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Differences Between Light Bars from Different Manufacturers

We get a lot of questions about the differences between light bars.  There are great differences in prices between reputable name brands and so many new Chinese brands being sold on Ebay and Amazon, that it can be quite daunting to know that you aren't throwing your money away on something that won't last.  We will try to clarify what is available to help you make the best decision for you and your budget, whether you buy CrawlBright LED Light Bars or not.

The major factors in the brightness and quality of the light emitted are the components on the PC Board, including the type of LED's chosen.  But the major threats to your light bar's life are excessive heat and moisture.  We'll cover all of these.

 

Housing Material

The material used in the frame construction plays an important role in the lifespan of your light bar.  Steel or cheap aluminum frames may warp, eliminating the integrity of the waterproof seals. They may also corrode over time as they are exposed to the harsh environment of being mounted on the outside of a vehicle.  CrawlBright Performance Off Road Lighting uses 6061 Aluminum for its structural integrity, excellent corrosion resistance, and thermal conductivity.  6061 Aluminum is widely used in a variety of industrial structures, including vehicles, building construction, ships, cars, railway vehicles, and aerospace applications which require a certain strength and high resistance to corrosion. This Aluminum along with the shape and size of our housing are chosen for maximum heat dissipation for the longest life of the internal components.

Aluminum 6061 Frame

Steel frame which has corroded and warped due to excessive heat

 

Polycarbonate Lens

The quality of the PC material used in the lens is hard to compare when you are looking at two light bars.  But it is extremely important.  Cheap PC lens material may reduce light transmission by 15% or more.  Better quality lens material will better resist scratches and abrasions so it will have a longer life span.  Using the polycarbonate material we do is one part of the reason we can offer our 3-year replacement warranty.

 

Light Source

There are varying grades of LED's, both name brand and off brand.  You can tell something about the quality of the LED's by the watt rating of the light bar, but some manufacturers aren't always truthful about what components they use or how many are in their light. 

Watts and Lumens: Wattage is based on the light output of the total number of LED's.  Lumens is measured based on the light output of the light bar including the lens, but many cheap manufacturers just use the max lumen rating of the LED's.  Basically, you want the highest possible number for both to have the brightest light bar.

Cree LED's are commonly used and are quite good.  LED Light Bars typically use a 3watt Cree LED.  A 50" bar should have 90 or more LED's and a lumen rating of 27000 or more.

Epistar LED's are common in cheaper light bars.  These are rated at 3watt but aren't as bright as Cree, so we consider them more like a 2watt light source.  Plus the light emitted is more yellow than Cree and less like the daylight effect most people are looking for.

 

Off brand LED's can be as low as 1watt each.  If your light bar maker doesn't specify the brand of LED they are using, then this is what you are getting.

 

It may be difficult to tell, but the number of LED's is more important than the type of LED when it comes to brightness.  Often the only way to know is to take apart the light bar, which we don't recommend as it will damage the integrity of the housing and probably destroy all waterproofing.  Our 51.5" light bar uses 96 Cree 3W LED's, but we've seen 51" bars that use 48 LED's.  Our best advice is to buy a brand that you trust, and avoid off brands at cheap prices.

PCB Design is also important.  Unfortunately, like number of LED's, you have to trust the brand you are buying.  Cheap light bar makers will use one LED driver chip for the entire light bar, and this means that the bar won't have the long life and that the brightness of the LEDs will vary with input voltage. 

 

Waterproofing

Pay close attention here, as the most common complaint we hear about off-brand LED light bars is moisture getting inside. Fog inside the lens not only looks bad, it is a major factor in light bars burning out prematurely.

IP Rating: IP ("Ingress Protection") is a measurement used to define levels of sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies like dust and moisture. The first digit is intrusion of solid materials, and most light bars are IP6x which is 100% dust tight.  So the important number is the second one.

IP67: Protected against temporary immersion.

IP68: Protected against prolonged effects of immersion under pressure. 
IP69k: Protected against high pressure, high temperature spray downs.

All CrawlBright bars and pods are tested to IP68, which is 100% dust tight and protected against complete, continuous submersion in water.

Silicone waterproofing on a Crawl Bright LED Light Bar

 

CrawlBright Light Bars undergoing continuous submersion testing.  All CrawlBright lights are tested for 8 hours of continuous submersion before packaging. 

 

 

You want to stick with IP68 or higher in a light bar that will be mounted where it will see rain or potential submersion. You also want to avoid cheap bars that may claim IP67 but actually aren't.

Many cheap light bars are only silicone sealed.  CrawlBright bars are sealed with silicone on all seams plus a series of stainless steel screws at the ends and front of the bar. 

Another great feature that is on some better light bars is a Gore vent.  This is a one-way valve that allows moisture out but not in.  In the event that your light gets moisture inside, simply turn on the light for 1-2 hours and the heat will cause the moisture to evaporate through the vent.  This is a nice feature to have even on IP68 or IP69k light bars, just in case.

 

We hope this article helps you to make an informed decision when purchasing a light bar or pods for your rig. If you have more questions, please send us an email at support@crawlbright.com.  Whether you buy our light bar or another, our aim is to steer you into the best decision for you, your rig, and your budget.