QUICK GUIDE TO 4WD LIGHTING
Moonlight alone isn’t enough to light up the backcountry after dark. Every off-roader looking to take on the backcountry after sunset needs a good set of lights. But what are your options as a discerning 4WD driver?
Installing lights on your vehicle’s exterior can be done in one of several ways. Full width light bars offer a huge amount of light, they are usually around 5 or 6 feet in length and can be fixed to the vehicle’s roof or grille. These provide great illumination for objects close to your vehicle. Because the light is emitted in more of a spread, they are not ideal for lighting objects in the distance.
For something a little more understated, a mid-length light bar is significantly more affordable. These are mounted on the bumper or grille. They offer a less light than a full bar, but can still meet all your night-time off-roading needs.
Or, you can mount smaller fog light sized spotlights on a bull bar. These pods offer more spotlighting but provide an intense light for the road ahead, allowing you to spot obstacles in the distance in ample time to avoid them. Using a mixture of both light bars and spotlights offers the best all-round lighting for both distant objects and hazards closer to the vehicle.
The type of bulb you need largely depends on how you will use your lighting. If you just need something to light the trail ahead you might want something simple like an LED. But if you need something to light up a large area to scan the horizon, you will need HID lighting.
Halogen bulbs come as standard in most vehicles. They are pretty inefficient with power and don’t actually give off that much light. They do represent the most economical option. For the occasional off-roader that just wants a little more illumination to their standard headlights, they might want to consider mounting a couple of inexpensive halogen lamps.
HIGH INTENSITY DISCHARGE (HID)
HID represent the ultimate in off-road lighting. They throw out the most light, giving drivers the ability to tackle off-road trails at speed. For serious off-roaders who frequently take on trails at night, HIDs are the ultimate benchmark.
For most off-roaders, they will want something in between the two. They don’t need to light up the whole field like a Christmas tree, but they do want a durable, high efficiency light that can supplement their headlights. The only issue with LEDs is that they can burn out due to the high temperatures they reach. The technology is developing all the time, so expect them to get better and more advanced as time goes on.
As with anything 4WD related, go for quality. If you aren’t going for big name brands with long warranties, don’t be surprised if your light fails you suddenly, leaving you in a jam. Look for long warranties and check the online reviews before you make any light purchase, whatever type you are going to go with.
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