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Xenon HID upgrade

Discussion in 'Roadster: Technical' started by mpt, Dec 7, 2009.

  1. mpt

    mpt Electrics are back

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    #1 mpt, Dec 7, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2010
    The Roadsters headlights are feeble at best; a function of being so low down and being forced to use halogen bulbs I suspect. They’re also quite hefty power consumers at 60 and 65W.

    You’ll need to check your local regulations but it’s technically possible to swap the bulbs for 35W Xenon HID; I’ve seen some stupid Xenon upgrades to SUV’s with poor optics and massive output dazzling oncoming drivers; that’s bad but increasing output in a low sports car with well designed, focused projector headlights seems reasonable; here’s how you might do it… if you did.

    What you’ll need:
    • A proper low profile trolley jack with a good pad
    • 10mm spanner
    • A Saturday morning
    • Xenon HID replacement kits for Low beam: HB3 and if you wish, high beam: H9B
    • Optional: Ramps
    Difficulty: medium

    Xenon Kits
    There are many kits available; I found a couple of kits on Amazon that are suitable and inexpensive (Update) but after a years use I decided to change to a lower temperature kit from DDM with even better results, details below.
    I’ve chosen to look at both the main low-beam lights and also the driving main beam lights. The low beam lights make total sense but the high beam needs more thought. Normally, metal-halide lights don’t appreciate being switched on and off, and then on again. It shortens their life. Plus, as even xenon hid bulbs take time to warm up to full brightness they don’t make ideal bulbs for passing or signaling. I drive on longer unlit roads where they get the 20 seconds needed to warm up. Once warmed up they do re-fire to full brightness after being dipped for a few moments as on-coming traffic dictates. Despite not starting at full brightness, good digital ballasts do start the bulbs from cold, in my opinion, as bright as or brighter than normal halogen bulbs. Do consider the cons before upgrading.

    Low: 9005(HB3) 4500K (white) http://www.ddmtuning.com/products/101/

    High: H9 4500K (white) http://www.ddmtuning.com/products/101/

    Update Oct 2010: I've since changed the units to a kit sourced from DDM Tuning as I decided to choose a warmer, less blue colour. The results were significant again. Choose the 9005 option for the headlamps but note that you may need to loosen the three screws inside the mount a couple of turns (no more) to install, then restore them, and the H9 kit for main beam http://www.ddmtuning.com/products/101/

    Prep:
    To access the headlamp assembly you’ll need to remove the front wheel. You’ll need to lift the car safely and securely; it’s all on you – this is my disclaimer, you’re responsible for your safety and for the health of your car.

    I also recommend that to wash the car under the wheel arch to remove any road dirt and grit.

    Lastly, I recommend that you remove the roof so that you can access the light switch controls to test the installation without opening the doors whilst the car is jacked up.

    Lifting the Roadster
    The Roadster has a bonded chassis, as you know, if the chassis is improperly lifted the bonds can be broken; the car will not be repairable economically if that happens – take care.

    Tesla Motors have kindly placed labels on the chassis to show where the jacking points are. For easy access I drove the car on to small ramps first so that I could get a very clear view of the jacking points. Refer to the Tesla Owner’s manual for the exact location of the front jacking points and for recommendations on safety. In my opinion this is the part of the job that is difficult, not because it’s hard but because it must be done with care. Amongst other things, consider:
    • Level ground
    • Handbrake on
    • Transmission in park
    • Do not venture under the car at any time
    • Good lighting
    • Tested and secure trolley jack with a good flat rubber covered pad on top
    • Anything else to cover my behind!

    Once lifted, remove the front wheel:
    I recommend that you loosen the wheel nut before the lift and that you rotate the wheel to place the tire valve at the bottom. This ensures that the wheel is returned to the hub in the same, balanced place.

    After removing the wheel take a moment to check around the suspension and wiring for the wheel sensors, look for any damaged cables or pipes. I just sat for ten minutes marveling at the technology; it is a joy to behold. Note the centre of the brake disk/hub is designed to take a drive shaft; that’s for the upcoming 4-wheel drive model. (Kidding!)

    Access panel
    The headlight assembly is behind an access panel secured by two 10mm bolts. Remove these to access the headlight assembly.

    On the rear of the assembly you’ll find three round rubber covers, two easily visible & one on the inside side of the assembly. You only need access the first two easily reached ones.

    Low beam
    The outside, first cover, covers the low beam HB3 lamp. After removing the cover and twisting the bulb to release it, you’ll see that the connector that goes into the bulb can be released easily by lifting the tab. You’ll also see that the connector to the bulb can be transferred to the Xenon HID control unit; it’s a perfect fit; no wires to cut, not adapters just plug-and-play; thanks TM. Tuck the connector into the headlight unit out of the way and run the cable down from the headlight assembly to the controller.

    Install the Xenon bulb in place of the halogen, the bulb is designed to locate exactly where the filament was to ensure that the beam pattern is unaffected. When removing the old bulb, note how far you must rotate it, when you install the new bulb you should expect to rotate it the same, again this ensures that the xenon arc matches the position of the old filament to keep the beam pattern crisp. Take great care not to touch the glass on the bulb… at all!

    Connect the high tension (80V) cables from the bulb to the controller and perform a quick test. Note: Don’t get in the car and do take care opening the door whilst it’s jacked up. If you’d removed the roof it’d be easy right now.

    Run the high tension wires from the bulb along with the low tension wires to the controller down and out of the headlamp unit. Restore the rubber cover and use waterproof tape to seal the rubber down. You should ensure a good seal to prevent excess moisture from getting in and clouding up the front lens… unless, like most of us it seems, it’s too late and you already do get moisture on the inside of the lens. Update: over time I've noticed that the cloudiness has gone, possibly due to a slight opening allowing the headlamps to dry, who knows.

    Locating the controller
    At the outside of the headlamp assembly there is space with plenty of room and a flat surface to locate the controller. The double-sided tape pads in the kit work perfectly. Try not to cover the Garmin GPS receiver at the front.

    High beam
    If you choose to upgrade the high beam, the process is the same except that the connector is different so you’ll need to connect the low tension cables that went to the bulb to the wiring adapter in the kit first and tape over to protect.

    Turn signal and side/marker light
    I did look at changing the marker lights and turn signal for LED’s however, neither use enough power and trigger the cars bulb check feature, which is a shame.

    Testing
    Comparing the beam pattern I found no change and observing the car in the dark from a distance I found no change in the off-axis light output, in fact I felt that it was tighter; a function of the light source being smaller. This check is important to ensure that the bulbs are located properly and don’t affect other drivers.

    The upgrade brings a modest increase in performance, I find it easier to see the edges of the road at night, in the rain; I feel considerably safer. The upgrade doesn’t produce brilliant results; for that we’d need to upgrade to brighter bulbs and better optics and with that high output would, I feel need self-leveling beam technology. At this level, with the Roadster being so low I don’t see a situation where a fully loaded car results in the front end being lifted and dazzling oncoming drivers; a serious concern.

    Completion
    Restore the wheel arch access plate, restore the wheel taking care to locate the valve down to ensure the proper balance and torque the bolts to the factory setting.

    Removal
    As you’ve not cut any cables or fittings the removal is the reverse of installation.
     

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  2. DaveD

    DaveD EVs Kick Gas!

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    Thanks for the post! Did you happen to take any before/after pics of the beams, in order to judge intensity/pattern differences?
     
  3. raymond

    raymond Member

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    To save our European readers some time: you will also need to make your headlights self-levelling and install a headlight washer (unless you registered your Roadster before 2006...)

    Even shorter version: don't.

    Bummer.
     
  4. mpt

    mpt Electrics are back

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    Good point; in the US they're much more relaxed; no rules on colour or headlamp washers just a general 'White and er, don't dazzle' attitude. Interestingly, in Europe the beam pattern cut-off is much sharper than in the US, by design. Also, Toyota Prii here can be specified with HID but it is just a bulb replacement, no projectors here, I don't think that would float in Europe.
     
  5. mpt

    mpt Electrics are back

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    I did for reference but they don't really show up well, the pic above shows hid on the right.
     
  6. scott451

    scott451 KWH-PWR#1349Sprt,S Sig#96

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    #6 scott451, Dec 14, 2009
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2011
    Xenon Hid install using kit supplied gromit.

    Thanks MPT for all the great info on Xenon HID upgrade! Best $80 I ever spent!

    My version of the HID install using the gromit included in the HID kit. Requires cutting a 1" hole in the low beam rubber cover gasket and cutting the ballast extension cable included in the kit.
     

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  7. scott451

    scott451 KWH-PWR#1349Sprt,S Sig#96

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    Xenon Hid install using kit supplied gromit (part 2)

    More pictures
     

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  8. DrComputer

    DrComputer Member

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    Have you had any weird anomalies with the car with the Xenon's installed? When I was at the LA store a while back, Bob had installed some HID's for a customer. He said they had to remove them a few hours later because they caused weird power issues with the car. Curious if you've had similar problems.
     
  9. mpt

    mpt Electrics are back

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    A couple of weeks in; still good. I've heard issues with some cars that modify the lighting controls in ways to prevent xenon hid upgrades. But, I suspect that in this it's most likely the controller or 'ballast' they chose. Some tend to use a lot more power during the initial strike causing issues. I chose digital controllers that are more efficient and better at controlling the power.

    One thing I like about the TR is that, despite the high tech at the rear, the rest is very down to earth with basic controls and systems.

    Scott: would post the kit that you used so we can compile a list of known good controllers? Thanks.
     
  10. scott451

    scott451 KWH-PWR#1349Sprt,S Sig#96

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    #10 scott451, Dec 15, 2009
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2011
    I used the same one you recommended from Amazon: XenTec Slim HID Kit 9005(HB3) 5000K (white)

    I do get a low bulb warning when I initially turn on the lights. I hope this is because I only had time to install the left side this weekend. I'll report back once I install the right side.

    EDIT: I replaced the XenTec with the ones below from ddm. I have had no more errors.

    Low: 9005(HB3) 4500K (white) HID Kits, BMW Aftermarket Bumpers & Lighting, DEPO - DDM Tuning

    I used the 55W version for the low beams. I did not replace the high beams
     
  11. mpt

    mpt Electrics are back

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    Most likely, as long as the bulb is starting!
     
  12. DrTaras

    DrTaras R254->R725->S1364-->X769

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    I am in California and an aftermarketer just told me that these were NOT legal here, though I am not sure he did much research. Can anyone tell me otherwise with cites for the legality?
     
  13. tdelta1000

    tdelta1000 Active Member

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    What was or what is Tesla's Corporate idea for not going with HIDs from the beginning??? Power consumption? Regualtions? or just cost?
     
  14. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    My Lexus came with OEM Xenon HID here in California, so I think the basic technology is legal. Perhaps some of the aftermarket parts aren't properly certified or have something wrong like too much power, wrong tint or something like that.


     
  15. mpt

    mpt Electrics are back

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    This article on wikipedia talks to the question http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headlamp?wasRedirected=true

    In summary, it days that there arn't any strong rules in place, TMC member Shark2k reprinted the California rules that are same; two lights, height rules and use rules but nothing on colour or even brightness.

    I have an Audi A6 that has absurdly bright lights stock. They produce a fierce and blinding light to oncomming vehicles ( as I've whitnessed being followed by it ) that really should attract the attention of the law!

    My update increases output somewhat but remains 'white' and does not blind of axis, on axis, I.e with your head 2 feet from the ground they're bright.

    I suspect that there will be regulation in years to come but I didn't choose 19,000K purple 70w bulbs because I'm not 17, nor convert the reflector headligts in my SUV, because I'm not a farmer.

    Europe has much more specific regulations including sharper beam patterns and regs on headlight self-leveling. This mod would fail those regs. I suspect that Tesla chose the solution that they chose because they're almost off the shelf and easy to certify in many countries... Just one less barrier to entry on a long list of stuff to do.

    Elon Musk himself grumbled about the lights, I'm sure he reads TMC and is under his car right now :)
     
  16. dpeilow

    dpeilow Moderator

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    Not only that, they make people think you are the law :smile:

    The alternate white/blue beam pattern they produce can produce a strobing blue effect in the mirrors of the preceeding car.

    If lost count of the number of times people slam on the brakes as I go to overtake them. :eek: After several years, I've learnt to anticipate it. :rolleyes:
     
  17. Squint

    Squint New Member

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    There are HID kits and there are HID retrofits. The former are the cheap, mostly plug and play kits you see all over the net. Retrofits involve selecting lenses, HID-specific projectors, and fine tuning the light output. Retrofits are usually DIY but you can sometimes find someone to do it for you for around $2000. The result is often better than most OEM HIDs because you can cherry pick the best components.

    Kits that put HID bulbs in halogen projectors don't work as well as retrofits or OEM HID. Cars that don't have either halogen or HID projectors will have abysmal results.
     
  18. Alan

    Alan Member

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    Hi Guys,

    This thread has been dormant for a while - can I wake it up as I am thinking of fitting one of the HID kits.

    My main worry is the mention of warning messages etc. I can see two possible causes, firstly the HID bulbs use less power so they may trigger a warning if the car thinks a bulb is out. The second is noise / interference from the switching electronics.

    Can I ask if anyone reading this who has done the conversion could post there experiences?

    Did the upgrade cause any problems?
    Which kit did you use?
    What model Roadster do you have?
    Are you pleased by the brighter lights?

    (The reason I have asked about which model is because 2.0 and 2.5 cars have the axillary 12V battery at the front. This could well reduce potential noise problems over the earlier cars).

    Thanks
    Alan

    PS I know the rules about these kits are a bit murky in the UK but for me its more important to see where I am going than to worry about whether I have headlamp washers etc.
     
  19. mpt

    mpt Electrics are back

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    Did the upgrade cause any problems?
    Initially I had a bad control module that didn't start reliably so would trigger the "Bulb check". This caused no long lasting problem as it was just dismissed. Frustratingly, I tried LED side lights and indicator lights at the front but they trigger the bulb check; I wish I could disable that as I have LED's everywhere else; license plate, boot/trunk light etc. - the license plate LED replacement alone gives me an extra 3" of range.

    Which kit did you use?
    See my update; I've switched to the DDM kit; it really is high quality and even cheaper! Also, whilst other systems promise that the power consumption is limited during start up; I tested these; during start they use the same as the stock 65W bulbs then tail off to 35W or 55W depending upon the model you choose.

    What model Roadster do you have?
    2.0

    Are you pleased by the brighter lights?
    They just work now; I can drive at night and even in the rain.

    Couple of extra observations; go for 4500K colour as this produces more useful white light and less of the blue "Hey I'm using aftermarket HID conversions".
    When installing the bulbs, make sure that you're turning the bulb all the way in the mount, if not they don't line up correctly and the beam pattern gets diffused. I also found that I had to back off the three screws by a couple of turns in the mount with my latest bulbs to be able to make the full turn as they were a much tighter secure fit that the first bulbs (5000k) that I tried; At first I thought I'd been sent the wrong bulbs as they wouldn't go in.

    With the car being so low down you'll always have your iris closed a bit by oncoming higher vehicles; we don't have a fix for that and that does make night driving more difficult. Being low down and installing the bulbs with a full 90degree turn ensures a clean beam cut-off and no dazzle; I've never been flashed by oncoming drivers.

    wrt Headlamp washers; this has always been a mystery to me; they're usually ineffective IMO and dirty headlights just reduce dazzle IMO. I think that the self-leveling feature is more important however, being so low down I never see my beam go anywhere near the eye line of oncoming drivers; this is not the case in my MINI e where the self-leveling XENON lights never respond quickly enough and where I've been flashed a few times.
     
  20. strider

    strider Active Member

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    mpt,

    Thanks for this. I'm looking at DDM's website. I assume I should pick 35W, 9005, and 4500K (I'm just planning on just doing the low beams). Do I need the Harness, Error Eliminator, or Adapter cables?
     

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