Tesla, the global pioneer in electric vehicle manufacture, makes vehicles that produce fart noises. There’s no crime in having a little bit of fun while we try to save the world from the scourge of internal combustion (though the NHTSA might disagree—more on that later). Why, then, an aggrieved Model Y owner may wonder, doesn’t their Tesla have a boombox?
Your Tesla Model Y doesn’t have the Boombox feature because it lacks an external speaker. It became mandatory for Tesla to install an external speaker for the Pedestrian Warning System in all Teslas in mid-2020. If your model Y was manufactured before then, it might not have the Boombox feature.
This piece delves deeper into why your model Y may not have the Boombox system and provides a solution to the issue.
The Law Didn’t Mandate External Speakers in All EVs
One drawback of electric and hybrid vehicles is their silence—not to the vehicle’s occupants but to pedestrians. An investigation by NHTSA found that hybrid-pedestrian collisions happened at about 1.2 times the rate of ICE vehicles.
Therefore, the NHTSA issued a directive mandating EV manufacturers to fit devices that emitted warning sounds from vehicles traveling below 18.6 mph (30 kph).
The NHTSA directed that by September 2019, at least 50% of vehicles leaving EV production lines must have the Passenger Warning System (PWS) fitted. The agency required by the same time a year later that all EVs manufactured must have a PWS.
Therefore, some EVs, including Tesla Model Ys, built before September 2022 had no PWS. The PWS is a speaker fitted near the front of the vehicle that produces sounds vetted by the NHTSA to warn pedestrians about a slow-moving EV.
Tesla—and by Tesla, I mean Elon Musk—saw the speaker as an opportunity to have some fun, inspiring the creation of the Boombox feature. On top of emitting warning sounds, the PWS speaker could also produce bleating sounds, fart sounds, and other preinstalled noises. The driver could also add custom tunes to the Boombox playlist.
If you bought your Tesla Model Y after September 2020, you have the Boombox feature. However, if you purchased it before September 2020, having the Boombox feature is hit or miss. Judging by your presence here, I’m guessing you got a Model Y without the PWS speaker.
By the way, I wrote a detailed article about the best Sound Settings that you can set and use in your Tesla. This is a detailed overview of how to get the best immersive sound in your Tesla, no matter which model you have. Check it out!
You Can Retrofit a PWS Speaker on Your Model Y
Despite being a little silly in my view, the Boombox feature was a huge hit. Tesla had turned a mundane safety feature into something Tesla owners could enjoy. Ecstatic Tesla owners posted videos of their Teslas startling pedestrians with farting and bleating sounds from the Boombox feature.
Naturally, Tesla owners who missed out on the PWS speaker wanted to know if they could get it retrofitted. Much of the concern about the speaker was less about pedestrian safety and more about the beloved farting noises.
Tesla owners wanted their Teslas to bleat like goats, so they presented their appeal to Elon Musk—as expected, via Twitter. The initial response wasn’t promising: In October 2019, Musk tweeted that fitting the speaker wasn’t easy as it required changes to the wire harness.
On 27th December 2020, Musk gave a more optimistic response about retrofitting the PWS speaker. He tweeted that service centers ‘might’ manage to retrofit the speaker, giving Tesla Model Y owners access to the boombox feature.
There’s truth in both updates: Elon used might when responding to queries about retrofitting the speaker because a technician can only retrofit the PWS speaker in a Tesla with a wiring harness and a speaker grill. Such Teslas are only missing a speaker, so all the technician needs to do is install it.
The harness and the grill exist in cars that were prepared for the PWS but never got the speaker installed. Such Model Ys were manufactured when the law only required Tesla to fit the system in half of their new vehicles.
Therefore, if your Model Y has the wiring harness, you can have a PWS speaker fitted for $200. You can fit the speaker on your Tesla Model Y, but I advise that you let a technician install it, as they might need to configure it.
If you opt to DIY, ask your service center to push the Boombox update. Tell them to resend the update if it doesn’t work the first time.
Unfortunately, Teslas without the PWS wiring harness can’t get the speaker fitted and, by extension, can’t have the boombox feature. If your Model Y falls in this category, your only solution is to purchase a new Model Y. Sorry.
Musk Blamed the Fun Police for Limiting the Boombox Feature
The Boombox feature is a shadow of what it once was. When the feature rolled out, Tesla owners could play sounds with the car in motion, which was sort of the point—startling pedestrians as the car trundled along. Unfortunately, the NHTSA reined in on the fun, much to Elon’s annoyance.
Following over a year of resistance, Tesla gave into the NHTSA’s directive to disable Boombox functionality when the car was in motion or in Neutral. Tesla recalled nearly 600,000 vehicles, sending updates that limited Boombox features. Boombox sounds only play when the driver engages Park.
In response to a Twitter user who asked why Tesla limited Boombox functionality, Elon blamed the ‘fun police’ for forcing the company to reconfigure the feature.
Despite my earlier assertion that I found the Boombox feature ‘a little silly’, I agree with Elon—the fun police should have stayed away. There’ll come a time when EVs will outnumber ICE vehicles, and if Tesla’s market domination continues, most EVs will be Teslas.
If the Boombox feature were allowed to function as originally designed, there would be anarchy on the streets, with every driver playing whatever sound they please. However, EVs are still the minority, so why deny Tesla drivers a bit of fun?
Bizarrely, the NHTSA acknowledged that the Boombox feature made vehicles more conspicuous to pedestrians but stated that it interfered with the working of the PWS, increasing the risk of an accident.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Play Custom Sounds Using the Tesla Model Y Boombox?
You can play custom sounds in the Model Y Boombox using the USB port inside the glove box. In some Model Ys manufactured after 2021, the USB ports on the center console can only charge devices.
Why Won’t the Boombox Feature on My Tesla Model Y Work?
The Boombox feature on your Model Y isn’t working because of a fault in the speaker system. You should visit a service center to fix the issue, as it might also affect the PWS.
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