Things to Consider When Choosing An LED Light For Your Vehicle
Getting a LED light system? Here’s a checklist that you can follow when selecting a LED light product:
First off, consider the purpose of the LED light and the expected usage in the following contexts: environment, duration and frequency.
- Will these be installed on a vehicle that you use often? If so, how many hours per week do you estimate?
- Will the terrain be mostly paved, rocky, muddy, wet, loose gravel, or sand?
|Know the purpose|
Factors of the usage should be carefully considered when deciding how much money to budget for your light purchase – simple usage like on a golf cart or farm-use ATV means you might be fine with a less expensive/lower-quality product. More demanding applications like for off-road 4×4 racing, dirt bikes, and the likes will require a better investment in premium product with a longer warranty.
Secondly, consider the most common specifications reported by sellers, such as:
- Reflector design – LED lighting comes in two types: ‘spot’ type lighting (30º spread) for longer-but-narrow distance illumination or ‘flood’ type (60º spread) for shorter-but-broad illumination. Decide which one suits your needs or go with a combination of both.
- Ingress Protection rating – The higher the rating, the better protection from water, dust, and other elements the light is stated to have. Generally, most manufacturers meet IP67 rating at minimum. An excellent reference table describing the various grades can be found here.
- Lifespan rating – Consider how long and often you expect to use the lights over a long timeframe and get a light that suits your needs – when properly taken care of, they can last up to 50,000 hours of use and prove to be a more cost-effective choice than traditional lighting equipment like xenon or halogen units.
- Light output and color temperature – How many lumens does each model report? What is the color temperature (reported in Kelvin [K])? Lower lumen and/or lower color temps means that the contrast between ambient lighting and the LEDs will not be as prominent, making it harder to identify objects while the vehicle is in motion. You need all the help you can get when driving 60 mph or more in low-light conditions. 5000K or lower color temperature gets into a bluish tint and your eyes will not benefit greatly from this at night. A color temp of 6000K should be the minimum rating for general night lighting use.
- LED brand – Check the LED manufacturer. Are the LEDs cheap Taiwan-made Epistar, CREE from the USA, or is it German brand Osram (Oslon)? Keep in mind that cheap lighting solutions can last several years and may work just fine for your needs if you don’t plan to do heavy off-roading. Check for imitations since these are sold widely in the market; it’s best to inspect the LED and ensure that you are getting your money’s worth.
- Lens material – Do they use cheap lenses like low-grade glass or polycarbonate instead of GE Lexan lenses? If you will be driving on loose gravel or even on a normal paved road, a piece of gravel that impacts the lens can cause a fracture and subsequently lead to water intrusion, which could short-circuit the lights and ruin the light bar entirely.
- Accessories – Is a wiring harness, relay, and/or fuse module included?
There are several options to choose from in the market but make sure that you’re comparing ‘apples to apples’ as best you can when shopping online. In addition to the price, look for warranty and construction specifications and compare amongst several brands in order to achieve better odds of a value-based investment in your equipment.