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Bright Gift Idea: An Off-Road LED Light Bar

DIY, Lighting & Lamps, Workspaces & Tools  /   /  By Gary Lieber
LED Light bars come in a variety of lengths and configurations.

LED light bars come in a variety of lengths and configurations.

Light bars can add style to your truck, SUV, or ATV—but they also serve a useful purpose. They illuminate the darkest trail, muddy road, or remote workspace. And in the event of an emergency, a light bar can be a lifesaver.

Choosing a Light Bar

LED light bars range in length from about 12 to 52 inches. Straight light bars mounted on a bumper or grille yield a factory-installed look while placing the light directly in front of your vehicle—while light bars with curved enclosures spread out the light. Mounting a light bar above the windshield maximizes the illumination.

24-inch 120-watt LED light bar with combination of spot and flood capability.

24-inch 120-watt LED light bar with combination of spot and flood capability.

Light bars consist of several rows of LEDs and have specialized lenses or reflectors that provide a brighter and more focused light, ranging in power from 150 to 900 watts. With LED technology, light bars throw an intense bluish-white light that mimics daylight, making it easier to see obstacles at night. They are also available in a range of colors (even stealthy infrared for use with night vision).

We suggest buying a light bar with an IP68-rating to protect against water, rust, dust, scratches, and vibration. A proper enclosure will also act as a heat sink to dissipate heat to extend the life of the lights—as long as 50,000 hours.

Today’s light bars come in flood or spot configurations. Many are combo units that can change the light pattern on the fly. Use the spotlight mode to throw light a long distance, and the flood mode for a broader short-distance pattern.

Before you install a light bar, check local and state regulations for laws about the use of auxiliary lighting on your vehicle. Many states require that motorists cover big, bright light bars when not driving off-road.

Installing the Light Bar

Mount the light bar on the strongest part of the roof.

Mount the light bar on the strongest part of the roof.

For best results, check the installation and mounting instructions that come with the light bar. When mounting the lights above the windshield, the mounting brackets should attach to the edge of the A-pillar and door opening. That provides a solid mounting surface.

Before fitting the bracket and drilling any mounting holes, use masking tape to protect the paint from scratches—and then remove the tape right before attaching the brackets. You should test the light bar and its wiring before permanently installing it on your ride.

Use the supplied wiring harness to ensure safe and reliable service for the life of the light bar.

Use the supplied wiring harness to ensure safe and reliable service for the life of the light bar.

Light bars require at least a nine-volt DC supply of electricity—and should be connected directly to your vehicle’s battery. The supplied wiring harnesses will have a relay that is safely controlled by a dashboard switch to turn the lights on and off. You should avoid routing the wires through the door opening. Instead, route them through a drilled hole in the roof while completely sealing the hole with waterproof silicone. After installation, some fine-tuning of the angle of the light bar may be needed to provide the best light coverage.

See the selection of LED light bars on eBay Motors.

About the Author

Gary Lieber is a regular contributor to the eBay Motors Blog, Clean Fleet Reports, MyRideIsMe.com, and PluginCars.com. He likes to modify his cars by adding features that are unique to the marque. His Porsche 911 is a multiple Concours winner including Top 911 at Porsche Parade in 2005 and 2015. His Volkswagen GTI has been tricked out with engine management upgrades and style enhancements not commonly available on this side of the pond.

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