LED or Halogen lights on camper & 4wd?
Of course, having good lights is very important because it’s an element of security. So, here’s our feedback on different types of lights, where to place them, and the review of our lighting.
How do you light up your road?
Modern vehicles already have powerful Xenon lights and also LED lights. Both of them illuminate really well. On the other hand, the lighting on rustic 4wd like ours is very basic.
Yet, it is with our 4wd that we will most likely drive on roads or tracks with little to no light.
So, here are the questions I’ll try to answer based on our experience:
- LED or Halogen?
- At roof or bumper level?
- Spot or Flood?
- Brand or Generic?
Evaluate your needs
First you have to evaluate your needs. If your vehicle already has good basic lighting with a good positioning of the low beam and high beam headlamps, you will be able to save a few pennies.
One of the problems on Land Rover Defender is that the basic lighting is very poor, almost inexistent. Two small night lights act as headlamps, while two classic 7 inches round lights, powered by classic H4 bulbs do the job.
The advantage of these headlights is that they are very common and that spare parts are easily found because many US and British vehicles use them, including motorcycles.
The disadvantage is that this lighting technology is very old and doesn’t provide much light.
Now, here’s the tip : If you plan to go off-track at night and want to see properly in front of you, you will have to invest in additional lights.
Have you already put additional lighting on your 4wd? Comment down below to tell us what you installed and why!
Because that’s what we did! Almost 10 years ago, we installed a pair of long-range spotlights: the Australian Lightforce Striker halogen 100watts.
Now you may ask “Why mount halogen lights when LED is everywhere?”
Well, for the simple reason that 10 years ago LEDs weren’t as much developed as today in the car industry. If you wanted more powerful lighting at that time, you had to turn to high-powered halogen headlights. Either by increasing the number of headlights or by increasing the power of each headlight.
Lightforce is famous in the 4wd field and particularly for its long-range headlights.
When we went to Australia we understood why! It’s very common to drive through entire areas without any lighting. Those areas are huge! On top of that, wild animals are everywhere without any fences and it can be a real danger even when on a road.
Differences between LED and Halogen
The major differences between LED and halogen are in the power consumption, the lifespan, and the type of lighting.
Here are the advantages & disadvantages of both:
- they provide a very white light like daylight,
- they have a low power consumption
- they have a long lifespan
- But it’s difficult to replace & repair in case of a breakdown (more complex technology)
- the light is rather yellow
- it consumes a lot of energy
- it has a shorter lifespan
- but it’s easy to replace the bulbs, they are cheap & many spare parts are available for repairing (simple technology)
Where to place your lights?
Once you have chosen between LED and halogen you will have to choose the placements of your additional headlights. This requires to think of all the possible situations you might find yourself in.
If you decide to do like us, the combination we had for years, you can simply add two spotlights to your bumper to get long-range lighting for the dimly lit areas that you cross.
The problem is the day you get mud or snow up to your bumper height, then your headlights will be useless.
That’s why, later, we installed additional headlights on the roof. There’s less chance that those ones get immersed or covered up up there, and it also gives the possibility to have two types of lighting.
We kept the long-range Lightforce spotlights on the bumper because we only use them while on roads. They are connected to the auxiliary battery but coupled to the stock high beam switch. And we don’t use them as work or convenience lights so we didn’t install any dedicated switch.
For our work & convenience lights, we use the LED headlights that we installed on the roof. The beam is more diffuse and can illuminate a large area without necessarily being able to illuminate very far. They do allow us to keep a powerful lighting if the bumper is under mud or snow. They are also connected to the auxiliary battery but on a dedicated switch.
Budget friendly or not?
Now, the choice of lighting and the budget. Like everything, if you have a modest budget, don’t worry, you can still make an installation because nowadays the offer of cheap LED headlights floods the car market.
But always keep in mind that you get what you pay for.
This cannot be truer for those cheap LED headlights and we have experienced it. LEDs are almost all made in China, the low quality ones as well as those of major brands. That’s why “made in China” doesn’t especially mean poor quality.
The difference in quality will be in the waterproofness of the housing and the reflectors that will make the headlights more or less effective.
When you buy quality, like the Lightforce halogen lights that we bought almost 10 years ago, you’ll spend a few hundred of francs but you’ll also buy a product deemed to be reliable that should last almost a lifetime.
These lightforce were submerged many times and suffered from shocks, but they still work properly. We never changed the bulbs in 10 years, which is why they might light a little less brighter but that’s not a big problem.
However, with lower quality LED headlights, like the four 36 watts flood and spot we installed on the roof, we can see that some have moisture behind the lenses even if they’ve never been immersed. So, the sealing standards claimed by the manufacturer are clearly not respected. For example, if this light had been totally immersed it probably wouldn’t work anymore.
It was a choice we made because we needed lighting on the roof, but spending hundreds of francs wasn’t possible. So, knowing that these lights wouldn’t be immersed, we took the risk because most are on the roof. They do light up well and do the job, but as soon as the budget allows it we will turn to better quality LED Lights to complete the halogen lighting we have on the bumper. Though it’s a bit useless to upgrade something that works, so that’s not a priority.
These ones are 18watts Chinese LED headlights, and, after testing with the multimeter they actually are only 12watts.
This doesn’t mean that Chinese accessories are all poor of quality, but it varies a lot from a product to another. This is because Chinese can produce both kind of products: very good quality but also substandard products. In fact, they are only answering to consumer’s demand for always cheaper products.
What’s important is to not skimp on your electrical installation. Once you’ve made all your connections with good sections of cables and fuses for each light location, the hard part is done.
You can then decide, like us, to temporarily install cheap headlights, at around ten francs a piece, so that you can already enjoy your lighting. And the day they no longer work and if the budget allows, you replace them little by little by high-quality headlights.
Now let’s have review the set-up we currently have on our Defender:
- 2 stock headlights with H4 bulbs
- 2 Australian halogen Lightforce of 100watts each on the bumper
- 4 Chinese LED 36watts headlights 2flood/2spot on the roof
- 2 Chinese LED 18watts headlights at the back as work lights
- 2 Chinese LED 18watts headlights on the sides also as work lights
- 2 Chinese LED 18watts headlights at bumper level as fog lights
Concerning these fog lights, they are certainly not 100% waterproof, but they haven’t had yet the opportunity to take their first bath … we will see this when it’ll happen.
Last point, why not replace the main headlights with better LED ones like those from Truck-light or JWspeaker ?
You will find the answer in our video about headlight repair and upgrade. The link is also below in the description so just click on it to watch it and don’t hesitate to let us know your point of view about this question.
So, there we are with the lights & additional lighting installation on our Defender