One of the dangers of driving through unfamiliar terrain is the risk of driving over a rock that damages the underbelly of your vehicle. Even if you have powerful headlights and backup lights on your vehicle, it’s easy to miss low-to-the-ground obstacles.
Rock lights are designed to illuminate these kinds of hazards in your path. These small, powerful lights can go pretty much anywhere, but are usually installed on the underside of the body or bumper to improve visibility of the ground around your tires.
Whether you’re driving alone or with a spotter, rock lights are a must if you’ll be heading off-road on rough terrain in low lighting conditions.
What are rock lights?
Rock lights are small, versatile lights that are installed underneath your vehicle to help illuminate your path and make it easier to see rocks and other debris. They’re usually made with LEDs and come in sets of 4 or more.
Rock lights aren’t a replacement for head light or tail lights, but can supplement other auxiliary lights on your vehicle by lighting up areas that they don’t reach. Most other lights have a specific beam pattern, such as a flood or spot beam, and have to be mounted high on the car to have the desired effect.
Rock lights, on the other hand, are more versatile, can be installed almost anywhere on the vehicle that you want to mount them, such as under the front bumpers or frame. As a result, they can be considered a type of underglow lighting.
You’ll find a variety of rock lights on the market, in different styles and at a range of price points, including some that are designed for specific types of vehicles. Because they’re so customizable, you can really get creative with them, and come up with a setup that not only helps you see the road better, but that looks great on your vehicle.
You aren’t limited to using rock lights on off-road vehicles, either. In addition to Jeeps and ATVs, consider installing them on your boat, RV, motorcycle, or any other type of vehicle. Just be sure to buy waterproof lights if you’ll be using them in the water!
Why choose rock lights?
The primary reason for choosing rock lights is for improved visibility and road safety. If you’re heading off-road, then you won’t have streetlights and other ambient light to rely on. Even auxiliary headlights and pod lights may not be enough for some trails.
Rock lights give you more options for distributing light around your vehicle, and they’re easier to install than other lights, since they don’t usually require drilling.
Plus, most rock lights are made with LEDs, and are housed in durable metal housing, providing you with a long-lasting lighting solution that can withstand the elements.
Another reason to install rock lights is simply that they look cool. Since rock lights come in a variety of colors, you can deck your vehicle out with a unique color scheme that will make your car or truck more visible and help other vehicles recognize you off-road.
Some rock lights even come with a Bluetooth controller that allows you to change the color, brightness, and flashing pattern from the driver’s seat.
You can also install rock lights inside your vehicle to provide an interior cabin light that doesn’t drain your battery. Since rock lights are so portable, you can install them using detachable components so they can be used as handheld lights in an emergency.
Types of rock lights
Rock lights come in a variety of styles, so you should have no trouble finding a unit that looks great on your vehicle. Most rock lights come in packs, such as 4 or 8, so you can mount them around your vehicle but control them with a single controller.
Let’s look at a few different types of underbody lights you can find on the market today:
Neon underglow lights
In the past, underglow lights were primarily made out of neon. Neon lights consist of a tube of neon gas that creates light when exposed to an electric current. Although neon itself only produces red light, other gases can be used to create additional colors.
Neon lights have been used for their stylish appearance and for their ability to flash in sync to music. However, since they’re made out of tubes of compressed gas, they can break easily, even just by going over speed bumps. Because of this, they really aren’t suitable for off-road use, and are only practical for driving on flat pavement.
LED rock lights
Fortunately, LED lights offer everything you can get out of neon, and then some. They’re more compact, more durable, and more energy-efficient than most other kinds of lights.
LEDs rely on semiconductors, rather than gas, so they’re less easily damaged and are small enough to be installed in the wheel well and other nooks and crannies.
LED rock lights are typically made with a protective housing, such as an aluminum shell, making them shockproof and waterproof. They’re also long-lasting, and can run for five years or more, so you don’t have to replace them as often as standard light bulbs.
Not only that, but LED rock lights are incredibly customizable and can be controlled as a set or as individual units. You can purchase a set with a Bluetooth controller so you can turn your lights on and off with a smartphone app!
RGB LED lights
While neon underglow lights only come in one color per tube, some LED rock lights can produce almost all the colors of the rainbow. These are called RGB LED lights, and use a set of red, blue, and green diodes to produce as many as 16 million hues.
Essentially, you can use them as high-intensity white lights while driving, and then turn them into a multicolored display when you reach your destination.
LED strips and tubes
These kinds of LED lights are designed to mimic the classic neon underglow look, and may even be marketed as “neon LED lights”. They come in a flexible strip or tube that you can install on the frame or underbody of your vehicle.
Although they’re made with LEDs, they’re not as practical for driving as standard LED rock lights, and are more likely to be used as a style accessory.
Are rock lights street legal?
Most states have regulations on the use of underglow lighting on paved roads. These regulations often prohibit the use of flashing lights and certain lighting colors, such as red and blue, because they can be a distraction to other drivers.
But rock lights are perfectly legal for use off-road, and you may be able to leave them uncovered when driving on paved roads -- as long as you don’t turn them on.
Always check the laws of the state you’ll be driving in to make sure you don’t run into any trouble when driving to or from your off-road destination.
How do you install rock lights?
The best way to install your rock lights depends on the specific set you’re installing and where on the vehicle you want them to go. Most lights come with a kit and instructions, so you can easily install them yourself. You can expect to follow these basic steps:
1. Attach your lights
First, determine where you want your lights to go and mount them appropriately. Some rock lights come with mounts that need to be screwed in, while others can be attached with magnetics or adhesives. Either way, make sure they’re secured in place.
2. Wire your lights
Wiring rock lights can be a little trickier than wiring other auxiliary lights because there are more of them. Make sure you have enough wiring to connect them all to the wiring harness, and tuck any loose wires together so they don’t hang down below.
3. Connect the controls
Finally, connect them to the controls. This may be as simple as connecting them to a switch in the dashboard of your vehicle, or it may involve downloading an app so you can control them remotely. Some apps have a QR code you can scan to set it up.
What are the best rock lights for your vehicle?
The great thing about rock lights is that there are options for almost any kind of vehicle and driving situation. Some of the things you’ll need to keep in mind are:
What shape and style are the lights? Does the set come with the right number of lights and wires for your vehicle? Compatibility isn’t likely to be a problem, but you may get a better fit if you choose a set that’s specifically designed for your vehicle type.
What is the housing made out of? While LED lights are generally durable, choose a set with aluminum housing for a long-lasting investment. If you’ll be driving in the rain or in wet environments, make sure you get lights with waterproof housing.
If your lights are purely for road safety, then white lights with a simple on/off switch may be enough. But if you’re looking for something that will make your vehicle stand out, a set of RGB lights with Bluetooth controls may be key.
You can browse the selection at Inspired Engineering to get some ideas. If you aren’t sure which rock lights to choose, give us a call and we’ll help you out!