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How to Guard Your Tesla with Dashcam and Sentry Mode

A Tesla built-in security system that keeps getting better

Tesla has designed an integrated surveillance system that allows owners to use the built-in surround cameras to monitor and record activity around their car.

  • Sentry Mode is a feature that allows you to monitor activity around your Tesla when it’s parked

  • Dashcam records footage while your car is in drive

These features use the front, side and back cameras and you can view the footage directly on the car’s touch screen. Impressively, Tesla continues improving these features through software updates and has even incorporated suggestions from Tesla fans. Many owners are also hoping that a future update will allow them to view footage right from their phones. With the additional security that these features bring and the fact that they are provided at no additional cost, means that the decision of activating them is a no brainer.

In this post we’ll explain how to set up Sentry Mode and Dashcam as well as some tips on troubleshooting.

Setting Up Dashcam and Sentry Mode

What you need before starting:

  1. Tesla vehicle built after August 2017 with hardware 2.5 and above

  2. USB flash drive to store the footage. Sentry Mode has been known to record a high number of events which is why it is now recommended to use a drive with a lot of storage capacity and we recommend a drive with at least 128 GB. Each minute of video recorded uses about 30 MB. Tesla also sells a pre-formatted USB drive, but most standard USB flash drives can be formatted to use with these features

1. Plug in the USB flash drive into front USB port and format drive if necessary

If you purchased a pre-formatted USB drive from Tesla, you simply need to plug in the drive into one of the front USB ports.

Otherwise, the USB flash drive needs to be formatted to FAT32 and fortunately this can now be done directly from the USB port in your Tesla. Previously a PC or Mac was required to format the drive, but the option to format it directly in car makes this option less appealing.

To format the USB flash drive using your car:

  1. Plug the drive into one of the front USB ports with no other connections to the second port.

  2. Select Controls > Safety & Security and scroll down and tap the grey button ‘FORMAT USB DEVICE’. This will erase all data on the drive and automatically create a folder called TeslaCam where footage will be stored.

2. Confirm Dashcam is successfully operating and enable ability to save clips through honking

Once the USB flash drive is correctly installed, Dashcam is ready to record without any further steps.

Confirm that Dashcam is functional:

You can confirm that Dashcam is successfully operating if you see a camera icon with a red dot appear at the top right of the screen, which indicates that it’s recording. The Dashcam is always recording while the car is in drive and the system stores the most recent hour of footage. You can permanently save the last 10 minutes of footage by either tapping the camera icon with the red dot or honking your horn.

Enable video clips to be saved through honking horn:

Using your horn to automatically save footage needs to be enabled by selecting Controls > Safety & Security > Save Clips on Honk. If you forgot to save something, don’t worry, it’s still there until you run out of space. Pressing the camera icon or the horn just moves the footage into a new folder.

3. Activate Sentry Mode

To turn on Sentry Mode while in your car, select Controls > Safety & Security > Sentry Mode > ON. This will turn on Sentry Mode every time you park your car.

You can also disable Sentry Mode when your car is parked near certain locations by selecting the checkboxes beside Home, Work and Favorite. You can enable and disable Sentry Mode by tapping the Sentry Mode icon at the top right of the touchscreen when your car is parked and you can also control Sentry Mode from the ‘Controls’ pane in your Tesla app.

Using Sentry Mode drains the battery which is why someone might decide to turn it off in certain instances. It remains active until the vehicle is at or below 20% battery and your Tesla app will notify you if Sentry Mode is disabled due to low battery.

If motion or a threat is detected when Sentry Mode is enabled, Sentry Mode will save the last 10 minutes of footage and also continue recording the suspected threat.

4. View Footage

Video footage is saved in 3 different folders on the USB flash drive:

  • /TeslaCam/RecentClips stores the last hour of continuous footage

  • /TeslaCam/SavedClips stores saved footage from the Dashcam

  • /TeslaCam/SentryClips stores saved footage triggered by Sentry Mode

The Dashcam viewer only displays SavedClips and SentryClips footage. RecentClips may be viewed from the USB drive on computers, smartphones or tablets that can read USB drives.

You can view saved Dashcam and Sentry Mode footage directly from the car’s touch screen with the Dashcam Viewer. Tap the Dashcam icon and select ‘Launch Viewer’ while your car is parked. Tap the menu icon on the upper left corner of the viewer and you’ll see the saved footage organized by date and time. You can filter based on Dashcam or Sentry Mode and see the footage associate with each camera. You can also delete footage by tapping the trash icon.

If you want to view the footage on another device, you can safely remove the USB drive by holding down the camera icon until it pulses and turns gray. Once the icon turns gray, the system is no longer recording and you can remove the USB.

Tips and Troubleshooting

To help you get the best experience with Dashcam and Sentry Mode, below are some tips as well as troubleshooting steps if you run into any issues. Also, keep in mind that software updates can cause the system to start acting up, but hopefully these steps will help you get the functions back up in no time.


  • Use a flash drive that is USB 2.0 compatible with a sustained write speed of at least 4 MB/s and a single partition.

  • Use a flash drive with at least 128 GB of storage.

  • Use a dedicated flash drive exclusively for saving footage for your vehicle.

  • Always leave your USB plugged into your Tesla until you need to review the footage. Constantly unplugging your USB runs the risk of corrupting the files and having to reformat it again.

  • Safely unplug your USB or else you can permanently damage the drive


Dashcam Icon Does Not Appear

  • Check to make sure the USB is properly formatted with a folder named ‘TeslaCam’.

  • Reformat the USB.

  • Unplug the USB and reset the MCU by holding down both scroll wheels on your car’s steering wheel until the screen goes dark. Once the MCU reboots, plug the USB back in.

  • Replace the USB as the device may even be permanently damaged. This can happen if you remove the USB while the system is still recording.

Dashcam Icon Has a Grey Dot

  • Tap the icon to restart the Dashcam.

Dashcam Icon Has a Grey X

  • Delete some footage, the USB may be full if you are using a drive with low storage.

  • Make sure there are no other files on the drive other than the TeslaCam folder. If there are, delete the files.

  • Remove and reinsert the USB. If that doesn’t work, reformat the USB.

Dashcam No Longer Records

  • Unplug the USB and reset the MCU by holding down both scroll wheels on your car’s steering wheel until the screen goes dark. Power off the car completely by selecting Controls > Safety & Security > Power Off and ‘Confirm’. Tap the brake pedal to turn the car on, after waiting 2 minutes. Once the car reboots, plug the USB back in.

Figured out something that’s worked for you? Share it in the comments so others can try it out.

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