What Is the Best Lighting Set-Up for Your 4WD?

Aftermarket lighting is almost an essential addition to any 4WD if you are intending to drive at night.

Michael Ellem from Offroad Images
Michael Ellem
Aug 24 2023
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Aftermarket lighting is almost an essential addition to any 4WD if you are intending to drive at night. There are so many brands of aftermarket lighting all trying to do their best at lighting up the roads at night. So how do they create something different in the market which will separate them from their competition?

Over the years we have had all sorts of lighting technologies being used and adapted to perform this task, but today, the LED lighting systems are well entrenched in the 4WD accessory market.

So that begs the question -what is the best lighting set-up for your 4WD?
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I receive many questions about this topic and have seen many different lighting combinations on vehicles we have worked with to understand what works on Australian roads in varying environments. There really is no perfect lighting solution for every road in Australia and whatever you setup on the front of your 4WD will be a compromise at some stage.

I encourage people to choose a lighting solution which has the capabilities to extend down the road, but also fills in the areas to the left and right of the roadside which is where most wildlife will come from as the attempt to dash across the road in front of you. This is usually sold as a combo or combination kit, with one light, the passenger side being a spread beam and the driver’s side being a spot version. I find this to create a solution which will help reduce fatigue and create a safer travelling environment.

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One experience which I have personally witnessed was with a vehicle I was travelling in as a passenger. We were trying to figure out a location for a photoshoot early the next morning and as we were driving around in low range, I just couldn’t figure out what was around us. I asked the driver to turn on the spotlights and he replied saying, “they are on”. I still couldn’t understand why I could not see the area very well.

As we drove on the tracks heading back to camp, I realised that the beam of light was specifically highlighting way down the road. I asked if the lights were both spot beams and the reply was “yes”.

Now I understand people’s ideas here that two spot beams will highlight further up the track, but we are not driving at 200 km/h. Whilst you can see further down the road, the lights are so bright, that your eyes adapt to the bright centre of the beam, reducing their ability to see into the darker areas just to the left and the right of the road. And the areas to the left and right of your vehicle are the areas in which you need to be able to see into to show any wildlife moving into the path of your vehicle.

It was on this trip that I realised the benefits of a combination of lighting.
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Now with technology improvements, there have been many attempts to create something different to cater for the 4WDer’s requests for better lighting systems. We really are spoilt for choice, and that’s a good thing.

Following are a couple of lighting outputs which show full spot and a combination of both. As you can see, the lighting from the full spot does not highlight areas to the side of the road at all.

See the difference...
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Today, we can buy a set of lights that allows the driver to create a beam that suits any road in Australia. By the turn of a dial or the push of a button, you can dial in settings to either light up down the road or highlight the area specifically closer to you. Whilst pulled over on the roadside, you can even adjust the pre-sets on your phone, specifically dialing in the exact look you are after.

So, if you are on an outback road and to suit your style, you want to brighten up the centre of the track right down the road, you can convert the lighting operations to become more of a spot beam, and if you are winding through tracks of the high country, you might want the lights to be spread so that you can see further around the corners. Or if you are after the combination of lighting which I have recommended, you can have that as well. These kind of lighting systems are amazing technology, creating an extremely simple solution for the end user.

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There are quite a few versions of variable lighting solutions available, but to help you get started, here are a couple of links to some good systems:

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If you are a traditional driver and just like to set and forget your lighting systems, go with the spot spread combination as this will suit most conditions. But if you want to take advantage of these modern technologies in design, maybe you should have a good look at these variable lighting solutions to help your driving style and manage fatigue on those long night drives.


-Michael Ellem | Offroad Images

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Michael Ellem from Offroad Images
Michael Ellem
Michael Ellem is a long term friend of the Club 4X4 Insurance and voice of The Campfire. He is also an expert adventure, 4X4 photographer from the renowned Offroad Images and has over 20 years experience in the industry.