What Is Tesla's Sentry Mode?

The EV maker's signature vehicle-security feature explained.

Exterior of Tesla building with four Tesla vehicles parked outside.Tesla


Tesla's approach to vehicle security includes Sentry Mode, a vehicle-monitoring system intended to provide its electric vehicles an extra level of protection compared with other cars.

Sentry Mode keeps a Tesla vehicle's built-in cameras and proximity sensors activated even while the vehicle is parked or turned off, so they can detect and help prevent theft, break-ins, vandalism, and other criminal activity. Although the cameras and sensors are generally used while driving for things such as lane-departure warnings and object avoidance, in Sentry Mode this tech might also give you some peace of mind when your car is unattended.

Interior of Tesla Model 3 with seats and infotainment screen lit upTesla

How Sentry Mode Works

Sentry Mode has two stages. First, if the program detects a minor interaction, such as accidental contact with the vehicle, it will enter Alert status, displaying a warning message on the infotainment screen and recording the incident for your review later.

Second, if the system detects a more severe threat, it will enable an alarm protocol, sounding a warning and flashing the car's headlights, similar to a more traditional car alarm. The vehicle can also save a video recording of the incident from all onboard cameras.

Many Sentry Mode features can be accessed through the Tesla mobile app, and you can remotely monitor live feeds from your car's various cameras. According to the Model 3 owner's manual, when you're using the live camera feed, the vehicle at various points will flash its lights and display text on the infotainment screen to let people in the area know that the area is being surveyed via cameras.

Tesla also notes that your vehicle's battery must be at least 20% charged for Sentry Mode to engage and that there will likely be some extra power required to run the safety feature. Sentry Mode generally requires an external USB drive, so the amount of video it can save at one time will depend on the amount of memory you have equipped.

White Tesla Model 3 in parking lot with trees in the background.Tesla

The Benefits of Sentry Mode

While traditional car-alarm systems can be good security tools, Tesla's added surveillance features could be even more effective. The 360-degree field of view is likely to capture virtually any theft attempt, for example.

Additionally, if a potential thief is aware that Sentry Mode can notify your phone of anything suspicious that's happening around the vehicle in real time, they might be less likely to target your car.

Close-up view of passenger-side white Tesla Model 3 tire and side-view mirror.Tesla

Surveillance Considerations

Despite the benefits that Sentry Mode offers, government officials in more than one country have raised concerns regarding the system's surveillance aspects and privacy ramifications. In certain areas of China, for example, use of Sentry Mode as a security tool has been questioned and, in some cases, banned.

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Brennan Sullivan
Brennan Sullivan is a writer and lifelong car fanatic. With an appreciation for all makes and models, Brennan is particularly passionate about the rich history of the automotive industry. In his spare time, he's the caretaker of a 1962 Sunbeam Alpine, and a Golden Retriever named Willow.