Stand Out Your Car With LED Lights
There are as many different kinds of cars as there are kinds of people. But there are still only so many kinds of vehicles out there, and as long as there have been standardized vehicles, there have been people who want to customize their car to suit their needs or to represent themselves better. For anything beyond the frame, most cars are completely customizable, allowing you to change the shape, function, or décor of the vehicle to suit your tastes. Fortunately, one of the simplest modifications you can make is also the one that will attract the most attention: Lighting!
Lighting Kits, Safety, and Laws
While there are similarities, every make and model of car is different in construction. Installing custom lighting can be a difficult task without experience; that’s why several pre-made lighting kits are available to consumers. Regardless of what you want to light, you can find a pre-made kit with instructions to walk you through installing new lights in your vehicle. While you can buy the parts yourself and do all custom wiring, the kits are typically safer because they are designed for your vehicle and are less likely to cause harm or excess strain to the vehicle’s electrical system. Regardless of whether you chose to use a kit or do a fully custom installation, you’ll need equipment and a basic understanding of how to perform a wire splice. You should also check with your state laws to make sure that adding a custom light kit is legal in your area, as some states have ordinances against certain types of vehicle lighting.
If you want to avoid any engine compartment wiring, you can always use the 12-VDC outlet in your car to power a set of USB lights. Most of the options we list here can be powered with just the regular outlet.
Dash and Console Lights
Of course, dashboard and console lights come standard with cars as a safety feature for night-time driving, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add to what’s already there. Usually, the light responsible for keeping instruments illuminated is a very low-powered incandescent lamp. An upgrade to an LED replacement or retrofit lamp isn’t a bad idea, but plenty of flashy lighting kits abound. It’s recommend that you follow the initial design of most instrument panels and backlight the instrument dashboard to reduce both direct and indirect glare. Unfortunately, this means you’ll need to remove the dashboard and instrument panel (or remove the cover for your console) to replace the lights. Once the cover is off you can install a kit or add a custom set of LED strip lights to give you more color options.
Under the Dash Lights
The drab orange lighting that floods your floorboard when you open a door or turn on the cabin lights can also be upgraded with LEDs, and it’s even easier to install than dashboard lights. A small run of LED strip lights can be mounted under the dash (aimed towards the floor to avoid glare, of course) and wired to the battery or to the 12-VDC outlet in your car’s console. You can connect all of your internal lights to the same physical switch, or you can set them up on a wireless remote to give you a sleek way of changing colors and intensities. At the same time, you could set both the instrument panel and under the dash lights to the same remote for simplicity, or separate them for customizability.
Most cabin lights use a simple wedge or festoon shaped lamp. Since this is the case, LED retrofit lamps already exist to reduce power demands on the car’s electrical system. But cabin lighting isn’t just a matter of retrofitting existing lights; people have added Christmas lights and rope lights to the inside of vans and RVs for decades. USB and 12-volt powered LED strip lights have expanded car owners’ ability for interior decoration beyond simple running lights. Now you can upgrade cabin and trunk lights to have a full range of dimmable lighting that suits whatever you want it to. Whether you just need dimmed lights for passengers on long trips, or custom full-color lighting for trunk or tail-gate parties, the world is your well-lit oyster.
It’s likely that you’ve seen a car with undercarriage or chassis lights before. It’s usually a sporty vehicle, racing down the highway, floating on colored lights; without a doubt the flashiest car to light up the night. What’s most surprising is how easily you can install the same lights on almost any vehicle. Again, there are plenty of custom light kits that will fit the make and model of your car, but mounting strip lights to the underside of your car is no problem at all. The main thing is to make sure you keep everything weather proofed. Many of these lighting kits are simple LED strip lights with a remote console or controller to control the lights from within the car’s cabin. Otherwise, it’s just power cables that run to the battery and zip-ties or waterproof adhesives to hold the strip light in place. It’s surprisingly simple.
Decorating your car with lights is easy, and the options are varied enough that you can suit any personal taste. From inexpensive options like using USB powered lights or your 12-VDC outlets, to more labor intensive full lighting kit installations, many options abound; though your safest bet is to simply buy a pre-made installation kit. What do you think? Have any specific questions about car lighting you’d like answered? Ask us in the comments below!