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Off-Road Lighting Test - Festival Of LEDs

Posted in Product Reviews on January 22, 2014 Comment (0)
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Off-Road Lighting Test - Festival Of LEDs

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)

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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

View Slideshow

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)

View Slideshow

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

JW Speaker
Model: 6150 in black
Price: $143 (each)
Size: 4 inches diameter, 23⁄4 inches deep
Number of LEDs: 6 (per light)
Housing material: Aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Fog
Use for: Driving in fog
Wiring included: No

View Slideshow

Test notes: While there is no wiring kit included, the 6150 includes wires coming out of the back of the light. And where the wires go into the light, it is potted to keep water out. The 6145 is basically the same light, but with a bumper mount bracket rather than the pedestal mount and it plugs into ’07-’10 Wranglers. The lights we tested have a black bezel with black finish, but a chrome bezel and silver finish are also available. You either love or hate the design of these lights, and in black on black, we really like them. The beam pattern has a very good horizontal cutoff with just a bit of a yellow tint around the edges, and if you live where there is a lot of fog, these might be the lights for you.

Model: 832T
Price: $305 (each)
Size: 4W x 4H x 31⁄2D inches
Number of LEDs: 8
Housing material: Die-cast aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Flood (spot and trapezoid available)
Use for: Crawling, camp lighting, fill for spot beams
Wiring included: No

View Slideshow

Test notes: The light that these give off could most accurately be called a big old ball of light. They are bright and light up the immediate area very well. There is a waterproof plug on the back of the light attached to wires, but no harness is included. While J.W. Speaker is perhaps better known for its more extreme-looking lights, don’t let these relatively normal-looking ones fool you, they work very well also. And, while they are intended as a flood pattern, we were able to drive with them as well. J.W. Speaker has all kinds, shapes, and sizes of LED auxiliary lights and headlights.
Contact: J.W. Speaker
262/251-6660, jwspeaker.com

Bulldog LED Lighting
Model: 20-inch Bone light bar
Price: $506
Size: 211⁄8W x 31⁄2H x 3D inches
Number of LEDs: 40
Housing material: Aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Combo (spot and flood also available)
Use for: Just about anything
Wiring included: Yes

View Slideshow

Model: 2-inch Bulldog Spike
Price: $97 (each)
Size: 31⁄2W x 31⁄2H x 3D inches
Number of LEDs: 4 (each)
Housing material: Aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Flood (spot also available)
Use for: Crawling, camp lighting, fill for spot beams
Wiring included: Yes

View Slideshow

Test notes: The only company making or sourcing all of the components and doing the final assembly in the USA, Bulldog still manages to keep its prices reasonable and in many cases comes in less expensive than its competitors. Most companies that claim USA-made are only doing the actual final assembly in the USA with many of the parts coming from overseas. The unique aluminum bottom-mount foot with stainless steel hardware was a breeze to install, tighten, and adjust. The Spike cubes use one foot per light whereas the Bone uses three mounting feet in the size we tested. Wiring is included with every light and features waterproof connectors for outside the Jeep, a relay, an included fuse, and a 1⁄2-inch-diameter rocker switch. The flood pattern of the Spike cubes would be well-suited for slow moving Jeeps or lighting up camp, but was still plenty bright enough to navigate by. The 20-inch Bone light bar we tested featured a combo pattern and put a ton of light both downrange and near the Jeep, making it usable (if maybe a little overkill) for just about anything. Of the 40 LEDs in the Bone, the eight at either end feature a flood pattern with the 24 center LEDs creating the spot pattern. Also the size of the 20-inch Bone might make a good light to mount just above a winch’s fairlead. All of the aluminum is powdercoated in a textured black finish.
Contact: Bulldog LED Lighting
650/594-9111, bulldogledlighting.com

PIAA
Model: 5372
Price: $324 (pair)
Size: 33⁄4 inches diameter, 31⁄4 inches deep
Number of LEDs: 2 (per light)
Housing material: aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Driving
Use for: High speed off-road driving
Wiring included: Yes

View Slideshow

Test notes: These lights have a unique pattern that is basically a spot beam with wings. The “wings” do lend a little bit of wider range of vision but the spot portion of the beam is so bright that it is easy to lose things even where the “wings” cover. Wiring is included and contains wires, a relay, a fuse, and a switch for inside the Jeep. However, the included connectors at the light are just bullet connectors rather than the higher-end Weatherpack or Delphi connectors one might expect. Covers with the PIAA name are included in the kit and are easily removed from the lights, but you can run the lights with them on. You might think that because these lights have only two LEDs each they are lacking, but such is not the case. The two LEDs face backward in the housing towards the big reflector, and the whole package yields a lot of light downrange in spite of using “only” two LEDs. Plus, we imagine that with less LEDs there are less things to go wrong inside the light, which could translate into a longer life versus the lights that use a lot of LEDs to get the job done.

Model: 5772
Price: $549 (pair)
Size: 71⁄2 inches diameter, 41⁄2 inches deep
Number of LEDs: 2 (per light)
Housing material: Polycarbonate and cast aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Long-range driving
Use for: High-speed runs
Wiring included: Yes

View Slideshow

Test notes: Very bright downrange with two bright spots and no hard lines in the beam pattern. The included white covers are very difficult to get off. There are four tabs that hold them on, and as we’d get one loose and move to the other side, the one we just got loose would pop back on. We ended up using a flat-blade screwdriver in addition to three hands to remove the covers. The included wiring harness has weatherproof connectors at the lights, a relay, included fuse, and a switch to put in the Jeep. Again, like the 5372s, the 5772s are on par with the other lights in the test as far as brightness is concerned. While they only have two LEDs per light, they are 18-watt LEDs, and the light is bouncing off of a reflector that is roughly 7 inches in diameter. Trust us—it gets the light where it needs to be.
Contact: PIAA Corp.
800/525-7422, piaa.com

Hella
Model: Rallye 4000 LED
Price: $532 (each)
Size: 83⁄4 inches diameter, 6 inches deep
Number of LEDs: 3 driving, 3 marker (per light)
Housing material: Aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Driving
Use for: High speed
Wiring included: Optional

View Slideshow

Test notes: A cool cast aluminum mounting bracket and computer-designed triple-reflector behind a clear lens give these lights a striking appearance. Well, OK, the size gives them a striking appearance; the other stuff gives a polished, finished look to them. These lights include marker LEDs in addition to the three super bright white LEDs, so there are three wires to hook up rather than the normal two. Brown is ground, black is for the marker lights, and grey is for the driving lights. The pattern is a unique sort of stacked vertical rectangles that combine to make a wide horizontal rectangular pattern. There are two bright spots surrounded by the vertical rectangles, and if you adjust the pattern for pure high speed driving (bright spots centered in front of Jeep), then on tight twisty trails it’s hard to see the inside of corners.

Model: Optilux (PN H71020451)
Price: $445
Size: 24W x 5H x 31⁄2D inches
Number of LEDs: 40
Housing material: Aluminum
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Flood
Use for: Crawling, regular trail driving, really bright camp lighting
Wiring included: No

View Slideshow

Test notes: We thought a full 40 LED flood light was a bit odd as we were hooking it up, but after using it for a bit, it does work well. About the only thing it doesn’t work for is high speed straight-line driving. After about 70 mph we felt like we were out-driving the beam downrange. Hookup is an easy two wires and the side-post mounting feet mean that horizontal adjustment is almost infinite while defined by the cast-in detents. We got one of the first Optilux lights available, and as of this writing, the company is still determining what available beam patterns might be. Driving and a combination driving/flood are possibilities. There is no wiring kit specifically for this light, but Hella does offer optional wiring kits that should work for it. The 40 LED light might be a bit wide to mount above a winch or on bumpers, but there are smaller lights (and bigger ones) available, depending on your budget and fitment requirements.
Contact: Hella
770/631-7500, hella.com

Vision X
Model: Light Canon (PN CPZ110)
Price: $449 (kit); $20 (each pair of covers)
Size: 43⁄4 inches diameter, 41⁄4 inches deep
Number of LEDs: 1 (per light)
Housing material: Aluminum/polycarbonate
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: 10-degree spot
Use for: Lots of uses with optional filters
Wiring included: Yes

View Slideshow

Test notes: Having only one LED per light was not a problem, especially when it is a high-end, single-source 25-watt LED in each light. We can’t really say what the IRIS reflector technology is, but we can say it gets a lot of light downrange. There are 12 optional snap-on covers with silicone seals to keep moisture out in various colors and beam patterns and one opaque cover if your local laws require auxiliary lights covered when on-road. Without any of the covers, the lights are good for high-speed running. There are three different colors—blue, which is for snow, red, which is for dust, and orange, which is for fog. In addition there are three clear covers, and all the see-through covers are available in a clear driving pattern or fresnelated fog and work light patterns. We can say that unlike covers like this that we’ve tried in the past, these really change the beam pattern. The fog pattern actually creates a horizontal cutoff and good spread, while the work light pattern actually creates a big old ball of light for bathing the area close to the Jeep in light. The kit form that we tested included wiring with relay, fuse, and switch. The plugs at the light are waterproof Delphi connectors.
Contact: Vision X
888/489-9820, visionxusa.com

Truck-Lite
Model: 80275 (light), Par 36 housing (PN 97980)
Price: $105 each (light), $11 (housing)
Size: 41⁄2 inches diameter 31⁄2 inches deep
Number of LEDs: 1 (per light)
Housing material: Industrial grade high-impact rubber
Lens material: Polycarbonate
Beam pattern: Fog
Use for: Driving through fog on- or off-road
Wiring included: No

Test notes: We’ve played with a bunch of Truck-Lite products over the years including 7-inch round driving and flood lights, but for this story we wanted something new that we hadn’t tested yet. So, we ended up with this 41⁄2-inch-diameter setup. These fog lights are the perfect match for the company’s newer LED headlamps. Not only do they look really cool when used together, but the beams from the headlights work great with the fog beams. But this is a story about just auxiliary lights, so let’s talk fogs. This setup is a bit of a do-it-yourself kit, with the LED needing to be wired into the housing and then you have to come up with wiring for your Jeep. In our case, the housing grounded out through our metal bumper and we just hooked the positive lead to our factory Jeep fog light wiring. Easy-peasy. You also have to shoehorn the one-piece light into the heavy-duty rubber housing. It is a tight fit, so try to get the light in straight the first time. That said, once it is setup, the total price is a pretty good deal for a really good LED fog beam. The horizontal cutoff is phenomenal and the spread is pretty good, too. As you’ll see from the pictures, this isn’t the brightest light in the shootout, but the brighter the light you use in fog, the less you can see down the road. So, if your driving means you have to drive through fog and you don’t mind some assembly required, these lights deserve a look.
Contact: Truck-lite
800/888-7095, truck-lite.com

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