Bumper mounted lights have never been easier to install with the rise in popularity of steel OEM bumpers and the plethora of aftermarket bumpers. Lights mounted in these locations allow us to get more night-time performance from our rigs, whether it’s on the road or off-road. This article is a one-stop-shop for anyone who is interested in bumper lights. It contains everything you need to know about their setup, beam patterns, some general aiming techniques, and more!

Table of Contents

For a really great explanation of bumper lights paired with real-world examples of how they’re useful, check out the KC Academy video below that we did to cover this topic. For more detail and expansion on roof LED light bars, continue reading the rest of the article.

Bumper Lights Advantages and Disadvantages

When we talk about bumper lights, we’re mostly referring to the front bumper and to ones that are either mounted on top of or inside of that bumper. This can also refer to anything in this similar position of being mounted in-line with, or below, the headlights of the vehicle. And for those that are more interested in lights for your rear bumper, don’t stress! We’ll cover that in this article as well.

The benefits of bumper mounted lights

There are few major advantages of mounting lights on the front bumper. One of the biggest pros that’s often overlooked, is the ability to use an SAE Driving or Fog Beam (more on that later!) pattern light that boosts how frequently you can use your lights. With this beam pattern, you can not only use your lights on dirt trails, but also on paved roadways to increase your visibility in many driving scenarios. Because of where these lights get mounted, they’re certain to not have any glare bouncing off the hood of your vehicle like is present with ditch lights and roof mounted light bars. This is also what makes them great for conditions where there are lots of airborne particles - such as dust, snow, fog, etc. - because of the light output, it often appears to cut through or underneath those particles.

Pros of bumper lights at a glance:
  • Can be used on or off-road (with the correct beam pattern)
  • No glare from the hood
  • Great for dusty/snow/rainy/etc conditions
  • Flexibility of where you can aim them
  • Quicker and easier to install than lights in some other locations
  • Can use pod-style lights or light bars
Truck with two bumper lights placed under headlights
The limitations of bumper mounted lights

Although it may seem obvious, the biggest downside of lights mounted into this position is that, surprise surprise, you actually have to have a bumper capable of mounting them! Most of us off-roaders eventually end up with some sort of aftermarket steel or aluminum bumper after enough encounters with rocks on the trail, but very few trucks and SUVs come with solid bumpers from the dealership. The aftermarket bumpers almost always have light mount provisions built into them or at least have hoops that can be used with tube clamps to mount lights. Some of the newer OEM bumper from Jeep and Ford are also made of steel and can be used to solidly mount lights without much effort at all.

However, if you are still running a stock plastic bumper on your Tacoma, 4Runner, Jeep, etc. there are still a few options for you out there - particularly when it comes to those with OEM fog lights. We do make replacement fog light kits for these that come with all of the brackets and wiring adapters needed to make everything work properly and cleanly!

Close up of a bumper light with KC stone guard

Individual lights vs Light Bars for bumpers

A lot of this boils down to personal preference, budget, and mounting options. Some people enjoy the simplicity of buying a single 20” or 30” light bar to mount on/in their front bumper, whereas others like the timeless appeal of individual pod lights mounted together on a bumper. If you’re interested in a specific type of light, like a fog light, it may only come in an individual light so that may also guide you on your hunt for lights as well. Most of the time, aftermarket bumpers have cutouts for both light bars and individual lights, so some folks can get the best of both worlds. Something to consider: do you have unobstructed mounting locations? Is there a winch or something else protruding from the front bumper? Do you want a fog light or a driving beam light, or an off-road use only light?

For rear bumpers, we often only recommend individual style lights. Because these are primarily used for either reverse flood lights or dust/chase lights, we don’t recommend using a light bar for these as they’re often too much light and too difficult to mount.

Jeep with two bumper lights placed close together

How to aim your bumper lights and what you need

If you want to get the best out of your lights, it’d be wise to have them aimed properly. We can’t tell you the amount of times that we see people driving around with their lights pointed up at the sky. I guess if you’re signaling to the aliens it works, but otherwise you’d be better off to follow our advice on aiming your off-road lights below.

Aiming individual, pod style lights

With individual lights, you have both vertical and horizontal adjustments that you’re capable of making. This is both good and bad - good in the sense that it allows you to get light exactly where you want it, but bad in the sense that it adds just an extra step of refinement when aiming them. If you already know exactly where to aim the lights for your needs, then go ahead with that, but otherwise here’s a general guide to some best practices:

  1. Find an open area with a clear path in front of you. Sometimes, some trees or other things on the roadsides in the distance can help with context for your eyes.
  2. Turn your bumper lights on as well as your vehicle's headlights.
  3. Start with the vertical aim - Aim them intentionally too high and pointed at the sky/trees.
  4. Slowly aim them lower and lower until they overlap the beams from your headlights by about 40-60% depending on your preference.
  5. Move onto the horizontal aim - Aim them intentionally too far out and pointed at the sides of the trail.
  6. Slowly aim them towards the center of the trail until each of the beams overlap one another by about 25-30%.
Woman adjusting bumper lights on truck
Aiming bumper mounted light bars

Light bars don’t have the ability to be aimed horizontally, so it eliminates a step or two in the above process, as you really only have to aim the beam vertically.

  1. Find an open area with a clear path in front of you. Sometimes, some trees or other things on the roadsides in the distance can help with context for your eyes.
  2. Turn your bumper lights on as well as your vehicle's headlights.
  3. Start with the vertical aim - Aim them intentionally too high and pointed at the sky/trees.
  4. Slowly aim them lower and lower until they overlap the beams from your headlights by about 40-60% depending on your preference.
Close up of Ford Bronco with light bar on bumper

Is one beam pattern better than another for bumper lights?

One of the biggest advantages of mounting lights in this location is that you can essentially pick from any beam pattern that suits your needs. From driving fast through whoops in the open desert, when you need long-distance spot beams, to racing through winding forest roads with a wider spread beam light, the options here are bountiful - so let’s dive into a few that we’d recommend.

Street Legal Beam Patterns for Front Bumper Lights

Fog Beams:
A true fog beam projects a beam pattern that is very wide horizontally but has a sharp vertical cut-off - making it certain that it won’t blind oncoming traffic. These are designed to shine below layers of fog, rain, snow, and even dust while lighting up a pathway close to the ground - not the airborne particles in your line of sight while driving. These only provide light over a short distance from the vehicle and will not throw light very far. Fogs often come in either white or amber/selective yellow.

Driving Beams:
The next street legal beams are driving beams. These are designed to supplement your high-beam headlights and illuminate a path much further down the road - making them great for both on-road and off-road use! Driving beam lights are only street legal if they’re mounted in-line with or below your factory headlights, so because they’re going on your front bumper you should be all clear. Because driving lights are meant to be used in conjunction with your high-beams, you won’t want to be driving around with them on 24/7 - you’ll turn them off when you have other drivers coming towards you. Compared to a fog beam, these are a bit narrower but they throw light out much further.

Truck on street with light covers on bumper lights
Off-Road Beam Patterns for Front Bumper Lights

Spread/Wide 40 Beams:
Lights that feature a spread beam or a wide-40 beam are almost a hybrid between a fog beam and a driving beam light. They have a wide pattern, but also have increased brightness, increased distance, and taller beams compared to a fog light pattern but do not have quite as much distance as a driving beam light. These are not street legal so they are a great option for you if you want something for off-road use that has a very bright, wide beam. When mounted on a bumper, they’ll give you excellent short to mid-range coverage.

Spot Beams:
Spot or Long Range lights are able to penetrate deep into the night. Lights that have a spot beam pattern produce a tighter, more focused circular beam of light (and used to be often called a pencil beam) that reaches far down the road to see way out ahead toward the horizon even at higher speeds. Because this light pattern is very narrow, there is not much light on the sides. These work best when paired with other, wider beam patterns to fill the areas closer to the vehicle, for a complete area of light beam coverage.

Racing truck with four Flex Era 4 bumper lights

Combo Beams:
For those of you looking at light bars for your bumper, a combo beam pattern is likely what you’ll end up with. These have a great combination of distance and horizontal coverage due to the variation of optics in them. Most often, a combo beam pattern light bar will have spot beam reflectors on the inner lights, and then spread beam reflectors on the outer lights. This just provides a more balanced light output in one product to maximize the light bar’s efficiency.

What Beam Pattern is Best for a Rear Bumper?

Flood/Area Beams:
Flood or area beams create a very wide, evenly distributed pattern of light that floods an area with a vertically tall and horizontally wide pattern of light. Due to the light being evenly distributed across a large area, they often are not very intense, which helps to reduce glare being reflected off nearby objects. These lights are typically used as campsite/area lights, work lights, scene lights, or back-up lights to see a broader area at shorter distances or as chase/dust lights to be seen by others behind you. When mounted into a rear bumper, these are often all you’d ever need for rear facing lights!

Truck with lights mounted on rear bumper

Light Bars for Jeep Guide

Jeep owners: Don't miss our comprehensive Light Bars for Jeep Guide with even more useful information.