Lighting up the Night On and Off Road
While headlights and tail lights are a must, there a lot of additional lighting options out there, including: light bars, halos and angel eyes, and a number of other cool options when it comes to lighting kits. Do note that a lot of the accent items and lighting kits out there use LEDs partially because of the efficiency and affordability but mostly because they are tiny and can be put just about anywhere. So if you're looking to do some really cool accents or small lights in peculiar areas, LEDs FTW! Also, there isn't as much here to compare. These items are mostly about style and aesthetics. They really come down to personal preference and what you want your ride to look like. Do please note, before you go crazy customizing your truck or Jeep with all sorts of cool accent lights or colored headlights, most States in the Union have laws on the books prohibiting the use of the following:
flashing lights, blue lights, red lights, spot lights that can be pointed to the left of the driver's side of the vehicle, and lights that are rating over 2,000 lumens (such as HIDs!).
Light bars are great for lighting up areas for away and especially for trail or country driving late at night. If you live in deer country, like me, these are practically a must. Some light bars are even street legal when properly directed.
Why do I need a Light Bar on my truck?
What’s the purpose of an auxiliary light bar anyway?
Light Bars and various auxiliary light systems help off road and trail riders to light up the area ahead of your vehicle more fully. This is especially useful for those hitting difficult trails or terrain in poor lighting conditions. If you ever ride any trails at night or dusk or at a time when you might see some difficult weather such as heavy storms and rain, a light bar really is a game changer. Being able to light up the area in front of your vehicle to a wider degree than your headlights do can help you avoid obstacles and various road hazards. Whether you’re watching out for wildlife such as deer or racoons and the like, or trying to navigate rocky terrain in poor light conditions, a hood or roof mounted light bar will help you see the area ahead and keep you on the right path.
The thing about light bars is you might not think you need one until it is too late. For instance, I recently was out on a trip to the beautiful and colorful state of Colorado. A buddy of mine out there has a pretty sweet Jeep. This baby is loaded up with sweet fender flares, larger wheels and tires, and some pretty sick electronic gear to boot.
He invited me to go out and drive with him out on his dad’s ranch land one afternoon. So the girlfriend and I packed up a lunch, and we went out on a double date with my buddy, Tim, and his wife, and we got to see the beauty of the high plains desert.
The day was pretty great, all in all. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. But as they say in Colorado, if you don’t like the weather, wait about 15 minutes, cause it’ll change.
We parked out rented sedan at the cattle gate and piled into Tim’s Jeep Wrangler JK. As I said before, this baby had all the bells and whistles. I started talking about the company I work for, Midwest Aftermarket, almost immediately. And one of the things I was pushing was LED headlights, like those from Diode Dynamics, a local St. Louis company. Those headlights last forever and light up more of the area in front of your vehicle than your stock headlights.
About that time I noticed that my friend didn’t have any spotlights, cube lights, or light bars either. So I mentioned those too and that we could probably get him a decent discount on aftermarket parts for his Jeep in general.
Tim seemed intrigued, but when I mentioned light bars, he kinda shrugged. He explained that he never drove at night anyway, and he figured they weren’t legal to use on the street either.
Of course, Tim’s right about the street use, but you just leave the light bars off when you’re on the street and roads. And since most of the light bars we sell have toggle switches and some of them even apps for your phone that allow you to turn them on from inside the vehicle, they can be pretty useful in certain situations.
The first situation that came to mind for me was driving at night through our country back roads here in Illinois. We have a large deer population, so it isn’t uncommon to have accidents involving wildlife and such that could severely damage your vehicle.
Tim’s counter to that was that these lights aren’t street legal, so you shouldn’t really have them on anyway. And he’s not wrong. But honestly, I sometimes switch mine on when I’m driving through the back woods late at night just in case. You can always flip them off just like you would your brights. But he’s correct, technically.
I finished up by saying that light bars look cool too, but it was pretty clear at this point that Tim had done some research and wasn’t buying that having a light bar was a necessity for someone like him. Sure there are people who live out in the country or like to drive trails or ranch land at night, but Tim just wasn’t one of them.
I dropped the subject and started asking him how he liked those fender flares. And the day moved along like that for some time.
The rolling ranch lands of Colorado truly are majestic to behold. If you ever get a chance to take a cruise in a Jeep or 4x4 truck through them, by all means, do. We saw one of their herds in the distance about 30 minutes into our trip, but instead of heading towards them, Tim turned us off to the East towards some rock formations he wanted us to see.
But to get there, we had to cross a dry creek bed. Tim told me that in the wet season, late winter and often most of spring, this creek would be a solid water source for the cattle. But as it was summer, the bed was pretty dry. Apparently, run off from the mounts flows down into this and many other creeks in the area.
Tim pointed out that there was one particular area he liked to cross that had some decent rocks in to make it easier to get through, especially if it was muddy and definitely if the water was high. And sure enough, when he spied it, I could tell what he meant. This section had some larger rocks throughout, and while it made for a bumpy ride, we made it across without incident. And hey, riding in a Jeep both on and off road is typically a little bumpy, so what’s new.
We got to the formations he wanted to show us and stopped for a picnic lunch. The wife and I posed for about a dozen too many pictures, and then I turned the camera on the landscape itself. Again I was taken in by the horizon, the rising slopes up to the mountains above, and then I caught something I hadn’t noticed before in a shot I took of the mountains off to the West.
A massive dark cloud was descending down from the top of the mountain range--a powerful thunderstorm brewing just behind us. I remembered that old saying about the weather, before I pointed out the coming storm to my companions.
No big deal. I mean, we’re in a Jeep, and Tim knows this back country very well. At first, we took our time packing up our picnic, but by the time we loaded up into the Jeep again, it had started to rain.
What began as a cool light drizzle quickly exploded into a cascade of downpour. It was like a waterfall of icy cold water flooding down from the heavens, and if we’d been on the highway, I think we would have probably pulled over. As it was, we were out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to hit in sight, so Tim just slowed down.
After 30 minutes or so of driving around listening to the pounding rain and the burst of lightning and thunder, it became clear to me that Tim had been circling. I wasn’t sure exactly what he was looking for, but I could tell he’d drive a bit one way, then turn hard and drive back the way we came. Then he’d do it again.
I started to wonder how we could possibly be lost. I mean, he had a compass built into the dashboard there, and then I noticed we’d started heading East then West, not south, back towards where we had parked.
Something was up, and Tim could tell I was on to him, so he just said it.
“I can’t find the place to cross the creek,” he shrugged, and motioned to our right.
Sure enough, we had arrived back at the former dry creek bed, only now it was flooded with rushing water, flying down the mountain side. And with the amount of water joining it every second, the water wasn’t receding any time soon. And I couldn’t tell where we’d crossed previously either. It was just too dark and there was too much rain coming down.
I told Tim we were in no hurry, took out my phone, checked a radar app and found that the storm should be clearing up here in about 30 minutes.
Tim put her into park, and we popped open some adult beverages to pass the time. No big deal.
And sure enough, the rain did let up and we found the crossing once it got brighter again as the clouds departed.
Tim just looked at me. “Go ahead and say it, man.”
I smiled, “You know what would’ve really come in handy here, Tim?”
He shook his head and smiled sheepishly.
“A light bar, my friend. A high powered, LED, auxiliary light bar.”
We all laughed.
And while I was just giving my buddy a hard time, you know what he ordered later that week from Midwest Aftermarket? A Rigid Light bar! Because again you don’t need a light bar until you suddenly do.
And you don’t want to end up like us in a dangerous situation without the ability to get back to the main road because you can’t locate the trail or your crossing or just bad luck I guess.
Look, you can’t control the weather, especially not here in the Midwest. But what you can do is prepare for it. Do yourself a favor, and pick up a light bar. At the very least, it’ll look kickass on your vehicle. And at the best, it just might save your ass sometime soon.
In other words, don’t pull a Tim. Haha!
Information for this article came from a number of sources including my head and my own number crunching. Fun times. Here's the outside ones for you to look into yourself:
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Joan, Ben. "Difference Between Xenon and HID." DifferenceBetween.net, 8 Jan. 2010, www.differencebetween.net/object/difference-between-xenon-and-hid/. Accessed 19 Dec. 2017.
Laukkonen, Jeremy. "How Long Should Headlights Last?" LifeWire, 12 Jan. 2017, www.lifewire.com/how-long-should-headlights-last-4117128. Accessed 20 Dec. 2017.
Markus, Frank. "Blinded by the Light? Comparing New LED Headlamps with HID/Xenon, Halogen." MotorTrend, 16 Oct. 2008,
www.motortrend.com/news/blinded-by-the-light-comparing-new-led-headlamps-with-hidxenon-halogen-2069/. Accessed 19 Dec. 2017.
Taub, Eric A. "How Long Did You Say That Bulb Would Last?" NY Times, 11 Feb. 2009, bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/11/how-long-did-you-say-that-bulb-will-last/. Accessed 19 Dec. 2017.