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HOW TO: Replace Headlights in Refresh (2016+) Model S

Cheburashka

Active Member
Jan 29, 2018
2,201
2,612
Los Gatos, CA
So like many others, I've been having issues with my DRLs "burning out" on my Model S. I'm on my 4th set of headlights now. Tesla has changed revisions of the headlights throughout the years and we are now on revision F (mid 2021). Let's hope that the problem doesn't come back.

The DRL's themselves are non-repairable. My understanding is what happens when they go out or yellow, is they desolder themselves from the circuit board and melt the light tube around them. The LEDs are tiny, so you won't be able to solder them back on with amateur soldering equipment. To top it all off, these lights are sealed with incredibly stout adhesive and are difficult to work with.

Anyway, you need to either get a new headlight from Tesla, eBay, dismantlers, w/e. The good thing is the different revisions are easily replaceable with no programming needed. In this case Tesla already replaced one side with the new revision and I'm replacing the other one myself.

The job is pretty easy if you can wrench a bit. One caveat is I really recommend a second set of hands for putting the bumper back on.

The only tools you need are:
- T25 screwdriver
- 10mm socket with a wobble extension
- small flathead screwdriver (for removing the plastic clips)

To begin you must remove the bumper. The only exception being that if you have a very early 2016/AP1 car. In that case you can just loosen the bumper, peel it back a bit, and get at the headlight with your 10mm extension. At some point mid-2016 Tesla introduced a new bracket under the bumper which needs to come off to do this job.

I won't bore you with the process to remove the bumper since there is already a great video about how to do it on YouTube here:

In short, you need to:
- Pop the front trim piece in front of the frunk tub and remove 4 10mm bolts
- Remove 4 10mm bolts under the car (the ones closest to the edges on the car)
- Remove 2 T25 screws inside the wheel wells.
- Remove 6 clips from the underside of the car at the front
- Once that is done the entire bumper cover comes off. Make sure to start taking it off on the drivers side first, as the pass side will have less slack due to the wiring harness on that side. You can set the bumper down on a moving blanket.

You also need to remove the side trim piece in the frunk, as shown below. The rubber stop/grommet thing actually unscrews by hand, then you can unclip that whole piece.

I used cheap plastic ramps ($50 from Amazon) under my front wheels to raise the car a bit and make the job easier.

So this is what the car looks like with the bumper off. You need to use your 10mm socket to remove these bolts (they are already removed in the picture).
The headlight has 4 bolts holding it in. 2 on top, one on the side (in the bumper hold bracket), and one on the bottom. To make the job easier I also removed two bolts holding the front quarterpanel.
1615567963337.png


Now at this point your headlight will be loose, you can disconnect the connector at the back by pressing in on the side of it closest to the center of the car.

You still won't be able to pull it out as there is a bracket in the way. On the drivers side of the car, this bracket is right on top of the radar. Here is where you'll need your wobble extension and a 10mm to take it out. Only one bolt holds it in.

1615568105943.png


Once that is off you can now slide the headlight forward and wiggle it around a bit and it will come out.

Installation is in reverse of the process. Pretty easy.
- Put new headlight in
- Connect it, test to make sure it works
- Put the bracket back on
- Put headlight bolts in
- Put the rest of the bolts in
- Put bumper back

I highly recommend a second set of hands for putting the bumper back on. Taking it off yourself is easy if you start from one side.

All in this should take only about an hour even if you're not experienced in removing the bumper.
 
Last edited:

nomis_nehc

Member
Jul 9, 2018
190
134
Rancho Cucamonga
Thanks for this, I am still debating if I should have Tesla replace it, or at this point just order a replacement and do it myself. Where did you get your replacement? Ordered from Tesla? If so, how much was just the part?
 

rubyteg01

Member
Jun 13, 2020
5
5
Ohio
I was at Tesla service today for tires and I asked them about my headlights. Both LED drl are partially burned out. I have been through 2 replacements on each side. They said the new F revision is in the newer cars and they have seen less people coming in for problems. They also said labor was about $58 for each headlight. The major cost is the headlight.

I did see a new in the box headlight with the F revision for $1300 on ebay. A lot of the used headlights are D revision or have broken tabs. I am waiting to see if any F revisions fail before paying for new lights. So please if you have a failure of the F revision light please post. Thanks.
 
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Cheburashka

Active Member
Jan 29, 2018
2,201
2,612
Los Gatos, CA
I was at Tesla service today for tires and I asked them about my headlights. Both LED drl are partially burned out. I have been through 2 replacements on each side. They said the new F revision is in the newer cars and they have seen less people coming in for problems. They also said labor was about $58 for each headlight. The major cost is the headlight.

I did see a new in the box headlight with the F revision for $1300 on ebay. A lot of the used headlights are D revision or have broken tabs. I am waiting to see if any F revisions fail before paying for new lights. So please if you have a failure of the F revision light please post. Thanks.

The "F" revision pop up on eBay for less as well, just have to watch for it. Still unclear if they fixed the issue as they haven't been out for long enough at this point. I got mine for around $300.

I think one broken tab might be ok, two or more I wouldn't bother unless you intend on repairing them as the headlight will be loose.
 

elioloco

New Member
Apr 26, 2021
1
0
Miami, FL
Hey so just to be clear because i saw this on another post, im planning on doing the swapping myself since im out of warranty (2016 model ) but i was advised that reprogramming will be needed after the swap for the headlight to work , this is false right ? Just swap and good to go ? . Thanks
 

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