Need some extra luminance during your off-road adventures? Check out our LED light bar guide to find the best solution for you and your ride.
An LED light bar is a great finishing touch for any off-road or overlanding modified build, but beyond the aesthetic cool factor, these bits of kit can be very useful in the dark depths of the wilderness too. So, to understand a bit more about them and what type of LED light bar suits you the most, here’s our comprehensive guide.
Before we get into the meat of it though, let’s begin by considering what LEDs actually are, and how they work. Quickfire science lesson, commence!
How do LEDs work?
An LED, or light emitting diode, is a powerful and efficient way of producing light. They might not appear how you expect a traditional light bulb to look though, and that’s because there’s nothing traditional about them. Rather than relying on filaments, LEDs illuminate when the electrons in their semiconductor material get all fidgety. That’s the technical term.
It’s all very clever, but essentially when these little diodes receive an electrical current they release photons which are what make up our concept of light. This process is called electroluminescence. On top of that, if you change the amount of current that a diode receives, that’ll cause the light it emits to vary in color. Well, that’s the *very* simplistic way of looking at it, anyway.
LEDs have various automotive uses, such as interior modifications. To read more about that, click here.
Right, nerdy bit out of the way, let’s see what this cool tech can offer us when we apply it to the world of off-roading…
LED Light Bar Features
You might think that LED light bars are quite one-dimensional. I mean, how many different applications can simple light have, right? Well, as it turns out, quite a few – especially in the context of off-road adventures.
These varied uses essentially come down to which beam pattern the lights have. Spot lights are those which have a narrow-but-long-range beam, whereas flood lights are best used for seeing a wide expanse of terrain. Their range isn’t quite as long as spot lights, though.
That’s where combination light bars come in, which – as you can probably guess – offer both capabilities within one package. Finally, scene lights are meant for close-range work, shining a powerful, concentrated light on the space immediately in front of them.
Bull Bar / Grille Mounted Lights
More often than not, bull bar or grille-mounted lights tend to focus on long-distance luminance rather than a wider spread. As such, they’ll usually fit into the spot light category.
Given that you’ve got less room to work with when mounting these, bull bar/grille lights are quite compact, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t pack a punch. One of the stronger offerings on the aftermarket is the S-RF range from PIAA – a company renowned over decades for its rally lights which have adorned some of the most iconic WRC cars of all time.
In 6-inch ($140/£136) or 9-inch ($151/£147) form, the S-RFs have a 50,000-hour warranted lifespan and promise to perform towards the top of their class. They also come supplied with a pre-assembled wiring harness, switch, relay and fuse.
Roof Mounted Lights
Roof-mounted light bars are usually much chunkier, unless you opt for a split multi-bar setup like the black Isuzu at the top of this page. Assuming you fancy the wide single-bar look though, there are plenty of good options about.
The aforementioned PIAA S-RFs also come in much larger dimensions; namely a 20-inch ($209/£204), 30-inch ($271/£264), and 40-inch ($335/£327) variant. Importantly though, whereas the smaller variants in the S-RF range have a long-distance, narrow beam, these larger ones have a combination design. As such, you get the benefits of a spot light and a flood light in one powerful package.
Alternatively, you could choose something like the KC HiLites C-Series (starting from $313/£305) instead. This offers a ‘double decker’ assortment of LEDs, available in bar widths ranging from 10-50 inches.
Further Reading about car lights and lighting upgrades: