With newer tech and more affordable prices, automotive light bars are no longer a specialty product reserved for the lucky few. There are more options than ever before and something that will be right for your vehicle. Consider getting a car light bar if you’re often driving on poorly-lit country roads, doing the rounds with mates on off-roading trails, or using your vehicle for work purposes at night.
LEDs are all the rage now, and they’re the lighting tech you’d want in a new auto light bar. Current LED light bars have come a long way. They’re durable, efficient, add some style to your rig, beam bucketloads of light and can be adjusted just the way you like. And all this for not much more than lights with older halogen or Xenon bulbs.
Why LED Light Bars?
Automotive light bars with LEDs as the light source are built to last. They have coated aluminium housings, impact and scratch-resistant lens, and waterproof and sealed connectors and covers. They’ll work flawlessly in all weather and driving conditions, and remain unmoved by dust, debris or road spray. In addition, LED light bars better handle extreme temperatures, like those in the Outback, as compared to Xenons or halogens.
The benefit of LEDs is that they have uniform lighting. LED circuit boards aren’t affected by vibrations, outside temperatures, moisture or impact. They can also be had in different beam types, to illuminate your path both further into the distance as well as to the sides of the vehicle, where most strikes with wildlife come from. Often, you’ll find combination beams within the same housing.
There are auto light bars in different sizes, shapes and designs so you’ll find a model that also looks good on your vehicle.
Getting the Right LED Light Bars for Your Needs
If you’re in the market for decent light bars for when you venture out of the city, then a few things will be important when buying.
Sizes and Placement
The smallest light bars come in at 10cm and the largest at 2 metres in overall length. These are extremes that most buyers avoid for practical reasons, instead of going for lights at 25, 50, 75 or 100 cm. Such lights can be used on their own or combined, depending on where on or along the vehicle they’re mounted. Usually, light bars mounted higher up and along roof racks and sports bars are single units in longer lengths, whereas those along grilles, bull bars or rear bumper bars are paired with shorter variants. There are exceptions to every rule, and you can mix and match light bars and experiment with placement according to your needs.
The majority of auto LED light bars have LEDs and housings that are straight, though if you need more light to the sides of the car look for variants that curve towards the edges. This will be important if you’re using a single light bar as your only auxiliary light.
Number of Rows
There are single and dual row auto light bars. Single row versions will have a slightly lower output and brightness compared to dual row light bars of the same size. But they will also use less power. Go for dual row lights if you require max visibility, but be prepared to pay more. Which type you choose depends on where you drive. Large dual row LED light bars will perform best in extreme off-roading conditions in pitch darkness.
Brightness levels are stated as either ‘Raw Lumens’ or the maximum amount of light under ideal conditions. A more accurate measurement is ‘Effective Lumens’ or the light output after the lights have been on for 30 minutes or more. There’s a slight loss of brightness as the LEDs get hotter, and how the light is spread through the lens and reflectors.
Visible light is in Lux, or the spread of available light over a defined distance. A single row 25 cm light bar will illuminate 300 metres of the road ahead, while a dual row 100cm light bar can light up everything more than 1000 metres in the distance. If you’re going at serious speeds down dirt trails, then the second option gives you more leeway.
Lumens and Lux levels are dependent on the wattage, or how much power the lights drain from the battery. Though they’re more efficient than older bulbs, it’s a good idea to have auxiliary and LED light bars connected to a secondary battery.
Spot beams shine a focussed light at further distances. Flood beams shine at wider angles and closer to the vehicle. You can option auto light bars in either beam types, or get a light bar with a combination beam for optimal visibility in all directions.
This is the colour of the light. Warmer lights, like in older halogens tend to shine in a yellowish hue, and cooler lights like Xenons shine in a purple or bluish colour. The benefit of modern LEDs is that they are tuned more towards white light, or daylight, and this is much easier on the eyes. Go for lights with colour temperatures of around 5000 Kelvin.
What Else to Look for?
In short, quality build, LED chips from respected brands, current and surge protection, sealed wiring and included cabling and mounts.