TMC is an independent, primarily volunteer organization that relies on ad revenue to cover its operating costs. Please consider whitelisting TMC on your ad blocker or making a Paypal contribution here: paypal.me/SupportTMC

Optimized Optics: High Performance Headlights, Improved Output & Improved Aesthetics

Discussion in 'Model S' started by ucsbwsr, Mar 9, 2016.

  1. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    104
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Optimized Optics: High Performance Headlights, Improved Output & Improved Aesthetics

    Greetings,

    First post here so I better make it a good one! I like to modify headlights, doing so brings be a lot of enjoyment because with a well executed build I am able to improve function and performance at the same time. My main goal once I get inside a headlight it to optimize the lighting performance first and foremost, there are many headlight gurus who will open up a headlight and just paint, add LEDs, or do a clear lense swap, this is great and all but it pains me when all that "custom" work is done but the lighting performance, for the most part, is untouched (clear lens swap is a step in the right direction), there is so much to gain when a high quality projector is tuned and installed.

    I recently got my hand on a set of Tesla Model S headlights to do some testing and experimenting. I am a huge fan of the overall design of the headlamps and appreciate the simple layout: LED DRL, LED turn signal, and Bi-Xenon projector ...awesome, all you need IMO. Since the DRL and signal have their respective diffusers and there is no ugly high-beam bowl, you can paint the housing as you wish with no deterioration in performance which I very much appreciate.

    From what I gather, Tesla Model S & Roadster owners are underwhelmed with the performance of their headlights (especially the roadster) so I was eager to get the headlight open and see what components Tesla used. The ballasts are 35w and bulbs D1S, both Osram. The projector has no markings on it but out of the popular projector brands on the market: Bosch, Hella, Koito, Stanley, and Valeo; it resembles a Valeo unit but I wouldn't be surprised if Tesla had their own projector produced, all I know is that is isn't that good. Considering how itty-bitty the reflector bowl is, the performance isn't bad. Still, compared to the quality projectors that Koito and Stanley produce the Tesla is a far cry from the same level of performance, more on this below.

    Anyway, I am wrapping up a retrofit on these headlights and I wanted to share. The oem Tesla Bi-Xenon projector was replaced with a bi-xenon projector from a Lexus RX350, this projector received a clear-lens upgrade as well as some tuning to yield a very sharp cutoff with a little bit of color (that blue/purple color along the cut-off which is a byproduct of light intensity and focused optics). The housings were stripped of chrome, prepped, and painted with a semi-gloss high-temp paint. I am very pleased with the end results, the headlights look bad-ass and there is plenty of performance to back up the looks!

    Cheers,
    Evan

    Before, stock ...lol stock...
    IMG_4799.JPG

    After
    IMG_4800.JPG

    Before
    IMG_6893.JPG

    After
    IMG_6895.JPG



    THE PROCESS
    Lens Removed
    IMG_4696.JPG

    Heavy Duty LED setup
    IMG_4698.JPG

    Oem Tesla projector
    IMG_4701.JPG

    Notice the fresnel lens
    IMG_4700.JPG

    Such a tiny bowl!
    IMG_4707.JPG

    Here is a comparison to a Honda S2000 projector, one of the highest regarded projectors around, bowl volume usually translates to a wider beam output and/or better light output in general.
    IMG_4709.JPG

    Internal board, pretty elaborate compared to other headlights I have seen. I am assuming the Tesla has a light control module located elsewhere in the car. For example, my car, a 2008 BMW 535xi wagon has adaptive HID headlamps and I have a control module in my car and each headlight has it's own small module, they are about 1.5"x1.5" and very small relative to this huge board. I also found it interesting that the headlights I am working on do not had an AFS/adaptive feature. Anyway, not sure why this board is so big!
    IMG_4710.JPG

    LEFT: Lexus RX350 RIGHT: Model S
    IMG_4726.JPG

    STI-R clear lens installed
    IMG_4719.JPG

    Comparison
    IMG_4720.JPG

    Tesla ballast is designed for a D1S ignitor/bulb and the Lexus takes a D2S bulb. I purchased some D1S-D2S ignitor/adapters which will allow me to retain the oem Osram ballast with the D2S bulbs. The Osram ballasts are good, not great but good, I would normally use a better ballast but with the design of the headlight if the ballast is removed there is a huge hole on the bottom of the housing so for the sake of simplicity I will leave it in place.
    IMG_4740.JPG

    Projector bracket
    IMG_4711.JPG

    I trimmed the bottom to fit the Lexus solenoid
    IMG_4744.JPG

    I was able to reuse the lower mounting screws and secured the top with some bolts, washers, and locking nuts
    IMG_4745.JPG

    The front of the shield was lightly painted with white paint to give the projector a white "demon eye." I am a huge fan of this when it is well executed. At certain angles, the ambient light entering through the lens will reflect off the white paint and make the projector lens appear white. The Lexus projector has a nice flat surface over the shield solenoid which makes it a fairly effective projector for this mod. Also, the Tesla headlight allows a decent amount of light into the projector as it isn't located very far back in the housing, it is towards the front without a lot of overhang so this seemed like a great build for a demon eye. This paint does not affect output at all.
    IMG_4756.JPG

    Peekaboo
    IMG_4757.JPG

    High-beam connections were soldered together
    IMG_4755.JPG

    Time for some aesthetics
    IMG_4729.JPG

    I was expecting the DRL diffuser to pop out from the chrome/silver trim, but it didn't they are actually the same piece of plastic
    IMG_4730.JPG

    ...so I had to bust out the tape
    IMG_4731.JPG

    Detail
    IMG_4733.JPG

    After Paint
    IMG_4749.JPG

    Tape removed
    IMG_4753.JPG

    The turn signal diffuser or "shelf" was originally clear on the bottom and front, while the top was chrome, after stripping the complete unit was transparent.
    IMG_4737.JPG

    ...until I painted it
    IMG_4748.JPG

    Reassembled
    IMG_4783.JPG


    I think I reached my limit for posting pictures so I will continue in the next post.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I have a bunch more photos but the site says I exceeded my picture quota, not sure what I have to do to raise it or have it lifted but I assume it is because I am newcomer to TMC.
    Hopefully I can get it resolved soon so I can share more pics and info with you guys!

    Evan
     

    Attached Files:

    • Like x 5
    • Informative x 1
    • Love x 1
  2. Edmond

    Edmond Permanon

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2016
    Messages:
    482
    Location:
    Seattle
    Well done, I like it. Not just aesthetic but also technical improvement.

    What years of the Lexus RX350 are good? Where did you get the projectors, at the junkyard? How did you get the clear plastic off the Tesla headlight?

    I'm not clear where you say "High-beam connections were soldered together". What exactly? Did you end up using the large Tesla board?
     
    • Love x 1
  3. Yonki

    Yonki Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2015
    Messages:
    289
    Location:
    Pacific Grove, CA
    Great work! But what exactly am I looking at in the 3rd and 4th photo?

    Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more pics.
     
  4. FlatSix911

    FlatSix911 918 Hybrid

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2015
    Messages:
    2,336
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    Excellent! More photos...
     
  5. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    104
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Exactly what I aim for: increasing function and form. Any Lexus RX350 projector is good technically the RX350 started in 2007 at the tail end of the 2nd Gen (03-08) but that 07/08 RX350 projector is a low-beam only model and is identical to the one found in the more common RX330 from 2003-2007. The projector I used was from the 3rd Gen RX350 which was made 2008-2012 and was a Bi-xenon unit. So to recap any Rx330/350 projector is a solid performer, especially after some modding but if you want the bi-xenon unit it will have to be from a 2008+ RX350. I source my projectors from all over, Craiglist, eBay, HIDPlanet.com (forum), and TheRetrofitSource.com, I believe these particular units were from eBay.

    The plastic lens was removed after I put the headlight in the oven to warm the perma-seal, I then used some tools to scour, pull, and pry the lense off. It takes some time and technique but wasn't too bad compared to some other headlights.

    For the high beam, the Tesla had some wires running from the board to the projector, I simply cut them and soldered in the proper connection for the RX350 solenoid (black connector w/ white/brown wires in the photo). The board was left in place unmodified.



    Good question, I forgot to add notes to those photos and this forum doesn't allow me to edit my post (at least at this moment).

    Between the 2 output shots, notice a couple things:

    - Sharpness/clarity: The Tesla projector with it's fresnel lens diffuses some light and make the cutoff soft and unfocused, where the RX350 is very sharp due to the clear lens. Clear lenses do not increase the amount of light but rather increase the control and direction of it, more light goes where you need it and less where you don't (diffused).

    - Light distribution: The Tesla has a majority of it's light output centered directly underneath the cutoff, this is called the hotspot and the greater the intensity and size of the hotspot the further you will be able to see in that area, in this case, directly in front of you down the road. The hotspot is only part of the story.

    - Foreground: Foreground is the light near the bottom of the beam patterns and illuminates the road near the front of the car, much like many fog lights, this helpful for city/urban driving while at slower speeds; however having too much foreground will impede distance vision, think of driving at night with a Nav screen on full brightness vs. no interior lights on at all, same things applies to car headlights, both the Tesla and Lexus have adequate yet not overly strong foreground.

    - Cutoff/Width: The cutoff on the Tesla bowes downward and thins out the wider the beam gets, effectively reducing the range of your beam width. In general, the most useful light from a projector is the light along the cutoff, this is an area that the Lexus really shines. If you look at the picture of the RX350 you can see there are some fingers/striations of light that run just under the cutoff and reach outward, very FUNCTIONAL light. The Tesla essentially has none where the RX350 has those strong fingers of light.

    Light Quality: Not nearly as important of the other variables but worth noting, the Tesla has more layered/feathered light distribution (these are not technical terms, just jargon from my brain), in contrast the Lexus, in general, has a very smooth light output. The beam pattern (smooth, chunky, streaky, blotchy, etc) has to be REALLY bad to negatively impact function and the quality of the light is more about aesthetics since it is pleasant for the operator of the vehicle to look at and is usually found on high quality projectors with high quality reflective bowls: size, shape, and fit/finish.

    Hope this helps,
    Evan
     
    • Love x 1
  6. aus

    aus Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2014
    Messages:
    237
    Location:
    United States
    Since you're in the OC... how much?? :love:
     
  7. Mike K

    Mike K Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2013
    Messages:
    610
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Coming from the fully adaptive LED headlights in my BMW and adaptive lights in 535, the lights in the Model S for lack of a better term: suck. I can deal with the fact that they're not adaptive but the light output is poorly thought out. The beams appear to cross and there is a ton of glare as your "before" picture show.

    I'm relatively confident Tesla is going to roll out a facelifted S that will have the Model X LED headlights and much like the BMWs, we'll figure out how to retrofit them on the older cars assuming they physically fit the same opening. I'm holding out hope for that.

    I wouldn't mind paining the inside of the housing black in the interim though. On a white car that would look wicked.
     
  8. ifung90

    ifung90 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2015
    Messages:
    88
    Location:
    hong kong
    I found your post on Instagram and love it!

    Too bad I'm million miles away and can't ask for your ingenious help on this upgrade :(
     
  9. stevem

    stevem Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2015
    Messages:
    139
    Location:
    NJ USA
    That's pretty cool. I think I would be happy with just the aesthetic upgrade. That looks like a cheap mod.
     
  10. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    104
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    ​HERE ARE THE REMAINING PICTURES

    Direct sunlight
    IMG_4782.JPG

    IMG_4788.JPG

    Detail
    IMG_4791.JPG

    Demon eye in full effect
    IMG_4794.JPG

    Comparison
    IMG_4798.JPG

    MORE OUTPUT SHOTS


    Tesla Low: oem ballast oem bulb
    IMG_6893.JPG

    Tesla High
    IMG_6894.JPG

    RX350 Low: 35w denso slim, xb35 5k
    IMG_6895.JPG

    RX350: Camera on Auto
    IMG_6898.JPG

    Tuned with 1mm washers between lens holder and bowl, STI-R was already sitting flush/forward in the holder.
    IMG_6900.JPG

    Peace
    IMG_6896.JPG




     
  11. Edmond

    Edmond Permanon

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2016
    Messages:
    482
    Location:
    Seattle
    Well there's just not enough detail here to actually do this.
     
  12. !S4

    !S4 Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2015
    Messages:
    89
    Location:
    Chicagoland
    Can we see some picture of the front end of the car with the new setup?
     
  13. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    104
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Absolutely, both are always the goal but if there is conflict then function wins.
    eBay, Craiglist, HIDPlanet.com (forum), and TheRetrofitSource.com are the places I track down most my retrofit stuff.
    During the Gen 2 of the Lexus RX there was a low-beam only RX-350 in 07/08, it is exactly the same as the RX330 projector found from 03-07, the one I am using is from the Gen 3 RX350 made from 08-13 IIRC and it is bi-xenon. All are excellent performers.
    There are 2 wires that run to the projector, they connect to the solenoid which activates the low/high shield. The RX projector used a different connection so I have so mate the wires together. Board is left in place untouched.


    Man, I wrote you a very long and thorough explanation to this last night and when it posted it I received a message saying it had to be reviewed by the moderators before it could be posted. It has still not surfaced yet my typing and picture posting privileges seem to be reinstated. I will try to recap:
    *it will be helpful to open the photos in a different window to reference when while reading through these explanations*

    - Sharpness and clarity: The Tesla has a fresnel lens which diffuses a little bit of light, you can see this by how soft and fuzzy the cutoff is relative to the sharpcutoff on the RX

    - Hotspot: The concentration of light in the middle of the beam pattern. Both have decent hotspots, the Tesla's is slightly larger. This "hot-spot" of light is great for distance vision and and high speed driving.

    - Cutoff: In addition to the sharpness, notice how flat the RX cutoff is, the Tesla bows downward.

    - Light Along Cutoff: In addition to the downward bowing the Tesla also has very poor output on the outer edges of the cutoff, this is the area where the Lexus really shines as it has these fingers or striations of light which reach outward. Light intensity along the cutoff is VERY useful light. If you are driving at >20mph then you will really only be using the upper portion of the beam pattern, so if you reference the photos and look at the areas of high intensity light, the Tesla is only in the middle so you can only see (well) directly in front of you. The Tesla is like a zoom lens on a camera where the Lexus is like a wide-angle.

    - Light Quality: This is not nearly important as the other variables discussed but worth noting. Depending on the design of the projector the light output can have different appearances/distributions: streaky, blotchy, smooth, etc. These are not the best examples to compare but the Lexus has a much more uniform light output and the light looks smooth. The "quality" of the light doesn't really have much of an impact of real-world performance, it is more for enjoyment as the light distribution is more pleasant to look at for most people.

    I have seen some shots of Model S LED development headlight so it definitely is in the works, rightfully so. Other than specs and seeing them during the day, I have no experience with the "real world" performance of the Model X headlights, I am a huge fan of how they look though.

    Many of the modern LED headlamps can't raise a candle to a proper HID setup. They will, and they will continue to increase in performance way beyond what an HID setup could do, but they are not there yet. The multi optic/cluster/matrix headlamps are great for precisely placing light but in terms of light intensity, the HID is still king. All of us headlight enthusiasts squeal with excitement during the release of a new LED headlamp and then once we get our hands on them and test them, are left unimpressed. One of the most impressive offerings on the market is the new Acura RLX headlamps, it surpasses anything from BMW, Mercedes, Jag, Nissan, VW/Porsche, Toyota/Lexus, and even the older Acuras like the MDX, but it is still a 2nd to a nice projector.



    Are you LHD or RHD? Why wouldn't it be possible?


    You need to go for a ride in a car with legitimate headlights! I guarantee you will change your mind.

    Evan
     
  14. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    104
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Sorry for the delay, I guess something with my account was triggering the SPAM filters on the site and everything I was trying to post went to "review" with the moderators and would never appear in the thread, so I was without a voice for a bit but I think the issue has been resolved, so let's continue.


    I have seen some shots of Model S LED development headlight so it definitely is in the works, rightfully so. Other than specs and seeing them during the day, I have no experience with the "real world" performance of the Model X headlights, I am a huge fan of how they look though.

    Many of the modern LED headlamps can't raise a candle to a proper HID setup. They will, and they will continue to increase in performance way beyond what an HID setup could do, but they are not there yet. The multi optic/cluster/matrix headlamps are great for precisely placing light but in terms of light intensity, the HID is still king. All of us headlight enthusiasts squeal with excitement during the release of a new LED headlamp and then once we get our hands on them and test them, are left unimpressed. One of the most impressive offerings on the market is the new Acura RLX headlamps, it surpasses anything from BMW, Mercedes, Jag, Nissan, VW/Porsche, Toyota/Lexus, and even the older Acuras like the MDX, but it is still a 2nd to a nice projector.



    Are you LHD or RHD? Why wouldn't it be possible?


    You need to go for a ride in a car with legitimate headlights! I guarantee you will change your mind.

    I don't follow...

    I will post pictures once these go on a car, these particular ones don't have a home yet but I would like for them to get on an Orange County Car so I can do the install and test them and also try a few different things for future builds.

    Evan
     
  15. SPXMike

    SPXMike Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2015
    Messages:
    82
    Location:
    La Habra Heights, CA
    Outstanding work Evan! Excellent post.
     
  16. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    104
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Thank you very much!



    I will update this thread with the actual output shots of these headlights but since the beam pattern pictures I posted earlier are not the best representation of REAL WORLD performance, below are some output shots of my personal vehicle, a BMW E61 wagon, and my girlfriend's Gen II Prius. These pictures more accurately portray what can be expected from a properly tuned, high-quality projector.

    My E61 runs a Morimoto MH1 7.0 projector (Bi-Xenon) and the Prius has modded/tuned Acura RL projectors (low beam only), both are running 50w ballasts.

    Feel free to ask any questions!
    Evan

    My E61
    IMG_4292.JPG
    IMG_4166.JPG
    IMG_4174.JPG
    IMG_4265.JPG
    IMG_4272.JPG
    IMG_4175.JPG


    Gen II Prius
    IMG_9525.JPG
    IMG_4251.JPG
    IMG_9475.JPG
    IMG_9480.JPG
    IMG_9486.JPG
    IMG_9494.JPG
     
    • Like x 1
  17. Sm4llz

    Sm4llz Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2015
    Messages:
    244
    Location:
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Ever been to Colorado? Want to come to Colorado? I'd love to be the test car.


     
  18. tomsky

    tomsky Unkown member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2013
    Messages:
    42
    Location:
    Romania
    Hi Evan, very nice mod, your work is quite impressive (i can only judge aesthetics, and presume the technical results).
    What Edmond I think he meant is you didn't wrote in depth details of how someone else can replicate this (maybe in the future you'll have time to write a HID improvements for dummies, eg what exact part did you paint white, where to get the D1S to D2S adapter and so on).

    At least i know how to do the first step, to bake a headlight :biggrin:

    - - - Updated - - -

    LE: The red circled thing is the shield, the part responsible for high/low beam and the one you painted white?

    IMG_4726.JPG
     
  19. JMG

    JMG Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2015
    Messages:
    546
    Location:
    NE Texas
    Wow. Typically I'm not a fan of aftermarket aesthetic changes, as it typically goes too far and looks a little too "much" for my tastes, but wow that is some really sweet looking headlights.

    I've love to see the finished product on the car compared to the old.

    And your BMW lights look awesome!
     
  20. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    104
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    I have been there, like it very much. Yes, I do want to come back, I have never spent time in Boulder and would love to check it out. (I know this was a rhetorical statement) but in all seriousness when I hear Colorado I think of trees and dark roads, and of course high-performance headlights! :-D

    Thanks for the kind words, there is a lot to gain in both aesthetics and function from a well executed headlight build. These Tesla headlights now look pretty "tough" but the best part is they have the performance to back up their looks! ...just like my wagon, it looks aggressive but it also carries 550whp in it's back pocket. :cool:

    My thread wasn't supposed to be a DIY, I tend to be so detailed in my explanations and photo documentation that it comes close but that wasn't my intent but I can probably put something together down the road if the TMC community is interested. In the meantime I can can address your question about the demon eye and shield painting as well as show some of the steps I took for tuning the projector.

    Here is a picture of the Lexus projector mounted to the Tesla bracket. The Lexus projector is comprised of 4 major parts: lens, lens holder, shield/solenoid, and the reflective bowl which houses the HID bulb. The complete projector is mounted to the black bracket with some bolts, washers, and locking nuts.
    IMG_4909.JPG

    To achieve the "demon eye" effect, I disassembled the projector and lightly applied paint to the front side of the shield, it is important to apply paint lightly as heavy coats can impede the activation of the shield when using high-beams. It wasn't as important with this RX350 projector since the shield pivots on a transversely mounted rod and actually tilts backwards (towards the bulb) when activated, most of the pivot points are projected from paint. Some projector shields tilt-forward and have their springs and other components exposed, others shield designs slide downward with a scissoring motion, paint can really screw these designs up if not applied correctly and the shield can get stuck, blinding oncoming traffic, no bueno. The box you highlighted is actually a cover for the high-beam solenoid and is one of the reasons I decided to implement a demon eye on this projector, is is a nice smooth surface which will offer a uniform white appearance from many external angles while viewing the Tesla headlights.
    IMG_4903.JPG

    Here is an up close and personal shot. The cutoff shield is underlined in red, notice that there is no paint on the top. The optics of the projector are very sensitive and even a small dusting of paint can have a negative impact on the output. Light output and intensity are not affected, rather gobs of paint (or even a rough shield surface) can give you a grainy/rough looking cutoff so it is more of an aesthetics issue but something I address nonetheless. Also, the blue circle highlights an area where there used to be some metal that extended up towards the top of the shield and there was juuuuuuuust enough to have an optical impact on the cutoff, with the little metal tab in place it was positioned about 1mm-2mm in front of the shield and that was enough to be out of focus. The metal tab created a little soft/fuzzy looking hump in the cutoff so it was removed. Again this a small detail but a necessary step in the tuning process to make the light output sexy! If you notice at the very top of the photo how the metal bowes downward in the middle, that is a foreground limiter and the more aggressive that is (closer it gets to the cutoff shield, the more light will be limited directly in front of your vehicle, too much foreground can create glare for the driver and make it hard to view distant objects, especially on wet roads so most projectors have some sort of limiter like this.
    IMG_4905.JPG

    Front
    IMG_4907.JPG

    Rear
    IMG_4908.JPG

    Thank you. OEM+, clean, simple, subtle is much more my style than flashy and flamboyant, my BMW headlights are a good example of this as I deleted the factory "angel eye" DRLs all together, the design of the headlight is creased, sharp, and aggressive; and with those circular rings were distracting and took away from the overall design. The headlight is much sleeker now, similar to the Tesla unit!

    I will take some comprehensive before and after photos of these headlights on a Model S both how they look on the car and how the real-world performance compares to stock, lol stock...

    Cheers,
    Evan
     

Share This Page