Why Do Tesla Lights Flash? Causes and What To Do

Over the years, Tesla has implemented many new security features. One of which causes Tesla lights to flash. But we have become used to Tesla lights flashing for various reasons. So why exactly do Tesla lights flash and for what?

The most probable reason why your Tesla lights flash is because of Activated Sentry Mode. This serves as a security feature. Other possible reasons could be software updates, cold temperatures, and hacked headlights. Artificial Intelligence is not a probable reason. Disable Sentry Mode on your Tesla app.

Check out the rest of this article to get a breakdown of all the reasons mentioned above. I went in detail and also discussed what you can possibly do about it when you encounter this issue.

Activated Sentry Mode Causes Tesla Lights To Flash

2017 Federal statistics estimate that a car is stolen or an attempted car theft occurs in the US every 40.8 seconds. This prompted Tesla to improve its vehicles’ anti-theft features by introducing the Sentry Mode.

The Sentry Mode on Teslas is a three-stage security feature that relies on the car’s cameras and audio system to ward off intruders. This causes the lights to flash. The feature debuted on Tesla’s Model 3 cars in 2019.

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How Tesla’s Sentry Mode Works

Tesla’s Sentry Mode is similar to a home’s security alarm. This nifty feature comes with a standby mode that monitors an unattended Tesla’s surroundings using the vehicle’s exterior cameras. Any disturbances around the car, such as someone leaning on the vehicle, trigger the alert mode. 

Consequently, this causes the lights to flash, and the central touch screen lights up with a bright red spot and a message that the cameras are recording.

If you’d like to find out how to set up Tesla Sentry Mode, check out this helpful article that I wrote. You’ll also find out everything there is to know about Tesla Sentry Mode.


The Sentry Mode enters the alert stage setting off the car alarm in case of a more severe threat. It also activates the lights and turns on the car audio system to play music at maximum volume. The alarm notifies the owner via the Tesla app of a possible break-in or car theft.

Ordinarily, the Sentry Mode is turned off. To turn it on, tap your car settings menu and open security settings. Then, toggle Sentry Mode to turn it on. You can also turn it on via the Tesla app’s control pane on your phone.

This YouTube video shows how the Sentry Mode causes Tesla’s lights to flash:

2018.50 Software Version and General Updates Cause Random Flashing

In December 2018, Tesla released the 2018.5 software update. Although it was meant to fix a few bugs and improve the driving experience, it also came with unwanted lights flashing. No random flashing was reported before this update, so it’s believed the update brought about this problem.

Tesla has since released several updates, and the outrage over this problem has fizzled out. So, random flashing caused by the 2018.5 software version seems solved.

However, some people still report their headlights flashing when their cars automatically update to the latest software, although I haven’t experienced this with my Tesla.

At any rate, some of these random flashings are only reported when performing over-the-air software updates. You can blame that on system bugs that should (hopefully) disappear with time.

Pro Tip: Can you turn off the inside Tesla lights at night while parked?

If you’re parked in your Tesla at night and want to turn off the lights while still inside the car, hit the “open charge port” and the light will turn off. When you close the charge port door the lights will stay off.

How Cold Temperatures Cause Tesla Headlights To Flash

Cold temperatures in areas like Alaska and Colorado likely affect headlights on Tesla models 3 and S. Drivers in areas experiencing cold temperatures sometimes notice their headlights flashing randomly at night and while driving.

While this may not be a biggie, you should have your car checked at a Tesla Service Center just in case. It could be a sign of a headlight malfunction and not necessarily weather-related.

Artificial Intelligence Is Not To Blame for Tesla Lights Flashing

Artificial intelligence isn’t self-aware enough (as of now) to cause Tesla lights to flash. Teslas come with a narrow AI and not general artificial intelligence.

Some Tesla owners with headlights flashing have a rather outrageous theory that AI will take over their cars. It would be best to understand that AI doesn’t work that way. 

The relatively narrow AI functions can’t become self-aware overnight and begin to flash the lights. After all, don’t you think a self-aware AI would do something more remarkable than just flashing lights?

This table summarizes what causes Tesla’s lights to flash and what doesn’t:

Assumed/possible causeDoes/Doesn’t
Sentry ModeThe leading cause of lights flash
Cold temperaturesReported to cause flashing on Model 3’s and S’s
Artificial IntelligenceDoesn’t
Hacked headlightsDoesn’t
This table shows the causes of Tesla lights flashing (both real and debunked)

What To Do About Your Tesla Flashing Its Headlights

The Sentry Mode is the primary cause of unattended Teslas flashing their headlights. As noted, it’s a security feature. You can disable Sentry Mode on your Tesla app or your car settings menu if you no longer want your Tesla to flash its lights in the future. 

However, it would be impossible to stop the lights while they’re still flashing because it would take a few minutes before you access your car menu settings on the touchscreen or the Tesla app.

Your Tesla will flash its lights any time there’s a threat so close to it. Therefore, you might want to park it in less crowded areas to reduce the number of times it has to flash when people pass by.

Also, have your car checked at the nearest Tesla Service Station if it’s behaving awkwardly and flashing its headlights randomly, even when driving. Luckily, your vehicle should give a warning in case of a severe malfunction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Tesla Lights Flash When You Walk Past?

Teslas have an in-built security feature, the Sentry Mode, that causes them to flash their lights to ward off intruders. Walking too close to a Tesla will activate this feature and cause it to flash.

Does Tesla’s Sentry Mode Turn Off Automatically?

The Sentry Mode turns off automatically when the battery charge falls below 20%, and you get a notification on the mobile app.

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Erwin Meyer
Erwin Meyer

Thanks for visiting evspeedy.com. The goal of this site is to be a helpful resource for Tesla and EV owners as this is where my passion lies. I was a TSLA shareholder before the hype and still am. I also believe in Tesla’s speedy mission to accelerate the world to a sustainable future.