Category Archives: Lighting

The Fiddy!

As you may have noticed, I love lights.  I loooove lights!  Based on this shameless love, it was only a matter of time before I slapped on a 50″ light bar.  On one sunny day, I finally plunked down the money on a set of bare brackets from Poison Spyder and picked up a 50″ light bar from Aurora LED.  The light bar, much like my other Aurora LED lights, is well constructed and incredibly bright.  I couldn’t wait to get everything installed, but first to the paint shop!

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The paint came out really nicely matching my PSC OEM paint code almost perfectly.  I know, most folks want to run black brackets, but that’s just not the look I’m going for here.  The fit of the Poison Spyder brackets is pretty good, but getting the gasket to play nice was nothing short of a complete pain in the a$$ and as a side note, you’ll need longer screws for the front two OEM bolt holes if you plan to run pod lights as well.  The OEM bolts will work if you only want to run the brackets or the pod lights, not both.  You can either swing by Fastenal or ping Poison Spyder for a set of longer bolts.
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Nothing has been wired yet, but it has been bolted on and the fit is fantastic!
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I love this pic, look at that color match!
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Doesn’t it look pretty?
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As much as I loved the look and the light output, I hated the wind noise even more.  Is this one of the best kept secrets of Jeeping?  The first rule of 50″ light bar is you NEVER talk about 50″ light bar!  Or just how bloody loud it is on the highway?  Perhaps soft top owners don’t notice it as much, but with how quiet the new hard top is, I found it to be incredibly annoying.  I started to design some sort of wing (a little plexiglass sticking out the back of the light) to help limit the turbulence, but in the end I decided to remove the entire set up.  Yeah, it was short lived and I still miss it sometimes but I think I made the right call.

Damn…  That light bar really did look amazing on my rig.

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OTC Headlights

If you’ve been following this build/blog for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve realized that I looooove lighting.  Whether it’s clearing out my corners or adding rear facing recovery lighting or the countless number of times I’ve changed up my front auxiliary lighting… I really enjoy it.  After helping a buddy out with a set of TruckLites in his rubi, I figured I wanted to try a little something in my Jeep.  Nothing too crazy b/c all the LED options I really want are incredibly expensive, but I still want to try a little something.

Luckily for me, I had a gift card from a Secret Santa gift exchange to my local Advanced Auto parts store.  With a skip in my step & gift card in hand, I headed off to the toy auto parts store to see what they had in stock in an H13 bulb that claimed to be amazing.

SilverStarUltra1

The options in H13 bulbs were actually not that great, but in the end I settled on a set of SilverStar Ultra bulbs from Sylvania.  The package claims a whiter light, 50% brighter, 40% more down-road visibility, & 50% more side-road visibility.  Ok Sylvania, impress me!

SilverStarUltra2

While not as easy to change as the bulbs on a LJ or TJ, the bulbs on a JK can be changed with out pulling off the grill.  Yes, it’s very snug in there and you have to remove a few things but it can be done with minimal effort.  On the drivers side (if you have a rubi) you need to remove the horn from the mounting bracket.  Use a 10mm wrench, then let the horn sit out of the way.  If you don’t have a ratcheting wrench, please go pick one up before you start this task.  On the passenger side, remove your air box and pull the 10mm screw holding on a reservoir bottle next to the radiator to allow access to the headlight housing.  Once you’ve gained access, remove the clips and give the bulbs about a quarter turn to remove them from the housings.

Looking at the bulbs side by side (stock on the left), you can see there is a little tint to the glass on the Sylvania bulbs and the filaments look a little beefier.

SilverStarUltra3

Installing both bulbs is as easy as inserting them in each housing, turning about a quarter turn and reinstalling the clips to connect the bulbs to the electrical.  Don’t forget to engage the red clip locks.

Check out the comparison pictures below.  The top image is stock, the bottom is the new Sylvania bulbs.  In person or in the pictures… quite honestly I can’t tell the difference between the two bulbs.

SilverStarUltra4

To double check my opinion, I tossed a lux meter on both the stock and new bulbs only to get an identical reading.  Disappointing.

SilverStarUltra5

After driving on these for a few days, the ONLY difference I have found is that the light the Sylvania bulbs puts out is a little whiter.  That’s about it.  If your bulbs are burned out and you need a replacement set, these will work fine.  If you are swapping these and expecting anything better than stock… Prepare to be disappointed with this low budget mod.

Please help me welcome… Light contestant #4!

20LightBar3I swear, I just can’t seem to get a handle on what I want to do with the lighting on the front of my Jeep.  I started out with a set of IPFs, then moved on the 2 Ridgids (followed by 3 Ridgids), then over to the portable suns and now, it’s all light bar.  I just popped on an Aurora 20″ single row light bar using mounting brackets (designed for the Ridgid SR series lights).  To make it fit, I had to combine that bracket with the brackets that came with the ARB bumper to push the light out enough to clear the winch controller.  The combination of mounting a mounting bracket to a mounting bracket is little jenky imho, but over all I like the look.  I’m losing a few lumens over the portable suns, but this bar still provides plenty of light to light up the road.  And if I need more… I think there might be a single row 50″ bar in my future!  Muahahaha!

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What a flake!

After only being on my Jeep for a few months, the finish on the housing of my portable suns has completely faded/flaked off.  I haven’t been driving in any particularly crazy situations or putting a ton of miles on the Jeep, so it’s safe to say I’m a bit disappointed with how they’ve held up to the elements.  Hell, my Jeep is even garage kept so I know it can’t be fading due to too much sun.  I’ve reached out to the manufacturer to see what they can do.  Perhaps new face plates?  Or maybe I should crack the case and rattle can the housings myself?  The a-pillar spots that I have from the same company still look good as new, I wonder what happened to these?

ALO-R-7-P7E7BH-Faded

The Portable Sun Returns

As you saw in my Portable Suns post, the brackets that came with the Aurora round lights didn’t quite work for my application. After the first install, I set to work on a simple sketch that I could hand off to my fabricator for a new, more sleek bracket.  A week or so later, here are the results of my drawing and his handy work.
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He worked in aluminum, so the the brackets don’t weigh 10 metric tons like the stock ones did, and powder-coated them for long lasting good looks. Instead of thick solid steel, the bends and additional support bars give these brackets plenty of rigidity.  As you flip through the comparison pics, you really get a feel for just how much flatter these new brackets are.
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New bracket (left) vs. the original (right) laying on their back side.
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New bracket (left) vs. the original (right) sitting as they would on the bumper.
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New bracket (left) vs. the original (right) laying on their front side.
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While I was swapping brackets, I took the opportunity to change out the hardware too.  The bolts that came with the lights were a little on the cheap and crappy side.  I learned this the hard way when I managed to strip out a screw during the test fit.  I went with M6- & M8-1.25x30mm socket cap screws in all black which I think looks a lot better than the stock hardware.
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All the parts have been test fitted and photographed and are now ready to go on.
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As you can see, these brackets fit much better than the ones that came with the lights.  They offer more room to get to the winch controls, the mounting bolts on the fairlead, and even let me put on the winch cover with out too much difficulty.
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Bolted on and wired up!  These new brackets line up much better with the mounting holes on the ARB bumper.  It still takes some crazy socket extensions to get to all the bolts, but the brackets are very secure.
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I was asked to demo my pods & round LEDs this past weekend.  All the smoke you see there is from the camp fire near by.  Try not to look directly into the light.
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With the final install complete, the lights still look freakin’ huge!  But, they sit a little closer to the center line (laterally) of the bumper and forward away from the winch.  Are they bigger than I originally wanted?  Yeah, but they sure are growing on me.

Portable Suns

I love my little SRQ-2 lights from Rigid, let’s get that on the record. They are compact, a low battery draw and have a great amount of light output. However, one of the things I have been missing is the round light design of my old IPF floods. I’ve been on the hunt for something of a round LED to put on my front bumper for quite some time. Again, not b/c I’m dissatisfied with my SRQ’s (I’m not!) but b/c I want something that has the same level of light output but would match up a little better with the round lighting design of the rest of the Jeep.

SRQ2'sBefore

Enter Aurora lighting. I may have mentioned them before, but in case I haven’t check out the torture tests they put their lights through. Holy hell! It’s good to know that if I drop my Jeep off of a 6 story building or catch it on fire that the lights would still work.

Anyway, they just released a 7″ round LED rated at around 17,000 lumens/pair. Hey, I’ve been looking for a round LED and since I’ve had a 6.5″ light, a 7″ light is close enough for what I’m looking for. Woot! I placed my order (fair disclaimer, it can take a LONG time to get product from these guys) back in January and started to get excited. In Feb, I was annoyed, by March I was over it but in April when they arrived, I was pretty damn psyched!

UnBoxing
Wow… that’s a lot of light. That doesn’t look like a 7″ light to me, where’s my measuring tape?

Measuring

Ok, so maybe it’s 25% or so bigger. Is that the end of the world? Naaaaah. The power is there, the shape is there, let’s get these things on already! The first thing you notice (other than the MONSTER Lights!) is just how huge the mounting brackets are. This is something I wasn’t prepared for. If you are driving a Dakar Support Truck, there’s plenty of flat space. But on something like a Jeep where space might be an issue, I’d prefer something a little more snug.

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I drilled some additional holes in the brackets to line up with my bumper mounting locations and got to painting.  In case you are wondering, the secret to my awesome paint booth is an old bathroom shelf, the Sunday comics, & a good bit of painters tape.  Classy!

PaintBooth

PaintedBracketFrontWith the brackets all sprayed (5 coats, thank you!) I proceeded with the install.  Wiring isn’t anything to write home about.  If you ordered them without back-ground lighting, it’s just the black/red wire combo that you are used to.  The background lighting version adds another power/ground to the harness in the form of a yellow and blue wire.

All mounted and wired, I flipped the switch for the first time to test them out and wow are they bright!  Do not look directly into the light if you ever want to see again bright.  Using a lux meter app for my iPhone 5 by a company called Galactica, I took a few measurements before and after.  In the image below, I’ve lined up the lens to read the light intensity at about 1-2 yards from one of the round lights.  It’s measuring at around 150,000 lx.  That dim yellowish shape you see on the top left… That would be my standard headlight.

LuxAfterBy comparison, all three RI lights put out around 15,600 lx combined.  Well, at least that was the best reading I could get.  Remember, this is just an iPhone app so take these numbers with a grain of salt.  By comparison, your office usually runs around 500 lx (Wiki).

LuxBefore

All in all, I like these lights.  Yeah, they are bigger than I thought but they are really growing on me.  Installed, they do stand out a bit, but no more so than say a roof mounted light bar.

Installed

The one thing I really, really didn’t like about these lights from the minute I opened up the box were the mounting brackets.  With my winch in place, it makes for a very very tight fit.  Too tight imho.  After staring at them for a while, I made a quick sketch and called over my fabricator friend (the same one that cranked out my air dam) to take a few measurements.  Without that big honkin chunk of metal attached to the back of each light, I think they will fit a lot better.  The bracket still needs a little something to cross brace the back of the brackets for stability but there’s gotta be a better way.  I’m hoping to have the new brackets off the CNC and ready to install any day now.  In the mean time, I’m driving around feeling a little naked.

Bracket

I can see clearly now…

In my continued quest to light up the world with my JK, I’ve decided to add a set of lights to my a-pillar. I read a metric ton of posts on LED’s/brackets/companies and since I’ve already got 2 sets of Rigids on my rig, my first inclination was to go back to them. I really like the RI light bracket for a set of Dually’s, but unfortunately the design does not allow for any lateral alignment. Did I mention how much I like it? Damn!

GreenRIJK

For that reason, and for that reason alone I had to find myself a different bracket. All the other designs are just about the same, one bend and two bolt holes. I’ve had good luck with Rock Hard 4×4 products thus far in my build, so I picked up a set of their brackets for this job. I conveniently stumbled across a group purchase with a few other light obsessed Jeepers around the same time and plunked down some money on a set of ALO2-P4T spots from Aurora LED rated at 3200 Lumens each. I don’t know a lot about this company, so I was a little reluctant at first but the price lured me in to try them. After receiving my order, my worries were put to rest. The housing is very sturdy, the wiring connections are excellent, and the pig tails are plenty long enough to tuck them out of the way.

AuroraSpotUnboxed

The bracket install is pretty straight forward, simply pull two bolts from the a-pillar, pop the gasket on, then the bracket and tighten it all back up. Unfortunately, the light brackets didn’t line up very well. I don’t know if I got a defective piece or the holes weren’t drilled properly, but mine sits fairly crooked. I’ve contacted RockHard4x4 about it, but as of this posting I haven’t heard anything back. In the image below, the green line signifies where they are supposed to line up (just like the ones from KC or Poison Spyder do), the blue line is where they fall naturally, and the red line is how far up you can push them. However, when you push them up to get them close, then you expose the bolt hole in the a-pillar.

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The wiring is fairly straightforward, pull the hood cowl (be gentle with those star screws) and tuck the wiring out of the way. I’m connecting mine to my sPod so all the switches are already in place. All in all, I’m very happy with these lights. They are extremely powerful, they look good, and are really easy on the wallet when compared to Rigid equivalents.

PillarLightsInstalled