Toyota did an incredible job designing the 4Runner. It’s durable, reliable, and full of options from the factory. If we have to be picky, there is a big part that the 4Runner is lacking in from the factory, and that is lighting.
If you do any type of off-roading, live in a place where street lights are forigen, or maybe you just want better or unique looks, there are options for you! With this ultimate lighting guide for Toyota 4Runners, hopefully we can shine some light on your lighting needs and questions! Hopefully you were bright enough to catch that pun. Okay… I’ll dim the puns down.
What are LED Lights & How Are They Different Than Halogen?
Let’s first get some basics out of the way. What exactly makes these two types of lights different, what are the benefits, and so on… First off, a “light-emitting diode” (or LED) is a semiconductor in an enclosure that emits light when electricity passes through it. Sounds fancy, but in most basic terms, power passes through a small chip or electronic material, and it lights up when it does.
Sounds great, but what’s the difference? Basically we are talking about analog and digital forms of light, so to speak. A halogen is an updated version of the classic incandescent bulb first designed in 1879. While halogen bulbs are using much higher grade material compared to their historic counterparts, the operation is the same: electricity heats up a filament that interacts with the gas in the bulb, and you have light.
In the case of a halogen, we’re talking about a heated tungsten filament interacting with halogen gas. This will make a much brighter light compared to the bulb in your grandpa’s attic, but all analog mediums have a shelf light. The filaments can degrade over time, they can physically break, and the heat emitted can cause premature failure if the glass of the bulb was contaminated by something such as oily fingers during installation. This will have them fail before LEDs will. Since we’re talking about one type of metal and one type of gas interacting, you’re going to get one color and brightness of light.
While the invention of the LED is a bit dated too coming into light in 1962, when we think of it in terms of a “digital” device, we can definitely imagine how much it has improved since then! An LED light is going to give you an instant on/off light stream, better control of the color, and different brightness levels that halogens simply cannot do.
One easy way to imagine this is to think about buying a phone. Every phone these days is going to do the same thing. Some just do them better, and that usually depends on the cost. LED lights are the same: they all light up, but the amount of technology in them will allow them to be different.
Here’s a quick chart to explain some differences:
What Kind of LED Lights Are Available For 4Runners?
I hope you didn’t forget why you’re here: 4Runners! Now that you should be convinced that LED lighting for your 4Runner is the way to go, what is actually available? Thankfully since LEDs and Toyotas are both so popular, the short answer is everything!
4Runner headlights are easy to get in either replacement bulbs, and entire housing assemblies. Bulbs are easy plug and play replacements that simply take the place of your factory bulb. Replacing the entire housing with a completely built aftermarket headlight assembly will be more costly, but are still pretty straightforward to install, and don't require any modification. A complete assembly will generally give you a complete style overhaul with new features (such as sequential turn signals) over a standalone bulb.
4Runner Fog Lights
Fog lights generally get overlooked, but are easy and inexpensive to replace. In most cases, to get the best performance from your fog lights, you’ll want to replace the whole factory pod with an aftermarket LED one. While it sounds like a daunting task, it’s easy!
4Runner Ditch Lights
Ditch lights are not something you get from the factory, so these would have to be aftermarket. These lights mount behind your hood on either side, and when installed properly, cast extra lighting off to the sides of where your headlight’s field of view stops. These are great when you’re off on the trails or off-roading at night as they will generally light up the sides of the road you can’t normally see. They will keep you safe in the dark, and don’t require any permanent modification.
4Runner Light Bars
Light bars for the ultimate in off-road looks and low lighting performance, you can’t go wrong with an LED light bar. These generally mount either on your roof, in, on, or behind your front grille, or on your bumper (but for that last one, generally only if you have your bumper modified or replaced). They are simply a robust row (or two) of bright LEDs designed to make sure you see everything in front of you. There are different types, so let’s get into them!
What are Light Bars Used For?
In short, light bars are used for extra illumination. While high-beams can offer better light in darkness, light bars allow for a more customizable line of sight in the dark from the different size and mounting abilities. Light bars are mainly for off-road use and most are generally not allowed to be used on public roads. So keep that in mind when you think about getting one.
What Are The Different Light Bar Sizes?
Single Row Light Bars
For the most part, a single row light bar is going to have a single row of LED lights that produce a more focused beam of light. Think in terms of a spotlight. Generally this is best if you want to light up a longer distance.
Double Row Light Bars
A double row light bar is best for more of a floodlight, containing two rows of bright LED lights. If you want to light up a large area, a double could be better. This is just a basic principle, but things could change depending on which LEDs you use, the length of the row, placement, and so on.
What Are The Different Types of Light Bar Beams?
While the size portion above talked about what types of beams the number of rows generally produces, there are specific beams of light that you can look for: spot, flood, and combo. What you should get depends on where you plan on using them, and what you plan on using them for.
Spot beams focus a narrow beam of light in a specific area. These are best for distance and a specific line of sight. If you are faced with long open roads without much vegetation, this could be an option for you. On a road like that, you could be going at faster speeds then you would be if you were in the woods. You will want a beam of light that can see obstacles in the road far before you reach them.
Flood beams spread out light over a wider and taller surface area, but not as far as a spot beam. Something like this would be better in thicker vegetation where you need to see more around you, and light can’t travel that far of a distance in that type of an environment anyway (with all the trees). If you use the lights on your truck to light up a work site or something along those lines, this could be a better option too.
What if you need both? Enter the combo light. This has the narrow throw of the spot beam, with a wide spread of a flood beam. This is generally accomplished with two light sources in the same fixture. Keep in mind that some combos may not shoot as far as a standalone spot fixture, but they are very versatile. Can you switch between modes on combo lights? Some bars allow that function, and that could make them the best between all three worlds.
Here's a nice little graphic to help you visualize the difference.
What Are The Different Light Bar Colors?While there are technically many colors of LEDs you can get, there are laws about what color lighting you are allowed to use on public roads. The safest two options would be white or amber. Basically it comes down to preference. Amber lights have the same patterns as white lights, but are not as bright due to the filtered light. Some LED bars and bulbs offer both options. Shop around and find what’s best for you! Keep in mind your federal and state laws before you get too carried away with other colors.
Standard Light Bar Mounting Options
Thanks to the aftermarket world (and the large lower front grille of the 4Runner from Toyota), there are two popular ways to mount LED light bars on your 4Runner. Let’s assume you want them facing forward. While money and creativity can make almost any mounting location a reality, let’s take a look at the two main ways.
Roof mounts offer good function and style. If you want that off-roading look as well as serious illumination power, roof mounts are the way to go. While you may not be able to see directly in front of your front tires with the bar on the roof, you get a good line of sight, depending on the beam (spot, flood, or combo) that you choose.
Behind The Grille Mounts
Have you ever noticed how large the lower front grille on the newer 4Runners are? That allows for a lot of real estate to mount multiple light bars! The advantage of having them here is that your off-road appearance is more subdued. If having extra lighting is important from time to time, but you don’t always want to see a light bar on your roof, this conservative approach could be the option for you.
To Sum It All Up…
LED lighting is generally the way to go. They last longer, they are brighter, they are more versatile, and they just look so much better. With LED technology being so inexpensive now, the sky is the limit! Light up the night sky, or simply be the best looking 4Runner in the parking lot. Either way, I hope this guide has answered all of your questions regarding LED lighting for your Toyota 4Runner.