Around the mid 2000’s vehicle technology took a huge leap – not necessarily forwards but certainly into the realm of complexity, Things you could do to a vehicle built any time between the 70s and around 2005 are just no longer possible due to the electronics and computers in the latter. These issues are covered below.
Because every vehicle is essentially built to a price and market niche, only the top models are likely to have the best lighting available at the time of build and even that tended to favour cosmetic appearance over practicality.
Pre 2005 options
Tweaking the lighting on pre-2005 models is relatively straightforward but the starting point is an objective appraisal of what is needed for the intended driving conditions. Let’s face it, many of the available upgrades are essentially cosmetic and not everyone wants something that looks like a rally car that got lost in the city. Also, if most driving is done on main roads, expressways and major highways, the standard lighting is usually adequate..
If driving on “B” or bush roads, however, effective lighting takes on an entirely new meaning. Anyone who does this regularly will know the perils of having a fallen tree, a big ‘roo, a wombat, or even a cow in the road ahead and the sooner the danger is seen, the better chance of evasive action.
Wiring a pair of 150W lights into the existing loom is a recipe for burning out the wiring, killing the battery or both. Lights must be installed with separate fuses and relays to perform effectively and safely. Also, the switching must be arranged so the lights can be turned on only when the main beam is activated, so this involves locating a switched wire in the loom to power the relay. However tempting it may be to have the lights wired to work on low or high beam, this is illegal, as well as potentially dangerous. You do not want the spots to turn on when the vehicle is travelling in traffic. The location of the various wires will vary from vehicle to vehicle and guessing at a solution may cause more trouble than paying the cost of professional installation, Also, one light pointing into the trees while the other highlights the potholes is interesting, but not desirable.
Spots, pencils, floods, fogs and other toys
The availability of 12V LED lighting has completely changed the ability to get excellent, reliable daylight-quality lighting onto your vehicle. Many of these come as complete kits that include the relays, switch and wiring. Graeme Cooper Automotive supplies the THUNDER brand of LED lights
Pencil beams and spots are excellent for long-range vision but are not of much use for general illumination close up. Conversely, floods will provide good close-up illumination, but not much range. An effective compromise it to fit one of each, suitably aligned for maximum effectiveness OR a dual layer LED light bar will do both but these need to be mounted (legally) onto a bar
Driving with fog lights is illegal other than in appropriate conditions. They need completely separate wiring, in this case (only) with the ability to turn on with low beam. The fitted position should be as low as possible to minimise glare.
The simplest upgrade will be new bulbs, with a wide range of choices including LED, halogen or quartz-iodine bulbs to replace the existing bulbs. For some models, a replacement sealed-beam assembly could be an effective solution.
Seeking expert advice from specialists familiar with your model of vehicle is strongly recommended. The Graeme Cooper team includes experienced drivers who have tackled everything including the outback, mountains, beaches, snow, ice, mud and country roads.
Land Rover after about 2005
As noted above, vehicle technology changed dramatically with the “L” series and “Sport” Range Rovers and with the Discovery 2. The electronics in these vehicles are far more complex than earlier models and it would be foolish for any owner to attempt to add after-market lights or even to change the existing headlamps. Just finding the switched wires to activate the relays can be a major challenge, but far more critically, many of the vehicle’s functions are computer controlled, so it is all too easy to damage one of these systems.
Graeme Cooper Automotive personnel are not only expert in recommending and fitting lighting upgrades, but are personally experienced in extensive road and off-road trips that they can provide practical and cost-effective advice to meet each owner’s specific requirements.