Professional installation is recommended, though not necessary. If you have the basic tools and can follow instructions, you should be able to install a new LED light bar without any complications. What follows are the basic procedures for proper installation, but please refer to any instructions that came with your product.
Before You Start
Rather than just assuming it’s a simple process and jumping in, there a few considerations before installing your LED light bar.
Even in the most careful shipping process, mistakes can happen. Before you start installation, check the parts list with your product and be sure that all the pieces are present. If not, you’ll have to send for more or find a way to replace them in order to install your light bar.
Tools You Need
To start with, your toolkit should include a set of screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, drill bits, and a measuring tape. You should also have a helper or at least some C-clamps to hold things in place. Use drill bits that are clean and sharp. Trying to force dull or over-sized bits may cause dimpling around the drilled hole that could affect the seating of the light bar or do permanent damage to your vehicle.
1. Test the LED Light Bar
Even though your light bar is new, it could possibly have been damaged in transit. Before wasting your time attaching a flawed LED light bar, be certain it works as expected. Attach the bar directly to a vehicle battery or other 12-volt DC source. Whatever you have as the power source, check to be sure it fits within the product specs, and can supply the maximum current your light bar can draw.
NEVER attach the light bar to an AC source such as a wall outlet.
Connect the red wire to the positive terminal and the black wire to the negative terminal. If the bar doesn’t light up, you need to investigate the cause of the failure before proceeding.
Try not to look directly into the LEDs as an intense light source can damage your vision.
2. Before Installing the Light Bar Mounts
Depending on the size and manufacturer of your light bar, it should have at least one and probably two or more threaded studs protruding from the bottom surface. These studs will fit into the mounting brackets that attach to the vehicle.
Some lights may have fixed holes for drilling, and others may include channel mounts that the mounting brackets slide into. If you plan on attaching the LED light bar to a roll bar, grill cage, rack, etc., you may require special bar mounts to hold the light bar securely in the right position.
In certain cases you may have to fabricate your own brackets by bending and drilling other metal parts to fit. Never try to attach the mounting brackets to plastic, rubber, or fiberglass body parts as the vibration could crack the vehicle part or damage the LED light bar.
Light bars are typically meant to be attached to flat, straight surfaces, not curved ones. If you’re going to attach it to the rounded parts of you vehicle, you might want to use self-tapping screws to make the job easier.
The threaded studs may loosen over time from the vibration of driving over rough terrain, so dab a little liquid thread locker to each one before securing it.
3. End Brackets
To position end brackets, attach them to the light bar housing’s studs at either end, and preferably with an assistant or two, set the light bar in place. Make sure the rear face of the light bar has good ventilation, as LED lights need to stay cool for longer life. Avoid placing the light bar near a source of heat.
Depending on how particular you are about straightness, you can either eyeball it either end to be sure it’s straight, or measure from a convenient edge. With channel brackets you can precisely align the light bar after the mounts are attached.
Either way, when you’re satisfied with the placement, mark the vehicle at the bracket drill holes accurately with a pencil, marker, or crayon you can see easily against the vehicle color. Then drill the hole at each mark with the appropriately sized drill bit.
For larger diameter holes it’s usually easier and more precise to start with a much smaller hole as a guide, such as using a 3/32″ drill bit. Then drill out again with a mid-sized drill bit before drilling for the final size at the exact mounting bolt diameter.
4. Channel Brackets
If your product uses channel brackets, you can place them inside the extreme ends of the light bar, but not more than a quarter of its total length from the ends. The center of larger panels are more subject to denting; if there are vehicle surfaces that are reinforced, try to attach the brackets there to improve stability.
5. Attaching the Light Bar
Once you’ve got the light bar properly positioned and the holes accurately drilled, attach the brackets to the vehicle with the provided screws/bolts, and the light bar to the brackets. Tighten it down as snugly as possible without damaging the brackets or your vehicle. Be sure to use any washers that came with the product.
When you’ve positioned and secured your LED light bar, you can start wiring it to the vehicle’s electrical system as the last step before you get out and enjoy off-roading.