The Next Big Thing: Curved LED Light Bars

An exciting new product showcased at this year’s SEMA show were curved LED light bars from Vision X, Rigid Industries, Putco, Bulldog and Baja Designs. These manufacturers have really stepped up this year to innovate an already innovative industry!  Vision X will have a double-row 5w LED product available from their Xmitter Prime Xtreme product line in various sizes all the way up to 50″ wide!

The new Xmitter Prime XP LED light bars from Vision X will be available in 2014 in several different lengths.

The new Xmitter Prime XP LED light bars from Vision X will be available in 2014 in several different lengths.

Rigid Industries also debuted new curved LED light bars in a new “RDS” series light developed from the E-Series platform available in different lengths up to 54″.

Rigid Industries new Curved LED Light Bar

Rigid Industries new Curved LED Light Bar

Putco not only debuted an entirely new lineup of American made LED light bars this year but they also started the lineup with a curved variant:

The new Putco LED light bars come with a curved option.

The new Putco LED light bars come with a curved option.

Bulldog launched a new light bar line at the 2012 SEMA Show and this year (2013) they added a new single-row LED and dual-row LED curved light bar to the product line. The resemblance between Bulldog, Rigid Industries and the gambit of Chinese manufacturers still makes it difficult to differentiate the products when installed on vehicles, but it’s awesome seeing more and more product manufacturers (like Bulldog) making their parts within the USA.

New curved LED light bars from Bulldog are the only thing that seems different about the product line this year.

New curved LED light bars from Bulldog are the only thing that seems different about the product line this year.

Last but not least, Baja Designs announced that their OnX LED light bar product line will now be available in a 30″ curved variant. 30″ isn’t big enough to fit on most trucks, but it should work on a race car or ATV pretty well:

30" curved light bars now available from Baja Designs.

30″ curved light bars now available from Baja Designs.

Take a moment to check out the photo gallery of all the curved light bar products we saw at the show and see for yourself where the future of lighting technology is headed, and if you need advice on your next LED Light Bar product purchase, check out Headlight Revolution.

What are LED Headlights?

LED stands for “Light Emitting Diode” and the technology has come leaps and bounds in just last last couple of years, and every 6 months or so the potential for LED forward lighting proves to be more and more the new industry leader. 10 years ago the idea of an LED headlight was unheard of because the only thing LEDs were being used for were indicators in electronic devices and they didn’t make nearly enough light output to be used to actually see anything with.

The original style LEDs are not suitable for headlight applications.

The original style LEDs are not suitable for headlight applications.

Back in the day, way back when, one of the first types of automobile or carraige “head lamps” were glass jars which held a candle inside. This probably didn’t do a whole lot in terms of being able to see a long distance, but the vehicles of that age didn’t go very far so it didn’t matter. As automobile technology and average speed increased, the need for brighter and more reliable headlights did as well. The evolution of the headlamp started at that very rudimentary candle setup to incandescent halogen, then to HID and just recently LED technology has begun to overtake all other options. This is because of lifespan, durability, power consumption and ever-increasing Lumen production capability. LED tech is quickly proving to be the lighting source of choice for everyone.

Jeep Wrangler JK no flashing problems

The JW Speaker 8700 LED headlights will replace any existing. 7″ round housing.

Today there are several companies specializing in high-power LED headlights, and most are even DOT approved for use on city streets and highways. JW Speaker is probably the best known LED headlight manufacturer because currently they produce what is considered to be the best LED headlight in the world. The JW Speaker LED headlights are brighter than competitors, and are quite nice looking overall. Next you have Truck-Lite who is also a pioneer in the LED headlight market, when they came out with their Phase 6 7″ round light several years ago. Today, Truck-Lite LED headlights are much brighter than stock lights, cheaper than JW Speaker and use new parabolic reflector technology. Lastly, GTR Lighting has recently entered the LED headlight market with a 4×6″ and 6″ round products that are far cheaper than the others, but GTR Lighting LED headlights are still brighter than stock.

Jeep Lighting

The Jeep Wrangler is a fantastic platform for using LED headlights because many manufacturers sell the 7″ round size of LED headlight.

If you’re interested in upgrading the forward lighting of your vehicle, I would strongly encourage you consider the LED headlight option due to it’s superiority to halogen incandescent or in some cases even HID. I suspect that within the next 5 years HID technology will be obsolete when compared with LED in terms of the best fit for automotive lighting.


Wild New Headlight Technology – Lasers and LEDs!

Here is a new design from Audi

Here is a new design from Audi

The Feds don’t know what to make of Audi’s new LED headlamps!

Audi has built a better automotive lighting system, known as the matrix beam LED headlamps. Matrix LEDs promise better, more precise lighting for the driver, less blinding light to dazzle oncoming motorists, and a kind of mid-beams for roads with only a little traffic. The Matrix lighting technology is ready to go on the 2013 Audi A8 big luxury sedan, but don’t hold your breath if you live in the US — when Audi asked the National Highway Transportation Administration for a ruling, the NHTSA demurred, unsure how to fit the square peg of a variable-output, matrix headlamp array into the round hole they call low and high beams. The issue is that in America we’ve never seen a “Mid” beam before, only high and low.

Audi Matrix LED Headlights with "Mid-Beam".

Audi Matrix LED Headlights with “Mid-Beam”.

Audi’s matrix lighting, first shown on the Audi A2 concept car (above) at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show, comprises multiple segments that can be turned on or off as conditions warrant. Some elements could be steerable to help drivers go around corners. Combine it with next-generation GPS and the steerable lamp could swivel before you even begin to turn the wheel. Not to mention these headlights may be paired with a photo light sensor that will automatically dim the headlights when approaching other cars on the road at night.

Matrix beams are just a start — the NHTSA needs to prepare itself for more new tech. Audi competitors BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Opel are working hard also on the field called “smart lighting systems”. BMW is even developing laser headlamps. No, not superheated beams like in the movies designed to obliterate other annoying drivers on the road ahead of you…, but white lighting that can be precisely modulated and, unlike death rays, hardly uses any energy.

LED headlamps are only just trickling onto the market — mostly on high-end cars — but now it seems a certain German automaker has plans for laser headlamps. “Laser light is the next logical step in car light development … for series production within a few years in the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid,” says BMW. Lasers have the potential to be simultaneously more powerful, more efficient, and smaller than other headlamp types. Before you get too excited, though: the output of laser headlights will be modulated for safety so you can’t, for better or worse, come up close and bubble the paint of the car in front that won’t get out of the left-hand lane on the interstate.

Prototype Laser Headlights from BMW

Prototype Laser Headlights from BMW

The benefits of a laser headlamp are compelling: a near parallel beam of light (i.e. no glare) 1,000 times more intense than conventional LEDs but with less than half the energy consumption; 170 lumens of output per watt for laser headlamps, compared to 100 lumens per watt for LEDs. Both are phenomenally efficient compared to a standard household light bulb.

The history of headlamps of the past generation has gone from one extreme to another, from the yellowish tungsten glow of incandescent halogen headlamps, to the semi-updated quartz headlamps (longer-lived, brighter) and then to xenon or high-intensity discharge headlamps. Now all of a sudden we are moving into new technology faster than ever, first with full LED lighting, and an immediate quantum leap into lasers! Normally automakers develop and release these types of products in Europe first and the states later on down the road, so don’t hold your breath to see these headlights driving down the streets of Minneapolis, MN anytime soon.

New LED Bulbs “WOW” Consumers

6w LED Bulbs

New high power 6w LEDs named the “TW6” lineup.

LED technology used for bulb replacements and upgrades has come a long way since Jam Straight introduced their LED bulb replacements years ago. The novelty of using LEDs for light bulbs in the enthusiasts car quickly wore off after experiencing the lack of power output from the early style LED products. Today with the invention of Surface Mount Technology and high power diodes, innovation and new technology is the name of the game in the LED bulb market and GTR Lighting is at the forefront of these developments.

The GTR Lighting TW6 LED bulbs are direct bulb replacements that are as bright as their 15 watt incandescent counterparts but use half of the electricity. TW6 stands for “6W Tower” which is a description of the specifications and shape of the LEDs. The newest generation of the TW6 LED bulbs is the dome shaped lens at the top which allows for superior light output than what was previously available. LEDs are uni-directional by nature and require special optics in order to produce any usable output pattern. The lens fitted to the top of the bulb offers a wide 120 degree output at the front and a 360 degree output around the side perimeter.

The TW6 lineup of high-power LED bulbs are available in most standard bulbs including 9005/H10, 7440/7443, 3156/3157, 1156, 1157, H7, H9/H11 and T10/921/194. If it’s a fog light, reverse light, marker or blinker you will be able to finally utilize an LED bulb with some power.

Fiero LED Lights

This image shows a Pontiac Fiero fitted with GTR Lighting TW6 bulbs in the reverse light housing and the increased light output gained from it. These bulbs are brighter than original and use less electricity.

6w LED bulbs

New high-power LED bulbs from GTR Lighting.

Can’t Find the Light You’re Looking For?

Monster LED Dome Light

The Monster Board from GTR Lighting – one of MANY different lighting products available at Black Top Racing.

Have you ever tried looking for some type of lighting product but couldn’t quite find what you are looking for? I’d like for you to know about Black Top Racing, which sells and stocks an incredible line of LED and HID products as well as headlight housings and off-road lights.

Every light bulb you will ever find in your car or truck can be replaced by LED or HID bulbs available from Black Top Racing. Need a weird looking trunk light bulb? Black Top Racing carries it. Need a high power off-road light option with the ballast inside – Black Top Racing  has it too. Aside from bulb replacements and upgrades you can also find universal LED products, like the Monster Board by GTR Lighting pictured above.

The idea behind the way Black Top Racing sells lighting products has to do with selling high quality products at an affordable cost. For example, you may find Hella internal-HID off-road lights for upwards of $400+ and the Eagle Eye Lights with the same power and quality can be had for less than $200 a piece.  The HID kits are all strictly high-end  and you will never spend money on something that isn’t worth it at the Black Top Racing store. Visit Black Top Racing for a huge selection of lighting products.

If you’re looking for something that you can’t find in the lighting department please contact Black Top Racing with any questions, technical or sales-wise.

1156 LED Bulbs

Unique to GTR Lighting – these high power LED bulbs are 6 watts each and feature a output projecting lens on the top and 360 degree light output around the sides. More unique lighting products available at Black Top Racing.

Light Emitting Diodes

LED Internals

Light Emitting Diodes are the future of lighting technology! This is NOT a light bulb!

First used as status and indicator lamps, and more recently in under-shelf illumination, accent lighting, and directional marking applications, high-brightness LEDs have emerged within the last six years. But only recently have they been seriously looked upon as a feasible option in general purpose or automotive lighting applications. This is an overview of the basic technology which these devices are based.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are solid-state devices that convert electric energy directly into light of a single color. Because they employ “cold” light generation technology, in which most of the energy is delivered in the visible spectrum, LEDs don’t waste energy in the form of non-light producing heat like halogen bulbs.

In addition to producing cold light, LEDs:

  • Can be powered from a portable battery pack or even a solar array.
  • Can be integrated into a control system.
  • Are small in size and resistant to vibration and shock.
  • Have a very fast “on-time” (60 nano-seconds vs 10 mili-seconds for an incandescent lamp).
  • Have good color resolution and present low, or no, shock hazard.

The centerpiece of a typical LED is a diode that is chip-mounted in a reflector cup and held in place by a mild steel lead frame connected to a pair of electrical wires. The entire arrangement is then encapsulated in epoxy. The diode chip is generally about 0.25 mm square. When current flows across the junction of two different materials, light is produced from within the solid crystal chip. The shape, or width, of the emitted light beam is determined by a variety of factors: the shape of the reflector cup, the size of the LED chip, the shape of the epoxy lens and the distance between the LED chip and the epoxy lens. The composition of the materials determines the wavelength and color of light. The picture displayed to the right is an example of a traditional LED apparatus which is not very usable in automotive lighting except for indicators inside the vehicle. Today LEDs have evolved into a more usable product that can create massive amounts of light output by creating new types of Light Emitting Diodes. High Power Car LEDs are now available as bulb replacements and universal applications.

High Intensity Discharge Lighting

Xenon Bulb

Xenon Technology in Automotive Headlights

HID stands for High Intensity Discharge which is a term used for many types of lighting systems. Before HID lighting became popular for use in automobiles it was used in industrial and commercial applications. Street lamps, ceiling lights inside large commercial buildings and even some strobe lights are considered high intensity discharge lighting.

The technology in high intensity discharge is in some ways similar to fluorescent technology: an arc is established between two electrodes in a gas-filled tube which causes a metallic vapor to produce radiant energy. In this case, however, a combination of factors shifts the wavelength of much of this energy to within the visible range, so light is produced without any phosphors. In addition, the electrodes are only a few inches apart (at opposite ends of a sealed “arc tube”) and the gases in the tube are highly pressurized. This allows the arc to generate extremely high temperatures, causing metallic elements within the gas atmosphere to vaporize and release large amounts of visible radiant energy. There are three main types of HID lamps: mercury vapor, metal halide and sodium. The names refer to the elements that are added to the gases in the arc stream which cause each type to have somewhat different color characteristics and overall lamp efficiency. 

Because of the ballast and arc technology employed by HID lighting it is more efficient than halogen automotive lighting bulbs. HID xenon lighting causes less heat, more light output and use less electricity to do it!

Today, HID xenon lighting has become a standard in automobile lighting. Aftermarket HID Conversion Kits are very popular and available in differing degrees of quality. Some vehicles even come with HID lighting from the manufacturer in both projector style housings and reflector style housings.