Welcome to Tesla Motors Club
Discuss Tesla's Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y, Cybertruck, Roadster and More.
  • TMC Podcast is streaming live right now. You can watch and particpate in the live chat on YouTube. We are talking about what's next for FSD, Enhanced Autopilot, and much more.

Dashcam / Sentry: How they work and what they do (and dont) do


Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Nov 28, 2018
Riverside Co. CA
(moderator note)

Special thanks to @Knightshade , for taking the time to write up a description of how Sentry and Dashcam interact together. There is a lot of confusion about these two features, and how they interact together. I asked @Knightshade who has a good understanding of how these features interact, to write up a general explanation of how they interact together.

Please note that any questions on "what USB drive do I use / is best for Dashcam, etc should be directed to the stickied thread that we have on that topic, which can be found here in this subforum, here:

Thank you again, @Knightshade for taking the time to write this up for us!

(explanation on dashcam and sentry mode, from @Knightshade )

How video recording works on your Tesla:

The fundamental thing to understand is the only thing that ever records video to your USB stick is Dashcam.

Sentry does not record anything- ever.

Not being aware of the above is at the heart of a lot of posts and questions here. More details below:

If your car is awake/on, and dashcam is turned on, it is always recording to the USB storage, in the recent folder. This is the only folder video is ever recorded to.

Any footage in there older than 1 hour is automatically overwritten.

You can manually "save" the last 10 minutes of dashcam footage by either tapping the dashcam icon or by (if you enabled this option in settings) honking your horn. You can also via settings have it auto-save the last 10 minutes in case of an accident. All these types of saves involve the last 10 minutes of recent footage being moved from the recent folder to the "saved" folder. Things in the saved folder are never overwritten.

Ok- what about sentry?

Sentry does several things. None of them record video.

One though is to keep the car awake when you leave/lock it. So that dashcam keeps recording in that recent folder with the 1 hour loop.

Another is, if Sentry goes to alert mode, it will move the last 10 minutes of dashcam footage from recent to the Sentry folder. This footage in Sentry does not get overwritten UNLESS the drive is nearly full.

Note if your dashcam is not working, or not turned on, all OTHER functions of sentry still work. It still can be turned on, it still does the flash of lights and warning when it goes to alert mode, it still blasts classical music if it goes to alarm mode. Since Sentry doesn't record video it doesn't warn you when nothing is being recorded. You need to insure dashcam is on and recording if you want sentry to do anything with your video recordings.

If you are not getting video recorded, that is NOT a sentry problem- it is a dashcam problem. Because only dashcam, ever, records video.

As a last note- Both because sentry will overwrite things stored in the sentry folder when the storage is nearly full, and because flash storage inherently slows down as it fills up, you should probably make a point of clearing off your storage on some regular basis, trying not to let it get more than say 3/4 full if you can help it. How often this will need to be done depends on how much storage you have, how often you manually save footage, and how often sentry triggers to do so. For some people you might only need to clean it out a few times a year, for others it might be significantly more often.
Useful, but I'm not sure why there's such insistence over the language of Sentry not recording anything EVER!!! If you want to be so pedantic about it "Dashcam" never records anything either - just like "Sentry" it's only an icon, not an actual recording device.

Might be more clear to simply state that all 9 cameras are recording whenever the car is occupied, and at least 4 of them record when it's unoccupied (and locked with Sentry mode active). "Dashcam" is an app for viewing *all* of these recordings, all of which are saved temporarily or permanently in the "TeslaCam" folder of your USB drive. "Dashcam" is also a function icon - you can tap it to manually save or configure it to automatically save on honk/crash, or even turn it off for whatever reason. And "Sentry" is also a function - you can tap to turn it on/off and also view it live from your phone.

So really if you want to be logical there's the "TeslaCam" system that records stuff, the "Dashcam" app for viewing everything, and also "Dashcam" and "Sentry" functions that can be configured for the driving/parked states.


Well-Known Member
Jul 31, 2017
Useful, but I'm not sure why there's such insistence over the language of Sentry not recording anything EVER!!!

Go read any couple of threads here on the topic and it'll be pretty obvious.

in fact we just had one today where the OP had to be referred back here because they kept being confused over sentry "recording" yet their dashcam feature was not working.

If you want to be so pedantic about it "Dashcam" never records anything either - just like "Sentry" it's only an icon, not an actual recording device.

That's simply wrong.

Directly from the owners manual (bold added)

Tesla said:
Dashcam records footage of your vehicle's surroundings only when Model 3 is powered on (see Starting and Powering Off). Dashcam does not record video when your vehicle is powered off. Use Dashcam to record driving incidents, such as a collision.

Dashcam is the feature that records video. It did so for months before Sentry even existed.

Sentry simply leverages the existing dashcam recordings by moving them to a different folder after the fact when it goes to alert mode.

"Dashcam" is an app for viewing *all* of these recordings

This, too, is wrong.

As the manual explains, Dashcam is both the feature that records video at all, and also the app you use to launch the viewer for said video. It does both jobs (though the viewer one only when the car is in park)

So really if you want to be logical there's the "TeslaCam" system that records stuff

No, there is not.

Teslacam is the name of a folder on the USB drive. it is not a piece of software or a feature of the car.

Again- the manual covers all this.

Thanks, though, for a great illustration of why we do need this thread after all :)
  • Like
Reactions: orion2001

Products we're discussing on TMC...

About Us

Formed in 2006, Tesla Motors Club (TMC) was the first independent online Tesla community. Today it remains the largest and most dynamic community of Tesla enthusiasts. Learn more.

Do you value your experience at TMC? Consider becoming a Supporting Member of Tesla Motors Club. As a thank you for your contribution, you'll get nearly no ads in the Community and Groups sections. Additional perks are available depending on the level of contribution. Please visit the Account Upgrades page for more details.