How to Choose Your Off Road Light Bar: Complete Buying Guide
Have you ever wished for more light while navigating dark, off-road adventures? You’re not the only one. Here at Nomadist, our experiences on rugged terrains have emphasized the crucial role of dependable lighting. It’s not just about lighting the path; it’s about ensuring a safe and clear passage. Our buying guide, cultivated from our own nocturnal journeys, aims to shed light (pun intended) on your decision-making to help you choose the perfect light bar for all your adventures.
Navigating the vast landscape of light bars on the market can be overwhelming, especially for newcomers to the off-roading community. With countless brands and various factors to consider, choosing the right one is essential. Among the most reputable brands is KC HiLiTES, known for its extensive product range and dependability. Below, we’ll highlight our top recommendations for KC light bars.
Continue reading to discover the essential factors that must be considered when buying a light bar. Or jump down to explore our list of the best KC light bars for sale.
Key Factors to Consider When Buying Light Bars
Picking the perfect light bar is incredibly important, whether you’re driving a truck, Jeep, UTV, or some other vehicle. It’s not just about the light; it’s about the experience. You must consider factors like your adventure style, brightness needed, design features, mounting location, durability, and vehicle compatibility. Considering these factors, you can customize your choice to fit your unique needs and ride.
Key Factors to Consider When Buying Light Bars
Light Bar Shape: Curved vs. Straight
Curved light bars are designed to seamlessly conform to the curved windshields of SUVs and trucks. They notably enhance visibility in expansive, open spaces by dispersing light widely, providing a broad field of vision.
On the flip side, straight light bars go well with the flat windshields of sedans and sports cars. They give a strong, clear beam of light, making it easier to see the road ahead. Your car’s design and your lighting needs should help you decide between the two. You could use a curved light bar on a car with a straight windshield or a straight light bar on a car with a curved windshield, but it might need additional mounting hardware or brackets to make it fit properly. The difference in shape could cause some gaps between the light bar and the windshield, which might not look as nice and could affect how well the light bar works.
The new Flex Era KC Light Bar can used in a curved or straight position.
Light Bar Sizes: 6″ to 57″
Selecting the right size light bar isn’t only about measurements and brightness but understanding your adventures and where they’ll take you. From 6-inch bars to 57-inch ones, each size has a unique application. Why? Well, different outdoor escapades demand distinct visual clarity. A night under the stars at a quiet campsite might only require a soft glow, hence a smaller bar, while a nocturnal trek across an unfamiliar trail could need a much larger, powerful light bar to illuminate the path ahead. However, size isn’t always synonymous with light output; some smaller light bars can be incredibly bright and vice versa – be sure to check the lumens!
And remember – your light bar has to fit comfortably on your ride, not just in size but also in how smoothly it settles in.
Number of Light Bar Rows
Light bars are available in various configurations, including single-row, double-row, and triple-row designs. Single-row light bars are versatile and suitable for most applications, whether you need them on trucks, jeeps, or other vehicles. However, if you require an even brighter and wider illumination, double or triple-row bars may provide more intense lighting. Bear in mind the larger, multi-row bars can shift your vehicle’s weight and balance, impacting its stability, especially off-road.
Ensure your choice not only fits but also aesthetically aligns with your vehicle, avoiding excessively large setups on smaller rides. With more LEDs generating more heat, especially in multi-row configurations, proper heat dissipation is paramount to safeguard the performance and lifespan of your light bar.
Light Bar Beam Patterns
The beam pattern is a critical aspect of light bars, with three main options to consider:
Spot Beam Patterns: Ideal for long-distance illumination, these narrow, focused beams can reach several miles and are perfect for off-road adventures, ATV light bars, emergency response, and construction work.
Flood Beam Patterns: Designed for wide-area illumination, flood beams produce a broad, diffused light that covers areas several hundred feet wide. They are excellent for general lighting needs like campsite or work area illumination.
Combo Beam Patterns: Combining the benefits of spot and flood beams, combo patterns offer a versatile lighting solution for various applications, ensuring both long-distance and wide-area coverage.
Spot beams reach far, flood beams reach wide, and combo beams do it all.
Light Bar Performance & Functionality
Light Bar Lumens / Brightness
Lumens are a key metric for measuring the brightness of a light source. A higher lumen count means a brighter illumination. To put this metric in context, light bars with 2300 lumens are generally suitable for demanding off-road adventures, while light bars with 1200 lumens are ideal for general lighting tasks.
While various light bar technologies exist, LED variants have gained popularity due to their notable energy efficiency, longevity, and potent brightness while maintaining lower energy consumption than traditional halogen or HID lights. Traditional halogen lights often emit a warmer, yellowish light and can be more economical initially but often fall short in lifespan and brightness compared to their LED counterparts.
The greater the lumen power, the more visibility during adventures.
Light Bar Color
Light bars have different color options, including white, amber, green, and multi-color.
White light bars: The most common for general illumination, providing clear and bright light for visibility during off-road driving, work sites, or other nighttime activities.
Amber light bars: Often used in foggy, dusty, or snowy conditions, amber light can penetrate these conditions better than white light, improving visibility.
Green light bars: Popular among hunters and fishers as it tends to attract less attention from fish and wildlife while still providing adequate visibility.
Multi-color / RGB light bars: Some light bars offer a range of colors, adjustable via a controller, to suit various preferences and purposes.
Different colors can also be used in combination with light bars to serve multiple purposes, like white and amber, to switch between general illumination and improved visibility in adverse conditions.
Always ensure that the use of colored lights on your vehicle adheres to local laws and regulations to avoid any legal issues.
Light bars come in different colors, enhancing safety and appearance of vehicles.
Light Bar Durability & Resistance
Water resistance is essential to prevent damage from rain, snow, or water crossings, while resistance to elements like dust, dirt, and debris ensures that the light bar can perform optimally in off-road and challenging off-grid environments. Ultimately, a durable and resistant light bar not only extends its lifespan but also guarantees that it remains effective and dependable in adverse conditions, enhancing safety and functionality for its users.
Light Bar Installation & Compatibility
Light Bar Mounting Options
The most important factor to consider when purchasing a light bar is the type of mount that best accommodates your vehicle. The choice of where to mount a light bar depends on factors such as the vehicle’s purpose, desired lighting coverage, aesthetic preferences, and ease of installation.
There are a variety of mounting options available:
Elevated Position: Roof mounts provide a high vantage point, allowing for maximum illumination and visibility.
Wide Coverage: Light bars mounted on the roof offer broader lighting coverage, making them suitable for off-road adventures and large vehicles.
Low Profile: Hood mounts are a low-profile option that can be aesthetically pleasing and minimize wind noise during highway driving.
Illuminating Close Range: They excel at lighting up the immediate area in front of the vehicle, making them suitable for trail rides and close-quarter situations.
Easier Installation: Hood mounts are often easier to install, making them a convenient choice for DIY enthusiasts.
Grille/Front Bumper Mount:
Compact and Discreet: Grille/front bumper mounts are discreet and do not obstruct the vehicle’s front profile.
Precise Illumination: They offer focused lighting and are great for applications where precision and minimal light spill are crucial, such as urban driving.
Easy Wiring: Wiring is typically simpler for grille/front bumper-mounted light bars, as they are closer to the vehicle’s electrical system.
The mounting location can affect the angle and effectiveness of light distribution.
Light Bar Connector & Vehicle Compatibility
Connector and vehicle compatibility are crucial factors to consider when purchasing a light bar to ensure reliability, longevity, and safety.
Electrical Reliability: Ensure the connector matches your vehicle’s electrical system to prevent issues and damage.
Durability: Choose a connector like Deutsch for resilience against water, dust, and corrosion.
Safety: Compatibility reduces the risk of accidents and ensures proper functionality.
Legal Compliance: Ensure your light bar meets regional regulations for auxiliary lighting.
Connector and vehicle compatibility should be top priorities when purchasing a light bar. Deutsch connectors are a popular choice due to their durability and reliability, and are the main connector used for KC light bars.
Light Bar Power Source
Light bars can be conveniently powered either by your vehicle’s battery or a dedicated power source. If you opt to use your vehicle’s battery, it’s imperative to install a relay harness. This harness prevents the light bar from drawing excess power and potentially draining the battery, ensuring not only consistent performance but also the safety of your vehicle.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I install a KC Light Bar on my vehicle?
While installation processes vary depending on the specific model and vehicle, most KC Light Bars have a detailed instruction manual. For the best results and safety, consider professional installation.
2. How long does a KC Light Bar typically last?
A KC Light Bar can last several years with proper care and maintenance. Their LEDs have a lifespan of tens of thousands of hours, ensuring longevity.
3. Are LED light bars legal on the road?
Generally, no. LED light bars are intended for off-road use in conjunction with a vehicle’s standard headlights. Not only can running a light bar on the road be inconsiderate to other drivers, but it can also provide law enforcement with a reason to pull you over, thanks to its lighthouse-like brightness.
4. Is an LED light bar worth the investment?
An LED light bar can enhance your vehicle’s lighting in low-light conditions, improving safety and boosting efficiency. An LED light bar is a valuable investment for its ability to improve visibility in challenging lighting environments.
5. Do you have other covers for the Pro6? How can I get a different color cover?
Our available covers at this time are our Black with Yellow KC covers and our Pro6 Light Shield covers. However, our covers are easily customizable.
Talk With a KC Product Expert
For any product questions, you can get in touch with Andy, our Dedicated KC Product Expert using the phone number on the right. We’re happy to assist you in figuring out if this KC product is a good fit for your needs and adventures.