Lighting upgrades are just about the hottest thing in the off-road world at the moment. We’re not sure when everyone’s enthusiasm for nighttime driving increased or why so many people suddenly took to the craze, but make no mistake: auxiliary lighting is back in a big way. Unlike the KC Daylighter craze of the ’80s, the new lighting revolution is all about LEDs.
While LEDs have been around for decades, they are just now making it to the mainstream at the OEM and aftermarket levels. Yes, windshield lightbars are currently a touch on the trendy side, but LED headlights are an actually result of the need for a better headlight. One vehicle that seems to get the most LED attention is the Jeep Wrangler JK. This is largely due to the less-than-stellar OE headlight performance.
To see just how effective LED lighting can be, we upgraded our ’07 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with a popular and practical LED lighting set from Quadratec. Installing the new Quadratec LED headlights and 51-inch Hi Performance lightbar took a little more than an hour and can easily be done at home. Read on to find out just how the new setup performed.
The Quadratec LED headlights have a 7-inch-round build the same as the JK’s stock headlamp. Each Quadratec LED light is fit in a die-cast aluminum housing, which uses a polycarbonate lens for strength and uninterrupted projection. We’ll admit that we are not overly wild about the Q placement in the headlight, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
To remove the OE headlights, you’ll need to remove the JK’s grille. If your front bumper and winch combo interferes with the complete removal of the grille, you can carefully pull it back enough to access the four headlight-ring bolts holding in the light.
A common issue for JKs running LED headlights is the tendency for them to flicker. This is due to the way the Jeep’s electrical system sends power in pulses to the stock headlamps. To compensate for this, Quadratec provides a module that plugs between the stock harness and new headlight.
Quadratec designed its LED headlight to use the top half of the light for the low beam and the bottom for high. The top uses single a 15-watt LED, while the bottom uses three powerful LEDs to provide a far-reaching beam.
With the headlights installed, we turned our focus on the lightbar. Supporting the bar is a set of Quadratec LED lightbar brackets designed specifically for the JK. The brackets bolt on using the Jeep’s stock hardware and come with a black powdercoat finish.
A nice feature of the lightbar brackets were the rubber backing inserts. This will not only protect the paint but help prevent debris from getting between the two metal surfaces.
The Quadratec Hi Performance LED lightbar comes in at 51 inches long and fit with 8 spots and 25 floodlights. Each one of the 10-watt LEDs puts out super-bright white light at a 6,000K color temp. The mixture of flood and spotlights is intended to give it a great balance for high- and low-speed night wheeling. It’s also worth mentioning that we didn’t notice any whistle from the lightbar.
The lightbar has an IP69 waterproof rating and comes with a wiring harness with weather-tight connectors. Our only complaint was the pigtail on the lightbar was too short to route down the front of the A-pillar like wanted. We ended up modifying this section so we could cleanly hide the disconnect.
Included with the lightbar’s wiring harness is an inline wiring adapter that allows you wire your switch using power from the auxiliary port without ever cutting a single wire. Overall, we found the wiring kit was very user friendly.
If you’re familiar with the JK’s stock light output, you know how unimpressive it can be. This is the spread in low beam.
The proof is in the picture, as we say. The stock headlights produced a very limited spread with a yellow-ish light tint. The Quadratec LEDs shown in low beam produce a more pure white light, along with a spread that goes farther out. In terms of lumens, the Quadratec low beams produce 315 more with a current draw that is half of the stock H13 bulbs.
In our costal town, we’ve been experiencing a bit of a sea mist in the evenings lately, which made it slightly more difficult to put exactly into perspective the reach of the Quadratec lightbar. This photo was taken with the 51-inch lightbar as the only light source. Even by our account, it doesn’t do it justice to just how far and wide it allows you to see. To quantify it, you’re looking at 27,520 lumens.
While not an inexpensive investment, LED headlights are by far a worthwhile upgrade. Anytime you can see better at night means you’ll have a safer driving experience. The DOT-compliant Quadratec LED headlights are completely legal, but don’t be surprised if you get some dirty looks in the rearview mirror and people flashing high-beams at you from time to time. You’ll need to take the time to adjust the headlights, something we are still fine tuning ourselves. Sure, the lightbar might not fit everyone’s practical needs, but it is an incredible asset for nighttime exploration.