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Light ’em Up


Now that we’re well into the LED age, our expectations of vehicle lighting far surpasses what was acceptable less than a decade ago. A gentle, yellow glow simply won’t do, now that LEDs are freely available. Some companies are making a great deal of progress on reflector design. You see, it’s not a case of simply using the same reflector bodies employed in halogen or HID bodies, an entirely new reflector is required: one optimised for the size, strength and location of the LEDs employed.

This was clear in the compact Hella Luminator X LED lights tested here. These feature a computer-designed double reflector which shapes and focuses the light emitted by two internally-mounted LEDs. Most LED lights in the marketplace feature forward-facing diodes, whereas these units feature rearfacing items; thus, the reflector is an indispensable part of their operation. The resultant beam is designed to penetrate up to 600 metres in ideal conditions.

To test these lights we visited a strip of unlit, straight tar near our offices one moonless night. The section of road we used measures out at 600 metres, but there’s a further stretch of four hundred metres past our last measuring point. As seen in the images, there are also a number of traffic signs along the road’s length.

While the Hella’s are rated to 600 metres, the manufacturer’s beam diagram clearly shows that their maximum effective use (for driving purposes) is about 300 – 400 metres, with the strongest part of the beam reaching out to 200 metres. These are good numbers. It’s our view that if you’re driving off-road at night, you shouldn’t be driving much faster 60 km/h (if that), with your focus on the road immediately ahead. Why then, do you need a beam that reaches kilometres? Us overlanders aren’t rally drivers, driving high speeds, who need to read the road kilometres ahead.