In recent years there has been a large shift away from the standard halogen light technology in all industries towards more efficient LED systems. The distinct white LED glow is slowly becoming the norm over the traditional yellow halogen beam.
Many farmers and contractors are specifying new machines with LED lighting packages where budgets allow. Once used to the bright even light distribution of a quality LED, it’s hard to go back. Almost any farmer or contractor replacing old, worn out halogen lights on a machine is going down the route of fitting LEDs. Once fitted, LEDs require less maintenance and are easier to power.
LED technology has come on leaps and bounds over the years. They are now available in all sizes, shapes and forms. While technology has advanced, there are now more manufacturers producing lights with only a low buying cost in mind instead of quality.
So, quality varies massively across brands and budgets. Top-quality LEDs may set you back as much or more than genuine OEM halogens will. Many customers have been caught out in thinking an LED is an LED and opting for the cheaper option only to find out in due course that this is not the case.
It is not the same as standard halogen lights where it’s hard to go wrong given that the light assembly is just essentially a simple bulb, reflector and lens. LEDs are usually sealed units with electrical chips inside, which leaves for greater variation in quality between brands.
Also, when an LED stops working, it generally cannot be fixed. Other common problems that occur with cheaper or poor-quality LED work lights is radio interference. The frequency at which the LEDs operate interferes with the radio signal and therefore distorts it once lights are switched on.
Another problem in relation to cheaper LED kits on some newer tractors is that tractors will show a warning light or message when a bulb blows.
The tractor does this by monitoring the current draw. So when the lamp stops drawing current or the bulb blows then the warning light or message will show.
Given that LEDs draw less current than standard halogens, the system can be fooled into thinking its lights aren’t working. Cheaper lights will trigger these warnings, while premium lights have built-in technology designed not to show this warning.
LED light colour is measured in Kelvins (K). Good-quality lamps will generally be in or around the 6,000K range (comparable to daylight) while cheaper brands tend to be higher and give off an unappealing purple/blue hue.
Another issue with poor-quality lights aside from build quality and a short lifespan is the actual amount of light they emit. Many may, for example, be labelled as 40W but in reality draw a lot less power therefore do not give out the light that a 40W light should.
UTV Products LED lighting
We met Fermanagh man Jack Campbell who works with UTV Products LED Lighting based in Middlewich in Britain. UTV Products LED Lighting specialises in the supply of OEM-type LED lights for a range of tractors, loaders and self-propelled machinery as well as supplying light bars and other LED accessories. While the majority of its business is done online, the firm has a number of dealers on the ground here and in the UK.
UTV Products differentiates itself from most other suppliers on the market by focusing on providing quality OEM-type LED lights to fit all popular makes and models of tractors and loaders in a simple plug and play configuration. This leaves installation in many cases just a matter of mounting the light and plugging into the existing connector on the machine’s wiring loom. Not only does this avoid having to interfere with the machine’s wiring, it also ensures a fully sealed connection, let alone saving time.
Jack explained how more and more customers are moving away from light bars to the more subtle OEM-type LED work lights:
“In many cases a combination of LED work lamps will outshine one large LED light bar and produce a much nicer light to work in up close. These lamps are proving popular for their neat OEM look, not taking away from the machine’s original appearance. With every light we sell, we supply an adapter cable to suit the machine it’s being fitted to along with the required brackets if needed. It’s these smaller touches we pride ourselves on.
"For example, we even supply the John Deere 20 and 30 series belt line lights with their black and silver surround so customers can have the benefits of improved light while maintaining the OEM look.”
UTV Products also supplies a range of LED worklight conversion kits including fitment brackets for the more unique grille lights of many popular tractor makes and models. Manufacturers catered for so far include Massey Ferguson, John Deere, New Holland and Fendt while more models are constantly being added.
In more recent times, the firm has brought to market a fully road legal range of headlights with a built-in dip beam, LED of course, to suit the grilles of many popular makes and models including the New Holland 40 series, 60 series, TM, TS, and TL, John Deere 00, 10, 20 and 30 series, Fiat F, 94 and 90 (110/90) series as well as Deutz Agrotrons and Valtra 50, T and N models.
Why go LED?
Jack explained that there are a number of benefits in going down the route of quality LED work lights. One major benefit along with an improved distribution of light is that it’s much easier on the operator’s eyes in comparison to poor halogen lights.
The second reason is that once existing work lights are replaced like for like with LEDs, less current will be drawn from the circuit. Therefore, there is less heat throughout the electrical circuit (common in older machines after long periods of using lights).
“The new range of LED fully road legal headlights should leave road use safer due to an improved spread of light. Often, some tractors headlights are that poor that guys start turning on work lights on the road, which not only is very blinding for oncoming road users but illegal on public roads.”
As mentioned previously, the pricing of LED work lights vary quite a bit depending on brand and quality. We priced individual genuine halogen work lights for three popular tractor models from their respective dealers alongside pricing a UTV Products LED OEM replacement to see how they compare. The same was done for headlights, this time for the pair. Both spurious LED and halogen prices have been left out as prices vary significantly between manufacturers.
Most people, when it comes to buying LEDs look at the particular light’s output in terms of lumens. But what is important to note is that the lumen is a measurement of light recorded directly at the source of the light, so pretty much in front the lens. Lux is the more important value worth considering. Lux is the measurement of light at a given distance away from the lens.
This is where the quality of the LED chip plays a factor. A poor-quality chip will often output a high number of lumens right at the light source but will not beam the light a good distance and therefor have a low lux reading. A high-quality chip and lens is key in ensuring a high lux reading. A high lux reading is a better way of determining a light’s quality and performance. CREE and Osram LED technology is perceived as up there with the best. Our advice would be spend that bit extra and buy quality.