Tesla is known not only for its best-selling electric cars but also for its disruptive, cutting-edge technology which always goes ahead of its competition.
Tesla vehicles are the most advanced cars running on the road today because of their high-tech features not seen in other brands. From Autopilot, Camp Mode, and Sentry Mode to other advanced features, the Model 3 technology is years ahead compared with its competitors according to Nikkei Asia.
One of the important Model 3 features often overlooked is the Teslacam, which is its built-in dashcam.
In this article, I am going to discuss this valuable feature of the Model 3 and whether it is enough to keep an eye on your prized vehicle or if an aftermarket is a better option.
Teslacam: Built-In Dashcam for Tesla Model 3
Teslacam was added to Model 3s built after July 31, 2017, and since then, Model 3 owners have had access to video recordings around their vehicles. Although cameras were already installed before, Tesla continues to improve its dashcam via software updates.
The Model 3 dashcam is able to capture and record the front, rear, left, and right sides of the car. For the front recording, the camera is located just above the rearview mirror. The back footage is recorded by the camera located above the number plate. Both the left and right footage are captured by cameras located underneath both side mirrors.
Model 3 owners need to use a USB or SSD storage device to store the recorded videos. The device can then be connected to any USB port of the vehicle, and the setup can be done easily.
How to Set Up and Use Teslacam on the Model 3
Follow these steps or watch the video below!
- Plug the SSD drive into your vehicle using the cable included in the package.
- Go to Settings and click Safety & Security.
- Click on “Format USB Device”.
- Look at the top of the monitor, the Teslacam/dashcam icon should appear now.
- You are ready to record now.
Saving Video Recordings
When you want to save a dashcam clip, just tap the Teslacam icon on the touch screen, and it will automatically save the last 10 minutes of your driving in a separate folder that won’t be touched or overwritten.
You can view the saved recording either directly on the touch screen or by connecting the SSD storage device to another device like your mobile phone, laptop, or PC.
If the recording won’t open on your phone, the MP4 Teslacam recording might not be compatible with your phone’s built-in player, so you may want to download and install a VLC player to view the videos and share them on social media or directly to your friends.
Video Size on SSD
Both Samsung T5 and T7 are available in 1TB, so I suggest you get either of these for maximum file storage. Here is the approximate size of the video recording per minute.
- The 1-minute recording is 28MB x 4 cameras (front, right, left, back)
- 112MB/minute or 6.72Gb/hour
You can partition your SSD drive and assign other disc spaces to files like movies and music.
If you want to use the whole SSD drive for dashcam only, 1TB of space can save Teslacam and Sentry Mode videos for 148 hours.
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Tesla Model 3 Dashcam Issues
Although Teslacam is a great upgrade for Model 3s built later, many owners are experiencing a number of issues.
The Model 3 built-in dashcam was added only recently because older models have MCUs not capable of providing enough power for the device.
The four cameras used by Teslacam all record 1280 x 960 pixels, a fairly low resolution compared with many aftermarket dashcam alternatives.
At this resolution, you need a maximum of eight feet to read the license plate of the car in front of you. Farther than eight feet, the license plate may not be readable. Teslacam also uses 36 fps (frames per second), which is slower than most external aftermarket dashcams. Most aftermarket dashcams use 1920 x 1080 resolution at 60 fps.
Some owners have also reported that their Tesla dashcam is not working.
Teslacam left a lot of recordings after I hit the saved button. I was very disappointed because everything I cared about was deleted. I am thinking about buying an external dashcam.5vTolerant
A number of new Model 3 owners have also complained that only Sentry Mode is working but not the dashcam. After doing extensive research, I found out that this problem is rooted in the dealership.
This problem is caused by Tesla not marking the car as “delivered” in their back-end system.Knightshade
Another downside of the Model 3’s built-in dashcam is its inability to record sound. Audio is extremely important, especially during road rage and altercations or even police stops. By recording the audio, it will be easier to find out what happened or who started the provocation.
Is the Tesla Model 3 Built-In Dashcam the Right Tool for You?
Different owners have different needs and priorities, and after knowing the above details, let’s dive into the advantages and disadvantages of the Teslacam so you can decide whether the Teslacam is enough for you or you need an aftermarket Model 3 dashcam.
Benefits of the Model 3 Built-In Dashcam
- No additional cost. The Tesla Model 3 built-in dashcam comes standard with the car so you don’t need to spend more.
- Convenient to use with no wires to run and nothing to connect on your screen.
- Easy to set up. You don’t need to install any software or additional app just to use the Model 3 dashcam.
- Uses four cameras simultaneously (front, back, left, and right) and can capture everything around the car at the same time.
Drawbacks of the Model 3 Built-In Dashcam
- Low video quality and frame rate (1280 x 960 pixels at 36 fps) compared with most aftermarket alternatives with 1920 × 1080 resolution at 60 fps
- Doesn’t record sound
- Limited viewing angle and no redundancy
- Some issues like stopped recording, skipped recording, not working, etc.
Furthermore, the following features available in most aftermarket dashcams are not currently offered by Teslacam:
- 4K resolution and at least 60 fps
- Ability to record audio
- Option for motion detection and recording and time-lapse recording
- Automatic upload of view via Wi-Fi to the Cloud when within Wi-Fi range
- Voice announcement of status
- GPS tagging of location and vehicle speed into video
- Security indicators
- Option to record only front and back (Tesla records all including left and right)
- Wi-Fi connectivity to view on tablets or phones
If you think the Model 3 built-in dashcam doesn’t fit your needs, here are some great alternatives:
Best Dashcam for Tesla Model 3: Aftermarket Alternatives
Best Overall: BlackVue DR900X-2CH
BlackVue is, by far, the most recommended aftermarket Model 3 dashcam brand by the Tesla community, and it has been used even before Teslacam become available. In fact, some Model 3 owners have been using the same BlackVue dashcam for four years now without any problem.
I have a 2-channel BlackVue dashcam installed on my early 2018 Model 3 before Tesla added Sentry and Teslacam mode. My setup is nice and I decided to leave it there and still use it today. What is important for me is the redundancy that Teslacam can’t offer. The BlackVue captures the whole front of the Model 3 (Teslacam has a narrower field of view). The only reason I use Teslacam is for the side recordings and the rear camera captures a better angle and view due to the camera position. BlackVue uses a lot less energy than Teslacam though.android04
The BlackVue DR900X-2CH can capture both the front and the back views of your car with its powerful cameras. The front camera features an 8-megapixel sensor at 3840 × 2160 at 30fps and 163-degree view angle. The rear camera has a 2.1-megapixel sensor and full HD 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps, and a 139-degree view angle.
With BlackVue DR900X-2CH, almost everything in the front and back of your car can be captured in full HD while using low energy and low data storage capacity.
It has most of the features Model 3 owners are looking for, and it has very few reported complaints from Model 3 owners. This is the reason why this brand holds the top spot, even with different models.
The BlackVue DR900X is also available in one channel with a single camera usually intended for the front.
✅ Higher video quality, faster frame rate, and wider view angles
✅ Trusted brand even before the Teslacam became available
✅ Low energy consumption
✅ Highly recommended by the Tesla community with proven good track record
❌ Additional cost
❌ Can only cover the front and rear of the car
Runner-Up: BlackVue DR750X-2CH
The BlackVue DR750X-2CH is a little brother and earlier version of DR900X-2CH and was very popular before Teslacam became available. Fortunately, though, it is still available today.
If you want a BlackVue dashcam but want to save a bit of money, the DR750X-2CH is your best choice since it is cheaper than the DR900X-2CH.
Been using BlackVue 750x for close to 4 years now and I never had an issue. Just works great, is high quality, and is easy to install.Doanster1
The BlackVue DR750X-2CH has two cameras (front and back), both in full HD. The front has a 2.1-megapixel STARVIS sensor and 1920 x 1080 @ 60 fps. It also has a wide viewing angle of 139 degrees. The rear camera has the same feature, with the exception of 30 fps.
I use both 900 and 750 in both of my cars but I recommend 750. Although the 900 has a great resolution, the 750 has great low light sensitivity and is far better than the 900 in this category.Alexie Watson
✅ Higher video quality, faster frame rate, and wider view angles than Teslacam
✅ Cheaper than the BlackVue DR900X-2CH but with better low light sensitivity
✅ Old product (released before Teslacam) but still on high demand
❌ Lower resolution than DR900X
❌ Can only cover the front and rear of the car
Best Budget: Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual Dashcam
The Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual Dash cam is not so popular in the Tesla community, but this 2018 test done by TEG shows it has many advantages over the Teslacam.
Vantrue N2 features a dual camera for the front (road) and the inside cabin. It does not have a rear camera, but with the cabin camera having 1920 x 1080 pixels at 30 fps, it can deliver crystal-clear videos even at nighttime.
The front camera is at 2.5K 2560 x 1440P @ 30fps, which enables clear license plates and road signs. Or you can switch to 1920 x 1080P @ 60 fps mode with smoother videos for high-speed traffic.
The Vantrue N2 is for Model 3 owners who want to have clear front road and cabin recordings without paying a premium price. The Teslacam side and rear dashcams can still be used especially when in Sentry Mode.
✅ Cheap and captures the cabin, which is recommended for ride-sharing
✅ Has a better front view angle and higher resolution than Teslacam
❌ No rear camera
How to Install an Aftermarket Dashcam in the Model 3
Installing an aftermarket dashcam in a Model 3 can be a bit challenging for non-technical people, but if you carefully follow the steps below, you should be able to do it seamlessly.
Note that this procedure is made specifically for the BlackVue DR750X-2CH dashcam, but it can also be applied to other dual-channel dashcams (front and rear cameras). Additionally, these steps already include the perfect location for the front and rear cameras.
Keep in mind though that a dashcam is not the only thing you need. You need basic tools, wires, fuses, and other materials which I listed below.
- Dashcam – BlackVue DR750-2CH, BlackVue DR900-2CH or any other two-channel dashcams.
- 4-pin fan power extension cable
- DC power plug with 6-foot cord
- Some heat sink tubings
- Splice crimp terminal connectors (if you are comfortable using a soldering station and you have one, you can do soldering)
- Retainer clips for Tesla (you may break some of these so must have extra)
- Wire fishing rod set
- Inline fuse holder
- Automotive fuse (single 3A or 5A will do)
- 3M blue painter’s tape
- Heat gun (for shrink tubing)
- Wire stripper
- Steel fish tape
- Torx screwdrivers (T15 and T20)
- Trim removal tool (or the one that comes with the dashcam)
- Locate the auxiliary power source in front of the rear-view mirror and open the cover.
- Connect the 4-pin extension cable to the auxiliary power source in the microphone grill area.
- Set the multimeter to Volt and use it to find a pair of wires that read at least 12V DC. Take note of the wire colors.
- Cut the female connector of the 4-pin extension cable. Remove the other 2 wires not included in the 12V reading.
- Connect the in-line fuse box to one of the wires of the 4-pin extension to form a custom wire harness. You can use a soldering station or just splice them together and wrap them with the shrinkable tube using the heat gun.
Front Camera Wiring
- Use fish tape to pull the male plug of the DC power cord between the headliner and the windshield
- Plug the female connector of the DC power cord into the auxiliary power output
- Pull the coaxial cable as well. Make sure to use the angled plug in the front. Leave the straight connector for the back.
Rear Camera Wiring
- Run the coaxial cable along with the headliner. If your car has a solid/glass roof, you will have to run it along the A-pillar and door sills instead.
- Remember to leave the straight plug for the rear camera.
- Open the trunk.
- Remove the Torx screw supporting the bottom part of the right rear trim. Remove the bottom rear trim first, then remove the upper trim part.
- Carefully dislodge the grommet from the car body and the liftgate.
- Fish the coaxial cable through the opening in the car body.
- be careful not to damage the grommet and the existing wires, pull the coaxial cable through.
- Remove the horizontal liftgate by pulling it forward. Be careful, as its sides are interlocked with the other trim part. Remove the vertical part of the trim too.
- Remove the Torx screw supporting the main trim piece.
- Carefully remove the liftgate power button assembly and disconnect the wire harness.
- Use the trim removal tool to pry the large trim piece away from the liftgate.
- Push the fist tape through the opening in the liftgate and fetch it on the other side.
- Attach a fish rod (or a string) to the fish tape and pull it back.
- Wrap the ends of the coaxial and fish rod together with the blue tape and pull them back through the opening.
- Run the fish tape between the liftgate body and the large trim piece and then fetch it on the other side.
- Finally, wrap the ends of the fish tape and coaxial cable together and pull them back.
Camera Mounting and Testing
- Mount the rear dash camera close to the top edge of the liftgate and connect the coaxial cable.
- Connect both coaxial and power cables to the front camera, but don’t attach it to the windshield yet.
- Follow the camera installation manual to finalize it, connect to the built-in Wi-Fi, and review the initial footage.
- Once you find the correct mounting position, peel off the protective tape and attach the camera to the windshield. Consult the product documentation on how to correctly attach it to the glass.
- Restore the large trim part to its original position and put back or replace the Torx screw.
- Replace any broken or missing clips and reinstall the liftgate trim.
- Reinsert the grommet into its original position.
- Reinstall the top and bottom trim pieces and put back or replace the Torx screw.
- Reconnect the wire harness and reinstall the liftgate power button assembly.
Full Installation Video
Frequently Asked Questions on the Tesla Model 3 Dashcam
Does the Tesla Model 3 have a dashcam?
Yes. Tesla started adding a dashcam called Teslacam to Model 3s built after July 31, 2017. This means that owners of Model 3s produced before July 31, 2017, used aftermarket dashcams.
Can I watch dashcam footage on the Model 3?
Yes. You can watch dashcam and Sentry Mode footage on the Model 3 touch screen. To do this, tap the Teslacam icon and select “Launch Viewer.” On your screen, you have four different views from four cameras (front, rear, right, and left). You can choose and switch around which view you want to watch by tapping on each view. You can also choose which recording you want to view by tapping on the three-dot menu on the upper left portion of the touch screen. Take note that it is not safe to do this when you are driving.
Is it legal to use a dashcam?
Dashcams are a very important tool that every vehicle must have. They can help protect the driver in case of an accident or any road rage that could result in legal disputes.
For Tesla Model 3, dashcams are important on all four sides of the car. We heard a lot of stories about Tesla being vandalized in different places, especially in public parking spaces, and dashcams are a big help in catching these vandals and making them pay.
Using dashcams is totally legal in all US states. Although some states do not allow windshield-mounted dashcams for safety reasons, a dashcam on top of the dashboard is still allowed.
If you are not sure about your state’s laws on dashcams, you may check them here.
How many dashcams do I need for my Tesla Model 3?
The Model 3 built-in dashcam has four cameras capturing all four sides of your vehicle. If you want to use this default feature, you can have your car covered on all sides. If, however, you want an aftermarket dashcam, I recommend you get a two-channel dashcam. This would cover the front and rear views of your car. There are also single-channel dashcams if you want a cheaper option, but they are limited only to the front view.
What’s the best storage device to buy for my dashcam?
A dashcam needs huge storage to keep your video recordings, especially when you are on a long trip. There are tons of recommendations online, but we recommend the Samsung T7 500GB as our top pick. You can read our article on the Best USB for Tesla Sentry Mode to see the complete list.
Should I need an extra battery pack for an aftermarket dashcam?
Aftermarket dashcams can be powered both by your car through the auxiliary power supply and from an external battery pack. The detailed dashcam installation above shows how to connect the dashcam to the car’s auxiliary power.
If, however, you are concerned about your dashcam consuming much power from your car’s battery, an external battery pack like the BlackVue B-124X Power Magic Ultra Battery Pack is a good alternative. The good thing about using an external battery for your dashcam is you don’t have to connect a power cord to the car’s auxiliary power and run through a lot of processes. The drawback, however, is the extra cost, and you need extra space to place the battery pack safely.
How much power does Teslacam and Sentry Mode consume?
According to several sources based on different tests, Sentry Mode consumes 7% of battery charge daily when left activated, and many fellow owners agree. When converted to the mile, Sentry Mode consumes around one mile worth of energy per hour.
The actual power consumption differs on every car and also depends on the activity around the car, but overall, it’s relatively minimum, especially when the battery is in perfect condition.
For the Model 3 dashcam, however, I could not find a detailed test for energy consumption as the feedback is mixed, with the majority saying it consumes like a stereo, but one user specifically pointed out the obvious.
The built-in dashcam is great and free but it has major drawbacks compared to aftermarket alternatives. It has low resolution, can’t capture sound, and uses a ton of power. An aftermarket dashcam uses far less power compared to sentry mode. It’s like 5w vs 25w.CarlThompson
Final Thoughts on the Best Dashcam for Tesla Model 3
Dashcams are a very important feature of the Model 3, and driving without one feels incomplete.
Teslacam offers all the basic functionalities every Model 3 owner may need, but its limitations are also hard to ignore.
If you are not a fan of high-resolution videos and wide-angle footage, then the default Teslacam should be enough for you.
However, if you want more functionalities like clean footage, flawless recording, clear videos even at nighttime, and low-power consumption, I suggest you get the BlackVue DR900X-2CH!
Zac LudicrousMechanical engineer by profession. TSLA shareholder before the hype. EV enthusiast all day long. Zac enjoys learning about the future of battery technology, autonomy, and EVs. He considers Tesla Model 3 the most important vehicle of the 21st century -- and is in a quest to improve the ownership experience of every Model 3 owner he possibly can.
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