Work Light Buyer’s Guide
Feb 15, 11 | by: Bruce W. Smith
Aftermarket Light Buyers Guide
How to select the best aftermarket flood, fog and driving lights for your pickups – for both work and play
by Bruce W. Smith
While the general pickup-driving populace doesn’t make it a habit hitting the road before the roosters rise, the typical contractor is well into their second cup of coffee and headed to the company office or jobsite.
Driving when it’s dark is just part of being in the construction and landscaping trade. So is loading tools, gear and trailers before sunrise or after sunset whether it’s work-related or recreational. In short, those who use pickups for both work and play don’t let daylight dictate their plans.
That’s why auxiliary lights are so important. Not only do these products add more functionality and utility value to whatever it is they are mounted on, they bring an additional level of safety to the picture.
MAKING GOOD CHOICES
But that doesn’t mean you should blindly rush out to the nearest discount auto parts store and buy the first set of auxiliary lights you lay eyes on. Choosing which auxiliary lights to install on a pickup entails a few more considerations than slapping on the cheapest box of lights available.
Instead, target specific types of lights that will make things safer and easier as you drive or work around your pickup.
Choosing the “right” auxiliary light upgrades could be as simple as one set of fog lights – or an array of several different types of lights. It all depends on your particular needs.
And if it’s price holding you back from investing in auxiliary lights, consider this: Lights are the one aftermarket accessory that’s easily moved from vehicle to vehicle regardless of make or model. So your initial investment should last for years.
Speaking of investment, auxiliary lights tend to be priced in line with the quality of the product and technology. For example, quartz-halogen lights are less expensive than lights of similar function utilizing LED (Light-Emitting-Diode)- or HID (High-Intensity-Discharge)-based technology.
The price of both LED and HID auxiliary lights is coming down and getting more competitive with the halogen variety, which is great news for pickup owners.
If you aren’t familiar with the LED and HID lights, understanding how they work and what they contribute to a pickup’s utility and driver safety is important in making your purchase decision.
Your run-of-the-mill lights run electricity through a filament surrounded by a gas, such as halogen. As the filament heats up and burns it produces light. But because the heart of the bulb is a wire, it will eventually burn in half or break from vibration.
The light output and efficiency of such lights don’t stack up against that produced by HID or the newest generation of LEDs.
HID-based lights don’t have filaments. Instead, an internal or external ballast builds up the power to create light when an arc jumps between two electrodes, stimulating a special mixture of Xenon gases to produce a brilliant, almost blue-white light that’s about three times brighter than a halogen bulb emits. Think lightning in a bottle.
The benefit of HID lighting is it has a much longer life expectancy than halogens while being very efficient, requiring about a third less power than conventional bulbs of comparable output. And the light color is that of sunlight, which makes it easier to see both detail and longer distance compared to conventional halogen lighting.
The downside: Most HIDs are designated for “off-road use” only, and they are usually more expensive compared to lights of similar output/function.