03-02-2014, 10:33 PM #1
LED lighting review- Baja Designs
I know I know, this isn't a bolt on LED setup for a BMW........ but I'm sure you know- just because this is a BMW based forum doesn't mean that we only have those in our garage, or its the only thing we do
I had a 16mm DX fisheye on my camera, and had to take some quick snaps. some pictures are a little out of focus on accident- some one purpose
I was more worried about getting these on, than picture quality- please forgive me
I recently returned from King of the Hammers 2014 and wanted to report on an awesome company I had the pleasure of dealing with.
I sponsored an Ultra4 Rig this year, and was in charge of making sure the car was in shape to get beat on for 8+ hours straight. We had to address quite a few aspects to prep a vehicle of this stature; for this caliber of a race (on a lake bed- in the dirt, mind you)…… I noticed the rig had sub-par lighting. Every racer out there would rather NOT have to use their lights to finish a race, but the cards are stacked against you at the King of the Hammers. Now, I’m not going to say that the LED lights on the rig weren’t going to work. They did. I’m not going to say that the LED lights on the car were going to fail. They didn’t. But, when you spend big bucks to have a car built, and put in the middle of a lake bed- you want to make sure you have as least amount of issues as possible. I expressed my concern to the owner, and he agreed. The ebay special LED lights that were installed currently replaced heavy, bulky, big, cumbersome and power robbing HID 8” round lights. In my opinion, a great step forward- but not the right direction.
Enter Baja Designs.
We had seen many LED lighting vendors in Hammer town, and while there were cheaper alternatives- Baja Designs is known to be the BEST of the LED lighting world. I mean, go look at the list of racers on their website… Bomber fab, Bigugly racing, the McMillans, the list goes on and on. Big racers running quality lights is what it boils down to. Now, before you go and tell me about this other company that is really big, or these LED’s you found that work really good- I wanted to break down the differences of “Generic LED’s” vs. “Baja Design LED’s”.
In all honesty- Before this, I didn't know the “true” difference between a Chinese built LED light and a quality light. An LED is and LED is an LED, right? Trent from Baja Designs was quick to correct me! He answered my many questions on WHY they are better. Believe me, I'm a skeptic at people trying to sell me stuff. It happens all the time as a business owner. Having a BMW shop myself, I constantly run into customers who have to get the education of price vs. quality. This time I was the student. I’m sure you understand that just because it’s cheaper, doesn't mean that it’s going to be equal or better than the competitors. Economics and business has shown this over and over- the cheapest thing is not the best.
First off, and I know this is a problem with the LED light industry is moisture. LED technology is much better than incandescent lights, and while they are much cooler than them, they still get actually pretty dang hot…… and with heat comes moisture as it cools. The issue with LED’s is that you can seal the housing 100%- but the reality is, moisture actually will travel UP THE WIRING….. Baja designs has made a solution to this issue- the Moistureblock. By physically sealing the wiring, the light can truly be a 100% waterproof system. In fact, they can survive up to 9' of water submerged without any issues. It's IP69K certified. Remember, Baja Designs makes lights for the military- so these lights MUST pass very stringent and rugged tests to be allowed on those vehicles.
Another AWESOME thing: you can cut the cord on these. As long as it is below the Moistureblock sealing capsule, you will NOT void the warranty!
Look at the difference. I took some random pictures of other lights on other rigs. Notice they just have some little grommet holding the cord into the light? Guess what? That is the first place water is going to go into.
Secondly- is what if your lights change roles? Say you had them as a wide fog lens, but now you want them to be a pencil beam? What happens if your light gets a rock or debris nailed into the lens? You can do a lens swap on a Baja Designs LED… Try that with a Chinese or other company LED. It’s not happening. After installing our lights on the 707 rig, we ended up doing a lens change to help tune the lights- Something that other LED light companies do not do.
side note- check these little guys out! They throw out some SERIOUS lighting with minimal space. I'm thinking of putting on inside my next project for a map light, and possibly a hood light.
Do you see the difference? "Those other guys" assemblies are all slid in from the side, and I'm sure they have some type of sealant goop that keeps them "moisture resistant" not WATERPROOF. If something happens to the lens, you are not going to replace the lens separately- you get to buy a new light! (Booo!)
Third- Longevity. We were worried about the Chinese LED’s being able to survive the rigors of The King of the Hammers… Heat and ultimately, construction of the internals was a concern for us. Baja Designs uses a Copper heat sink, vs. the aluminum parts used in lesser LED systems. By doing this, heat distribution and dissipation is much more than others. I mean, just look at the difference between the cheap LED’s vs. the Baja Designs housing. Cheap casting, some type of paint that was flaking off practically new lights, and thin little heat fins.
Baja design housings are CNC’ed , BEFFY and anodized.
Stainless hardware is included. The brackets are NICE and BEEFY. Look at the difference!
Enough with the highlights- lets show some installation.
These cheap LED’s are coming off to be replaced with some QUALITY lighting.
The wiring on these lights are Weatherpack connectors. You will need a special pair of pliers and a little bit of patience to put them together correctly. Basically you slide the rubber grommet on the wire, crimp the wire to the connector and then crimp the connector to the grommet. Skill and finesse is needed to not ruin the connector and make it look correct.
For the record, dont get the single pivot crimp pliers, get the dual crimp pliers, like these:
Having one power and one ground going to 4 lights and making it look clean (and being able to independently remove one light) was a little challenging in the middle of the desert. I ended up finding a 4 gauge lug, cutting it down to make a ring- crimping and then soldering the connection. Heat shrink afterwards. After fussing with that, we mounted the lights to the existing tabs.
Good thing Brian from Plasma cam was right down the “street” in Hammer town to help me plasma cut some brackets out. Within a few minutes we had a bracket made to adapt two of the tabs on the buggy to the correct width of the Squadron lights.
Funny thing, I used to sell CNC plasma cutters for another company. This was my first time using a plasma cam and *WOW* do they have their stuff together! I won't bore you with all the pros/cons of one CNC plasma cutter for another, but wow was I in the dark with that other company.......
Brian knew Plasma cam's programming like the back of his hand. It is WAY easier than the 3 programs needed for the other company I used to work for.
I told Brian to give me the "serious face" lol
The nice thing about this is, you can still use your hand held plasma cutter torch, AND put it on your CNC table. no need to buy a $400 dollar machine torch.
AND, if you bump it into something, it will simply fall off- not break a piece of plastic like the competition. Nice work guys!
Last edited by alex@ABRhouston; 03-02-2014 at 11:14 PM.
03-02-2014, 10:33 PM #2
So we have them mounted up now
now, for the top.
Trent told us that a stealth would be more than enough for a light bar on top. Once again, I was being skeptical- we are taking off a 2 row LED bar for a single row bar, and its smaller? How can it put out more light?
The driver had complained of light splash onto the hood and dash from the upper light bar, so we made a brow visor for the light to keep it off the hood. One of my pit crew, USMCDOC14 helped out with that. Off to plasma cam and Brian to help with that aspect.
The Stealth is an awesome bar with BIG light output. I want one SO BAD on my super duty between the bumper and the grill
This is your Not-approved-by-OSHA picture of the day
Our little eco-sphere of dirt. Seriously, you must become one with the dirt here. It gets in everything. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
Here are some extra credit pictures, just for fun
So, the cool thing about this Stealth, is it also comes with a light guard. I know some states do not allow you to drive with extra lights unless they are covered. This simply snaps on and off. easy.
Notice the difference on the end LED lens? those throw light out to the side, and the rest pencil it in forward.
My brother was the other third of the pit crew, he was the sticker installer and beer drinker in this picture.
After getting the Rig all buttoned up, Trent and I took it out at night to test and tune the lights. We ended up switching out the center two lights to a pencil (it was half pencil/half wide angle) and it made a huge improvement. Baja Designs will tune any light that a person buys if they are there. That's cool in my book! We ended up getting the side lights to show about 100 feet wide, and the center lights would show about 250 YARDS without an issue. The upper bar was just extra credit- I was seriously just AMAZED how well the lights performed. It was no joke. The Chinese lights just had no chance vs. these.
We made sure that the lights were tuned so we could still see during full throttle starts and brake lock-up stops. Remember, this car has 16" of travel in the front, and about 18" in the rear. When you take off and hit the brakes, the entire rig pitches forward/back left/right. You want to make sure the lights cover all aspects of that.
We then hit some whoops about 3' tall around 45-50MPH. With confidence, the lights were easily able to let us go as fast as we pleased.
Overall, Baja Designs has completely changed my view on LED lighting, and technology. Trent knew his product thoroughly, but at the end of the day the product spoke for its self. These lights are the most kick ass LED set ups I have ever been able to see. They truly turn the night into day.
We qualified in the LCQ around 35th position out of 155 rigs. The 707 car is Loren Healy's winning rig of 2008, so it was a proven contender.
Unfortunately Murphey was along for the ride with us As soon as we came off the start line we blew a driveshaft. Thankfully it happened right in front of the pits, so we were able to help them (if they are out of the pits the driver and co-driver are the only people who can touch the vehicle. It is a "no-chase race")
The driveshaft punctured the transmission cooler, and banged up some components. Within a half hour we were able to replace the transmission cooler and fans, put in the spare driveshaft and get the car running- but our goal of top 10 finisher was out the window. Now it was a game of just finishing. The car made it back into the main pits from Lap 1, with the transmission leaking severely for some reason. We added more fluid (assuming it was from foaming/cavitation) and sent it out..... Only to hear over the radio "Car 707 DNF catastrophic transmission failure" from the Co-driver.
The drive shaft whipping around had actually cracked the transmission housing, and over the next 30 miles of racing finished it off. The transmission literally cracked 360* around- the only thing holding it together was the pan!
With that under our belt, we will come back next year with an aftermarket transmission case (which will be what I'm trying to get together for the BMW transmission issue!) and we will try-try again. Overall, through all the sand/oil/grease/lack of sleep and dirtiness- I love the offroad and will do it all over again, if the owner says 'lets go!'
I'll be doing a follow up on them, along with some installs on my super duty to replace my fog lamps with some lights from these guys.
I'd highly reccomend you consider them for your lighting needs. They don't just make LED's. They make all sorts of lights..... from motorcycles to rally.
Check em out! http://www.bajadesigns.com/
Last edited by alex@ABRhouston; 03-03-2014 at 09:59 AM.
03-02-2014, 10:33 PM #3
03-02-2014, 11:58 PM #4
local raptor has a bunch of light bars installed on his truck. safe to say. i thought i fried my retinas when he turned them on to show me.Instagram: Sammy0559
Got one more tow with AAA lets make it count
03-03-2014, 12:03 AM #5
That is the thing now- a bunch of people are able to get an LED bar- but the QUALITY of the component, and how well it actually lights up the area is the difference.
kind of reminds me of other things that are similar.
normal tires vs. drag radials.
chrome lined barrel vs. stainless barrel.
cheap Chinese knife vs. Kershaw knife.
328 vs M3.
Whataburger vs. In-n-out burger.
Miller light vs. microbrew.
clone vs. original.
All products are similar, but the quality ones cost a few bucks extra and deliver a LOT more.
03-13-2014, 05:56 PM #6