Ford hit the ball out of the park with the Ranger. It checks just about all of the boxes from looks to performance. Ford sat back and saw what worked on all the midsize trucks, and more importantly, what people were asking for. Then they stepped in and said, “Here is a damn good truck.”
However, like any production vehicle, it has to be cost effective to make, and that means leaving off some key features that “truck” owners and vehicle customizers love such as lighting. Thankfully with the popularity of the Ranger, there is an ever growing aftermarket that can help with all of your lighting needs.
Before we get into all the goodies you can get into lighting for your Ford Ranger, let’s talk a bit about what you are most likely going to be upgrading to: LEDs.
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 Ford Rangers?
I hope you didn’t forget why you’re here: Rangers! Now that you should be convinced that LED lighting is the way to go, what is actually available for your Ford Ranger? Thankfully since LEDs and Fords are both so popular, the short answer is everything! Let’s take a look at some categories, and a couple popular choices for each.
These 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. They also generally come blacked out in some way (housing or lens) which will give a very popular smoked/tinted look. Of course, high end models generally come with different style or color options so you’re not stuck with one option.
AlphaRex LUXX-Series LED Projector Headlights
These guys make some incredible headlights for all types of vehicles, and the level of expertise does not change when it comes to the Rangers. These lights come with Black or Alpha-Black housings that either match your truck give that smoked look respectively.
The sequential turn signal also activates when you lock and unlock your truck giving you a custom light show each and every time you hit that lock or unlock button. These also come with white daytime running lights for a bit of extra class. All of this is for $860.
GTR Lighting Carbide LED Headlights
If you want something that won’t break the bank but still has style and function, GTR Lighting has this pair. Complete with daytime running lights and sequential turn signals, these high output lights will make sure you are seen and that you can see.
The daytime running lights are a unique “C” shape that take up maximum real estate for superb visibility especially when offset by the gloss and matte black housing. With an MSRP of $600, you’re getting a lot of headlight for not a lot of money.
These are pretty limited to get anything “name brand” for the Ranger. It’s a sad reality, but it’s just not as popular. You can find some stuff on eBay, which not everything on there is bad, but longevity becomes the main issue.
One thing that you can do would be to tint them or “smoke” them yourself. The two easiest ways would be with vinyl or a spray tint. Vinyl would be your best looking option, but over time it can become brittle and shrink. A spray is cheap and easy to do, but also easy to mess up and make LOOK cheap, which is not what you want.
RVINYL Rtint Precut Tail Light Tint
You can go ahead and get a sheet of tint and cut and form it to your tail lights yourself, or for $40, you can get something precut for your Ranger. This takes the stress away from measuring, cutting, and forming. However, you don’t want to mess up! Thankfully installing vinyl to any part of a vehicle is generally pretty easy, as long as you take your time.
These are 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!
These are normally all plug and play, making use of your factory hardware. In the event they don’t directly fit into the factory cutout, brackets are generally supplied. Of course you can take a different route and just replace the bulb with an LED bulb, but like the headlights, that’s not ideal if you want the best.
Cali Raised LED Fog Light Pods
The guys over at Cali Raised are pros when it comes to LED lighting for superior off-road performance and night time illumination. Their fog light pods are no exception. These are made in the USA, and are a direct replacement of your factory pods. They have all the needed hardware, and you can choose between white or amber LEDs. This kit will run you $175.
Rigid Off-Road Ford Performance Fog Lights
If you want something a little more “Ford,” these fog light pods by Rigid Off-Road are sold directly on the Ford store as an accessory for your 2019-2022 Ford Ranger. The kit is plug and play and reversible with no cutting or splicing required. It integrates with your factory fog light switch. Like most things “from the factory,” you are going to pay a bit of a premium: $530.
These 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.
There are many cases where you can get a kit that offers brackets and LED light pods, but it’s not uncommon to have to buy both separately. Since the main concern with mounting something on any vehicle is the actual mounting part, you might have better luck finding brackets that fit, and then getting the light pods you want.
Cali Raised Low Profile Ditch Light Bracket Kit
Back at it again is Cali Raised LED with their bracket kit. This mounts directly to your hood and allows for the articulation of the pods in any direction. These are the lowest profile mounts on the market which will help keep your lights safe and your visibility high. The kit will run you $160, but you have the option of four different types of pods.
Diode Dynamics Stage Series Backlit Ditch Light
The brackets are made from thick stainless steel for prolonged durability and corrosion protection. They are easy to install, and they guys over at Diode Dynamics give you plenty of lighting options. Not only can you choose between just the brackets, white, or amber LED pods, but each color pod gives you four different styles! This variation in style also comes with variation in price with the highest priced kit coming in at $440.
These are 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 the same for your lower grille/bumper. The bumper one is the most popular for the Ranger due to it being out of the way, subtle, and easy to install without major modification. Light bars 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?
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:
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 Beam: 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 Beam: 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.
Combo Beam: 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.
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
The three main ways to mount LED light bars on your Ford Ranger are on the lower grill/bumper, the main grille, or on the roof. While money and creativity can make almost any mounting location a reality, let’s take a look at the three main ways.
Lower Grill/Bumper Mounts: This is definitely the most popular spot to have the light bars for a Ranger. As mentioned, the area is out of the way and makes the inclusion of a light bar pretty subtle. While you can of course see it, it fits the lines of the truck and looks factory. Generally there is not much detrimental modification that you’ll have to do, so installation is pretty straightforward.
If you live in an area where you must have a front license plate, thankfully they sit high enough on the bumper to not interfere with a potential lightbar. There are a couple out there that make use of mounting to the lower grille, but then arch up and the light bar goes across the center of the bumper. That definitely will cause issues with a front plate, so buy accordingly.
Cali Raised 22” Hidden LED Bumper Light Bar Kit
You knew I was going to mention these guys again! This kit is easy to install with minimal modification. You can choose either just the brackets or a 22” spot or combo beam. If you choose to add the light bar, your kit will of course come with all of the wiring you need. The total kit will run you $434 (that is the brackets and light bar.)
Rough Country 20” LED Light Bar
If you’re looking for something a little more cost effective but still quality, Rough Country offers this kit. The kit comes with the brackets and wiring that you need, and of course with a 20 inch light bar. It is only a single row, but you can choose between their black-series or chrome-series to match the look you’re going for. The kit costs $200.
Upper Grille Mounts: If you choose to go for the upper grill mounts, you’re going to get more into that “off-road” look. The mid level placement can command better lighting options for those dark trails, but you might start to see more modification required to get these to fit depending on the kit. Since the upper grille is larger, this means that you can usually fit a larger light bar as well, which is great for you off-roaders.
Options are a bit more on the limited side with this method since you do have to be after a certain look to want this across the front of your truck.
Single 30 Inch Light Bar
This 30 inch light bar will sit across the upper portion of your upper grille. It makes use of the factory openings in your grille, so there is no cutting or modifications required making mounting a breeze. You can choose between an amber or white LED light bar, but unfortunately a harness is NOT included. It will run you $358, and then you have to get a harness.
RTR Light Bar Grille with LED Lights
This one is a bit different. Yes, this has a light bar, but you are going to be replacing the whole upper grille. Not only will you have an integrally mounted 18 inch LED light bar, but you’ll get a massive style change as well. It’s a straightforward install with no cutting required. You’ll get everything in the box you need from hardware, wiring, and even cable ties!
Roof Mounts: 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. Keep in mind that in many cases, drilling may be required to mount these.
If you decide to end up getting a roof rack or may want to get one down the road, keep in mind that many roof racks can come with or allow the pairing of an LED light bar as well! Like ditch lights, you’ll find it common to have to buy the mounts and light bars separately. This is also where you can usually get away with mounting your biggest light bar due to the amount of real estate available!
Here’s the bad news… Since this is the least popular way to mount a light bar on a Ranger, and the Ranger has only been around again since 2019, there are no real mainstream options for light bars. This is where you are going to get into custom territory. You’ll generally have to buy a universal light bar, and mount it yourself (or take it to a shop). As time goes on, there may be more kits out there, but sadly, most people are going just for the grille mounts.
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 Ford Ranger in the parking lot. Either way, I hope this guide has answered all of your questions regarding LED lighting for your Ford Ranger.
AlphaRex LUXX - Courtesy of AlphaRex
GTR Lighting - Courtesy of GTR Lighting
Cali Raised Fog Lights - Courtesy of Roof Top Overland
Rigid Fog Lights - Courtesy of Ford Store
Cali Raised Ditch Lights - Courtesy of Cali Raised
Diode Dynamics Ditch Lights - Courtesy of Diode Dynamics
Cali Raised Light Bar - Courtesy of Cali Raised
Rough Country Light Bar - Courtesy of Rough Country
30 Inch Light Bar - Courtesy of American Trucks
RTR Light Bar Grille - Courtesy of RTR Vehicle
Roof Light Bar - Courtesy of Driving Line