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Tesla's Unsavory Chip

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Sept. 4, 2020—EuroTech Auto Service has two locations in Minnesota and specializes in Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, and recently—Tesla—repairs. 

Cars on the road today have capabilities far beyond our imaginations. The current generation of vehicles serve us in myriad ways, from driverless transportation to en-route reminders to life-saving measures, if need be. 

In order to operate at such a high level, the vehicles need to be controlled by one unit, a brain if you will. All vehicles have a brain of some variation and for Teslas, it is the MCU. 

Seth Thorson is the president of EuroTech Auto Service. EuroTech has two locations in Minnesota that specialize in Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, and recently—Tesla—repairs. 

All Tesla Model S and X vehicles are run by the MCU, or media control unit. It is the main computer and includes the touchscreen, processors, GPS, and most importantly, the short term and long term memory of the vehicle. 

The vehicle’s memory is stored on the embedded multimedia card, more commonly known as the eMMC chip located in the MCU. If the MCU is the vehicle’s brain, then the eMMC acts as the unit’s neurons, firing and giving direction.

Brain surgery is one of the most expensive procedures and similarly, replacing the “brain” of your vehicle is a costly endeavor. 

The memory functions of your vehicle serve you in ways you would never even think of. From documenting which locations you travel to most to your preferred seat adjustment, the memory chip is essential.

As with most things that are usually deemed essential, the eMMC chip has its flaws. The primary issue with these chips is the lack of storage. 

Seth Thorson, president of EuroTech Auto says Tesla’s first mistake is using an eight gigabyte chip. The current eMMC chip, located in the center console of all Tesla Models S and X, can only store eight gigabytes worth of data, says Thorson. A chip of that size fills up very quickly and is compounded by Tesla excessively logging into the chip, according to Chris Salvo, co-owner of Electrified Garage. 


Warning Signs of a Failing Chip:

  • Slow startup

  • Refusal of start up

  • Bluetooth connectivity issues

  • Slow-responding screen

  • Multimedia system issues

  • Failed software updates

  • Slow map rendering

  • Increase in rogue reboots

“It’s like a cat and mouse game,” says Thorson of trying to work on Tesla vehicles. “They are not very forthcoming with information, so they aren’t the easiest [automaker] to work with.”

There are very few shops who have the knowledge and the capabilities to replace this chip, says Thorson. There are a few companies in California who are able to do it as well as Electrified Garage, an exclusive Tesla repair shop in Seabrook, New Hampshire. Eurotech is the only mechanical shop in the Midwest that can perform this replacement procedure. 

At EuroTech, the technicians swap out the less-than-ideal eight gigabyte chip for one four times its size. Thorson’s shop opted for a 32GB eMMC, whereas Salvo’s prefers an industrial grade 16GB eMMC. Both are suitable options for replacement, unless you go directly to Tesla, of course. 

Tesla has created their own chip “replacement,” that is actually “more of the same part that initially failed,” says Thorson. 

Whether you go to Electrified Garage, EuroTech, or Tesla for a replacement, they all charge roughly the same price. For $1,500 you could get a brand new 32gb chip or for $1,200 you could get another inefficient chip straight from the automaker. 

Regardless of which fix you opt for, be vigilant in malfunctioning systems that could indicate your current chip is failing. Not only does your vehicle need one to function, but a malfunctioning chip could be dangerous for everyone in the vehicle and on the road.


Image: Inside EVs

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