Owning a Tesla car has many perks. Fully electric? Check. Two Trunks? Check. The famous touchscreen interface and automatic updates? Check. Yes, Tesla really does provide over the internet updates to your car. If you are technologically equipped you may be wondering what else you can do with the Tesla’s computer through jailbreaking.
Take out your scientific calculators and maybe your abacus too. Whether you are a jailbreaking pro or novice, you should read on to learn all about how to jailbreak and hack your Tesla (and some good reasons why you should not).
Disclaimer: We do not recommend, or advise, anyone to jailbreak their Tesla. This article is simply an educational piece, and the content is speculative. We do not take responsibility for any potential issues that come as a result of jailbreaking, or attempting to jailbreak, a Tesla.
Steps to Jailbreak Your Tesla
So you want to move forward with jailbreaking your Tesla? Well, take some notes and get ready for some tricky steps! Your mileage may vary on the usability of these steps as Tesla is actively combatting jailbreakers through software updates. You can jailbreak any Tesla vehicle, including:
- Model S
- Model 3
- Model X
- Model Y
- The future Tesla Roadster and Cybertruck
To jailbreak your Tesla means that you are hacking the software to access features you did not pay for or to load programs and capabilities to the car that are not native to the software. Perhaps you have experience jailbreaking other devices with locked out software, such as:
- iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches
- Android phones and tablets
- Computers and laptops (including Macs)
- Other devices with proprietary software
With all your jailbreaking experience, you now would like to dabble with jailbreaking your Tesla. However keep in mind, Tesla cars are on a whole different price tier than iPhones and computers, so tread carefully!
The steps to jailbreak any of the Tesla vehicles are below. Be careful and aware of the potential downsides. Also, always look around for updated steps because Tesla routinely updates their software to prevent jailbreaking.
Access the Hidden Ethernet Port in the Tesla’s Dashboard
Yes, your Tesla has a hidden ethernet port on its dashboard. How dare your car keep that hidden from you! However, it is not a standard ethernet cable. You cannot just go to your local electronics store and buy an off-the-shelf ethernet cord, it has to have the correct pin-out to work with your Tesla.
This takes some technical know-how, but you will need to do some custom wiring into an RJ45 cable to get the correct pin-out setup. You can check out some how-to guides online to learn how to do this properly. Or ask a friend that is great with electronics for help, most people “know a guy”. Here is what is unique about the cable connector:
- It is only a 4-pin header
- The 5th pin is not used
- Pins 1, 2, 3, & 4 must be used and wired properly
The Tesla’s ethernet port is usually located in the driver’s footwell but may vary based on the model and year. It could even be located completely under the dash, requiring you to snap back the panels. Once you have your cable ready, plug connect it up to the Tesla ethernet port!
Connect Your Laptop to Your Tesla with the Custom Ethernet Cable
This is where things get a bit tricky. So you have your customer ethernet cable attached to your Tesla and the other end connected to your laptop, now what? Now you will have to mess around with the IP address and advanced network settings to get things going.
Be warned, this takes knowing some advanced tech/IT skills. If that does not sound like your wheelhouse, you can still back out now.
Hardcode the IP Address on Your Laptop
You will have to hardcode your computer to a specific IP and Subnet address to communicate with your Tesla once you have everything connected together. Once you successfully accomplished this, you will gain access and be able to see certain hardware and aspects of the Tesla serial console, including:
- The ethernet switch
- CID and RAM
- eMMC flash memory
- FTDI serial interface
- CAN to ethernet gateway
Granted, the above is VERY technical and if you do not already understand what all of these terms mean, you are a fish-out-of-water and should probably stop fishing around with your Tesla.
Next Steps to Jailbreak your Tesla
There is not a lot of public information on how exactly you can use your laptop to jailbreak your Tesla. Tesla very often updates their software to prevent jailbreaking.
You would need updated IP addresses, methods to get around the latest Tesla updates, and steps related to your specific model and year. Instead of detailing the hundreds of variations of jailbreaking steps here, you should go out and find information specific to your car on detailed technical forums that have experts.
Here are some great forums where you can find specific walk-throughs for jailbreaking:
- Tesla Motors Club
- Rich Rebuilds on YouTube
Remember, Tesla does not want you to jailbreak their cars. If you need help, do not even think about contacting Tesla. They also actively try to stop the spread of information relating to how to jailbreak their cars, and for good reasons, which include the following:
- It can reduce the functionality of the Tesla and potentially malfunction resulting in damage or harm.
- It can allow precarious thieves easier access to backdoors and allow them to more easily steal the car.
- The company loses money on the upgrades, like the Performance package, if you access it through jailbreaking instead of paying for it.
Alternative Step: Phone a Friend (or Acquaintance)
You may be reading this post and thinking: IP address, custom pin-out ethernet cable, am I in over my head? If this sounds like you, then you should probably not try to jailbreak your Tesla all alone.
Chances are you know someone or know someone that knows someone else, that can be of assistance to you. Your ideal jailbreaking friend should have experience in IT and be willing to help you do some jailbreaking.
Ask them nicely for help, and maybe offer to take them for a spin to a nice restaurant once your Tesla is jailbroken. Do not make yourself do this alone if you are inexperienced when it comes to technology and computers.
Can you Hack a Tesla to Unlock Features?
Yes, it is possible to “hack” your Tesla to unlock additional features. The method of hacking to accomplish this is the process of jailbreaking. If you implemented jailbreaking on your Tesla, you can now apply the title of “hacker” to yourself. Go forth, update your LinkedIn profile and resume with your newfound hacking skill.
Here is a shortlist of features that others have unlocked through hacking their Teslas:
- Accessing a Firefox web browser
- High-Performance Mode
- Full Self-Driving
- Third Party Apps
The Tesla computer contains all the components a computer does, however it has its own custom software that is a proprietary Linux operating system. Since it is a “full computer”, the possibilities of hacking to achieve other features are near endless. If you are a hacking expert, you could type documents, play games, or even watch videos.
Unfortunately, this is where our jailbreaking instructions end, and our “talk you out of it” begins.
Unethical Hacking of Teslas
Besides you being able to hack your own Tesla to unlock additional features, shady suspects could also illegally hack your Tesla for dubious intents, including theft! If you came here to learn how to hack/jailbreak a Tesla to steal one, you have come to the wrong place. Do not do that.
There have been reports of hackers re-coding key fobs and stealing the code from Tesla’s owner’s key fobs with Bluetooth devices and using it to quickly complete grand theft auto of Teslas. Of course, Tesla has rolled out updates to prevent and combat this.
Hacking key fobs are not a new thing, however, when it comes to Tesla, it is a bit more complicated. The Tesla keyfob is more advanced than a regular key fob and includes an advanced level of encryption to prevent this. However, hackers still try, and do, find ways around this.
Since all Tesla vehicles can connect to the Tesla mobile app, this is another method that hackers can take advantage of. If they hack into your Tesla app account, they could potentially take control through the Smart Summon feature in the app!
Is Jailbreaking Your Tesla Illegal?
Since you are learning how to jailbreak your Tesla, you may be wondering if it is even legal to do so. The answer is a tricky one as there are no specific laws that state jailbreaking of devices is illegal.
However, since you can gain access to features you would normally have to pay lots of money for through jailbreaking, Tesla may have a case for suing you to recoup their lost money by gaining access to the features that you “stole”.
Rightly so, Tesla will be upset that you “stole” features without paying the cost that is due. Even Tesla owners that paid for these features will more than likely look down on you for trying to game the system.
Is Jailbreaking Your Tesla Worth it?
Is it even worth it? Because of all the potential downsides, pitfalls, it being borderline illegal, and potentially unethical, it is not worth it to jailbreak your Tesla.
It is best to pay for the features you want and not mess around with your prized car and void the warranty. Unless you have a salvaged Tesla (one that has been deactivated by Tesla because it was totaled) that you are trying to get up and running again, you should probably not jailbreak your Tesla.
Imagine losing all the nice features Tesla has to offer because you are attempting to jailbreak it to gain more features. This is entirely the opposite of what you are wanting to accomplish. It is highly recommended to stay on the safer path, pay for the software features you want, and do not destroy your access to other standard features.
Tesla’s Attempts to Keep Your Tesla “in Jail”
Since you are learning how to jailbreak your Tesla, you might want to know what Tesla has been doing to combat it. In 2020, Tesla announced that they would be implementing software updates to prevent jailbreaking and took a stern stance on the matter.
Here are some of the details on Tesla’s jailbreaking prevention policy announcement and policies they implemented:
- They enhance and increased network security
- They required all Tesla vehicles to updated to the most recent software (not immediately, but by a certain date).
If Tesla owners decide not to update their Tesla vehicles by the demanded date, they will be hit with the following slaps on the wrist:
- Your Tesla car will no longer receive over-the-air updates to the software.
- You will no longer be able to access the Tesla app and features in the app.
- You will no longer be able to receive streaming content, use voice commands, or use other network features.
If you are desperately trying to update your Tesla and it keeps failing, you should schedule a Tesla service appointment by contacting their customer service so you can continue to use all your features.
Tesla rolled out this software update policy to specifically combat jailbreaking of their cars. They invest lots of money into network security to prevent jailbreaking and will continue to do so. If you have not already jailbroken your Tesla, it will become increasingly harder to do so. Good luck in the future!
Keep this in mind while you follow steps on how-to jailbreak your Tesla as things can quickly change with software updates!
What Are Some Reasons People Jailbreak Their Teslas?
So why would you want to know how to jailbreak your Tesla? Maybe you want to change the background of the screen to a picture of Elon Musk or root the software to let you play Pacman?
There are many reasons, but the main reason for jailbreaking Teslas is because the company will downgrade the software of used Teslas and limit your capabilities, for example:
- You buy a used Tesla with Full Self-Driving but after your purchase, Tesla will push an update to invalidate the feature (requiring you to buy it again)
After deactivating the feature, Tesla will require payment of around $10k for the Full Self-Driving feature. Well, that is frustrating! They justify it by stating that only the original owner paid for the feature, and since you are a new owner you must pay for it too. This situation is common and whether it is right or wrong is a different discussion.
Be warned: jailbreaking your Tesla can (and probably will) void the warranty on your car. It can also prevent you from receiving new updates/upgrades to your car that Tesla will push to their vehicles routinely. It could also be illegal and/or unethical to jailbreak it.
Jailbreaking Your Tesla out of Frustration
Tesla slapping an extra fee sounds like they are nickel-and-diming used Tesla owners. Just put yourself in the used owner’s shoes- they bought the used Tesla thinking they would get all the features for the price they paid. So, instead of paying the extra money, they learn how to jailbreak their Teslas to access the features.
Since the new used-Tesla owners are surprised by this extra fee, it leads some of them to jailbreak their Tesla to access Full Self-Driving instead of forking over the extra, unexpected $10,000.
Other reasons people learn how to jailbreak their Teslas are just for the fun of it or because they want to access other things with their car. Want to watch Netflix while you are cruising down the highway? That may be possible with jailbreaking, but could also land you in jail.
Why You Should Not Jailbreak Your Tesla
I know, I know, you are here to learn how to Jailbreak your Tesla, but before you do it you should understand the negative repercussions first. Your Tesla is a valuable asset and surely you do not want to bring undue harm to it! Stop and learn this first.
Here are some reasons why you should not jailbreak your Tesla:
- Jailbreaking voids the factory warranty
- Jailbreaking causes your Tesla’s value to drop significantly
- You will no longer be able to receive updates
- You can accidentally make your Tesla unusable in your jailbreaking attempt
- You will upset Elon Musk…
Note- if the Tesla you purchased is a salvaged car, meaning it was damaged enough, i.e. totaled, by an insurance company to be considered a loss, then jailbreaking it might be a good practice. Tesla will deactivate the car permanently if it is totaled. Once you repair it, jailbreaking may be the only way to get it fully functioning again.