A frozen Tesla screen can be a frightening experience, mainly if it occurs while you’re driving. When this happens, it leaves you with two very pressing questions: What causes the car’s touchscreen to freeze, and how are you supposed to fix it?
Common reasons for a frozen Tesla screen include software issues caused by an update, music streaming bugs, the car’s Embedded MultiMedia Card (eMMC), and an outdated Media Control Unit (MCU). Resetting your Tesla is often enough to fix these issues, but additional options exist.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the more frequent reasons you might encounter a frozen Tesla screen and give you some valuable tips on fixing the problem. By the end, you’ll hopefully have a much better idea of why your screen is freezing and how you can unfreeze it!
- 1. Faulty Tesla Software Updates that cause a frozen Tesla screen
- 2. A Frozen Tesla Screen Caused by Music Streaming
- 3. Issues With Embedded MultiMedia Card (eMMC)
- 4. Obsolete Media Control Unit (MCU)
- Comparing MCU 1 and MCU 2
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. Faulty Tesla Software Updates that cause a frozen Tesla screen
By far, one of the most common (and frustrating!) causes of a frozen Tesla screen is a faulty software update.
Your Tesla touchscreen uses sophisticated software built on top of its hardware components; messing with these software features can break the functionality.
See this related article that I wrote about Tesla Software Updates. This is a guide intended for you to stay updated on the topic. It also includes an additional pro tip. Check it out!
A software update might fail and lead to a frozen screen for multiple reasons, such as losing your WiFi connection in the middle of the update, an overloaded MCU, and compatibility issues with external software and hardware services.
Fixing a Frozen Tesla Screen After a Software Update
The most convenient and effective way of unfreezing a Tesla screen after a botched software update is to perform a “soft” reset.
To perform a soft reset, the steps you should take are pretty simple: Hold down both scroll buttons on your car’s steering wheel until the screen turns off. Generally, a few short moments after this, the touch screen will refresh, and you’ll see its restored functionality.
In case this process doesn’t work, you can always perform a power cycling reboot, which I’ll get into a bit further in the article!
2. A Frozen Tesla Screen Caused by Music Streaming
Another frequent source of a frozen/nonfunctional Tesla touchscreen involves compatibility issues with music streaming services like Spotify.
A Tesla will usually have no problem using one of these services to stream music while maintaining full-screen use. However, there can be miscommunication at the software level in rare circumstances that leads to a screen shutdown.
Tesla owners have noticed that this bug most often occurs when using the screen’s menu to switch from the radio to music streaming (with the most common incompatibility being Spotify).
Fortunately, fixing this one usually isn’t difficult and is typically a matter of a simple reset!
I also wrote a related article about Rebooting Your Tesla Model 3. You’ll know how to get out of trouble and how to do a Soft, Full and Hard Reboot.
Resetting a Frozen Tesla Screen
To reset a frozen Tesla screen after a music streaming bug, first try a soft reboot, as described above.
If this doesn’t resolve the bug, you might perform a power cycling reboot. Power cycling entails turning your Tesla’s hardware and software system off and then back on (easy enough, right?)
To do a power cycling reboot, you’ll need to hold down the brake pedal, both scroll wheels on the steering wheel, and the two buttons (one above each scroll wheel) until the screen turns off and then refreshes.
Importantly, you can only perform this process while your car is parked. You’ll need to pull over before doing a power cycling reboot if you’re driving.
3. Issues With Embedded MultiMedia Card (eMMC)
Another reported cause of a frozen touchscreen in Teslas is a buggy or defective eMMC.
As the primary data storage unit for your Tesla, the eMMC is under particular stress and is thus prone to bugs as a result of being overloaded. This information overload for the card can also mean physical issues such as wear over time or damage during shipping.
It’s important to note that you’ll see these issues more commonly in older Model X and Model S cars.
Newer models have an updated MCU and eMMC, so they don’t experience these issues as frequently as older vehicles. When they show signs of these problems, they’re also more likely to be fixed using the above solutions.
Upgrading Your Tesla’s eMMC
To upgrade the eMMC for your Tesla, first, see if there’s a recall for the model you’ve been using.
Older models have been subject to eMMC and MCU recalls, so it’s entirely likely that if you’re using one of those vehicles, you can receive a replacement for the recalled eMMC.
To do this, you’ll want to schedule a Tesla Service appointment to allow Tesla to inspect your card and then replace the outdated eMMC model with its upgraded version.
However, it’s possible that there was already an upgrade for your eMMC. This existing upgrade can occur if you’re driving a newer Tesla model or if you bought the vehicle secondhand from an owner/dealer who already requested and received their upgraded replacement.
In that case, the following step will likely be your best bet in diagnosing and resolving a frozen Tesla screen.
4. Obsolete Media Control Unit (MCU)
Similar to the eMMC issue, another frequent cause of a frozen Tesla screen is an outdated, defective, or aging Media Control Unit (MCU).
The MCU in older Model X and Model S Teslas is known to have specific software and hardware bugs that can lead to a frozen touchscreen. Additionally, due to its age, this MCU is likely to have additional problems by now that it may not have had when the car first left its manufacturing plant.
I would recommend upgrading and replacing your Tesla’s MCU if you believe this is the source of your frozen touchscreen.
Upgrading is generally a better solution than finding workarounds with your existing, malfunctioning unit. Those “quick fixes” can work temporarily, but they’ll inevitably break down as your MCU starts to get older and more obsolete.
How To Upgrade the MCU
Upgrading your Tesla’s MCU is a very similar process to upgrading its eMMC.
First, see if your car uses MCU 1 or MCU 2. If it’s using the first one, you’re eligible for an upgrade to the newer MCU 2.
As with the eMMC upgrade, you’ll need to schedule a Tesla service appointment and then have the experts look at your vehicle to confirm the problem. Once they’ve done this and have the available MCU 2 component, they can replace it for you.
Comparing MCU 1 and MCU 2
While the Media Control Unit in your Tesla has the same essential purpose, there are significant differences between older units, like the MCU 1, and newer models, like the MCU 2.
|Media Control Unit (MCU) 1||Media Control Unit (MCU) 2|
|Lack of compatibility with video streaming||Supports Tesla Theater and Arcade|
|Less up-to-date web browser||Faster, more efficient web browser|
|Software bugs, especially with music streaming||Less buggy user interface|
|Somewhat obsolete hardware configuration||More powerful hardware|
This list doesn’t cover all the differences, but I believe it should give you a rough idea of whether or not an upgrade to the MCU 2 model is worth it for your situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can the Tesla Screen Break?
While designed to avoid injury, a substantial enough blow can cause the Tesla screen to crack or shatter.
How Long Do Tesla Screens Last?
Assuming regular, daily use, Tesla screens last roughly five to six years. If your vehicle is older, Tesla encourages a screen replacement as soon as possible.
If you notice clear signs of a physical break in your screen, such as a crack or bend, this could cause a replacement. However, if you can’t see anything physically wrong with the screen, I’d strongly suggest trying the above steps first.
As the touchscreen in your car consists of sophisticated hardware, regular use will cause a natural deterioration in functionality if it takes place over a long enough period.
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