LED Light Bar Buying Advice
For off-roaders needing lighting options, LED light bars are about as cool as they come. They look great on your truck, even during the day, and provide tons of utility when night falls. There are other options besides LEDs out there though and also some things you should keep in mind when buying lights. Here’s your guide to buying LED light bars for your Ford.
Major Off-Road Lighting Options
There are tons of off-road lighting options out there, let’s break them down.
Light Bulb Options:
LED bulbs - Named for “light emitting diodes”, these solid state devices are very resistant to damage from vibrations or impact. They are the most expensive in terms of retail pricing, but aren't necessarily the most expensive in terms of long term investment.
Halogen bulbs - These are the most common type of headlight bulbs for cars and trucks. Halogens are affordable and powerful — however, they do tend to use a good bit of electrical power.
HID lighting - Named for “High Intensity Discharge” lights, they offer the most light output per watt of power of the three.
Light Bar Mounting Options:
- Full width bars which are up to 6’ wide and typically mount to the roof
- Mid-length light bars which are typically mounted to the grille, bumper, or grille guard
Why LED Light Bars are the Best Choice
When it comes to lighting, LED light bars are almost always the solution. Here are the pros and cons to using LED bulbs:
- They’re very efficient. LED bulbs use around a tenth of the halogen bulb equivalent.
- LED bulbs are compact. Small LED bulbs put out more light than a much larger halogen.
- They last a very long time. The average LED bulb can last up to 40k hours, probably longer than your vehicle.
- They’re extremely durable. An LED is basically a small circuit board that isn’t sensitive to vibrations or impact.
- They look good. The lighting can come in many different colors, shapes, sizes, etc. to customize for your vehicle.
As far as disadvantages go, the biggest is that they cost more than halogen and are somewhat temperature sensitive. Investing in a quality kit will help you avoid heat problems. You can't go wrong with Rigid Industries brand light bars, but there are some new affordable brands (like Project LM) that offer top-flight quality at a bargain price that are worth checking out too.
Choosing Which Light Bar to Buy
Here’s some things to keep in mind when shopping for a light bar:
- As mentioned prior, a big problem with these kits is that the cheap brands are prone to temperature sensitivity. So the first priority is buying an LED light bar from a high quality brand. Cheap/knock-off brands often use substandard heatsinks, which results in cooling problems and - eventually - premature failure from overheating. If the brand uses CREE or OSRAM LEDs in the bar, chances are you’re getting a good product.
- Always buy a light bar with a good warranty, typically two years or more. But don't just trust the length of warranty - be sure to read the warranty carefully for any exclusionary language.
- A lot of people argue that you need to buy lights with an IP68 rating, but that's not as bulletproof as it seems. It can be fudged, so don't use that rating as a signal of quality in and of itself. Check reviews too.
- Don't dismiss the value of simpler LED floodlights. They can often provide more than enough light for typical off-roading situations.
When you do purchase a light bar, make sure you keep it sealed (don't try and open it up because you'll never get it back together) and install it exactly as recommended — route the wiring properly, use grommets, and seal everything tightly.
Finally, make sure you check with local laws concerning use of LED light bars on the street before you use them on the road.