As LED light bars have grown in popularity, so too has their market. Once a specialty product, there are now numerous models of LED light bars from which to choose, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. If this is your first time shopping for a mounted light for your truck or off-road vehicle, you may be unclear as to what the differences are between these models and how you can be certain that the product you choose best suits your needs. Thankfully, there are a few distinguishing factors you can use to separate unreliable models from those that are worth your money, to ensure that the LED light bar you choose will provide unmatched illumination when you need it the most.
First, it should be mentioned that not all light bars make use of LED bulbs. There are also a fair number of models out there that utilize halogen or high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting, and you may be curious as to why an LED light bar is the superior choice. The difference is five-fold:
All these benefits admittedly make LED light bars more expensive than halogen or HID models. For that extra cost, though, you’re getting a superior product and one whose durability and long life will save you money in the long run. And while environmental heat can play a larger role in the performance of LED lights than it does for other bulbs, that problem can be remedied by purchasing a quality model with a dedicated heat sink. The question, then, is what makes for a quality LED light bar.
As the LED market has grown, certain manufacturers have distanced themselves from the pack by consistently producing bulbs that surpass the competition regarding both performance and reliability. One such manufacturer is CREE, which has spent over twenty years developing and honing its LED technology. Their bulbs are used by many companies as the lighting component of their mounts and have earned their place as the industry standard. What’s more, the previously mentioned issue with environmental heat is much less pronounced for models that make use of CREE bulbs, as their protective heatsinks are typically much more effective than those offered by cheaper and less reliable models.
Now that you know the benefit of LED lighting and of going with a trusted manufacturer, the only question that remains is what exactly you plan on using your LED light bar for. As mentioned, LED light bars now come in a wide range of features and capabilities, which means that there’s almost certainly a model out there that fits your exact needs.
Obviously, the first concern is whether the bar you choose will fit on your vehicle. If you’re looking to mount it to the roof of a full-size truck, you’ll likely be looking for something along the lines of this 50" LED light bar. The 50" model offers both amber and white lighting within one bar; the amber provides mid-range flood lighting while the white offers a longer, narrower spot beam. Both can be used independently or at once, offering you a great deal of on-the-fly flexibility in your lighting. That is not to say, however, that those features are contained to longer models. This 22" light bar, for example, offers the same flexible lighting capabilities in a less powerful, more compact package perfect for mounting to your vehicle’s grille.
While those models offer both spot and flood lighting (as well as a combination of the two), not every LED light bar provides all three beam angles. Generally speaking, you’ll want the long, concentrated light of a spot beam for driving, as its powerful, narrow illumination will allow you to identify far-off hazards before they pose a threat. If you’re more interested in using your light bar to illuminate an area - say, a work site - the width provided by a flood beam angle will likely be more of use to you.
Despite their advanced technology, LED lights are unfortunately still susceptible to defects caused by water and dust intrusion to its components. As with heat issues, though, that concern can almost entirely be addressed by purchasing a model that boasts high-rated protection against those dangers. The rating in question is known as ingress protection, or IP; the five scores common to LED light bars (which indicate the hazards they’re tested to protect against) are as follows.
Generally speaking, a good rule of thumb is to consider the worst hazards that the vehicle to which your light bars will be attached will realistically encounter; then, if possible, buy one grade up just to be safe.
Adding an LED light bar to your vehicle is one of the easiest ways to improve its capabilities, to add a new degree of safety and usefulness to your everyday truck or off-roader. We hope that this guide has given you the information you need in your search for the perfect model. If you have any further questions as to which LED light bar best suits your needs - or if you have any other questions about the remarkable power of LED lighting - please feel free to contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable customer service representatives.