We outline the most common problems and solutions with your Tesla dashcam. The dashcam should work fine in every Model 3, and any Model S or Model X made in August 2017 or later. Assuming you’ve selected a suitable USB drive, the following may help solve additional problems.
1. Notifications: Dashcam: USB drive is too slow to save
The drive write speed is inadequate and a faster drive is needed. Note that some drives get slower as they fill up and/or slow when an internal RAM cache cannot keep up with the four video streams. See our section on Recommendations for drives that are fast enough.
2. No dashcam icon appears (while driving)
The most common issue is not placing a folder named “TeslaCam” in the root directory of the flash drive. Also confirm the drive is formatted for FAT32, and not NTFS or exFAT.
If you are using anything between the USB drive and the Tesla USB connection, try without it. Many cables are power only and do not pass data.
Note that starting around 2019.16.2, when parked, the dashcam icon changes to a new Sentry on/off icon.
Some owners have had success by removing the drive, rebooting (holding both scroll wheels in until screen goes black) and after the reboot inserting the drive.
3. Video is distorted or only part of each video frame recorded
This is due to using a USB drive with too slow write speeds. The drive cannot keep up with the amount of data that is being sent by Tesla.
We recommend drives with 40 MB/s or higher write speeds. Some drives have fast writes for small amounts of data but slow dramatically for larger amounts of data. In these cases, the drive works fine for a period of time but fails after a while.
4. No longer recording video
If the drive has slow write speeds, all sorts of oddities can occur, including total drive failure.
If you’re using the Sentry Mode, each motion outside the car saves 10 minutes of recording. In V9 the video is not overwritten, and for a small USB drive, it can quickly fill up the drive. Once the drive is full, it stops recording all videos. V10 corrects this issue. If you are on V9, you need to remove the drive every so often and erase the video (or just format the drive and add back the TeslaCam folder). The larger the drive, the less frequent this is needed. A 128 GB drive should give a month’s storage capacity or so.
Tesla smartly recommends pausing the dashcam (long press on the dashcam icon so it turns grey). If you forget to do this and remove the USB drive while recording, the file table, or in rare instances, the drive, may be corrupted. Attempting to reuse the drive fails, and usually, all the video is lost. Often a format brings back the drive, but not always.
5. Drive no longer works
You have to stop video recording before pulling the drive by pressing the icon for several seconds until it is off (gray). Consider that Tesla is writing a massive amount of data to the drive, in multiple areas of the drive with four video streams. When you pull the dive without stopping the recording, as power drops some writes will occur anywhere on the drive – including critical areas. Very easy to trash a drive this way, even on a PC or MAC. The difference is, most owners are not writing to the drive when they pull it from a PC or MAC – so no apparent problem. There is nothing Tesla can do in software to fix this user error.
In some cases, the drive can be formatted and will work fine, but often the drive can’t even be formatted. Advanced recovery tools are unlikely to fix these kinds of problems either, but it might be worth a try.
If you’ve been using the drive for 6 months or more, and always stop recording before removal and the drive no longer works, it may also be the number of writes have doomed the drive. Flash drives have a limited number of writes, and cheaper drives will usually die sooner than better ones. In addition, a larger drive will usually last longer as it doesn’t have to rewrite the same area as often. I’d expect a quality 128 GB drive should last at least a year with the amount of data Tesla is saving.
6. Stops recording when getting into the car
If you’re using a USB hub – don’t. It seems to cause problems. Use the hub for other devices on one USB port, but leave the dashcam connected directly to a USB port.
7. Stops recording after a short period after files erased in Windows
The drive filled up, and you removed the drive from your car and erased all the files from both directories. Then when recording, it only runs for a day or two and stops again, yet the drive is mostly empty.
In this case, likely all the deleted files are still consuming space in a recycle bin. You can clear the recycle bin in Windows and/or just reformat the drive as FAT32 and create the TeslaCam folder again.
8. Sentry mode video not recording
If the dashcam is working, it could be you’re below 20% SOC. A warning message should appear:
If your Model S/X is older than HW2.5 (August 2017), then it does not include dashcam or video recording. HW2.0 cars still include Sentry mode notifications.
9. I want to retrieve lost video
Currently, the Tesla dashcam records for an hour and then overwrites the oldest one minute segment with a new video. This means only one hour is normally accessible. Turns out, you may be able to recover hours of video if you are using a large drive.
There are a number of data recovery tools. I’ve used CnW Recovery on Windows 10, but there are plenty of others. SteveWin1, who discovered this trick, uses PhotoRec on Linux which is also available on Windows. These tools are not fast, as they need to scan the entire drive, but are mostly automatic. Faster drive read speeds also speeds the recovery process – another reason to buy a fast USB drive.
If you are more of a DIYer/programmer, check out the TeslaUSB solution, at the end of the recommended section. It can automatically copy video while others are being recorded, to provide much more than an hour of recording time.