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Everyone knows that off-roading at night is commonly done, especially when the weather is great which makes for an awesome night out. Sometimes, we find ourselves coming off the trail well after dark because of a breakdown (or worse, an accident). It wasn't our intention to be "out after dark" but somewhere along the way, that rear axle shaft missed the memo and so there was a delay while it was replaced. (you do carry spare parts, right?) Regardless of the reason we find ourselves on the trails in the dark, common sense dictates that we have good lights to ensure that we can navigate the trail and get home safely.
Beefing up the lighting system on a Jeep (or any
off-road vehicle for that matter) is one of the most common upgrade projects
there is. There are lights to fit most any budget and aside from a few
hand tools, they are easy to install.
If you've not installed lights before, this particular light bar from
Light Bars would be a good first time project. It is as close
to plug and play as you can get, in my opinion. If you are a LED veteran,
Extreme LED has some high end units that will certainly turn your night into
Here is the lighting kit I decided on.....a LED light bar, the R-1 14" model, rated at 5,400 lumens. I got the switch kit for it as well. Aside from something to drill a pair of mounting holes with, you don't need any other tools. Hex wrenches are included for the supplied mounting hardware and the LED enclosure.
The switch kit was one of the better solutions I've ran across since doing
12V electrical projects on my vehicles. A socketed 40 amp power relay does
the heavy lifting, so to speak. Having the relay plug into a socket means
it is super easy to troubleshoot and even better, you can borrow the relay and
use it in another circuit (yes, it is the most common 12V relay pin configuration
made) if forced to do so. An inline fuse holder (with fuse) is already
wired and protects the wiring and more so, your vehicle, from melting down
should a short occur in the circuit. The push style ON/OFF power switch is
integrated, by an electrical plug, into the harness. This makes it easy to
install in your cab with the wire pigtail going through a grommet in the
firewall to plug into the rest of the harness. The switch itself simply
controls the power relay. Push the switch to ON, the relay energizes and
you apply 12 volts to the light bar. Push it again, OFF, the relay drops
out and the light bar is dark. OK....enough basic electricity
teaching....back to the project!
The light bar's mounting kit is complete and even includes rubber isolators for the mounting feet. (nice touch!) The mounting feet can be mounted inwards or outwards (more on that later) to better fit the footprint the light bar will be mounted on. I opted to swap out the mounting bolts for the feet as I wanted to use Nyloc nuts and didn't have any that fit the supplied hex bolts. I dug around in my nuts & bolts drawers (every Jeeper has those, right?) and found a couple of 1/4" bolts that would be suitable for the job.
My TBT front bumper came with a detachable light mounting plate/bracket. It mounts in the same holes that can be used to secure a Hi-Lift jack. I dug through the shelves in my garage and located the plate. A couple of bolts later, I had it secured to the front bumper. At one point in time, I had the plate mounted on the bumper with a pair of incandescent off-road lights but one of them failed and the pair were removed, along with the plate, and the lights tossed in the trash. Such is the fate of the typical $39.99 off-road light kit.
Of course, Mr. Murphy, of the infamous Murphy's Law, was working uninvited on my project too. The best possible pair of mounting holes in my mounting plate were off by about 3/8", with the mounting feet on the light bar oriented outwards. I decided my best option was to attach the feet to the light bar so they were pointing inwards (towards each other). This would allow me to drill a new pair of mounting holes that were well clear of any existing holes in the plate. A few measurements using a steel rule and then a couple of hits with a center punch located my new holes. Note, this is the place were you measure twice and drill ONCE! After I finished drilling a new pair of holes, it was time to mount the light bar and proceed with the wiring.
As I mentioned earlier, the "L" shaped mounting feet can be flipped so they point towards or away from each other. One thing I noticed and do appreciate are the matching notches on the feet and light bar body.....once tightened via the mounting screw, they engage each other and do not allow the light bar to rotate which is a problem I've seen several times on other off-road lights. These notches are on both sides of the mounting feet (good design) which allows you to position the feet either way and still have a solid mount.
Since I was using steel bolts on an aluminum housing, I dug out my anti-seize
compound and coated the screw threads before screwing the feet to the housing.
You can see a little bit of anti-seize around the screw head in the above photo.
It is no doubt over kill but then again, I know I won't have an issue should I
decide to pull this apart in a couple of years. Folks in less forgiving
environments (Arizona is quite forgiving when it comes to such things) no doubt
use anti-seize compound by the case (or they should).
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