Working on your truck is a two-sided affair. It’s awesome knowing you fixed whatever problem arose or even installed the parts you worked hard to afford. However, when a problem isn’t so easy to fix or when you’re hot, tired, and frustrated, working on your truck can be painful. One of the biggest pains is when you drop something down into the engine compartment, and it’s seemingly disappeared. Or one of my personal favorites is when you can’t see the nut or bolt but you can feel it, so you’re working blind and hoping for the best. Truck engine compartments are big, truck engines are big, but recently all engine bays are filled with black plastics that make getting light into the much-needed areas more difficult. To remedy this frustration, we went out and purchased five underhood lights, four of which were cordless and LED-powered, while one used the tried-and-true fluorescent light bulb with a 25-foot cord.
Our testing was conducted using the Shop lights in several different scenarios: underhood, interior, under the chassis to illuminate the suspension, and as a general shop light. We closely examined light output, light distribution, features, mounting options, ergonomics, run time, charge time, portability, and value. We tested the lights with the overhead shop lights on and off, and then performed a side-by-side comparison to weigh the pros and cons of each. The winner surprised us on many different levels, and we’re happy to say we found an underhood light that is Truckin Tough.
1. Luminar Work 120 LED Rechargeable Underhood Work Light 60793
During our three years of tool testing, the old adage “you get what you pay for,” hasn’t always panned out. This month’s winner proved to be another example of a high-quality tool that will not break the bank. Luminar’s Underhood Work Light doesn’t have extra-large hooks that retract like many of its competitors, rather it uses a rather ingenious stretchable cord found inside the end caps that unscrew. This hidden feature makes mounting the light via the swivel hooks or magnets a breeze. It also makes it the most compact, lightest, and easiest to handle in this test. Combine that with a dual light mode (low and high), power on/off switches at both ends, and oversized hex caps to prevent rolling around, and you have yourself an impressive light that can do it all.
2. Bayco LED Rechargeable Underhood Work Light
$110.43 (at amazon.com)
As the most expensive light in this test, we expected big things from the Bayco LED rechargeable light, and for the most part, it delivered the goods. Big, foam-padded hooks made attaching the Bayco light a breeze with little concern for damaging painted surfaces, it has a three-hour run time on high output and six hours on low output, and it’s completely removable from the attachment cradle. And therein lies our biggest complaint. Once you detach the light from the mounting cradle, the handles can swivel to make using the built-in hooks or magnets easier for odd mounting situations. However, the handles are not comfortable in your hand and make it difficult to maneuver. Also, we found the light output (330 lumens on high) to be adequate, but the spot-focused beam didn’t disperse enough light evenly.
3. ATD Saber 30-Watt Fluorescent Underhood Light ATD-80050
$99.00 (at amazon.com)
Some editors called foul at the idea of including a corded fluorescent light in a test filled with cordless LED lights, but to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. Whereas the ATD Saber may be more old school in its approach, it did prove to be a well-executed tool. An extra-bright (1500 lumens), extra-broad flood beam made the Saber a favorite for underhood, interior, and under the chassis work. Huge foam-covered hooks made mounting the light a drama-free affair, and the built-in ratcheting and telescoping brackets extend from 47 to 75 inches. With a 25-foot cord, the Saber was shop and garage friendly, but it is heavy. A big plus, it never runs out of battery. All-in-all, the Saber is a pro-grade tool that can’t be used on the go, but is ideal when portability isn’t required.
4. Eastwood Rechargeable 120-LED Underhood Light 30099
Eastwood’s Underhood Light had a big feature list. It’s foldable, rechargeable, has retractable hooks that extend up to 72 inches, and it is powered by surface-mounted LEDs. All of those pros couldn’t have resulted in a Fourth Place finish, right? You would think so, until you realize just how heavy the light is with its 7.4V Lithium-Ion battery, built-in retractable hooks, and its folding mechanism. Trust us when we say it was the brightest in the test, because it was. At 1250 lumens, the surface-mount LEDs are legit, but during our testing, the light ran out of juice after just three hours of use. It was difficult to transport from truck to truck, as it would fold closed when you removed it from the hood. The Eastwood light is a capable tool, but it simply got out-classed in this competition.
5. Wel-Bilt Rechargeable Worklight 33893
We purchased this Wel-Bilt light on sale at Northern Tool because it sounded too good to be true. It came with a mounting cradle, a claimed six-hour run time, and it was nice and light for all-around use in the shop. All of those qualities proved true, but it didn’t have quite as bright of light output as the others in this test, the mounting hooks were cheap plastic with no foam protection, and the colored LED charge indicator never changed colors or turned off when completely charged. Another bummer, shortly after performing our test, Northern Tool discontinued this light. It was a solid value, but we had to place it last due to its limited availability.