Max decides to venture into central Florida’s Ocala National Forest for some fun trail riding and camping. Its 10 p.m. when he’s navigating his off-road vehicle through narrow trails and then he hits a dead end. Looking at his mapping software, Max realizes he has made a mistake—that last left he took was supposed to be a right. Now Max has the daunting task of backing his rig half a mile down a narrow trail in the darkness. If only Max had upgraded his reverse lights…
Many off-road enthusiast have been in Max’s shoes. It’s better to be prepared and have a set of auxiliary reverse LED lights already installed.
LED reverse lights are one of the most popular upgrades for the rear of an aftermarket vehicle as they simultaneously improve the rear lighting output and increase the vehicles appearance. This upgrade is popular with off-road enthusiasts, but you don’t need a truck or SUV to integrate the LEDs into your vehicle. Cars, semi-trucks, tractors, and mining equipment could all benefit from a lighting upgrade.
LED reverse lights are a great addition to the factory incandescent reverse light bulbs because it’s powered by a separate source which increases lighting output. Some believe that simply replacing the factory bulbs themselves will suffice, but this is not the case. Many do this for cost efficiency since the cost to replace the bulbs is around $10-$30, and the cost for additional LED reverse lights is around $40-$60. However, by just replacing the factory bulbs, the lights remain limited in lighting output due to a vehicles factory lighting wattage output. With an externally mounted reverse light and separate power source, the lights output is not dependent on your vehicles wattage output allowing for better visibility.
There are several beam types and colors available for LED reverse lights. Spot beams will be omitted for having an ineffectively narrow beam for reverse lights. Below is our ranking of the ideal light beams to use as reverse lights.
- Scene Beam - This beam pattern emits a bright light at a unique 120° pattern which makes it wider than the traditional flood beam pattern. The beam pattern effect is produced by the specialized housing that encompasses it.
- Combination Scene Pod – This unique product only offered by Aurora combines either a Red & White beam or an Amber & White beam in one LED pod. With the Red & White product you can have auxiliary LED reverse lights and auxiliary LED brake lights. While the Amber & White product can have auxiliary LED reverse lights and auxiliary LED amber lights. Both LED products function independently from one another which means you can have two switches to operate them.
- Flood Beam - This beam is wide, wide enough to illuminate the sides of the trail making obstacles easier to while in reverse.
- Combination Beam – A combination of both flood and spot beam patterns.
- Amber Beam – A flood beam pattern in an amber light color.
For better understanding of beam patterns, you can check out our article about Light Beam located HERE.
Locating a suitable mounting location for your LED reverse lights may seem cumbersome at first, but these lights are easier to install then you think. One of the more easily installed products are cubed lights. LED cubed lights are equipped with their own mount that can be manipulated 100° in either direction. Installation is modest and can be accomplished with just a power drill to drill a hole for the mount. These lights can be easily mounted to your rear bumper or to your vehicles roof rack.
Now, some vehicles are not equipped with a suitable mounting surface, but there are still options for external lights.
The LED flush mount lights require a bit more work as installation requires cutting into the vehicle’s surface. The tools needed for installation include a power drill and cutting tool such as a dremel, sawzall, jig saw, or reciprocating saw. In addition to increasing your rear visibility, the flush mounted lights have the added benefit of instant curb appeal due to its stylish custom look.
The final option for external lights is to mount a single row LED light bar on the rear of the vehicle. Installing one of these can be trickier since it may require special mounts.
Now that the mounting location has been selected, the next step is to find the best wiring method to get the lights operational. Below are three different methods of installation with the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Direct Wire to your factory lights - This method is by far the easiest and the quickest method of installation. For this method, use a wiretap to obtain power and ground from your factory reverse lights.
- Advantage: Little to no electrical knowledge is needed to wire these LED reverse lights. This is the quickest and cheapest method to have functioning LED reverse lights on your vehicle.
- Disadvantage: You will not have any control as to when the LED reverse Lights function as they will only come on when you place the vehicle in reverse.
- SPST (On/Off) Rocker Switch - This method allows you to work the lights via an externally power switch which allows you to turn the reverse lights on or off when need it.
- Advantage: Allows you full control of when you want to turn the LED reverse lights on or off.
- Disadvantages: The LED reverse lights will not automatically illuminate when you place your vehicle in reverse as you will need to manually work the switch. You will also need to route & connect the following wires; a power to the LED light; a power wire to the positive battery terminal; and a ground wire from the switch to your LED reverse lights.
- 3-way switch - This method is the best of both worlds. This method allows you to turn the reverse lights on at your discretion. The lights can be switched to have them turn on or off with the reverse lights, or you can have them stay off.
- Advantage: Puts you in full control of when your LED reverse lights function.
- Disadvantage: For these LED reverse lights to function it will require a little bit more electrical knowledge. You will also need to connect and route the following wires; a power to the LED light; a power wire to the positive battery terminal; and a ground wire from the switch to your LED reverse lights
After installing these LED lights, you will be impressed by the increased visibility while your vehicle is in reverse. Off-road enthusiasts can attest to how much this small modification impacts and improves the off-roading experience.