Whatever the reason you’re off-road, LED lights can mean the difference between safety and the unthinkable.
Although your first thought about off-roading may be for the purpose of having fun, many drivers find themselves off the beaten path for more serious reasons. Emergency vehicles, for example, may be called upon to leave the relative comfort and safety of the paved roads. Or perhaps you use a more primitive type of ingress and egress to your home or cabin.
Whatever the reason you find yourself off-road, LED lights are the safest and most effective means of lighting the way. Choosing the right lights, mounting hardware and wiring accessories will help ensure a successful installation and your continued safety and comfort in a variety of off-road environments.
Whether you’re an LED expert or a novice, there are two primary measures of a good off-road light choice: how durable it is and how many lumens it puts out.
Once you know that you have satisfied these requirements, you can compare the features of different manufacturers and light bar designs. But you will also be concerned with how much power the light draws and its beam pattern, depending on how you plan to mount it.
You never know what kind of conditions you may be facing when you’re off-roading. Having the maximum light output will help ensure that you can safely see what you are facing. Without getting too technical, lumens are the measure of how bright a given light source is. In LED light bar product descriptions, you may see lumens designated as “lm,” following a number, such as 7200lm.
Because lumen output ratings are based on a calculation (LED output x number of LEDs in a lamp or light bar), this measure is helpful for comparing the light output of various off-road light bars for trucks, ATVs, etc.
Although higher lumen outputs result in higher power consumption, today’s high-quality light bar designs use microprocessor circuit technology to keep power consumption at the lowest possible level. The result is a significantly improved level of visibility with little draw on your vehicle’s battery.
Durability is necessary for any type of vehicle light application, but it is especially important if you plan to be off the road with your vehicle. The bouncing and bumping of the off-road environment create to much vibration and shock for most traditional lights, such as halogen, xenon or HID bulbs.
CREE LED technology is the essence of LED durability. These devices are solid state, which means they have no moving parts or pieces. In fact, many of the off-road LED light bars that use CREE LEDs can last for 30,000 hours or more. Compare that to xenon, which only lasts for about 5,000 hours, or halogen lamps, which are only good for about 1,000 hours.
Water resistance is another factor in durability, especially if you plan to use an LED light bar in the marine environment. However, if you live in a particularly wet climate, choosing a water-resistant off-road LED light will help extend its useful life. This is typically accomplished with a silicone seal in the housing body, which also serves to prevent dust and other particles from gaining entry to the light. You may see lights designed as waterproof and dustproof or, more often, water-resistant and dust-resistant.
When selecting off-road LED light bars, you typically have a choice of flood beams, spot beams, combination patterns and multi-beam patterns. Flood LEDs emit a wide beam that is best for “flooding” the close-range area with light. Spot LEDs emit a narrow beam that is appropriate for illuminating a farther distance with greater focus. You can choose lamps that switch between spot and flood, or that are capable of achieving both patterns at the same time.
Depending on your needs, you can choose from straight and curved LED light bars, mini LED light bars and LED work lights.
Straight Off-Road LED Light Bars
These light bar designs create a more direct illumination pattern, as compared to a curved bar. These lamps typically feature both beam and spot light patterns. You can mount these lamps in most any location you prefer but they are most commonly used in vehicle rooftop installations.
A good example of a straight off-road LED light bar is the Prairie Falcon 51-inch straight off-road LED light bar.
Curved Off-Road LED Light Bars
Curved off-road LED bars distribute light in a wider, less direct manner. You will have a wider field of illumination but it will be slightly less powerful than the light emitted by a straight bar. These lamps are also typically designed with both spot and beam patterns. Depending on the model you select, you can mount it to your vehicle’s windshield, roof, bumper, etc.
A popular example of a curved off-road LED light bar is the Nightcrawler 50-inch Curved Off-Road Light Bar.
Whether you should select a straight or curved light bar is a matter of personal choice but it also depends on where you want to install the LED light bar and how you want it to look. Straight bar designs look best on more square-shaped vehicles (Jeeps, for instance) and older vehicles. Curved bars are more aesthetically appropriate for newer vehicles, as the curvature of the bar will appear more harmonious with the curve of the windshield, bumper or roof.
LED Work Lights
Despite the name, work lights are also appropriate for use for off-roading vehicles. These lamps include mounting brackets that can be used for attaching them to a truck, SUV, jeep, ATV, trailer, etc. Work lights typically emit a high-intensity flood beam pattern that allows you to aim your light source where you need to see. Although they provide less lumen output, they are perfect for filling in your pattern of visibility as well as adding downward illumination to show you exactly what you are driving over.
A good example of an LED work light for off-roading is the Vulture Mini 36 Watt model. With 3600lm, this little workhorse emits a narrow, pencil light beam pattern.
When you invest in high-quality off-road LEDs, you won’t want to compromise on your mounting hardware. After all, your light bar will not provide the visibility you need if it comes loose from its mounting position or falls off your vehicle.
It’s also important that you mount your light bars and work lights no higher on the vehicle than necessary, if height clearance is an issue for you. You can choose mounting brackets that place the bar lower above the windshield, effectively not increasing the overall vehicle height. However, if clearance is not an issue for you, mounting the bar higher up will help illuminate further down your path.
Most light bars include universal mounting brackets. However, many customers prefer to purchase a variety of LED light bar mounts, brackets and kits to customize your installation. As an alternative, you can also use magnetic mounting brackets or clamps, or have brackets custom fabricated to fit your needs.
If you will be mounting the light bars yourself, always check carefully before drilling mounting holes, to ensure that you will not be damaging or interfering with any of your vehicle’s components.
Off-road LED lights can draw a large amount of power, depending on the wattage. This can affect your vehicle in a variety of ways. Likewise, the correct wiring of your light bars will help prevent problems.
In some cases, you can use your vehicle’s existing wiring for your LED off-road lights. However, if you are not familiar with how to handle this tricky part of installation, refer to your manufacturer’s information and the installation guide for your light bar or work light.
When you select your lights, you have the option of a 1- or 2-connector wiring harness. You can also choose to add light control box rather than an individual switch. Many customers like the simplicity and convenience of this off-road LED light bar wiring harness kit, which contains everything you need for most wiring installations. This kit contains 8 feet of wiring, a 40-amp relay and illuminated on/off switch.
Having the right equipment is the secret to a successful installation of your new off-road LED lights.
As the leading distributor of emergency vehicle lights, construction and work lights and light bars for trucks, ATVs, semis and other vehicles, we provide a comprehensive three-year warranty on all of our products. We feature only the most advanced LED technology for maximum lifespan and durability.
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Visit our website today to select your off-road LED lights, accessories and installation hardware.