Working on your own car is a great way to save money. For example, let’s say you need to have your control rods replaced. A mechanic will cost you an arm and a leg, mostly because of all the labor involved. If you can do the job yourself, all you need to pay for are the parts.
Many people also work on cars for simple enjoyment. If you’re mechanically inclined, spending a weekend in your garage might not be a chore. It can be a chance to hone your skills and challenge yourself by trying new things. It’s also fun to optimize your engine performance and make other tweaks.
Another reason people work on cars is for the sake of the cars themselves. You might not care either way about the actual mechanical work. But you might have a custom car that you know better than anyone else. Or you might be working on a classic car that requires a lot of specialized parts sourcing.
Regardless of your reasons for working on your car, there’s one thing we can all agree on. Lighting up your engine compartment is a pain! On most vehicles, the hood will block the light from any overhead lighting.
And if you try to position a light behind you, your own shadow will keep getting in the way. If you want to use a flashlight, you’re either tying up one hand or holding it in your mouth. None of these solutions are optimal solutions.
An under hood LED work light is a better solution. These lights mount on the bottom side of your hood, providing direct illumination to your engine compartment. This positioning also keeps them clear of your body, so you won’t cast your own shadow on the engine.
Choosing the Best Under Hood LED Work Light
We’re about to review three of the best under hood LED work lights on today’s market. All three of these lights are designed in such a way that they won’t scratch your paint. They’re also easy to use, and provide ample light for your engine compartment. In these respects, they’re all worth buying.
That said, there are some major differences in design. Some lights are battery-powered, for example, while others have a physical cord. There are differences in brightness, and some lights are even adjustable. We’ll also have to look at the frame design, and whether there are any extra features. Once we’ve considered all of these things, we’ll have enough information to deliver a verdict. Let’s begin!
ATD Tools 80050A LED Under Hood Light
The ATD Tools 80050A LED Under Hood Light isn’t actually an LED light. This light has a fluorescent bulb, but the opaque cover makes it look as if it could be an LED. The ballast is made from a metallic-looking grey plastic, which is tough enough for personal use. It’s also lightweight, and tips the scales at just five pounds.
This light has a telescoping, ratcheting design. This allows it to fit almost any car hood. Close it all the way down, and it will collapse to only 47 inches in length. Open it up all the way, and it will fit a 75-inch hood. That’s quite the range, enough to fit even the largest passenger vehicles. Meanwhile, the ratcheting design ensures that it won’t slip loose without you manually releasing it.
You’ll notice a set of red rubber handles on both ends of the light. These are comfortable to grip while you open or close it. They’re also designed not to scratch or dent the underside of your hood.
A pair of soft, rubber-coated hooks protrude from the ends and curve upward. These wrap around the top of your hood and provide plenty of support. They also won’t scratch your paint, even if they get dragged along the surface.
Power and Brightness
The 80050A has a 25-foot power cord with a two-prong tip. The cord is thick and durable, and should stand up to plenty of abuse. Whether or not a corded design is good or bad is a matter of preference.
On the one hand, the cord is one more thing you have to dance around while you navigate your garage. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about having to interrupt your work because of a dead battery.
The fluorescent bulb draws 30 watts, which is significantly more than a comparable LED. At the same time, it provides 1,500 lumens of bright white light. That’s more than enough illumination to light up the area under your hood. And while some LED lights are brighter, you can change a dead fluorescent bulb. Once an LED diode burns out, it’s gone for good.
If you’re looking for a different design altogether, there are many options. But some of the best choices to light up under your hood are magnetic LED work lights. Stick them under a metal hood, and you’re good to go. They’re not tailor-made for under hood work, but they’re more versatile than a purpose-built light.
NextLED Rechargeable Underhood UV Work Light
The NextLED Rechargeable Underhood UV Work Light has a different design altogether. The frame is made from black plastic, with rubber-coated hooks on both ends.
It mounts the same way as the last light, and is both ratcheting and retractable. In fact, it has a wider range of sizes, from 48 to 77 inches. Despite having more reach, though, it weighs only a hair more, at only 5.3 pounds.
The frame is hinged at the center and completely collapsible. When you fold it up, the LED lights will be facing to the outside and the hooks will be on top. This makes it easy to use as a hanging light, where it will cast light in all directions. If you want to use it as a work light to illuminate a general area, you can.
Not only that, but the two LED light bars are actually individual, removable work lights. Each one has its own individual hanging hook, which can swivel 360 degrees. You can hang one on either side of your hood and point them both towards the center.
You can also remove them and use them independently, since each one has an ergonomic grip. You can use them to inspect underneath your car, or to get in close to a particular area. As you can see, we’re looking at a highly versatile light.
Power and Brightness
On the back of each of the light bars, you’ll notice a three-position toggle switch. In the center, “0” position, the power is off. Flip it to the right “I” position, and it will shine on its lower, 500-lumen setting.
Switch to the left “II” position, and the light level will double to 1,000 lumens. Keep in mind that there are two light bars here. If you’re using them both on high, you’ll get a total of 2,000 lumens – an impressive amount of light. The light temperature is a 5,000K daylight white, with neither a red nor a blue cast.
Each light sports a powerful, 8,000mAh battery. These provide 2 ½ hours of operation on the high setting, or 5 hours on the lower setting. That’s not enough for shop use, at least not if you’re using it consistently.
But in your home garage, that’s not a bad amount of battery life. The batteries charge via USB Type-C, and there’s a cable included in the kit. Depending on your power source, this can be done in as little as 4 hours.
Want an even brighter LED light? Check out our list of the best white LED outdoor flood lights. These lights can illuminate your entire yard and keep your property safe at night. They also draw significantly less power than old-school incandescent or halogen flood lights.
Aain Professional Underhood Work Light
The Aain Professional Underhood Work Light is another split LED light bar. The main bar is made from a chromed plastic, and is hinged at the center. This allows you to fold it in half, which makes it easier to store.
At each end is an orange rubberized grip that provides plenty of cushion. Like the last two light bars, a pair of black rubber-coated hooks wrap over the top of your hood. The hooks themselves are mounted on telescoping inner rods, and can be pulled out to a width of 68 inches. That’s not as wide as the other lights, but it’s still enough for most cars
You can’t remove the two light bars and use them independently. However, each half of the bar can be rotated 360 degrees. So when you fold it in half, you can turn it to face the LED diodes outwards. Then you can employ the hooks to use it as a hanging light. It’s a nifty feature that’s well worth mentioning.
Power and Brightness
At one end of the light bar, you’ll find a rubber power button. Press this once to activate the highest light setting, which is 1,400 lumens. That’s not exceptionally bright, but it’s plenty for working on your car engine. Pressing the button again will switch to a dimmer, 700-lumen mode. A third press shuts the light off altogether.
When it comes to battery performance, we were reasonably impressed. On the highest level, the battery will last for 3 ½ hours. On the lower level, it will last for 6 hours, which is almost an entire work day. It charges via USB Type-C, and will recharge in around four hours. That’s enough performance for even the most dedicated home mechanic.
While you’re working on your engine, you might want to think about your headlights. Bulbs lose intensity over time, and eventually become noticeably dim. If you’re still using years-old bulbs, you could benefit from an upgrade. A good set of LED headlight bulbs will provide superior visibility and a clearer beam.
What Makes a Good Under Hood Light?
Before we finish, let’s talk about what makes a good under hood light. Why might you want to choose one over another?
To begin with, how much brightness are you getting? A good under-hood light should be able to provide between 1,000 and 2,000 lumens of brightness. At less than 1,000 lumens, it can be hard to see into deeper parts of the engine compartment. At brighter than 2,000, you’ll have to deal with unpleasant glare. It also doesn’t hurt if the brightness is adjustable.
Also, think about whether you need a power cord. A cord is great if you plan on using your light all day. But if you don’t spend entire days under your hood, a battery-powered light can be more convenient.
Finally, think about how versatile the light is. Are you only ever going to use this light for engine work? If so, a rigid light isn’t a problem. But if you want to get more bang for your buck, a folding or modular design will be better.
As you see, you can’t go wrong with any of these under hood LED work lights. But which one is the best one for you? Here’s an overview of what we’ve learned.
We began by looking at the ATD Tools 80050A LED Under Hood Light. This is actually a fluorescent light, not an LED. But if you want a replaceable bulb, that’s actually not a bad thing. The same is true for the corded design. While it takes a few extra seconds to set up, you’re no longer constrained by any battery life limitations.
Next, we examined the NextLED Rechargeable Underhood UV Work Light. This is the most versatile of the bunch, with two individual removable LED light bars with ergonomic handles. The battery life is a real limitation, 2.5 to 5 hours still isn’t terrible. That said, you can get up to 2,000 lumens of illumination. We also love the fact that you can fold the light up for storage.
The last light we reviewed was the Aain Professional Underhood Work Light. This is the most affordable of the bunch, and it’s still surprisingly capable. Its batteries will last for up to six hours, and the folding design makes it relatively versatile. All things considered, it’s a solid choice.
Meet Derek, “TechGuru,” a 34-year-old technology enthusiast with a deep passion for tech innovations. With extensive experience, he specializes in gaming hardware and software, and has expertise in gadgets, custom PCs, and audio.
Besides writing about tech and reviewing new products, Derek enjoys traveling, hiking, and photography. Committed to keeping up with the latest industry trends, he aims to guide readers in making informed tech decisions.