There’s no denying that LED light bars are a popular trend, reminiscent of the row of smiley-faced Daylights on a chrome triple-double roll bar in the 1980s. You can buy a Chinese light bar for under $100 these days, and we see these knockoff light bars on everything from show trucks to Subarus. But those cheap bars are more for being seen and less about actually allow you to see at night.
By comparison, Baja Designs light bars are, well, designed. For Baja. The company has been making lighting solutions for motorcycle and automotive racing for over 20 years. So we put a Baja Designs OnX6 Hi-Power light bar up against a no-name cheapo on a recent trip to Mexico for the Baja 1000 to demonstrate the differences in construction and performance.
The OnX6 Hi-Power is the perfect choice for applications like the bumper of our Tacoma, where you have limited space but want maximum light output. Baja Designs gets 34,950 lumens out of a 30-inch light bar while drawing only 25 amps from the 18 Cree diodes. By contrast, the generic LED light bar has 52 light-emitting diodes but only generates 14,400 lumens. The numbers are difficult to qualify, though, until you actually see the difference in light output. Our trip to Mexico including night driving, through pothole-strewn roads, with cattle on the road, all while towing a trailer. Visibility was the difference between arriving safely at our destination and hitting a cow, or having to work on the trailer on the side of the road. In these situations, where function is more important than form, Baja Designs really shines.
We towed the Coast Aluminum Class 10 car to Mexico with our Tundra. The Baja Designs OnX6 Hi-Power light bar gave us plenty of visibility to get the trailer stopped when cows were on the road at night. Note that the race car also has an assortment of Baja Designs lights.
Baja Designs OnX6 products are modular, and come in 10-inch increments. Each section is serviceable and uses o-ring seals rather than silicone to seal out dust and water. Want to change the light pattern? Have a lens that is scratched? Not a problem with the OnX6.
Note how the Baja Designs reflectors are physically larger than the standard LED reflector. The larger size not only gives the OnX6 a unique look, they also allow the light to be focused more accurately to provide greater distance. A variety of options are available to match your specific application, from 44-degree wide cornering patterns to super focused 4-degree spotlights for high speed racing applications.
With a no name light bar you are on your own with regards to mounting. By contrast, Baja Designs uses WeatherPack seals with o-rings that are completely waterproof, dust proof, and submersible. In addition, the patented MoistureBloc on Baja Design’s power cord completely stops water from wicking its way up the cord and into the light.
While Baja Designs includes all necessary wiring right down to a switch for the dash, Alex Baker at Samco Fabrication wired our lights through the factory foglight switch in our Tundra. This provides a clean look, and the lights were wired so that they can be turned on independently of the high beams, but turn off when the high beams are off to quickly prevent from blinding anyone when off-roading at night.
The 30-inch Baja Designs OnX6 light bar weighs 11.5-pounds. By contrast, the generic 30-inch bar weighs half as much at 5.8 pounds. The additional weight comes from Baja Designs’s CopperDrive LED management system that uses state-of-the-art circuit board and driver technology to safely run the LEDs at 100% power. Four levels of thermal management transfer LED heat up to 3000% more efficiently and provide an extra layer of vibration isolation.
A small portion of the bumper was trimmed to fit the 30-inch OnX6 Hi-Power light bar, but still keep it relatively hidden within the factory bumper on the front of our Tundra. The brackets have to be removed in order to get the light bar off, which is nearly impossible with the hood closed. This provides confidence that the light bar won’t grow legs and walk away.
Baja Designs has bolt-on mounting options for most popular vehicles, including Jeep Wranglers, Ford Raptors, Toyota Tacomas, and Polaris RZRs. On our older Tundra, Vic Carrasco modified the basic mounts that are included to work in the bumper of our truck.
Baja Designs mounting system utilizes two mounting points to ensure that the light stays pointed where you want it, even when subjected to vibration on the trail. The rear mounting point allows for easy adjustments and fine tuning, and all of the hardware is stainless. You won’t find these features on a knock-off LED light bar.
The OnX6 Hi-Power light bar really earned its keep in Baja when locating and navigating access roads to reach the race course and pit locations. Staying ahead of the race car is always a challenge at night, but the Baja Designs light bar definitely made the process easier.
These photos highlight the difference in visibility with the factory headlights, the cheapo light bar, and the premium Baja Designs OnX6 Hi-Power light bar. All the images were taken with the same camera settings. The Baja Designs light not only projects further but focuses the light much better as well.