LET THERE BE LIGHT

PIAA MAKE LED LIGHTBARS LE­GAL WITH RF-SE­RIES LIGHTS

4WDrive - - Contents - Re­view and photos by Budd Stan­ley

The LED light has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the off-road in­dus­try when it comes to light­ing ones way through the dark­ness. Great racks of mas­sive round lenses, mak­ing use of elec­tric­ity-suck­ing halo­gen in­can­des­cent bulbs, have now been re­placed with a cou­ple thin rows of

Light Emit­ting Diodes that barely reg­is­ter any com­plaints from the al­ter­na­tor.

LEDs do come with a cou­ple of draw­backs, how­ever. For­ward-fac­ing LED bulbs are mas­ter­ful at flood­ing a great ex­panse of real es­tate in front of a ve­hi­cle with a bril­liant clear light, but they re­ally don’t reach any great dis­tance down range. Their in­cred­i­ble bright­ness also means they are on the naughty list with the boys in blue, and more than a few an­gry po­lice­man have started is­su­ing tick­ets for il­le­gal lights be­ing used on pub­lic streets.

PIAA know a lit­tle some­thing about

light­ing and have a cou­ple an­swers for the down­falls of LED light bars.

En­ter the RF-Se­ries LED aux­il­iary lights. Yeah, these have been out for over a year now, but they are so dif­fer­ent from other LED lights we’ve played with that we wanted to get a lit­tle more in depth in­for­ma­tion on how they work, what type of light they throw and how are they street le­gal?

The vast ma­jor­ity of LED lights on the mar­ket use what is termed as for­ward-fac­ing bulbs. This means that the LED bulb faces for­ward in the cen­tre of a re­flec­tor dish that helps dis­perse and in­ten­sify the light be­ing emit­ted. The re­sult is a bril­liant flood of light, but also full ex­po­sure of the painfully bright bulbs that will an­noy your friends on the trail and blind on­com­ing traf­fic on the road.

PIAA’s RF-Se­ries lights use a rear­ward-fac­ing re­flec­tor (RF) that moves the LED bulb up into the top of the hous­ing and di­rects its light rear­wards to­wards a re­flec­tor lens, then dis­pers­ing light out the front of the lamp. This does two things.

First, the re­flec­tor has the abil­ity to con­cen­trate the light from the LEDs, al­low­ing the lamp to har­ness the en­tire out­put of each bulb. Get­ting the most out of each LED bulb means you get more light out­put with fewer LEDs, re­sult­ing in a lower power draw to your ve­hi­cle’s charg­ing sys­tem. The RF 3-in Cube light only makes use of two 8W LED bulbs, while the 10-in RF Light­bar only re­quires four LED bulbs to equal the out­put of 18 LEDs on sim­i­lar prod­ucts.

The sec­ond ad­van­tage the RF tech­nol­ogy of­fers is the abil­ity to shape the beam pat­tern through the de­sign of the re­flec­tor lens. PIAA have been able to pro­duce very dis­ci­plined light pat­terns that have pre­cise bor­ders where the light can be dis­tin­guished. Most im­por­tantly, the up­per beam has a very sharp and flat bor­der. This abil­ity to con­trol the beam is what makes these driv­ing lights SAE com­pli­ant and pre­vents wasted stray light from blind­ing on­com­ing driv­ers. So, as long as the lamps are pointed low to match your head­lights, they are deemed le­gal. Want to light up the trail, sim­ply raise them up and stretch the beam out down the trail for a higher per­for­mance vi­sion when on­com­ing traf­fic is not a fac­tor.

While we like the tech­nol­ogy be­hind PIAA’s RF-Se­ries lights, what re­ally im­pressed us was the build quality. These things are built to go through a war. Solid alu­minum con­struc­tion is used on all items and the lenses are poly­car­bon­ate. The over­built con­struc­tion is a bit heavy, but as long as you’re not count­ing grams on a se­ri­ous race rig, it shouldn’t be a prob­lem. The wiring is held firmly in place with a sil­i­cone port al­though we’d like to see a slightly beefier plug.

The 3-in cubes use a stan­dard steel “U” shaped bar that can swivel to mount from the bot­tom or rear, but the mount­ing sys­tem on the RF 6-in, 10-in and 18-in Lightbars are likely the best in the busi­ness. Solid forged alu­minum mounts are bolted to a mount­ing tun­nel be­hind the light, of­fer­ing a mul­ti­tude of ad­just­ment an­gles. The mounts can sit be­low the lights for a hor­i­zon­tal sur­face or swiveled back to mount to a ver­ti­cal sur­face.

Mount­ing op­tions are fur­ther var­ied by the abil­ity to link up mul­ti­ple lights, thanks to per­fect-fit link­age pieces that hold as many lamps you want in a sin­gle row with amaz­ing strength. We’ve mounted a lot of aux­il­iary lights in our day, and by far the most solidly mounted lights we’ve seen are the RF Lightbars.

An id­iot-proof wiring har­ness is

in­cluded in the kit, with an il­lu­mi­nated rocker switch. In­stal­la­tion is a lit­tle more finicky than most lights with the unique mount­ing sys­tem, but once you lock these bad boys down, they aren’t go­ing any­where.

Both the RF 3-in Cube and 10-in Light­bar throw an in­cred­i­ble amount of light down range con­sid­er­ing the lack of bulbs do­ing the work. The road is painted with light out to 300 m even in a low mount­ing an­gle, and stretch out even fur­ther when an­gled up. The RFs don’t pro­vide the crazy flood­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of a for­ward-fac­ing LED, but the beam pat­tern is in­cred­i­bly con­densed and con­strained to an or­derly beam. The light is a typ­i­cal white LED with a slight bluish tint. How­ever, if you deal with foggy or dusty con­di­tions on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, PIAA of­fers a ver­sion of the RF Lightbars with am­ber lenses.

The PIAA RF-Se­ries was one of those prod­ucts that lured us in with some very in­ter­est­ing designs and tech­nol­ogy, and we are happy to say once we got them mounted in the real world, the RFs surpassed our ex­pec­ta­tions. That be­ing said, the con­straints that make these road le­gal do in­hibit the flood­ing light of­fered by other LEDs. Our sim­ple an­swer is throw­ing a set of RF 10-in lightbars on the front of the Samu­rai for daily duty, while hav­ing a set of for­ward-fac­ing LED hid­den be­hind cov­ers, lay­ing in wait for the ever de­sir­able night run. Re­gard­less, the PIAA RFs are a bril­liant bit of kit to have on the front of our rig.

Check in with us in a few is­sues time when we put the PIAA up against two other high-tech LED lightbars to see just who pro­duces the best LEDs of them all. Part Num­ber: 7610 (RF 10-in Light­bar), 7603 (RF 3-in Cube), Mul­ti­ple other op­tions Price: Start­ing at $199.00 www.piaa.com

Only two LED bulbs face rear­wards into the re­flec­tor lens to cre­ate a pre­designed light pat­tern.

Only four LED bulbs are re­quired with the 10-in light­bar.

The unique mount­ing sys­tem on the lightbars al­low for fine-tuned align­ments and in­cred­i­ble mount­ing strength.

If you are look­ing to turn four 10in bars or three 18-in bars into an ex­tra wide light­bar, sim­ply plug in the sup­plied con­nec­tion links.

Both the RF 3-in and 10-in threw a bril­liant and very or­ga­nized light beam.

Sil­i­cone plugs en­sure that weather stays out of the in­ter­nals.

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