The Tesla sentry Mode is a function for monitoring against burglary and vehicle theft by storing surveillance videos on a USB device. If the sentry mode is activated in the parked vehicle, the environment is continuously monitored by the vehicle cameras. As soon as someone comes very close to the vehicle, the warning mode is activated and the video recording is stored on a USB flash drive. A message on the screen indicates that video surveillance is active. If a major threat, such as the breaking of a window, the alarm system is activated. Simultaneously, music from the speakers is played at maximum volume to attract attention.
The following link shows a funny demo video of sentry mode:
Required amounts of data on the USB flash drive
The video recordings of the Tesla sentry mode and the dashcam function are stored on a USB flash drive. The drive must be connected to one of the two front USB ports in the car. With dashcam and sentry mode, the footage from the front camera, the two side-facing rear cameras and the rear camera footage is recorded. One minute of image recording requires 30 MB of memory per camera. Since the Dashcam only stores 60 minutes while driving and then overwrites the oldest data, the following space is required for the Dashcam function on the USB devices:
60 minutes * 30 MB * 4 cameras = ~7200 MB (=7.1 GB) for one hour of continuous recording of the Dashcam. More data is not needed for the Dashcam. Videos older than one hour will be overwritten.
Sentry mode (per event)
10 minutes * 30 MB * 4 cameras = ~1200 MB (=1.2 GB) for a manual 10-minute recording by pressing the Dashcam button.
Sentry mode also stores 10 minutes of video from the four cameras per threat detected. This means 1200 MB per event. So, a USB stick that is too small can get full quickly. The stored videos of the sentry mode cannot be deleted individually in the vehicle. The oldest sentry videos are automatically overwritten when the stick is full.
If you also want to keep watch mode videos for a longer period of time, you should use at least the following USB stick size in Tesla:
64 GB for dashcam and 1-2x per week sentry mode use.
128 GB for dashcam and frequent sentry mode use.
Minimum 256 GB for dashcam and daily sentry mode usage.
IMPORTANT: check the USB device operating temperature capabilities!
For all devices presented here, it is essential to ensure that the operating temperatures are maintained. The sentry mode keeps the storage device permanently active and, depending on the season, extreme temperatures can occur in the vehicle. Most USB pen drives and SSDs are not suitable for operating temperatures above 45 °C / 113 °F and below 0 °C / 32 °F. They are therefore not recommended for the sentry mode during hot summer or cold winter times.
Only the Sandisk ExtremePro and Samsung Endurance MicroSD cards can cope with hot and icy temperatures without being damaged.
The units become hot during operation. Using it outside the recommended temperature range will damage the storage medium and in extreme cases could even result in fire.
USB pen drives suitable for Tesla sentry mode
For video recordings, the pen drive is exposed to many write accesses and should have sufficiently high values for that write speed maximum. Since the stick is heavily used by the many writing cycles, only products from brand manufacturers should be used. Very cheap devices are often not designed for many writing cycles. If the manufacturer offers more than 2 years warranty, this is usually a good sign regarding the quality.
Write speeds from 25 MB/s should work properly, but can sometimes lead to individual picture disturbances in the videos if the stick cannot write the videos fast enough. A speed higher than 40 MB/s is ideal. Higher writing speeds are not relevant because the USB ports in the car does obviously only comply with the USB2 standard, so the speed is limited by the port. However, a pen drive with sufficient reserves is certainly better than a device that is too slow and overloaded with video data by the vehicle.
The following USB pen drives work with the sentry mode and have been tested and recommended in forums or in Facebook groups by Tesla drivers (ATTENTION: observe the device operating temperatures). Note: The product links on this page are affiliate links. If you buy through them, you will not incur any additional costs. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
The advantage of the small USB pen drives is that they are practically invisible in the car. But the heat dissipation is not so good. A high reading speed is only positively noticeable when copying videos to the PC, but does not bring any advantages in the vehicle. USB pen drives are also not actually designed for continuous operation.
With the following table, you can compare the USB sticks by size and price. To do this, simply type in the desired size in the “Search” field. For example, 64 or 128. Of course, you can also compare all sizes of a manufacturer and sort them with the arrows at the top by typing in the search field, for example Samsung.
The better alternative for Tesla sentry mode: SDCard with USB adapter
In Internet forums, some Tesla drivers favor SD memory card instead of a USB pen drive. One reason for this, is one of the disadvantages of USB pen drives: they are not designed for continuous operation. A pen drive can therefore become unusable relatively quickly after 1-2 years if it is used very frequently. Many Micro SD cards also have a much higher operating temperature range from minus 25 °C to plus 85 °C.
Since SD cards are used in cameras where high writing speeds are also important, they also work very well for the dashcam and sentry mode. For SD Cards you need a card reader: (Note: newer Model 3 and the Model Y are equipped with USB-C connectors)
For example, if you use the card reader and one of the following standard SD cards with 100 MB/s write speed. This compares to the high-speed version of a USB pen drive. It is also important to format the USB pen drives and SD cards with the file system FAT32 or ext4, otherwise they are not readable in the vehicle. (Instructions for formatting)
The following special SD cards are better suited for continuous operation of a dashcam and sentry mode than standard cards. They have a longer durability with continuous use and a higher operating temperature range, but are also more expensive in price per gigabyte. (Samsung info)
In summer 2020, the manufacturer Sandisk has launched another product especially for the dashcam usage. The MAX Endurance cards should be able to write up to 120.000 hours continuously without any problems, that is almost 14 years.
So, the manufacturer promises an enormously long lifetime – and this claim is accompanied by an extremely long warranty coverage with up to 15 years. This type of card is available in capacities of 32, 64, 128 and 256 GB, and the warranty is valid for 3, 5, 10 or 15 years depending on the capacity.
Maximum storage capacity: SSD
Some Tesla drivers also prefer only SSD with 500 GB capacity. SSDs are slightly larger than USB pen drives and SD cards, but combine large storage capacities with a very high write speed and a long life. It is important to use a model that draws its power directly from the USB port. Not every SSD works in the Tesla (this probably has to do with the fact that some SSD’s need more power than the USB port can provide).
The following SDD models have been mentioned by Tesla drivers in Internet forums and work with the Tesla (IMPORTANT: Also note the operating temperature of the device! SSD is more sensitive to temperatures than Micro SD cards.):
Also the SDD’s must be correctly formatted, so that they function in the Tesla (instruction for formatting). IMPORTANT: SSD’s as well as sticks and SD cards should always be “ejected” by long pressing on the Dashcam icon before unplugging to avoid typing errors.
Watch Tesla sentry USB videos in the car
Those who want to watch the movies in the car can do so directly on the screen of the Tesla since software update 2020.12.5. Unfortunately this only works for cars with a MCU2. As an alternative you can use a one of the following “USB on-the-go” adapters the stick can be plugged into the smartphone and the videos can be watched there.
on the go Adapter for Android Smartphones
Watch sentry mode videos on the mobile phone
With the “TeslaCam Sentry Reviewer” app for Android you can watch the movies of all three cameras simultaneously:
iPhone owners can download the app “SentryView” for iOS.
The same function for the PC can also be used via this website.
An alternative for Mac owners is DashCam Magic.
Apple iPhone on-the-go Adapter
For iPhone owners the following flash drive might be interesting. You can watch the videos directly on your smartphone without using an on-the-go adapter.
The following iPhone “on-the-go” adapter is suitable for normal USB devices:
Please note that some USB devices do not work with this adapter because the iPhone does not provide enough power. More details in the product description.
Wireless pen drive
The iPhone app “SentryView” can be used for the SanDisk Connect Stick to watch the videos directly. Attention: The performance when playing videos is low.
Too few USB ports?
Since the same USB device cannot be used for video recording and listening to music from USB without partitioning the device, two USB devices are required to use both functions simultaneously. This means that both USB ports are occupied and there is no connection left for the mobile phone charger. The remedy is a passive USB hub. This allows two USB devices to be connected directly to one port in the car. The second port remains free for a Qi charger in the Model 3 (see my accessories page for example products). The following USB hubs have been tested by Model 3 drivers:
Another way to save a USB port is to partition a USB device. This allows you to use videos and music on the same device. However, you risk losing your music library. At the moment a device has been filled up by many sentry mode videos it is sometimes no longer readable and has to be reformatted. Instructions for formatting can be found here.
Sentry mode and autopilot AP2.0 hardware
For Model S and Model X vehicles the sentry mode works with at least software version 2019.12, but it works in a limited version. The system monitors the environment and reacts to potential threats, but the videos are not recorded on the USB flash drive.
It is still unclear whether the camera recordings will also work with the upgrade to the new autopilot hardware AP3. Those who buy the additional option “full self driving” (FSD) will receive the AP3 hardware free of charge.
Note: The product links on this page are affiliate links. If you buy through them, you will not incur any additional costs. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.