October 2005: Light, Or The Lack Thereof - Trail’s End
Off-Road Lighting Options
In the Oct. 2005 issue of Four Wheeler, we installed what we called “full-perimeter” lighting on our project 1992 Ford F-150. Full-perimeter lighting was defined as the ability to light the entire perimeter of a vehicle at will.
To aid the factory headlamps, we added a pair of “burn-your-retinas-to-a-crisp” Lightforce 240 Xenon Gas Discharge lamps. We noted that these HID lamps generated three times more light than the brightest halogen bulb, yet they drew an amazingly low 2.92 amps per light. For rear and side lighting, we used four IPF Halogen Back-Up Lamp Kits. For side-facing light, we bolted an IPF light on each side of our truck’s bed-mounted toolbox. The remaining pair of IPF lights were mounted in the rear Reunel bumper to provide rear-facing lighting. We mounted aircraft-style switches for the lights in an easy-to-reach location and we wired ‘em hot so we could turn the lights on at any time.
We quickly found that the lighting was one of the most-used mods on the truck. We liked our full-perimeter lighting so much we integrated versions into other project vehicles, including our 2008 Hummer H3 Alpha. For that project, we installed 10 PIAA lights, and we devised a handy, inexpensive wireless control system that allowed the lights to be activated and deactivated with a standard wireless key fob, whether we were inside or outside of the vehicle.
We can’t help but wonder why there are very limited lighting options from OE manufacturers. Darkness isn’t just in front of a 4x4 on the jobsite and trail, right? How many drivers have backed into something in the dark and said it happened because there simply wasn’t enough light? Are OE backup lamps installed to help light the way during backing or simply to let others know that the vehicle is in Reverse? And how about rock lights? Should underbody lighting be available on trucks and SUVs that are used off-road? It’s surprising that the OEs don’t offer side and rear-facing lighting options on off-road-package and work-oriented trucks and SUVs. We certainly don’t mind installing additional lighting on our rigs because we can control what type of lights are used and where they’re mounted, but it would be cool if we had factory options. With the advent of small LED lighting assemblies, low-draw lighting could be integrated seamlessly into the rear, side, and underneath of a vehicle during its design phase.
State laws vary regarding lighting. We get that. At the very least, perhaps off-road-package-equipped or work-oriented vehicles could be pre-wired for side- and/or rear-facing lighting or underbody lighting. Heck, they could even be designed to only activate under a specific vehicle speed.
Will the OE’s ever offer serious full-perimeter lighting? With all the incredible, innovative features being integrated into 4x4s nowadays, we’d like to think so. In the meantime, we’ll keep wiring up lighting so we can throw light wherever we need it.