Review: Ultra-Bright LED Interior Light Kit

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While I’m not a very handy person, I was excited when I got the chance to review the Abstract Ocean Ultra-Bright LED Interior Light Kit. The Model S has interior lights in most of the right places, the problem, though, is that they’re not very bright. I’ve been following various threads on the TMC and Tesla forums ever since I took delivery and the solutions always seemed like either too much work or too much of a hack job for my tastes. Then Abstract Ocean recently introduced this interior light kit and things got a lot easier.

For those that aren’t familiar with my DIY skills, the best way to summarize it is if it doesn’t involve a keyboard and monitor then my wife counts success by how few body parts I damage when doing a project. There’s the “1 finger job” (1 damaged finger), all the way up to leg injuries, etc. I’m just not that handy, but I do love doing simple upgrades to my Model S that improve the car without too much work and this light kit was just right for me.

Packaging and Pricing for the interior light kit

Abstract Ocean sells the interior lights in sets of 1, 4, 8 or 13 for $12.99 to $121.99. I didn’t really have a frame of reference for the price on what would be normal for this sort of thing, but at $12.99 for a small LED bulb it seems a bit expensive. They are drop in replacements for the Tesla OEM lights though so that should be taken into account when considering the price and there are no good alternatives.

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:

Possible Interior light locationsIn 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 Abstract Ocean installation instructions. In my case I have the premium interior lighting package and have all 13 interior factory lights.

Each light is a direct replacement for the factory lights in your Model S, except that 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 thing you’ll want to have handy which is what Abstract Ocean calls a spudger. This is a trim removal tool. I have a number of cheap trim removal tools I got in a kit for my dash cam project, but the one they recommend and sell for $8.99 is a lot stronger and I was impressed with it — you need something with a good tip and very strong to get these lights loose but you also don’t want to scratch up your car using a screwdriver. I’d definitely recommend their spudger tool for this project.

The spudger and the front and back of a light kit are pictured below:

Abstract Ocean Interior light kit

Installing lights in the Trunk

Light popped outThe Abstract Ocean installation instructions break down the installation into 5 parts in increasing 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 has you upgrading the lights in the trunk. This is an excellent place to start as the lights are the most accessible, you can see the before/after results easily and its a good place to practice.

For those with premium interior lighting there are 3 lights you can upgrade. For those without it, you have one light to upgrade but the possibility of adding two extra lights — check if their instructions and see if that applies to you if you’re interested!

This first step is where you first become familiar with digging the spudger tip in and loosening the light. These are  easier than later ones to work loose as they’re mounted in the soft trim versus the plastic. I found the easiest way to get at these was to climb into the trunk and work on these lights facing out.

To remove a light, you basically get the tip in from one side (try the other if one side seems too hard) and then you pry the light out gently. Each light has a cable that clicks and latches into place on the light. Depress the latch as you pull the cable out and it should come out easily — if it isn’t you aren’t depressing the latch correctly.

When removing the cable from the lights, make sure you depress the cable latch so you don’t destroy the cable.

Since its hard to express the improvement in the lighting I tried a side by side shot of before and after in my trunk:

Side by sideYou can see the upgraded light on the left is significantly brighter than the one on the right.

In addition to the side lights in the trunk, there’s a hatch light which you remove using the same technique. This is the next level of difficulty though as this one is mounted in plastic vs soft trim and takes a bit more digging/finesse:

Hatch light

Here’s the final trunk picture at night, the lights are a lot brighter:

Updated trunk lights at night

Installing the Frunk light

front LightThe front trunk (frunk) has just one interior light right at the front of the frunk. The angle here is a little tricky but the mount is similar to the trunk hatch and the replacement was pretty easy.

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.

Here’s the Frunk at night now:

Updated frunk lights at night

Installing the Puddle lights

This part is only for those with premium interior lighting and you can’t easily add these lights if they’re not already there. On the bottom of each of the four doors is what Telsa calls a “Puddle light” which helps illuminate puddles/the area you step out into when you exit the car.

These are easily removed, but the angle and location is difficult given they’re upside down on the bottom of your doors. I found the only way to get at them was to lay down and look up and work at the lights. A blanket or towel or a nice clean garage floor help here.

Puddle lightOnce you get the angle figured out, you can get through all four lights easily. Thank goodness we had a heat wave today and hit a whopping 53 degrees!

Installing the foot well lights

Passenger lightDifficulty level 4 (still pretty simple) is upgrading the foot well lights. Again, this is all about getting access and your angle of attack. The front passenger footwell light is just above where your passengers feet would be. I found this one hard just because i’m right handed and this one is on the left. I found lying in the footwell upside down solved that problem and it was easily replaced.

The driver side foot well light was easier as it was on my right side, but the trick there was that the pedals get in the way a bit. The light is right above the accelerator pedal so you have to reach in quite a ways. Get creative with your angles and you can also pop that one out:

Driver LightIt turns out these front foot well lights were a warm up for the Boss part of level 4 — the rear footwell lights. These are in their own mountings that clip to a horizontal bar 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):

Rear floor light inThen you want to carefully pull each side of the light bracket towards you until it pops off the bar. Then you undo the cable (press that release!), and then you can work at the light wherever you want to separate it from the plastic mount.

Rear floor light outGetting the light out of the plastic mount without doing damage to the plastic mount, your fingers or surrounding parts is a bit of a feat but if I can do it then so can you. My suggestion is to wedge the tip in and then turn the spudger to get a long edge under the edge of the light and pry. 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 Model S’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 light updates really make a big difference too:

Updated puddle lights at night

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 hard.

Summary

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.

In daylight the lights are noticeably brighter, at night they make the world of difference and are great to have during these short winter days.

Including taking the pictures, it took me about 30 minutes to replace all 12 lights. As usual I didn’t read the installation instructions beforehand, just kind of scanned them as I went. With great surprise and relief I’m proud to say this was a zero finger job – no body parts were damaged during 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 so there may be a bit of a wait to get them, but they’re worth the wait.