|Lightforce Lights||Short Cuts|
By: Randy Burleson - 2/2000
|From the front, these lights seem to be
nothing but dazzling reflectors.
Kammy Caruss Burleson
The first thing I noticed when I took these lights out of the box was their heft -- or lack thereof. Lightweight isn't ordinarily good descriptor for accessories to be used off-highway, but these featherweight lights throw out an amazingly precise and bright beam pattern. My truck tips the scales at more than 5000 pounds for most trails, and I've started to care a bit more about weight as my behemoth sprouted armor and heavy-duty parts. These lights are heavy enough, but no heavier than they need be.
Their light weight derives from the high tech composite elements from which they are constructed. With hi-impact polycarbonate lenses, glass-filled polyamid & polycarbonate bodies, and a high-tech reflector, the biggest chunks of metal involved are the attachment bolt and bracket. Don't let the light weight fool you, though, these composites are tougher, stronger, and less conductive than your average glass and metal off-road light. You can literally chuck these lights over your shoulder without damage -- except maybe to the quartz bulb. Advertised as 'outback-tough,' these lights BOUNCE -- try that with a metal-housed glass lense. Or better yet, try shooting that traditional light and then shooting the Lightforce. The polycarbonate lense will not shatter -- a 22-caliber bullet leaves a dimple, but no hole. If these lights can withstand a bullet fired at close range, just think how well they can withstand gravel. The muzzle velocity of the average 22-caliber bullet is just a bit higher than that of the average chunk of gravel.
|Featherweight mylar vacuum-formed lenses with no visible imperfections.
Kammy Caruss Burleson
The reflector is unique. Formed in a clean-room environment, the vacuum-formed mylar has no visible imperfections. All you see is a sweeping parabolic section, reflecting the world. The reflector is so well-tuned that the lens is completely clear. Lesser lights need fluted or frosted lenses to direct the light beam. These Lightforce use the reflector to direct the light, and the lense is only required to protect the Xenon-quality halogen bulb and reflector.
Varying the focal point of the bulb relative to the reflector changes the spread of the circular beam. Similar to a Mag-Light, a clear lens and parabolic reflector allow focus changes, from a pencil beam to a flood pattern, or anywhere between. The lens/reflector housing threads onto the bulb assembly, so rotating the housing changes the focus and zoom. Rotating the housing out all the way allows quick bulb replacement without tools. A tab cast into the bulb assembly prevents the housing from unintended rotation, and silicone O-rings seal out the elements.
The lights are available in three sizes, 140mm, 170mm, and 240mm (which is HUGE). I selected the smallest light for my truck. Multiple light covers lend even greater flexibility to the product line:
|Extreme Outback offers different lens covers for different uses.
Kammy Caruss Burleson
These covers, like the lenses, are made of Lexan, the same material used in NASCAR race car windshields and fighter canopies. They snap over the perimeter of the light housing, and are tough enough to prevent stone chips with no extra grids or guards. Extreme Outback supplies the clear covers with each set of lights and provides the other covers at additional cost.
Cool construction aside, how do these LIGHT?
Used as pencil beams, they throw a well-defined, tightly-patterned cone of light. On a dark highway (gotta love those reflectorized lane markers), the beam stretches more than a HALF MILE out. Adjusted to flood mode, they evenly disperse the light, still with a well-defined edge. Add the frosted lens and the light floods more diffusely, with less edge definition. Adjusted in between flood and pencil beam, fitted with amber lenses, the lights slice through fog, rain, and snow.
The precise beam pattern keeps them on the road - I have kept them on a handful of times, and received surprisingly few irate headlight flashes or impolite hand gestures. I did this just for test purposes, clearly, responsible use of a lifted 4x4 requires that you douse the lights whenever there is any oncoming traffic.Installation
Extreme Outback provides no lighting harness with their lights, but they do package a detailed diagram, as well as installation hints. With their wiring diagrams, even a novice should have no problem wiring up the lights. Perhaps more importantly, these diagrams help understand the wiring in case trail repairs ever have to be made.
Extreme Outback suggests using 16-guage wire, 20-amp fuses, 30-amp relays, but customers are free to customize their installations with exact-length wiring and their own components. Extreme Outback does carry high quality US-made switches and relays for customers that want to order everything at once without having to run to the hardware store. This wiring flexibility is a bonus for me, since I like to overbuild. It also allows customers to run a couple of wiring setups such as on/off or on/off/on for running the lights independently or with the high beam switch.
For any accessories that draw significant current, for wiring, bigger is better. Too small, and the energy goes into heating the supply wire, instead of lighting the bulb -- at best, you get a dim bulb. At worst, you get an electrical fire. The only downside to going big is cost -- heavier cables cost a bit more. I used #10 AWG wire, loomed directly from the battery to the lights, with a relay and a fuse near the battery. This allows me to run the thick, high-power cables in the engine compartment, and just run a smaller wire with less current to the switch in the passenger compartment.
|Single-bolt mounting is easy. I mounted mine to heavy-duty magnet.
As with any electrical installation, fuse the circuit on the hot side as close to the battery as you can.
I mounted each light on a heavy-duty 2x6" magnet for portability's sake. Since I made my own loom, I layed it out with extra wire so that I could move the magnets wherever I needed them. This has proven to be quite useful for camping, trailside repairs, and yardwork on the dark side of the house. The Lightforce bracket lends great flexibility to mounting, but with these magnets, I can easily move the lights to the roof, hood, or underside of the vehicle, and put them back in their place on the bumper when I'm done.
The quality of the reflector determines the quality of the light. It just isn't possible to get as well defined a pattern out of a rectangular reflector as is possible with a round reflector. Rectangular reflectors always have dead spots in the corner. Lightforce's optically perfect reflector is more efficient...
|These tough lights seal with O-rings to handle
immersion and other trail abuse.
I like that Lightforce doesn't sell me a lowest-common-denominator one-size-fits-all harness. I'd rather build a simple harness myself with heavier wires, more robust relays, and correct-length feeders.
I have used these lights for more than six months, now, and have nothing but good to report of them. Mine have survived hard rock use and submersion, and still look brand new. The Aussies sure know how to build tough stuff ... and Extreme Outback, the importer, seems to have a knack for locating the best of the Australian gear and bringing it stateside.
Now all I have to do is find a spot on my truck to mount a set of the 10" (240mm) lights...
EXTREME OUTBACK PRODUCTS