HIGH LIGHTING MADE EASY
How to install those rack-mounted work lights so they look sharp while staying protected
By Bruce W. Smith / Editorial Services
Auxiliary lighting is a must for the any well-equipped pickup, and none look nicer or perform better than when mounted on the roof rack. But first you have to have the right rack–and the right lights.
This is easily accomplished with one call to Westin Automotive, one of the premier manufacturers of roof racks and accessories. Most pickup owners want a roof-top cargo management system that is light, strong, and with a floor design that can carry all sorts of gear and cargo. Westin’s Outback Series of heavy-duty pickup roof racks fits those needs quite well.
The Outback roof racks are sold in kits, so you can mix and match to suit your vehicle/use needs. All of the components are stainless steel or have an anti-corrosive coating so there’s no risk of rust or product deterioration over years of hard use.
On top of that the heavy duty cross bars that support the stainless steel plank-style floor are designed to accept a really wide range of accessories and attachments so you can quickly configure it to carry everything from a canoe or kayak to mountain bikes to gear bags to a Hi-Lift Jack. It’s plenty stout, too, with a load capacity of 250 pounds with the base setup, which is what we ordered.
The kit requires assembly—and some thought as to mounting when it comes to some pikcups, like the new Toyota Tundra. You see, the Tundra doesn’t have roof rails or gutters in which to mount a roof rack in the traditional manner, and the Tundra cab roof is really thin.
So we decided the best mounting location was on the A.R.E. bed cap, which is designed to support such weight. We also wanted to keep the overall height as low as possible, meaning we ignored Westin’s directions about using the supplied support legs. To simplify our installation and reduce overall vehicle height, we bolted the rack directly to the top of the bed shell.
This method of installation reduced overall height by more than five inches and increased the rack’s stability when fully loaded.
We also wanted to use the roof rack as a platform for adding auxiliary flood lights.
Among a plethora of Westin Outback accessories are special light-mounting tabs that are ideal for mounting auxiliary lights. But we choose to mount Deepwood’s three sets of PIAA 1500 Series halogen back-up lights directly to the rack—two on each side and a pair at the rear.
The wide flood pattern of the PIAAs gives them the ability to light a wide area around the truck as needed at night—be it hooking up a trailer, working in the driveway, or setting up camp.
Mounting the rack and lights was easy. Our challenge was to make the installation of the rack and lights clean; we didn’t want exposed wires that could be yanked loose by tree limbs or brush scraping along and over the roof.
To accomplish this feat required running the wires from each set of lights inside the side rails of the Westin rack as it was being assembled.
Then we ran one single set of wires through the top of the A.R.E. bed cap, down inside the bed to a set of PIAA relays, and from the relays out of the bed and into the cab to tie in with the hot leads from the Painless Performance switches we custom-mounted in the overhead console.
This is time-consuming but well-worth the effort because the finished result is exceptionally clean and functional. — BWS