Gear Review: Ultra Vision Nitro 140 Maxx LED Driving Lights

UPDATE ON DURABILITY AND PERFORMANCE AFTER 16,000km (Nov 2017)

Having recently finished our “half-lap” of Australia I can offer some further insights into these lights. I have now had these lights fitted for more than 16,000km, of which approximately 1,500km was driven at night and more than 1,500km on dirt and gravel roads. This included notoriously rough and corrugated roads like the Mereenie Loop, the Gibb River Road and Cape Leveque.

I can tell you that the lights and the car were thoroughly tested. I had underbody bashplates coming loose, my exhaust falling off and my new UHF antenna started to fall apart from the vibrations on the bull bar. But the Nitro 140’s are still working perfectly and have not vibrated loose or moved at all. Even the clip-on clear covers were rock solid despite my initial concerns. Apart from cleaning the bugs and dirt off the covers a couple of times these lights are as good as new.

20170914_Big_Trip_3620
We weren’t taking it easy on this trip. Everything on the car got a good workout. Lancelin Offroad Area north of Perth.

You are thinking…..what’s so special – the lights didn’t break….they aren’t supposed to break. That’s a fair point but I can tell you on our trip we saw lots of broken lights. Especially up in the Kimberley region I saw many cars getting around with only 1 driving light because the other one had fallen off or shat itself. We also saw a lot of light bars that were damaged and had been taped up or strapped to the bullbar to prevent it falling apart. While I have never owned a light bar it does make sense. You have the bullbar that is vibrating like crazy on corrugated roads and a wide lightbar that is only mounted at each end so there is this unsupported span (can be up to a metre) that is wobbling up and down for hours. Now I am not saying that all light bars are crap – but if you are buying a cheap light bar that is very wide and is only supported at the ends don’t be surpised if it falls apart. If you want a wide lightbar I would recommend getting one with additional mounting points and putting it on your roof rack which would typically suffer from less vibrations than your bull bar.

42inch_light_bar
This might be a great light bar, but this eBay cheapie is over 1 metre between the mounting brackets and in my opinion isn’t suitable for offroad use.
20170903_Big_Trip_3397
If I had to say something bad about these lights – it is that they killed this little bird. In a freak highway accident this guy somehow got strangled by the light cable.

Because it seems these lights are so desirable Ultra-Vision have also released Pentaforce Anti-theft nuts so you can protect your lights from scumbag thieves. I already fitted the lights with the standard anti-theft nuts that stops someone unbolting the mounting bracket from your bullbar – but the new Pentaforce nuts also stop someone from removing the light body (the expensive part) from the mounting bracket. Having had someone steal my UHF antenna from my car in my driveway I reckon a set of these is a smart idea.

So to wrap this up – the lighting performance of these lights was excellent (as detailed on my original review below). We drove a lot more at night than we intended but I was very glad to have these lights. We saw heaps of animals on the road and just next to it. On the whole trip we only hit 1 small roo (no damage) but we saw cattle, horses, buffalo, sheep and goats. On one section of the Nullarbor near Madura we counted 32 dead roos on the side of the road in 2km but fortunately we passed through that section in the middle of the day. We had a close call with a cow one night in Kakadu and another night near Paraburdoo we had to drive at much lower speeds because of all the cattle on the road. In my opinion having a good set of driving lights is essential for travelling at night in Australia. Had we done this trip without quality lights it is quite likely we would have hit a larger animal/s which would seriously damage to car and has the potential to cause a dangerous accident.

I would also like to point out the obvious….that driving lights aren’t just for avoiding roadkill – they are also very handy for seeing where you are going at night so you don’t run off the road.

I should add that I haven’t been through any deep river crossings with the Nitro 140’s yet so I can’t comment on their waterproofness. But from looking at the sealing of the light body and cable gland I expect it to be fully waterproof.

If you have any questions or comments on your experience with these lights, light bars or Australian wildlife on the front of your car feel free to add a comment in the box below.

ORIGINAL REVIEW

Following my initial impressions and unboxing, I wired up the new lights and I have to say these things are phenomenal. If you are contemplating getting your first set of driving lights or upgrading your old halogens I suggest you read on.

20170703_Ultra_Vision_008

I have done a comparison of 3 different lights and tried to be as objective as possible:

  1. Standard Toyota High Beam lights
  2. Lightforce 240 Blitz halogen driving lights (100 watts each – about 10 years old)
  3. Ultra Vision Nitro 140 Maxx LED driving lights (140 watts each – brand new)
20170702_Ultra_Vision_004
Toyota High Beam
20170623_Ultra_Vision_013
Lightforce 240 Blitz
20170702_Ultra_Vision_007
Ultra Vision Nitro 140 Maxx

And here are some crops of the same photos – note the fence is 150 metres away.

20170702_Ultra_Vision_004_Crop
Toyota High Beam (cropped image)
20170623_Ultra_Vision_013_Crop
Lightforce 240 Blitz (cropped image)
20170702_Ultra_Vision_007_Crop
Ultra Vision Nitro 140 Maxx (cropped image). You can see G-Man by the fence taking the readings with the light meter – wishing he had his sunglasses! At least it didn’t start to rain this time.

Test results

Test 1. Light Meter Reading at 100 metres, directly in front of car

Toyota High Beam Lightforce 240 Blitz Nitro 140 Maxx Widr
2-3 lux 15 lux 87 lux

Test 2. Light Meter Reading at 100 metres, 10 metres to the right

Toyota High Beam Lightforce 240 Blitz Nitro 140 Maxx Widr
1 lux 0-2 lux 16 lux

Test 3. Light Meter Reading at 150 metres, directly in front of car at fence

Toyota High Beam Lightforce 240 Blitz Nitro 140 Maxx Widr
0-1 lux not taken 44 lux

You can see that the Nitro 140’s blow away the halogen lights on the middle of the road, but more importantly the Nitro 140’s provide more light at 10 metres off to the side (16 lux) than the Lightforce’s provide in the middle of the road! (15 lux). Check out the right hand side of the cropped photos above and you will see what I mean. This is the sort of beam pattern perfect for spotting roos on the side of the highway or navigating a winding back road.

Don’t get me wrong – the Lightforce’s have been great lights and served me well on countless trips. The only damage they sustained was a crack at the top of the plastic housing when I hit an owl one night in Tasmania. But LED technology has come a very long way in the last decade and these new Nitro 140’s are just amazing. In fact comparing the Lightforce halogens against the Nitro 140’s is like comparing a shotgun to a rocket launcher.

Things to consider

  • My standard high beams are surprisingly bad. I expect that standard headlights in a new car or 4WD would be significantly brighter than the ones in my 2005 Toyota. I had not realised just how bad they were until I did this test – because I am either driving around the city where there is plenty of light or on the highway/bush with the driving lights on.
  • The Lightforce’s were fitted with the blue plastic covers – one of them being the combo lens supposedly for improved spread. The halogen bulbs are the original ones that came with the lights. Brand new or upgraded bulbs may provide better performance.
  • The Lightforce’s provide a very focused and narrow pencil beam. While you can adjust this (by spinning the light) you end up with more of a “cone shape” that is not as bright and less useful in most circumstances (in my opinion).
  • I don’t have the alignment of the Nitro 140’s perfectly dialled in yet. I will have to wait until I hit the open road with a loaded car to fine tune them.
  • You could cause an accident if you fail to dip the Nitro 140’s for oncoming traffic. They are bloody bright.

How we conducted the testing

Ideally we would have done the testing on a quiet country road somewhere, but since I live in a large city the best I could do was a dodgy dirt road near the local tip. Unfortunately it took about 18 hours to get the stench out of the car afterwards.

We tested the lights on 2 nights about a week apart. The first time with my old Lightforce’s and the next time with the Ultra Visions. I had the engine running at about 1600-1800 rpm (thanks to a telescopic walking pole) but there was no noticeable difference in the brightness from idle.

The testing consisted of 2 parts: taking photos to show the relative brightness and taking lux readings with a light meter. The distances were measured with my Suunto Spartan.

Camera settings

I used a tripod and exactly the same camera settings for all the photos and the images look pretty close to what it really looked like. I didn’t make any corrections or adjustments in Lightroom. For the photography nerds:

Camera body Lumix GM-5
Lens Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II
Zoom 20mm
Flash No
Camera Setting M – Manual
Aperture 1.7
Shutter Speed 1/4 sec
ISO 200
White Balance AWB
Focus 1 Area
Image Size 4:3 16M
Format RAW

Light meter

I got my hands on this light meter. It is about 10 years old and doesn’t have a calibration certificate or anything – but is good enough for a comparison between different lighting options.

20170703_Ultra_Vision_009
This is the old light meter we used.

 

20170703_Ultra_Vision_002
This is with the clear plastic covers fitted. I don’t really like the way they clip on but they will do the job. I think these lights have doubled the value of my car.

Fitting and Installation

The Ultra Vision lights came with a complete wiring loom so I removed my old driving light wiring (which was a bit of a mess) and replaced it with the Ultra Vision wiring loom. It was quite easy because everything is already connected and it worked the first time. The only challenging part (for me at least) was getting the high beam pickup (from the back of the headlights) and getting the switch through the firewall. But it wasn’t complicated – just a bit fiddly and took a while to make sure it was all tidy and well secured. The lights come with simple instructions and a wiring diagram – much easier than trying to wire up the relay and fuses etc yourself. And of course you can get an auto electrician to wire them up in half the time if you are not confident doing it yourself.

Toyota bull bar

Unfortunately Toyota’s aluminium Sovereign bull bar is designed to suit driving lights with a very small footprint. And because of the curved and sloping shape of the bull bar it was a little fiddly to get the Nitro 140’s sitting just right. But this isn’t the fault of the Nitro 140’s – the stainless steel bracket is a great design. The lights are mounted rock solid now albeit slightly further forward than I would have liked, and thanks to the anti-theft nuts supplied by Ultra Vision hopefully no prick can steal them. If you have a normal bull bar with a flat plate on top these lights will mount easily – just make sure have sufficient clearance from the top tube as these lights are quite large (although not very deep).

The verdict

Bretto rating: 10/10

I deducted a point because I don’t really like the plastic lens covers, but added a bonus point because these lights are so bloody bright and the beam pattern / spread is excellent. These are not the cheapest lights around, but they exceeded my expectations in terms of build quality and brightness, come with a 5 year warranty and are made right here in Australia.

If you want more details on the Nitro 140’s check out the Ultra Vision website

I am about to head off on my biggest road trip yet – and while I try to avoid driving at night due to the increased risk of road kill, I am sure there will be many occasions where we push on to the next campsite or town after dark. And for those nights I am very pleased to have the Nitro 140’s showing the way.

The driveway into El Questro has a couple of easy water crossings

Special thanks to G-Man for helping with the testing which involved a couple of unpleasant late night trips to the tip.

Disclaimer: Ultra Vision supplied the lights for evaluation purposes.

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Gear Review: Ultra Vision Nitro 140 Maxx LED Driving Lights”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s