Tesla’s Screen Failure Hasn’t Prompted a Recall—Yet

While upcoming refreshes are giving Tesla’s EVs more range and added features, the automaker continues to struggle with build quality issues. The Model 3, for example, is dealing with its bumpers flying off. And the Model Y continues to suffer paint issues that previously plagued the Model 3 and Model S. Speaking of the Tesla Model S, it and the Model X have their own share of problems. Specifically, one involving their touchscreens. And it’s an issue that could see Tesla’s screens getting a recall.

The Tesla Model S and Model X screen woes

The 2020 Tesla Model S' white front seats, black dashboard, and central screen
2020 Tesla Model S interior | Tesla

Part of the Tesla Model S’s and Model X’s appeal, as with the EV company’s other cars, is the large central interior screen. Although some automakers are returning to physical buttons and knobs, Tesla goes full-on for touchscreens. And not just for its infotainment system, but for things like A/C and seat warmers, too.

Naturally, that makes the screen extremely important for Tesla owners to properly operate their vehicles. That’s becoming a problem for some Model S and Model X owners because their screens are failing. And while initially, this appeared to be limited to 2012-2015 Tesla Model Ss, Car and Driver reports, screen failure reports have steadily increased. It’s gotten to the point that owners filed a lawsuit over the problem.

The 2020 Tesla Model S's wood-look dashboard and central screen
2020 Tesla Model S wood-look dashboard | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

To be fair, this isn’t the first time Tesla’s screens have caused owner headaches, The Drive reports. Part of the problem is that the automaker’s large touchscreens weren’t originally designed for use in cars. Specifically, the screens suffered from high thermal loads (read ‘they got hotter than expected’), which caused trim and internal damage.

This new Tesla screen issue, though, appears to be something separate, Automotive News reports. Some owners have reported everything from longer response and start-up times to complete touchscreen failure, Roadshow reports. Others losing their backup camera display, as well as a loss of defogging functions.  This problem also stops the Tesla Model S’s and Model X’s Autopilot and turn signal chimes from going off. With how vital signaling and warning signs are to Autopilot users, this is understandably worrying.

Is there going to be a Tesla Model S and Model X screen recall?

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This Tesla screen issue hasn’t appeared out of nowhere. The NHTSA opened an investigation into it back in July 2020, Reuters reports. Initially, Tesla believed the problem centered around 63,000 Model Ss, built in the 2012-2015 range.

However, since then Tesla has expanded the number of potentially-affected EVs, Autoblog reports. It’s possible as many as 159,000 vehicles built prior to March 2018 can suffer screen failure, Business Insider reports. And while Tesla initially thought it was only the Model S that was affected, it’s since included the Model X as well.

RELATED: Does the New Tesla Model S Really Have a 400-Mile Range?

As a result of its findings, the NHTSA has changed its initial investigation into an engineering analysis, Reuters reports. According to the agency, the screen failure rate is as high as 30% of total production “’ in certain build months,’” Roadshow reports. Also, the failure rate accelerates after the Tesla Model S or Model X passes 3-4 years on the road.

Part of the problem is with the memory-control unit hardware Tesla chose for its screen, AN reports. The screen’s processor uses flash memory, which has a finite lifespan.

As of this writing, the NHTSA hasn’t issued a formal recall for Tesla’s screens. However, based on the results of the engineering analysis, one may be forthcoming. It all depends on whether the NHTSA finds that the screen’s design and faults constitute a safety defect, Consumer Reports explains.

What can owners do in the meantime?

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To be fair, Tesla has acknowledged the screen failures and is replacing faulty MCUs. Officially, though, it’s not a recall, but a “warranty adjustment program.” Only Model Ss and Model Xs delivered within the last 8 years and with fewer than 100,000 driven miles are eligible for the warranty work, Autoblog reports. Several owners of afflicted Teslas have had to pay for the new parts out of pocket.

Unfortunately, until the NHTSA or Tesla officially announces a recall, that’s little that afflicted Tesla Model S and Model X owners can do. But if Tesla refuses to honor an NHTSA recall request, the agency can hold a public debate on the subject, Cars.com reports. At that point, owners are free to join in.

RELATED: The Most Surprising Recall Facts You Should Know

In the meantime, if your Tesla’s screen is failing, get it to a mechanic as soon as possible. If that’s not possible, avoid driving it for your own and everyone else’s personal safety.

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