would like to find out about the Model 3’s Security Features in general, also check out this detailed article that I wrote. I know, I know…but this one might acutally teach you something 🙂
This means that you will occasionally get several videos of people pushing up against your car in a tight parking space or pedestrians walking too close to your vehicle on a crowded sidewalk. However, it is easy to delete these videos, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
You can also enable the “Save on Honk” feature to save video files in your Tesla’s settings. This feature will save the last ten minutes to a half-hour of footage when you honk your car horn, helping you catch accidents or dangerous drivers on video.
However, if you are not worried about threats, you can disable the dashcam by tapping on the dashcam icon on your Tesla’s touchscreen. Alternatively, you can unplug the USB drive from your car to disable dashcam recording.
Does Tesla Dashcam Record Audio?
Tesla dashcams do not record audio. They only record video from the outside of your car, and they won’t capture any sounds. Unless you turn on the data sharing feature, your data will be protected and will not be sent to Tesla or anyone else.
Although the dashcam will not record audio, you will receive multiple video files from every angle of your car’s exterior when it detects a threat, ensuring that you capture evidence.
Usually, when sentry mode is in alert or alarm mode, you will receive four video files, each from a different angle, for each threat.
What Size USB Drive Do I Need for the Tesla Dashcam?
Your Tesla will only record footage if you have plugged a USB flash drive into your car. This USB drive has to have specific specs to ensure there is enough space to store the video files.
|Supported File Format||Storage Space||Sustained Write Speed||USB Type|
|FAT||64 GB minimum||4 MB/s||USB 2.0 (or 2.0 compatible)|
2021 Teslas come with a Tesla-brand flash drive, but you may need to purchase one for an older Tesla. Additionally, it’s important to note that Tesla-brand flash drives only hold 64 GB of data. So, you may want to upgrade if you save footage from your dashcam or use sentry mode often.
Best USB Flash Drive for Tesla Sentry Mode
When it comes to your safety, only the best will do. Choosing the proper flash drive with the correct writing speeds and plenty of storage will ensure that you can capture footage when it matters the most and keep files without having to delete them every week.
Here are the best flash drives for Tesla dashcams and sentry mode, which are all approved by Tesla and available on Amazon.com:
Samsung BAR Plus 128 GB
The Samsung BAR Plus is durable and heat-resistant enough to last in the hottest of cars for years on end, making it perfect for sustained use in a Tesla. It has a stunning and minimal design that won’t flash or distract you from driving, and it usually fits well in the center console or glove compartment.
It also has all the specs you need for a clear, well-recorded video. The generous 128 GB of storage is enough to store months of footage from your dashcam without having to delete anything.
SanDisk 64GB High Endurance Micro SDXC Card With Adapter
This small but powerful SD card reader with a high-endurance card is recommended by Tesla for use in their vehicles.
This high-endurance chip is temperature-resistant enough to last for years without melting or degrading since it is made just for dashcam and security camera recording.
The 64 GB card stores 5,000 hours of video footage, which is enough space to use your dashcam and sentry mode every day!
Samsung FIT Plus USB 3.1 Flash Drive 128 GB
The Samsung FIT is one of the tiniest USB flash drives out there, making it perfect for use in a Tesla.
They are also shock, weather, and temperature-proof, which will go a long way in your car. They also come in multiple sizes, from 64 GB to 256 GB, but most people won’t run out of space when using this 128 GB model.
How Do I Format a Flash Drive for the Tesla Dashcam?
After you purchase a flash drive, you will need to format it before your Tesla can record any data on it. Teslas require a FAT (file allocation table) file format.
To format your flash drive for your Tesla dashcam:
- Plug your flash drive into one of the front ports on your Tesla.
- Select “Safety & Security” on your touchscreen.
- Select “format USB Device.”
When you format your USB drive, it will become an exFAT or FAT 32 (for Windows OS) or MS-DOS FAT (for Mac OS).
When you format your flash drive, a file named TeslaCam will appear. If you ever accidentally delete this file, you will need to reformat your flash drive.
This formatting process will also erase all other information that you have previously stored on your flash drive, so be sure that it is empty and that you have backed up all your files to a computer before you plug it into your Tesla.
How Do I Set Up Tesla Dashcam and Sentry Mode?
Before you can record and save footage from your Tesla cameras, you need to set up the feature. Tesla’s dashcam and sentry mode recording are opt-in features, meaning that you can choose not to set it up if you don’t want to record video.
To set up a Tesla dashcam and sentry mode, you must plug a flash drive into your vehicle and format it. Then, you can turn the dashcams on and set up the “Save on Honk” feature in your security settings.
So, let’s walk through the process step-by-step.
- Before you begin, start up your Tesla.
- Then, locate the flash drive USB port in either the glove compartment (for 2021 and some 2020 models) or the center console.
- Once you find the port, plug in your flash drive.
- Then, using your touchscreen, tap on the car icon on the bottom left of the menu, then tap on “Safety & Security.”
- Scroll down to the “Dashcam” section and turn on the “Save on Honk” feature.
- Select “Format USB Drive.”
- Once the drive is formatted, a new dashcam icon should appear in the top left of your touchscreen.
- Tap on the dashcam icon until a red dot appears, which indicates that the cameras are recording.
- Honk your horn to record a test clip.
- Click on the dashcam icon and select “launch viewer” (only works on Tesla models sold after 2018)
- Review the footage.
- To turn on sentry mode, tap on the circular icon next to the dashcam icon on your touchscreen, which should turn the icon red, indicating that sentry mode is enabled.
- If you ever want to turn off the cameras, tap and hold the dashcam icon until the red dot disappears.
Now, your Tesla dashcams can record footage and save it to your flash drive.
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