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Underhood Daylight: Light Up Your Engine With LEDs

Jay KopycinskiPhotographer, Writer

In our never-ending quest for interesting lighting ideas, we came across a number of sources that offered 12V LED lighting mounted in rigid aluminum strips. Waterproof versions are available so we were curious how one might work for underhood lighting.

Simply put, these lights throw a long beam of light where you need illumination coverage greater than a single-point source. Designed to be used for applications such as under-cabinet lighting, the strips can be connected end-to-end to make a long line of light. We found them available in several hues of white.

The IP65-rated waterproof strip lights we used were manufactured by Lerway and purchased from Amazon. These inexpensive lights came in 20-inch rigid aluminum strips with 30 LEDs total. The plug ends allow them to be daisy-chained together if desired.

Here you can get a better idea of their construction. The strips are only about 1/2-inch wide. Small, low-profile mounting clips are included, and the strips just snap onto them. Current draw for a 20-inch strip was a very reasonable 0.6 amps. These little strip lights seem pretty robust, but time will tell how well they stand up to prolonged underhood temperatures and heat cycling.

In our case, we mounted the LED strip lighting just behind the leading edge of the hood on the underside. When the hood was raised, this directed the wide-angle beam so that it illuminated the entire engine bay well. Wiring can be run down the hood and across the bay to a convenient switch and the battery.