While you can mount LED lights almost anywhere on your vehicle, some places work better than others. If you mount your lights on your A-pillar - and then they get ripped off by a tree on a basic off-road trail with some overgrowth - you're going to be kicking yourself.

Here are five common vehicle light mounting locations, each with some pros and cons.

Inside The Front Bumper

An LED light bar mounted inside your front bumper offers a great view of the ground 10 yards in front of your truck (or so). This helps with last-minute adjustments on faster trails, as well as picking over obstacles on slower trails, and is always nice to have should you find yourself off-roading at dawn or dusk, or in areas without a lot of light.

Rigid Ram LEDs
Rigid Industries sells LED lights that are a direct fit replacement for many OEM fog lights, as shown on this Ram. See this page for more info.

While LED lights can be attached either inside a bumper or on top of it, mounting them inside the bumper makes them very resistant to damage. Unless you run into something that can damage your bumper, your lights are safe. Lights mounted on top of the bumper are at risk of being pulled off if you off-road in an area with lots of trees and brush.

NOTE: If you off-road in drier parts of the world, where trees and brush don't grow, there's still an advantage to mounting lights inside a bumper: It makes them harder to steal.

If there's a downside to mounting inside the bumper, it's that you'll either need to cut holes in your factory bumper, or you'll need an aftermarket bumper.

Above or Inside the Rear Bumper

Off-road vehicles almost always benefit from some rear lighting. If you end up driving at night, you're probably going to have to pick your way thru some obstacles. When that happens, you can expect to have to backup from time to time...and it's really nice to see what's behind you.

Most vehicles are going to need lights mounted inside the bumper, as mounting them above the bumper (another good location) is going to interfere with the operation of a tailgate. There are quite a few DIY guides to cutting holes into factory rear bumpers, and then mounting lighting. There are also aftermarket rear bumpers with built-in cutouts.

Under vs Inside
Images courtesy RigidIndustries.com

The one thing that's for sure, however: do not mount rear-facing LEDs underneath your vehicle. Anything underneath your vehicle is at risk of being ripped off on the trail.

The Roofline Above the Windshield

Roofline mount

This is probably the most popular place to mount big LED light bars, and that’s for a good reason. An LED light bar pumps out quite a bit of light, and when mounted up high it can really light up the road ahead. While it doesn't do much to help you see what's 10 or 20 feet in front of your truck, it's great for seeing 500 feet (or farther).

Rooftop bars are also fairly protected from tree limbs, brush, etc. as your vehicle naturally tapers off near the roof. Still, a good sturdy mount is important, because one tree branch is really all it takes to ruin a good time.

Mounted On A Grille Guard, Brush Guard, Bull Bar, etc.

Most grille guards, bull bars, brush guards, etc. have mounting points for lighting. Depending on the accessory, these can be really smart mounting points, or not-so-smart mounting points.

When mounting a light to a bar or guard, it's important to think about:

  • Visibility - Is the light going to illuminate the ground in front of my vehicle, or the road ahead? Lights mounted up high are great for increasing your view of the road one hundred feet ahead, but they don't do much for the ground. Or vice versa.
  • Protection - Is the light protected if you have to run over some brush? Mother nature is surprisingly good and ripping parts off vehicles, especially off-road. A light that's just sitting on top of a bull bar - with no surrounding protection - is a bit of a risk (at least if you off-road in places with lots of trees and brush).

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that it's really not that much more expensive to buy a replacement bumper than it is to buy a quality grille guard.

What About Hood Or Cowling Light Mounts?

Hood or cowling mounted lights can be fine for some vehicles, but they're not ideal for most. The problems are:

  1. If you mount the lights a few inches inboard, they don't have a lot of usability. That's because they have to shine across the vehicle hood, which limits their reach. If you have a vehicle with a very short hood, this might be OK. Otherwise, they act a lot like smaller versions of headlights mounted further back from the front of your vehicle...not super helpful.
  2. If you mount the lights right on the a-pillar (or even hanging off to the side), they do a great job of lighting up the road to the sides of your vehicle, but don't do much at all for the road immediately ahead. Also, they're very likely to get ripped off by a branch or bush if they're mounted outboard.

Hood pillar LED
If you off-road in a place like Moab without trees or brush, you can disregard the a-pillar concern. But the cowl-mounted lights really only make sense if you can't mount to the roof, or you're trying to pump out as much light as possible (like this Jeep is). Image courtesy RigidIndustries.com.

Lighting Mounting Types

If you're going to mount your lighting onto an existing surface (the top of a bumper, the cowling behind the hood, etc.) you have many different mounts to choose from. Here are a few to consider:

  • Angled flush mounts: Small mounts that allow you to angle your LED lights up or down
  • Bucket mounts: For when you want to recess LED lights into your vehicle; commonly seen on ambulances or fire trucks
  • RAM mounts: Versatile mounts that can be rotated by 360 degrees
  • Universal mounts: Adjustable and versatile mounts that can be used in pretty much any location

Remember, Don't Go Cheap On Lights

Last but not least, let's talk about the high cost of cheap lights. It's easier than ever to find an LED light bar for an eye-popping deal, but keep in mind that:

  1. Most cheap lighting doesn't stand up to weather. Sealing a light from the elements requires engineering and expensive materials. Most of the low cost brands don't bother with either of these things.
  2. Most cheap lighting doesn't survive sustained use. If you turn your LED lights on and leave them on for hours at a time, they're going to get hot. Cheap brands use low cost heatsinks that don't have the ability to cool a light for more than a few minutes. This leads to excess heat, which can kill an LED light after just a few hours of use.

If you spend $50 on a cheap light bar - but have to replace it every season - you're going to spend a lot more than you would on one good light bar that lasts a lifetime. We only sell Rigid Industries lighting, and for a very good reason: We've taken if off-road racing without incident. That means it doesn't have trouble with weather or heat.

As they say, buy nice or buy twice (or, in the case of LED lighting, buy new lights every year).

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