Part of the appeal of installing auxiliary lights on your off-road vehicle is that you get to decide how bright they are, what they look like, and where they go. If you aren’t happy with the built-in lights that come pre-installed on your vehicle, you can replace them or supplement them with something that’s a better fit for where you’ll be driving.
But with so many lights on the market, it can be hard to know which ones to choose. Do you want auxiliary fog or driving lights that help you see the road in front of you? Or are you looking for something to help you back up safely on narrow, low-visibility trails?
In this post, we’re going to focus on flush mount LED reverse lights, which are installed on the rear frame or bumper of your vehicle.
Quick rundown of flush mount LED reverse lights
Before we go any further, let’s get clear on what flush mount LED reverse lights are. To make it easy, we’re going to break it down into each of the three components:
Reverse lights are also known as backup lights, and serve two purposes: they provide some degree of illumination behind you to help you see where you’re going, and to let other drivers on the road know that you’re backing up.
In the U.S., you’re required to have two working reverse lights that are white in color. Some cars also have rear fog lights, which produce a more diffused beam.
LED stands for light-emitting diode, which refers to a type of lighting unit made with a semiconductor light source. The vast majority of auxiliary lighting units are made with LED technology, because it’s more versatile than incandescent lighting.
Previously, most reverse lights were made using halogen bulbs, but these days even many factory installed units are made with LEDs.
LEDs produce a color temperature of around 4000k to 5500k, which is much closer to daylight than halogen bulbs, which produce a yellowish light of around 3000k.
Additionally, because LEDs are made up of multiple diodes, each of which can turn on and off instantly, you have more control over the lighting pattern and color.
They’re also more energy efficient than halogen bulbs, and can produce up to 20,000 lumens using only 220 watts -- double the output of a standard halogen bulb.
Because LEDs are so powerful, though, not all LED lights are street legal, especially when they’re mounted on the front of your car. You’ll have to check the regulations in your state if you’re planning on driving with auxiliary lights on paved roads.
The third characteristic of flush mount LED reverse lights is how they’re installed. There are plenty of ways to install auxiliary lighting on your vehicle, from light bars on the roof, to pod lights mounted on your bumper or pillar.
What’s different about a flush mount is that it’s designed to sit flush against the surface of the vehicle, such as by embedding it in a bumper.
Instead of jutting out of your grille or bumper at an angle, a flush mount light looks like it belongs there, as if it came that way from the factory.
Why choose a flush mount LED reverse light?
The main reason for choosing a flush mount LED light is the aesthetics.
Not everyone wants their off-road vehicle to look like a DIY project, and if you’re going to install multiple sets of auxiliary lights, then the exterior can start to look cluttered. By opting for a flush mount design, you’ll avoid all of those pesky brackets. Flush mounts simply look sleeker and smoother, and blend in with the design of your vehicle.
Plus, since they don’t jut out from the frame of your car, they’re less likely to get stuck on overhanging branches or other obstacles in your path.
Pros and cons of flush mount LED reverse lights
Let’s look at a few pros and cons of this design.
One reason is to illuminate areas that your built in reverse lights don’t cover.
For example, most factory-installed lights are directed straight backward, but when you install your own lights, you can angle them toward the ground or to the side. This can increase visibility on the road behind you, including obstacles on either side of your vehicle -- perfect for backing up down narrow trails in the dark.
Also, LED reverse lights can improve the usefulness of your background camera. Since LED lights have a whiter color temperature, they offer better contrast on screen.
If you install them on their own switch, then you can turn them on and off instantly, and continue using your built-in lights when auxiliary lights aren’t necessary.
Flush mount reverse lights aren’t perfect for every off-road scenario, though. There are a few cases in which you might want to opt for another design instead.
The first is if you want to be able to adjust your lights manually. Maybe you only want to have them angled at the ground sometimes, and other times pointing straight back.
With a flush mount installation, you don’t have that option. Once they’re in, they’re in for good, unless you want to go through the effort of reinstalling them somewhere else and covering up the hole that you drilled in your bumper.
If you want the freedom to adjust your lights whenever you want, then you might prefer a pod design instead. All you have to do is install a mount on your pillar or bumper, and if you change your mind, it’s just a matter of removing some bolts.
Another scenario is if you need an especially large output or beam pattern. Remember, LED lights are incredibly bright, so reverse lights tend to have a diffused beam pattern so they don’t blind other drivers on the road behind you.
But if you’re driving off-road, your lights can be as bright as you want. And in some wide open spaces, you might be better off with a flood light or scene lights instead. Consider purchasing a pole mount or a roof mount to install your light as high as possible.
How do you install flush mount LED reverse lights?
Now that you’ve decided on flush mount reverse lights for your vehicle, let’s get them installed! In most cases, you’ll need an angle grinder to drill a hole in your bumper.
The exception is if you’re replacing your built-in reverse lights with a backup light kit. For example, you can replace your Jeep tail lights with LED lights using a kit that’s designed specifically for Jeep Wranglers for an easy flush mount installation.
But in this case, we’re going to assume you’re doing a full DIY installation. Always follow the instructions in your kit if they differ from what’s shown here.
1. Mark your bumper
Start off by determining where the reverse lights will go and mark them off with tape. We recommend covering the whole bumper with tape so you can mark it easily. Measure it from both sides and from the top and bottom to make sure the holes are centered.
For a 3-in. square light, you’ll need to make a 3-⅛ inch hole. Make sure you’ve checked behind the bumper too so you don’t drill into anything on the other side.
Now, line up the mounting plate and trace the outline on the tape where it belongs. Mark holes for the bolts that you’ll use to hold the mounting plate in place.
2. Make a hole for the lights
Now it’s time to use a drill or angle grinder to create the space where the lights will sit. In order for them to sit flush against the surface, the hole will need to be deep enough for them to fit completely, so you’ll likely be cutting clear through the bumper.
Once you’ve drilled the hole, you can insert the lights. You may need to sand down the edges to get the perfect fit. Attach the mounting plates and bolt them securely.
3. Connect the wires
Finally, connect the wires to the battery and to any switches in the dashboard that you’ll use to control them. You can choose to link them up to your built-in tail lights to control them as a unit, or keep them on a separate switch so you can run them separately.
If your kit comes with a wiring harness or any other components, follow the instructions to wire it properly. Make sure to tuck any loose wires into the bumper or lighting unit of your vehicle so they don’t hang down into the road.
Don’t forget, the process will be simpler if you’re replacing an existing lighting unit. You won’t have to drill a new hole, but the steps will be the same: mark the spot, mount the lights, and connect the wires. Be sure to test them out before you go anywhere!
What are the best flush mount LED reverse lights for your vehicle?
Everyone has different needs when it comes to auxiliary lighting: brightness, aesthetics, or simply control over how and when your lights turn on.
Browse our selection of flush mount reverse lights to find one that matches the look and feel of your vehicle, and that meets your needs for brightness and beam pattern.
You can even search by vehicle type to find units that are designed specifically for your make and model. If you aren’t sure if it’s the right fit, contact us at Inspired Engineering, and we’ll help you make sure that it’s compatible with your off-road vehicle.