Diesel Tech Roundup: LED Light Bars

Illuminating the road ahead

Published in the April 2013 Issue April 2013 News Lee Lovell

When we went to the Specialty Equipment Market Association  show (SEMA) in Las Vegas, Nev. in November, one of our top priorities was to scout out some cool roundups for our readers. The exhibition floors at the Las Vegas convention center comprise over two million square feet and we got right to work in finding the best stuff because we enjoy the challenge.

The sheer number of exhibitors (over 6,000) allowed us to see some fairly unique ideas from improved or new diesel-specific products to custom designed hubcaps. The first idea that came to us for a roundup presented itself shortly after stepping into the north convention hall: LED light bars.

They were on almost every diesel truck at the show and are surely one of the biggest trends in the industry today.

The Future

The reason LED light bars have become so popular has a lot to do with the advantages that LEDs present. A light-emitting diode, or LED, is a semiconductor diode that, when electricity is applied to it, projects light forward in a form of electroluminescence. LEDs are used almost everywhere in our lives such as in our vehicles, in our workplaces and in our electronics.

Where an incandescent light bulb uses a filament that eventually breaks with use and heat, LEDs do not suffer from those same problems. They do not use a filament and as a result are very durable and efficient.

That efficiency pays dividends when it comes to adding extra lighting to your truck. For countless years, the only option for adding more light was halogen or HID bulbs. They certainly looked cool, but once you owned one you realized they could be a hassle. LED light bars make adding more light easier to live with than ever.

In fact, durability is one of the biggest draws of LED light bars. With old incandescent setups, it didn’t take much to burn out a light bulb, with replacements happening often. As mentioned earlier, LEDs have no filament to burn out or parts to break; they are completely a solid-state. Instead of the average 5,000-hour lifespan of halogen bulbs, LEDs have life spans of about 50,000 hours.

LEDs’ efficiency is largely attributed to the fact that they do not rely on heat to produce light. A lot of energy is wasted with incandescent bulbs due to the heat they produce. LEDs produce very little, meaning  there are fewer issues that you would normally face due to heat.

That efficiency also means  they consume considerably less electricity as well. Traditional incandescent bulbs operate at about 20 percent efficiency, meaning that of all the electricity used, 80 percent of it goes to producing heat. LEDs usually operate at 80 percent efficiency, so they can produce a lot of light with a comparatively small amount of electricity.

For example, when compared to typical automotive headlights that consume about 55 watts per bulb, the high-powered LEDs used in light bars consume around 2 or 3 watts per bulb. This means you don’t need to worry about the LED light bars draining your battery when you’re using them on your truck. Plus, you won’t have to worry about installing a more powerful alternator to supply the extra current draw.

Options

There are several options out there to choose from when it comes to purchasing light bars.

 

Light bars come in varying sizes anywhere from 4 inches up to 50 inches and beyond. The smaller width light bars are perfect fits for inserting in a truck’s grille or in an aftermarket bumper.

Larger width light bars are great for mounting on a roofline and provide the largest amount of light. Special, vehicle-specific mounting brackets might be required for installation for these. It is often recommended that they be installed by a professional.

LED light bars feature two types of beam patterns: spot and flood. A spot beam pattern is ideal for illuminating as far down a road as possible. Flood beam patterns do not have as far of a beam distance, but they make up for it with a wider band of light. The best choice depends on your intended use. Some companies even offer combos that have both spot and flood beam patterns in the same light bar.

Light covers are available from some companies to snap on over the light bars to help them comply with DOT regulations in some states and also add functionality.

The covers can be found in a variety of colors. An amber color cover, for example, would be ideal for visibility improvements in snow, dust, smoke or fog.

It is important to note that the legal requirements for the light bars vary per state. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Transportation to find any relevant laws or regulations.

The brightness of LED light bars can also impair the vision of oncoming drivers. Use caution when choosing when to operate your added lights.

 

KC HiLiTES

Since the 1970s, KC HiLiTES has been a leader in off-road lighting. Their founder, Pete Brown, decided that standard halogen lights were not enough and went on to start a company focused on providing better lighting solutions for off-roaders.

KC’s line of LZR LED light bars is certainly bright with 3-watt LEDs. Spot beam patterns are available in lengths from 2 inches to 6 inches. Sizes from 10 to 50 inches are offered in a spot/flood combo beam pattern. All are designed to be resistant to dust, water, shock and vibration.

We were very impressed with LZR line’s durability when we visited the KC HiLiTES booth at SEMA. The company showed off the LZR’s durability by lifting their show truck and parking the right front wheel on the light bar. Representatives from the company remarked how they could leave it up there for several years and not have any problems.

KC HiLiTES

928-635-2607

www.kchilites.com

 

GT Lighting USA

Based in Mesa, Ariz., GT Lighting USA is an up-and-coming player in the LED light bar industry.

GT Lighting’s light bars offer a great amount of flexibility due to their unique sizes: 8, 14, 22, 33, and 42 inches. This allows the flexibility to mount anywhere there is space. All of the company’s light bars are offered in the spot beam patterns.

All units offered come with mounting and installation hardware. Once installed, the units have an IP 67 rating for being dust, water and shock resistant. The light bars also use super-bright 3-watt LEDs. The front of the unit is protected by a high-impact tempered glass lens.

GT Lighting USA

480-745-0789

www.gtlightingusa.com

 

Custer Products

In business since 1993, Custer Products has made a name for itself by manufacturing a very comprehensive selection of automotive light products. They are headquartered in North Canton, Ohio, and operate from an 80,000-square-foot facility.

Its LED light bars use super-bright 3-watt LEDs and are available in 7.5-, 14- and 22.5-inch lengths. The light bar housing can be rotated 180 degrees with the included brackets. They are also designed to be either stud mounted or flash mounted.

The light bars are also IP 67 rated for resistance to water, dust and shock. Custer Products also offers a great selection of LED flood and spot lights in power ratings from 8 to 27 watts.

Custer Products

800-490-3158

www.custerproducts.com

 

Rigid Industries

Another leader in the automotive LED lighting industry is Rigid Industries. Located in Mesa, Ariz., Rigid Industries prides itself on the fact that its products are designed, engineered and assembled in the United States.

Its LED lights are available in spot, flood or combo beam patterns with lengths ranging from 4 inches to 50 inches. The E-Series line features a double row of LEDs while the SR-Series features a single row of LEDs but has the space-saving advantage of only being half the height. Numerous accessories and light covers are available.

Rigid Industries also takes pride in how durable its lights are. At their booth at SEMA, a video showed their light bars being sawed, crushed, shot and frozen, while still functioning during the torture test.

Rigid Industries

480-655-0100

www.rigidindustries.com

 

Baja Designs

Located in San Marcos, Calif., Baja Design has grown tremendously since its founding in 1992. The company’s experience in and passion for different off-road motorsports is shown in the development of its products.

Baja Designs’ offerings come in two lines: the OnX series and the Stealth series. The OnX series comes in 8-inch size increments from 8 inches to 51 inches. These light bars are available in a variety of spot and combo light beam patters. The Stealth series is available in 10-inch size increments from 10 inches to 50 inches in an aerodynamic pattern. Solid black and fall camouflage body designs are available.

We love that its LED light bars are fully serviceable and feature customizable optics and lenses. The light bars are very durable with a hard-coated polycarbonate lens and can be submersed in up to nine feet of water.

Baja Designs, Inc.

760-560-2252

www.bajadesigns.com

 

Bulldog LED Lighting

Bulldog Lighting, based out of San Carlos, Calif., was founded in 2011 by a young desert racer who was tired of his current lighting system on his team’s off-road vehicle. Ever since then, Bulldog Lighting has been leaving its mark in the industry.

The Bulldog Bone series of LED light bars is available from 10 inches to 50 inches in double row configuration. The light bars can also be ordered in spot, flood or combo beam patterns. The manufacturer uses 3-watt LEDs and can operate in temperatures from -49 to 185 degrees.

The unique feature of Bulldog’s light bars is that you can order them in white, blue, red or amber LED colors. The housing is black powder coated aluminum and is IP69 waterproof up to nine feet.

Bulldog Lighting

855-533-2855

www.bulldog-lighting.com

 

Oracle Lighting

In business for over a decade, Oracle Lighting had been delivering high-quality LEDs products for years. Located in New Orleans, La., Oracle Lighting prides itself in being a business who has received several accolades, showing that it is a business you can trust.

Oracle’s LED light bars can be purchased in wide variety of lengths: 8, 12, 13.5, 22, 32, 42 and 52 inches. The 8- and 12-inch styles use 2-watt LEDs, while 13.5 inches and longer styles use 3-watt LEDs. The light bars are water, dust and impact-resistant with a strong polycarbonate lens, perfect for rough terrain and extreme environments.

Its LED light bars also feature a slim design, allowing the flexibility to install wherever greater safety and visibility is needed.

Oracle Lighting

800-407-5776

www.oraclelights.com

 

Weekend Concepts

Weekend Concepts, Inc. was founded in 1993 and is located in Paso Robles, Calif. Weekend Concepts got its start by developing lighting systems for motorcycles and is now widely known for its LED products.

The company’s Discovery series of LED light bars come in a variety of lengths from 6 inches all the way to 50 inches in either single or double row configurations. Spot, flood or combination beam patterns can be purchased for sizes 12 inches and up.

Durability is ensured by being dust, water and shock-resistant. The light bars can also safely withstand 8.6g of vibration force. Tube clamps and ATV brackets are also available to provide a wide variety of installation options.

Weekend Concepts, Inc.

800-624-6234

www.lazerstarlights.com

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