First off, yes, every lightbar adds 50hp and if you don't have at least 3, you obviously don't wheel.
Now that's outta the way, let's be serious. I've seen at least 10 threads asking about lightbars in the past few years on and thought I'd share my knowledge in this big ass thread.
I happen to know a shit-ton about LEDs, lightbars, associated douchebags, etc and have had plenty of experience with all different kinds of diodes, brands, price ranges and features. I know about the scams and shady resale companies, the diode quality sorting process, and where all these things are made.
I also know how to find exactly the right light for your needs whether it's a spotlight for high-speed pre-running or a nice combo for night trails, or an amber bar for fog and dust applications. So if you're in the market for lights or just curious if that $60 ebay light bar is worth it, or just wanna join the retard-circus on instagram, read on.
REGARDING EBAY BARS AND OTHER EL-CHEAPOS ON AMAZON ETC
1. Like others said, ingress protection isn't as great on these, although it can be random based on the manufacturer. I've never had problems with moisture on cheaper bars, and some even come with one-way moisture breather valves. I've also heard of Rigid Industries customers having their bars fog up at the first rain, so word of caution there also.
2. Polycarbonate lenses don't hold up to prolonged sun/UV exposure and will yellow over time.
3. Optics/reflectors are often poor and reflectors are weak, way too floody and spot doesn't do shit. (some exceptions apply)
4. They use poorer quality diodes and the driver circuits for the LEDs aren't as robust or efficient meaning the LED's aren't putting out even 90% of what they're capable of.
Often times, a cheapo bar will be all you need and at a cheap price, if it gets stolen or a few diodes burn out, then you're only out 30 bucks. Good luck getting a warranty on these. It may say "comes with warranty" but just you wait till you try to make Mr. Chan make good on that warranty via emails through amazon or ebay.
With the right amount of research, you can get a lightbar that will outshine the more expensive competition at a fraction of the price
AVOID EBAY and AMAZON in general if you plan on having something nice, but if you're going the cheap route, here are some tips.
· Now, the first problem can be easily solved by buying silicone sealer and spending the 20 minutes it takes to properly seal the light. This is easy and well worth the savings.
· The second problem is cheap polycarbonate lenses and can't really be avoided on the ebay/amazon cheapies. You can always hit them with headlight polish and a buffing bit, but they'll just yellow up again and never be like new no matter how much you buff them.
· The third problem is solved by doing your research and finding a bar that has decent light projection as well as flood dispersion. My el-cheapo recommendation is the brand oz-usa (can be found on amazon or at oz-usa.com)
· This issue isn't really avoidable, but also its less important overall with higher wattage diodes and the reflector optics are what really matter here anyway.
Diodes: 3W - standard, 5W - high, 10W - super high
1. 3W Epistar, avoid these like the plague. They are too blue, and have no integrated focusing on the diode chip itself, making them shine all about 20 feet. There's a reason these bars are $30. *These make up the majority of cheap ebay/amazon bars. * They often look like this:
2. 3W Phillips - solid diodes, warmer light temperature is easy on the eyes and the quality is miles above epistar, much better beam right off the circuit board and combined with the right optics hold up well to the high-end $1000 cree bars.
3. 5W Osram - quality on par with phillips, much higher focusability and light projecting, found in spot bars. Often in a 5W diode.
4. 3W/5W/10W Cree - best diodes probably, but you can never be sure your not getting the bottom of the barrel chips. be warned as many chinese cheapos and ebay/amazon bars advertise cree brand chips but use epistar. (or they're using crap-tier cree diodes that are one sorting bin down from the garbage),
Arguably the most important part of the bar (besides the diodes themselves).
- Most cheap bars have these shitty conical reflectors that aren't true in parabolic shape and do nothing but cast light 80 feet away. Often paired with shitty epistar diodes. THESE MAKE UP 90% OF EBAY/AMAZON BARS
2. "3D" -
- harder to find. These optics are called 3D (for whatever reason) and have more contours and a superior focusing pattern. They can be found on the oz-usa brand bars. In my experience these are the best for combo applications and throw light much further than standard reflectors while maintaining a nice flood pattern as well.
3. "4D" -
Even harder to find. These optics are exclusively for spot/distance applications and are often paired with an Osram high wattage diode. These are the kinds of bars that will shame an HID spot light. These optics are distinctive because they often do not have reflectors, but rely on the diodes innate focusing ability and then place a focusing projector lense in front of each diode. They have a distinctive look.
4. "5D" - what the **** ever. The same as 4D but with slightly better flood pattern. Makes no difference, slightly clearer lense. Bullshit, really.
1. Now, it's important to understand that unless it's a brand like Rigid or Baja, all of these are going to be manufactured in mainland china. Such is life. Even brands like rigid or baja will still source their diodes, drivers, and circuit boards from china. CHINA =/= SHITTY all of the time. Yeah, most of the time it does, but you can still get good products.
2. Avoid reseller companies. They buy the same exact (good) products from china in bulk, rebrand them and stamp a logo on there and then mark them up by hundreds of dollars. This is a stupid when you can buy the very same (good) product for a fraction of the price. A great example of a company that buys in bulk but doesn't try and screw you is Oz-USA. They buy nice quality bars (I've run their 30" for 2 years now) in bulk and then upsell them by a few percent, and you can get an excellent bar with phillips diodes, 3D reflectors, UV-resistant poly lense, moisture breather valve, and extra-adjustable mounts + standard mounts for around $100. Keep in mind this is the same exact product a name brand retailer will buy and stamp and then mark up. See the examples of this ****ery below. The oz-usa products are the same price as a cheap ebay bar, but miles above. Here's a little example:
Odd how they are the exact same product to a tee, yet one cost $118, and the other costs $310.
So what do I buy?
1. It depends on what you need. If you need something cheap that will cut the mustard and mainly for flood applications and you wanna beat on it and don't really care, then go nuts on Ebay.
2. If you're like me and you want quality and don't want to break the bank than go for the nicer bars like the one I mentioned earlier. I don't want it to seem like I'm advertising for a particular company because I'm not, but really they're the only US based resaler that has great products at an extremely fair price.
3. If you shit cash, knock yourself out and go buy a rigid or baja designs bar. I don't care but you're wasting your money. That's a guarantee. I don't care about your warranty, cause I can buy 6 bars that are as good or better than yours and still have money left over. And if it gets stolen, I'm not getting shafted and you are.
Examples and extra pics
Auto exposure on cell phone cameras does no justice for the output of the lights, but they're at least twice as bright and cover way more area than the camera shows.
48" 4D Osram Spot with 5W diodes:
Spot+ 30" 3D oz-usa combo, curved:
If you need advice, help, or have any more questions or want more pictures, let me know.