How Tos & Tutorials

How to Pick Lights for Your 4×4


Looking for 4×4 lights that can get you through emergency situations or those that can instantly warn you of in-coming danger?

Whatever your 4x4ing requirements are, we’ll help you select those that are just right for you. After all, it’s about visibility and peace of mind.


Off-road lights are special types of lights used when you go through rough terrains. They’re more striking than the regular lights used on roads for effective visibility. Simply put, dangerous trails need more careful attention.

Their usefulness was strengthened further by a study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration saying, off-road lights are associated with a 24% reduction in crashes involving a single vehicle and a 14% reduction in crashes involving multiple vehicles.


lights for bad weather

In another study by the NHTSA, it was found that vehicles equipped with off-road lights were involved in 26% fewer nighttime crashes than those without them. There are many advantages in using off-road lights which include but aren’t limited to:

  • Improving night vision
  • Visibility under bad weather conditions
  • Camping
  • Search and rescue operations


poor sleeping habits

Of course, if there are advantages to using off-road lights, the disadvantages aren’t far behind. Some cons of using off-road lights over long periods are:

  • Eye damage
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Eye strain
  • Glare or visual discomfort

Important Factors in Choosing 4×4 Lights

4×4 lights on the market all look the same so some of you may be asking, what’s the purpose of being picky about it if I can hardly tell any difference? The truth lies in inspecting them. But to do that, here are some of the things you must evaluate.

Lighting Needs

off road lights 2

Exploring the great outdoors with your 4×4 looks tougher than it seems. With this being said, you need a good amount of light to guide you along the way, whether you’re very specific on what’s in front of you or you want to be warned of nearby vehicles.

Usually, flood lights are useful in cutting through fog, dust and other environmental hindrances. On the other hand, spot lights are important if you’re into fast off-roading, as it helps you quickly see certain obstacles blocking your path, even from a very far distance.


When it comes right down to budget, weighing your options matters. For daily, typical riders, buying lights under the expensive category, these range from $800 and above which is impractical. However, despite of the costly price tag, what makes them stand out is they provide a very large and stable lighting coverage.

If you’re after necessity and value for your money, then getting affordable 4×4 lights won’t let you down. These lights which costs from $400 to $500 gives you a sufficient amount of lighting coverage. Keep in mind though, even if some of them provide a combination of fog and spot lights, they’re lighting capacity is a bit bias.   

How Much Light Output

types of light bulbs

As what was mentioned on a previous article, the different 4×4 lights are; halogen, LED and HID. These lights can be of the same or varying size depending on your preference. But what sets one apart from the other is the light intensity. A halogen light normally gives off 2400 Lumens, LED at 2300 Lumens and HID at 3500 Lumens, respectively. This means that when your main priority is brightness, HID is the obvious winner.

On the contrary, when you’re after a quick, consistent light source, LED is on the lead because it doesn’t take much time to reach its full brightness. It’s also the most energy-efficient at 20 Watts. Whereas HID is about 35 Watts and halogen is 100 Watts.


lifespan of light bulbs
Lifespans are based on approximation.

Lifespan is equal to longevity. But to make the most out of it, you have to determine how often you’ll be using your 4×4 lights.

If you’ll only go 4x4ing with friends during weekends or every summer, settling for halogen lights is fine. This is because halogen lights are very easy to maintain. Moreover, they usually last a maximum of two to three years, when used for three hours daily.

On the other hand, HID lights’ lifespan is about twice longer than that of halogen lights at a bare minimum level, which isn’t so bad.  

As for LED lights, when they’re used under the same number of hours and days, they would normally go from 22-23 years, which makes them a clear choice in terms of longevity. But it’s also important to be aware of other factors affecting LED’s lifespan apart from the light bulb itself.   

Vehicle Room

vehicle room
Photo courtesy of Devon 4×4

4×4 lights have designated locations on your vehicle. Putting them where they’re supposed to be and giving them sufficient space prevents them from interfering with your other 4×4 components’ function and ventilation.

If you’re buying diffused lights, they’re mounted on rear bumpers, roof racks or underneath bumpers where they best serve their purpose.

For flood lights, you place them on your vehicle’s front bumpers and factory lower bumpers for additional support on your spot lights. Some may also be placed on roof racks.

In the case of spot lights, you can put them in front of roof racks, off-road bumpers or on stock bumpers. This is because they don’t cause glares.

Usage Legality

light usage

When buying 4×4 lights, be careful not to end up violating state laws by the time you use such lights. Keep in mind, not all 4×4 lights are applicable for driveway or highway use.  

For example, according to National Roads and Safety Association (NRMA), you’re only allowed to use flood lights if there’s fog, rain and other debris obstructing your path. Once any obstruction subsides, you should turn them off. This is because they’re illumination capacity is stronger than that of regular lights, which can blind passers-by and trigger lethal collisions.  

Types of Beam Pattern

4×4 lights have various illumination styles based on their functions. And these are what makes up a beam pattern. To be more specific, a beam pattern is the behavior in which a given lighting system absorbs the light from the diode and produces it. The types of beam pattern are as follows.

Diffused/Area/Scene Lights

diffused light
Photo by TURBO Sil via

4×4 lights under such beam patterns are commonly known as emergency lights because of the large lighting coverage they give. But due to their low-beam intensity, they’re popularly used with other vehicle lights for support, to amplify their illuminating capacity.

Plus, these lights don’t offer much when it comes to long-range distances, especially when you’re driving at 15 miles and up.

Driving & Flood Lights

driving lights
Photo by AAIWA via

Driving and flood lights are a combination of utility lights and forward-facing lights. They’re meant for balanced conditions because they provide a high-beam intensity that diffused lights lack but one that’s not as concentrated as that of spot lights.

If your windows have tints, these lights are very effective as reflective reverse lights for improved visibility. However, if you’re out driving late at night, it’s better to pair them with spot lights for safety precautions.

Hyperspot & Spot Lights

spot lights
NAO via

Hyperspot and spot lights serve their purpose if you need to focus your attention on a particular trail hindrance from afar and make the necessary turn. Is there a huge rock boulder ahead? Perhaps you’ll be making your way down a steep slope? In such cases, spot lights are meant for maximum range and point intensity.

They’re useful when you’re into high-speed off-roading like desert running. Believe it or not, it contributes to hand-eye coordination to reduce, if not to completely prevent accidents.

Choosing Your 4×4 Light Optic

If you’re still confused on the type of beam pattern that your 4×4 lights must have, then here’s a brief guide in helping you select one, based on your off-roading needs.

light optics
Infographic by RIGID Industries via

Items Needed When Installing 4×4 Lights

Whether you like it or not, you’ll eventually come to terms with the tedious task of installing your 4×4 lights. After all, what’s the purpose of buying them if you aren’t ready to mount them? Aside from a basic knowledge in 4×4 light installation, below are the tools you’ll need to make your project a success.

Drill Bits

drill bits

In order to mount your 4×4 lights on your vehicle itself, you’ll need this to bear holes on the surface. Those made from titanium are very durable and corrosion-resistant. They can cut through any kind of metal and can withstand high temperatures.

Power Drill

power drill

A power drill is what controls replaceable drill bits to move in circles, until the desired surface portion is removed. It comes with a reversing switch in case you need to change the direction of the drill bits’ movement. Its chuck acts as a pin that secures drill bits in position.

Ratchet & Sockets

ratchet and socket

Ratchet and sockets are used to tighten or loosen fasteners in one direction. This is because they gradually tighten fasteners in a clockwise motion and do the opposite when performing a counterclockwise motion.

While ratchet and sockets and traditional wrenches generally have the same function, they’re still different from traditional wrenches under special circumstances.

Measuring Tape

measuring tape

A measuring tape is a must in such a task because you need to identify the length of the lights and the space they’ll occupy on your 4×4. Don’t forget the marker and masking tape for quick measurement reminders, too.


Photo by Titebond via DHC Supplies

Silicone’s purpose is to cover visible holes and cracks. In some instances, it can also be a solution against uneven surfaces as it obviously fills gaps. Moreover, it’s an excellent option for protecting internal 4×4 components due to its water-resistant nature.

Battery Terminal Wrench

battery terminal wrench
Photo by OEM Tools via

Using terminal wrench in wiring your 4×4 lights spares you the possibility of shorting the battery terminal. This is because it doesn’t become a conductor of electricity which can lead to additional expenses. If you have a particular battery terminal wrench size in mind, look here.

Crimping Tool

crimping tool
Photo courtesy of

A crimping tool helps you attach a connector and cable together. It ensures that electricity flows evenly through both, to prevent a malfunction from happening.

Crimp-style Wiring Connectors

wiring connectors
Photo courtesy

These connectors are what you’ll use to fasten your switch wire and power wire together. They serve as electrical conductors to make your 4×4 lights work. Furthermore, you need an extra wiring if you accidentally ran out of it.


Photo by Craftsman via

A screwdriver is a basic tool that’s also used for fastening and unfastening screws. It has an almost similar function to the wrench but in a more traditional and tedious manner.

Wire Stripper

wire stripper
Photo by Klein Tools via

A wire stripper is handy when it’s necessary for you to remove the skin on both ends of a wire, so you can attach it to other wires. It’s also a vital tool in wire replacement. Click here to discover the two types of wire stripper.

Holder with Fuse & Light Switch

holder with fuse and switch

Obviously, the holder with fuse and light switch are what makes turning on or off your 4×4 lights possible. See to it you place them somewhere accessible, like under the radio which is a common practice.

Touch-up Paint

touch up paint
Photo by Toyota via

Lastly, you need a touch-up paint for a smooth, polished look. But it’s also popular for the anti-rust protection it gives on your 4×4. It comes in brush and spray variant, with the latter being more convenient to use, as it saves time and energy.


1. Can off-road lights be used in other vehicles?

  • They are often used on vehicles such as trucks, SUVs, and ATVs.

2. What other mounting options are available for off-road lights?

  • Off road lights can be mounted on the front, rear, or roof of a vehicle.

3. Do off-road lights have higher wattage than regular lights?

  • Off road lights typically have a higher wattage than standard headlights, which allows them to produce more light.


These are some of the tips to consider on how to pick lights for your 4×4. Off-road lights can increase your visibility to other drivers by up to 500%, according to the NHTSA. However, their effectiveness is still based on their design, installation, and usage. Share us your thoughts by commenting below.

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