Automotive Lights: All the Info You Need to Make the Right Choice

Having the right lights when venturing off the beaten trail is arguably one of the most important, yet underrated safety features that are not talked about as often as they should. This is especially true for those who like to conquer the outback during nighttime. Off-roading is much more challenging than city driving, as it comes with a set of risks that not all vehicles are equipped to handle. Wet and muddy conditions can add to the complexity of off-road driving, and steep inclines and rocky terrain come with their own set of difficulties. If you venture off the beaten trail, you can never be sure about what to expect. Whatever it is, though, you should do to the best of your abilities to keep yourself, your passengers and your vehicle safe.

Equipping your 4×4 with the right lights can make off-roading much safer, illuminating far and wide enough for you to see everything happening around you clearly. But figuring out which lights are the right ones for you can pose quite the challenge in itself. This is especially true if you haven’t done your due diligence on the different vehicle lighting options and aren’t familiar with the commonly used terminology.

Types of Off-Road Lighting

Off-road lights

Vehicle lighting is powered by one of three different types of bulbs – LEDs, halogen and HID. Halogen lights are the most affordable option out of the three, but they have the shortest lifespan. Additionally, they don’t provide as much illumination as LEDs and HIDs, and since you need the most visibility you can get when off-roading, they’re not the most suitable option for off-roaders.

On the other hand, LED lights are the most expensive option out of the three, but they produce the brightest illumination, regardless of the conditions. Additionally, they’re the most energy-efficient option, and they can last up to 50.000 working hours. On top of all this, they’re the most durable lighting solution, and since off-road vehicles require heavy-duty lights that won’t break or wear down in rough conditions, they’re the number one choice for most off-roaders.

Last but not least, HID lights are in the middle in terms of performance and quality. They produce bright illumination, and last longer than halogen lights, but not as long as LEDs. Furthermore, they degrade over time, gradually lose their efficiency, and they don’t work well in all weather conditions.

LED Vehicle Lighting Solutions

LED Vehicle Lighting Solutions

Depending on your needs, there are a few different types of LED vehicle lights, including light bars, automotive flood light and spotlights, and multi-light setups.

Light bars are available in a wide range of sizes, and they generally illuminate the brightest. Light bars are typically mounted on the bumper or roof, and they’ll provide you with all the visibility you may ever need. However, they’re usually the most expensive option out of all, and can add a fair amount of weight to your vehicle.
An automotive flood light will provide the best immediate illumination when travelling in inclement weather. They’re usually mounted on the bumper, and they’ll provide immediate vision, no matter whether you drive through rain, fog, sleet or snow.
Spotlights are the polar opposite of flood lights. They illuminate far away from your vehicle, and they’re usually mounted on the roof of your vehicle.
You can combine spotlights and floodlights, and get the best out of both worlds. Additionally, you can get beacon lights, grill lights and running board lights to illuminate virtually everywhere around your vehicle.

Mounting the Lights

Automotive lights

Mounting the lights properly is just as important as choosing the right lights. Since you’ll be driving through rough terrain, it’s important for the lights to be secured properly. When it’s time to mount the lights, you’ll have to choose between a few different mounting methods, including:

  • Surace Mounting – This mounting method is performed using a bolt-and-lock fastener to safely secure the lighting solution to the vehicle’s body
  • Tab Mounting – The lights are attached to existing tabs on the roof rack
  • Clamp Mounting – The lights are attached using heavy-duty clips to the vertical or horizontal bars on the vehicle’s bumper, roof or grill
  • Flush Mounting – The lights are placed in cutouts or recessed areas of your vehicle, resulting in a seamless look
  • Temporary Mounting – The lights are secured with suction cups or magnets, which are easy to remove at any time

Most vehicle lights are available with universal mounting brackets which provide optimum stability and security. However, seasoned off-roaders prefer specialised mounts or brackets to ensure the lighting doesn’t become loose, no matter what. Others, however, prefer vehicle-specific or custom-fabricated mounting hardware.

Laws Regarding Off-Road Lights

Off-road lights can be extremely bright, especially if you have a multi-light setup. Using them inside the city can pose a threat to others, and you may get pulled over. However, keeping the lights off when driving through the city may not be enough. Local jurisdictions may require you to completely cover off-road lights when using public roads. That being said, check out the laws and regulations in your area, and double-check with a law enforcement agency to see whether there are any restrictions on the types of lights you can install. Some colours may also be illegal, and paying hefty fees won’t justify their coolness.