Nearly 135,000 Teslas recalled over impending loss of essential functions

Palo Alto, CA – February 3, 2021 – Tesla  (NASDAQ:TSLA) has recalled 134,951 cars whose display screens – also known as media control units (MCUs) –  are expected to run out of memory and permanently go dark, depriving the driver of access to essential functions. This increases the risk of a crash.

The recall includes:

  • 2012-2018 Tesla Model S cars
  • 2016- 2018 Tesla Model X crossovers

Recall summary  

The recall concerns the main display screens positioned front-and-center in the Tesla Model S and Model X. 

The center display was built with a flash memory device that wears out after an average of five to six years, leaving the touch screen blank and unusable. Without the display panel, drivers can no longer access vital safety features, like defrosting, defogging and the backup camera.

Tesla investigation and NHTSA letter

The recall announcement comes seven months after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an investigation into the failing Tesla screens.  As reported, the investigation was sparked and aided by several thousand complaints submitted to both the manufacturer and NHTSA directly, alleging issues with the MCUs

The culmination of the process was a letter sent by NHTSA to the manufacturer on January 13 asking it to recall the cars. On January 27, Tesla capitulated, stating that it would initiate a recall even though it has “not decided that a defect exists.”

More background

The problem originates from a mismatch between the car’s hardware and software. The display system relied on flash memory hardware, an 8GB multi-media card (eMMc), that could not endure the high-intensity demands of the Tesla car’s software and eventually ran out of memory. Without memory, the eMMc controller could not recover the system, causing the screen to go permanently blank. 

Last year, Tesla pushed software updates to extend the useful life of the devices and ensure normal functioning but that did not seem to satisfy NHTSA.


Losing access to essential safety features, such as the backup camera or ability to hear alert chimes, augments the risk of a crash that can result in injuries for the driver, passenger and bystanders; property damage or even loss of life

Other Tesla recalls

So far, the 2018 Model X, along with other Tesla models has been the subject of four NHTSA investigations. This is the first recall to affect this model, and the third recall to include Tesla’s 2017 Model X.

The repair

The failing flash memory devices “live” on a Visual Compute Module daughterboard, which Tesla will replace with a daughterboard equipped with a device with eight times the memory capacity. Owners who paid for replacements on their own dime are eligible for reimbursement.  Recall notifications will be sent to owners starting March 30.

Is your vehicle part of this recall?

Nearly 135,000 vehicles are included in this Tesla recall. To see if your car is one of them, use MotorSafety’s free vehicle lookup tool.

Rebecca RandNearly 135,000 Teslas recalled over impending loss of essential functions

Related Posts