DIY Offroad LED Light Bar

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vestureofblood
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Very nice work, thanks for sharing! I am planning a similar project myself….. if I ever get caught up on things.

In Him (Jesus Christ) was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
http://asflashlights.com/ Everyday Carry Flashlights, plus Upgrades for Maglite.

kevinthefro
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amplificus wrote:
This is truly awesome! I’ve been wanting to do some DIY lightbar for a while now with all the available options being extremely expensive or just plain crap.

Do you have a link for the optics?

Frankly I don’t think the $2000 light bars are all that either. Bling seems to be the primary goal over function. But then again, image is everything. No one would want to buy a plain black rectangle.

I got the optics here:
http://www.ledsupply.com/led-optics/10003-l25-carclo-lens-20mm-elliptical-spot-led-optic

everydaysurvivalgear
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Good work mate you beat me to it. I’ve starting modding a small light bar for my girlfriends car. It’s 12 inches so it sits inside the bumper. Output aim in 10-15k lumens I was going to go crazy and use XHP70s but it will cost to much. I made my own heatsink also. I am not sure about where to mount my driver.
I am more worried durability then output I think.

lostheplot
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excellent build ..I run ebay cheapies they leave a bit to be desired..
thanks for posting

sorry all images down
thanks photobucket

kevinthefro
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everydaysurvivalgear wrote:
Good work mate you beat me to it. I’ve starting modding a small light bar for my girlfriends car. It’s 12 inches so it sits inside the bumper. Output aim in 10-15k lumens I was going to go crazy and use XHP70s but it will cost to much. I made my own heatsink also. I am not sure about where to mount my driver. I am more worried durability then output I think.

I’m sure you can make a better light bar than what you can get off the shelf. You can space 20mm lenses and star boards 25 mm apart, so 12 LEDs in 12 inches, you can easily get 12,000 lumens using XM-L2s. http://www.ledsupply.com/leds/cree-xlamp-xm-l2-leds?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIya2939Wy1QIVkTRpCh3ohQAwEAQYASABEgInw_D_BwE

The Carclo website has beam patterns for their lenses with practically every LED available. You can get lenses for the XM-L2 in spot, flood, or elliptical and design it how you want, for example: http://www.carclo-optics.com/optic-10003l25?opticfamily=20mm Once you find the pattern you want, you can get them from LED Supply or Mouser.

I’m looking forward to seeing your build!

piyoman
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That looks really sleek! I like the logic behind your roof rack mount as well. There are quite a few examples of mounts just above the windshield which can cause whistling/wind noise problems and the thought of glare or the hood lighting up didn’t even occur to me. This seems like an achievable project for the DIY’ers but aligning the drilled and tapped screw holes must be difficult. If you don’t mind, just a few follow up questions for you.

Can you tell us a bit more about the size and dimensions of the heat sink and c-channel you made?
Are you going to modify it in the future with any thermal management circuit?
Any plans on upgrading the current from 2A to 3A?
Any condensation or moisture problems so far?

mountainair26
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Wow that is some awesome work and awesome pics in your post. Please let us know how those drivers hold up, I’ve been considering them for similar projects, on a much smaller scale Big Smile
What made you choose the xp-g2 out of curiosity? Is you’re truck set-up with an extra battery or high-current alternator? Noticed any electrical changes or anything while running El Jefe? Thanks!

kevinthefro
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piyoman wrote:
the thought of glare or the hood lighting up didn’t even occur to me.

The problem is so bad there is a guy who is making a small business out of fabricating and selling custom visors for light bars: https://www.tacomaworld.com/threads/roof-mounted-led-light-bar-glare-solved.377416/
Some people even paint their hoods black.

piyoman wrote:
Are you going to modify it in the future with any thermal management circuit?

I plan to add a low voltage cutoff to turn it off before the car is unstartable. I could add PWM dimming based on temperature, but it has enough heat dissipation to operate at 100% even in the worst case scenario (100F) weather, so I probably won’t bother. Maybe the next version.

piyoman wrote:
Any plans on upgrading the current from 2A to 3A?

Most definitely. It seems to run much cooler than my prototype tests on the kitchen floor. It was on for a couple of hours in ~90F when I took those night shots and I was surprised that it barely got warm to the touch. I’m going to borrow a large battery charger and test it on the car inside the garage so there’s no air movement and up the current as much as heat will allow. I’ll rerun the power with at least 10ga too.

piyoman wrote:
Any condensation or moisture problems so far?

So far so good. I saw Gore vents mentioned on somebody’s website, read Gore’s paper on the root cause of condensation, and bought one on eBay for the heck of it. Maybe it works, maybe it’s a placebo.

mountainair26 wrote:
What made you choose the xp-g2 out of curiosity?

I picked the XP-G3 for the most lumens per watt, with the desired beam pattern with a 20mm Carclo lens. I spent a lot of time on Carclo’s website comparing beam patterns and LEDs. The XM-L2 is too fat. The XP-L HI is too expensive.

mountainair26 wrote:
Is you’re truck set-up with an extra battery or high-current alternator?

No, it draws about 25A, so probably no more than the rear window defroster.

mountainair26 wrote:
Noticed any electrical changes or anything while running El Jefe?

You can definitely hear the idle change when switching it on an off, but that’s it.
vwpieces
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Shot #3 made me giggle as the hill appeared out of nowhere.

kevinthefro
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piyoman wrote:
Can you tell us a bit more about the size and dimensions of the heat sink and c-channel you made?

The whole thing is 1143mm wide, or 45.0” – the exact width of the Pathfinder roof. The channel was made from 1.25“x2.5” rectangular tubing, .125” wall. After cutting off one side it is 57mm deep.
This is the heat sink: http://www.heatsinkusa.com/3-945/

Rat_Racer
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Excellent job and results. I share your views on off the shelf units, and had wondered if anybody here had ventured into this realm for DIY. I’ve been researching these, as I can recess a 32” light bar in my Colorado’s front bumper, but everything seems sub par on output lumens/pattern vs price vs quality complaints.

Clown
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Wow, great job!
Makes me want to get myself in to gear and build the custom light bar I’ve always coveted.

yclongthrow
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What did you use to cover the front of the light bar, the “lens”?

Would plexus glass work?

kevinthefro
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yclongthrow wrote:
What did you use to cover the front of the light bar, the “lens”?

Would plexus glass work?

The faceplate is made of acrylic, which is the generic name for Plexiglas. Everybody else uses polycarbonate (popular brand Lexan) which is stronger, but polycarbonate turns yellow in a couple of years. Acrylic does not yellow.

mercrazy
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i was told by a big light manufacturer that PMMA(acrylic) could not take the heat.
and they said they treat polycarbonate so it doesn’t yellow.
are they blowing smoke?
why are most LED lenses made of PMMA if they can’t take the heat?
i’m about to have lenses made and i need to know which to use.
thanks

mercrazy

kevinthefro
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I’m not an expert, but Wikipedia says PMMA (acrylic) has a glass transition temperature of 105C and polycarbonate at 147C. So if your light is going to be hotter than boiling water, it could be an issue.

Auto headlights are made from polycarbonate and they have a coating to block the UV and keep them from yellowing. You’ve probably noticed how well that holds up.

kevinthefro
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So I finally got to perform a real-world heat test in the desert last month. It was dusk, 80 degrees F, no wind, and I remembered to bring my thermometer.


Ambient temp, 79.9F


I told my friends why I was running up to my car every two minutes and taking it’s temperature, but they weren’t really interested. They just sort of expect me to be doing weird things.


Starting temps normalized to 100 F/ 37.8 C, because my criteria was it would operate in 100 degree weather, parked, with no wind. The real world operating temperature was significantly lower than the prototype on the kitchen floor. A slight breeze came up around the 20 minute mark so I discount the data after that, but overall, I think I can take the advice of BLF members and increase the current from 2A to 3A.

I’m not going to change this light bar, however. I’m going to build a new one with Carclo 26.5mm optics instead of 20mm and use XP-G2 instead of XP-G3. I’ll have to increase the height of the bar from 1.25” to 1.5”, and reduce the number of LEDs from 45 to 36 to accommodate the larger lenses. I hate making the bar taller, but the vertical distribution is just too floody. I should complete a 6 LED proof of concept in January, and if the pattern meets expectations, start on El Jefe 2.0

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Well done again. You have put so much time and effort into this light. simply ORSM. Thumbs Up

My current and or voltage measurements are only relevent to anything that I measure.

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Accurate color as in the pic? Looks nice and warm! Love

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kevinthefro
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Lightbringer wrote:
Accurate color as in the pic? Looks nice and warm! Love

Yes, 4000k. I think it’s a little too warm, and 5000k is a little too cool. I’ve been experimenting with using half of each and I like the results.
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4500K is the border between 4A/4D (below BBL, rosier) and between 4B/4C (above BBL, greener), so the common-as-dirt 4C would be perfect.

In my S2+ with a TIR lens, which mixes the light better and avoids the fried-egginess of reflectors, the 4C is beautiful. White with just a touch of warmth.

‘Though, even my 3000K lights at night just make everything “pop”. Takes a bit getting used to, when everything and its grandmother is “cool white”, but once you do, you don’t want to go back. Now, even my 5000K lights look “cool”.

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kevinthefro
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Lightbringer wrote:
4500K is the border between 4A/4D (below BBL, rosier) and between 4B/4C (above BBL, greener), so the common-as-dirt 4C would be perfect.

I must doing something wrong. I’ve searched for XP-G2 S4 4C and for XPGBWT-01-0000-00LE4 but no dice. Any pointers?

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kevinthefro wrote:
Lightbringer wrote:
4500K is the border between 4A/4D (below BBL, rosier) and between 4B/4C (above BBL, greener), so the common-as-dirt 4C would be perfect.
I must doing something wrong. I’ve searched for XP-G2 S4 4C and for XPGBWT-01-0000-00LE4 but no dice. Any pointers?

Yeah, not in a S4 bin, I don’t think.

In XM-L/-L2 and XP-L, 4C is pretty common. Dunno which brightness bin.

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kevinthefro wrote:
Lightbringer wrote:
4500K is the border between 4A/4D (below BBL, rosier) and between 4B/4C (above BBL, greener), so the common-as-dirt 4C would be perfect.

I must doing something wrong. I’ve searched for XP-G2 S4 4C and for XPGBWT-01-0000-00LE4 but no dice. Any pointers?


Ok, I don’t have any pointers. I will however wholeheartedly argue that you are doing something wrong! Wink

I have on several occasions in talking with coworkers and acquaintances referred them to this very thread when they start talking light bars. This project and your dedication to excellence is inspiring and a beautiful thing to behold. It’s things like this that make BLF what it is. Well…there is more of course but to watch a DIY project go from start to finish with such outstanding results is very fun for a geek like me. Cool

For a proper outdoor light experience I’m right there with you on tint preference. This is of course highly subjective but in my opinion (which I completely agree with), a hair under 5000K just brings the world to life. Thumbs Up
I have a few lights from my buddy Simon in 4C and I love that tint. They’re older XM-L2s but my tinted opinion still applies. Smile

kevinthefro
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J-Dub74 wrote:
Ok, I don’t have any pointers. I will however wholeheartedly argue that you are doing something wrong! Wink

I have on several occasions in talking with coworkers and acquaintances referred them to this very thread when they start talking light bars. This project and your dedication to excellence is inspiring and a beautiful thing to behold. It’s things like this that make BLF what it is. Well…there is more of course but to watch a DIY project go from start to finish with such outstanding results is very fun for a geek like me. Cool

For a proper outdoor light experience I’m right there with you on tint preference. This is of course highly subjective but in my opinion (which I completely agree with), a hair under 5000K just brings the world to life. Thumbs Up
I have a few lights from my buddy Simon in 4C and I love that tint. They’re older XM-L2s but my tinted opinion still applies. Smile

Thanks for the kind words. I do tend to obsess over details. The blacked-out grill on my car, for example. I painted it five times before I was happy wth it. My fingers were raw from sanding it down between paint jobs, but now it’s perfect. Anyway, I’m sure El Jefe Version 2 will go smoothly wth no hiccups…

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Not to be ‘that guy’ here, but since you mentioned the main reason you plan on going with XP-G2s in V2.0 is for a tighter beam. Considering the timing, I might drop the suggestion of experimenting with the new XD16s. They should reduce the FWHM another full step from the G2 and have similar lm/LED. Additionally, the tint consistency is supposedly dramatically improved along with efficiency through secondary optics. Also, the Vf will stay inline with the G3. That may or may not be a benefit for your driver efficiency.

kevinthefro
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JaredM wrote:
Not to be ‘that guy’ here, but since you mentioned the main reason you plan on going with XP-G2s in V2.0 is for a tighter beam. Considering the timing, I might drop the suggestion of experimenting with the new XD16s. They should reduce the FWHM another full step from the G2 and have similar lm/LED. Additionally, the tint consistency is supposedly dramatically improved along with efficiency through secondary optics. Also, the Vf will stay inline with the G3. That may or may not be a benefit for your driver efficiency.

If being “that guy” means offering insightful advice to address my issues – then thank you for being that guy!

I missed the threads on the XD16, so I just did a bunch of catchup reading. I think you’re right, it would be a very good fit for this particular application, addressing the problem of too much (many?) lux on the ground in the first 15 meters in front of the car, while sticking with 20mm optics, which would be much preferred to dedoming a bunch of XP-G2s, or a complete redesign with 26.5mm optics.

I will now hold my breath until the XD16 starts shipping.

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This is one of the most exciting improvements for me. Cree LEDs rarely let us down on flux, efficacy, cost, availability, and even luminance (esp. w/ HI models). But tint, CRI, and the urine-colored corona next to a magenta-ish spill beam is sure to leave you wanting more. As seen with the HiCRI XP-G3s (maukka’s tests) , they may be high CRI overall, but without a diffuse/mixing optic they are terrible to look at..

Here’s to hoping that there is finally a high CRI, high intensity, decent tinted LED that also has good luminance and lumen density.

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Hell, those’d be a godsend for pretty much any’n‘every reflector-based flashlight!

I’m getting kinda sick of fried-egg beams, and I can’t convert every light to TIRs.

I’d be happy getting a 26mm TIR to fit my P60s without major surgery.

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