For a true custom look, Tesla logo projector lights can be installed in place of the puddle lights that are on the underside of the door panels. This project takes about an hour for each door and can be installed on any number of doors. Our approach allows you to return the original lights, as we don’t cut any wires, nor drill any holes in the car. I only installed it on the front two doors. The parts cost is about $30 per door.
Parts required per door:
- Projector light (see text)
- 1 mm (0.04″) thick Aluminum sheet (see text)
- Optional puddle light Tesla part number 1007151-00 (see text)
or a TE Connector and related male terminals (2 terminals needed)
- 1 – Small 4″ long nylon cable wrap (example at Amazon)
- Soldering iron and solder
- Drill to cut a hole in aluminum sheet, with 24mm bit (comes with projector light)
- Snips or hacksaw to cut aluminum sheet
- Round rasp or file (may not be necessary)
- 8mm or 5/16″ and 9mm or 11/32″ nut drivers to remove older car’s door panel, 10 mm needed for newer doors
- A tiny amount of silicone – any color/type
Buying the Projector Light
These are sold on eBay, typically in pairs, and usually include a bit for drilling a hole (although with our instructions, we avoid any holes in the car itself). The listings constantly change so you may need to search if the links below fail. In addition, eBay does not allow third-party logos to appear, so it’s less clear of the style of the logo a specific company offers.
This is what we bought on eBay, but the listing has expired. The company has other listings with different logos, and you may be able to ask for the Tesla logo as shown at the end of this page. The company also offers custom logos, so you could design your own logo.
Navinio makes a slightly smaller unit, with a similar/identical logo. Be sure to specify logo #501 when ordering. If you get this, the hole will be smaller. This may avoid the need to make the existing puddle lamp hole larger but may require a large washer or a second aluminum plate to mount in the car’s existing puddle lamp hole. The retaining nut is likely too small to fit over the connector, so an alternative method will need to be used. This can be ordered directly (with 1, 2, or 4 pcs). Try Navinio.com, but the site is intermittently down and slow to load when working.
To search for other possible sources, this generic eBay projectors link is a good start. Starting in 2017 there are new wireless battery operated projectors. I’ve not tested these, and I suspect the batteries may not last long. Still, they might be a consideration for some, as there is no wiring involved.
When you get your LED projector light, check the sizing and adjust our instructions as necessary.
Bracket and Projector Wiring
First, create an aluminum bracket to hold the back of the projector light. I marked a 34mm x 46mm rectangle on the aluminum sheet and marked the center. I cut a 24mm hole in the center. Next cut the rectangle out of the sheet. It doesn’t need to be all that accurate as the mounting area has at least 6mm or 1/4″ of additional space available on all sides.
OPTION 1 – Use the TE Connector (from the parts list)
The connector and two pins can connect directly to the existing puddle light female connector. Cut the projector light cord to 5-6″ of cord, and strip the wires. Attach the puddle light wires to the male crimp terminals and insert the terminals into the housing. Be sure to match the polarity to the car’s female connector or the puddle light will not work!
OPTION 2 – Use a second puddle light as the connector
I didn’t want to cut the wires going to the existing puddle light, and I didn’t want to modify the existing puddle light, should I ever want to return the car to its original state. So I bought a replacement puddle light from Tesla to use it as the connector. Alternatively, you can use the existing puddle light that you’ll remove as part of the process. If you use the exiting light, you’ll need to remove it first. As we’ll explain later, using the existing puddle light may also force you to remove and install the door panel twice!
Take the Tesla puddle light and remove the clear plastic lens. It’s rather difficult to remove, but the clear lens will be discarded, so it’s fine if it breaks. The black plastic portion has the connector, and now you have easy access to the solder points.
Cut the projector light cord to 5-6″ of cord, and strip the wires. Solder the wires to the puddle light to the two connector pins that are already soldered to the tiny PC board at the far end of the PC board. The PC board is marked with a minus sign close to where the black wire goes, and the red wire goes to the opposite pin connection. I then bent the cord around the LED and used a cable wrap to provide some strain relief. When using the cable wrap, make sure it doesn’t block the connector inlet. The cable tie needs to be a small thin one, or the nut will not fit over the connector. Check that the large retaining nut fits over the connector. Lastly, drop a dab of silicone on the exposed solder points to insulate them.
Removing the Door Panel
The door panel is fairly easy to remove and with practice can be done in about 5 minutes if the tools are handy. First, remove the black rubber pad at the bottom of the hand-hold. It should pry out using a plastic tool. Remove the bolt hidden behind the rubber pad.
Behind the inside door release lever is a hard, black plastic cover. With the lever in its maximum open position, pry this part out from the front (i.e. towards the door hinge). It should come out easily. Remove the two bolts behind this cover.
Using a plastic pry tool at the bottom of the door panel (older cars) or start prying from the side near the top (newer cars), pry out the panel from the doors. Avoid using anything metal to prevent scraping the paint.
There are a number of snaps (that make a bad ‘breaking’ sound when releasing), around the outsides of the door. I found once you get a few to release, you can get your hands between the metal door and the door panel and pull out. There are about 6 very hard snaps at the top. Pulling the top away from the door will release them. New cars use a newer snap around the sides and bottom that are very hard to release – start the top-front and the sides and lower ones will release. There are wires attached between the door and the door panel, so don’t pull so hard as to rip out the wires!
While all the wires can be detached, and the door release cable removed, I elected to do all the work without doing this. I set up a small footstool with a box on top to hold the door up, so it’s not hanging on the wires. Around 2015, Tesla started to have the panels attached by a short nylon strap to the doors at the upper back corner. I never found a way to release this – it’s riveted to the car. I believe it prevents the door panel from coming completely off in the event of a T-bone side crash.
Installing the Projector
Remove the existing puddle light connector. It has an interlock that can be difficult to release. It may be easier to use a small screwdriver to push down on the locking tab to allow pulling out the connector. Next, remove the puddle light. Some pop right out and others are really wedged in. It’s only a friction fit, but I had to break one to get it out. They are cheap to replace, so don’t feel too bad about breaking them to get it out.
Remove the black large nut on the projector light and put it aside. The center of the hole needs to be enlarged slightly to make room for the projector light (depends on which projector light you get, might not be required). I used a small rasp attached to a drill to make the enlarged hole. You could also use a round file. It’s an awkward place to work. Test fit the projector along the way to enlarge it only as needed to fit tight on the threaded portion of the projector.
Connect the projector light up without installing it. Confirm it lights up and note it’s projected position. I marked it with a silver Sharpe pen so that the alignment has the bottom of the Tesla logo perpendicular to the door panel. Note that the car turns off the puddle lights if the door has been opened a long time (maybe 10 minutes?). I tried a few things, but couldn’t get it to turn on until the door was closed and opened again. A major pain to partly reassemble the door, close it, and open it again. I was able to just hang the panel on without any side or bottom clips pushed in, close the door and open it to turn on the LEDs again.
The final assembly pushes the projector light all the way in, with the metal bracket on the inside of the door panel. Slip the large projector nut over the connector and onto the projector. Tighten the nut. There is a locking Phillips head screw. Tighten it (if possible) as well. On one door the locking screw was in a position that I couldn’t tighten it, but it’s not all that important.
Reassemble the door. Tip – start at the top of the panel and press this portion into the top clips. Next check on the sides that the white prods are aligned with the holes. You can easily reach in and adjust if needed. Press the sides in until the prods engage. Check the bottom two prods are also properly aligned. Press the bottom in and go around the panel until all are pressed in as far as it will go and the panel is snug against the metal door.
Before putting the 3 bolts back in the door, confirm the light works, and is positioned the way you want it. If good, button up the rest of the door with the three bolts, the plastic door handle cover and the rubber cover.