We have a tremendous amount options and choices available to us when it comes to adding additional lighting to our Jeeps. Before we jump into lights and lighting, it might be helpful to discuss how we can switch and control our lighting. When wiring and powering new accessories, it's nice if they have their own circuits to work from, keeping them off the Jeep's sensitive electrical circuits.
I chose to power my lights using the sPOD system. The sPOD is a power distribution system. The sPOD completely isolates the circuits from the rest of the Jeep. The sPOD does not use any of the wiring in the Jeep, therefore eliminating the chance of interfering with any sensitive electrical circuits. This system features a Low Voltage Cut Off circuit that detects the battery voltage and will cut off at 11.2VDC. and cuts back in at 12.8VDC so there is enough juice to start your Jeep in case an accessory was left on.
- Switch panel, six JK 6 switch panel with dual LED
- Two piece Wire Harness set with 8 multi colored leads utilizing 18ga. wires. Each end has an automotive connector made by Deutsch
- All wires are wrapped in high temp abrasion resistant nylon braided sleeving
- Integrated Low Voltage Cut-Off Circuit
- 12 position terminal block for accessory attachment
- 6 Bosch style cube style relays(SPST 40amp)(plug in style)
- 6 ATO style automotive fuses, 3 15amp, and 3 30 amp supplied
- 6 Diodes to protect sensitive accessories such as LED lights from field collapse
- Inline 50amp manual resetting circuit breaker
- 8 gauge power leads with crimped and soldered terminals for connection to the battery
- Fuse for LVCO which can be removed to bypass the LVCO
- Made and Designed in the USA
Here's a look...
Let's get this installed in Rubi. The unit bolts directly in with no drilling or modifications necessary.
I've begun running the wiring from my lights to the sPOD...
Here you can see a finished heat shrinked terminal, really finishes off the job nicely...
Next you simply connect each pair of leads from your lights, accessories to the switch number you want to run it on.
All done under the hood...
Inside the Jeep, the switch panel mounts up between the sun visors. sPOD comes with a pre-wired harness that will simply connect from the main fuse board. You will run that harness from the board, through the factory supplies hole in the firewall, up the left A-Pillar and across the top of the windshield. All moldings, including the end of the dash simply snap off to allow access for this install. Kudos to the Jeep engineers for designing the Jeep with modifications in mind!
Here's a look at the switch panel installed...
This was one of my first mods, and I missed a few details on this. I did not order a unit that provided lights on the switches for night time. I was also using the generic Contura switches. To upgrade this, I contacted sPOD and worked with them to upgrade my existing switch panel to lit, labeled Contura switches. They had me ship my switch panel to them, and they installed the new backlit switches and added an on/off switch for the backlight.
The wiring for the back lit switches was already in my existing wiring harness, making this upgrade super easy. I also want to mention how great the crew at sPOD is to work with. They answer their phones, are helpful and fair. Here's the finished installed custom switches...
As we discuss my lighting upgrades, you are going to see an evolution of the Aux. lights I've added, and in some cases removed. There are so many good choices when it comes to what we can add to our Jeeps, I find myself anting to try a few different set-ups.
I think it helps when considering Aux. lighting that we come at this much the same way we do when considering our build. What do we want the lights to do? We can think of this in terms of trail running, getting back after dark, high speed interstate where we want to be able to see far out ahead of us. General illumination, being able to see more of what's around us, and specific task lighting, back up lighting, side work lights.
My first Aux. lights I purchased were the ARB 21's. These are 7.25" dia., 21 LED lights. I specc'd these in spots, wanting them to punch way down the road for interstate driving. Another good way to run these lights is to have one spot, and the other a flood. This dual set-up will give you the best of both, spot and wide illumination. Here's a look at those...
This chart gives you a good idea of beam pattern. This information as a guide to designing the lighting attributes I'm after.
The ARB 21's spots provide an incredible amount light, thrown in a narrow beam. They are great for high speed interstate driving, picking up animals on or near the road and the reflective graphics on state trooper vehicles.
Rigid industries Dually/D2
Next I needed to add some illumination that was both closer in and more diffuse. For that, I decided to use two sets of lights from Rigid Industries. The Dually D2 Driving, and the D2 Flood.
Here again, Rigid Industries is a leader in LED lighting. Here are some specs.
- American made
- Cree bulbs
- IP68 water and dust rating
- Corrosion Tested ASTM B1117
- Unbreakable Polycarbonate Lens
- GORE Pressure Equalizing Vent
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
I mounted the D2's on the A-Pillar using a Rugged Ridge mount...
Here's them installed. I have the Driving Beam pointed straight ahead, and the Floods panned off to the side...
Next up for my lighting upgrades was the addition of a light bar mounted on the hood. Mounting a light source higher up on the vehicle has the benefit of allowing you to really utilize it's output. By that I mean, when a light is up higher on the vehicle, the beam pattern can spread out more, and you are illuminating your view from a perspective closer to how you are viewing it from the drivers seat.
To mount this light bar, I used Rough County's brackets. These brackets position the light bar to not interfere with my windshield spray nozzles.
Rigid Industries sr20 hybrid
And this is the light bar I'm running on the hood. This is Rigid Industries 20" SR-Series Hybrid LED.
The SR-Series is a single row light bar that measures only 1.5" tall. It's small profile make it a great choice for mounting on the hood. The Hybrid is a combination spot and flood reflector. This gives to the best of both worlds in one light. You could make a case that if you chose only one light to add to your Jeep, this would be the light!
SR-Series Hybrid Specs
- + 6400 Lumens
- IP68 Certified
- Electrically Protected against RFI/EMC Interference
- Unbreakable Polycarbonate Lens
- Waterproof Housing
- Shock Proof
- Instant On/Off
- ASTMB117 Salt/Fog certified
- Sealed Deutsch Connector
- Operating Temp-40-+145 degF
- 6063 Aluminum Heat Sink
- Updated Hybrid Optic System-Spot, Folld Combo
- 50,000+ Hour Lifespan
Below is video of these lights in action on my first trip to Moab. We were out after dark on Rainbow Terrace. Having these lighting upgrades was game changing, helping us find our way back to town in the complete darkness of the wilderness...
I ran this lighting set-up for about a year. As I researched LED lighting, I was interested in trying some new lighting set-ups on Rubi. I have this restless bug in me, trying to constantly improve on what I have. This lead me to KC-Hilites.
Kc gravity led pro6
KC Hilites has been around since 1970, and has built a reputation among the offroad racing world and the military for building some of the best off road lights available. You'll find their lighting set-ups on some of the top offroad racing teams...what a great way to test the performance and durability of their products. They feature a 23 year warranty, and still have their main factory in Williams Arizona.
I was looking to add a lighting set-up above my windshield. I know that many will run a 50" light bar in this location. I think that is a great visual look for a JK(U). I've also read that this can result in a lot of wind noise. Looking to perhaps do something that was a little different on my Jeep, I decided to try out KC's Gravity PRO6 light bar.
To mount the Pro6, I decided on running Kargo Master Safari's A-Frame. This will also gives me nice handle to pull myself up near the front of the Jeep. Since I'm also running the KMS Lo-Pro Mod rack, this gives me options down the road to expand my cargo/load options. Here's a look at the KMS A-Frame install...
The A-Frame bolts directly to the Jeep using the existing bolts at the bottom of the A-pillar.
To mount the PRO6 to the frame, I'm using KMS's Pro Light Bar Mounts...
And here it is all bolted up to Rubi...
The KMS A-Frame is a really well made piece, with an excellent finish on it. The grab handle is super useful, and the A-Frame is quiet at highway speed...yeah!
Ok, back to the KC Gravity PRO6. What I liked about these is the round design. I really connected visually with the shape, thinking it would tie in very nicely with Jeeps iconic round headlights. I also knew that a larger reflector can provide an incredibly efficient light source.
I opted for a five light set-up, thinking that would be plenty of Lumens for what I wanted it to do. The five light set-up features a combination of SAE/ECE Driving and Wide-40 G6 LED optical inserts. The combination of different reflector optics provides a broader range of visibility and homogenous light beam shape, for more usable lighting coverage. Driving Beam lights provide powerful forward distance and equal beam distribution width, while the Wide-40 beam offer a wider area of coverage, increasing side to side peripheral visibility. This not only results in incredible light output distance, but also evenly balanced light distribution and beam shape that translates to light output you can actually use for all of your off road lighting adventures.
Gravity PRO6 specs
- 11,500 Lumens (32" 5 light)
- Lux @ 10 Meters=4200lx
- Beam Distance (meters)=1296m
- AMP Draw- 5.014.67A
- LED Source-Cree XPL HD LED
- LED Color 5000K
- Patented Pro6 Infinity Ring System
- Patented Gravity Reflector Diode
- Modular Design is expandable to different widths and beam patterns
Here's a look at the Pro6 system...
As you can see, the details are exquisite. The housings are a beefy die-cast aluminum with an excellent finish on it, complimented with all stainless hardware. A couple of very unique design features of these lights is the ability to radius them. In the pic below, you can see the adjustment and locking bolts. By loosening the two pinch bolts, you can add radius across the front of the light bar.
In this next pic, you can see how I set mine up. I have the outside two lights on either side set up with an outside radius.
This allows me to effectively spread out the light beams. The two Wide-40's are able to now give me even more illumination out to the sides ahead. Another unique feature of these lights is the ability to clock the light housing in 22.5 deg. increments. This allows you to tune them by rotating the housing, bringing the beam spread around at different angles. This would be effective if you wanted to angle down the outside Wide-40's for example to give you more illumination closer in.
Here's the PRO6 installed on Rubi...
As part of the customizing on Rubi, I had the front rings powder coated bronze...
So how are they to use? In a word...amazing! There is a quality about the illumination of these lights that I can best describe as "easy" on the eyes. By that I mean they are just not illuminating things with a super bright light, like some of my other LED's, but there is a softness to the light that makes using them more comfortable than some of my other LED set-ups.
My next LED upgrade was the addition of Rigid's superb Dually Side Shooter. I was looking for a light that could illuminate close in to the Jeep. I had been wheeling Moab after dark and realized that on some trails, I needed to know what was right next to me. This is especially true on tighter trails.
The Side Shooters feature a row of three LED lights built on the outside edge of the housing. These are designed to throw 120 degrees of lighting coverage. You can set them up so that you are only firing the outside edge of each lamp, keeping them from throwing light back towards the driver.
I have mine mounted on custom brackets I made so I could run them on my KMS A-Frame.
Here you can see the whole set-up...
Here's video showing the beam pattern of the Side Shooters...
Kc hilites 10" Flex array
The next LED for me was the addition of KC Hilites 10" Flex Array light bar. After installing the KC Pro6, I really wanted to try another KC light bar. Why, because there is some sort of magic in the KC reflector technology that makes for a lighting system that is very bright and is easy on the eyes.
In the above close-up, you can get a feel for the quality of these lights. Holding it in your hand, and you realize KC does not take shortcuts in material and build execution. The design of the Arrays will allow you stack or lengthen them.
My thinking for running the 10" Flex Array was this, I wanted an LED light bar I could run on the interstate without blinding those coming at me. I wanted to add to the distance of my high beams, but stay focused on the road ahead of me. Several of my Aux. LED set-ups I consider off road only...they are simply too much light to be using on ordinary roads with other drivers present. Let's take a look at the 10" Flex Array...
You have some options available when you spec an Array light bar. I chose the combo 50W configuration. This gives me three spots in the middle, flanked by two spread beams on either side. The combo beam provides perfectly angled spot and spread reflectors, for maximum forward distance and improved peripheral illumination along road edges. Here's the unit installed...
You can also easily change the reflector bezel rings. These are available in Red, Yellow, and Blue.
- Raw Lumens: 4875lm
- LUX @ 10meters: 1200lx of 1150lx
- Candela: 120,000cd
- Beam Distance (Meters): 693m
- Wattage: 50W
- LED Source: CREE XM-L2 U2
- Amp Draw: 5.0A
- Voltage: 9V
- IP Rating: IP68
BAJA 1000 RACE TESTED STRENGTH & DURABILITY
Using an IP68 rated Die-Cast Aluminum Housing with a hard coated polycarbonate lens, KC Flex LED's are race tested and approved by race teams for extreme durability in harsh terrains.
So, what are like to use? I had a few opportunities to run these on the long interstate drives between Chicago and Moab, Utah. The Flex array was perfect for giving me that extra illumination I was looking for on the interstate. They punch ahead nicely, while giving you a little more edge of roadway illumination. They are not so broad as to be annoying for opposing drivers on divided highways.
Here's quick video look at the 10" Flex Array, enjoy!
Here’s a quick video we did while in Moab last year, demonstrating the Aux. lights i’m running. We did this on the way back in from a night trail run. It will give you an idea of what each of the lights are doing…