It seems that 4×4 and SUV owners are clamouring for LED lights (standing for Light Emitting Diode) on their vehicles. With advances in technology means an opening up of choices for affixing LEDs on to our 4x4s. It makes sense, too: LED bulbs are more efficient than the usual incandescent or halogen bulbs, are compact, more durable, and can be styled in more configurations (and colours!) than you can count. But what kind of questions should you ask yourself and your dealer before you make an LED light bar purchase?
1. What am I getting an LED light bar for?
A lot of 4×4 owners buy LED lights to increase visibility in front of their vehicles. This might be able to cut through bad weather or thick fog, night driving, or to ward off stray animals, especially while off road. They’re also used in search and rescue or emergency situations. If these scenarios seem unlikely to you, then an LED light bar may not be the best choice, however alternatives are available (see below.)
2. Do I need a spot or flood light?
Once you’ve figured out why you need one, you need to understand which type of light suits best. The angle of the beam can make a big difference to your experience. The long light of a spot beam is good for driving, while a flood light diffuses the light into a smaller area, but is better suited for emergency scenarios or for use on worksites (i.e., working at night fixing a problem.) Some LED light bars can do both – with varying success. Make sure you know which LED light bar does either type better so it’s suited to your needs.
3. What is the elemental resistance like?
LEDs can be durable, however like any finely tuned electronic equipment, they can succumb to dust, rain, and other elements that may damage or degrade their circuitry or components. You should check your shortlist of models’ IP rating –which stands for Ingress Protection (you may have come across IP ratings in reviews of mobile phone water resistance.) The higher the IP rating, the more resistance it offers, e.g. IP69K is resistant against dust, high-pressure and high-temperature water spray. You should figure out where your 4×4 will be going most of the time, and purchase a LED light bar with one level of resistance above the likely elements you’ll come across.
4. Will it be cost effective?
LEDs are cost efficient to run compared to incandescent bulbs – a 60w incandescent bulb emits the same amount of light as a 15w LED bulb. Further increases in efficiency can also mean brighter bulbs (measured in lumens.) Yes, it’s going to be a better investment than non-LED equivalents. But if you won’t be using it often, there’s little point in splashing the cash.
Pictured: Lightforce LED Bars
5. Can I handle the maintenance?
Most LED bars are quite easy to install, and can last for well beyond 100,000 hours before needing replacement. If you aren’t sure, talk to your dealer for more information.
Considering the alternatives
If mounting a big LED light rack on to your SUV or 4×4 isn’t for you, you might want to check out dash or deck lights, which are suction cup mounted on the front, rear or side windows that you can control by hand. They may be great “just in case” solutions, if you think LED light bars are a good idea but you can’t quite justify a major LED light bar purchase. In addition to light bars you could check out spotlights to see if they’re more suited to your needs.
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