Product Test: Inspection Lights

Product Test: Inspection Lights

THE NATURE of cars means a lot of dark and dingy corners. What might have looked on a design engineer’s CAD software as an excellent way to package something soon turns into a nightmare for those having to repeatedly take it apart and put it back together.

Whether it’s under the bonnet, buried in a footwell or simply underneath the car itself, there are a lot of dark areas of a car where it’s difficult to get your eyes on without your own shadow getting in the way and making it worse.

A good inspection light is a must then. The right light can make the difference between a frustrating job and a simple one merely by letting you see what you’re doing. We’ve looked at a selection of cordless units to shine a light on which is the best.

How we tested them

A good inspection light should be able to fit where you want it to and stay there so that you don’t need an extra pair of hands. Size and features such as angled heads, hooks and magnets to keep a light in place by itself are important. Of course, we’ve also broken out the light meter to see just how bright the lights are at typical working distances.

Sealey LED3601G

LED3601G.V2

How much: £57.54 (inc VAT)
Where from: sealey.co.uk

The smaller of the Sealey units is our favourite of the two. The incredibly compact dimensions are a boon, as there’s almost nowhere this light can’t fit, but that’s only really the start of it. Despite the size, it packs in a hook and magnet – albeit just one magnet, in the base of the unit – so it should be easy to secure almost anywhere it can fit. It charges from a regular USB Micro-B plug, so wherever you can charge your phone you can charge this light. The efficient COB LEDs give a warm light that’s not among the brightest here, but it should be enough for most jobs. It has the same novel angling system as the larger Sealey unit too.

Four Stars

Edison PL9230

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 10.30.24

How much: £60.32 (inc VAT)
Where from: cromwell.co.uk

The Edison light is a fairly basic unit. It’s a little on the large side, which means it’s only really of use
on larger-scale inspections – such as surveying the underside of a vehicle – or where you have a lot of room to work. It’s pretty robust though, with a tough outer casing, so you don’t have to worry much about dropping it. It’s the brightest of all the lights here, thanks to an array of 30 LEDs, and the output is quite tightly focused. It uses inductive charging, which means there are no ports or sockets to clog up, but it does require the rather bulky charging dock.

Two Stars

Ring RIL3600HP

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 10.32.27

How much: £27.99 (inc VAT)
Where from: ringautomotive.com

When we tested the Ring lamp last year we were impressed at the twist and flex mechanism on the base used to give two degrees of freedom for positioning the head. It’s still a clever system, and with the metal hook rather than plastic of the others, gives a sense of quality about it. Magnets in the base and back give a good scope for attachment, and the light comes with either a plug or a 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter, which makes it good for long hours in a footwell. The Ring light also employs a small torch on one end, which is useful if space is at a premium.

Three Stars

Draper Inspection Light

Draper inspection light 1 - 80962

How much: £52.19 (inc VAT)
Where from: drapertools.com

This light has a very broad spread of talents that mark it out as our favourite here. The main light unit itself is the third brightest and uses quite a nice, warm colour temperature. A second mode gives a tightly focused torch beam – useful if you only have enough space to point the end in. The third function is an ultraviolet torch, which makes the Draper rather versatile – the UV will make leaks in cooling systems obvious as the refrigerants fluoresce. A couple of hooks allow the light to hang either way up too, and magnets on the base and rear mean that you can probably fix this light anywhere you want.

Five Stars

Sealey LED3602G

LED3602G.V2

How much: £61.74 (inc VAT)
Where from: sealey.co.uk

The neatest feature on this light is an interesting positioning system that allows almost total freedom to shine the light at any angle relative to the handle. It’s achieved with a ball-shaped metal pivot that’s incredibly easy to use – although we’d advise keeping something to hand to clean it off as it could be a bit
of a dirt trap. Even without that, it’s an excellent light that uses SMD LEDs to good effect and is the second brightest light here. Add in the hooks and magnets in the base and back, the extra-low output and torch modes plus the simple USB charging set-up and you’ve got a great all-rounder.

Four Stars

Makita DML801

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 10.38.47

How much: £30.00 (inc VAT)
Where from: makitatools.com

It’s not the brightest of the lights here but the Makita has a few nice touches. The battery powering it,
for example, is the same 14.4-volt lithium-ion unit that Makita uses in all of its tools. This gives it the advantage over every other product here in that once it’s out of charge you don’t need to set it aside until it’s recharged – just stick a new battery in and keep going. Not that it will run out of charge often, as it will last for most of a working day in constant use. The hinged head is simple to use too, but ultimately at 40cm long it’s just too big to fit into every place you’ll need.

Three Stars

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