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HID Projector Retrofit

riles246

Member
Aug 30, 2019
60
36
NY State
I've had my 2015 Model S for about a month now, and I love almost everything about it. However, coming from a Lexus RX450h with GREAT headlights, I can say that I really don't like the headlights in this car. Overall just not enough light, mainly driven by the fact that the cutoff is really blurred so the lights have to be aimed down more than necessary to prevent blinding oncoming traffic. I live in an extremely dark area, very few streetlights, but enough sporadic car traffic to prevent me from using the high beams most of the time.

I saw that in the past, a guy named Evan was offering a projector retrofit service for a pretty penny (not overpriced- lots of labor and skill, just expensive). However, I'm handy enough to do the project myself and intend to. I've searched the forum and have only found threads relating to Evan's retrofits; just curious if anyone else has DIY'ed a projector retrofit.

If so, which projector did you go with, how easily did it mount in the housing, and how did you like the result?

I'm torn between a modest retrofit reusing the existing bulbs, igniters, and ballasts (i.e. a D1S retrofit, such as the ACME D1S projectors or similar OEM projectors from a different car with better lighting) and going a for a full-blown retrofit kit with great projectors but requiring new of the above. I'll probably even buy a used headlight on ebay for $100 to try as my first, just in case it turns out that I'm over my head. For now I'm leaning towards either a Morimoto retrofit or just sticking with what Evan used- RX350 projectors with STI lenses.

I'll probably do this in the next month or so, since as the days shorten this matters more for my evening and early morning commute.

Thanks!
 

Huachipato

Member
Jul 16, 2019
233
172
Murphy, TX
I used to retrofit headlights as a hobby a few years ago. I did some testing back in the day and concluded that the projector is crucial part of the build. The projector on it's own had a bigger effect on the beam quality and spread than $25 cheap Amazon bulbs/ballast vs. the $130 Morimoto bulb/ballast comparison did. Not to mention that bulbs and ballast are easy to swap out later if needed.

I haven't touched the MS headlights since mine actually are fairly decent in their current form - but thought I'd share from other experiences.
 

Simon_Emes

Member
Sep 25, 2019
101
52
Vienna
Feel you. Coming from a Benz with Matrix lights these are just pathetic. No other word. Don't get why they don't ring up Bosch or someone like them and get decent Metrix lights that allow for full power even with oncoming traffic.
 

krsgio

Member
Nov 8, 2018
371
348
Colorado
I've had my 2015 Model S for about a month now, and I love almost everything about it. However, coming from a Lexus RX450h with GREAT headlights, I can say that I really don't like the headlights in this car. Overall just not enough light, mainly driven by the fact that the cutoff is really blurred so the lights have to be aimed down more than necessary to prevent blinding oncoming traffic. I live in an extremely dark area, very few streetlights, but enough sporadic car traffic to prevent me from using the high beams most of the time.

I saw that in the past, a guy named Evan was offering a projector retrofit service for a pretty penny (not overpriced- lots of labor and skill, just expensive). However, I'm handy enough to do the project myself and intend to. I've searched the forum and have only found threads relating to Evan's retrofits; just curious if anyone else has DIY'ed a projector retrofit.

If so, which projector did you go with, how easily did it mount in the housing, and how did you like the result?

I'm torn between a modest retrofit reusing the existing bulbs, igniters, and ballasts (i.e. a D1S retrofit, such as the ACME D1S projectors or similar OEM projectors from a different car with better lighting) and going a for a full-blown retrofit kit with great projectors but requiring new of the above. I'll probably even buy a used headlight on ebay for $100 to try as my first, just in case it turns out that I'm over my head. For now I'm leaning towards either a Morimoto retrofit or just sticking with what Evan used- RX350 projectors with STI lenses.

I'll probably do this in the next month or so, since as the days shorten this matters more for my evening and early morning commute.

Thanks!
You might find some better info over on hidplanet
 

riles246

Member
Aug 30, 2019
60
36
NY State
I used to retrofit headlights as a hobby a few years ago. I did some testing back in the day and concluded that the projector is crucial part of the build. The projector on it's own had a bigger effect on the beam quality and spread than $25 cheap Amazon bulbs/ballast vs. the $130 Morimoto bulb/ballast comparison did. Not to mention that bulbs and ballast are easy to swap out later if needed.

Good points. I agree, seems the projector is where all the magic will happen.

You might find some better info over on hidplanet

I was secretly hoping for a response along the lines of “I tried 8 projectors and the eighth one matches the bolt pattern perfectly and has a perfect beam pattern” :)

You’re right though, I’ve actually built my confidence to undertake the project by reading that site, makes sense to ask the hid experts.
 

riles246

Member
Aug 30, 2019
60
36
NY State
Would you not be better retro fitting a bi–LED projector?
The Nissan one is better than the OE Tesla xenon setup and fairly cheap if you find some damaged headlights.
Nissan Qashqai 2014-2017 Full LED Passenger Side Left N/S Headlight P//: | eBay

I could be mistaken, but from everything I've read and heard, I believe that it is still generally accepted that HIDs produce more light than LEDs, especially in a retrofit installation. A mid-end to top-end HID would be preferred over an OEM LED. Again, I'm not an expert- it's just what I've been reading.
 
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riles246

Member
Aug 30, 2019
60
36
NY State
Update: I bought the Acme D1S projectors from theretrofitsource. After speaking with their tech support, they aren't going to be amazing like a $200-$300+ projector, but in looking at youtube videos, they look quite good so I decided to take a risk and spend the $30 on them :) They're great because you can re-use the existing bulbs and ballasts, and since I'm under warranty I felt better knowing that it would be impossible to tell that I swapped anything since the project sits in between the front and rear housing of the headlight.

I'll do a before and after, and I'll take enough photos to do a walkthrough in case the results end up being great and people want to do a similar upgrade. I'm budgeting 8 hours for the project, hopefully I'm overestimating but we'll see!
 

Ostrichsak

Active Member
Sep 6, 2018
3,503
3,545
Colorado, USA
Update: I bought the Acme D1S projectors from theretrofitsource. After speaking with their tech support, they aren't going to be amazing like a $200-$300+ projector, but in looking at youtube videos, they look quite good so I decided to take a risk and spend the $30 on them :) They're great because you can re-use the existing bulbs and ballasts, and since I'm under warranty I felt better knowing that it would be impossible to tell that I swapped anything since the project sits in between the front and rear housing of the headlight.

I'll do a before and after, and I'll take enough photos to do a walkthrough in case the results end up being great and people want to do a similar upgrade. I'm budgeting 8 hours for the project, hopefully I'm overestimating but we'll see!
How are you retrofitting a HID projector to a housing that already has an HID projector from the factory?
 

riles246

Member
Aug 30, 2019
60
36
NY State
How are you retrofitting a HID projector to a housing that already has an HID projector from the factory?

Removing the one that came from the factory and replacing with one that doesn't stink :)

To your point, perhaps the thread title should be "refit" rather than "retrofit", though the sentiment is the same.
 

Huachipato

Member
Jul 16, 2019
233
172
Murphy, TX
I thought in 2015 there was the HID and Halogen options? If OP has halogen headlights, then I would think he would need to swap out the reflector bowl and lens for it to be switched over to HID. I doubt the HID housing and lens are the same compared to the HID version.
 

riles246

Member
Aug 30, 2019
60
36
NY State
I thought in 2015 there was the HID and Halogen options? If OP has halogen headlights, then I would think he would need to swap out the reflector bowl and lens for it to be switched over to HID. I doubt the HID housing and lens are the same compared to the HID version.

Actually I do have HIDs. They are just amazingly poor HIDs compared to all other (much less expensive) cars that I've owned. So bad that I'm betting a $30 pair of projectors will trounce the stock projectors!

You're wasting $ and time for a marginal performance improvement at best. At worst your performance will suffer & you'll void your factory warranty on a headlight housing that is known to have issues. Not too bright IMO. (Pun intended)

The only thing worse than stock would be "off", and I don't plan to turn them off. Seriously, they are just awful.

Regarding warranty- I will be using the stock bulbs, ballasts, and wiring (at least at first- I may decide to upgrade those too if I need more light; right now I just need a beam pattern that at least matches the cutoff/pattern in my 2000 Audi A6 from 19 years ago)- the only thing that could be voided on the warranty would be a headlight housing replacement. But headlights are all of $100 on ebay, so if I ever need a headlight housing I'll be ok...
 

Huachipato

Member
Jul 16, 2019
233
172
Murphy, TX
Hmmm... I'm not going to argue - but I thought mine work really well. Not crazy bright and sharp like the retrofits I've done in the past, but not as bad as what you are describing either.

I had a similar experience of one of my prior cars, and just putting new bulbs in showed quite an improvement. I now wonder if the bulbs lose their brightness with use and age? Perhaps new ballast and bulbs would provide a boost in performance on their own?

Curious to hear how it plays out either way.
 

krsgio

Member
Nov 8, 2018
371
348
Colorado
Hmmm... I'm not going to argue - but I thought mine work really well. Not crazy bright and sharp like the retrofits I've done in the past, but not as bad as what you are describing either.

I had a similar experience of one of my prior cars, and just putting new bulbs in showed quite an improvement. I now wonder if the bulbs lose their brightness with use and age? Perhaps new ballast and bulbs would provide a boost in performance on their own?

Curious to hear how it plays out either way.
bulbs lose their brightness and with as often as my headlights kick on randomly for just parking in my garage, early morning, ect I wouldn't be surprised if the lumens are already fading after a couple of years. That's the one thing I dislike about my Tesla is that the auto light sensitivity seems too high. I'd rather not have the wear and tear on my ballast/bulbs kicking on when I simply pull into my garage late afternoon. Almost wish there was a check box to enable with homelink to not turn on my lights when I'm arriving home pulling into a shaded garage. in most cases the DRL are plenty bright enough if I needed any additional lighting assistance parking late day.
Off topic, but the LED headlights on my wife’s Model 3 are amazing. I can see a major difference between those and my 2014 model S
I can almost bet you'd benefit greatly from changing your bulbs.
 

Ostrichsak

Active Member
Sep 6, 2018
3,503
3,545
Colorado, USA
Actually I do have HIDs. They are just amazingly poor HIDs compared to all other (much less expensive) cars that I've owned. So bad that I'm betting a $30 pair of projectors will trounce the stock projectors!

The only thing worse than stock would be "off", and I don't plan to turn them off. Seriously, they are just awful.

Regarding warranty- I will be using the stock bulbs, ballasts, and wiring (at least at first- I may decide to upgrade those too if I need more light; right now I just need a beam pattern that at least matches the cutoff/pattern in my 2000 Audi A6 from 19 years ago)- the only thing that could be voided on the warranty would be a headlight housing replacement. But headlights are all of $100 on ebay, so if I ever need a headlight housing I'll be ok...

I know you think they suck but they're quite serviceable actually. On a long list of things I'd like improved or changed about these cars the factory HIDs are near the bottom.

You're chasing a few percentage points improvement and in doing so could actually lose a few percentage points of current performance. Especially if you're hacking up your stock headlight to change out the projector for an aftermarket projector. "Trounce" the stock projector? ROFL someone spent WAAAAAY too much time on the phone with someone in sales from the company selling replacement projectors.

Listen, it's your car so you can do whatever the hell you want. Just be sure to take lots of before/after pictures and readings and actually measure the light gains. If I had a dime every time someone on a forum wasted money on a headlight "upgrade" and come back talking about how it "looks" so much better only to see they ruined their light pattern I'd be rich. There's SO much more than goes into headlights and the light output than you probably imagine. These Chinese companies cranking out cheap HID and LED replacement parts don't understand the first thing about engineering/R&D.

Trounce he says. Hilarous!
 

Shadious

Member
Jan 11, 2018
375
241
Florida
I know you think they suck but they're quite serviceable actually. On a long list of things I'd like improved or changed about these cars the factory HIDs are near the bottom.

You're chasing a few percentage points improvement and in doing so could actually lose a few percentage points of current performance. Especially if you're hacking up your stock headlight to change out the projector for an aftermarket projector. "Trounce" the stock projector? ROFL someone spent WAAAAAY too much time on the phone with someone in sales from the company selling replacement projectors.

Listen, it's your car so you can do whatever the hell you want. Just be sure to take lots of before/after pictures and readings and actually measure the light gains. If I had a dime every time someone on a forum wasted money on a headlight "upgrade" and come back talking about how it "looks" so much better only to see they ruined their light pattern I'd be rich. There's SO much more than goes into headlights and the light output than you probably imagine. These Chinese companies cranking out cheap HID and LED replacement parts don't understand the first thing about engineering/R&D.

Trounce he says. Hilarous!
Good point- I’d add to that to take some simple before and after pics with just a lightbulb change. You may be impressed with the difference and scratch the rest of the project and spend the extra money on a few beers!
 
Apr 6, 2019
30
14
UK
I could be mistaken, but from everything I've read and heard, I believe that it is still generally accepted that HIDs produce more light than LEDs, especially in a retrofit installation. A mid-end to top-end HID would be preferred over an OEM LED. Again, I'm not an expert- it's just what I've been reading.

LED’s can produce less lumens at source (point of light creation) however more of that light can be directed to the road (depending on light optics - like HID there are good and bad)

So on the road they are often brighter as they are more efficient.
Plus on the Tesla the HID’s produce less than 2000 lumens so they don’t have to fit self levelling and headlight washers in Europe.
 

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