The 5 Worst Car Lighting Upgrades You Can Make To Your Vehicle
If there's one car upgrade your vehicle probably doesn't need, it's lighting. Swapping in a new set of H4 bulbs to blast out better light in an older car or truck is one thing, but adding so many auxiliary pods that you could light up an entire neighborhood is something else entirely. And don't get us started on the color wheel of bad decisions people make when they decide it's time to move beyond the hues that the Department of Transportation has declared acceptable for civilians.
Unfortunately, when it comes to car lighting mods it seems like the answer is always 'more, more, more.' It's rare to see a truck with a single light bar riding up front, but we're willing to be you've seen an SUV with two, or three, or even four, once you get those side mirror mounting points in action. The same goes for neons, LEDs, and tail lights that for some reason pulse with the beat of the world's loudest subwoofer.
Unless you're a dedicated off-roader who needs to illuminate a wide mesa, or an off-duty air traffic controller who likes to park out on the runway and mess with local commuter jets, please just don't do it. And if you're still tempted, read on for all the reasons why sticking with stock lighting is the best solution 90 percent of the time.
Way back before LED technology made it convenient and inexpensive to advertise to the entire world that you're hosting a rave beneath your vehicle, owners seeking that oh-so-hip UFO look had to really work for it in the form of under-car neons. These fickle and fabulous tubes of weaponized day-glo had to be expertly installed so as to protect them from rocks and speed bumps, all while drawing enough power from your alternator that you had to pop an extra battery in the trunk or face an embarrassing call to AAA after a night of hard parking.
Nowadays, LEDs the size of a pinky ring can be taped to almost any flat surface, which means underglow lights have seen a resurgence in popularity. Surprisingly, cultural tastes have yet to catch up with a future where everyone is blasting primary colors at full visual volume, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Maybe one day we'll get there, but until then it's just your least favorite neighbor with the world's biggest stereo system attending that particular party.
Colored Turn Signals And Side Markers
Furthering the rainbow of 'don't do that' are colored turn signals and side markers. Another slice of the automotive lighting upgrade world that has exploded due to the prevalence of cheap LEDs, incautious customizers are increasingly transforming their rides into rolling probable cause by way of these brightly-hued points of light.
Any deviation from DOT is as easy to spot as a purple turn signal or a green side marker is going to guarantee near-constant harassment from local law enforcement seeking an easy ticket to pad their monthly quotas. Not only that, but other drivers will typically have a hard time figuring out whether your flasher means it's time for a lane change or that they’re instead coming up on a low-flying Cessna about to make an emergency landing on the interstate.
Rear Fog Lights
In theory, rear fog lights are a good idea. They provide a bright signal to anyone following along in the midst of a pea soup weather event, unexpected cloud bank, or torrential rainstorm that there's a vehicle up ahead.
In practice, rear fog lights are among the most misunderstood automotive features. Typically wired to come on at the same time as the forward fogs, which have become interchangeable in the minds of many motorists with 'driving lights,' this means almost every rear fog light in the world is currently illuminated for absolutely no reason at all. It's entirely possible that the advancement of global warming is entirely linked to the stupendous energy needs of always-on rear fogs.
Depending on how bright these lights are, it can mean major headaches for anyone stuck behind a bumper-mounted searchlight shining directly into their eyes in a calm, clear night. This goes double for self-installed sets with no particular care taken for wiring or positioning, bolted to the back of a pickup, SUV, or 'rally car' that probably never leaves the garage when there's rain in the forecast.
Giant Light Bars With No Off Switch
Like rear fogs, there's nothing wrong with a light bar that's used properly. The ones that comes on automatically as soon as you hit your headlight switch? That's where the fun stops.
The five separate light bars stuffed into every conceivable crevice, mounting point, and over-and-under-bumper position, choking the amount of air reaching your radiator and threatening to eclipse the sun should they ever be illuminated during the daytime? Buddy, you might have a problem. Or you might be blind. Either way, you shouldn't be driving anywhere near us.
Fake HID Headlights
If you thought LEDs had made high-intensity discharge headlights a thing of the past, think again. It's never been easier to outfit your vehicle with a set of imitation HIDs assembled with the most casual attention to quality (and certainly no respect for actually making use of the soft-white xenon light that made them such a popular alternative to traditional bulbs).
Bask in the full array of the purple-to-blue color spectrum blasting out of the headlights of those who would seek to cheap out on perhaps the most important night time safety gear their vehicle has to offer. Stare, if you dare, into the dazzling light that's aimed directly at oncoming traffic, skipping across the center line to sear through your ocular nerve right to the back of your skull. The struggle is so real that more than one HID bulb manufacturer has had to set up special programs designed to help owners identify sketchy counterfeit xenon gear.
BONUS: Tinted Taillights
Are you braking? Are you stopping? Are you making a turn?
Nobody knows, especially not the person who just rear-ended you at 35-mph.
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