Off-Road Lights Install and Review
the install of an ARB Bull Bar on my 92 Toyota Pickup I was in the market for a
good set of off-road driving lights for our occasional night trail runs, not to
mention for the commute through the wooded areas of PA where I often see deer,
sometimes a little too late. I decided to part from my old ways of buying the
cheaper sets of lights at the local automotive parts stores. I was never really
impressed or truthfully even satisfied with the performance of any of these
lighting products. For starters the output, measured in candlepower, was never
as high as I would have hoped or even as high as the manufacturer would
advertise. Most would not even give an output measurement in candlepower but in
watts. Watts are simply the power consumption and not a gauge for the actual
output of light. It is possible for a set of lights to consume the same or even
less power (watts) than another set of driving lights and yet have higher output
of light (candlepower). This simply means that the set of lights with the higher
candlepower is more efficient at converting the vehicles power into usable
light. A usual solution is to install more lights but this will increase the
consumed power, putting a heavier load on the alternator usually with only a
nominal increase in light output if the lights are not efficient. It makes more
sense to get a good, high quality set of off-road lights with a high power to
some research and communicating with a U.S. based company called Off-Road Lights
in Washington State who is a retailer of high intensity lighting systems made by
Lightforce of Australia, I found what I was looking for. My thoughts, from what
I read and learned from Off-Road Lights in Washington state, were that the
lights made by Lightforce were some of the highest quality lights in the
industry. With an impressive track record, Lightforce Australia Pty Ltd from
what I learned has been developing and refining it's wide range of lighting
products and accessories for over 15 years. Their lights have been used by
Australia truckers and the trucking industries for years to light the way of
"Road Trains" that sometimes pull up to 5 trailers across the highways
of Australia. They are also used in 40 countries by police, security, marine,
search and rescue, fire services, and military applications such as in the
Persian Gulf on U.S. Hummers in Desert Storm operations. The product line
is new to the United States and few companies carry them here.
My question was why would all these services employ the use of these
lights? I detailed some of the reasons that I read about prior to making
my decision below. Later after receiving, installing and using the lights
I'm even more impressed with the quality of these lights.
For starters, out of the box one of the first things I was impressed with was
the construction. The base appeared to be made of a strong and durable plastic
and looked good as well. Lightforce says that they are produced from the latest
engineering plastics and formed using injection molding making them extremely
durable, lightweight, corrosion resistant Ultra Violet (UV) light resistant, and
I requested the 170 mm reflectors which is one of the three sizes of
reflectors that Lightforce offers which include 140, 170 & 240mm reflector
diameters. The 170 mm reflectors looked quite unique in design and of higher
quality compared to what I was used to seeing on the market and on my vehicle.
What the company says about their reflectors is that they are computer designed
and molded using an injection molding process. A high quality vacuum metallised
finish is used to produce a beam that optimizes the light energy produced by the
The lenses are of an interesting shape, sort of a shallow conical shape. It
seems that there is a good reason for this design and that is serves some
purpose like possibly deflecting heat. Lightforce reports that the lenses are
made of a virtually indestructible, shatter-proof lens material called
"POLYCARBONATE (LEXAN)" which can withstand a violent impact and
extreme thermal shock. I was told that tests of these lenses involved firing a
25 caliber bullet at the lense which resulted in minor damage when the bullet
was deflected away and did not penetrate the lense. This is one test I'll take
their word on. I suppose this is one of the reasons the military uses these
This is nice. By simply rotating the front housing, the light can be focused
to obtain a pencil beam or progressively rotated to flood broad areas.
With a dual, over lapping light system a wide bright beam can be projected
to light the trail. I now use them instead of my trucks high beams
during my long commute through heavily wooded roads always on alert for deer.
The company offers various bulb options. All Lightforce lights use long
life Quartz Xenon bulbs which produces a reported 20% more light than standard
halogen bulbs resulting in a brilliant white light. They are also available in
different voltages and wattages and are easily replaced requiring no
tools. Two bulb options I chose were the horizontal and vertical
filaments. The difference between the two is the horizontal will produce
an oval, broader beam of light. The vertical filament will produce a
rounder, more spotlight like beam with about 20% more candlepower due to the
Each reflector size has available a variety of filter options, each for
different purposes. The filters I chose were the clear, amber and
blue. One of the nice things about these offroad lights is the ease of
changing the filters. They are simple to attach and detach by clipping
onto the front reflector housing.
- AMBER - For highlighting contrast in damp or foggy
- BLACK - Opaque protective covers for lights when not in use
- BLUE - For marine, police and security applications
- CLEAR - Protective cover for the lens, standard with
- GREEN - Specifically for spotting animals with sensitive
- RED - Most popular for study of nocturnal animals and night
hunting of light shy animals. eg. Rabbit, fox and wild boar. (Many animals are
unable to see RED due to lack of color vision.)
- DISPERSION FILTERS: Available in clear, red and infra-red for 140
& 170mm reflector sizes. These filters transform the beam into a soft edged
flood light, especially useful when boating, camping or using as a general work
- INFRA RED FILTERS: Used with 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation Night Vision
Image Intensifiers with an 840-920 nanometer wave length.
Lightforce also makes an extensive and versatile range of handles and
accessories for portables including battery packs. Take a look at Off-Road
Lights in Washington state USA for additional information on their product
Depending on where you decide to mount your off-road lights, installation
will vary. On the ARB Bull Bar installation could not have been
simpler. The ARB is prefabricated with a pair of mounting points in the
center section of the grill area. The base of the 170mm lights mount
with a large single 10mm bolt. I used the pre-drilled holes in the ARB to
bolted them down. That was it and I was on to the wiring.
In the typical install you may need to take the dimensions into account when
deciding where to mount your off-road lights. (Dimensional diagrams of all three
sizes are pictured below click here).
The bases of these lights do not require the surface to be level so if your
mounting them on the front bumper of your off-road rig the factory bumper can be
bolted onto even if it is an angled surface. If you're worried about
protecting the lights from heavy underbrush a prerunner bar is a good way to
protect them. Not to mention they look good. Lightforce also makes
accessories for remote operation of the lights from inside the vehicle which is
an option used frequently in emergency vehicles. Also nice for spotting
Things To Consider When Wiring Your Offroad
When wiring anything in your vehicle that draws heavy current such as high
powered off-road lights there are a few things to consider. Number one,
make sure you use wire that is rated for the amperage that the accessories is
going to pull. It is always better to have wire that is OVER rated rather
than wire that is not rated high enough. If wire is used that is not rated
to handle the current that your accessory will pull, the result could be
overheated wires that could melt the insulation, causing a short or worse yet it
could result in a fire. If you know how much current your accessory will
draw you can determine what gauge wire is appropriate for your application.
Personally I like to use wire that far exceeds the current draw of my
accessory. It's overkill but in a few applications I've used heavy
gauge stranded industrial wire with water and chemical resistant insulation.
That way there is no question as to whether the wire is rated high enough or
not. If this approach is taken, it is very wise to place a fuse at the
battery end as close to the battery as possible. Most wire in a vehicle,
if shorted out, will burn up before the battery overheats and possibly
explodes. If wire that is over-rated for vehicle use is used and a short
occurs, a short will most likely result in damage to the vehicle of some sort
unless a fuse is put in line as close to the battery as possible. With the
fuse there, in the case of a dead short, the fuse will burn out first before any
damage could occur.
With accessories that pull a lot of power it is always better to get your
power directly from the batteries positive terminal rather than tapping into the
existing fuse block or wiring harness. In most cases the vehicles existing
fuse block is not rated to handle the additional load of high powered
accessories such as off-road lights. If you are the kind of person that
likes to add all kind of goodies to your vehicle it might be worth installing an
additional fuse block that handles non-critical items like off-road lights, CB
radios, power inverters, etc. This additional block can then be powered by
a heavy duty wire capable of carrying the current required of all the
accessories on the block. Be sure to fuse the block at the battery.
|In almost every case where high
current is required the switch use to turn on the power should not handle the
load. That is better left to a relay. What is a relay?
A relay is a device that, through a magnetic induction coil, turns on the
power for you. The switch that is installed in the cab of your 4x4
actually only powers the relay itself which draws very little current.
In my installation I used a 30 AMP relay from Radio Shack (Auto Relay Cat.
Number 275-226) to do the switching. I used a lighted switch in the cab
to let me know the lights were on even though there was no way I would have
any doubt they were on (even during the day).
|The method I used for wiring the
lights, for the most part, follows the diagram pictured above. As in the diagram
I first ran a wire from a 12 volt power source to the switch in the cab and out
to the relay placing a fuse at the source of the power. (Follow the relay's
wiring schematic when connecting the wires to the relay) One of the relays
terminals goes to ground. Then I ran a heavy gauge wire from the battery to the
relay placing a 30 Amp fuse in line very close to the battery. Do not connect
the power to the battery until all wiring is done. Then I ran a single heavy
gauge wire out to the lights and split it into two leads at the lights. If you
do this be sure the wire is rated to handle BOTH lights since it will carry the
current of both. The diagram shows two leads coming from the relay. Then I ran
the second wire of both lights to a good ground on the frame of the truck. If
the wires will not be soldered together and crimped connectors will be used it's
a good idea to put a dielectric paste on the connectors where they come in
contact. This will prevent corrosion as time passes ensuring a good connection.
I then double-checked all my wiring before plugging in the power. Later that
night I took the vehicle to a flat parking lot for adjustments.
So... What's the verdict?
Off-Road Lights are a U.S. based retailer of high
intensity lighting systems made by Lightforce of Australia. The following
is their website address:
Impressive. At least 5 times the light of my high
beams making the stock high beams almost insignificant in comparison. If
the past month I've done some hard 4 wheeling through the back country of PA and
even though the lights have been jarred around and wacked by a few underbrush
branches they none the worse. The filters are great. I
particularly like the amber filters which I leave on most of the time.
They seem to reflect a highly visible light making objects visibly jump out of
the shadows. On a few foggy nights this past month after installing them
they performed very well as fog lights. Driving on or off-road at night
using the clear filters (mainly the clear act as protective covers) they light
up everything. I broaden the focus and pointed them not at the
ground but so the center of the beam is pointing straight out from the
lights. This seemed to produce the best beam for uneven terrain or hilly
areas on the pavement. I can only imaging the light that the RMDL240's
would throw off with the 9 inch reflector.
In a nutshell, if your looking for a good set of lights
for off-road or on road driving these are a class above your average lighting
systems. I highly recommend these high power, light weight lights.
The people at
Converting Candlepower to Watts and vice-versa
& Other Offroad Light Information
Give them a call at:
for a great price on a set.
TO OFFROAD RELATED READING