Xray Vision: Choosing the right driving lights
By Xray Vision
When choosing auxiliary lighting for your vehicle, there are two main types of light to consider. The first are driving lights that project light in defined pencil beam or spread beam patterns down the road or track ahead of the vehicle. The second type are off-road LED lightbars which light up directly in front of the vehicle with a very tall and very wide output.
The difference between the two comes down to the optics. The driving lights utilise free-form reflectors (HID) and quad-optic projection technology (LED) to gather and accurately project the light in a particular pattern, while the lightbars simply direct the light forwards via a shallow reflector.
In terms of application, the driving lights are best suited to driving on highways, roads and dirt tracks where the vehicle is being used to travel, often at speed. The free-form reflectors and quad-optics direct the light onto the road ahead to allow the driver to see what’s coming up in the distance, such as obstacles, hazards or animals.
The off-road LED lightbars are best suited to more serious 4WDing where the vehicle is crawling and manoeuvring at lower speeds over uneven or undulating terrain. The very broad flood of light allows the driver to see up high, down low, and out wide to the sides of the vehicle with a large amount of illumination.
Fitting and alignment
Once you’ve got your shiny new driving lights or lightbar, you’ll need to go about getting them fitted. Most TJM stores will be able to fit and align them for you, however if you’d prefer to give it a go yourself, we’ve got some tips to ensure a successful installation.
Firstly is the positioning on the vehicle. In general auxiliary lights are mounted at the front of the vehicle between the factory headlights, often on barwork or brackets depending on the vehicle and setup. For vehicles that are also used on the road, different states have various rules as to how many lights you can fit, while some states also allow lights to be mounted on the roof. Xray Vision recommends you check your local laws before buying and fitting lights to ensure compliance.
If fitting lights to the front barwork, then the most common setup is either a pair of round driving lights, or a single LED linear driving light. With the linear driving lights there are a range of lengths, so you just need to measure how much space you have to determine how long you can go.
Once you’ve decided what type and where you’re going to install your lights, you’ll need to make sure they’re aligned correctly. The first step is to ensure they are aligned horizontally. To do this use a horizontal surface across the front of the vehicle as a reference and align the lights or lightbar accordingly. An additional tip when aligning two or more round driving lights is to use a straight edge (such as a steel ruler or piece of timber) placed across the front of the lights to make sure they’re straight in relation to each other. With lightbars the feet can be secured into place once horizontally aligned, whereas with round driving lights the vertical adjustment needs to be made before tightening the single ball joint mount.
As a general rule the vertical alignment should be perpendicular to the road when the vehicle is sitting on a perfectly flat surface. An easy way to make this alignment is to park the vehicle on a flat surface (such as in a garage) and use a spirit level against the front face of the lights to adjust. If you don’t have a spirit level handy, then many modern smartphones have a levelling App built-in. Once in position, the side bolts on the lightbar or the single bolt on the round driving lights can be tightened to fix the position.
Final incremental adjustment may need to be performed (in a safe location) on the road at night, to suit your personal preference and driving conditions. Also note that any major change to the vehicle load such as cargo, luggage or attaching a trailer may alter the angle of the vehicle and therefore the angle of the lights. If you’re doing a lot of travel with the additional load (such as a caravan, trailer or fifth wheeler) then it may be worth readjusting the lights to suit.
Originally posted in TJM Pinboard, December 2017.