An Auxiliary Light Primer! Thinking about adding auxiliary lights to your vehicle? You might be surprised at how far their performance has come recently over standard Halogen lights.
Once used exclusively by professional race and rally drivers, computer-aided design, exotic gases, precision reflectors, tough new housing components, simplified adjustable mounts and plug-in wiring harnesses have made auxiliary lighting much more practical for everyday drivers. And much of that new technology has found its way into the design of all kinds of auxiliary lighting options, from fog lamps, driving lamps and off-road rally lights to work lights, search lamps and even map lights!
To understand lamps you must first understand bulbs. Incandescent bulbs, like those used in your dash and trunk, produce light from the heating of a tungsten wire filament. If your current vehicle is even just a few model years old, chances are you have standard Halogen driving lamps. Halogen gas is used to increase the light output of sealed beam headlamps. They produce a brighter, whiter light and last about twice as long as the old-style conventional headlamps. New models – especially expensive European sedans – now feature exotic Xenon lamps. These are brilliant, low-glare bulbs that deliver about a 30% higher light output and a wider field of vision than standard Halogen bulbs. New high intensity discharge bulbs work even harder. They produce light from an electrical discharge created between two electrodes that live in a hermetically sealed environment of metal halide salts, mercury and xenon gas. The resulting light is a blue-white light that is remarkably similar to natural daylight. Moreover, it delivers about 70% more light at a lower wattage than traditional lamps. You can, in most cases today, simply replace your existing bulb with a new Halogen bulb to put this new level of performance to your advantage. But be careful: when installing the new bulbs don’t touch the glass or the oils and soils from your fingers will significantly affect the bulbs performance and shorten its life – sometimes dramatically! Of course, there are limits to just how bright a light you can use. DOT and SAE specs. outline and limit approval for lights used on the road in the U.S., so check with the manufacturer to make sure the light is legal in all states before you buy. Now that you understand bulbs, what type of light is right?
Driving lamps are a smart option for most any driver. With the human eye able only to operate at about 1/20th of normal visual acuity at night, you need all the help you can get. Add inclement weather, and suddenly your vision is reduced even more! With the addition of driving lights, you’ll see obstructions in the distance, animals, pedestrians, etc., much sooner, so you’ll have time to safely react to them. What’s more, you’ll arrive feeling better because you’ll have significantly reduced your eyestrain. Fog lamps are specifically designed to penetrate beneath the wall of haze created by fog, rain and snow. Reflected glare is dramatically reduced and visibility remarkably improved. Additionally, today’s better fog lamps are equipped with reflectors that illuminate the full width of the road, so you can better recognize points of orientation along the side of the road – the better to stay on it! As far as design goes…take your pick! New light designs for both driving and fog lamps are coming out all the time.
Micro lamps are incredibly small and fit all, but undetected even on small sedans. Again, a word of caution: many of these lamps’ performances are just as miniature! Make sure you’re getting the real deal and not just a pretty accent light. One rule of thumb: if it’s very inexpensive, it’s very ineffective! Other designs include cool new black lamp technology from Hella, which looks black until you turn it on. There’s also blue, yellow and opalescent look in round and elliptical designs. IPF even has a combination driving and fog light. Most of these lights come in complete kits, with easy-to-follow instructions in many different languages. Wiring kits with easy, plug-in installations make it a relatively simple D-I-Y job. Better light is always right – even when standing still! New lighting technology can also help you out a great deal even when you’re not moving.
Search lamps that simply plug into your cigarette lighter can put out a tremendous amount of light, helping with everything from search and rescue to setting up camp. And…if you own a Classic Range Rover, you no doubt already have discovered why you need a map light. Now you can get brilliant Halogen map lights with flexible metal arms that also plug into your cigarette lighter, to add light you can actually use in your interior.
So choose your light and choose your style, then go out and take on the night! But make sure you choose a respected name in auxiliary lighting or you’ll wind up with loose and leaky housings and sub-standard lighting performance.
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