4WD MODIFICATIONS - ELECTRIC & LIGHTS
Light bars are often easier to mount than large, round driving lights and can even be fitted to roof racks. However, while these first-generation LED light bars gave good spread beams, they didn’t have the beam distance of round HID lights.
Narva 72766 Light Bar
Narva’s 72766 LED light bar mounted 36 five-watt Cree LEDs inside an extruded aluminium housing that incorporated a mounting track and cooling fins. We mounted it horizontally, but the bar suits upright, vertical or pendant mounting.
Here’s how it lit up our test route:
LightForce Light Bar
released a series of single and double row LED light bars. Each bar had high output European LEDs sited in individual reflectors that were shaped
to provide distance and spread characteristics.
The housings were extruded aluminium and finished with a UV-resistant, black anodised coating. The lenses were hard-coated polycarbonate and the assemblies were waterproof rated to IP69K standard and three-metre submersion.
Each light bar came with a Gore breathing membrane, a waterproof Deutsch connector and military-grade cable, plus a full wiring harness.
The LightForce light bars were multi-volt (10-36V); have pulse width modulation (PWM) thermal management; electromagnetic (EMC) and radio frequency (RFI) interference circuitry.
The bars had stainless steel brackets and mounting hardware and come with a three-year warranty.
We chose a single-row 20-inch (50mm) model for this test, with spread-pattern reflectors. It weighed 1.22kg and had a RRP of $465.
The claimed current draw was 7A at 13.2V, with a wattage rating of 100W. The beam pattern claim was a realistic one lux at 300 metres, but the combo model had a narrower beam, with a one-lux penetration of 400m.
We made up a mounting plate and affixed that to the top of the ‘roo bar, so the LightForce unit was high-set and had an unobstructed light path.
The beam was as claimed and gave a good spread on both sides of the road. Distance penetration was fine for bush roads at moderate speeds (which is all we ever do in ‘roo country), but those wanting long-distance lighting would need to supplement the light bar with a couple of HID pencil beams
Narva 200W and 300W light bars
These additions to Narva’s premium driving light bars range featured a double bank of high-power ‘Cree’ LEDs, significantly improving distance and spread illumination.
The two models were 9-33V multi-volt. Importantly, the bars were EMC-compliant, so did not interfere with communications equipment.
The 200W bar had 40 5W LEDs and produced an impressive 18,000 lumens of light output. It measured 557mm in length, making it suitable for fitment to virtually any 4WD.
The more powerful 300W variant had 60 5W LEDs, with a whopping 27,000 lumen output. It measured 811mm in length.
The bars had a low profile design and were only 70mm high, ensuring good airflow through radiators if nudge bar or bull bar-mounted.
Due to their impressive output and a beam pattern that projected a bright, white light to the sides of the vehicle and far down the road, the bars were suitable as stand-alone lighting or to supplement traditional driving lamps.
The light bars were encased in an extruded aluminium housing, with a virtually unbreakable polycarbonate lens and were sealed to IP68 standard.
The 200W bar came standard with a Deutsch connector for easy ‘plug and play’ installation, but the 300W was prewired and cames with a one-metre sheathed cable for hardwiring.
Sliding mounting brackets provided flexible mounting options and were very rigid when attached, eliminating shake.
Both lamps were backed by a five-year warranty but owners were unlikely to call on this support as Narva said its light bars have close to zero claims history.
We tested a 200W test bar in February 2016 and found that it had a very ‘hot’ centre spot that overlapped the vehicle high-beam pattern. We tried to adjust the height of this spot, but couldn’t do so without sending the spread light beam into the sky. For use on 4WD vehicles the Narva 200W bar would be better with less ‘hot spot’ centre-weighted light and more at the edges and for distance.
Our assessment of this bar was that it was ideal stand-alone lighting for off road vehicles such as quads, because the pattern brightly illuminated the ground out to around 150 metres and at same time gave less intense 400-metre distance and track-edge lighting.
Hella LED 350mm Light Bar Pair
Hella joined the LED light bar brigade in March 2016, with the release of its NZ-made 350mm product.
This 12-LED array came as a pencil beam or a spread beam, thanks to differently-shaped reflectors behind each LED.
We chose a pencil and spread combination, mounting the pencil beam in front of the driver and the spread in front of the passenger.
The advantage Hella 350mm LED light bar pair had is that the bars were small enough to mount in the grilles of many 4WDs, without the need for a ‘roo bar or nudge bar mounting. Alternatively, they could mount on a roof rack.
Our test pair was available for less than $600.
The beams brightened the road out to 350 metres, with good spread.
Fitment was a little tricky, because the brackets were multi-part items, but the range of vertical adjustment was very good.
There was also a stacking bracket for these lights, so we checked it out as well.
Hella LED 470mm light bar pair
In November 2016 Hella added longer
bars to its LED range. Like the shorter 350mm bars, the 470mm models were available in pencil and spread beam configuration and could be mounted singly or stacked in a spot and spread combination double bracket.
Construction was similar to that of the 350, with a robust plastic housing backing the LED array and the end-bracket arrangement was very strong, with easy adjustment possible. However, the 470 boasted 16 LEDs instead of the 350’s 12.
Multivoilt tolerance allowed the lights to operate with inputs betwen nine volts and 33V. Weight was 950 grams per bar.
Our test units were easily mounted and gave adequate spot and spread beams out to 400 metres and with a width around 40 metres at about half that distance.
This combination was adequate for most drivers’ needs, yet came in a compact package that was only 530mm long over the end caps.
Pricing for the pencil and spread beam pair, with stainless steel end brackets, was around the $750 mark.
Check out how they lit up our test road:
Big Red 9420 light bar
Big Red Extra Power & Distance series of light bars was released in March 2016. The lights were available in single and double row models, featuring multiples of five-watt, 12/24-volt Cree LEDs, replacing previous three-watt LEDs.
Our test light was a 508mm (20-inch) double-row 9420 model, with 36 LEDs arranged in three groups: a central, longer- distance set of 12 and two flanking 12-set spread-beam LEDs.
We chose this model, because it fitted between the uprights of most ‘roo bars.
Total claimed output was 12,000 lumens, giving a claimed one-lux light reading at 700-metre distance, from input wattage of 180W.
The light bar was well made, with an extruded and die-cast aluminium housing, finned for heat dissipation, and polycarbonate lenses. Big Red claimed IP68 waterproof rating and all the screws and washers were stainless steel.
The mounting feet were polished aluminium that connected to the bar’s end caps, via Allen-keyed cap-screws.
It came with a pre-fitted lead and water-proof plug, with matching connector and wire tails.
Fitting was easy enough, using a base plate, but there are optional bottom-feet that slide into the housing and are easier to fit to existing round-light mounting brackets, without the need for a base plate. There were also optional ‘roo bar tube brackets that clamped to 25mm or 50mm diameter tube.
We played around with beam adjustment, setting the light up so that the distance beam hit the road at around 600 metres. Side spread was moderate and filled-in neatly above the LandCruiser 75’s LED high-beam spread pattern.
The Big Red 9420 was a definite improvement over most light bars of this length and would make a suitable single-light driving aid for many bush travellers. At around $600 RRP it was OK value for money.
Stedi ST3303 light bar
Stedi packed 32 10-watt Cree LEDs into a 545mm (21.5-inch) light bar that could fit onto most nudge and ‘roo bars. It had brilliant distance and spread characteristics, as our test video shows only too clearly.
conceptualised a light bar that would be diabolic, something excessive, over the top, a real savage,” is how Stedi’s blurb on the ST3303 runs. “Then, we went ahead and made it.
“No other light bar on the market encapsulates 32 x 10W Cree XM-L2 LEDs inside a 21.5-inch housing.”
The ST3303 drew 16.4 amperes at 13.6V and has 32mm-diameter parabolic reflectors. It came with RFI and EMI suppression circuitry that was guaranteed not to interfere with radio and communication equipment.
Warranty on light performance and workmanship was five years.
Construction was cast aluminium with a Lexan lens and the assembly was IP68 submersible to three metres. There were three adjustable bottom mounts that slid along the unit to match existing attachment holes.
The full flood beam design gave a 50-degree light beam spread and distance was a claimed one lux at around 600 metres. Our testing validated those claims and we reckoned the ST3303 had enough light output for most people’s bush-travel needs: not bad for around $370, including Australia-wide shipping.
The ST3303 came boxed with a full installation kit that included high-current Deutsch DTP-2 25A connectors, easy-fit plug and play wiring harness, switch, 60-amp fuse and relay, and HB3 and H4 piggy back high beam light adaptors.
We did extended durability testing on this high-performance bar.