Installing the right gear on the front of your offroad vehicle is important for two reasons: lighting and aesthetics. Powerful LED lights help you see what’s ahead of you, whether you’re on a dirt road or a wide open landscape. At the same time, these auxiliary lights and other accessories help you stand out from the crowd, adding a customized look to your offroad vehicle that you just can’t get right out of the factory.
LED light grilles are the perfect aftermarket addition, because they serve both functions at once. They can give your vehicle a more distinctive look and feel with mesh, billet, or machined designs, while providing high-quality LED lights embedded within them.
You’ll have a more memorable-looking vehicle with more powerful illumination, without having to install dozens of rock lights or pod lights. Let’s take a look at your options for LED light grilles, including the grille itself, the lighting components, and more.
What are LED light grilles?
First, what are LED light grilles and how do they differ from other types of auxiliary lights for offroad vehicles? In short, they’re designed to go on or inside the grille on the front of your vehicle, in comparison to light bars and lighting pods, which often go on the roof of your vehicle or are installed using a bracket or pillar mount.
The lighting technology is the same for most light grilles and pod lights. They all rely on LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, to produce light, which means you don’t have to replace them as often as halogen bulbs, or worry about them breaking.
Depending on their beam pattern and where you install them, LED light grilles can act as headlights, driving lights, or even strobe lights. As with most LEDs, though, they’re more powerful than factory headlights and can be a danger to oncoming drivers, so in most states, only certain colors and styles are street legal.
Of course, if you’re going to be driving off road, you can use any kind of light grille you want, including some of the more eye-catching color options. Next, we’ll look at a few ideas for installing light grilles on your Jeep or 4WD.
Built-in LED light bars
One of the most popular options is to install a grille with built-in LED light bars. With this type of grille, you get all the features of a roof-mounted light bar, but in a single unit.
This is a great option for drivers who don’t want to install multiple lighting units, or worry about finding matching light bars and lighting pods that go well together. Just because it comes as a single unit, though, doesn’t mean there’s any lack of variety.
You can find grilles that come with a single light bar, with multiple rows of light bars, or with a combination of light bars and pods. You can even find grilles that include built-in turn signals and daytime running lights.
LED grille strobe lights
Another type of LED light that you can install in the grille is a strobe light. This option is common for use in emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and police cars, but they can also be a creative use of LED lighting for offroad vehicles.
These units blend into the grille when they aren’t in use, but they can be turned on in an instant to ensure that your vehicle is visible to other drivers in the rearview mirror.
You can also get grille lights in more memorable colors, such as blue or purple, that help your vehicle stand out in offroad environments. Some of these units come with a variety of speeds, colors, and flash patterns and can match your other underbelly lighting.
Surface mount lights
When shopping for auxiliary lights, you might also come across surface mount lighting units. Is there much of a difference between grille lights and surface mount lights? Not really, and the words are often used interchangeably.
The main difference is that surface lights are installed as individual units, while a light grille with built-in LEDs is an all-in-one aftermarket kit.
Ultimately, you need to decide what will look best on your vehicle. Do you want a range of surface mount lights for added flexibility, or a single grille for a unified look?
Both options offer some degree of customization. Read on to find out what other design choices you can make when purchasing and installing a light grille.
Types of light grilles
The grille of your vehicle is one of its most recognizable features, and plenty of vehicles are easy to identify by the shape and style of the grille alone. But each grille type has its own appeal, from steel or metal mesh grilles to customized CNC designs.
These designs aren’t unique to light grilles, but they’re definitely something you need to consider before installing a new light grille on your car or truck.
First, there are mesh grilles, which come in a variety of materials, including aluminum, plastic, and stainless steel, but have a similar honeycomb design. Mesh grilles have a range of different aesthetics, from the sleek fine mesh of luxury cars to a heavy mesh design that’s more common in rugged offroad vehicles.
When you purchase a light grille, you can choose your own weave pattern, as well as the look and feel of the rivets, which can be polished, painted, or chrome-plated.
Billet grilles are also common in offroad vehicles and SUVs, and are made with either aluminum or stainless steel. Instead of a honeycomb mesh pattern, these grilles have longer, narrower bars for a sturdy, streamlined look.
They can either come with a horizontal pattern, which you can see on most Chevrolets, or with a vertical bar pattern, which is found on many Jeeps.
Finally, there are CNC machined grilles, which stands for Computer Numerical Control and is used for more customized grille patterns. This technique requires a computer to cut out a precision pattern from aluminum, stainless steel, or plastic.
You can choose from pre-designed patterns, such as stars, flames, or spiderwebs, or order a customized pattern that you’ve designed yourself.
A CNC machined grille may cost more than a billet or mesh grille, but it’s a great way to install a grille that fits your personality and can’t be found on any other vehicle!
How to install an LED light grille
Installing lights into your existing grille is the easiest installation method. All you have to do is mount the lights on or inside the grille, and wire them up.
But if you’re installing an all-in-one unit, such as a new billet grille with built-in light bars, there are going to be a few extra steps. Here are the three main installation options:
The easiest way to install a new grille is with the overlay or “bolt-over” method. With this approach, you don’t have to remove and replace your existing grille, you can just install the new one over it using clamps or bolts.
This is a good option if you don’t want to have to do any cutting or drilling to remove the existing grille, but it does mean it may end up being visible underneath.
Another option is to remove and replace the existing grille, which requires a little more effort. But if you’ve purchased an aftermarket replacement that’s specifically designed for your vehicle, then it shouldn’t be too difficult.
You can simply remove the built-in grille from its housing, and install the new one in its place. The best thing about this method is that the old grille won’t be visible at all. Your new grill will look as if it belonged there to begin with!
The third option is the most difficult, because you don’t remove the entire grille, just the interior. The housing or shell of the original grille remains intact.
This means you’ll need a power saw or other tools to cut around the edges of the grille and install the new insert in its place. If you have the right experience, then this kind of installation can produce the most factory-quality appearance.
Once you’ve installed your grille with one of these three methods, you can wire up your lights to the power supply and dashboard. Since each unit is different, always follow the instructions that come with your kit to be sure you connect them properly.
Choosing the right light grille for your vehicle
There’s a lot that goes into purchasing a light grille, from deciding on how many lights it should have, to choosing a design and installation method.
For best results, look for an aftermarket kit that’s designed for your vehicle type, so that it’ll look great and be easy to install. You can check the difficulty rating to see if you’ll be able to install it yourself, or if you’d be better off hiring a professional.
In most cases, replacing your grille is an easy DIY process that will significantly upgrade the lighting quality and appearance of your vehicle.You can browse the options at Inspired Engineering, and give us a call if you need help deciding which LED light grille is right for you!