What You Need To Know About Lighting Before You Buy

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Make sure you are asking the right questions before you buy lights for your vehicle. Wheelco has the answers you need to make sure you get exactly what you want.
Blue Semi Trucks

Lighting Options

Nighttime driving is quickly becoming the norm for many on the roads today. For truck drivers making long hauls, having durable lights that need to last thousands of hours is a necessity. Or perhaps you are a construction worker clocking countless hours in big rigs like excavators and graders—you need bright, quality lights to get the job done on time. First responders and emergency vehicles must have reliable lighting, no questions asked. And let’s not forget the outdoor enthusiasts! Off-road driving, especially in the dark, is gaining popularity. This style of driving requires an entirely different type of lighting.

At Wheelco, we get many questions about lighting.

  • What are the best types of lights to put on my truck?
  • Are LED Lights better than Halogen?
  • How do LED lights work?
  • How do Halogen lights work?
  • What type of lighting will give me White Light?
  • Are LED lights dimmable?
  • Diode versus Lumens?
  • What are the Pros and Cons of LED and Halogen lighting?
  • What are the best LED lights for trucks?

This article should give you insight so that you can make the best decision before you buy.

Lighting Basics

What is a Diode?

Simply put, a diode is a two-terminal component. They typically only allow the flow of current in one direction. This makes it useful in converting AC to DC. When a suitable current is applied, light emits. 

Blue Diode Light

What is a Lumen?

Lumens = Brightness.

Lumens measure light output, not watts. Watts measure energy use. This is a common misconception when determining light brightness and has been since more energy-efficient LED technology has come to market. You can’t rely on wattage to indicate the brightness of the bulb. 

Red Semi Truck

What is Color Temperature?

Color temperature is a term used to describe light appearance—how warm or cool a light be is perceived to the human eye. Vehicle lights are measured by the Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) scale, which is measured degrees of Kelvin (K).

Color Temperature Classification

  • Warm Light – typically 2700k-3000k – appears to be yellowish to amber
  • White Light- typically from 3000k – 6000k – appears to be white light
  • Cool Light – typically from 6000k+ – appears to have a bluish tint 
Lighting Examples

There are many different types of light colors available to the aftermarket. For police and emergency vehicles, you have various option available. These can range from bright white to reds, blues, greens, orange, amber, ultraviolet, infrared, or multicolor.

Our eyes perceive white light as brighter. Many of our customers tend to upgrade bulbs when their lights appear yellowish or amber; these lights tend to be incandescent/halogen. Because LED lighting offers the truest form of white light, many opt to purchase this type of lighting.

What are the Different Beam Patterns?

What are the different types of beam angles?

Driving lights illuminate the road in a focused, pencil-shaped shape. It increases long-range visibility, emitting light beyond high-beam headlights. This makes it ideal for driving on highways at fast speeds.

Fog lights emit light in a low, wide angle. This increases short-range visibility. Bus and truck drivers can use this for added safety benefits while driving in sleet, rain, and fog. Amber and white light are recommended for fog. However, amber is more visible to oncoming traffic, even though it does not penetrate as much as white light.

Trapezoidal lights are ideal when you need to see a narrow patter but for greater distances. This is ideal for the construction business when you lighting to complete work in a narrow pattern but for longer visibility.

Flood lights illuminate a wide, short area. They can have up to a 120° spread. This makes them ideal for emergency or construction vehicles when then need to light up a bigger area, like a work site or accident at night.

Spot lights have a narrow spread with a long range. Simply put, they produce a cone of light and are suitable for driving in the dark. Often farmers will have these on their harvesters for making rows and keeping new fence lines.

 
Beam Patterns

Popular Light Types for Vehicles

How do LED Lights Work?

LED stands for Light-Emitting Diodes. LED lighting is a form of electroluminescence where light is generated when diodes are connected in a circuit. This happens when a sufficient amount of voltage is applied semiconductor chip that resides in the center of the light source. Within the chip are two regions that are separated by a junction. The junction keeps the positive and negative electrons separated. When voltage is applied, the electrons cross the junction within the chip, converting their energy into electromagnetic energy, emitting a light photon. The chip is housed by a plastic bulb that concentrates the light source.

LED Pros

  • LEDs are extremely bright and also dimmable.
  • LEDs don’t have a filament to burn out, making them last longer than conventional bulbs.
  • Semiconductor chips that run an LED are very durable, lasting thousands of hours.
  • Can be frequently turned on/off since they do not have a “warm-up” time.
  • LEDs are less affected by road vibration and shock. 

LED Cons

  • Usually, cost more than conventional applications.
  • The base may heat up in confined spaces.
  • Light doesn’t build up heat, so they don’t naturally melt snow in the wintertime.

How do Halogen/Incandescent Lights Work?

Incandescent lighting has been around for over 120 years. It’s a tried and true light product, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best for everyone. An incandescent light bulb glows with light as electricity passes through wire filaments within the light bulb. Heat is a byproduct. Actually, so much heat is produced that it uses more energy than light. This makes it inefficient.

That’s not to say incandescent lighting is a bad option for your specific needs. Halogen bulbs have proven to be more efficient than many incandescent bulbs.

Incandescent Pros

  • Halogen bulbs keep a constant light output.
  • Halogens light output does not diminish as the bulb ages.
  • They are usually the least expensive to replace.
  • Halogens don’t tend to flicker upon turning on.
  • Usually dimmer than LED or HID lighting.
  • 15-25 second of “warm up” time to fully brighten.
  • Shorter lifespan than other lighting options.

Incandescent Cons

  • Usually dimmer than LED or HID lighting.
  • 15-25 second of “warm up” time to fully brighten.
  • Shorter lifespan than other lighting options.

Why LED Lighting is Gaining Popularity on the Highway

LED have a Longer Lifespan

Many trucks and cars for that matter are switching to LEDs because they require little energy to produce light, have a longer lifespan, are small which makes them easily adaptable and have greater light output. You can expect to have up to 100,000 hours for certain LEDs, which is nearly six times that of an average incandescent bulb. 

This means that you can drive longer and see more on LED lighting compared to incandescent lighting. Quickly gain the benefits of LED lighting by replacing your old conventional headlights with LEDs. If your headlights are still in good quality, you light bars, portable pod lights, and work lights/lamps. 

LED AMP Draw

When you are considering what type of lighting to buy, don’t forget about Amp Draw. LED Amp Draw can be as low as 1/10th of that of an incandescent. This means that you’ll have more power for other electrical needs. 

LEDs hold up against Road Vibration and Shock

LEDs last longer than other lighting options because of their effectiveness to withstand road vibration and shock. 

LEDs and Safety 

LED lighting is becoming more and more popular due to their emphasis on safety. LEDs respond instantly and provide brighter and more focused light, whereas incandescent lights take longer, about a quarter of a second, and do not provide as bright of lights. This may not seem like very long, but we all know that every second counts when you are on the road.

Types of Lights

Because of your unique needs, Wheelco offers the best lighting options for customers. We carry the best-selling products available on the market today.

  • Headlights
  • Work Lights/Lamps
  • Spotlights
  • Flood Beams
  • Light Bars
  • Beacon Lights
  • Strobe lights
  • Pod/Mini Lights
  • Tail Lights
  • Signal Lights

DOT Lighting Compliance

Ensure your lights meeting DOT requirements for visibility durability and reliability. Having all DOT compliant lights on your vehicle does not necessarily make it compliant. Be sure to read all requirements specified in Section 108 of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. (FMVSS). The regulation of all lighting, signaling and reflective devices is established and administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and is an executive branch of the U.S. government.

What are the Top Brands in Vehicle Lighting?

Wheelco sets itself apart from the others by bringing the most innovative products to you in the aftermarket. We carry top-quality lighting products by TruxGroteTruck-LiteMaxximaDorman, and Ecco.  

Now you should have a better idea of what type of lighting is best for you and your needs. However, if you’d still like some support or insight, our experts are happy to help! Give us a call or stop by one of our retail stores

About Wheelco Truck & Trailer

At Wheelcobeing customer driven is more than just a motto we live by. It means that our employees will do everything we can to best serve you, our valued customer.

Customer driven is more than just offering you advice, giving time-honored service or contributing the latest tech-support. It’s about being there—whenever and wherever you need us—in-person, over the phone or online.

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