Tesla Won’t Go Into Reverse – Try this first!


Driving your Tesla is so simple. Select Drive or Reverse, and you’re on your way. But what happens if you can’t select Reverse? Don’t panic! There’s always a solution. We’ll have you moving shortly.

Common reasons your Tesla won’t go into reverse include:

  • General Tesla glitch
  • Software update required
  • Bluetooth problems

In this article, we’ll examine why your Tesla won’t go into Reverse and how to fix it.

Tesla-on-Tow-Truck

General Tesla Glitch

Owning your Tesla, no matter what Model, is, in essence, like owning a very large computer on wheels. Computers give trouble and can be glitchy. The same can be said for your Tesla.

The following are some quick fix suggestions for the reason your Tesla won’t go into reverse before we delve a bit deeper into bigger issues. It’s always worth trying these to get out of bothering but nonetheless worth logging a Service Call with Tesla as it’s not a problem you should ordinarily be encountering.

  • Stop – Start the Tesla
  • Open – Close Doors on Tesla
  • Check for Extra Weight on Seats

Stop – Start the Tesla

The first solution to the problem is that you power the car off and then back on again. Sometimes the car can power on incorrectly and not have Drive (or Reverse) available.

When you enter the car, your Touchscreen should automatically react. By pressing the brake, the Tesla powers on, and Driving Mode should be available.

However, if this hasn’t happened, then the best option is to power off

  • Select Park
  • Step out of the car and move away

Alternatively:

  • Select Controls
  • Safety
  • Power off

As soon as you press Brake (or the Touchscreen), the car will power On again, and Reverse should be available again.

Open – Close Doors

This is an alternative to Powering off but also works to jog the computers.

  • Step out of the Tesla
  • Close the door behind you
  • Lock and Unlock the car
    • You might have Walk Away Lock activated – if so, you will have to move a small distance away from the car for this to activate.

Once you have Unlocked the car, sit back inside and restart as normal. The reverse should once again be available.

Weight or Object on Seat

This last glitch is slightly unusual but still a viable reason for no reverse action.

When you sit in your Tesla seat, the onboard computers test all safety aspects to start the car.

One of these criteria is the weight pressure on the driver’s seat. If your weight is too light, and the sensors can’t detect a physical presence, then Reverse Mode will not be available (or Drive).

If this is your car and you regularly drive it without issue, then this is obviously not the problem. However, if you have recently introduced a padded seat cover or a cushion to the driver seat, then this could be causing an issue.

Try removing the cushion/cover and selecting Reverse. If this works, then fantastic.

If none of the above quick solutions worked, then we have to dive a bit deeper.

Software Upgrade Required

Tesla sends OTA (Over the Air) updates constantly to improve all aspects of the car and driving ability. Sometimes we notice a new update, sometimes not.

The way your car reacts to updates is defined by your preferences. If you have selected ‘Standard’ over ‘Advanced’ in the Software Update preferences, then updates will automatically update as soon as information becomes available (Model must be posted in 2019).

However, for updates to become available, Wifi must be activated. Sometimes updates run into problems when Wifi connection drops or isn’t strong enough for the OTA to complete.

So what has this to do with my Reverse gear?

If an update is currently being processed, you can’t drive your Tesla. Once the installation is complete, Driving Mode will reactivate.

Checking for an Upgrade

If your Tesla has an upgrade available but you have selected “Standard” in the preferences setting, then you will have to activate the upgrade manually. This can affect your Driving Mode as the upgrade could be a safety issue, and without the upgrade, your Tesla is no longer able to select Drive or Reverse.

If you think an upgrade is required or the car is behaving a little glitchy, you can easily check for updates on the screen.

On the Touchscreen:

  • Select Controls
  • Software
    • Checking for Updates
  • Update available

If an update is available, a download icon (Yellow) will be seen. Full Wifi connection is required to download the update, and the update will be interrupted if the connection is lost midway.

Once the update is downloaded, you can then install the latest software. You can select a convenient time to complete the download (the icon will change color to white).

When the installation begins, you won’t have access to drive your Tesla, and the icon will change color to green. Once the installation begins, you can’t stop or pause it.

Once the installation is complete, the Reverse Mode should be available.

If you have problems with your Touchscreen after installation, it’s worth doing a Hard or Soft Reset.

Hard Reset

  • Put your Tesla in Park
  • Remove any auxiliary items that are plugged in, i.e., phones, USB drives
  • Press and hold the Brake
  • Hold both scroll wheels on your steering wheel for 10-15 seconds
  • The touchscreen will go black
  • Tesla Logo will appear
  • When everything is back fully, your car should be locking without issue

Soft Reset

  • Shift into Park
  • Remove any devices
  • Hold both scroll wheels on the steering wheel for 10-15 seconds
  • The touchscreen turns black
  • Tesla Logo reappears
  • Everything will once again be available

The difference between hard and soft resets is the holding of the Brake. It is never advised to do a soft reset while driving. You are, after all, rebooting the screen, and you should not be distracted from controlling your car in any way while driving.

Bluetooth Problems

Problems can occur with your Bluetooth occasionally and can be especially prevalent after an update.

I know what you’re thinking! I unlocked my Tesla using Bluetooth on my phone, so why would it be a problem and now prevent me from selecting Reverse? Your car unlocking is not using the same technology as it is to start the car.

Everything needs to be correct and safe for your car to start and engage a gear. After an update, sometimes the Bluetooth needs to be reconnected for it to be fully recognized by the system.

To fix this issue, you will need to disconnect and then reconnect your Bluetooth device:

On the touchscreen

  • Select Vehicle
  • Bluetooth
  • Disconnect your device
  • Delete your device
  • Delete the vehicle on your device
  • Now pair the device again

If you use your phone to unlock your Tesla, this is more of an issue. The ‘Phone as a Key’ must be selected in your Tesla App, but like all things tech, settings can sometimes drop off. If the problem continues, try reverting to the Key Card for a few journeys for the system to get back on track.

Call Tesla Service Center

Unfortunately, even after trying all of the above, the Reverse Mode is still unavailable. The last resort is to call Tesla and log the problem with them. How you do this will depend enormously on where your Tesla is located.

  • At home
  • Stranded in a car park or similar

At Home

If you are at home and have no Reverse mode, your best option is to log a call with the Tesla Service Center through the Tesla App.

  • Open the App
  • Select Service
  • In ‘Details,’ give as much information as possible about the problem, including any photos of notifications you might have received.
  • Confirm where your Tesla is located and the date and time that suits best
  • A mobile service will be offered if available
  • Alternatively, you may be requested to bring your car to a local Service Center.
    • This might involve a tow truck.

Stranded in a Carpark or Similar Location (Away from Home)

If, on the other hand, you are away from home and find you can’t select Reverse, you will have to call Roadside Assist. Roadside Assist is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Roadside Assist is organized through the Tesla App.

  • Open your App
  • Select Roadside
  • Select the problem
  • Detail any other additional information
  • Select ‘Request Help’
  • Confirm your location

Your car must be under warranty for you to avail of Roadside Assist. The basic warranty is four years or 50,000 miles, but the Battery and Drive Warranty is slightly longer.

ModelTimeMileage
Model S & Model X8 years150000
Model 3 & Model Y8 years150000
Model 3 (Standard and Standard Range Plus)8 years100000
Model Y (Standard and Standard Range Plus)8 years100000
Model 3 (Long Range and Performance)8 years120000
Model Y (Long Range and Performance)8 years120000

Tow Mode

If you request a Service Call or Roadside Assist and your Tesla can’t be repaired on location, then your car will have to be transferred to Tow Mode.

Once this is selected, it is in roll mode, which allows it to be moved safely onto a car transporter.

To activate tow mode:

  • Put the car in Park
  • Secure the car
  • Press and hold the Brake
  • Onscreen Select Controls
    • Service
    • Towing
  • Press ‘Transport Mode’ until it turns blue
  • To Cancel Shift to Park

The quirk of Tow Mode is that sometimes transferring your Tesla to Tow Mode and back again to Drive Mode allows you to then select Reverse.

However, a word of caution, not being able to select a gear in the first place means, after ruling all other options out, it is indeed a problem that shouldn’t be ignored, and you should definitely have Tesla look at it. It’s always worth trying as a solution, but not worth relying on in the future.

Tesla Override Trick

The final option I’ll offer is a bit of an oddity. If you are having gear problems and can’t seem to get to the bottom of it, Tesla has an override trick that customer service seems to be recommended. And when our gears are not cooperating, we’ll try anything, right?

To shift gears, we press the brake pedal and move the stick up or down for Drive and Reverse.

But we have nothing, no reverse, and this is a problem.

Surprisingly, almost tricking your Tesla into thinking you have switched out your wheel size for an alternative size will, in fact, get your gears working.

To do this, follow these steps:

  • Select Controls
  • Select Service
  • Select Wheel Configuration
    • Warnings will appear – this is ok as it’s only temporary
  • Select an Alternative Size
  • Select Confirm

The screen will then turn off and begin to reboot. When the screen is back up and running, go through the process again and return the wheel size to your actual wheel size.

Again click Confirm. Once again, the screen will Reboot, but this time your Gear Shifter will return to normal.

Tesla explains it as a firmware issue more than likely caused by a connection problem during an OTA. But whatever gets the job done, right?

Other posts you might find useful:

What to do if Tesla screen is black

Tesla won’t go into gear

Tesla mirrors won’t fold

E John Cunningham

Hey, I’m John and I'm a technical writer here at EVjuicedup.com. I’m a Red Seal qualified Auto Service Technician with over twenty-five years experience working on Classic and Modern Cars. I've worked for GM, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Audi, and VW main dealers. Yep, I’ve skint my knuckles on them all!

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