Matrix-style headlights have been included in the refreshed design plans of the Model S since 2021. However, because Matrix LED technology took too long to be approved by the NHTSA, Tesla production included an older LED-style headlight on the 2021 and 2022 refresh Model S.

Then, in February of 2022, the NHTSA legalized the use of Matrix-style LED headlights on US vehicles.

Enter what Tesla enthusiasts have dubbed the “refresh refresh”: in June/July of last year (2023), Tesla started delivering the Model S with Matrix headlights and newly redesigned tail lights installed. These new “refresh refresh” headlights are efficient, adaptive, and a lot more stylish than their predecessors. And while the software update to really use those headlights as intended took a little bit longer than anticipated, you can now see them in action out on the highway.

But what about the old Model S refresh headlights that style forgot? Well, when Tesla pushed software updates for Matrix headlight functionality earlier this year, retrofitting the Matrix-style headlights into the 2021-2022 Model S and Model S Plaid (and even into the Model X, though we don’t cover that here) became possible.

In today’s blog post, we’ll go into the why and how of a matrix headlight retrofit for the 2021 and 2022 Tesla Model S. Let’s get started with the why:

Tesla Matrix Headlights vs Old Headlights: Why Retrofit?

Matrix headlights are an adaptive technology that helps Teslas avoid the negative side of LED headlights and maximize their positive aspects. For starters, each LED in the Matrix-style headlight can operate independently. These LEDs can also be programmed with more than just an on or off routine: they can be dimmed to different percentages, too.

If oncoming traffic is detected by your Tesla, the headlights will selectively turn off or dim only a few of the LEDs in the direction of the oncoming traffic to place them in shadow. This reduces the discomfort of the other driver while keeping your visibility at the highest level possible. It’s a pretty neat solution to a potentially dangerous aspect of LED headlights.

Do you know which headlights came with your Tesla? If not, here’s how to check:

Tesla Matrix Headlights: How to Tell if You Have Matrix vs LED

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to tell which headlights came with your Model S (or Model X) from 2021-2024: the old refresh headlights have chrome around the edge, which at this point is a deviation from the chrome-less style of the rest of the car.

The “refresh refresh” Matrix headlights on the Tesla Model S have matte gray design elements without the shiny chrome accents. You’ll also notice the round projector lenses on the new Matrix-style light, which are absent in the old reflector-style LED headlight.

How Can I Install Matrix Headlights in My Older Model S (2021-2022 Refresh)?

Disclaimer: this post is for informational purposes only. We aren’t Tesla service techs, and you should proceed with caution when making any kind of change to your Tesla’s configuration without the supervision of Tesla Service Personnel.

Installing the new matrix headlights on your older Model S isn’t a plug-n-play operation, but the process is fairly straightforward (especially if you have the right support to help you).

For a great visual overview of the process, Tesla owner and enthusiast Reid Tomasko walks us through his Model S matrix headlight retrofit over on his YouTube channel:

According to Reid, you’ll need the following parts and the support finish the retrofit:

  • OEM Matrix headlight set (Left: 1563713-00-B, Right:1563714-00-B)
  • Adapter for the headlight wiring harness (connecting the original 4 wire assembly to a 3 wire input for LIN, power, and ground). See Reid’s video description for his customer adapter source.
  • Vehicle configuration update so that your Tesla recognizes the new hardware. You’ll be accomplishing the update with Tesla Toolbox on a PC through the vehicle’s ethernet connection (available with the Steam computer gaming upgrade) or through the H-MTD connection and a media converter box (like this one from Rosenberger, though you may want to see if you can borrow one rather than buying).

In his video, Reid mentions that it’s easiest to get the configuration changed if you happen to know someone who works at Tesla (or who already has access to and knowledge of the Tesla Toolbox). He has a source who may be able to help you linked in his video. Note: a Tesla Mobile service tech may or may not be willing/able to do this configuration change for you.

Can you add matrix headlights to the pre-refresh Model S (2012-2020)?

Tesla’s matrix headlights vs the regular Tesla headlights are definitely a notable tech improvement. Unfortunately for the old pre-refresh Model S (pre-2021), the physical profile of the new matrix headlights is built to fit the new refresh Model S standard. The new lights just don’t line up well on the older models.

It’s also unclear if the software support necessary for the full function of a matrix-style headlight is present for the pre-refresh Model S (or pre-refresh Model X).

However, you can replace the OEM headlight with other aftermarket parts on the market. These replacements may include removing the entire front end assembly and include extra software and configuration updates, so they may not be a good DIY beginner project for those with little or no modification experience.

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