A lot has changed in the 4×4 lighting world in the past few years, especially in lights that are meant for off-roading. Modern off-road lights are brighter, more durable, and better at handling harsh conditions than ever before. I’ll explore the evolution of 4×4 lights and what you should look for when buying a new set-up.
History of Major Developments in 4×4 Lighting
Back in the day (let’s say 2000), most off-road vehicles came with basic headlights that were little more than two bulbs mounted on a frame above the grille. These early lights did an adequate job of 4×4 lighting up road hazards in front of your vehicle, but they were not designed for looking far ahead into the darkness.
Back then, most drivers relied on their high beams when it came to seeing ahead at night. This meant that off-road lights were used mostly for providing general illumination rather than focused light. Most 4x4s back then had halogen headlights that were fairly durable and bright compared to today’s standards, but they would overheat easily and could not stand up to rough conditions. Also, these early headlight bulbs did not last very long and had to be replaced often.
The evolution of 4×4 lights really got going in the early 2000s when headlights started getting brighter, more durable, and more focused. In 2004, for example, Dodge introduced a new line of headlamps for their trucks called “Projector Headlights”. These lights were designed with a special reflector system that sent light out in a wide pattern ahead of the vehicle instead of just straight forward like traditional headlights did. Projectors were much brighter than halogen lights and were also more durable.
The other major development in off-road lights came around the same time as projectors: LED lights. LEDs are small bulbs that can be designed into various shapes and sizes, making them perfect for lighting systems such as headlights and fog lights. Because they emit light in a wide range of colours, LEDs can be used to illuminate road signs and other hazards even when there is no direct sunlight available.
LEDs are also very durable compared to traditional bulbs. They can withstand more shock and vibration, which makes them perfect for off-road use. Also, they don’t heat up as easily because there is no filament inside that needs to warm up, so they last much longer than halogen lights.
LEDs were first used in off-road lights around 2004 when companies such as Diode Dynamics started making LED fog lights and off-road lights. However, these early LEDs were not very bright because the technology was still fairly new. Also, since LEDs emit light in all directions, they were not as focused as traditional lights.
The next big development in off-road 4×4 lights came around 2007 when companies such as Diode Dynamics and Truck-Lite started developing new LED bulbs that could be used in headlights instead of just fog lights. These “white” LEDs were much brighter than their predecessors and could focus light at a distance to provide more visibility. They also had a longer lifespan than halogen lights and were more durable.
Around 2010, the off-road lighting industry started making even brighter lights with more focus than ever before. These “high-intensity discharge” (HID) lights use a special bulb that emits light in a narrow beam instead of emitting it out in all directions like LEDs do. Because they are much brighter than traditional bulbs and projectors, HIDs are used on many newer vehicles today instead of halogen or LED lights.
These new HID lights have a couple of drawbacks, however. They tend to overheat and burn out quickly if not properly cooled, for example. Also, the bulbs are fragile so they cannot be bumped around or dropped easily. This is why many off-road lights today still use LED bulbs instead of HIDs even though they are brighter and more focused.
The last big development in off-road lights came around 2011 when companies such as Truck-Lite started developing a new type of light called “LED+”. This new light combines the benefits of both LEDs and HIDs: it has a bright, focused beam like an HID but uses LEDs to save on power costs. The result is a light much brighter than traditional lights and far more durable than even HIDs when used in harsh conditions such as off-roading.
Overall, the evolution of 4×4 lights over the past decade or so has been pretty dramatic. Headlights are now much brighter and more focused, which makes them ideal for off-roading. The development of LEDs and HIDs has allowed headlights to become more durable, brighter, and more focused than ever before.
The 4×4 lighting industry is still evolving at a rapid pace, but today’s lights are much better than those made just a few years ago. If you’re looking to upgrade your vehicle’s headlamps or fog lights, I recommend checking out companies such as Striker, Blitz, Genesis, Truck-Lite and Diode Dynamics who make some of the best off-road lighting today.