Essential driving lights guide


If you plan to hit the road after dark, you'll need a good set of driving lights. Here are a few guidelines...

Essential driving lights guide
Essential driving lights guide

DRIVING OUTSIDE OF daylight without a good set of driving lights is a bit like driving blind. By limiting the distance you can see in front of your vehicle, you limit your choices, reaction time and chances of avoiding wildlife and offroad obstacles.

Standard vehicle headlights are definitely better than they used to be, but remember: driving lights are designed with your safety in mind, not that of oncoming vehicles.


What follows
is a round-up of most of the lights now on offer in Australia, followed by a number of definitions.

LIGHTFORCE

Lightforce lights run the full range of size, price and power, with a choice between 50W high intensity discharge (HID), 35W HID and traditional 100W halogen lights. All are waterproof and come with a three-year warranty.

Rather than a steel construction, each light is inside a lightweight composite housing and comes with a hard polycarbonate-coated lens. The weight of a single unit comes in at 1.3kg (less than half the weight of most lights).
Visit www.lightforce.com for more information.

Lightforce XGT HID 50W
This 240mm light is available in either 12V or 24V and outputs 5200lm (or 1lx at 1500m). The XGT is rated to perform for up to 3000 hours and throws out a bright 4000K colour temperature. Each unit comes in at $1480.

Lightforce 240 Blitz
Effectively the same lightweight reflector as the XGT, this light utilises a remote ballast and halogen bulb, with an output of 730,000cd (or 1lx at 900m). A pair of these lights will set you back $433.80.

OPPOSITE LOCK

Opposite Lock offers several brands of driving lights such as XXX, Roo Lite and Nite Stalker, with something for every budget.

XXX Extreme
These HID lights come in 170mm, 200mm and 220mm, in either spot or spread beam. Housed in a steel body, each pulls 35W and puts out a colour temperature of 6000K. Prices range from $305-$371 each.

Roo Lite
This range comes in sizes 145mm, 180mm and 220mm and features xenophot 100W globes, adjustable-focus beams and a lightweight, non-corrosive body. The cost (per pair) is $180 for 145mm, $250 for 180mm and $270 for 220mm.

Nite Stalker HID
This range offers halogen and HIDs in sizes from 160-225mm. Featuring a steel body with a stainless steel rim, the 35W xenon bulb provides a colour temperature of 6000K and a lifetime of more than 3000 hours. Prices range from $308-$715 for each HID light.

Snake Racing LED Bars
For something a little different, light bars can put out up to 18,000lm, have a 50,000-plus hour life span, are 12V and 24V compatible and available in spot, flood and combination beam. Great as camp lights, too. Prices range from $395 for a 6in bar to $1480 for 50in. Visit www.snakeracing.com.au for more information.

IPF

Distributed by ARB, IPF offers halogen and HID models, all dust, water and vibration-proof. Backed by ARB’s national network of dealers and reputation, these are a mainstay of Australian vehicles. Visit www.arb.com.au for more information.

Xtreme Sport 900
Available in spot or spread beam, this light has a steel body and hardened glass lens. The 65W halogen bulb is sealed for maximum life and performance. Also supplied with a reinforced multi-directional mounting system and loom. The cost is $448, including two lights.

Xtreme Sport 900 HID
Also available in spot or spread beam, these lights use a gauge steel body with a heat-proof resin reflector and hardened glass lens.

They have a bright output of 875,000cd that, together with the black brush guards, mean others will see you coming. The price is $850 each, including the brush guard and loom.

BUSHRANGER

Bushranger’s Night Hawk range offers drivers halogen and HID models. The halogen models come in two sizes; 160mm and 205mm. Lights are housed in heavy-duty powder-coated steel and come with a one-year warranty. Visit www.bushranger.com.au for more information.

Bushranger Night Hawk 205
Utilising H3 100W bulbs, these halogen lights are an affordable way to make your journey safer, without sacrificing the look of some of the more expensive options. Kits cost $297, including a 205mm pencil beam, 205mm spread beam, wiring loom and a pair of clear covers.

Bushranger Night Hawk 205 HID
These have an output of 3300lm and draw 35W, with a colour temperature of 6000K. Weighing less than 4.5kg, they offer 3000 operating hours and are waterproof. Kits cost $495 including a 205mm pencil beam, 205mm spread beam, wiring loom, pair of clear covers and HID conversion kit.

NARVA

Narva is a name long trusted in industrial circles, and much of its development continues to take place in mining and transport. Its new line of high-performance LED bars has many people excited.

Visit www.narva.com.au for more information.

Narva ultima 225
The Ultima 225 range, including halogen, halogen blue and HID, features tough polycarbonate lenses and protectors, plus a plug-and-play wiring harness. The halogen 225 is fitted with 100W H1 globes.

Narva Extreme HID
With the 45W HID ballast and a 5000K globe, the Extreme is set in a chromoly steel frame and glass-reinforced nylon housing. A water-tight internal chamber and Gore-Tex breather, plus potted cable exit, completely seal out water and dust. Additional protection comes from (supplied) clear protective covers. Extreme HID Black cost $1025, Chrome $1080.

Narva 10W LED bar
The 16 LED model outputs 12,000lm and draws 120W. Lightweight, easy-mounting and virtually unbreakable, these may last longer than your car. They come in at $1715 per bar.

HELLA AUSTRALIA

Hella’s weather-proof range includes loads of halogen and HID choices. Most also feature internal ballast units. The iX series is available in 12V pencil and spread beams, plus a 24V spread beam.

Hella Rallye FF 4000 Compact iX
This smaller 170mm HID light has a 35W bulb and delivers 1lx at 1000m. The namesake free-form reflector helps this diminutive light punch above its weight. They cost $679 each.

Hella Predator iX
The Hella Predator iX series is a full-size HID light, with a diameter of 220mm. It delivers 1lx at 980m through a clear glass lens. They come in at $860 each.


DEFINITIONS

Bulbs
These days there are two choices of bulb technology in driving lights: halogen and HID (high intensity discharge). The latter is generally superior in terms of brightness, temperature and current draw, but you pay a premium. HID bulbs use xenon gas to produce three to four times the lighting power of a halogen bulb, while consuming about a third of the power.

Halogen bulbs can still pack a punch with the right reflectors, and are more affordable than the HID technology.

Beams
Most driving lights come in either spot or spread beams. These beams can be achieved using the reflector, lens, lens cover, or combination of any of these. A spot (or pencil) beam, provides a long narrow beam of light designed to light up the road as far as 2km ahead. A spread beam helps to light up the road shoulders, where roos usually sit, waiting to jump in front of your vehicle.

Temperature
Light comes in temperatures, with warmer light looking yellowish, and cooler light appearing bluer. Daylight is quite cool, with a temperature around 5500 Kelvin (K). The human eye is most sensitive to light in the green portion of the spectrum, around 5000K, so the cooler the temperature of the lights you use while driving, the less stress on your eyes. HID bulbs generally throw a cooler light than incandescents.

Wattage
This is the power draw of the lights. Divided by the system’s voltage (usually 12V), you get amp draw.

Measuring brightness
Lumens (lm), candela (cd) and lux (lx) are the standard measurement of light brightness. The higher the number, the brighter the light. Since most manufacturers only provide one of these numbers (if anything), and the calculations between the two depend on how each is measured, these figures should be used for information, but not necessarily comparison.

Waterproof or not?
Not all driving lights are waterproof. That can spell bad news on water crossings, so it pays to check.

Final note: a few manufacturers now offer HID upgrade kits for halogen lights, which can save you a lot of money if you already have a set of driving lights.

WORDS Frank Lloyd
Source: Caravan World Dec 2011

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