Everything You Should Know About Light Bars

Assuming that you have not been living under a rock these past few years, it's likely that you have been in the presence of a modified truck. If this is the case, you have probably seen a lot of light bars. Even if you are not familiar with what a light bar is, seeing a picture of one is likely to jog your memory. They are a popular aftermarket add-on to trucks.

What is a Light Bar

Essentially, a light bar mounts onto the roof (sometimes elsewhere, but normally the roof) of a truck or SUV in order to help provide additional lighting. Given that many people who own modified trucks like to go off-roading or otherwise drive in dark, unlit spaces, having a light bar can make these endeavors much more fun and far less dangerous.

Way back in the day, people who wanted to drive their trucks in unlit spaces would just stack headlights on top of headlights until they got the output they wanted, but then the aftermarket caught up to desire and started offering other options.

The original solution was KC HiLites, which you may recognize from the famous vehicle in Back to the Future. However, while these were cool looking and definitely provided a lot of light output, they required replacing bulbs far too often and the amount of power they needed to operate could result in a difficult installation.

Thus, attention turned to LED light bars. LED light bars can provide an outstanding amount of light with a comparatively small amount of required power. They also operate at far lower temperatures than halogen and are extremely reliable. The issue originally with LED was the expense, but this has definitely dropped in recent years. If you don’t believe us, go ahead and check out the lightbulb selection at your local big-box store. You’ll definitely see a lot of affordable options.

Essentially, light bars have solved one of the major problems facing off-road enthusiasts for years: how to get a lot of light for a little money, little hassle, little power, and not needing to install a heavy-duty headache rack in order to attach halogen lights. This is why you see light bars basically anywhere you go. They are practical, affordable, and make off-roading fun.

What to Consider When Buying a Light Bar

Now that we have convinced you that light bars are the best thing since sliced bread, you’re probably tempted to go out and purchase one right away. However, it’s important to keep some things in mind to ensure that you end up with the right light bar for you.

If you are looking to outfit a vehicle for recreational activities like camping, off-roading, hunting, or anything like that, you want to turn an eye to the amount of lumens that different light bars produce. The more lumens that are available, the more light that a light bar produces. Therefore, you should focus on getting the light bar with the highest lumen output that you can afford.

If you are the sort who needs a light bar on a work vehicle, your concerns are slightly different. You definitely want to make sure that you have a waterproof housing on your light bar for when you have to work in inclement weather.

For those of you (we know who you are) who simply just want to trick out your truck and make it look great, your main concern is likely style. Take a look at the different finishes available in the market and see what your preferred aesthetic is. You also want to consider where you want to mount the light bar. You could choose a mount on the top of the cab, the front bumper, the grill, or the brush guard. You also want to check out how exactly the light bar mounts, so that you have the best chance of hiding the wiring.

To these ends, there are many different options in the light bar market. Pay attention to the size of the light bar. Those that are around four feet long can generally be mounted in a variety of different positions, but if it’s five foot and up you’re usually stuck just putting it on top of the cab. Make sure that you get a bar that fits your truck well.

Pay attention to what the light bar comes with, as well. Some of them are entire install kits, and some of them are simply the light bar itself. If you want to install a lone light bar, you need to invest in mounting brackets, relay, switch, wiring, and nuts.

Light bars can also come in a smorgasbord of colors. The color output can certainly be used to up the cool factor if you are building a show truck, but they can also be used in work applications as well. For instance, different colors can indicate whether a truck is empty or full.

Technology is also something to turn an eye toward. Most light bars operate with a manual switch, but some of them also offer Bluetooth technology as well. This allows you to turn the light bar on and off when you are outside of your vehicle by means of an app.

The good news is that installing a light bar is not very difficult at all (this is part of the reason they are so popular). You only require basic tools, such as an allen wrench set, a socket and ratchet set, and an extension.

Then, simply follow these steps:

How to Install Light Bars

1. Safety First

Make sure to disconnect your battery before working on your vehicle’s electrical systems.

2. Install the Wiring Harness

Put the wiring harness in the engine bay and approximate where you want the wiring to point.

3. Decide Where You Want the Light Bar

Use double-sided tape to mount the light bar to ensure you like the way that it looks. You also want to check to make sure that it is centered before drilling anything.

4. Drill Your Holes

After drilling, all you need to do is put the bolts in and make sure that everything is properly connected. Take the negative and positive wires and connect them to the light bar, then pass it through the firewall and connect to the on/off switch.

5. Wire Up the Light Bar

Take the positive wire and connect to the battery. Meanwhile, find a ground for the negative wire.

6. Check Your Work

Reconnect your battery, then go ahead and test out the light bar.

After this, you’re ready to flip a switch and shine on.

You can get the parts you need at your local AutoZone Store. If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

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