You're out off-road barreling down some trail, and you can barely see. This isn't an enjoyable or safe situation. There is also no need for it thanks to LED technology.
LED lights have become so popular that they are now coming stock on some trucks. If your older truck doesn't have a stock LED light bar you can install one yourself.
Your options are endless though, and it can be confusing to know what to look for. We are here to help you with a comprehensive guide on what to look for.
LED Chip Manufacturer
You will want to be looking for LED driving lights that use only Cree® or Osram® LED Chips. These are the A-grade LED chips that will see you light bar have a long 50,000 hour life-span. There are many rip-off LED's that are poor quality and enable other light bars to have a lower cost. But be warned, these lights will fail a lot sooner!
The lumens are how bright the light is that the bulb can produce. The higher the lumens number, the more light the bulbs produce.
To give you an idea of the Lumens scale, a 25-watt incandescent bulb will give off about 250 Lumens. This is equal to about 3 to 4 LEDs.
A 150 Watt incandescent bulb gives off about 2,600 Lumens. This is equal to about 25-30 LEDs. The number of LEDs can vary, so look for the Lumens rating to be listed when buying your light bar.
In this same area, you may see people talking about the warmth of the light. This shouldn't be an issue, as most LED light bars are going to give you a bright to cool white tone.
Two vs One
You need to decide if you want 1 large lightbar or 2 smaller ones. The advantage to having 2 smaller ones is that you can angle them in different directions.
Others prefer the look of the large light bar on their truck. You also may find that mounting one bar is easier than 2.
Types of Light Beams
Having the brightest light possible is only part of the equation. You need to decide how you want that light directed.
Are you looking for a highly concentrated beam? Maybe you want a general flood of light.
Spot LED light bars will give you a strong narrow beam of light. These lights work well if you want to light a specific task.
You can point them down a narrow trail. Spot style LED lights have a more narrow beam, but that beam goes further in distance.
Instead of a narrow beam, flood LED lights are going to spread the light out to illuminate a general area. These work best when you want to light up the general area around the vehicle.
Think using these to illuminate your workspace or from slow moving machinery that need a wide beam of light. The light won't go very far in distance, but lights well in width and shorter distance.
If you can't decide between spot or flood then you should consider a combo light bar. Combo lights have both flood and spot beam illumination operated at the same time.
The combo light as a spotlight for a more concentrated beam of light and also uses the flood option for short distance broad light enabling maximum illumination. You truly get the best of both worlds.
LED light bars come in sizing ranging from 2 inches to 50 inches. This gives you the ability to fit the light bar to the space you have on your vehicle. Be careful to calculate the size including mounts.
So you found the perfect light for your needs. Now you need to make sure that the light will work with your vehicle.
Check the brackets and wiring to make sure they work with your vehicle. Quality light bars will come with the waterproof wiring and connectors to plug into your vehicle's wiring. Look for the term "plug and play", this is a good sign that it'll come with the right connectors.
Be aware that cheaper models will often not come with any connectors or wiring. If they do come with wiring it is often poor quality and too lightweight and thin.
Who wants to buy a light bar and then have to hunt down the brackets to mount it? No one, that's who. Buy a light bar with a sturdy bracket to keep it from moving.
Since you'll be using this light during your off-road travels, you'll want a light that is durable to withstand bumps, branches, and mud and river crossings.
Start by looking at the materials used for the construction. They should be waterproof, steam-proof, sturdy and resistant to scratches and cracking.
You will often find that the brackets are made out of aluminum. This metal is lightweight but sturdy enough to secure the lights to your truck.
The best thing you can do is find a video review. This lets you see the light in action.
LED Light Bars, Install Them Legally
Up until a few years ago, the law stated that the lights on your vehicle had to get mounted in pairs. Want to mount a light bar on your 4 x 4?
You'd have two options, mount 2, or grab some black tape and make that one light look like two. Thankfully the laws have changed and now acknowledge these new lights.
You should be aware that the laws vary from state to state though. We're going to give you an overview of the laws. Take note that this is our interpretation and you should always check the laws yourself before mounting or modding anything on your vehicle.
Your lights can only come on when the high beam headlights are on. They also need to automatically turn off when the headlights turn off.
Your driving lights need to connect through an isolator. This turns the driving lights off when the high beams turn on.
You cannot mount your light bar on top of your bull bar. There are three places you can mount your light bar depending on where you live
- On the grill, lower than the top of the bull bar
- Forward facing at the top of the front of the cab
- Rear-facing at the top of the back of the cab
The Varying Laws
While laws have evolved to accommodate new and changing technology, there is still confusion over what is legal. Depending on what state you live in, certain locations on your vehicle can be legal or not legal.
In Victoria position 1 above is legal. However, positions 2 and 3 can be open to interpretation depending on how you understand the light bar laws.
Western Australia/ South Australia/ New South Wales
All three positions are acceptable.
You can have your LED light bar in positions 1 or 2. You cannot mount it in position 3.
You can have you LED light bar in position 1 only.
You can have your LED light bar in position 1. You cannot mount it in position 2 or 3.
Outfit Your Vehicle
When considering your options for LED light bars you need to think about lumens, construction and beam pattern. The right combination of these features will give you the right amount of light required.
No matter what light you buy, make sure that it is of high quality. Look for durable strong materials like aluminum and shatterproof lenses. You want the housing to be strong enough to protect the lights from the elements.
You also want the lights to be waterproof and steam-proof. This prevents your LED light bar from getting that dreaded condensation on the inside.
Above all, before you install your light bars, you need to check that you follow the local and national laws.
Start comparing LED light bars for your vehicle today.
08 November, 2018