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Off-Roading Lighting

I know you've seen them on just about every off-road or overlanding vehicle so you want them too. Why not, they do look pretty cool, right? Of course they are! You should know, though, that there are real benefits and repercussions to these lights. Yes, repercussions... Let's make sure you know everything you are getting yourself into over off-road lighting.


Light Types

If you haven't already started shopping for lights, you should probably be informed of the different types you can find as they each provide different functionality.

  • BLUE: Flood light pattern

  • GREEN: Driving light pattern

  • RED: Spotlight pattern


Flood Lights

As it sounds, these types of auxiliary lighting provide a massive amount of light across a wide area. They typically do not shine a great distance out so they are much more effective with slower speeds, so you don't "overrun" your lights, and finding obstacles immediately in front of you.

Spot Lights

These lights, opposite of flood lights, are highly concentrated beams meant to focus light over a long distance. They aren't great at spreading light over a wide area but you will see things farther out ahead of you which is great if you are carrying speed such as on a poorly or completely unlit road.


Bulb Types

Like the types of lights above, there are also different bulb styles you can get as well. Again, before you buy, you should be informed of what's available and what will suit your needs!

Halogen

The old school technology! Headlights have been making use of halogen bulbs for a long time. It's been tried, tested, and hold true to this day as a valuable asset both on a off road. They do have a considerable longevity however, by their very design of using electrical energy to heat an element, which then produces light, they will eventually burn out. Due to their design, they have a poor efficiency in creating light through the use of lots of power to heat the element to high enough temperatures to create light. The one solid benefit? They are the cheapest option having been around for as long as they have.

HID - High Intensity Discharge

HIDs haven't been around as long as standard halogen bulbs and although they are not identical to halogen, they do have some similarities. Rather than a heated element producing light, HIDs use electrodes to heat other materials that create enormous amounts of light. Because these other materials take time to heat, HID lights do require a warm up period before you see any light. They do have as good or even slightly better power efficiency than halogen, are more pricey than halogen, but create the most light compared to halogen and LED. Although I have not personally used HIDs before, those I have met and talked to about them suggest they have tendencies to burn out rather frequently.

LED - Light Emitting Diode

The new kid on the block! Unlike halogen, electrical energy is passed to a diode which creates the light, that is, without heating an element. As a result, they tend to have a longer lifespan than halogen and HID bulbs but will still eventually burn out as they do create heat (again, not for lighting purposes). LEDs do have better light output than their counterpart in halogen and, as most of the power used goes towards creating light, they are by far the most energy efficient option! LEDs have been main stream for a while now but the price is still somewhat high for a decent brand. If you're on a budget, they may not be for you.


Necessity & Safety

Your factory headlights are designed and regulated for on highway use. They can only be pointed in one specific way, they can only be so bright, and can only be a certain color. These regulations make them just useful enough to see without blinding other motorists on the road. Take away the road, take away the street lights, and replace it with dynamic and often challenging landscape in the pitch dark and, all of a sudden, factory headlights may not be enough! When you need to see obstacles, animals, or other challenges in your path, you will definitely want a set of auxiliary off-road lights to guide you along the way. I'm definitely not saying you will need them, especially if your factory lighting is sufficient on its own, but you will likely be safer in the pitch dark with more light. Notice how I didn't express "cool factor" as a necessity?


Legality

And now for the least fun, but most important, topic: the legality of off-road lighting. Let me start by saying, where I reside, the law only permits four forward facing white lights and two amber lights, which are the parking lamps, to be illuminated when the vehicle is on a road. I currently have six forward facing white lights on my truck and have never had a problem with the law. Why is that? I respect the law and keep four forward facing lights illuminated at most. You will be responsible for checking on the laws in your area or any area you intend to visit. If you choose not to, don't be surprised if you end up facing some sort of fine. After all, it's not hard to find the vehicle with all the lights when it's nothing but darkness in all directions.


What Else?

There are many different brands out there these days. I can't tell you which is the best in any case. What I can tell you is what brand I chose to install on my truck! Through 5"x7" spot lights, 8" round spot lights, and rear facing flood lights for seeing behind me when backing up, I have and will always choose KC Lights! Why KC Lights? First of all, their equipment is so easy to setup and install! All wires, fuses, and relays ready to go out of the box. Second, they have an outstanding warranty they stand by, even discontinued products if they can! Third, and most important if you ask me, their customer service is outstanding! I refer back to the second point and tell you I had smashed the lens of one of my rear facing flood lights, attempted warranty work while fully explaining I had smashed them myself, found out they were discontinued and, even so, they still shipped me whatever replacement parts they could from what they had left! Absolutely outstanding! Every experience I have had with them has been nothing short of pleasant and for that, I will continue to sing their praises until they should no longer be worthy!


Happy Trails!

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