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theksmith

Let there be (rock) light!

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Glowin' Up Old School

 

When I was but a pre-teen, I once saw a car with full underbody neon and I thought it was the most awesome thing! By the time I got my license though, the fad had faded and ground effects were no longer cool. :(

 

Just imagine my joy when I first heard of rock-lights... a slightly functional excuse to finally have my vehicle riding on a bed of light? Sign me up! The JK is my second Jeep with them, and I'll probably light the bottom of any rig I may own in the future as well.

 

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Fun fact: The supposed inventor of Ground-Effect lighting, Andrew Wilson, legally changed his name to "They" back in 2004. Yup, just "They" for his entire name! ;)

 

 

New-In-Box Chinese Lumens

 

There are plenty of pre-made kits for rock lights, from expensive well-known brands to random imported stuff. Ruggedness, including waterproofing, and ease of mounting are probably the chief concerns when selecting a kit (unless you also want a multi-color disco party).

 

I had installed a rock light switch along with the fuse and relay back when I did my initial accessory wiring. I just actually needed some lights to run the final wires to. I wanted some that would give a nice even spread and not cost a fortune.

 

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17cm COB LED "DRL strips" (shown below) are currently abundant on Amazon, eBay, etc. They go for as little as $5 a pair and come in a variety of colors, including a decent looking cool white. I like that they cast a very even diffused light, claim to be waterproof and have a slim profile.

 

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A couple years ago these were selling for $15 a pair, but also seemed to be higher quality. The common ones available now have crappy exposed wiring, no real waterproofing (beyond the COB coating), and include an interior grade adhesive. The nicer sets are fully potted, have a strain relief where the wires exits their thicker cast aluminum shell, and seem to have authentic 3M exterior rated adhesive.

 

Below are photos of the cheap ones (first) compared to the nicer ones.

 

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I was able to purchase 5 sets of the better version from eBay for $9.90/set, but the seller could not obtain any more. Another seller, your-car-accessories, does have them in a silver frame version currently though.

 

I've driven with mine through 3 rain storms, some mud, and a couple car washes so far. They haven't had any issue yet, but long term reliability with is just going to be a waiting game.

 

For wiring, I bought jacketed 18 Gauge 2-conductor speaker cable. I figured the extra insulated layer would make it OK to use without corrugated tubing (especially since this is a low-priority system). The cable was run along the top of each frame rail, with 6" pig-tails spliced in wherever I planned to place a light.

 

I crimped one JST 2.5mm style connector to each pigtail and the mating connector on each strip light's cable. This allows me to easily disconnect any single light if I need to work on something in the area or replace one Marine grade heat-shrink was used at every splice and to attach each of the JST connector halves to their section of wire, and a bit of dielectric grease was smeared inside each connector before plugging them together.

 

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LEDs (over halogen bulbs) were a no brainer for this application. They offer low heat, long life, and most importantly - low current draw. A single 10 amp fuse was plenty for all 10 strips. At that rating, you could even wire them through a standard 12v accessory switch without the complexity of a relay.

 

All of the wiring details were probably overkill for such a superfluous accessory, but I usually subscribe to the do-it-right/do-it-once mentality.

 

To determine where to place each light, I temporarily connected one strip to a long wire and hooked it it to the battery. Then I spent the evening crawling under the rig to tape it to a bunch of different spots and getting back up to see how each location worked to spread the light.

 

I was able to attach most of the strips with exterior (UV stable) zip ties instead of relying solely on the double-sided tape. Before sticking each one down, I did prep the target area by sanding very lightly (just enough to scratch off the paint's sheen) and cleaning thoroughly with rubbing alcohol.

 

 

Go Towards the Light

 

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Assuming they don't burn out quickly (or catch fire!) :eek: - I'm very pleased with the results! The light is spread evenly and covers all but a very narrow strip down the middle of the rig. They'll probably illuminate that center area decently once I have a taller lift.

 

This project cost me under $50 for the 5 sets of lights plus $30 for the wire and connectors. I already had the heat-shrink, grease, zip-ties, and necessary crimpers.

 

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Here's a pre-made alternative that looks pretty nice (I haven't seen them in person though). I doubt the pods spread quite as evenly as the COB strips, and you might want to sheath that wiring - but for a third the price they would probably suit most folks.

 

 

Let's see your rock lights! Tell us what type of light you used and if you installed them just for fun or do you use them often?

 

 

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Let's see your rock lights! Tell us what type of light you used and if you installed them just for fun or do you use them often?

I installed $18 Walmart Platinum Burners years ago before there were so many other options available. I sometimes use them when driving through the neighborhood at night and of course, for night 'wheeling.

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Looks great!

 

thanks!

 

 

I installed $18 Walmart Platinum Burners years ago before there were so many other options available. I sometimes use them when driving through the neighborhood at night and of course, for night 'wheeling.

 

i dig your retro amber glow.

 

i would have actually preferred a neutral white version for myself, but most of the inexpensive LED stuff out there is cool white.

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I'm curious where exactly you mounted the lights. Looks like one each laterally front and rear and then 3 running down each side? I don't even sort of need them.... but I have an empty switch location that's bothering me :)

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I'm curious where exactly you mounted the lights. Looks like one each laterally front and rear and then 3 running down each side? I don't even sort of need them.... but I have an empty switch location that's bothering me :)

 

i'll take some photos later today...

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under the front tip of the front fenders:

 

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where the frame angles up just behind the front tires. i first simply stuck one there with the adhesive, but it started to come loose because there is some curve to the frame there. so i stuck and zip-tied it to a piece of aluminum, then bolted that to the frame:

 

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on the outer edge of the body, nearline inline with the back edge of the front door. this one and the next had to just use their adhesive to attach:

 

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another one on the outer edge of the body, just in front of the rear tires:

 

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in the center of the frame cross-member that sits just behind the rear diff:

 

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and just in front of the trailer hitch. i mounted it to a short piece of angle-aluminum here, and attached that with one of the trailer hitch mounting bolts:

 

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Those are brighter than my headlights! nice work!

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Nice jog on the installation. I think you'll be glad you didn't trust just the factory adhesive.

 

At my former work, when we instrumented a vehicle, on the rare occasions that we weren't allowed to drill holes and cable ties wouldn't work I've used this product with great success. I'm sure off the shelf RTV would be fine as well but this was what we depended on.

 

Dow Corning 3138356 732 Clear Multi-Purpose Sealant, -60 to 180 Degree C, 90 mL https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004VTGLXQ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_NacUybRX4S112

 

The instruments never came loose but were easy to remove post test.

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Those are really helpful pictures. I've got a couple of cameras near where your front ones are that I need to move. They aren't quite as useful as I hoped where they are.

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