The FM in a Tesla Model 3 gets a little weird.
For some models, it might work just fine. But for others, it might not work at all.
Apart from the technical issues, another major issue appeared in the recent past.
Now with the latest update, you need to have a subscription for the FM radio to work.
Who are we dealing with? Apple?
Well, it’s Tesla all right.
Apparently, not everyone wants to listen to the radio, so they are selling it separately to reduce the cost.
We all know how that goes.
Luckily, there are some ingenious ways you can go about and have the radio working without spending on the extra subscription.
However, there’s a problem.
The latest Model 3 deliveries are coming without the radio antenna, which means that you would also have to install some hardware.
But don’t worry, I will be going into great depths on all the ways to have a working FM on your Model 3, no matter which year or software update you have.
But first things first.
How to Turn On/Off the FM Radio on Tesla Model 3
With the latest V11 update, you’re going to see a different set of icons, which are much better looking I must say.
To get to the radio settings, you need to tap the orange icon with horizontal lines, which look like ECG lines but are, in fact, sound bars.
Once you tap it, a pop-up will appear with a bunch of different stations that have been previously saved.
To see the radio option, tap the Streaming tab on the top left corner, just below the playlist currently running, and choose Radio to see the different stations.
Once you have found your favorite one, tap on it and enjoy good old FM on your Tesla Model 3.
There’s no way to turn off the FM radio entirely. However, you can mute it.
You have two different options:
Option 1: Simply press the left scroll button on your steering wheel and then press it again to unmute.
Option 2: On your touchscreen, tap the stop button (box icon), and a volume pop-up will appear where there is an option to mute.
Here’s a video to help you understand the steps better:
How to Save Stations on Your Tesla Model 3
First, let me tell you how to connect your Tesla app to your Model 3 because a lot of people are struggling with this when they receive the delivery.
If you’re having trouble connecting your phone to your EV, you might have an issue in pairing, which can be solved pretty easily.
Just go to the settings menu on your Tesla touchscreen and find Safety and Security, where you can allow mobile access. It should be turned on.
You will see a user agreement, to which you will agree.
Me without even reading the agreement.
After you agree, your phone should be connected.
Now you can simply go to the radio settings (as instructed in the above section). Once you’re there, you will see a bunch of different radio stations.
Play the one you want to save and it will be shown on top.
Just above the radio station number, you will see a tiny empty heart. Tap that heart to save your favorite station. It should turn black.
To unsave, simply click it again, and the radio station will no longer appear on your main favorites.
You can do this with a number of radio stations, and each radio station will appear next to the previous one. In case you want them to appear in a specific order, you can black heart them in the order you want, and you will be good to go.
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Tesla Model 3 Radio Problems
Problem 1: The FM radio is not working.
So your FM radio is not working. Well, it’s expected after Tesla introduced the MCU2 update.
To give you the gist, Tesla is becoming more like Apple, that’s what it is.
You need a subscription if you want to play FM in your Tesla Model 3.
However, the subscription will only work if you have the required hardware to run FM — but wait, there’s a twist.
Tesla stopped putting the hardware required for the FM radio in their latest models.
If you happen to have one of the latest models, you would also need the hardware update, along with the subscription.
In a nutshell, you need two things for your FM radio to work:
- The hardware
- The subscription
Tesla service center will charge north of $1,000 to get the FM going.
If you want my help in getting your radio to work without having to spend a lot on subscription and/or hardware, stick around and hear me out.
You can save even more if you have one of the two requirements.
Problem 2: You have a subscription, but the FM radio is still not working.
If you own one of the older models, chances are you already have the hardware necessary for the FM radio to work.
The problem is the latest update, which does not recognize the older hardware.
One way to get the FM to work is to replace the Tesla tuner.
A couple of owners found that after replacing the tuner, their FM radio started to work even without updating the software or performing a reset.
The MCU2 update was introduced in 2018 for all Tesla models, but even the 2019 Model 3 was found working with just the tuner replacement.
It boils down to where it was manufactured and when the manufacturing facility stopped putting the old FM hardware.
Just pull out the old tuner and replace it with a new one and you’re good to go.
However, if the Model 3 in question does not have the old hardware, you would have to resort to the OEM FM parts or the aftermarket, which is explained in detail later on in this article.
What Teslas have MCU1?
The Model S and Model X from 2013 up until 2018 mostly had the MCU1 infotainment system, which is basically the computer software controlling most of the automated functions of your Tesla.
The MCU1 was an NVIDIA Tegra 3 CPU that had an 8GB eMMC (the fancy term people at Tesla use to say storage), which was later replaced by a much larger storage of 64GB eMMC.
It only had 3G capability, which had the SiriusXM radio antenna and could support it without you having to buy an extra subscription.
But gone are those days, and now you have to pay for the FM.
Even with the Premium Connectivity that was offered on MCU1 models, you would still have to pay about $500 for the modem update since 3G was no longer available.
For the Tesla Model 3, apparently, the starting MCU was the MCU2 for all model years.
What Teslas have MCU2 or MCU3?
This is where Tesla removes the FM radio.
All Tesla models after 2018 are now mostly coming with the newer, faster CPU that Tesla people call the MCU2.
MCU2 is capable of 5G, and its FSD capability is much more enhanced compared with MCU1.
This one uses Intel Atom E8000 instead of NVIDIA Tegra 3, which is much faster and smoother.
Just like me when I am high on coffee.
Now the problem related to the FM radio is that the following models after the MCU2 upgrade did not receive the hardware required for you to listen to your favorite radio stations.
And you know Apple . . . I mean Tesla.
You have to pay extra to get the hardware and pay more to get the subscription.
Radio restoration after the MCU2 upgrade
The old hardware is not compatible with the latest software update, according to the Tesla people.
Now to get the hardware, you need to spend about $500–$1000, depending on your model year.
However, if you do happen to have the old hardware, you can simply replace some parts, and the radio should work.
The thing is, you need to replace the Tesla radio tuner (if you have the FM antenna).
Once you replace the tuner, which costs about $35 in the aftermarket, you can get the radio to work if you have the subscription.
No software reset or update is required for this.
What Teslas have the V11 Update?
In 2021, the V11 update was introduced in all Tesla models, including the Model 3.
There haven’t been any major changes to how the FM will work.
The interface is now a little different (more user-friendly, as one might say)
The FM hardware is not included, which is to be expected, but it seems that the sound quality has been refined, and more audio settings are available.
The punch of the subwoofers can now be adjusted to your liking.
If you want to learn more about the Tesla Model 3 sound system upgrades, you can refer to this awesome article that I have written about every sound system enhancement you can do on your Tesla Model 3.
Problem 3: OEM SiriusXM is not working.
If you want to listen to the SiriusXM radio, you would first need the OEM hardware that Tesla sells separately.
Once you have everything set up, it should work fine — in theory.
Some Tesla owners have faced a couple of problems while working on the SiriusXM radio installation.
You might end up on the FM radio screen when you actually want to listen to SiriusXM.
This might happen due to miscommunication among the FM components. The computer might play both the SiriusXM and the regular FM at the same time when you replace the tuner and put in the SiriusXM antenna.
To rectify this issue, you would need some hardware knowledge as some soldering would be required on the module and the tuner that you’re using.
Fortunately, there is.
In another case, you might be able to resolve this problem by turning off the HD stations.
You can do this by tapping on the icon that says HD on the main screen.
This happens because the HD signal will overpower the XM signal when it’s in range.
When you look at the basics of how FM signals are received, you would know that the RF filter is there, which happens to filter out any other frequency that is not needed, or in this case, the weaker XM signal will be lost.
However, if turning off the HD doesn’t solve the problem, you can look into this detailed explanation (the hard way).
An easier solution would be to disconnect the FM antenna completely from the FM tuner if the FM hardware is still intact.
You can disconnect both cables (the ribbon ones) that come from the antenna amplifier, along with the white connector.
After you disconnect the FM antenna amplifier located on the driver’s side C pillar, you can move on to disconnecting the white FAKRA connector, which is the one that looks like a clip and makes a ticking noise when connected properly.
After the FM is completely disconnected, you would want SiriusXM to take its place.
To get this to work, you need to tap in the SiriusXM antennas, tuner, and module accordingly.
To give you a better idea of how the installation goes, I will give you a rundown of the whole process.
But before we go into the details, here’s what we have learned so far.
If you want both FM and Sirius XM to work individually without having to disconnect the FM entirely, you need to look into this (the hard way).
But if you don’t need the FM and only want SiriusXM, this is how it goes, whether or not you have the FM hardware — both ways explained.
How to get SiriusXM radio in a Tesla Model 3 with FM hardware
The FM antenna amplifier is in the driver’s side C pillar, and the FM radio unit is in the passenger side C pillar.
Once you get access to the FM radio unit on the passenger side C pillar, you would require two of these adapters.
Watch the video below by JoeCarStuff to have a better idea of the FM components hidden behind the C pillar and to know exactly which wire to unplug and which ones you need to plug in.
After you have disconnected both wires, the white connector goes into the FAKRA female adapter.
The plug (the DIN side of the adapter) would go into the “from FM antenna” socket, otherwise known as the AUX input adapter.
This way, the output coming from the FM direct adapter would go into the antenna female adapter.
After this, the black ribbon connector should be left disconnected. You can use some electrical tape to stick it to the side.
So basically, what you’re doing is routing the XM signal instead of the FM signal to the computer.
You would still need to route the XM antenna wire along with the FM direct adapter wire that we have just installed to the front where the SiriusXM radio unit is.
To tuck in all the wires, you can remove the plastic trims with a prying tool, and most of them will pop off just like that.
Don’t have the FM hardware in your Tesla Model 3 but want SiriusXM?
You can simply get a kit and do the wiring in the similar manner that we have already discussed. The only difference is that there are no FM components to deal with.
You can simply route the antenna wire to the satellite radio unit and take the signal wire to the FM module port that is located on the passenger side C pillar.
In this case, you don’t need to unplug any of the wires. You only need the FM direct adapter, which will allow the aftermarket satellite radio to communicate with the onboard Tesla computer.
The Onyx Plus car kit has been regarded as one of the best satellite radio kits you can use on your Tesla Model 3.
For the direct FM adapter, you can use this one.
You can put the satellite radio unit inside the center console.
The center console piece is a little tricky and might need extra grip to pull off, so you might have to use some leather gloves to have the grip it requires.
You can also route the 12V power source along the trims into the center console — you might have to drill some holes to get the wires routed into the center console.
The wires would appear in the footwell if you go with the non-drilling method and would look ugly.
So you might have to trade off if you want it to look neat and tucked in.
Problem 4: AM and Dab are not working on my Tesla Model 3.
If you’re wondering why the AM and Dab functions are not working, you’re not the only one.
AM and Dab are not included in the latest Tesla models. They weren’t included in any of the American-made Tesla Model 3s to begin with.
However, if you are in the UK, you might have the AM and Dab functions included in the past before upgrading your infotainment system.
Now you can have these functions back, but you have to bear the restoration cost of £470.
Alternative to FM on Tesla Model 3? This Trick Will Help You Without Paying the Extra Cost of FM
If you understand all the technical aspects of the radio installation and how to make it work and still procrastinate whether or not you should have it, you’re just like me.
And for you, my friend, I have an awesome alternative that will not require any modification and will leave your head scar-free from the head-scratching that comes with these modifications.
You can simply use the internet to your advantage and stream the FM channels through any of the major online FM providers. One of the leading stations in FM streaming is TuneIn.
The sound quality will be as good as your internet connection.
The biggest advantage of these service providers is the range of stations you get.bYou can even listen to radio stations that are on the other side of the earth.
Even if you don’t have the XM antenna on your brand-new Model 3, it will work.
This is the best, most pain-free way you can go while enjoying both local and international FM channels.
It’s also a good idea to have Premium Connectivity while you are at it.
You would be getting access to a number of amazing features, which would really enhance your Tesla ownership experience.
If you want to enjoy your Tesla Model 3 to the fullest, you should definitely get Premium connectivity.
The only drawback of using this service is that it won’t work where you don’t have a cellular network.
Because if my math is correct…
You don’t get Wi-Fi when you don’t have a cellular network.
So those living in hilly areas would have problems with this setup.
Now if most of your driving is within the city, you might not have to get the SiriusXM radio hardware. You can easily get away with the radio through an internet connection.
Does Tesla Model 3 have FM radio?
Yes and no. It depends on the model year and the place where it was manufactured, not to mention the subscription that is required. However, one thing is for sure, the Model 3 does have the inputs where you can have an OEM or aftermarket radio installed.
After the MCU2 upgrade in 2018, Tesla stopped providing FM service through the old FM hardware. The latest models are coming without the FM hardware to begin with.
So even if you have an older model of the Tesla Model 3, you would still need to make some changes depending on what you have and what you don’t have.
How do I get FM radio on my Model 3?
There are several ways you can go about having the FM blast through your Model 3 speakers.
To know for sure where your Model 3 stands in terms of FM hardware and current software, you need to follow the ways that I have mentioned in this article. You would require one of these, depending on your model year.
- Tuner replacement
- SiriusXM Radio adapter
- Radio subscription
- FM upgrade
- FM module components replacement
- Complete FM delete and adding SiriusXM parts
- Modem upgrade
After you know what you’re up against, you can then move on to putting all the pieces together.
And hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have found a way to have FM or SiriusXM come out of your speakers.
Why does Tesla make it so confusing?
Some Tesla Model 3s have FM hardware, while others don’t.
Some OEM SiriusXM radios work just fine, while others don’t.
After spending hours and hours trying to grasp all the Tesla radio problems, I can finally take a sigh of relief.
- If you have an older Tesla Model 3 that had the FM hardware, but the FM does not work anymore, go for the aftermarket tuner replacement, which is going to cost somewhere around $35.
- For the Tesla Model 3 FM radio upgrade, you can opt for the SiriusXM radio.
For the SiriusXM radio to work, you need to unplug the FM wires and replace all the connectors with SXM wires and connectors using the direct FM adapter and the SiriusXM radio kit — either OEM or aftermarket. Onyx Plus is one of the best out there.
- Now if you want both FM and the SiriusXM radio to work, you need to be a tech geek.
If you do happen to be one, be my guest and visit this page.
- And of course, you would need to get the FM/SiriusXM radio subscription.
- Now if you have a newer Tesla Model 3, and for some reason, it has the FM hardware, do the same steps as that of older Tesla Model 3s with FM hardware.
- If you have a newer Tesla Model 3, but there is no FM hardware, you can simply have an OEM or aftermarket radio installed, which we have gone into great depths in this article.
- If you don’t happen to like fiddling around with stuff, you can resort to internet radio streaming services.
The only problem with internet radio services is that they will only work when you actually have internet.
If you’re somewhere in the wilderness where there is no mobile coverage, it means no radio for you, pal.
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.
These 5 rare tips can save you so much time and stress – and few owners know about them (even after years of ownership). Sign up below to learn more. It's free!