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AlabamaDan

Which Light Bar to Choose and How to Install it?

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The choices of light bars on eBay and Amazon is overwhelming.  What features should I be looking for?  How many watts?  Waterproof is a given.  How long?  Curved or straight?  What's a fair price?  What is junk I should avoid?

 

Next question is how to mount it?  I was thinking of mounting it to the OE luggage roof rail tracks it would be about 39".  I was also thinking a smaller one that mounts on a 1998 roof rail - about 36".  Or, I could mount a bracket to the OE roof rail tracks to extend the mounting options and get a 42" perhaps.  What did y'all do?

 

Pics and links are great!

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No one.  

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Fairly subjective, you might get a wide variety of answers in terms of making a selection.  A lot boils down to budget and general usage.  I'll never stomach spending the money for some brand name ones...they won't make or break my adventures.


I really like the aesthetics of curved light bars that span the top of the windshield.  There was one install pic somewhere on NPORA that looked great.  But, they're impractical for my application: I rarely offroad at night, and in the situations where I have, I wouldn't be able to use them because I'd just be blinding the guy in front of me.  A smaller light bar in a low position will serve my needs.

 

If electrical isn't your thing, look for wiring kits...they'll usually include the switch, relay, loomed wiring, and crimped terminals.  Some will include a water-tight harness, or otherwise be plug-and-play (particularly if the light and wiring are of the same brand).  Harnesses that come with Carling switches (those rectangular ones) are a close fit to the rectangular knockouts on the dash, but some modification (by knife or file) might be needed, and you might have some close clearances if using the openings to the left of the steering wheel under the vent...the dash can interfere with the paddle switch operation (at least on the later models they can).  The round switches install well with a Forstner bit, which leave a better cut than standard or paddle bits in my opinion.  I usually drill the hole right into the knockout piece, knowing that I can replace it easily if my setup changes...if taking this route, put some disconnects on the switch wiring to simplify installation/removal.

 

As for mounting...this is probably the trickiest part since it's all custom.  If the light bar brackets are included (some aren't) using your roof rack rails might be pretty trivial...some slot or square nuts in the channel (probably have the OE ones already in there and unused...I think they take an M6x1?), matching bolts, and some pieces of plate steel or aluminum cut to size/shape would give you some offset mounting options, since the end of the rail is still several inches from the windshield line.  If you're willing to drill into the roof and have access to a rivet nut setter, that's another option, as is self-tapping screws into the A-pillar (though probably not the approach I'd take...just be sure to seal any holes with silicone and rubber gaskets to prevent water ingress).

 

If you want some custom brackets made, I could cut something out on the plasma table, perhaps even get some bends in it.  We'd need to talk about some dimensions, of course.

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f52604c9854df6655c2fc8f5d99b9795.jpg

 

 

 

I have one I got off craigslist. It was 100 bucks. 42" Works fine for me.

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If you want some custom brackets made, I could cut something out on the plasma table, perhaps even get some bends in it.  We'd need to talk about some dimensions, of course.


Good to know you’re eager to try out that plasma table.... I have a long list of custom things I need



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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2 minutes ago, Astrorami said:

Good to know you’re eager to try out that plasma table.... I have a long list of custom things I need emoji23.png

 

 

Absolutely hit me up for stuff.  While I do have a list of things I'd like to produce normally, I'll be up for anything custom anyone needs.

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Don't trust the waterproof ratings on some of the cheaper stuff. I put a pair of Kawell LED lights (not proper bars) on mine as backup lights, and the ad said they were waterproof, but they weren't sealed for crap. The fittings for the wires were loose, and I discovered after sealing those up that the lenses weren't sealed either. I ended up tearing the leaky one apart and putting them both back together with a bunch of silicone. They're bright as hell but it's a good thing they're mounted down where you can't see them, because they look like they lost a fight with a tube of Ultra Black.

 

Oh, and if you're even considering using the bar on the road, hook the switch into one of your high beam leads instead of constant + so that the bar turns off when you dim your lights. I've driven past one bro truck with the light bar on and that was enough.

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4 hours ago, Slartibartfast said:

Don't trust the waterproof ratings on some of the cheaper stuff. I put a pair of Kawell LED lights (not proper bars) on mine as backup lights, and the ad said they were waterproof, but they weren't sealed for crap. The fittings for the wires were loose, and I discovered after sealing those up that the lenses weren't sealed either. I ended up tearing the leaky one apart and putting them both back together with a bunch of silicone. They're bright as hell but it's a good thing they're mounted down where you can't see them, because they look like they lost a fight with a tube of Ultra Black.

 

Oh, and if you're even considering using the bar on the road, hook the switch into one of your high beam leads instead of constant + so that the bar turns off when you dim your lights. I've driven past one bro truck with the light bar on and that was enough.

I just searched this brand you mentioned and they look like the style of led pods I used on my roof basket...I'm sure most of this stuff comes from the same factory in China. I haven't had any problems with water intrusion but I will definitely keep my eye on them. If anything, I may just replace them. I think I paid around $20 for 4 pods.

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2 things worth noting:
*Complaints about significant wind noise on roof light bars.
*Blinding light from reflection off the hood.

Alternatives to consider:
Light bar integrated into forward grill (eliminates wind noise & reflection issue)
Ditch lights (give better lateral light for looking for camp sites, forest roads, etc. & easy to mount from hood hinges with minimal fabrication)

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On 9/6/2018 at 7:53 PM, hawairish said:

If you want some custom brackets made, I could cut something out on the plasma table, perhaps even get some bends in it.  We'd need to talk about some dimensions, of course.

 

Thanks for all the detailed advice.  I'm thinking that may be the way to go.  I'm thinking I could install brackets on the stock rails and metal OE nuts in them.  Then on that bracket I could have the freedom to mount something like a 42+" led bar.  I'm thinking about the curved myself, not only would it look a little ascetically pleasing, but it the rows the floods to the side a little as well.

 

I saw some that have dual color, amber and cool white.  The amber would be cool for fog or behind someone.  The bright lights would be good for leading or being alone.

 

My plan was to find a switch to fit the console right in front of the shifter where I have 3 blank spots.  I found some online that are supposed to fit.  I haven't quite figured the wiring out yet either.

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6 hours ago, RainGoat said:

2 things worth noting:
*Complaints about significant wind noise on roof light bars.
*Blinding light from reflection off the hood.

Alternatives to consider:
Light bar integrated into forward grill (eliminates wind noise & reflection issue)
Ditch lights (give better lateral light for looking for camp sites, forest roads, etc. & easy to mount from hood hinges with minimal fabrication)

 

Good advice.  Thanks.

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For brackets, I'm also looking into making a small metal brake or finger press brake for my floor press to make some bends.  Hood hinge mounts are something on my list of things to make.

 

Yeah, the spots vs flood vs clear vs color also boil down to usage...a "what do you need to see, and how soon?" assessment comes to mind.  If you're speeding through desert trails at dusk, spots.  Crawling, floods.  Forested fire roads, maybe spots for straight-ahead, and floods for forest line/periphery.  Some brands also support clip-on color lenses.

 

The wiring is actually pretty simple.  Although the wiring kits simplify the installation, they're not usually the path I take because they're too universal...you usually have to plan for the inline fuse to be accessible, a certain location to mount the relay, hiding excess cable length (or worse, insufficient cable length).  But, the electrical connection itself is very simple.  The best advice I can give with it comes to electrical connections is to consider ALL of the future (and even current) devices in the truck, then build a solution that makes connecting and adding circuits easier, safer, and cleaner.  I personally can't stand rats nests of wiring, which is essentially what you get when you add something here, then something there, then something something something.  Particularly in the case of adding external lighting, planning ahead is a must if you need to drill into any part of the vehicle.  For a single light bar, you might be able to snake a cable along the windshield under the seal, but if you're adding multiple lights, drilling a hole in the roof might be the best/only approach...plan accordingly!

 

Blue Sea makes some nice fused distribution blocks, great for relay and non-relay applications, but there are some simpler/cheaper fuse blocks out there.  If you plan to add multiple LED lighting circuits, take a look at some multi-relay circuit boards meant for Arduino/RPi stuff (some support 12V/10A applications, .  Nice, clean, and cheap (not that standalone relays aren't dirt cheap).  Even if you only plan to add one lightbar, make your own relay distribution hub to support extra relays.  Keep in mind that some low-wattage lights can be supported by relay-less circuits, so long as the switch supports the amperage (watts/voltage=amps), which can simplify circuits even further.  Bottom line is that it's easier and better to run a single power lead from the battery to a distribution point, than it is to run a bunch of wire directly off the battery.

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6 hours ago, hawairish said:

Bottom line is that it's easier and better to run a single power lead from the battery to a distribution point, than it is to run a bunch of wire directly off the battery.

 

^ This. I ran a bunch of circuits to my battery with individual fuse holders flapping in the breeze until I got tired of it and redid it with a blade fuse box. Easier to get to, doesn't look like a rat's nest, easy to disconnect something if I need to. The box I got even has little indicators that light up if a fuse pops. Check the combined amp rating of the fuse box to be sure it can take all the circuits you're routing through it, and size its wire to the battery appropriately.

I've got three factory Nissan fog light rocker switches for the aux lights on mine (factory fogs, driving lights, aux reverse lights). I've got them set so they only come on if the circuit they're tied to (low beam, high beam, reverse lights, respectively) is hot and the switch is on. This way they're locked out when the switch is off, and automatic when the switch is on. The wiring on mine is laid out like this: + wire from whatever circuit enables that light (low beams for fogs, high beams for driving lights, reverse signal from the trans for reverse lights) to the rocker switch, rocker switch to the relay coil, relay coil to ground. Battery + to the fuse, fuse to the relay contacts, relay contacts to the lights, ground the lights to the body. (Because my switches have indicator lights built in, each switch needs a ground as well.) So for, let's say, the fogs, if the low beams are on, and the switch is on, current flows through the relay coil, closing the contacts, allowing power to flow through the lights via the heavier-gauge fused circuit. Turn off the switch, or turn off the the low beams, and the relay coil loses power and the contacts open.

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Those are good points.  I'm new to electrical wiring, but I should be able to figure it out with some help and advice.  I was thinking of grabbing a fuse and or relay box from the junkyard as a distribution point or two.  What do y'all think about that?

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I’d skip on a JY fuse block. It’ll probably have way more circuits than you’ll need, and getting them apart to undo circuits is like doing the job twice.  There are numerous aftermarket options that allow you to start with a cleaner slate, and take up minimal space.  I’ll post some ideas up in the morning. 

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BleepinJeep did a good video on rewiring a Jeep fuse/relay box, but it looks like it uses different fuses from what the Pathfinder has everywhere else, and I'd much rather have the same fuse size throughout so I can swap them around in an emergency. I tried to puzzle out a Subaru fuse box once, realized it had all kinds of weird connections inside (fuses feeding other fuses?), and gave up up on it.

I think I used this one for mine (don't remember the brand but it looks like what I've got). I haven't run out of connections yet, it uses the same fuses, it's covered, and it fit nicely onto a flat spot on the bracket for my power steering reservoir. I wrote which circuit was which on the cover with a paint pen, but it looks like other similar boxes come with spots for labels.

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1 hour ago, Slartibartfast said:

BleepinJeep did a good video on rewiring a Jeep fuse/relay box, but it looks like it uses different fuses from what the Pathfinder has everywhere else, and I'd much rather have the same fuse size throughout so I can swap them around in an emergency. I tried to puzzle out a Subaru fuse box once, realized it had all kinds of weird connections inside (fuses feeding other fuses?), and gave up up on it.

I think I used this one for mine (don't remember the brand but it looks like what I've got). I haven't run out of connections yet, it uses the same fuses, it's covered, and it fit nicely onto a flat spot on the bracket for my power steering reservoir. I wrote which circuit was which on the cover with a paint pen, but it looks like other similar boxes come with spots for labels.

 

That is a good video.  I learned a lot.  I agree with you that I'd like to use the same type of relays and fuses as the rest of the car.  Now that we're talking of wiring, I have a question.  There is a wire from the battery to the fuse box distribution point, this wire is always hot right?  Even when the ignition key is off?  I realize I may be realizing something I should have previously know, but hey that' should be covered shouldn't it.

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47 minutes ago, AlabamaDan said:

That is a good video.  I learned a lot.  I agree with you that I'd like to use the same type of relays and fuses as the rest of the car.  Now that we're talking of wiring, I have a question.  There is a wire from the battery to the fuse box distribution point, this wire is always hot right?  Even when the ignition key is off?  I realize I may be realizing something I should have previously know, but hey that' should be covered shouldn't it.

 

 

There aren't many mini-ATC (mATC) fuse blocks available.  You have to look to the motorcycle industry to find more/better mATC options, but they can get expensive.  Fortunately, carrying spare fuses for both sizes isn't too cumbersome.  The little containers they come in can hold about 10 fuses and take up less space than a Zippo.  It's the glass fuses I wouldn't bother carrying.

 

Any wires coming from the battery are always hot, even with the key off.  You'll find these hot leads going to each fuse panel, plus the ignition switch.  Another lead will come from the ignition switch and back into the fuse panels for any ACC (accessory) devices.  The leads are attached to power rails for distributing to relays or fuses.  On that note, I wouldn't tamper with any OE leads, unless you're installing a distribution block directly to the battery and need to modify the OE terminal to fit (pretty common when installing a proper audio setup).  It's trivial to add a new hot lead from the battery with ring terminal.

 

So, let's talk options (noting this is generic for most electrical upgrades)...

 

4758_2b.jpgs-l300.jpgATC_Fuse_Panel_with_Power_Distribution.j61_MLv_Iz_Hm9_L._SL1500.jpg70107.jpgblue-sea-systems-st-blade-battery-termin

These are some fused distribution blocks.  The first one uses mATC fuses...you can find it at Aerostitch, a motorcycle outfitter.  The 2nd one is from Blue Sea, a marine outfitter.  The 3rd is similar to the 1st, but uses ATC fuses.  The 4th (Dorman 85668) also uses ATC, but is also modular allowing you to slide multiple blocks together, and even relay mounts (5th image).  The 6th option, also from Blue Sea, connects directly to the battery terminals.  There are numerous options like these from the car audio world, but many of them use glass fuses...which I avoid.

 

I've used a few of those.  The 4th one I had installed under the radio in my Frontier to provide power to several accessories (additional 12V socket, aftermarket alarm, door locks), and I've got a Blue Sea box hanging in the shadows for when I get around to installing a power inverter, 12V socket (always on), and possibly a water pump and water heater in the cargo area of the Pathfinder.  One perk of the Blue Sea blocks is that they also have a distribution (consolidation point) for a ground, which may save you the trouble of finding/drilling other ground points.

 

51c_GJTxoij_L._AC_US218.jpg51_Cucy30pr_L._AC_US218.jpgmrcat305.jpg

 

As far as relays go, they're pretty standard.  You can get harnesses that provide some wiring leads (as shown), or you can use slide connectors.  They also have relays with fuse slots.  Because most relays have mounting tabs, you can mount them somewhere on the chassis very easily, or with a strip of steel or ABS, create a mount for holding multiple fuses.  If using the fused relays, you can get a distribution block and some jumpers (3rd pic) to distribute power, or just splice together a low gauge wire with higher gauge wires.  Normally, I'm not a fan of terminal blocks because I try to make sure all power leads (aside from those on the battery) are not exposed...it doesn't take much effort to short something when using a screwdriver or wrench around them.  Plus, the plastic on those styles can get brittle, causing the separate terminals to loosen over time.

 

Putting it all together, I usually put a relay on just about anything drawing more than 10A but it depends (stereo amplifiers have built-in relays).  If it's just a single accessory in an isolated area, I keep it simple.  One example is my air compressor: it's close enough to the battery to warrant a direct connection, and because of its proximity to the inner fender wall (which has a few M6-threaded holes), it was easy to find mounting and ground locations:

 

83854_C25-_F4_B5-49_B6-8_E2_A-7_B91_F5_E

 

If you plan to run multiple devices, making a custom panel makes connections very easy:

 

6_Relay_Panel.jpg

 

You connect the main lead to the fuse block on the left, the switch leads on the terminal block in the bottom-middle, and the devices to the larger terminal block on the bottom-right.  (By the way, this guy sells this board for $300!...probably has maybe $50 in parts.  The use of different terminal jacket types drives me nuts, but at least it's a clean solution).

 

These Bussman modular fuse/relay boxes are probably my favorite, but require a fair amount of effort to wire up:

 

IMG_0245.jpg

 

Long long story short...if you're just planning to install the light bar only, a single lead, fuse, and relay (like what's sold in the wiring kit), is sufficient.  If you plan on adding any other lights, or anything under the hood, plan on supporting those with some distribution point.  Since you'll need to run at least one wire into the cab for the switch, if you plan on installing any other accessories inside the cab, minimize the numbers of wires going through the firewall.  This is may mean having the distribution block inside the cab, but in doing so, all of the wires for switches will all be accessible.

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Yep, anything connected straight to the battery is always hot. If your fuse block hooks straight to the battery, anything connected to it will remain live at all times unless otherwise switched.
 

If you want what you're hooking up to only work if the ignition is on, you have two options. One is to tap into the factory ignition circuit. The other is to switch your separate fused line with a relay (with the coil connected to ground on one side and ignition-switched power on the other). That's how I set up my center console. I wanted it switched with the key, but I didn't want to saddle the ignition circuit with what could be a pretty substantial load (I've got a small inverter and two 12v outlets in there). If I overload it, or something shorts, I'd much rather pop one fuse and lose my cell phone charger than pop a fusible link and lose everything switched by the key!

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4 hours ago, Slartibartfast said:

 

I just finished watching that whole video again and paid more attention.  Although it is quite long, he walks through it step by step and decodes what becomes an intimidating rats nest of wires to a pretty simple explanation.  

 

I am thinking about the things I want to do sometime:  Light bar on top, light bar on back, maybe some side lights, maybe some 12v sockets inside, maybe an inverter...  I'd rather spend the time now and build something expandable than every time.

 

Now to get through your new post.  

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I scanned through about 10s of that video and was already exhausted.  Way too much work; what he saved in parts, he spent in labor.  Maybe I need to get into making relay panels.

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Auxbeam 42" Flood/Spot is what I have and it is awesome. I'll take some pics on how I mounted it on my roof rack if you have one.

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Hawairish, as always, great write up. You clearly are avoiding some other job or project. Seriously though, this should get stickied or put into an electrical thread. I’m going to want to read it again later & others might want to see it too. Can we see if an Admin can fix it.
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On 9/9/2018 at 2:07 PM, hawairish said:

 

 

There aren't many mini-ATC (mATC) fuse blocks available.  You have to look to the motorcycle industry to find more/better mATC options, but they can get expensive....

 

That was a great post.  Thank you.  I like the look of this one and thanks to that you tube video I sorta understand what he's done there.  I like the way it is built to allow wires to go to it later for switches and accessory hot wires.   I wonder how you could put it in a box or something under the hood to protect it from elements.

 

6_Relay_Panel.jpg

 

 

 

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On 9/9/2018 at 5:04 PM, hawairish said:

I scanned through about 10s of that video and was already exhausted.  Way too much work; what he saved in parts, he spent in labor.  Maybe I need to get into making relay panels.

 

I think part of our projects is the fun in building stuff right, whether it is the car or the distribution block?  :)

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