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Weak Headlights: Fact or Fiction?

Hey all,

I have a friend strongly considering a Model S, but lives in the country and it's dark out there. She has been asking me about weak headlights on the Model S because another local friend of hers with one has complained about it. Friend has older model, I have 2021. I live in the city, but have seen no issues. I had seen the IIHS 2017 insurance rating report that agrees with the poor headlights (but says the M3 has good ones!) , but nothing since then.

Does anybody know the status of the headlights on the Model S? I'd hate to have her miss out on a car she really loves, but truly, you do not want to be driving to her house with insufficient lumens.

TIA,
 

Az_Rael

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Jan 26, 2016
5,673
8,973
Palmdale, CA
Our 2021 has better headlights than our 2015 did, but they don’t quite have the same reach as our Model 3’s. I would consider them adequate in dark areas though.

I don’t know if you can visit your friend, but that is probably the best way to test them out. Or she can see if she can arrange a 24 hour test drive.
 
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DerbyDave

Active Member
Jul 2, 2020
1,737
996
Kentucky
My headlights do not illuminate the road very far at all (build June, 2020) Much weaker in my opinion than similar luxury cars. I saw and agree with the IIHS rating. I am going to try to get them checked, but they are likely just weak. I like the cornering lights that illuminate to the side as you are turning onto another street, or reversing.
 

Ostrichsak

Active Member
Sep 6, 2018
3,804
4,409
Colorado, USA
Just a note that the LED headlights in my Mercedes and Audi were very bright and excellent headlights, it is too bad that the Tesla S headlights are so inferior in design. The Tesla needs LED technology for low power consumption.

Not sure I agree with the reason the Tesla LEDs are inferior to other manufacturer's LEDs solutions. The previous HIDs used much more power than the current LEDs and, in both cases, the power usage is barely a blip on the radar of range. They could easily design the headlights for superior light output to what they are (more inline with the competition) and the difference in power usage from those to what they currently have wouldn't even be measurable especially given 400+ miles of range. If I had to venture a guess at Tesla's motivation, my guess is that they used inferior components as a cost saving approach.
 

David29

Active Member
Supporting Member
Aug 1, 2015
2,325
2,000
DEDHAM, MA
Not sure I agree with the reason the Tesla LEDs are inferior to other manufacturer's LEDs solutions. The previous HIDs used much more power than the current LEDs and, in both cases, the power usage is barely a blip on the radar of range. They could easily design the headlights for superior light output to what they are (more inline with the competition) and the difference in power usage from those to what they currently have wouldn't even be measurable especially given 400+ miles of range. If I had to venture a guess at Tesla's motivation, my guess is that they used inferior components as a cost saving approach.
What model/years had HIDs? is that what is on my 2015 Model S?
 

Ostrichsak

Active Member
Sep 6, 2018
3,804
4,409
Colorado, USA
What model/years had HIDs? is that what is on my 2015 Model S?
Correct. Pre-fresh Model S had HIDs and refresh Model S had the newer LED housings. The HIDs had far better lighting and better uniformity in the light that they gave off. The LEDs look much cooler and more aggressive but the light output is just okay. Performance wise they were a step back but visually they look much better. I would have liked to have seen the newer Matrix LEDs on the new car coming out next month but... Whatever.
 
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Ostrichsak

Active Member
Sep 6, 2018
3,804
4,409
Colorado, USA
I have a 2016 Model S and I think my headlights are great. I also live out in a rural-ish area and have zero complaints on the headlight brightness. My previous car had really crap headlights so maybe my perspective is skewed.
Your perspective is skewed only in that we have no idea what type you're commenting on. 2016 is the only year that had both HID and LED so just saying yours is a 2016 doesn't tell us what housing you have that you're commenting on.

Nose cone or no nose cone?

If nose cone then you have the HIDs which we've already said does a better job of lighting in most every condition as compared to the newer LED housing. Search around and you'll see lots of people complaining about even the "better" older HID version. Personally, I think they fine. I think the LED version is slightly less as good which isn't what you expect from a newer design especially when the previous design is of questionable performance.

If you go buy a new Model S for six figures it's lights will likely be of lesser performance than a 2013 Model S which isn't a good look (pun intended) for a safety feature like headlights. It really just feels like they had a look they were going for and wanted to say they were "LED" but didn't take the time and invest the resources to make them actually better as well.
 

gr108

Member
Mar 16, 2021
12
5
Alabama
Your perspective is skewed only in that we have no idea what type you're commenting on. 2016 is the only year that had both HID and LED so just saying yours is a 2016 doesn't tell us what housing you have that you're commenting on.

Nose cone or no nose cone?

If nose cone then you have the HIDs which we've already said does a better job of lighting in most every condition as compared to the newer LED housing. Search around and you'll see lots of people complaining about even the "better" older HID version. Personally, I think they fine. I think the LED version is slightly less as good which isn't what you expect from a newer design especially when the previous design is of questionable performance.

If you go buy a new Model S for six figures it's lights will likely be of lesser performance than a 2013 Model S which isn't a good look (pun intended) for a safety feature like headlights. It really just feels like they had a look they were going for and wanted to say they were "LED" but didn't take the time and invest the resources to make them actually better as well.
Sorry. My extreme noob-ness is showing. I got my Model S about a week ago. 2016 with the new front end design. I'm still figuring out what's what on it. If the lights weren't automatic I'm not sure I would even know how to turn them on.
 

Ostrichsak

Active Member
Sep 6, 2018
3,804
4,409
Colorado, USA
Sorry. My extreme noob-ness is showing. I got my Model S about a week ago. 2016 with the new front end design. I'm still figuring out what's what on it. If the lights weren't automatic I'm not sure I would even know how to turn them on.
That's the newer LED housings. If you search around these forums and others you will likely find that most think they're poor performing as compared to similarly priced vehicles.
 

gr108

Member
Mar 16, 2021
12
5
Alabama
That's the newer LED housings. If you search around these forums and others you will likely find that most think they're poor performing as compared to similarly priced vehicles.
I'm coming out of a 2016 Sorento which has some of the worst headlights on the planet. The Model S seems on par with my wife's 2014 Lexus GS350. Maybe the previous owner changed something. The first time I drove the Model S at night, my wife and I were both impressed with how bright the headlights were.
 
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2017 MS here. Fully agree the lights are pretty poor for the country. I live out of town, no streetlights, VERY dark, lots of wildlife. A real recipe for success. I use he automatic high beams function which helps but what I've found most helpful is to run the fog lamps at all times. I've been keeping my eyes out for a source of EU version headlamps but none available that I can find.
I retrofitted a previous Volvo with high wattage headlamps and was able to achieve environmental daylight without killing oncoming traffic. The high beams were capable of giving the driver in front a skull X-ray. Great for people that didn't like dimming their lamps for oncoming traffic. One little tap on the high beams and they responded almost instantly.
 

Greg29

Member
Apr 26, 2019
101
54
Orlando, FL
just had both headlights replaced on my 2016.5 due to DRL brownouts. Low beams were set to cast about 10 feet in front of the car (at least that's what it seemed) making driving on a country road an exercise in futility. I adjusted them up and everything seems fine now. I wouldn't rave about their brightness though.
 
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