If you’re thinking of upgrading your Jeep for an off-road trip, then you’re going to want to add more than one auxiliary lighting unit to your vehicle. Installing a light bar on the roof and upgrading your headlights is a great start, but if you want a comprehensive lighting setup, then there’s one kind of light that you shouldn’t overlook: rock lights.
Rock lights may not be as noticeable on your Jeep at first sight, but that’s only because they’re tucked away under the body or in the wheel wells of your vehicle.
When they’re turned on, rock lights are some of the most useful auxiliary lights you can install, because they illuminate areas that your other lights don’t cover. By placing them in strategic spots around your vehicle, you’ll be able to see obstacles more easily.
Plus, you can use RGB rock lights with multiple colors and flashing patterns to create a customized visual display at your off-road destination.
What are Jeep rock lights?
Let’s start with the basics: what are Jeep rock lights, and how do they differ from other kinds of LEDs? In short, rock lights use the same technology as other LEDs, but they come in a range of styles that are specifically designed for underbelly lighting.
All LEDs are made with light-emitting diodes, which means they contain multiple units that can all be controlled individually and turned on and off instantly. This makes them more versatile than the halogen bulbs that come standard in many vehicle headlights, and they produce far more lumens -- up to 10,000 or more in a set.
Rock lights usually come in sets of 4 or more, so you can install them in multiple spots around your vehicle -- unlike a light bar, which is installed as a single unit.
Because rock lights sit on the underbelly of your vehicle, and are likely to get bumped around and exposed to the elements, they’re often made with an aluminum shell and waterproof housing. Of course, you get what you pay for, so be sure to take a closer look at the specs if you’ll be driving in especially wet or bumpy environments.
High-quality rock lights are built with durability in mind, and because LEDs have a long life expectancy, you can expect them to last for years without replacing them.
Another thing that sets rock lights apart is their beam pattern. Most LED lights bars and pods are designed with a specific beam pattern, such as a flood beam or spot beam, or a combination of the two, that’s intended to illuminate the road in front of you.
To get the best illumination, these lights have to be mounted on the front of your vehicle, and in some cases, as high as possible on the roof.
While this is important for seeing far ahead, these beams may not give you the light you need to see obstacles to either side, especially on narrow off-road trails.
Rock lights make up for that by lighting up the road beneath your Jeep and around your tires, helping you see rocks, tree branches, and other low-to-the-ground hazards.
This can improve your all-around visibility when driving and backing up, as well as when working with a spotter, who can see what’s underneath your vehicle more clearly.
Why should you install rock lights on your Jeep?
We’ve looked at some of the differences between rock lights and other LEDs, but you may still be wondering if they’re really necessary or if other lights will do.
Here are a few more reasons to consider rock lights:
Rock lights are some of the easiest auxiliary lights that you can install on your Jeep. You don’t have to drill a hole in your bumper, the way you do for a flush mount pod light, and you don’t have to cover them up on paved roads the way you do with light bars.
Rock lights aren’t street legal, but as long as you don’t turn them on, then you shouldn’t have any issues when driving to and from your destination. Always check the local laws where you’ll be driving, since they can vary from state to state and county to county!
Most rock lights attach to the underside of your vehicle with a simple mounting unit. You can even get detachable options if you want to be able to move them easily. Some rock lights can be attached with magnetics or adhesives for an even easier installation.
Need an extra cabin light? Install one of your rock lights there, so you can detach it and use it as a handheld light if you don’t have a flashlight handy.
Rock lights are far more durable than other types of underglow lighting options. Before LEDs came on the market, neon was the go-to option for underglow lighting, but it was never really suitable for off-road use. Neon lights produce bright, vivid colors, but their design makes them especially fragile and likely to break on bumpy terrain.
Rock lights give you the visual effects of underglow lighting, without the downsides that come with neon tubes and LED strips.
Remote control options
One of the most appealing features is the ability to control your rock lights remotely. Not all rock lights have this feature, but it’s becoming increasingly common. All you have to do is connect them to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and you can change their color and flashing pattern from an app.
Although white light is best for driving, some rock lights have a virtually unlimited range of color options. RGB rock lights use red, blue, and green diodes to produce a range of hues, allowing you to put on a real light show and impress your fellow drivers.
Whether you want to see the trail better, or be seen by other drivers, you can use your rock lights in different ways at different times for the ultimate in flexibility.
How to install Jeep rock lights
As we’ve already seen, rock lights are relatively easy to install compared to pod mounts and other LED lighting units. Rock lights are designed to be used as a set, so your main concern will be making sure you have enough wiring to link them all together.
You shouldn’t have to worry too much about whether or not they’re compatible with your Jeep. Unlike aftermarket headlights and backup lights, which may require different parts depending on what type of Jeep you have, rock lights are pretty universal.
Whether you have a Jeep Wrangler TJ or a newer model like the JK, you should be able to install the same type of rock lights on both. You’ll just need to decide how many lights you want to install, and whether you want to buy a set that comes with 4 or 8 lights.
Once you’ve purchased a kit, follow these steps to install your rock lights on your Jeep, along with any additional steps that come with the instructions:
1. Mount the lights
Decide how you’re going to attach your rock lights to the vehicle. Are you going to install them in permanent locations, such as underneath the bumper or wheel well? Or are you going to attach them with magnets or a detachable housing unit for easy removal?
Depending on which option you choose, you may need to drill a hole so you can attach a mounting bracket with screws or bolts. Make sure the lights are attached securely so they don’t shake loose on bumpy roads or point in the wrong direction.
2. Connect the wires
This may be the most difficult step in the installation process, since you need to connect all of your lights to the same switch or control unit.
LED rock lights are designed to produce steady light without draining your battery, but if you have other lights installed already on your vehicle, you may need to install a fuse or relay to make sure you don’t overload the circuit.
Finally, since your rock lights are going to be installed under the vehicle, you might end up with loose wires hanging down from the underbelly of your Jeep. Take your time to tuck them in securely so they don’t get caught on rocks or debris while driving.
3. Set up Bluetooth
This step is only necessary if your rock lights come with remote control functions. If not, you can connect them to a control switch in the dashboard of your Jeep.
If they do, then they’ll likely have a Bluetooth controller that serves as a link between the lights and the smartphone app that you use to control them.
Once you’ve installed the lights, download the app or scan the QR code that comes with your kit. Then, practice using the app to adjust the brightness, change the flash pattern, or even set them up on a schedule or sync them to your favorite music!
Which rock lights should you choose for your Jeep?
The best thing about rock lights is that there’s virtually no limit to what you can do with them. While other lights have to be installed in specific places on your Jeep in order to work properly, you can use rock lights to create your own customized setup.
Whether you want more illumination on off-road trails, or you want to put on a light show when you reach your destination, these versatile lights might be just what you need.
You can browse the selection at Inspired Engineering to get some ideas, and give us a call if you have questions about the best rock lights for your vehicle!