LED lighting technology has changed the four-wheel drive world, and for the absolute best. LEDs run cooler, draw less energy, last longer and aren’t as fragile as halogen elements. There is no annoying warm-up time as with HIDs and no need for messy external ballasts, either.
But how do you know where to start when it comes to choosing and purchasing a set of your own LED driving lights? With so many manufacturers and importers selling (and re-badging) LED driving lights these days, it was about time we sat down and took a closer look at the range of lights available. Which set deserves pride of place on your bull bar? Sorry, you’re just going to have to read on and make up your own mind!
IP68… IP67… IP58, what does it all mean – and is it important? Yep, It certainly is! These codes highlight the extent of how water and dust proof your new LED driving lights will be. IP stands for Ingress Protection, and below is a breakdown of what these numbers actually mean. Take the first number of your IP rating from the solids section, and the second number from the liquids section to determine how protected your LED lights actually are. An IP68 rating for example would be water and dust proof.
0) No Protection
1) Protects against object
greater than 50mm (a hand)
2) Protects against object
greater than 12.5mm (a finger)
3) Protects against object greater than 2.5mm (a piece of wire)
4) Protects against object
greater than 1.0mm
(a ball point pen point)
5) Dust resistant
– prevents ingress of dust
6) Dust tight – no ingress of dust
0) No Protection
1) Protected against water drops
2) Protected against water drops at a 15 degree angle
3) Protected against water spray at a 60 degree angle
4) Protected against water splashing from any angle
5) Protected against water jets from any angle
6) Protected against powerful water jets and heavy seas
7) Protected against temporary submersion in water (3 feet for 30 minutes)
8) Protected against permanent submersion in water (up to 13 feet)
LUMENS VS LUX
Every manufacturer will supply the raw lumen figure their light produces, but many wont supply the lux readings. Quite simply, lumens provide a figure of the total amount of light being produced. Lux on the other hand, measures the intensity of the light. So while a light may have high lumens and offer fantastic spread of light, if the lux readings are low there won’t be enough grunt to actually see much at all. There are technical methods of measuring both lumens and lux, which takes out the ‘seat of the pants’ argument. A light integrating sphere accurately records lumens, while lux is measured with a far simpler device (oddly enough) called a lux meter.
You might not think it, but the wiring looms supplied with LED driving lights are a major part of what actually helps to keep water and dust out. Many manufacturers will in fact void the light’s warranty if you decide to cut off the supplied connectors and install your own. Look for a light that incorporates Deutsch connectors that are water and dust proof. If not, moisture will find its way down the electrical cable, and directly inside your LED driving light, potentially destroying it.
We know from the previous article on illegal 4X4 mods that you can’t mount an LED or any driving light on top of a bull bar. So how do you go about installing them? Luckily, many bull bars will have mounting tabs to secure a light fixture. If not, there are several light mounts that can be installed with a few basic tools. The most common variety is a tube-mount clamp that wraps around the top hoop of a bull bar pointing downwards, providing you with an adjustable mount that simply bolts on. No need to weld or fabricate new mounts, which also preserves the factory powder-coated finish the bull bar came with.
ARB AR21 INTENSITY
The little brother in the ARB Intensity range, but by no means a weaker sibling. ARB Intensity LED driving lights are one of the hottest items in the aftermarket industry currently, with ARB struggling to keep up with demand. These lights say ARB on them, but they are actually manufactured by Rigid Industries in the USA – which is a good thing. There are 6950 raw lumens of output per lamp being produced by 21 LEDs, which is what makes this light so popular. Well, that and the desirable red ring that runs around the lightweight yet virtually bulletproof polycarbonate lens. Looks aside, the mounting system used on the Intensity range is a work of art and definitely built for the Australian four-wheel drive market.
ARB AR32 INTENSITY
The big brother to the AR21 and the original ARB Intensity, the AR32 is designed to fit bull bars with room for larger diameter driving lights. Or for those who just want the biggest and brightest light from ARB. Manufactured by Rigid Industries in America, they’ve crammed 32 LEDs into the larger high pressure cast aluminium housing. Yes it is larger in physical size, but it’s also brighter, offering 8200 raw lumens per light at the flick of a switch. Waterproof Deutsch DT-06 connectors have been employed ensuring a trouble free connection. To back this up, ARB is proud to stand by their product and back it with an IP68 dust and waterproof rating. Wiring looms are not included, however the Intensity range has been engineered for use with the ARB wiring loom (part number 3500520 for those playing along at home).
GREAT WHITE 18 LED
Manufactured by Vision X, Great White has been lighting up tracks in Australia for some time now. In the process, they developed a product with many big claims: it’s shock proof to 15.6G, waterproof to 3m, has an operating lifespan 50,000+ hours and it’s all backed by a five year warranty. If that sounds like something that might be up your alley, take a closer look at the 18 LED driving light. Powered by eighteen individual LEDs, the Great White LED is offered in a dust proof black or chrome-finished aluminium housing. There are also many additional accessories available for the range of LED driving lights, including anti-theft lock nuts, coloured and clear polycarbonate lens covers, and both 12v and 24v wiring harnesses.
GREAT WHITE 9 LED
ROUND DRIVING LIGHT
Very similar to its big brother (the 18 LED driving light), the 9 LED version offers similar features and benefits, just in a smaller package. Modern vehicles have far less space for aftermarket accessories when compared to older four-wheel drives. This is especially true when you take a look at a modern bull bars. So it’s no surprise that a light with half the amount of LEDs produces exactly half the raw lumens. But when you still have 4,437 raw lumens of 6000k LED light pointing down a dusty track, you wont be complaining. The smaller size is also a benefit for those who own vehicles that are more notorious for having overheating issues. With less surface area to block the radiator, more cool air can get past the lights and into the vehicle’s cooling system.
HALO RAPTOR 7 INCH LED
The Halo Raptor is a seven-inch LED driving light that packs plenty of technology into a small package. While LED lights by nature don’t get anywhere near as hot as halogen lamps, Halo have put considerable amounts of time into keeping these lights running as cool as possible. Features include integrated electronic thermal management to regulate heat levels, and a channeled heat sink also helps to dissipate heat and prolong LED lifespan. The housing is made from 6061 grade aluminium for durability, and a polycarbonate PMMA lens keeps weight down while resisting impacts from stones and debris. As an interesting side note, Halo tells us that these lights can be mounted vertically, horizontally, diagonally or on any angle. So if you have a tricky mounting platform that requires an alternative install, these could be the driving lights for you.
IMPACT LED 51W
These are the least expensive LED driving lights in this guide, and on paper they deliver some impressive statistics, with 17 three watt American-made LED lights crammed into a rugged seven inch housing. Strong 3mm thick tempered glass has been utilised instead of polycarbonate, and all cabling has been sealed and double insulated to prevent water and dust ingress. Impact LED back up their product with a two year warranty and claim the LEDs used in the light will be good for a lifespan of up to 30,000 hours. These lights have also been tested in accordance with ISO 16750-3 which (if you are not a mechanical engineer) means they have passed a mechanical shock test to ensure they wont fall to bits while blasting down your favourite track.
JW SPEAKER TS3000R
JW Speaker are an American-based manufacturer of high quality lighting that you will see on Harley Davidsons, John Deere tractors and Caterpillar earth moving machinery. So while the name might not be immediately familiar, they have been in business since 1935 and have been manufacturing vehicle lighting since 1960. The TS3000R from JW Speaker is a compact LED driving light that has been designed from years of engineering research and development. Like many other LED driving lights, the TS3000R is available in a pencil or spread beam and with a black or silver finish on the die-cast aluminium finish. While small in size, the pencil beam will shine close to 500m down the road and the spread beam offers a wider beam of light yet will still comfortably shine over 400m down a straight road. Another unique feature is the universal pedestal mount that has been designed for ease of fitment on a variety of mounting platforms.
Lightforce LED 180
The smaller model in the latest Lightforce LED range is the 180. This LED driving light is made up of seven 10 watt high output CREE Chipset LEDs that are housed in a high-pressure cast aluminium housing. There is a choice of wide or spot beams depending on your requirements, and Lightforce claim their product is waterproof. The difference between cheaper driving lights and Lightforce units is the attention to detail. DuPont paint has been used to provide protection from our harsh elements, and the polycarbonate lens has been hard coated for scratch and impact resistance. For even more protection, clear clip-on covers are provided and military grade wiring cable gets the nod for handling power-up duties. These inclusions make for a solid, compact LED driving light that has been designed for Aussie conditions.
LIGHTFORCE LED 215
The big brother to the Lightforce 180, the 215 LED is simply bigger and brighter yet again. You either have the space, or are one of those four-wheel drivers who follows the biggest-is-best motto, and judging by the success of the older (and massive) Lightforce 240 driving lights, these will be just as common a sight in the bush. For ultimate bragging rights, the Lightforce 215 has 36 three watt LEDs housed in a high-pressure aluminium housing. All the same features are retained over the smaller Lightforce 180, however when you break it down the bigger light produces 7794 raw lumens compared to 5180. It’s not hard to see that in some cases, bigger definitely is better!
OPPOSITE LOCK NITRO
Opposite Lock have long been selling the Power Vision range of halogen and HID driving lights, so it makes absolute sense that they partner up with them again to produce the Nitro 228mm LED driving lights. These driving lights pump out a huge 120w of glorious white light, thanks to 24 five watt CREE LEDs producing a claimed total of 10880 raw lumens per lamp. Sturdy mounting brackets are supplied, which offer ease of adjustment for a range of fitment options. Lens covers, a wiring harness and anti-theft locking nuts are also included, meaning no surprises when it comes time to install the lights. Plenty of attention to detail has gone into the construction side of things, with the inclusion of a robust high-pressure die-cast aluminium housing and a high impact polycarbonate lens to prevent stone chips and other damage while off-road.
PEAK XPLORER 6000
Peak Xplorer 6000 LED driving lights are available in either spot or spread beam patterns, with 20 five watt XPG-2 CREE LEDs guiding the way. The benefit of offering a choice of spread and spot beam lamps is having the ability to choose the lighting system to suit the conditions you drive. Lots of long and straight open roads and a pencil beam would make sense, while a spread beam would be best suited to beach driving or scrubby conditions. A choice of black or chrome finish provides options for fussy buyers or those with alloy bull bars, and the aluminium housing material is tough and light while retaining rust-resistant properties. With a waterproof rating of IP69 thanks to the integrated 3-pin Deutsch plug connector and with 8750 RAW lumens to play with, Peak Xplorer LED driving lights certainly have the right specs where it counts for the four-wheel drive market.
RIGID INDUSTRIES Q SERIES
The Q Series from Rigid Industries is a little different to the rest of the LED driving lights on the market, as it is a square shaped unit rather than a traditional round shape. The reason for this is quite clever, Rigid Industries were able to build the Q Series around four of the smaller yet extremely popular and proven Dually LED lights optics. The real benefit of the Q Series is the shear amount of beam pattern options available. From spot beam for those who need absolute long distance vision, to diffusion beam for anyone wanting as much light spread as possible, or combinations of both. Originally designed for use on fire and rescue and commercial trucks, the Q series are extremely heavy duty in construction and still made in America. Best of all, they come complete with mounting brackets and a waterproof wiring loom too.
RIGID INDUSTRIES R SERIES
The latest LED driving light from Rigid Industries is also quite possibly the boldest they have designed. The R Series has been built for those who want to stand out from the crowd, while still offering performance levels that you would expect from the USA-based manufacturer. The secret to the exceptional performance of the R Series is the curved lens and housing which allows for a tremendous throw of light. When combined with twelve of Rigid Industries’ brightest LEDs, you have one serious LED driving light. Availability in a spot, hyperspot, flood, combo, driving and wide beam patterns means there is a light in the R Series range to suit most applications and terrains. A black lens cover is included, as are quality stainless steel brackets and a waterproof wiring loom.
VISION X SOLSTICE
Vision X is actually the manufacturer of choice for many other lighting companies, so their own product sometimes gets less attention than it deserves. Producing a generous 4800 raw lumens from just six LEDs is impressive, and when you consider they also have a service life of up to 50,000 hours things really get put into perspective. The key feature of this light has nothing to do with the light output, but more the slim die cast aluminium housing, which has excellent strength and heat dissipation properties. And with a mounting depth of just 1.5 inches, this is the LED driving light for you if space is at an absolute premium. As Vision X lights are subjected to rigorous vibration testing for performance in high impact situations, Vision X offer a lifetime warranty on the 6 LED Solstice driving light.
XRAY VISION 220 SERIES LED
The latest high-tech offering from Xray Vision is the 220 Series LED light which features six powerful 10w CREE LEDs that produce 6000 lumens while offering up to 50,000 hours of run time. What makes this light so high-tech though, is the high-performance computer designed multiplexer projector, reflector and optical lens that have been designed for maximum light emitting efficiency. This means that overall lumen output is less important, thanks to the quality of design and construction. Mounting duties are taken care of by a highly adjustable pivoting ball joint system, and a hardened polycarbonate optical lens protects internal components while ensuring a water and dust-proof seal rating of IP67. Stainless steel hardware has been utilised for longevity and corrosion resistance, and the light housings are available in either a chrome or black finish