This guide is made to help you make a good decision when you’re choosing a light bar for your ATV. I’ve both made some really good and some really bad light bar purchases for my own machines. Some of the takeaways I have learned from this should be of great help in choosing the best deal.
In recent years, the market for LED lights has literally exploded. Many of the products available look very similar when you just look at the pictures. For an untrained eye, it may be hard to separate the good from the bad.
As long as you follow the steps in this post I can almost guarantee you’ll be much more happy with your purchase than if you just pick up a random light bar from the dealer.
1. Understand what you’ll be using it for
What most people think of when they talk about getting a light bar for their ATV is the standard billet bar mounted type. A straight row of LEDs encapsulated in a strong outer casing. This is the type we’ll be focusing at in this guide.
But there are other similar types of lights that also goes under the slightly loose term “light bar”. Many of the same principles and considerations also apply when deciding on one of these:
- Micro-pod work-lights, which can be a great supplement to the light bar
- Powerful single LED lamps to supplement the bike’s headlights or to be used as spotting-lamps
- Flush mount work lamps that require you to cut a hole in the bodywork
- Amber light LED bars, ideal for penetrating fog at night
- LED whips that are installed for optimal visibility when off-road riding in the dark.
You may not have a specific use in mind but just want more light. And that’s fine.
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.
I’m talking off-road riding, utility work both at the farm and in the forest or trail riding and high-speed racing. These are all situations where you basically never can get too much light, but also requires a different kind of light bars.
2. Make sure it is legal to install and use
Before you go any further in your purchase process it may be worth looking into whether or not there are any laws or regulations telling 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. For it to be somewhat legal where I ride, I need to wire it so it can be turned completely off 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 good place to install it
Before you begin looking at specific models, you need to decide where on the quad you want to install the new light bar.
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, bushes or deep snow.
If you mount the bar too low, the light won’t spread as good, and you increase the risk of damaging it. At the same time, 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 has a well protected mounting spot where the bar can simply 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 front rack of the ATV 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 lightbar on top of the front fenders may not be on top of your list.
A third option is getting a custom grill, or even make a cutout in your OEM grill so it will fit a light. Be aware that this will to some degree restrict the airflow that goes to the radiator, making bot the bike and light running a bit hotter, but usually you should be fine.
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 result in the lich shaking an flickering when riding on uneven surfaces and should be avoided.
Most led bars comes 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 bikes make and model to see what’s available. Often you’ll find extension brackets that’s 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 on where you want to mount the light, take note of what mount you should be looking for that’ll fir 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 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 hight.
This is especially important if you intend on installing the bar on the inside of your brush-guard or grill. Look for a light that is about one inch smaller than the space available to make installation easier, and to allow proper cooling of the light.
Visualize how different sizes of light will look when fitted to the bike. You can get lights bars in sizes from 6 inches to over 50 inches, but choosing one that’s too big for the bike will only look out of place.
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 that actually matters 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 products 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 owners manual to verify that the bikes 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 at 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 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 weigh should not be a deciding factor, unless maybe if you are into some serious quad racing.
Light bars 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 rather 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 type of 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 that has a metal core PCB as this will further help to 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 negatively affect the lifespan of the light.
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 exact 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; the brightness of a light 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 for example the color of the light, while lumens is measured with an instrument.
Some manufacturers will list “raw lumens” which needs to be multiplied with 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 a good thing.
The lower quality LEDs used in cheaper lights needs to be pushed much harder to be able 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 just 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 really good 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 of a job 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 do 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 the cast ones.
Make sure the glass covering the lenses is shockproof, scratch proof and can handle extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.
And everything needs to be corrosion proof.
On cheaper lights, you will often find that they’ve cut costs 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 a bit confusing because a light with a higher color temperature does not necessarily run hotter than one with a lower color temperature.
The Kelvin scale simply tells what color a certain metal glows at when heated to different temperatures. At low temperatures, it will just glow in a red/yellow color, where at higher temperatures it will look white, almost blue.
LED lights are commonly placed in the range of 2700K – 6500K.
By choosing a light in the range of 2700K – 3000K it will have a yellow/white, almost warm color.
In the range of 3000K – 5000K it will be a bit brighter yellow, almost completely white, and from 5000K – 6500K the light will be cool white, almost like daylight.
Light bars in the upper range of the scale will 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 other end of the scale, you find the warmer yellow lights, that are comfortable for the eyes but will give an unrealistic representation of the scenery as well.
A good compromise is choosing a light with about 5000K. This will be plenty bright, but still, render the colors of your surroundings in a natural way. 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 that will fit any riding situation.
Beam Pattern – spot or flood light
Light bars 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 any kind of riding at higher speeds, may it be riding down the highway or even in racing.
Then you have the flood light. 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 type of utility work or riding at lower speeds like for instance technically challenging off-road riding.
Some feel that neither of these two is optimal for things like trail riding and other off-road ridings at medium speeds. This is where the combo-lights come in handy. You will get decent flood light for lower speeds, but also 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 more common.
Most ATV owners will be happy by choosing a flood light beam pattern. In most places, you cannot legally use the light bar on public roads anyways.
And for most, what we need is a better lighting of the terrain and close surroundings at lower speeds or when doing any kind of 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 the longevity of their product. 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 that all claim 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 any potential horror stories.
This is a power you as a customer has. Do not be afraid to use it!
6. Decide your budget size
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 it is 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 better 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 your wiring in advance, 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 3-5 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. Make sure that the ones you pick has the color temperature you prefer, and will fit in the spot you plan on installing 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 manufacturer warranty, this will assure you’re getting the most out of your money.
Make sure the review discuss 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 inches to 20 inch, where 12 inch is the most common. Available space and looks are often determining factors to what size to choose.
Best cheap led light bar
For those with a tight budget, you can get ATV light bars as cheap as 10 dollars. But you get what you pay for, and it may be worth steering clear of the cheapest ones. This reasonably prized bar is getting great user reviews at Amazon.