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Off-Road Lighting Test - Festival Of LEDs

Jeep With Led Lights On Bumper
Pete Trasborg
| Brand Manager, Jp
Posted January 22, 2014

Hands-on with 13 sets of lights

When shopping for auxiliary lights, there are a lot of brand-specific and industry-insider terms that can make it difficult to choose the best light for your Jeep. Some companies choose to talk about how bright their lights are by using lumens, some use effective lumens, and some use lux. Often the companies use one or two of the ratings, and inevitably the ones you want to compare don’t use the same terms. Not only that, but even if they do use the same terms, they might not be comparing the same things. Measurements might be taken at different distances, the lights could be mounted higher or lower on the test bench or test mule, and all of this could affect what the lights actually look like in the real world.

So, we decided to do away with all the mumbo jumbo and hocus pocus, get our hands on some lights, mount them on the same place on the same Jeep, and shoot some pictures and videos to bring you guys a true apples-to-apples comparison. We got a hold of everything from $63 light cubes to a $1,450 pair of high-end, 32-LED, 9-inch monsters, and a lot in between. We ran fog lights, flood lights, and driving lights so that no matter what you are looking for, it will be in this test. We didn’t do any goofy colored lights, just white LEDs, and we present them here in alphabetical order.

The first set of lights a Jeep gets is most often mounted to the front bumper, so that is what we did. However, our JCR Offroad front bumper on our Cherokee test mule makes it difficult to get to the light mounting hardware, and with everything from bars to cubes to large round lights, we needed a bit more of a universal setup. So, we modified the front bumper by adding two pieces of angle iron and drilled holes in that to accept all the different lights we had. We then went out on some dark twisty canyon roads and trails to test the beam pattern and adjustment. We have product pictures and nighttime beam pictures shining downrange at a blue YJ about 400 feet away to give you an idea of brightness and beam pattern. We locked the camera into manual mode and set the f-stop, aperture, and exposure the same for each photo. No trick photography here—the beam photos are good comparisons to one another. If that isn’t enough to help you decide, you can see the high-definition video on a dark and twisty mountain road shot with a Replay XD camera here!

ARB 4x4 Accessories
Model: Intensity (AR32S, driver side; AR32F, passenger side)
Price: $725 (each)
Size: 9 inches diameter, 4 inches deep
Number of LEDs: 32 (each)
Housing material: Die-cast aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Spot (AR32S); flood (AR32F)
Use for: General off-road driving
Wiring included: Optional (PN 3500520)

Photos

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Test notes: The company suggests using a combination of a spot on the driver side and a flood on the passenger side for general wheeling. This seemed odd, but it worked for us. If all you do is crawl, two flood-pattern lights might be better for you. If all you care about is high-speed desert stuff, you might want to go with two spot-pattern lights. Not only is the polycarbonate lens really stout, ARB includes a removable and replaceable cover (also polycarbonate) that easily snaps on. The wiring kit includes waterproof connectors outside the Jeep, a relay, an inline fuse, and a push button switch for inside. Worried about these pricey lights getting stolen? No problem. Two of the four bolts that hold the light to the stainless steel brackets are tamperproof Torx (tool included). If you have the space and the cash, as tested, these are a great all-around solution.
Contact: ARB 4x4 Accessories
425/264-1391, arbusa.com

KC Hilites
Model: LZR LED 300
Price: $483 (pair)
Size: 41⁄2 inches diameter, 31⁄2 inches deep
Number of LEDs: 6
Housing material: Aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Driving
Use for: Slow speed or high speed off-road driving
Wiring included: Yes

Photos

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Test notes: These lights put a lot of light downrange while at the same time throwing good light right in front of the Jeep all in a relatively small package. The included wiring kit has a relay, a fuse, waterproof connectors for outside the Jeep and a rocker switch and mount. The KC emblemed rock guards are easily removable but they don’t have to be removed to turn the lights on. While the lights do have a universal single-bolt mount setup, the wire goes into the housing directly on the rear of the light, which might cause fitment issues in some applications. Because they throw good light right in front of the Jeep, you could use these lights for lighting up camp, but you might piss off your neighbors four camps down. The lights also boast being shock-proof, and as solid as they feel, we believe it.
Contact: KC Hilites
928/635-2607, kchilites.com

Rugged Ridge
Model: 2-inch cube
Price: $63 (each)
Size: 31⁄8W x 27⁄8H x 31⁄8D inches
Number of LEDs: 4 (per light)
Housing material: Aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Driving
Use for: Driving, rockcrawling, regular wheeling
Wiring included: Optional (15210.62, two lights; 15210.63, three lights)

Photos

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Test notes: The least costly lights of the test, we weren’t expecting all that much out of these little cubes, but boy were we wrong. They put a good amount of light downrange and have crisp, overlapping conical cut-offs at the edge of the beam that provides decent light for going around corners. While they don’t put quite the level of light downrange as some of the bigger and more expensive lights, unless you are doing break-neck speed down the trail, these should work well for you. We got these lights early in the prototype-testing phase, and they were delivered in plain white boxes. Also, when we say they don’t really come with a wiring kit, ours didn’t. They only came with some waterproof plugs and bare wire pigtails. We also had a small problem with the adjustment on the mount in that it didn’t allow enough adjustment downward. Even at its max downward travel, we had to bend our temporary brackets to get them adjusted correctly.
Contact: Rugged Ridge
770/614-6101, ruggedridge.com

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