A lot can go wrong when you’re driving offroad at night. But one thing that you shouldn’t have to worry about is the quality of your headlights. Once you’ve installed high-quality headlights on your Jeep Wrangler, you can take it almost anywhere – day or night.
While your Jeep’s built-in headlights may be fine for city driving, they don’t pass muster for offroad adventures, so upgrading your headlights is the first place to start. After that, you can deck out your Jeep with light bars and other auxiliary lights.
No matter what type of Jeep you have – TJ, JK, CJ, or JL – you’ll find aftermarket kits that will give your built-in headlights a run for their money.
Read on to find out the three main reasons you should upgrade your Jeep Wrangler headlights, what to look for in a headlight, and how to install them yourself.
Why you should upgrade your Jeep Wrangler headlights
First, why install new headlights on your Jeep? Are aftermarket kits just a way to show off your DIY skills, or will they really give you a better driving experience?
As any Jeep owner will tell you, factory headlights leave something to be desired. Here are just a few ways that aftermarket headlight kits are superior:
The most important thing that any headlight can do is illuminate the road ahead of you. By that measure, LED headlights beat halogen headlights by a wide margin. While the newest Jeeps have modern LED headlights installed, most Wranglers have old-school halogen headlights that haven’t really been improved in decades.
By installing projector LED headlights, you’ll get a brighter, more focused beam that can be turned on and off in an instant. LEDs provide more illumination using less power than halogen bulbs do, so you’ll also be placing less of a strain on your battery.
Finally, brighter headlights help other vehicles see you better. Whether you’re driving on a winding forest road or on wide open terrain, your headlights will let other drivers know you’re coming, leading to less risk of an accident on the road or off.
Headlights that are designed for offroad driving typically have better construction too. While durability can vary depending on how much you spend and what you use them for, there’s far less risk of your LED lights breaking or getting damaged.
Aftermarket headlights are rated for dust and water resistance, so if you’ll be driving in wet or rough conditions, you can choose one with a higher IP rating.
Also, you can buy LED lights with an anti-flicker harness to address any flickering that results from plugging LED lights into a circuit designed for halogen.
Finally, we can’t overlook the design differences between the Jeep’s factory headlights and aftermarket upgrades. For some Jeep owners, the aesthetic appeal alone is worth the price of the upgrade and the effort of installation.
Whether you want to replace the YJ’s square headlights with the circular design found on most other Jeeps, or you want to convert your standard factory headlights into halo headlights, there are no shortage of styles to choose from.
Upgrading your Jeep Wrangler headlights is a way to put some personality into your Jeep and make it stand out from other offroad vehicles.
In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at the different designs that are available, and how to choose the right one for your Jeep.
Types of Jeep Wrangler headlights
Aftermarket headlight kits vary widely, from multicolored headlights that are solely for offroad use to street legal headlights with matching fog lights.
No matter what type of driving you have in mind, here’s what you need to know about the main types of Jeep Wrangler headlights on the market:
Projector headlights are a step up from reflector headlights because they use a lens to focus the light, producing a more precise beam. Most modern headlights are projector headlights, but there are several different technologies behind them:
Halogen bulbs are found in the majority of the world’s headlights, and are most likely what you’ll find in your Jeep’s factory headlights.
You can upgrade your Jeep’s headlights while sticking with halogen technology, but it isn’t usually worth it, since you’ll still be limited by the halogen bulbs.
HID, or high-intensity discharge, is a more recent technology that uses xenon gas to produce light when exposed to an electrical current.
HID lights are brighter than halogen bulbs, and are known for their crisp white light, but they also produce a glare that can be distracting to oncoming drivers.
HID headlights are available for Jeep Wranglers, but unless you have a good reason for choosing them, you’ll probably be better off with LEDs.
LED lights are the gold standard of offroad headlights because of the qualities we saw earlier: they’re bright, they’re energy efficient, and they’re long-lasting.
LEDs have a color temperature of around 5000k – similar to daylight – and can produce up to 20,000 lumens on 220 watts of power.
The only real disadvantage to LED headlights is that they don’t heat up, so if you drive in cold conditions, they can get covered up by snow and ice.
Another type of headlight is the halo headlight, which is known for its iconic “ring” that encircles the high and low beams. As with projector headlights, you can purchase halo headlights with halogen, HID, or LED components, but the most common technology used in halo headlights for the Jeep Wrangler is still going to be LED.
Halo headlights can be either functional or decorative in design. The functional designs work just like normal LED headlights, with high and low beams, driving beams, and turn signals built in. They usually stick to street legal colors like white and amber.
The more decorative halo headlights can perform those functions too, but they may also come with multicolor RGB LEDs, Bluetooth controls, and other creative features.
Headlights and foglights
Finally, there are headlight kits that come with matching fog lights. These lights sit lower on your vehicle, near the bumper, and have a more diffused beam, intended for driving in foggy, misty, and other low-visibility conditions.
While these lights will need to be installed and wired separately, it may be worth buying them as a package to ensure that they have the same design as your headlights.
What to know before you buy
Jeep Wrangler headlights are some of the most popular aftermarket upgrades you can buy, but that doesn’t mean they’re all built to the same standards. Always check the IP rating to make sure your lights can withstand the conditions you’ll be driving in.
Here are a few other things to consider before choosing new headlights:
Will Wrangler headlights fit my Jeep?
While some headlights are designed to be universal, most aren’t, and they’ll work best with one or more specific types of Jeeps. For example, CJ and TJ headlights plug into an H4 harness, while the JK and JL are only compatible with H13 bulbs.
This doesn’t mean you can’t install a light that’s designed for a different Jeep model, but you may have to buy an adapter or put in a little more work to make it fit.
For best results, look for a kit that’s designed to be installed on your Jeep, that way you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues.
Are Jeep Wrangler headlights street legal?
If you’ll be driving on paved roads, then buying headlights that are street legal is a must. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between brightness and the law.
While most LED light bars aren’t street legal, most LED headlights are. All you have to do is look for a kit that has an “SAE/DOT” label on it. This means that it meets the U.S. DOT’s safety requirements and can be driven on paved roads.
Of course, if your headlights have any features that aren’t street legal, such as flashing or multicolor lighting options, you’ll have to turn those off before driving home.
How to install Jeep Wrangler headlights
Finally, how hard is it to install your new headlights? Most aftermarket kits are designed to be “plug and play,” so you should be able to get them up and running in less than an hour or two, even if you’ve never installed headlights before.
Start by removing your vehicle’s existing headlights. If you’ve bought a compatible unit, then you should be able to reverse the process to put your new lights in. Simply attach the new unit into the same plug and secure the housing back in place.
If your unit requires an adaptor or has different housing, then you may need to do some additional drilling or wiring before it will fit.
After you’ve installed your lights, always adjust your beams to make sure they’re angled properly and won’t distract oncoming drivers.
Choose the right headlights for your Jeep Wrangler
Installing new headlights on your Wrangler can be a fun experience, but it’s important to set yourself up for success by choosing the right aftermarket kit.
Whether you’re looking for something flashy, or just a heavy-duty improvement over your built-in factory lights, we’ve got you covered with our huge selection of Jeep Wrangler headlights.Browse the selection at Inspired Engineering, and give us a call if you need any help!