The dreaded Black Screen of Death is every Tesla owner’s nightmare. Just about to go somewhere, and you realize your worst fear. No screen! Don’t panic; it’s usually an easy fix. Read on to find out what to do.
To fix a black unresponsive Tesla screen, try a soft reboot. For pre-2018 Teslas, an MCU upgrade may also be required.
In this article, we’ll look at ways to fix your Tesla black screen and also reasons why it is happening.
Tesla Black Screen Soft Reboot
The easiest way to bring your Black Screen of Death back to life is with a Soft Reboot of your Tesla. It’s not as scary as you imagine. Our Teslas are, in reality, high-spec computers, and we wouldn’t think twice about restarting our home computer if it froze or was acting peculiarly. So let’s dive right in and do that Soft Update:
- Vehicle Stopped in Park
- Hold down both scroll wheels for 10 seconds
- Wait for the Tesla logo to appear
- After approximately 30 seconds, the screen should be working again as normal
If your Tesla has an older MCU (in pre-2018 models), the Soft Reboot is slightly different because you press the two buttons above the scroll and hold for 10 seconds. Again after 30 seconds or so, the Tesla Logo will appear, and all is well.
A soft reboot should, in theory, sort out your problem. It’s usually just a minor glitch that the reboot will fix. If it hasn’t worked or is continually failing, something else is amiss. Let’s take a look at what that might be.
MCU (Media Control Unit) Requires an Update
The MCU (Media Control Unit runs the touchscreen in your Tesla. The MCU upgrade is only applicable to a certain amount of Teslas. The Model S and Model X pre-2018 are all equipped with the MCU1. The Model 3 and Model Y all began life with the MCU2. If you own a Model 3 or Model Y, the MCU probably does not cause your Black Screen of Death.
The Model S and Model X are covered under warranty for the upgrade if your car is less than eight years old and has less than 100,000 miles on it.
Let’s briefly look at what the MCU does. It controls the touchscreen in your Tesla and runs the Navigation, Audio, entertainment, and HVAC system.
Within the MCU is the eMMC (embedded MultiMedia Card), which is the item that is failing and causing your screen to blackout. Like all technology over the last 15-20 years, Tesla tech has progressed at breakneck speed.
The touchscreen was expected to last 5-6 years with daily use, which in reality is half the age of the average car in the US. NHTSA insisted that the failure of the eMMC was a safety risk and that a full recall must be done, excluding the vehicles that had already had the upgrade.
The original MCU1 uses NVIDIA CPU with an 8GB eMMC. It simply became too small to cope with the tech it was trying to run. After the NHTSA insisted on a recall, Tesla upgraded the eMMC to 64GB for free. This wasn’t, however, an MCU upgrade.
This upgrade, from MCU1 to MCU2, is available but for $1500 – $2000. Depending on how you use and drive your Tesla, you may feel that you don’t need your MCU upgrade. But like everything, if you don’t keep the software and hardware up to date, it quickly becomes obsolete.
In February 2022, the 3G network was no longer available to Tesla owners, and a modem upgrade was required for continued connectivity. This upgrade costs approximately $500, but realistically, if you’re considering upgrading your modem, you should consider the full MCU upgrade.
Checking which MCU is installed
It can be easily checked if you’re unsure which MCU is installed in your Tesla.
- Select Software
- Additional Vehicle Information
- NVIDIA is MCU1
- Intel / Atom is MCU2
You might be unsure of the MCU model for a few reasons. You might just have never enquired before, as you had no reason to. Or you might have recently bought a used pre-2018 Tesla. Unless it’s a Model S or X, you shouldn’t have a problem. But the Tesla you have bought may or may not have already had an upgrade, so it’s good to check.
If it hasn’t, it is worth investing the money as going forward; some options may no longer be available to you. Tesla has already started to install the MCU3 in some models, and it’s uncertain whether you can upgrade from an MCU1 – MCU3.
Black Screen with the MCU2 is Installed
You might still be having touchscreen problems even with the MCU2 upgrade. Third-party apps or multi-device plug-ins could cause this.
Tesla’s, as I say, are just computers on wheels. Over time, more companies have come on board, offering all kinds of extra apps for music streaming or games. This can sometimes interfere with the main running of your Tesla software.
If you have screen issues, I’d advise looking at what you have installed. It is usually a quick fix requiring an update to one of the apps. I’d also recommend a Soft Reboot after to ensure everything is in order.
Your Black Screen of Death can sometimes be caused by too much being asked of it. If you use any type of computer, you will experience a freeze at some stage because you tried to do too many things at once or asked the computer to do it too quickly. The same can be said for your Tesla. When a lot happens simultaneously, your Tesla can just have a Brain Fart and say ‘Nope!’.
You might have a couple of phones plugged in and a device that plays music through a USB cable, and you’re also asking it to locate the nearest juice bar!
Try unplugging everything and go for a Soft Reboot. Everything should realign and work again. If this is a problem you frequently have, you might consider a Tela Service Check.
Tesla Factory Reset
A factory reset is to be given a long and serious thought. It is, in effect, resetting your car back to leaving the Tesla factory. All your presets, saved options, including locations, and all personal data, will be erased. It is worth a shot if you feel that you have tried everything and are still experiencing problems.
- Select Controls
- Select Service
- Select Factory Reset
- You will be asked to confirm your account details before proceeding as a security measure.
If you are not happy to take this leap of faith, then a Service Center Appointment is the next best option. They may have to do a factory reset anyway, but at least they do it, and you don’t have to consider the stress. You can easily log an appointment by going to your Tesla App.
- Select Service
- Select what most suits your issue
- In the ‘Details’ area
- Describe what problems you are experiencing
- When it has occurred
- How often
- Select a time that suits
- Ensure all contact information is correct
I probably wouldn’t mention the problem as the Black Screen of Death but more so that the touchscreen gives trouble.
I’ve written a ton on common Tesla issues, which hopefully you won’t ever experience, but if you do, we have you covered with these posts:
Check out the Tesla troubleshooting page for problem Teslas.
Check out the Tesla charging page for common Tesla charging problems.
Check out the Tesla category page for a list of popular Tesla posts.
If you are curious about other EV models, check out the EV FAQ category.
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