Driving Lights

G’day, Chris here again.

I have the great privilege of writing to you from the middle of nowhere, or close to it.
We’re part way through an amazing trip across the Simpson Desert with a bunch of mates from around the world.
Sitting back staring at the stars, which are far more visible in the absence of background city lighting, it is a glorious place to be.

This is the life!!

It makes me wonder why we need to have so much background light. Be it in a country town or city blocks, there’s lights everywhere, in the streets, buildings, cars. I must admit it comes down to safety, and for drivers it helps with a safe drive home.

Driving lights in the Outback are an essential item really, given we are provided an endless stream of bouncing bonnet bling, ‘Roos.

On our adventure, we are trialling the new LED180’s from Lightforce, a popular brand in driving lights. Choosing what driving light suits you and your vehicle throws up lots of options. There’s always the cheap import lights which deliver what you paid for, then there’s the Searchlight performance style HID’s for the price of a small car, and everything in between.

Here’s a few lighting info-bytes to help when considering what light to choose for your off-roader or tourer.

Halogen lights are simply an incandescent globe, using the same simple filament within halogen gas technology and only slightly improved on Edison’s first experiment. Being a filament style bulb they will always have a low colour temperature around 2500Kelvin. More on that later.

Then there is HID, or High Intensity Discharge bulbs, which employs a chemical reaction of ‘ignited’ gases to create immense light compared to the power consumed. These have been a favourite for many years as they are also available in a range of colour temperatures, up to around 6000K.


Then the latest technology in LED, or Light Emitting Diode, systems have taken the market by storm. These compact and maintenance free system are certainly the way of the future but good quality is still a pretty penny. Colour temperature is pretty much fixed in the high range.

To make the colour of light in Kelvin (K) easier to understand, imagine a red hot metal poker in the fire. At the very hottest end it will be white hot, say 6000K, and then as the heat lessens the colour changes down to a dull glow, say 2000K. The higher the Kelvin, the brighter the light colour. Choosing what Kelvin suits you best is difficult because your eyes change over the years, but most people perceive a higher Kelvin light to be brighter, even though the wattage remains the same.

The key issue for some people is how far the light is projected, which comes down to reflector performance as well.

And this is where Lightforce do shine, in my opinion. If you’re after low budget lighting with good performance, then go Halogen incandescent lights, with low start up price, and usually a range of styles and lens options to change them slightly to suit your eyes.

The HID range really suit the rally driver or long highway stretches. This can be changed with some brands of light which allow spread or spot beam lens or covers, but there performance is so great that achieving a good distribution of light at 1000M is quite realistic. But expect to pay a fair dollar.

LED lights continue to be more of a short range spread light format. The clever use of projector lens glass technology still limits their effective range, but they have an awesome spread of light. The volume manufacturing of this technology means they are far more affordable than ever, but still attract a fair price for the right quality.

Having used a range of Lightforce lights over the years, from halogen to HID, and now looking at these new LEDs making the desert night sky seem dim again, I’d have to say the LED gear is the way to go.

But it’s time to flick them off and enjoy a beautiful desert sky night while I can.

See you Outback. Chris

FNB-web-logoChris Blakemore is owner of FNB4WD, Mount Barker Sth Australia

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