I never win anything.
I think we all sort of feel that way when it comes to raffles and drawings. I must have entered hundreds of them when I was younger - never winning a single one. Eventually, I gave up even throwing my name into the hat at all - it just wasn't worth my time (or giving away my email address and other random personal information that they usually asked for).
But the other day, I was browsing around the internet - as one does - and I stumbled on a giveaway of some Diode Dynamics SS3 Sport LED light pods. All I had to do was throw my name in the bowl - no other information - and then check back later to see if my name had been the one selected. So, I did.
And I won!
Now would be a good time to mention that I've previously looked into purchasing LEDs, and Diode Dynamics always came out at the top of my list. Their offerings simply seem better than the other two major players in the market - Baja Designs and Rigid - from a build quality, lighting distance, and lighting pattern perspective.
So, you can imagine that I was super jazzed and contacted John ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ to let him know (a) that I was super excited, and (b) that I had a completely outrageous request.
I explained in my email that I was actually looking to replace the HID-converted Hella's on my bumper (which have recently been giving me problems) to something more reliable. I wondered if - instead of SS3 Sport pods - he could send me some SS3 Pro pods, with the spot lenses.
John was freaking awesome. Not only was he all about sending me the Pros, but he also offered to send one of each of the lenses - so I could try out the different light patterns to find the one I liked most - as well as a wiring harness and a set of covers. His only question: would I like the white (6000K) or yellow (4000K) emitters behind the lenses? Holy smokes! Just another reason to love Diode Dynamics, really.
Letting him know that I'd like the yellow (4000K) emitters - I knew that the 6000K would be much to blue for me from my little time with the LED headlights - it only took a few days for everything to show up. I was like a kid in a candy store.
Diode Dynamics SS3 Pro with yellow (4000K) emitters, selective yellow SAE fog lenses, wiring harness, mounting hardware, and a bunch of sample clear lenses.
With the parts in hand, I did a quick evaluation and determined that - while the wiring harness was nice, I would feel more comfortable with a bit beefier 12ga gauge wire pair running to the two lights (vs. the 4, 18ga wires in the harness). That would also make it easy to use my existing Bussmann relay block and switches in the cab.
To make the harness, I pulled together the necessary supplies and tools and after a bit of tape measure kungfu in the engine bay and front bumper, set to work.
Most of the parts and tools needed to make the harness.
For anyone else making a similar harness, wire lengths will of course differ, but here's what I used.
- 12ga wire (red & black) - a few feet, but buy the rolls
- Heat shrink tubing - glue lined variety pack - get the glue-lined stuff so all your solders are weather tight.
- 1/4 inch braided wire sleeve - for runs of individual 12ga wire.
- 1/2 inch braided wire sleeve - for runs of dual 12ga wire
- 2, Deutsch DT 2-pin pigtails - these were supplied by Diode Dynamics and would connect the harness to the SS3 pods.
- A quality soldering iron and solder.
- A cheap heat gun.
- Some wire cutters and a wire stripper.
Pretty soon, I had something that looked totally workable, and I was ready to set about installing the lights in my Relentless Predator front bumper.
Ready for service.
It was at this point - probably a later point than would have been ideal - that I first looked into how I would attach the fogs to the bumper. There were - I knew - two square cutouts, but I wasn't sure exactly how the lights would mount behind those cutouts. Further inspection showed that there was a small mounting point behind the cutouts, but that it was at the wrong angle to mount the Diode Dynamic brackets.
Luckily, Diode Dynamics is a household name in my circles, and I knew that Monte @Blackdawg had recently installed some in his bumper (also a Relentless). Perusing a few photos of his work, I noticed that he had an additional 90-degree bracket on his bumper that adapted the mounting point to the LED brackets.
A quick conversation with Monte confirmed that those had come from Relentless when he bought the bumper a couple years earlier - so I fired off an email to Eric and Brittony at @RelentlessFabrication asking if they could send me a set of the brackets. In no time, I got confirmation that they would ship them out ASAP - and at no charge! I've gotta say, my interactions with those two over the years has been fabulous.
A few days later I had the brackets (and mounting hardware) in hand, and quickly primed and painted them for install.
Relentless mounting brackets, ready for installation.
SS3 Pro LED Pod with Diode Dynamics bracket installed. I really like how there's no pigtail, and that the Deutsch DT connector plugs directly into the housing.
Not wanting to remove the bumper from the truck (with the winch, it weighs a couple hundred pounds and I was working alone), installation of the 90-degree bracket and LED pod was definitely a pain-in-the-buttookiss. With only tiny spaces in which to work, I found myself wishing that I had miniature hands. Eventually though, after realizing that removing the grill would make my life a little less miserable, I managed to get all the bolts tightened up and the lights positioned in the appropriate places.
If only my hands could get in the space as well as the camera!
I found that it was best to tighten the bracket as securely as possible without worrying about alignment, and then lever it into the correct orientation with the adjustable wrench.
SS3 Pro pod mounted, and wiring harness installed.
The view from the front.
All that was left was to install a switch in the cab and test everything out. I've run out of space on the dashboard for switches, so the driver side kick panel seemed like a reasonable place for a single pole, double throw switch. This would allow me to set the fogs to ON, OFF, or ON-with-headlights when wired through the Bussmann relay. My guess is that they'll be OFF or ON-with-headlights most of the time.
As always, it's painful cutting into the interior of the Tacoma, but going slowly and carefully ended with nice results.
I'd started the project sometime mid-afternoon, so after putting everything away, I decided to wait a while before taking photos. It was just after dinner when I headed back out to see how everything looked in the fading evening light.
I really dig the selective yellow color that these Diode Dynamics SS3 Pro pods give off.
All that's left now is to see how they do on the road, in adverse weather conditions. My bet is that I'll be extremely happy with them, and I'll be sure to update with my takeaways once I've run them through their paces.
Update: September 11, 2021
So, I had the opportunity to use the fogs for the first time on my Rady Can't Wait trip to British Columbia, Canada. All I can say is wow. I had no idea what I was missing, and quite frankly, I figured that the install of these SS3 Pros would be more "for show" than anything else.
I couldn't have been more wrong. There are three things I really like about these lights:
- The brightness. After installing them, I was worried that they sat too far back in the bumper, and that their position would result in a lot of light being "lost" in the tunnel of steel before it ever made it to the trail. I'm sure some of the light is lost, but plenty of it makes it out to where I need it, and there is significantly more near-field light (than when I'm just running my low beams) when the SS3s are on.
- The color. The selective yellow is fantastic. It's so easy on the eyes compared to the whiter and bluer light of many of today's LEDs. It was such a pleasure to drive without any eye strain or feeling like I was squinting.
- The interaction between the SS3 Pros, my high-wattage halogen headlights, and my HID-upgraded Hella 700's. I adjusted my SS3s so that they'd illuminate the near field - ranging from directly in front of the truck to midway into the lo-beam headlight range. My headlights (both lo- and high-beams) then cover the mid-field. And that leaves the distance range to be covered by the Hellas. This results in a ton of light output, and the SS3 selective yellow (3000K) does a great job of mixing a bit with the 5500K Hellas to provide a more pleasing transition from dark to bright white.
Here are a couple photos, and I will of course cover all this (and perhaps a bit more) in the Rig Review for the trip.
The only forward facing lights that are on in this photo are the SS3 Pro fog lights. Notice both the quantity of light, as well as the pleasurable hue it projects onto the surroundings.
In this photo, note the clearly defined beams of the fogs and Hellas, with a nice transitional area between the two. Additionally, note how much yellow light reaches the mountainside some quarter-mile away.