Whether your new to the off-road scene or you’re an season vet, you may have heard the term “Off road Ditch lights” being thrown around more and more. LED ditch lights aren’t that new, but they are an Off Road light upgrade that has been on the rise. Below is an 10 minute in-depth guide that will bring you up to speed on the topic of LED Ditch lights.
What are LED Ditch lights?
Off road ditch lights can also be known as Cowl Lights, A-Pillar lights or Auxiliary lights. LED ditch lights are lights that are typically mounted in-between the hood and windshield or on the A-pillar. Ditch lights are typically some sort of 3 Inch LED pod that is angled away from the front of the vehicle.
Why do you need LED Ditch lights
While the internet maybe full of various reasons as to why LED ditch lights are needed, we will tell you why we use off road ditch lights and how they have benefited us.
When you’re driving on a trail that has zero light, your headlights and or light bar will shine brightly ahead of you illuminating any obstacles in your way, but what happens when you go to make a turn? With your Off Road lights pointed directly in front of the vehicle it is very difficult to see to the right or to the left of the vehicle until after you have made a turn. So having the ability to see where you turning on those tight trails would be the number one benefit.
During an off-road excursion through the Ocala national forest in Florida I found a secondary benefit to adding LED ditch lights. We were using GPS on our tablet to help guide us on the trail, but the maps aren’t always pin point accurate so you could have two trail entrances very close together and not know which one is correct. A LED ditch light will add extra light to the side of the vehicle so you can see the faded trail maker sign and make the correct turn.
Where did ditch lights come from
For those that care...LED ditch lights started with trains and the purpose of them was to make oncoming trains easier to recognize by pedestrians, drivers, and other onlookers. The ditch lights would light up the tracks around the train allowing the onlooker to better estimate the distance and speed of the train.
What are ditch lights used for on trucks?
This is a common google search so we will address this as well. The benefits of LED ditch lights are not just limited to overland vehicles and can be used on Trucks and other vehicles. There are a lot non-offroad reasons for adding Led ditch lights to your vehicle. For those of us who live in rural areas you can easily benefit from this upgrade as making a turn onto a dark driveway can be difficult and would eliminate the need to roll down the window to check where your tires are.
What beam pattern is NOT best for LED ditch lights
There are a lot of ditch light beam patterns on the market and most beam patterns will work but there are some beam patterns that will not work, so let’s start there.
A ditch light beam pattern that won’t work is a spot beam pattern. A spot beam pattern won’t work because it is emitted from the LED pod at a very narrow 10 degrees. Spot beam patterns are great for forward facing lights because of its ability to throw the beam very far. When you use a spot beam as a ditch light the light beam will create hot spots on anything the beam shines on defeating the purpose of a ditch light.
In the picture above you will see an Aurora 50 inch light bar shining out into a field. The Aurora 50 inch light bar is a powerful light bar that is meant to be mounted high up on a vehicle. Because it is being held so low it is creating a hotspot on the ground causing the road to appear all white.
Another beam pattern that won’t work as well is the combination beam pattern. While a combination beam pattern in a 3 or 4-inch light isn’t as bad as a spot beam it is not ideal because the light will contain spot beam optics. Combination beam patterns are better suited for light bars as it will have more LEDs to help distribute the light.
What beam pattern is best for LED ditch lights
The best beam pattern for a ditch light is any 3 or 4 inch light pod that emits light in Flood or wider beam pattern.
Aurora side shooters is a good option for LED ditch lights as each light contains a total of 8 LED’s. Four of the LEDs are forward facing and the other four of the LED’s are at each side of the pod creating an ultra-wide beam spread of 180 degrees.
The downside to this light to this light is its size. A standard Aurora 3” light is about 3” x 3”, and the side shooter light is 3.9” x 3” so it will be slightly larger than the pod.
3” LED cube light in a Flood beam pattern is great for a ditch light because it is emitted from the light at 60 degrees. This light will come equipped with four, 10 watt Osram LED chips that will produce a combined 3,880 lumens
3” Diffused Beam is another great alternative because the light is emitted at 100 degrees. The diffused beam pattern is created by having a diffused lens which results in a light that is softer on the eyes almost eliminating any chance of hot spots.
3” Wide Angle Scene beam is the best beam pattern to have as it is emitted at an ultra wide 120 degrees both horizontally and vertically.
Are LED ditch lights worth it
While you can certainly live without them, once you have them installed, they will become hard to live without. It’s kind of like LED reverse lights, if you install them on one rig and then move on to a new rig, there is a 99% chance that LED reverse lights will be one of your first vehicle mods.
Should ditch lights be in a spot or flood beam
As discussed above, an Off road ditch light works best when in a flood or wider beam pattern. A spot beam is very narrow and made to illuminate long distances and not short distances.
Ditch light versus light bar
This is a common question we get, which is better a Light bar or a ditch light?
If you already have a light bar do you really need to spend more money on Off road ditch lights? If you don’t have the funds, then no. If you do have the funds, then YES!
Remember a light bar is used for forward-facing off-road lighting and will not help you complete a turn on a dark trail.
Can you use LED ditch lights on road?
You will need need to check your states laws regarding auxiliary lighting but most states may not allow you to have them in use while on the road.
How to mount LED ditch lights
Mounting Led ditch lights can be simple depending on the vehicle as there are various aftermarket manufacturers that make Ditch light bracket.
A common vehicle specific Ditch light bracket is for the Jeep Wrangler JK.
Jeep Wrangler Ditch Light Mount– Single Pod
Jeep Wrangler Ditch Light Mount - Dual Pod
These off-road ditch light mounts are examples of a vehicle specific ditch light mount.
If you are like us and have an unpopular off-road vehicle then you can go with a universal ditch light bracket.
It is certainly not as pretty as the vehicle specific ones, but they are inexpensive, easy to install and get the job done.
How to pick an Off Road LED ditch light
Thanks to this in-depth guide it should be easy for you to pick the LED ditch light that works best for you and here is a quick summary.
First step is determining how you will mount the light. It could be a vehicle specific mount like a Jeep Wrangler Ditch light mount, or an universal Ditch light bracket.
Once you have your ditch light bracket you can figure out which light you want:
Aurora Side Shooters
3” Pod with a Flood beam Pattern
3” Pod with a Wide-Angle Scene Beam Pattern
3” pod with a Diffused beam
Universal LED Ditch Light mounts
Jeep Wrangler LED Ditch Lights
Jeep Wrangler Dual LED Ditch Lights
Still have questions about which is the best Off Road ditch light for your rig?
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