The amber light bar is a common warning device used by first responders, storm trackers and roadside assistance crews. In most parts of the country, alert bars with amber colored lights can be used by anyone, as they aren’t typically restricted like red/blue light bars. More recently, LED amber light bars are used more often because the LED bulbs will last much longer and be more reliable in various weather conditions. Let’s look at some things to consider when choosing the best light bar for your use and compare some of the features available.
Before you decide the type of LED amber light bar you need to use, you need to know your application. If you need to be able to put the bar on your vehicle and remove it frequently, you’ll want to look closer at the magnetic mounted amber light bars, as a more “permanent” mounting method, like screws will wear the mounting location out over a short time period. Here are some pros and cons to each type of installation.
Magnetic Mount Light Bars:
- easy to install – as long as you have a metal surface large enough, no hardware is needed
- easy to remove – again, no hardware to fiddle with
- easy to switch vehicles – driving a different vehicle one day? Just pickup your LED amber light bar and place it on your new vehicle
- won’t affect the value of your vehicle – your car will still be attractive to the average buyer after you’re done with it
- speed limitations – magnets are powerful but high wind conditions while driving may affect their placement
- temporary cables – you may have to deal with cigarette lighter extension cables from your cab to the outside of your vehicle
Permanent Mount Light Bars (screws, etc):
- They will not come off on accident – if they do, you have other problems to be concerned with
- Permanent wiring – wiring for permanently mounted LED light bars is hidden in your vehicle’s frame/carpet
- Appearance – they will generally look as if they were made for the vehicle if installed correctly.
- Permanent alteration to your vehicle are required
- Professional installation may be required
- More difficult to replace – with a 20k+ hour life amber LED expectancy, it’s remote, but you might want to upgrade or replace it one day
You need to determine the size of the best light bar for your needs. Fortunately, there are many different sizes to choose from. Magnetic mount LED bars are usually shorter than permanently installed LED light bars. This reduces the wind-load on them at highway speeds. Usually this isn’t a problem, but may make a difference in your choice. Your vehicle’s design or installed accessories may also play a role in your selection, as the longer light bars can be four feet long and may run into spotlights or rooftop antennas if you have them already on your vehicle. Shorter, magnetic mount units can be fit in between accessories.
Some of the best light bars are less obtrusive than others. If you choose an LED amber light bar, they can be as thin as an inch or two and mount about two inches off your vehicle roof. This reduces wind load and, may improve your gas mileage over larger units.
Consider also the light pattern you want to use on your amber light bar. A simple strobe pattern is available on most models and is the most commonly used. If you application needs it, some LED amber light bars let you rotate through different flash sequences. The Xprite 35.5″ model has seven different modes, and their 47″ model has 28 modes to choose from. The ThunderEye 27″ magnetic mount model has 15 modes.
You need to choose an amber light bar that will be seen at the right distance. Some boast distances of up to two miles under perfect conditions. Under real-world conditions, a few hundred yards is more likely.
Pay close attention to the warranty offered by the manufacturer. There’s nothing worse than choosing a permanently mounted light bar but then having problems with it a year later. One of the best warranties I’ve found comes with the ThunderEye series of LED amber light bars. It’s five years and they include lifetime support.
Now the question, which should you buy?
You will need to decide the mount system to use and the size you need for your application, but I have found the ThunderEye series to be one of the best-supported and most reliable brands. The fact that they will warranty it for five year shows they stand behind their product. For a less expensive alternative, the Xprite models are well-reviewed.
|Light Bar Brand||Length||Mount Method||Cost (as of 8/16)||Warranty|
|Xprite Amber 35||35.5"||screws||$70||not specified|