Tag Archives: LED

Replaced Old Solar Home Security Lights – The New LazyPro 2500 Lumen Solar LED Lights Are Great!

In 2019 I installed some Lemontec solar lights around the perimeter of our house to get rid of dark areas and they have held up fairly well until now. One unit had quit working and other was coming apart so I decided to order some new ones and try a different brand.

A few months back I had to apply silicone glue to seal the bulging solar panel of this Lemontec light. Guess what? It still works great and I moved it to another area.
dCompared to the solar light above, this looked better but was dead. Rather than tinker with it, I put it in the trash.

As usual, I did some searching on Amazon and looked for ones with good reviews and found a brand called “LazyPro” – yeah, I almost didn’t try them because of the name but I am glad I did! They are sold in pairs and I replaced the Lemontec that had failed and the one next to it – because they are high traffic areas right by our driveway and also very dark at night.


You ever read something so off the wall that you just have to try it? That was my exact reaction when I read their slogan “We are engineers of laziness. We create gadgets that make life easier. With this Solar Lights you have more time for … whatever you like to do. Because we are too lazy to pay for electricity.” Alrighty … uhm … okay, let’s try them!
Out of the box they looked well made. This was right before I installed them.
I removed the old solar lights and mounted these new ones in their place. I set the switch on the back for dusk-to-dawn and to only turn on if motion was sensed. You do have other options such as turning on at dusk with a low light output and increasing the light output if there is motion.
The lights are just over seven feet off the ground and 12 feet apart.

What an improvement! The LazyPro units throw out a very wide volume of light because the LEDs are mounted not just on the front but also on the sides and bottom.

Also, the sensor does a really good job of picking up movement – the Amazon listing claims 40 feet and it easily does that if not even further.

This is the area with just our porch light running. It’s dark.
I walked in front to to activate both lights and you can see the huge volume of light the two units are producing.

Summary

Yeah, the LazyPro brand name might make you wonder but these are remarkably good lights. I plan to replace the other four Lemontecs that are still working but don’t produce anywhere near the same amount of light.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


LASFIT LED Headlights – An Example of Excellent Customer Service

I used LASFIT LED emitters to replace the rather lame high-beams bulbs on my 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman and have been very happy with them. Our 2008 Highlander’s lights were starting to get dim so I ordered a replacement set of emitters for it – “LASFIT H4 HB2 9003 60W 6000LM LED Bulbs Conversion Kit, 6000K Xenon White, Super Bright” to be specific.

Installation was pretty straight forward: Disconnect the wiring harness, remove the rubber dust boot on the rear of the light housing, unclip the bulb retainer, put the LED in, clip the retaining wire back in, clock it so the thin edge of the emitter was straight up and down, pull the wire pigtail from the light out the end of the dustboot, reinstall the boot, put silicone grease on the fitting and test. Done, right? Not quite.

The old light was showing its age. Now sometimes when you see yellow it is because the plastic lens needs to be polished but in this case I had already done that. What you are seeing is an old halogen bulb.
Unplug the wiring and then remove the rubber dust boot.
A 2008 Highlander has one bulb for both low and high beam. To do this there are three wires – power for low, for high and the ground. The engine compartment fuse block has four 15 amp fuses – one for each power – left low and high and then right low and high. You can see the silver wire retaining clip/spring. You can see it is held in place by a small screw and the part you need to free is that farthest tab on the right. It is sitting under a little plastic protrusion. If you push the “U” shape piece of wire inwards and lift the end of the wire clip will clear that nub and swing free.
I don’t have a photo before this but you insert the LED so the metal tabs of the plate go into the slots and snap the wire clip back into place. Rotate the LED so it it straight up and down. Pull the wire pigtail from the LED unit through the dust boot, I then applied silicone grease to the connectors before I plugged the LED’s pigtail into the car’s wiring harness.
The LED itself can be rotated and I did it so it is standing with the thin part vertical. I tried to get a photo of it installed.

Maybe a week or so after the install the light pattern was really screwy on low and no high-beam. In a Highlander, there is one “bulb” and is designed to emit both low beam and then high beam – to do this it has three wires – low beam, high beam and ground. In looking at the fuses in the engine compartment, one of the 15 amp headlight fuses blew. The H-LP LH fuse to be exact – that letter code corresponds with “Left-hand headlight (high beam)”.

I was bumming and went to the LASFIT website. I’d read somewhere that they had good customer service and you know what? They really do. They have a page where you can enter a warranty request and I filled it out.

I imagine their customer service center is in Asia, China maybe, but I had a nice email from Claire offering to send me a replacement set and she asked was that I send her a photo of the originals with their wires cut. I told her no problem – I just needed to wait for Michigan to warm up a bit as the temperature was in the teens and I would do it in the driveway.

Just a few days later the package arrived via first class mail, I installed the new LEDs and everything works great now.

I emailed this photo to Claire at LASFIT per her request.
This is the low beam setting and the light is far whiter than the old halogens. The bushes are about The tree trunk that looks like it is straight in front of the driver’s side LED is 41 feet away. I measured it so you could get an idea.
This is the high beam setting. There is a fairly nice broad distribution of light going off to the sides as well.

Summary

I wanted to take a moment to share this. I always think it is worth recognizing a firm that stands behind their product – it was truly a zero hassle warranty exchange. I’m figuring that whatever bug was in the first LED isn’t in this new one as it is still working just fine.

I’m very happy how this worked out. Next time I need LED headlights, I’m buying LASFIT again. FYI – They make a ton of LED models so click here to go to their Amazon store if you want to see what else they have.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Adding a LED Light Bar and Amber LED Fog Light Behind The Grill Of a 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman – Stealth Lighting On a Budget

In September 2021, I bought my first new truck – a 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman. Something about it being straight forward without a ton of bells and whistles appealed to me and I managed to buy it – I’ll be making payments for four more years 🙂 At any rate, there were a number of things I did to customize it more to my needs – one area was lighting. For whatever reason, Dodge went cheap and used halogen bulbs and they were anemic.

The first thing I did was to buy a set of Lasfit LED replacement bulbs and upgraded the high beams. Wow – what a difference. I considered doing the low beams too but changed my mind. First, I could not get my hands into the low beam housings to make the swap without taking more of the truck apart. Second, after seeing how bright the high beams were, I was worried about blinding oncoming drivers so I just settled and left the low beams alone. I don’t really regret it – when I am on country roads at night and turn on the high beams, wow – there’s a HUGE difference.

Until you drive rural farm roads at night or go off-road, you don’t really appreciate having good lights. The new high beams were good but I wanted even better – I really wanted a light bar but I wanted it without making a ton of alterations to the truck. My 2500 has a cap and no roll bar or headache bar to mount on so that left the bumper, the A-frame or some form of roof mount. I did some thinking and decided to go with a non-traditional approach – I would mount the light bar behind the lower grill and add a yellow light bar for fog and snow below it angled downwards.

Legal Disclaimer: The LED light bars are rated for off-road use only. Be considerate and don’t blind other drivers. Not to mention you would likely get a ticket operating these on public roads.

What LEDs To Use

Okay, I am short on funds right now and needed good enough parts. I’ve had pretty good luck with Nilight LED bars that you can get really good pricing on from Amazon plus they also have wiring harnesses with relays that you can use.

I wanted to fill the lower bracket from left to right so that meant about a 26″ light bar. To project the light both far and wide, I bought a triple row unit that combines flood and spot lighting.

For the amber LED, the biggest they had was 20″. I didn’t really want massive light from it because it is for snow and rain. In case you didn’t know, amber/yellow lighting is preferred for fog lights because that wavelength of light does a better job penetrating and letting you see objects in those conditions.

We were in the Smoky Mountains near Wears Valley between Pigeon Forge and Townsend a few years back trying to get to a cabin during heavy rain at night. Our old Highlander had so-so white fog lights that were better than nothing but I became a believer after that. Tons of white light just bounces back at you in rain, fog and snow. Go with amber lights.

In terms of the wiring harnesses, I bought two 14 gauge Nilight sets. I planned to remove their switch and plug into the Ram upfitter switches. The upfitter switches are an option and a truck is prewired with a number of access ports to let you plug in things like lights, pumps, etc. If your truck doesn’t have upfitter switches then just run their switches into your cab and mount them on the dash. I’ve used 3-4 Nilight light bars and switches over the years and none have failed on me – they look good too because they light up when turned on.

When it comes to wiring lights, I prefer to use relays when possible. This allows you to use a switch with fairly low amperage that then powers the relay and closes the switch that then feeds current from the battery through a thicker gauge wire. This avoids choking the power running too thin long wire to the switch and back. When your lights are properly powered, they will produce their maximum light is what it boils down to.

Designing the Bracket

Sticking with not wanting to alter the truck, I wanted to bolt the lights to a bracket and then the bracket to the truck. Since the truck was relatively new and not rusted like crazing, I had tons of potential bolts to use – I could have secured the bracket to the bolts of the tow hooks for example. What really caught my eye was the subframe for my Western Pro Plow 2. I’m a big Western plow fan – my dad had one when I was growing up and while I’ve had others – notably a Meyer and a SuperPlow – I still liked Westerns.

To mount the plow, Western creates bolt on sub frames that will connect to a given truck and then there are receivers that the plow connects to. Part of the sub frame is a 2″ x 1/4″ thick cross member that is secured by four bolts – two on each side. That was perfect. The inside bolts were on about 20″ centers. I would connect the bracket to that and go up with a cross member and a top shelf of angled steel. The material would be 1/4″ hot rolled mild steel – why? Because I didn’t want the bracket to bend or stress crack over time from the wind hitting the lights. On one hand, I figured the aerodynamics around the truck would stop some of the air flow but on the other, I’d seen guys in the past run big old school KC Daylighters on cheap light bars and they broke. So, yeah, I overbuilt the heck out of it.

I credit junior high shop class and the instructor, Mr. Tack, with teaching me the benefit of sketching a layout before starting work. Over the years, I’ve learned to sketch, mock up, and test fit before finalizing stuff. With that in mind, I sketched the bracket with pin and paper – young people will certainly think this is from the stone age but it works for me.

This super low-tech sketch was me thinking through what I wanted to do. It all began with knowing the grill’s hole was 26″, the distance between hole centers of the Western plow sub-frame was 20″ and I had to cut a upright pieces about 9″ tall.
I figured out the vertical by clamping a steel square rule to the plow’s sub-frame and then ran a piece of steel through the grill to measure the height where the two met.

Before You Start!

When it comes to lighting in general, trust but verify. Before you do anything else, take the lights out of the boxes and connect them direct tot he battery to make sure they work.

Each light bar has a short lead. You need to either touch them directly to the battery and make sure the bar turns on or use some short jumper cables. I clipped the negative to the battery and bridged the positive to the battery using a remote starter switch that I had handy. Really, you can use just about any short length of wire to make the connections and make sure they turn on – quick and dirty is all you need.

Fabricating the Bracket

With the design roughed out, the next step was to begin cutting out the pieces of steel. Over the years, I’ve learned that I am better off to work on a section at a time vs. cutting everything at once. This way, if I make a mistake or need to adjust the design, it’s easier. I tend to find design mistakes earlier on this way.

I cut two 9″ pieces of the 2″x1//4″ bar stock and clamped them to the frame. Note they are not in the final position. I planned to pull the inside set of bolts, drill holes in the bar stock and mount them there. What this let me do was to test if I had the height right.
With the uprights clamped in place, I then cut the 2″x1/4″ angle iron to a length of 22″. I did 22 because I wanted plenty of material surrounding the bolt holes that I would drill but also had to be mindful that I would clear the outer bolts of the sub-frame’s cross member. I then set the LED light bar on this, took a step back and looked to see if I had it right and thought it looked good enough to proceed. Note, this puts the LED light bar close to the top of the bumper hole’s top edge.
Armed with the dimensions confirmed, I then cut out the horizontal cross member that would hold the amber fog light. This is my SWAG Offroad table holding a Milwaukee Portaband. I use this all of the time for cutting steel and composites in my small shop.
This is the mocked up bracket. I confirmed the dimensions one more time. Note, I planned it this way because with the cross member to the back, it will be sitting just fraction of an inch above the plow sub-frame’s cross member. I wanted the fog lights to be low . I debated about using a piece of angle iron for that lower portion but at some point design overkill isn’t worth it. Also, I welded the bracket together. If you prefer, you could bolt them together also.
Part of the mockup was to check the lights. Note, I did not drill the mounting holes until after welding in case I wanted to adjust something.
I did remember to take a quick photo while cleaning up the steel prior to welding. Note, if you want good welds, sand, grind or abrasive blast down to the shiny silver steel. The grey coating on the metal is known as mill slag which will contaminate your welds and the brown is rust which will do the same. I didn’t bother getting all of the steel equally clean. I did make a quick pass through everything so the paint would have a good surface to adhere to but I really focused my cleaning on where the welds would be.

Welding the Bracket

I used my Miller Millermatic 211 MIG running 75/25 shielding gas and .030 wire. I set the thickness to 1/4″ and let the machine figure things out. I bought this machine years ago and it really does a great job for me – most of my work is light fabrication anyways with thicknesses usually at or under 3/8″ thick and relatively short weld times.

This past summer I bought a new Antra welding helmet with a large view port. I had an older Antra helmet that I bought in 2014 that still works it just looks very used. The cool skull graphics and larger viewing area tipped me to buying a new one. I like Antra helmets – not only do they work well but they also come with spare lens protectors.
I did some quick tack welds with my Miler MIG. The purpose of small welds like these is to get the assembly basically held together so things don’t move plus you can take and confirm the fitment one more time — which is what I did. If a mistake was made or something shifted, you could grind the small tack weld off. The photo doesn’t show to but I clamped everything together very securely to make sure things didn’t move. It really pays off to make sure everything is laid out tight and clamped together before you weld. I’ve had stuff get messed up so many times over the years that I am now very careful.
With everything confirmed, I proceeded to weld the joints front and back. Note, do a small bead and then move to another area to weld so you don’t cause the bracket to get too hot and warp. None of these beads were done all at once. The discolorations reflect the welding on the other side.
Before painting, I drilled the various mounting holes I needed for the LEDs. Note, not all have the same number of mounts – the 20″ light bar and two and the 26″ light bar had three. You can slide them all around to get the angles you want. Be sure to use cutting fluid to making cutting easier – your bits will last longer.
I like to drill the holes slightly oversized so I can wiggle the bolts around a bit if needed. I’ll own the mistake this photo shows — I forgot to drill the third hole in the middle. I fixed that later. By the way, the cross-member bolts are quite large. I used a Silver & Deming reduced shank 5/8″ bit. When bits are that big, using a drill press really helps.
The front of the bracket has four coats of black Rustoleum all in one and the back has three. It’s impossible to stop rust in Michigan due to our salting roads in the winter but we can at least try and delay it. Yeah, still no third hole on the top yet. I don’t think I have a photo of the bracket before mounting the lights with the third hole. For all of the holes, try and make sure they are true to one another and horizontally parallel .
Before mounting the lights, I did test mount the bracket just to make sure. One interesting thing surfaced – when the tech installed the plow sub-frame, he did not true the left side. The right side is properly parallel to the ground. The left side’s bracket is clocked up a degree or two. If you look at the cross member where it bolts together you can see the left side is not true. I plan to find out what they did wrong and fix it but didn’t do so when I installed the lights.

By the way, this was not light by any means. The bracket weighed just under 12.5 pounds prior to the lights.

Mounting the Light Bars

With the bracket completed, next up was to mount the light bars. I wanted to do that and then install the whole assembly into the truck vs. installing the bracket and trying to install everything in an awkward position under the truck.

Here are the lights in their mounts. As you can see, the third bolt on the top is now in place. I did put a couple of coats of black paint in the new hole to slow down the rust. The top white LED is pointing straight ahead. The amber light is angled down as far as the bracket allows. I could have filed the slots a tad and been able to angle it down another degree or two but it turned out to be enough to keep the amber light out of the eyes of oncoming traffic.
Here’s a rear view where you can see Nilight’s brackets better. Each one has a slight arc and you have quite a bit of adjustment.

Wiring Up The Lights

As mentioned my plan was to use the upfitter switches and I did. If you do not plan to, then use the Nilight switch. I am going to detail what I did with the upfitter wiring. Why use the upfitter switches? Personally, I think it makes for a very clean look. You have the nice integrated switches in the dash and then RAM also did the wiring out to a number of different terminal locations for you hook up accessories.

These are the upfitter switches. If you do not see something like this in your truck then you do not have that option package and can just go ahead with using a separate switch – such as the one that comes with Nilight’s wiring harness. My plan was to use Aux 1 for the 20″ amber fog light and Aux 2 for the 26″ white LED bar.
In addition to the switches you should have a bag of wires and a brief guide in a plastic bag. My bag was under my back bench when I bought the truck. You need the wiring in this kit. There are aftermarket wiring kits if you lost your’s but bottom line is that you need the wiring.

If you need more information about the upfitter wiring – click here for the official RAM page for commercial body builders (their choice of words not mine). The next photo actually shows what you need to do for the simple LED addition we are doing.

We are using two of the 12 AWG wires – the color code for Aux 1 is Pink with a dark blue line abbreviated PK/DB. The Aux 2 is Pink with a dark green line abbreviated PK/DG.
See the funny looking grey connector with the green plugs on the left side of the fuse box? That is the upfitter terminals for Aux ports 1 through 4. Aux 1 is top left. Aux 2 is bottom left. Aux 3 is top right and Aux 4 is bottom right. Now there is another grey connector block under that which we do not need.
To keep things somewhat modular, I went with spade bits. I like the ones with shrink tubing so you can better connect them to the insulation on the wire. Certainly, you could use other types of connectors or even just solder the various ends together if you wanted to.
With the male spade fitting installed, I then went ahead and mounted the light bar assembly under the truck and tightened down the bolts. I put a cardboard box there because if I dropped the assembly I didn’t want to trash the paint. Thankfully, I didn’t drop it but I have fumbled stuff in the past hence the relatively soft landing zone.
Peeking up from ground level this is how things looked. I did not pull the protective lens cover film off until it was time to test the lights.
The white LED is located back from the grill. LEDs can get surprisingly hot and I didn’t want to melt the plastic. I may be losing some of the projected light being set back like that but the end result is still remarkable and I don’t have to worry about melting the grill if the truck is standing still with the LED on.
The green rubber plugs are pulled out using needle nose pliers. As you can wee, we have the pink & blue wire in the Aux 1 port and the pink and green wire in Aux 2.
Even when it comes to the upfitter switches and wiring, I wanted to make sure they worked. I turned on Aux 1 and got over 12 volts and when I turned it off, no volts. Same with Aux 2. We are using power from the Aux switches to switch relays on or off. Relays have a very low current draw so I don’t need to worry about blowing fuses relating to the upfitter wiring.
This is the modular swith portion of the Nilight wiring harness, Red is positive, Black is negative and White is switch circuit for the relay. In other words, positive comes in on red, when the switch turns on, power then goes through the white circuit, the relay switches and then the larger/heavier 14 gauge wires carry the current from the battery to each light bar. You will connect the white wire of the wiring harness to the relevant Aux pigtail lead. As mentioned, I used spade connectors but you can solder them if you wish, You will not use/need the red or black so make sure they are cut back and protected to prevent any surprises.
I trimmed the switch wire back and then zip tied everything in place so it wasn’t flopping around. One thing I did was to wrap yellow electrical tape at the base of the fog light relay so I would rapidly know which of the two it was and I wrapped white electrical tape at the base of the relay for the white 26″ bar. You want them secure so the wires don’t flex around unnecessarily and break down over time.

Testing and Results

I turned the switches on and confirmed the lights work then I waited for it to get dark. The following photos are of a tree line about 40 yards from the front of the truck plus are straight out of the camera – no color changing, sharpening, etc.

Low beam – these are the stock halogens.
High beams – Lasfit LED upgrade
High beams and new Nilight 20″ yellow fog light bar turned on.
High beam, yellow fog and 26″ light bar all on. What you can’t see in this photo is that peripheral light increased dramatically. If you were on a trail and wanting to see a deer or something coming in from the side, it’s a definite improvement. Just to be clear though, this is not street legal.

Here’s a video of the testing:

This really helps you see the results.
Here’s looking at the truck with low beams on and the yellow LED bar. I really like how it lights the road up directly in front of the truck. You can see the clocking issue I mentioned because the amber light bar is slightly lower on the right than on the left.
Oh man, do not run that 26″ bar on the road. It is like looking at a camera flash going off continuously. It’s incredibly bright and will blind anyone looking at it. It took a few minutes for my vision to come back after quickly snapping this photo.
From a distance you really don’t see the lights blatantly there – you have to look for them.
You get in closer and you can see them but you have to be looking for them.

Conclusion

I like how things turned out. I’ve been using the set up for about a month now and am very happy. I’ll post updates down the road. Lighting may look daunting but it is actually quite straight forward.

I hope this helps you out!


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


How To Easily Assemble A Removable LED Light Bar For Your Truck Or Car’s Roof

Okay, I’m the proud new owner of a 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman and the original halogen lights were pretty anemic. I did two things to address this – first, I replaced the high beams with Lasfit LED emitters and that’s a story for another day. With that said though, I’ll tell you that upgrading to the Lasfit LED high beams was stunningly worth it – I can’t tell you the last time I was so happy with an upgrade.

Now that I am done gushing over the high beam upgrade, the second thing I did was to investigate installing a LED light bar on the truck. That’s really the focus of this post.

I guess it must be the pandemic because there aren’t a lot of custom fit aftermarket options right now but there are still a ton of lighting options using general fit LED light bars – the kind that you normally bolt on to a bumper, roll bar, etc.

My first thought was to mount a light on the bumper but I run a Western plow in the winter. I could have mounted a 26″ bar behind the front lower plastic grill in the bumper or even cut it out for a clear shot but it wasn’t really appealing to me.

Then I got to thinking about how tall the truck was. My 2021 Ram 2500 with the snow package is sitting pretty tall in the air. The top of the cab is about six and a half feet (80-ish inches) off the ground. If I mounted a light bar up there, it would have the elevation to cast a ton of light.

Lighting Options

Over the years, I’ve used a number of inexpensive light bars off Amazon and had while some brands weren’t so great due to leaking water into the LEDs, I’ve had pretty good luck with Nilight. You’ll read mixed reviews of their customer service but fortunately I’ve not needed to work with them.

So, I started looking at NiLights and was particularly interested in their triple row light bars as they can output a ton of light. Honestly, for any of these vendors, take their lumen and wattage claims with a huge grain of salt – there’s a ton of marketing hype. In general, bigger bars and more emitters give you more light – that’s just a rule of thumb to go by.

So, I’ve had light bars up to 12″ wide in the past but they were double row and nothing to spectacular in terms of light output. So, I figured I wanted another Nilight and some width greater than 20″ and they have a bunch of options.

In terms of mounting, I really didn’t want to go drilling into my new truck. On one hand I could mount a light behind the plastic lower grill in the bumper but I really wanted to go high because I do plan to install LED fog lights in the future.

Magnetic Mounts

So, one way to mount is to use rubber coated magnetic mounts. They are removable and hold pretty good but they honestly do have limits and will blow off the truck if you don’t think things through carefully. I really wanted to go this route, at least for now.

Going with magnetic mounts does require you to think about some things. First and foremost, are they strong enough to hold the light in position? What you will find is that they tend to be very strong and pulling a magnet straight off a good metal roof is genuinely hard but that’s not the real issue. You need them to not gradually slide backward and come off at the speeds you plan. In general, the bigger the surface area of the light (width x height).

As I thought about it, I reigned in my length to 26″. I sure debated the 37″ bar but there were two reasons why I went with the shorter bar. First, guys reported that the actual draw of the 26″ Nilight 18025C-A light bar was around 5 amps and that was good because I planned to power the light from the dash mounted cigarette lighter – more on that shortly.

Second, I wanted to lower the risk of the light sliding around. The 26″ Nilight 18025C-A bar comes with three mounting points but I wanted to add more to make sure it didn’t move so I ordered additional set of the Nilight 90035B mounting brackets. That then gave me the ability to mount five of the magnetic bases. I figured that would do the job.

Powering the Nilight 18025C-A Bar

With all of the lighting gear on order, the next thing to consider was the power. Since it was going to be removable, I wanted the power to be mobile as well and not hardwired.

For those of us old enough to remember the old cigarette lighters you know where the name comes from. For those of you wondering what I am talking about, I am talking about the odd looking tubular 12 volt power receptacle in your car or truck. Back in the day, there was a little plug that you pushed in that would cause a little heating element to get red hot and you could light a cigarette or stogie from it … or anything else for that matter – it was like a little red hot space heater or stove element.

In most vehicles, the units can provide 15-20 amps. In a Ram, my understanding is that the center dash unit has a 20 amp fuse. If you are trying to calculate watts, volts x amps = watts so a 20 amp 12 volt circuit can provide 240 watts.

Remember my earlier comment about light bar watt and lumen claims typically being higher than reality? The 26″ bar listing says 540 watts. That is a ton of juice — maybe it’s what it would be if some old incandescent bulb was used but it’s not really drawing that.

There are these really cool switched plugs that have a on/off switch along with a momentary switch and a 10 foot cord. They are well made but I do wish the wire was thicker but it didn’t cause a problem. Note, you can buy these with either the ground (negative) or positive being the momentary switched circuit. I opted for the positive momentary switch because I could just turn the light on for second, let go and it would shut off. If you don’t want it at all, you can just cut off blue momentary wire.

Adding The Mounts To The Nilight 18025C-A

I should point out that I did try just using the original three mounting points that came with the bar and three magnets. During some highway driving tests during the rain I thought it moved some and didn’t think that was secure enough, at least not to my liking. The lights are modular so adding a couple more mounts was easily done.

The first thing I did was to unscrew the end cap from the end without the wire. I removed the end cap and the gasket so I could then slide in two extra M8 hex nut for the two extra mounts I planned.

I removed the cap from the end with no wire, moved the gasket out the way, and slid in two new M8 nuts. I was then careful to make sure the gasket was positioned correctly when I inserted and started the little bolts by hand before using my power screw driver to run them down snug.

In terms of the mounts, I found that their supplied allen/hex socket screws were really a bad idea on their part. You can’t access them easily at all and they limit adjustments so I switched to regular hex head M8 bolts.

With an M8 bolt in place, you can turn the rubberized magnetic mounting disc and tighten or loosen it accordingly. I replaced all of the little hex head socket bolts with hex heads as shown above. I took the little hex socket bolt into my local Ace Hardware and found replacements of the same length.
As with the bolts on the rubber mounts, I replaced the hex sockets on the body too. I honestly have no idea why they opted for sockets vs. head head bolts. The hex heads allow for more rotation and easy access with an open end wrench.

I did apply blue Loc-tite to the bolts going into the rubber pads. In hindsight, I think this might have been overkill. If I ever want to take the pads off, it will take a bit more effort but then again they aren’t going to vibrate loose so easily either.

To make the spacing symmetrical I just moved in X screw heads from each end, centered the mounting block and tightened it down. In my case, I wanted the light to point straight head so I did have to play with that a bit and then match all of the mounts to the same angle.
Here’s the rear view. Once I figured out the position for the light to be straight ahead, I approximated the angle on the others by paying attention to the location of the top of the mount relative to the cooling fin.

Wiring The Nilight 18025C-A

Wiring is very straight forward – red line in the light’s short lead cord to the red line on the power cord. If you want the momentary positive to trip the light also, connect the blue and red cord together. Only do this if you buy the momentary positive version of the cord.

Here’s the switch assembly and it’s cord with the black cord from the light swooping in from the top left. The small black tool is used to trim back the protective outer
case on cable assemblies so you can then get to the exposed individual wires. They are cheap and very handy. The alternative is careful slitting with a box cutter/razor.
Red to Red, Black to Black and combine the blue momentary positive to the red positive on the power cord – I just twisted them together and then soldered. Only do this if you made sure to buy the momentary switched positive version of the switch. If you mistakenly bought the negative momentary version you will pop the fuse in the nose of the switch housing because that will be a dead short. That fuse is replaceable by the way.

As far as wiring goes, you can use any of the solderless crimp on connectors or you can just solder the lines together. If I know I will need to take something apart then I will use good crimp on fittings. Otherwise, if I want a slim connection that will last, I use a soldering iron and resin flux core solder.

Be sure to test everything before you close up the circuits. I tested the LED light bar itself before I did anything else.

After soldering, I like to put shrink tubes over each line and then over the bundle to keep moisture out and reduce strain. By the way, if you aren’t familiar with shrink tubing, it shrinks when heated – I prefer to use a heat gun but have also used a lighter in a pinch.

If I want to reinforce it further then I may add on a layer or two of quality 3M electrical tape – overkill I know but I don’t want things to fail easily from flexing or moisture.

Shrink tubing assortment sets are very handy to have around.

I also looked at where the light cord was going to rub on my truck’s roof and added a piece of thick decal vinyl to protect the paint.

So the plug and switches work quite well being in the center dash plug like this. Very easy to reach and turn on or off. When on, the little red LED lights up so you do have an in-cab reminder that the bar is on (trust me, at night, you’ll know it’s on).
You can see how I have the cord run. Again, this is meant to be removable and something I can move around as needed. So yeah. there is a loose cord but it is manageable.
So the light us up top and I run the wire in actually just behind the pillar between the driver and passenger doors in the crew cab. I then run the wire behind the driver’s headrest and down along the center console. Note, there is thick vinyl decal paint protector where the line touches the pain – and about two inches on either side just to play it safe.
So the cord runs under the driver side headrest and then up and out the passenger rear door in the crew cab. I wish there was another 2-3 feet of cord so I could have run it to the floor and around the bottom of my chair but you know, it works. I could have spliced in more wire with pros and cons but I decided to keep it simple.
It really clamps down well on the flat portion of the roof but not in the back with the reinforcing bends. I center the light by eyeball aligning the center mount of the bar with the center roof marker light. The actual bottom of the light bar (not the mounts) is about 81-ish” off the ground. Also, you can’t see it but as mentioned, there is thick 3M Vivid vinyl decal material under the cord.
It’s hard to get the 3M Vivid tape to show up unless you get the angle just right to see the edges. There are two pieces here – one wrapping over the edge of the roof and a second wider piece to protect the paint if the cord is blowing around in the wind much.

Nilight 18025C-A Results

Let’s look at some photos that I took at night and the measures at all based on my laser range finder that I measured before hand from the front of the truck:

These are the stock OEM low beams. Notice how they really limit upward light. The bright oak tree trunk you see slightly left of center is at 23 yards. If you can see the silver tarp in the background, that is at 47 yards.
Ok, mow this one is with the Lasfit LED high beams turned on. The leaf pile in the woods is at 57 yards.
Alright, this is with the low, high and LED light bar running. The light output is amazing. You can’t see it in the photo obviously but the light bar was lighting up a ton of stuff to the left and right as well. The next big tree in the left of the photo is at 31 yards and the swing set is at 44 yards. There’s just a ton of light. This is exactly what I wanted – the Nilight LED bar I bought has a mix of flood and spot emitters to generate this much light.
Low beam only from about 7 yards.
Low and High beam lights at 7 yards. The big shadow is the top left light of my plow.
Low, High and Light Bar at 7 yards.

Summary

First off, it is stunningly bright and casts it very well both forward and to the sides – the breadth of the field of light cast actually surprised me. So, in terms of the shear volume of light it is kicking out and it’s ability to light things up in all directions, it definitely exceeded my expectations.

The switch works remarkably well. The switches have a nice feel and I like that there is a fuse in the switch assembly protecting the truck’s outlet. At no time did the cord feel warm due to excessive draw and I can’t see that it is limiting the brightness of the LEDs any so that worked out just fine.

Next, it seems to stay put – even during rain. Most of my driving has been around town and 35-45mph. I did go on the highway at 65-75mph for 10-15 minutes a few times but not for hours on end. I also have no intention of putting this through a car wash – I really am not sure how it would fare one way or the other.

I would recommend that you keep a towel in your truck to clean the roof before you clamp on the light and also inspect the magnets to make sure they are clear — otherwise you are liable to scratch up the roof or where ever you clamp the light to.

I also decided to keep the light stored in an old duffel bag under my back seat vs. having any risk of it coming off. I put a micro fiber towel in there too – I mainly bagged it to prevent stuff from getting stuck to the magnets and then scratching things up.

This is the light bar, duffel bag and towel that I stash under the rear seat.

The only downside is that I would need to know before hand that I might need the light and install it vs. leaving it attached all the time. I figure in the Spring that I’ll look into installing the flood lights and then decide if I want to do anything after that.

Last photo for now 🙂

So, I am very happy with the result and hope this gives you some ideas as well.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

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The Streamlight 88081 PROTAC HL 5-X 3500 Lumen Light IS a Beast On Your Side – Part 2 – Out of the box & performance report

As mentioned in the first post, I ordered a Streamlight 88081 from Amazon. It arrived and, of course, I had to immediately check it out. Here are a series of photos with the story told in the captions.

This is the 88081 with the 18650 USB rechargeable batteries
The box has twp tables talking about performance metrics based on the type of battery used. The left table is for CR123A batteries and the right is for 18650 batteries. The model I bought comes with the 18650 class batteries (two of them are used at a time) so the right table is applicable.
The first thing I noticed was how it felt – there’s a nice solid heft to it, the rubberized grip is very positive and it fits my hand real nice. Note, I wear XL-sized gloves for reference.
Here’s the business end of the light. Notice the interesting lens. It kicks out one hell of a bright focused center but still radiates a very broad cone of light. It is not adjustable but I really haven’t found the need to change it after using it for over a month.
It has some big fins for heat dissipation. Note, the rubberized surface is only on the handle – the emitter head is just anodized aluminum to allow for cooling. Good idea on their part. The longest I’ve run the light about 5-10 minutes. It does warm up but I’ve not run it long enough to see just how hot it can get.
These are the Streamlight brand Micro USB rechargeable 18650 batteries. I was unsure about the concept at first but they give you a ton of options for recharging in your home, vehicle or even with a big battery in the field.
Because I already have an 18650 charging cradle, I bought some spare 18650 batteries. OLight makes good gear so I got a pair of their batteries. As I write this, they are in the light right now. I also bought them because I wasn’t sure how the Streamlight USBs would perform and the short answer is that if I had it to do over, I’d buy a second pair of Streamlight USBs because of the flexibility to charge just about anywhere. DO NOT BUY CHEAP BATTERIES!! You risk performance and them catching fire/exploding.
They use a nice beefy spring on the tailcap. This spring is a failure point on cheap lights along with the switch. I’ve never had a spring or switch fail on a Streamlight product.
According to my Bushnell 1200 laser range finder, the hedge row at the back behind the trees is 65 yards. You can see the very bright center and flood light around it.
The bush to the left of the driveway is 62 yards away. Again, you can see the very bright focused center beam and broad light to the sides.

TEN-TAP Programming

I have a pet peeve with some lights – I loathe the ones with tons of modes where you need to click the power switch to cycle through them – low, medium, high, strobe, SOS, etc. What a pain in the butt!! Streamlight wisely made the PROTAC HL programmable via what they call “TEN-TAP”. Mine is set to high beam on and off. That’s it. Sure, I can adjust it if I ever want to but all I need right now is the high beam and I don’t want to have to fumble around clicking the button to get to the high beam mode. Streamlight has a page that tells more about how to program your light – click here.

Bottom Line

I really, really like this light. It is the brightest one I own now and when we pull down the trash at night, we can see everything very clearly. If there are any coyotes, I am sure they are getting the heck out of Dodge as soon as they see that light and hear us coming. Furthermore, the light has enough heft that if we do need to hit something with it, the blow will do massive damage – you’d be amazed what a freaked out fat man can do 🙂 At any rate, I have no reservations recommending this light to you.


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The Streamlight 88081 PROTAC HL 5-X 3500 Lumen Light IS a Beast On Your Side – Part 1

One Sunday morning at about 7am, I was putting stuff in the trunk of my wife’s car when a surprised coyote carrying a dead reddish brown cat in its jaws ran by me about 20 feet away. I was startled but not especially worried – you could tell the ‘yote was just as surprised as I was. I knew we had them in the area but this was the closest I had been to one.

A few days later, my wife and I were pulling our trash cans down our long 300 foot driveway at night and all the woods and bushes are dimly lit. My wife said she saw a dog or something running across our yard in front of a hedge. My eyes are crap now and I didn’t see it until it reached the driveway and turned to run away from us – it was another coyote. Well, that did it for me, I wanted us to have a heavy flashlight with one hell of a bright beam to carry when we pulled the trash cans out at night.

My wife will tell you that I am fascinated by flashlights and have quite a collection. I have converted 3, 4 and 5 cell MagLites to LED – they had the weight but not the brightness that I wanted. I wanted something that would absolutely nuke the immediate area in light. I needed something that would push a ton of light in a flood pattern about 100-200 yards and that meant something with well over 1,000 lumens. My 250-500 lumen lights would light up a pretty large area but I wanted a tactical nuke that would light up a big chunk of our yard and stun/scare anything caught in its beam.

The other mandatory requirement that I must emhasize was reliability. I’ve had a ton of cheap import lights fail me – sometimes its the switch, sometimes the cheap under-powered spring pushing the batteries forward, etc. Most of the time, when you buy a cheap light, you get a cheap light. I honestly wanted a light the family could rely on and if they needed to swing it as a club in self-defense to hit a coyote, or any attacker really, it would still reliably work.

If I am going to put my family’s safety on the line with a light, such as this case, there are only two brands of light to be considered – Surefire and Streamlight. Surefire lights are excellent but usually priced outside of my reach. Streamlight on the other hand, is a great combination of excellent quality and affordability. My everyday carry light is usually a Streamlight Microstream and has been for the last 2-3 years. The only weapons lights I buy are Streamlights – either from the TLR or PROTAC series. I’ve never had one fail on me so I am confident with this brand in general.

Thus, I started my journey broad by surfing the web and reading and quickly narrowing my choice down to the Streamlight 88081 PROTAC HL 5-X LED light.

The PROTAC HL 5-X Flashlight

As mentioned, I did a ton of reading. The specs on this light were wicked and convinced me to order one:

  • 3,500 lumen on high using 18650 batteries or only 2500 if using CR123A
  • Can use either two 18650 reachargeable batteries or four CR123A batteries
  • Three operating programs – 1) High/Low/Strobe 2) High Only 3) Low/Medium/High
  • Light output and battery life depends on both the mode and the type of battery:
    • High (18650 USB): 3,500 lumens; 452m beam; runs 1.25 hours; 51,000 candela
    • High (CR123A): 2,500 lumens; 385m beam; runs 1.5 hours; 37,000 candela
    • Medium: 1,000 lumens; 237m beam; runs 2.5 hours (CR123A); runs 3 hours (18650 USB); 14,100 candela
    • Low: 250 lumens; 120m beam; runs 10.5 hours (CR123A); runs 11.5 hours (18650 USB); 3,620 candela
    • Strobe for signaling or disorienting: runs 1.5 hours (CR123A); runs 1.25 hours (18650 USB)
  • 9.53 inches long
  • Weighs 1 pound 3.4oz with the Streamlight USB batteries
  • Rubber sleve over an aluminum body gives both a sure grip and is a thermal insulator

Yeah, it was definitely #1 on my “this is the light to get” list. An interesting note is that you can buy complete kits including Streamlights USB reachargeable 18650 batteries. I’m used to the traditional batteries that go in a charger so this was new to me – these batteries have a small micro USB port on each of them and Streamlight can supply a USB cord that plugs into the charger of your choice. Their cord has a split head for charging the two batteries at once. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

The problem with a great many rechargeable batteries is the need for a dedicated charger -either tying up the whole light as you plug a cord into the light or the batteries are removed and put in a charging cradle of some type. With the Streamlight 18650 USB batteries, things are actually simpler – many folks have USB chargers all over the house, in cars, at work, etc. All you need is a charger and any micro USB cable – there’s nothing proprietary to deal with. The light can still use regular rechargeable 18650 batteries as well – I use both but may well get another set of Streamlight 18650 USB batteries. I already have the charger in my office but I don’t have the flexibility I just mentioned.

So, I ordered the full USB kit from Amazon and they did their usual great job of shipping.

How Did It Perform?

As they say, that is a story for another day, or at least the next post so click here to read it. I’ll tell you though, it is one heck of a light and totally lived up to what I hoped for.

Fresh out of the box.

Click here to read the next post that has many photos of the light, its parts and night time photos showing the illumination.


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The following are current eBay listings for a variety of PROTAC HL 5-X lights and not just the one I bought:


This Rechargeable LED Worklight is Bright, Long-Lasting and Very Affordable

This is a pretty slick little light. It’s compact, doesn’t weigh much and can kick out quite a bit of light for at least eight hours.  Because it LED, you don’t need to worry about the bulbs burning out plus it runs cool vs. the scorching hot halogen worklights.

It does have one weird feature that I would tell you not to use – it has a red and blue light emergency situation flasher. In Michigan anyways, red is fine but the blue light is reserved for police. I didn’t buy this light for that feature and simply will not use it.

As small rechargeable worklights go, this is a great deal.  I bought mine because over 1,100 reviewers on Amazon gave this 4.3 out of 5 stars. You can’t have a rating like that unless your product is solid.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.



How to Upgrade Mini Maglites to LED, Replacing the Lens and Adding a Switched Tail Cap

Okay, I have to admit it up front – I’m nostalgic.  When I was a teenager in the 1980s Maglites were a big deal.  I had a four D-Cell unit and a friend encouraged me to get a Mini Maglite probably in the 1985-ish timeframe and I have used it a ton.

I also bought a Mini Maglite with remote switch and shot gun barrel adapter for my dad.  He would slip out the door at night to see what the dog was barking at and would often take a firearm with him – often an old reliable 16 gauge single shot Iver Johnson.  It really creeped me out.  It wasn’t until years later that I understood how my dad viewed that having both grown up on a rural farm in New Hampshire and serving in the 6th Infantry in Pusan at the end of WWII (Yes, we had troops in Korea towards the end of WWII to prevent the Japanese from returning).

At any rate, I bought my dad a Mini MagLite with a remote switch for that old Iver Johnson and installed it.  Years later I would find the shotgun and the light separate – I suspect my dad never really needed it.

At any rate, I wound up with both my old light and my dad’s sitting next to each other and figured it was time to upgrade them and return them to service.

For me, researching is part of the fun so I dug around on replacement tail caps, LED upgrade units and lenses.  So, I wound up with the following pile on my work bench:

I bought two of the LED upgrades but had already installed one before it dawned on me that I better get a picture 🙂

The  LED upgrade is from TerraLux and is their TLE-5EX MiniStar2 Extreme.  They claim 150 maximum lumens for four hours.  I can’t speak to the duration but they are definitely bright – brighter than my 80 and 100 lumen lights for sure with a really nice solid coverage. 

   

Basically, you unscrew the head from the camera body and while you are at it, remove the lens cap also because you will replace the old lens with a new one.  If you see any stretched, torn or missing O-rings, then replace them while you are at it.

Here are the old and new reflectors and lenses:

The old bulb just pulls straight out of the body.  You don’t need to do anything else – just pull it out.

Now the LED module’s legs just go in where you removed the old bulb.  Have batteries in the light because you need to find out if the module is plugged in the right way or not.  What I mean by this is that the polarity does matter.  If you plug the module in and it will not light then turn it the other way so the legs switch the power holes they are plugged in to.

Notice how the reflector that comes with the module has a much wider hole to accommodate the LED.  You can save your old bulb and reflector if you want to.

The module will sit on top of the housing.

I got lucky – the light worked the first try.  If it did not, I would have removed the module and exchanged holes the legs were going into.

 

The tailcap has a nice switch.  What I like is that I can adjust the lens how I want and just turn the unit off and on at the tail cap.  If you were packing this, you can still turn the light off the old way and reduce the odds of it turning on.  Lastly, the cap has a perk – it has a lanyard ring on the side and it will prevent the light from rolling off a surface.  On one hand you can’t stand the light up and run it like candle but on the easy on/off switch and elimination of rolling are nice bonuses.

So that’s all there is to it.  I’d say it took me 5-10 minute per light and I satisfied my nostalgia by keeping them and have far, far brighter lights.  I’ve been using one of the lights for almost two months as of writing this blog without any problems at all.

By the way, I also wrote a post about upgrading my bigger 4-D cell Maglites as well.  Click here to read that post.


 


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at [email protected]. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.