The Model S has interior lights in most of the right places – puddle lights beneath the doors, foot well lighting, trunk and frunk lighting – but the problem lies in its inability to provide useable light. This is especially the case in the trunk area where its near impossible to see your belonging in the dark of night. I wouldn’t classify myself as being the most handy person, but when I came across a thread discussing an aftermarket Ultra-Bright LED interior lighting kit, I decided to flex my do-it-yourself muscles and give it a go.
Looking for Ultra-Bright LEDs on the Model X? See our review here.
My DIY skills mainly centers around anything that has a keyboard and monitor. Anything outside of that is a crap shoot. My wife measures my success by counting how many parts I damage when tackling a project, which may include body parts. There’s the “1 finger job” (1 damaged finger) all the way up to projects involving leg injuries. I’m just not that handy, though I must say that my Blackvue dashcam project came out pretty nicely.
This LED interior lighting kit was simple enough to make it the perfect DIY Tesla Model S project for me.
Ultra-Bright LED Interior Light Kit
Abstract Ocean, best known for their “Fobpocket” key fob holders, also sells ultra-bright LED interior lights for the Model S and X. The light assemblies are drop in replacements for the Tesla OEM lights and sold in sets of 1, 4, 8 and 13. At $12.99 a bulb ($11.50 on Amazon Prime) it’s certainly not the cheapest but then again I don’t really have a frame of reference for what Ultra-Bright LED assemblies should cost.
Before you order the lights, check how many you will need. This depends on the age of your Model S and whether you have the premium interior lighting package or not. The red dots in the picture below (courtesy of Abstract Ocean) show the possible locations for interior lighting:
In some cases, even if you don’t have the premium interior lighting package and are missing some lights, you may be able to add additional lighting by following the excellent installation instructions outlined on Abstract Ocean’s site. On my Model S, I have the factory premium interior lighting package which has 13 light assemblies.
Each light is a direct replacement for the factory light in your Model S, not to mention they’re 16x brighter. Abstract Ocean has this to say about the brightness:
Bear in mind that perception of light is not on a linear scale, so although technically 16x brighter, the perceived reality will be less than that, as most of the interior surfaces tend to absorb light. The reality though, is that these make a dramatic difference to the lighting in your Model S
In addition to the lights, there’s one more item you’ll want to have handy and that is the spudger tool which will aid you in popping out the factory light assemblies.
Trunk Ultra-Bright LED Lighting
The Abstract Ocean installation instructions break down the installation into 5 parts in increasing levels of difficulty. I was short one bulb so I only did 4 parts but none of them were beyond my mediocre skill level. The first part of the instruction guides you though the installation of the trunk light. This is an excellent place to start as the lights in this location are the most accessible, and serves as a good place for practice. This is also where you’ll become familiar with prying the fixture out using the tip of the spudger tool.
The trunk lights are easier to remove since they’re pushed into the soft carpeted trunk linings versus being deeply recessed into hard plastic. I found that climbing into the trunk made for better access to the lights.
To remove a light, you pry from one side (try the other if one side seems too difficult) and then gently pop the light assembly out. Each light has a cable that clicks and latches into place on the light. Depress the latch and pull the cable off. Replace the factory light with the new LED assembly.
Once installed you will notice a drastic difference in illumination.
Installing the Frunk light
The front trunk (frunk) has just one interior light right at the front of the frunk making it slightly more difficult to access just because of the angle in which your body is positioned when facing the car. But once you get the spudger tool in place, popping the light out is fairly simple.
As an aside I’ve noticed that the inside of my frunk gets pretty dusty/dirty over time even though I rarely open it. I suspect it isn’t well sealed from the elements. I’ve never noticed it to be wet inside, but there is an accumulation of dust and dirt that I wouldn’t expect. I keep extension cables/adapters in there so its not a major concern but if you keep groceries or something else in there you may want to keep an eye on it and perhaps ask Tesla if its sealed correctly.
Anyhow, here’s the Ultra-Bright LED light installed in the frunk.
Installing Puddle lights
On the bottom of each of the four doors is what Tesla calls a “Puddle light” which helps illuminate/puddle the area where you step in and out of your vehicle. These puddle lights come with the optional Model S premium interior lighting upgrade.
Popping these lights out is simple, but once again getting to it is tricky since they’re mounted upside down beneath each door. I found that laying down on the floor while looking upwards was the best way to gain access. Having a blanket, towel or a nice clean garage floor to lay on would help.
Installing the foot well lights
Difficulty level 4 (still pretty simple) is upgrading the foot well lights. Again, this is all about gaining access and perfecting your angle of attack. The front passenger footwell light is just above the are where a passenger’s feet would be. I found this one hard just because I’m right handed and the light is on the left. The solution was to lay down on the floor mat and look upwards towards the light.
The driver’s side foot well light was easier as it was on my right side, but the trick with this one is maneuvering around the pedals. The light is right above the accelerator pedal so you have to reach in quite a ways. Get creative with your angles and you’ll be able to pop the light out with ease.
It turns out these front foot well lights were a warm up for the Boss part of level 4 — the rear footwell lights. These lights are attached to mountings that clip onto a horizontal bar located under the front seats. To access these you want to raise the rear of the front seats all the way up (but not move them forward).
Followed by carefully pulling each side of the light bracket towards you until it pops off the bar. Undo the cable and separate the light from its plastic mount.
Getting the light out of the plastic mount without doing damage takes a bit of finesse but if I can do it then so can you. My suggestion is to wedge the tip of the spudger in and then slightly turn it until the edge of the light sticks out enough for you to grab and remove. Just be careful as its pretty easy to damage the plastic mount. Abstract Ocean sells spares which evidently can also be used to add rear footwell lighting to a Model S without the premium interior lighting package. Once you have the light out, popping the new one in is easy. Re-attach the cable and then press the clips back onto the bar.
The puddle and foot well lights together make for a huge difference.
Installing the Glove box light
I only had 12 bulbs so I didn’t get a chance to take on level 5. The instructions make it sound a bit more difficult than the others as the space is tight and access is limited, but I suspect it wouldn’t be too difficult if you play around with your angles.
The Abstract Ocean Ultra-Bright LED Interior Light Kit provides a simple and elegant way to improve the interior lighting in your Model S. The lights are direct replacements for the factory lights, and their excellent installation instructions provide you all the help you need to get the job done. Even for a non-handy but self made DIY’er like myself. The lights are also available on Amazon and eligible for free 1-2 day shipping if you have Amazon Prime.
In daylight the lights are noticeably brighter, At night they make the world of difference. It took me approximately 30 minutes to replace all 12 lights and that included the time it took for me to document this process by taking photos.
In the end it brings me great pleasure to say this was a zero finger job – no body parts were damaged during the making of this project (a minor miracle) and, perhaps more importantly, I didn’t do any damage to my Model S 🙂
I’d definitely recommend the lights. They’ve been selling like hot cakes across TMC so there may be a bit of a wait to get them. Well worth it in my opinion.
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