These are truly the best of times to be an off-road enthusiast. Never in the history of our sport have there been so many great trucks offered by the OEMs, and never have there been so many cool and ultra-functional products offered by aftermarket manufacturers that can be used by enthusiasts to trick out their trucks.
Wheels, tires, suspension systems, electronics, engines, and engine accessories; they're all clamoring for enthusiasts' attention. Oh yeah, did we neglect to mention HID lighting systems? It would be a huge oversight to do so because interest in high-end HID performance lights is skyrocketing, cost be damned.
All of which brings us to Lightforce HID lights. Beyond their high intensity discharge illumination, Lightforce has engineered several unique features into its lights. The electrical ballast, which is at the heart of an HID light's performance, is located within the light's housing, away from moisture, dust, and damage.
Also impressive is the material selected for the light's construction: glass-filled nylon is used for the housing, while a clear, shatterproof polycarbonate lens is found at the lights' front. The huge 9.5-inch diameter of the Lightforce 240 HIDs throws a large amount of light, and the rustproof stainless hardware and gasket-equipped housing mean the 240 HID is incredibly tough and durable.
We had the opportunity to examine the Lightforce 240 HIDs and then install a quartet on a Super Duty. We found the 240's traits and design exceptional, easy to install, and a true powerhouse when the switches are flipped to on. Here's a look at the workings of the Lightforce 240 HID lights, as well as a basic install.
Examined: The HID concept
As with many mechanical and electromechanical concepts, the theory behind -- and the function of -- an HID light is complex. However, a basic overview of a high-energy discharge light's operational details is a worthwhile endeavor. Let's start with the bulb: a highly pressurized mixture of xenon gas, mercury, metal halides (sodium), and other gases are contained within a small glass bulb (the arc tube). On the Lightforce HIDs, the bulb is rated at 35 watts. Also inside the tube is a pair of tungsten-tipped electrodes placed a few millimeters apart.
Electrical energy (12-volts) is sent to a high-voltage transformer (containing the "starter" as well as the ballast module), which steps up the voltage to nearly 1,000 volts. The high voltage is sent to the electrodes inside the bulb, which causes an arc, igniting the gases inside the bulb. As the gases burn, a temperature of nearly 4,000 degrees is attained within the arc tube, and the light given off by the burning gases is similar to daylight. After the initial startup, the lights require less than 3 amps of energy to maintain their output.
As to brightness, because of the high-tech design of the HID bulb, the output of the Lightforce lights are in excess of 100 watts, although the whiteness of the light makes the output seem even brighter.
The Lightforce HID lights are extremely powerful, lightweight, and darn near indestructible, thanks to a housing that's formed from glass-filled nylon material. Light efficiency is maximized through the use of a mirror-like reflector and a true circular (parabola) reflector shape, which throws a more efficient light pattern than a reflector with a square or rectangular shape. Lightforce HID lights are equipped with a pivoting, multi-axial mount for easy mounting in almost any location.
There are several beam patterns that can be produced by the Lightforce HID light, including flood (wide angle), pencil beam, and fog (clear or yellow), allowing for a change in beam pattern to suit varying conditions. Check the light in the previous photo; the non-fluted lens emits light in a semi-flood pattern, while the fluted lens in the photo above produces a combination beam pattern, which is used in foggy or dusty conditions. The clear edge throws a flood pattern, while the fluted center section focuses the pattern into a horizontal aimed at the road surface. The black light cover keeps the Lightforce lights legal for street driving.
This illustration shows the various components of a Lightforce HID 240 light, including the auxiliary clip-on polycarbonate fluted filter (A), the primary polycarbonate lens (B), the aluminized reflector (C), the radio frequency-shielded ballast module (D), the replaceable HID bulb (E), and the removable bulb access plate (F).
More trickery is found inside the Lightforce HID: the xenon bulb can be repositioned with the use of a 1/8-inch-thick spacer ring. Easily installed or removed, the ring moves the bulb in relation to the reflector. With the ring installed and the bulb positioned away from the reflector, a wider-angle beam pattern is produced; move the bulb back toward the reflector and the original long-range pattern is again in use. Clever, right?
Lightforce doesn't manufacture a wiring harness for its HID lights, but recommends the use of -- and can supply -- an electrical harness from Painless Performance. The Painless harness is complete, right down to illuminated switchgear, extra-length wires, weatherproof connectors, and a pair of electrical relays.
Installation of the Lightforce HID lights is basic. You'll need well spaced light tabs on your truck's bumper or light cage because of the large overall diameter of the lights, but that's the only special requirement. Bolt the lights in place using the supplied stainless steel hardware; keep the mounting bolts snug, not fully tight, as you'll have to adjust the lights' angle after dusk.
The wiring harness kit includes two electrical relays, which is enough to properly power four of the Lightforce lights. Install the relays and the wiring harness inside the engine bay, with a main power lead connected between the battery and each of the relays. A signal wire will be run from each of the relays to the control switches on the dash; the power wires from the relays to the lights were previously installed. For additional protection, you may want to wire a 20-amp fuse between the battery and each relay.
Install the Painless switches in a convenient location on the dash. The switches are illuminated when in the on position, so you'll have to run a power lead to the switch. Attach the switches' ground wire and the signal wire to the relays, and you're finished.
It's tough to find an aftermarket component that brings function, durability, and impressive appearance in one package, but Lightforce's HID light does it all. The brilliant white HID light is vastly superior to the brightness, color, and quality of light produced by non-HID light. Sure, the Lightforce 240 HID lights are expensive, but quality is never cheap.