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Trail Torches: Warp Speed or Walking the Rocks, LP9s Light the Way

Posted in How To: Electrical on June 13, 2018
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When your off- and on-road adventures extend past the daylight hours, you begin thinking of ways to light up the world. Our ’17 JK Wrangler might sit idle during the week, but when Friday night rolls around, you’ll find it twisting through snowy mountain passes and cruising the desert in search of the next adventure. The JK has LED headlamps that are well suited for use on crowded highways, but when we trade pavement for dirt, we often find ourselves overdriving our lights. The headlamp beam pattern also leaves many things in the shadows, like the rocks and elk that tend to jump from the periphery and into our path of travel. We needed a light that not only illuminates the area directly in front of the Jeep, but also sends light far down the trail so we can prepare for that hidden hairpin turn.

Our bright idea? A pair of LP9 LED lights from Baja Designs. These new lights are reminiscent of the company’s La Paz HID and oozing with tech. Each LP9 light has nine forward-facing LEDs that draw 105 watts and throw 11,025 lumens straight down the trail. Even though the power draw is just over that of an incandescent light bulb, this light delivers significantly more light than the hanging bulb in the attic. To solve our peripheral light problem, the LP9 has three LEDs on each side drawing 10.5 watts per side and throwing 1,140 lumens of light to the edges of the trail. The forward and peripheral lights create a 200-degree spread of usable light for wheeling.

Baja Designs makes sure you have everything necessary to install two LP9 lights to your vehicle with mounting brackets, hardware, wiring long enough to access the bed of a pickup, and a three-position switch.

For low-speed applications, the driving/combo setting floods the area immediately in front of the vehicle with fatigue-mitigating, natural-colored light. When the trail opens up and you need to see what lies 300 feet ahead, toggle the lights to high-speed spot mode to add a narrower 6-degree spot beam to the driving/combo pattern. The wiring kit from Baja Designs includes everything necessary to power two LP9 lights and control them via the included three-position toggle switch or your choice of aftermarket control panel. Read on to see how we fit the LP9s to our Wrangler, and for some initial reports from the trail.

The most difficult part of this install was the placement of the lights. Without completely removing the bumper and winch, we were limited as to where on the bumper the lights could sit. We marked positions roughly 4.5 inches in from the bumper’s outer edge and drilled through the aluminum.
Our placement of the LP9s almost completely obstructs the factory turn signals. To fix this, we got inventive with the amber backlight function of each LP9. Under normal conditions, the amber backlight will remain lit when the vehicle is running. We decided to wire the LP9 amber backlight into our turn signals so that the amber backlight will flash concurrently with the turn signal. To begin, we identified which wire was “hot” when each signal was activated. We’ve been told the color of wire can vary between vehicles, so it’s best to verify with a multimeter.
Using this diagram, we identified which wire from the Deutsch connector powers the amber backlight and spliced into it the wire from the turn signal. After testing to make sure each backlight blinked, we sealed the wiring bundles with electrical tape.
We ran the wires for the in-cab switch through the firewall using an existing port behind the master cylinder.
After popping off this panel from beneath the Jeep’s steering column, we drilled a hole and mounted the included three-position toggle switch.
All that was left was to bolt the LP9 lights to the brackets and bolt the brackets to the bumper using the included 1/4- and 3/8-inch hardware.
We checked all the connections, reconnected the Jeep’s battery, and waited until it was dark to properly aim the lights.

Trail Reports

We’ve traveled roughly 300 dirt miles with the LP9 lights running. The first trip was through a mountain snowstorm. Even though we mounted the LP9s low on the bumper, the high beam function was still overpowering in the snow, but the driving/combo pattern was perfect for keeping us on the snowy path. For the late-night drives through the desert highways, the high-speed spot pattern kept us aware of roadside cattle and unexpected turns well in advance, keeping the bumper from hitting beef. On tight trails when speed slowed to a crawl, we were grateful for all 200 degrees of illumination afforded by the six peripheral LEDs. Our only half-gripe is that due to the low operating temperature of LEDs, the LP9s do not melt snow and ice from the lenses like their bulbed brethren. No worries, the remaining 11,023 lumens punched straight through the layer of ice.


Baja Designs
San Marcos, CA 92069

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