This guide was created to help you make an educated decision when choosing what light-bar to get for your ATV. I’ve made some great and some terrible light-bar purchases for my personal power-sport machines throughout the years. Hopefully, you will benefit from some of the lessons I have learned.
In recent years, the market for LED lights has literally exploded. Many of the products available look very similar if you look at the pictures. For an untrained eye, it can be hard to separate the good from the bad.
As long as you follow the steps in this post, I’m confident you’ll be much happier with your purchase than if you pick up a random light bar from the dealer.
1. Think through what type of riding you need the light for
What most people think of when they consider getting a light bar for their ATV is a 10-15 inches long row of powerful LEDs encapsulated in a strong billet outer casing. This is the type we’ll be focusing on in this guide.
Other similar types of lights go under the slightly diffuse term “light bar” as well. Maybe one of these will fit you need just as good as a standard light bar:
- Micro-pod work-lights: It can be a great supplement to the light bar.
- Powerful single LED-lamps: Used to supplement the bike’s headlights or used as spotting-lights.
- Flush-mount work lamps: Require that you cut a hole in the bodywork of the ATV.
- Amber light LED bars: Ideal for penetrating fog at night.
- LED whips: Are usually installed for optimal visibility when going off-road or dune riding in the dark.
You may not have just one specific kind of use in mind but want more light in general, and that’s fine as well.
While those stock halogen headlights are decent for on-road use, they often come short when you use the ATV in its more natural environment.
- Off-road riding
- Utility work both at the farm and in the forest
- Trail riding
- High-speed racing
These are all situations where you basically can never get too much light. Knowing what your main usage will make it easier to pick the right bar for your need.
2. Make sure the light is legal to use
Before you go any further in your purchase process, it may be worth looking into whether or not any laws or regulations tell what type of light you are allowed to install.
My ATV is legal for on-road use, but I cannot use a LED light bar on-road. To be somewhat legal where I ride, I need to wire it to be turned off entirely when riding on the public road.
Other laws may apply where you live. As long as you won’t be riding on any public roads, you should be fine in most cases.
3. Find a suitable place to install the light, so you know what size and style to get
Before you begin looking at specific models, you need to decide where you want to install the new light bar on the quad.
The spot you choose should ideally be quite high at the very front of the bike so the light beam won’t be affected by grass, brush, or deep snow.
If you mount the bar too low, the light won’t spread as well, and you increase the risk of damaging it. Simultaneously, the spot you choose should ideally be somewhere the bar is protected from impact or from being ripped off by a stiff branch.
Many bull-guards (brush guard) on the market are made specifically with light bars in mind and have a well-protected mounting spot where the bar can be bolted in place.
This will be my recommended mounting spot in most cases. So if your bike has a bull-guard, it will be a good place to start looking.
But if your bike does not have a bull guard, depending on your budget, now could even be a good time to consider getting one.
Another option is to clamp the light bar to the ATV’s front rack if it has one. You should find brackets and mounts that fit almost any bike. This will lift the light even higher but leaves it less protected.
It’s also a matter of aesthetics. If you’re looking to keep the stock look of your bike, installing a big fat light-bar on top of the front fenders may not be on top of your list.
A third option is getting a custom grill or even making a cutout in your OEM grill to fit a light. Be aware that this option may restrict the airflow that goes to the radiator, making both the bike and the light-bar running a bit hotter. However, in most cases, these options should cause no issues.
It’s always best to find a place where you can bolt the light to metal, and not just to the plastic fenders.
Bolting the light directly to plastic may cause the light to shake and flicker when riding on uneven surfaces. It should therefore be avoided.
Most led bars come with a set of mounting brackets included. These are universal and may not fit directly to any good location on the bike.
It’s worth doing a google search on “led bar mount” + your bike’s make and model to see what’s available. Often you’ll find extension brackets that are made to be installed on a sturdy spot on the front of your bike and allows you to install almost any light bar to the bike.
When you’ve decided where you want to mount the light, take note of what mounting bracket you will need to fit your chosen spot.
4. Measure how much space you have available
To make sure you don’t get a light that’s too big for your mounting spot or that will look completely out of proportion, you should find a tape measure and take note of how much room you have to work with.
Measure available width (LED light length), depth, and height.
This is especially important if you intend to install the bar on the inside of your brush-guard or grill. You need a light that is about one inch smaller than the space you have available. This will make installation easier and will allow proper cooling.
Visualize how different sizes of light will look like when fitted to the bike. You can get lights bars in sizes from 6 inches to over 50 inches, but bigger is not always better. A bar that is too big will not look good.
5. Learn about what features to look for in a good light bar
To choose the best light bar for your need, you must know what features matter and what’s less important.
Power draw – wattage
ATV’s don’t have unlimited amounts of power available. Any additional power-hungry accessory you install will put extra strain on the bikes charging system and battery.
Luckily, LED lights do not require much power at all. The wattage should be listed in the product’s spec sheet and tells how much power the light bar needs to operate.
Unless you choose a 50″ monster meant for cars, you should be hard-pressed to actually find a light bar that makes any serious impact on the available power budget.
To be on the safe side, you can always consult your owner’s manual to verify that the bike’s charging system delivers more power than the light bar uses. But as long as your system is working properly, you will likely have no issues.
Those who find out they have chosen a bar that’s a bit too powerful can compensate by replacing the stock headlights with LED. This should “save you” about 100 watts of capacity.
The charging system, however, does only supply the light with power when the engine is running.
If you plan on using your light a lot when the bike is not running, the power needs to come off the battery instead. Choosing a light with less wattage will allow you to use the light for a longer period of time without draining the battery.
In this article, I go through the most common causes if your battery keeps draining on your ATV.
If the choice is between two lights that produce the same amount of brightness, you should opt for the one that has the lowest wattage. This light is the most effective, usually due to better LEDs.
The bottom line is that you should not make witch bar has the lowest power draw be the deciding factor to which one to get.
Most ATV’s run on 12V. And most led lights are made to operate at both 12V and 24V. Just make sure you don’t get a 24V only led light for your 12V bike, as this will not work.
A LED running on a lower voltage than it is made for will not even glow as a traditional light bulb does. It will simply not ignite at all.
Most light bars are made from aluminum and won’t add any significant weight to the bike. Even the heaviest bars are manageable, so weight should not be a deciding factor unless you are into serious quad racing.
Lightbars come in many shapes, where straight and curved are the two most common types. You also get square or round smaller lights, but these are considered work lights and not light bars. For some, however, they may still be a good option for the ATV.
A curved bar will spread the light more to the sides and is ideal for off-road applications. But these tend to cost more than the straight bars. A cheaper option is to look for a light that focuses on effective deflectors to achieve the same effect.
LED lights last a long time. Usually so long that it’s other factors than reaching the end of their rated lifespan that puts them down.
Lifespan in the range of 50 000 hours is common, but be aware that some of the cheaper models out there can’t always back up their claims of forever-lasting lights.
Heatsinks for cooling
Excess heat will severely impact the lifespan of any LED. So look for a light that has proper cooling with some beefy cooling fins in the back.
This will quickly dispose of the heat created by the LEDs themselves and their circuit boards, keeping operating temperatures low and life expectancy high.
Also, look for a model with a metal core PCB as this will further help keep the light’s electronics cool.
Without proper cooling, the heat that’s created will build up with nowhere to go. And why is this bad? Well, except smashing the light to pieces with a rock, heat is the main factor to affect the light’s lifespan negatively.
A light with insufficient cooling may only last half as long as it would with proper cooling.
Brightness – lumens
To tell how bright the light bar is, the manufacturers use a unit called “Lumens.” The unit is used to measure light intensity.
With traditional light bulbs, it’s common to use watts to tell how bright the light is.
But because LED lights come in such a wide range of colors, using lumens to tell how bright it is is much more accurate than how many watts it uses.
LED lights will also vary a lot more on effectiveness than a standard light bulb. This means that two different lights can use the same amount of watts, but one will be much brighter than the other because it uses the watts more effectively.
So more lumens indicate a brighter light. You can get ATV size light bars in the range of 1000 to 3000 real lumens.
Just be aware that many manufacturers, especially among the cheaper models, claim a lumen value that’s much higher than actual values with the hope of selling more lights.
A badly made LED may give the promised brightness at first when you turn it on but will quickly fade quite noticeably when left on for just some seconds.
To be a bit more specific, a light’s brightness is not necessarily proportional to its number of lumens.
This is because brightness is used to tell how bright your eyes perceive the light, which will depend on many factors like the light color, while lumens are measured with an instrument.
Some manufacturers will list “raw lumens,” which needs to be multiplied by about 0,8 to find actual “effective lumens.”
LED quality and effectiveness
A LED is not just a LED. There are quite significant differences in quality out there that you need to be aware of.
The more expensive light will often stand out by being made with more effective LEDs than the cheaper ones. A more effective LED will produce more lumens per watt you feed it, which is good.
The lower quality LEDs used in cheaper lights need to be pushed much harder to give the same amount of brightness. This means they will draw more watts, making run a lot hotter.
So by choosing a super cheap light, you may experience that it burns out in just months, and not years as you might expect.
To be on the safe side, you can look for lights that use LEDs made by a reputable manufacturer. Both Epistle and Cree are known for their high quality with the highest output per watt.
Incredible effectiveness is what makes LED stand out compared to any traditional light bulb. While the “glow” bulb will use a huge part of the power to create heat, a LED will use most of it to make light.
To illustrate how effective LEDs actually are, a standard 40 watt light bulb will give about 450 lumens. A good quality LED will produce 2000 lumens or more, using the same amount of watts.
No wonder they’ve revolutionized the lighting market completely.
Durability – rugged construction
This one is essential. LEDs are fragile and need excellent protection from the elements.
A led bar intended for on-road use will not hold up long when put through some of the abuse it will have to face on an ATV.
Not only does the casing need to be waterproof, but it also needs to keep mud, dust, and debris from getting inside the light.
The lights IP rating is a good indicator of how well the housing does at keeping the elements out.
It will have two numbers, where the first tells how dust resistant the light is, while the second tells how waterproof it is. A higher number is better.
Shoot for a light with an IP rating of 67 or better. This means that it can handle almost anything that gets thrown at it when fitted to an ATV, including being completely submerged in 1m deep mud or water.
If you actually end up involuntarily turning your quad into a submarine, this article will tell you how to repair it and get it running again.
And don’t forget the wiring connectors. These should also be waterproof to prevent corrosion issues down the road. Look for a beefy connector with a good quality silicone or rubber gasket.
The casing needs to be made from a material that impact-resistant and won’t crack when smashing into trees and whatnot. Housings made of extruded aluminum are tougher than cast ones.
Ensure the glass covering the lenses is shockproof, scratchproof, and handle extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.
And everything needs to be corrosion proof.
You will often find that they’ve cut costs on cheaper lights by using flimsy mounting hardware that will rust. Avoid these unless you don’t want the bike to look 10 years older in just a few months.
The mound needs to be tough and adjustable to fit different mounting situations.
The light color (color temperature)
To describe what color output you can expect from the light, the manufacturers use a term called “color temperature,” measured in Kelvin.
This can be confusing because a LED light with a higher color temperature does not necessarily run hotter than one with a lower color temperature.
Simply speaking, the Kelvin scale indicates in what color a specific metal glows when heated to different temperatures.
It glows in a red/yellow color at low temperatures, where at higher temperatures, it will look white, almost blue.
LED lights are usually in the 2700K – 6500K range.
2700K – 3000K: By choosing a light in the 2700K – 3000K range, the light will have a yellow/white, almost warm color.
3000K to 5000K: When in the 3000K – 5000K range, the light is a bit brighter yellow, almost completely white, and from
5000K – 6500K: The light will be cool white, almost like daylight.
Lightbars in the higher end of the scale appear brighter but will not be rendering colors as good as the lights in the middle of the scale. Because of this, a bright white/blue light may increase eye fatigue.
At the lower of the scale, you find the warmer yellow lights that are comfortable for the eyes but will give an unrealistic representation of the scenery.
A good compromise is choosing a light with about 5000K. This will be plenty bright but still, render the colors of your surroundings naturally. For riding in the snow, a more yellow light will better show the contours of the terrain and is preferred by many for this reason.
If you still cannot decide what color you prefer, some manufacturers even offer different color lens covers to fit any riding situation.
Beam Pattern – spot or flood light
Lightbars come with different beam patterns intended for different types of use. You can get spotlights, floodlights, or bars that feature a combination of these two.
The spotlight has the most narrow beam and will throw the light the farthest. The light will spread at an angle of about 30 degrees in the direction it is being pointed. This type is great for riding at higher speeds, whether it be riding down the highway or even in racing.
Then you have the floodlight. This kind creates the wides beam, which will spread at an angle of about 60 degrees. The extra width comes at the expense of how far the light goes.
It is great for any utility work or riding at lower speeds, like technically challenging off-road riding.
Some feel that neither of these two is optimal for trail riding and other off-road ridings at medium speeds. This is where the combo-lights come in handy. You will get decent floodlight for lower speeds and some longer ranging beams for when things speed up.
Most light bars below 20″ length will be either spot or flood, but even for shorter bars, a combination of these is becoming increasingly common.
Most ATV owners will be happy by choosing a floodlight beam pattern. In most countries, you cannot legally use the light bar on public roads anyway.
Most riders need better proximity lighting when performing technical riding at lower speeds or any utility work in the dark.
Racers or those that only use their bike for trail-riding may be the exception.
Warranty and after-sales support
What warranty and support a manufacturer will give you will indicate how confident they are in their product’s longevity. Steer clear of the ones that don’t mention what warranty they give or if they have a warranty that will be voided for any number of silly reasons.
In a market overflooded by different brands claiming to have the best products, it may be a good idea to stick to the more trusted brands.
You may miss out on a potentially fantastic newcomer by doing so, but you have a better guarantee for making a good purchase.
You also want to make sure the dealer you are buying from has a good reputation. It’s often when things break you learn how service-oriented the company really is.
I recommend doing a quick google search on both brand name and dealer to reveal potential horror stories.
This is a power you, as a customer, have. Do not be afraid to use it!
6. Decide your budget range
Before you head over to the dealer or start browsing online for specific models, it’s a good idea to think through what your budget looks like.
For those with unlimited funds; It’s with light bars as with most other things: you often get what you pay for.
But for most buyers, it’s all about finding the ideal balance between cost and quality, giving you the best bang for buck deal.
The types of light available on the market range from the super cheap knock-offs from China to “military-grade” bulletproof bars that cost an arm and a leg and anything in between.
Even the cheapest models will work, at least for a while, before they fail due to internal corrosion. But as a general rule, the farther up you go in price, the higher quality light you get.
7. Plan the wiring
The light bar itself will not be enough the get your light up and running. You will also need wires, connectors, switches, and relays.
Some manufacturers include this stuff in the package, but not all.
If you plan the wiring layout before installation, you can make sure you get all the components you need so you have them ready when it’s time to install the light.
Trust me; this saves a lot of frustration through the installation process.
8. Pick 3 to 5 candidates
Now that you know what to look for pick about 3-5 candidates that fit your criteria.
Durability and actual lumens should be your top priority. Ensure that the ones you pick have the color temperature you prefer and fit in the spot you plan to install the light.
Any of these will likely be fine, but if you want to be completely sure, move on to the next step.
9. Read a few reviews
Before making your final decision, I recommend you read a few reviews or forum threads about each of the candidates you have chosen. Combined with a manufacturer warranty, this will assure you’re getting the most out of your money.
Ensure the review discusses things like ease of installation and use, as this is hard to tell simply by looking at the spec sheets. Also, take note of any information about common mishaps or malfunctions.
Also, compare the models you have chosen by looking at the factors listed above and decide what fits your need the best.
10. Make your decision
Now you should be armed with all the knowledge you need to choose a light bar for your ATV that fits your needs the best!
What size light bar for ATV
ATV light bar sizes range from 7 to 20 inches, where 12 inches is the most common. Available space and looks are often determining factors to what size to choose.
Best cheap led light bar
You can get ATV light bars for as cheap as 10 dollars for those with a tight budget. But you generally get what you pay for, so it may be worth steering clear of the cheapest options. This budget-friendly bestseller from Nilight is getting great user reviews over at Amazon.