Somewhat thankfully, the long winter months are behind us now. The days are longer and wearing hats and gloves is no longer required. The ski season is also over and with it are our frequent trips to northern New England. In January, our fifth generation Toyota 4Runner project rig received a set of LED auxiliary driving lights from Rigid Industries to combat the darkness of New England’s secondary roads.
In the initial post I went into detail of what my additional lighting needs were and why I chose the lights I did. Since then I have installed the lights, or rather paid someone to install them for me, and have used them throughout the winter. Let’s take a closer look at the installation and performance of these lights.
Since the lower grill bracket is a Rigid Industries part, the two cube lights bolted easily and perfectly into them. The bracket is specifically designed for the 2010-13 4Runners so it fit in neatly once the OEM grill was trimmed. It bolted right into the OEM tabs and provided a very sturdy mount for the lights. It was actually surprising how little drama was needed for the physical installation. The provided instructions were not great but the whole thing was so simple they were not really needed.
The electrical connection was straight forward as well. For better or worse, the relay is connected right to the battery without inputs from any other lights or switched sources. What this means is that these lights will stay on once turned on, independently of the ignition or other lights. Constant hot, as the experts say.
The light connectors and cables are of really high quality – thick and sealed, designed to withstand water and dust intrusion. The relay switch is still adequately protected but less so, which is why Rigid Industries suggests that it be mounted inside, away from weather-related issues. The engineer in me disagrees with that. In my opinion a relay switch is used to prevent higher current cables from going into the cabin, which is why most cars have relay boxes under the hood. This is why, taking my chances with the weather, I mounted my relay under the hood and just sneaked in the three wires needed for the dash switch through a firewall grommet.
The one thing I didn’t like from the beginning was the light switch itself. It is round and ever so slightly too big to fit into any of the blank switch plates in my 4Runner. My installer drilled a hole and mounted it next to the panel, which isn’t great. The switch itself is not illuminated when in the off position, which can make it challenging to find in the dark. It does illuminate when the lights are on. Illuminated rectangular after-market switches that fit the empty switch plates for an OEM look do exist but perhaps that’s a project for another day.
Historically lumens, temperature, candlepower, or/and watts have been used to express and compare performance of a light. The thing is, none of these are really good for comparison as lights vary in beam patterns, intensity, and efficiency. For the purpose of this review I have decided to be very unscientific and answer one simple question – do these lights do what I wanted them to do?
The short answer is yes, and they do it very well.
I wanted an auxiliary road light to use on secondary roads. I did not care to see a mile ahead which is why I did not choose spot lights. But a wide beam pattern, such as that of fog-lights, did not illuminate far enough. A flood beam pattern scatters slightly if you want to be OCD about it. I wanted a beam that would replicate the pattern of my low- AND high-beams used concurrently, and then amplify it. The driving light beam pattern did exactly that – it’s like factory lighting on serious steroids. The lights are very intense, the color is white, and they really just do exactly what I wanted.
This D2 lighting set has 6 LEDs in each light. It produces 3,096 lumens and uses 34.5 watts and 2.5 amps, measured at 13.8VDC (P=VI, yo!). Total light output is 3096 lumens. The light casing is aluminum and the lens is polycarbonate. Estimate lifespan is over 50,000 hours. Everything is designed, engineered, and assembled in the USA. The retail price is $379.99.
The issue of photography of light sources is that one needs to be a really good photographer and possibly with some high-end equipment to really show the effectiveness of these lights. Spot lights, with their long narrow beams, would look a lot more dramatic in pictures as they would simply illuminate dark areas far away. Here, however, the lighting is just more intensified. I did my best to show the effect of these lights in the about pictures, but you, dear reader, will have to trust me on the fact that in real life they are very bright.
It should be noted that these lights are not street legal. They will blind every living creature in your path. Check your local laws regarding the use of such lights and possibly the requirements of covers for them. If you’re looking for similar SAE-complaint auxiliary road lights, Rigid Industries does have a solution for you in form of the cleverly named SAE Compliant Fog Light Set (D-Series) lights.
To conclude (TL;DR): Both the grill and lights are high quality products. The quality can be seen in the materials, fitment, strength, wire thickness, design of connectors, and the hardware used. The switch could be improved upon. The lights are very bright with an ideal (for me) pattern. The installation was very easy and the mount is very solid.
One thing that I noticed about these small cube D2 lights is that they seemed to be sealed. I reached out to Rigid Industries about what happens when/if some of the LEDs burn out or get dim over time. Their response was:
LEDs are not “bulbs” in the traditional sense, they are Light Emitting Diodes. They are circuitry components and are soldered onto the board, therefore permanently attached, as opposed to being removable like a traditional light bulb.
The LEDs used in Rigid Industries lights are rated for 50,000 hours of run time. Over the course of the LEDs life, it may lose some output, but will not exceed 30% loss of original output.
All components of a Rigid LED light, including individual LEDs, are covered by warranty. If an LED burns out prematurely, we will fix or replace it at no charge.
That was a solid response by a company that seems to stand firmly behind its products. Rigid directed me further to their website which states what makes them different, better, and why you get what you pay for really applies to the lighting industry.
Disclaimer: I bought the Rigid Industries lower grill and Rigid supplied the lights. I paid for the installation at Ciro’s Auto Repair because I didn’t have the time to do it myself. And it was wicked cold.
Images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2017.