5th Gen Mods, Accessories, Accessory Lights, Install, Off-Road

Baja Designs 20″ S8 Light Bar Review and Overview

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Baja Designs 20″ S8 Light Bar + Mounting Options: An Install Overview + Overall Impressions for the 5th Gen 4Runner

It is not a secret that lighting is a great upgrade for 4Runners. I really have enjoyed upgrading the factory lights on my 4Runner and adding aftermarket lights as well.

From low beams, high beams, fog lights, turn signals, and interior lights to light bars, scene lighting, ditch lighting and reverse lighting, there are quite a few options that you can choose from to upgrade your rig.

Lighting is a very functional upgrade

It helps you see better in the dark, but it also helps others see you better too. In addition, lighting can make your vehicle look better (if installed properly).

Improve Off-Road Lighting With 4Runner Light Bar Options

While the type of lighting that you can utilize when other drivers are around is limited, off-road lighting is essentially up to you. What I mean is you may have nice light bars and all different types of auxiliary lighting… but you can’t utilize light bars on the open road with other cars around, as they are off-road lights only.

If you are wanting to upgrade your lights for the road traveled by others (aka public roads), you are best suited by installing new low beams, fog lights, and high beams first.

For those of you that are looking to improve your off-road lighting substantially, I’d look no further than adding a light bar. Where can you mount a light bar on a 5th Gen 4Runner though?

Where to Mount a Light Bar?

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Light bars range in size from 10” – 50” (at least the most common sizes). In consideration of this, the size of the light bar that you are wanting to install is a big factor for where you can mount it.

While light bars can theoretically be mounted wherever you’d like, there are a few areas that provide optimal performance and visual aesthetics in my opinion.

There are three (3) main areas on your 4Runner that I’d recommend mounting a light bar:

  • Roof
  • Behind the front grille
  • On a front bumper

Roof-Mounted Light Bar Mounts

Roof-mounted light bars can be accomplished in a couple of different ways, but the best way to mount a light bar to your roof is with an aftermarket roof rack.

Aftermarket roof racks provide a good, sturdy platform to mount to first of all, but most aftermarket roof racks range from ¾ length all the way to full length, so you will have your light bar far enough forward for proper alignment too.

In my opinion, if you are mounting a light bar to the roof/roof rack of your 4Runner you should utilize a 40” light bar at a minimum…if not, a 50” (depending on what size you can fit).

The beauty of utilizing the roof/roof rack is the extra width you have that cannot be found behind the grille or on a front bumper.

Essentially, I take the stance of you should only mount a light bar to your roof/roof rack if you are going to utilize a 40” or 50” light bar like this massive KC HiLiTES FLEX light bar.

Behind-the-Grille Light Bar Mounts

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Behind-the-grille light bar mounts are another (more discrete) option.

You typically can fit a 20”-30” light bar behind the grille depending on the type of mounts/kit you are using. You can check out my previous post on the KC HiLiTES behind the grille light bar mounting kit for more information on what it takes to run one of these.

If you are wanting additional lighting in a discrete manner, behind-the-grille light bars are awesome; however, if you are wanting maximum output you will want to utilize a roof-mounted light bar or bumper mounted light bar.

The reason is that the grille does block a little bit of light output (not much though).

Downfalls of Behind-the-Grill Light Bar Mounting

I had a light bar behind my grille for quite some time. It worked well for me and was discrete. I liked this option, but there are a couple of downfalls. One of my main dislikes about mounting a light bar behind the grille is the difficulty of cleaning it.

I can tell you from personal experience that a clean light bar puts out much more light and a truer beam pattern than one covered in watermarks and mud. Unfortunately, no matter where you drive you will get dirt and debris on your light bar (such as bugs, actual dirt, rain, mud, etc.).

The only feasible way to clean a behind the grille light bar on a 4Runner is to remove the top radiator cover (which takes about 3-5 minutes) and then reach down and clean it.

One other downfall to a behind-the-grille mount is that the grille blocks light output (of which I previously mentioned).

While I do think the amount of light that is blocked by the grille is relatively small (probably 10-20% if I had to guess), it does take away some light and also diffracts light to areas you might not want.

With all that said, a behind-the-grille mount is not a bad option at all. As with everything it simply has some positives and negatives.

Front Bumper Light Bar Mount

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Front bumpers are another good option for mounting a light bar…the only problem is you really need an aftermarket bumper to use this method (not always, but in general).

You can typically fit a 20” – 30” light bar in a front bumper and I personally think they look really nice!

If you are going to use a flood pattern light bar, the front bumper is a great spot for mounting because you won’t have light shining in unwanted places (like the hood of your 4Runner or inside the grille area).

Some companies, such as Southern Style Offroad (SSO) even make bumpers that have custom mounts and cutouts to fit specific light bars…this is pretty slick.

While each mounting location has its pros and cons, each option serves as a good location for additional lighting.

The Baja Designs S8 20” Light Bar

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Baja Designs is very well known for quality, high-performance products. I recently installed an SSO Slimline front bumper which can be custom made to fit a light bar. Out of the various light bar options, I chose to go with a 20” S8 light bar from Baja Designs.

You can really mount an S8 anywhere you can fit it though, as it comes in sizes ranging from 10”-50” in various patterns with your choice of white or amber color. All you have to do is find a secure mounting location and wire it up.

Specifications are always a good starting point for a product, so let’s lay out the specifications for the Baja Designs S8 20” light bar:

Feature

Unit

Lumens: 12,700
Wattage / Amps: 120W / 8A
Dimensions: 20” x 3” x 1.6”
Weight: 4.5 lbs
LED Life Expectancy: 49,930 Hours (pretty much forever)
Rating: IP69K (waterproof up to 9ft & pressure washable)
Color: 5000k

Find It On Amazon:

For a single row, 20” light bar the S8 is pretty impressive! One of the things that immediately caught my eye was the light output…12,700 lumens! That is impressive for a light bar of this size and the small amount of power it needs.

The other item worth mentioning is the light output color. At 5000k, this light bar isn’t quite a “true white”. It is very close but has just a very small amount of off-white tint to it.

The reason Baja Designs went with a 5,000K light versus 6,000K light is driver fatigue. A true white (6000K) produces a significant amount of glare in certain situations and has a big impact on your eyes. By going to a 5,000K light, you will have less driver fatigue while still producing an immense amount of light.

From a specifications perspective, this light bar really knocks it out of the park.

Baja Designs Light Bar Installation

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As I previously mentioned, light bars can be installed at a variety of locations. My mounting location probably won’t be the same as yours. In consideration of this, I want to focus more on the performance of the light bar instead of the installation.

I will quickly mention that I decided to install my S8 on my SSO Slimline bumper as previously mentioned, and I think this is a great mounting location from both a performance and an aesthetic perspective.

If you are in the market for a bumper as well, the SSO bumper is an unbelievable match with the S8 – very impressive!

Initial Impressions

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The first thing I want to say is the S8 is a very sleek light bar. There are some light bars I have experience with that have some extruding edges, bulky heat sinks, and exposed hardware that could be hidden better or reduced.

With the S8, the front fascia is pretty much completely flat and flush. I know this might seem like a small buying point, but I see this as Baja Designs paying attention to detail. Being an engineer, paying attention to details both big and small is important.

Now, let’s get to the lighting.

As I previously mentioned, I mounted my S8 in an SSO Slimline bumper, which will allow for maximum light output since it is not behind a grille. So how much extra light can you expect from the 20” S8?

This 20” S8 puts out a tremendous amount of light! This is entirely my personal opinion though. As such, I wanted to give you a real-world look at what the S8 can do.

In order to test the light output of the S8, I climbed on top of my ARB Flat Alloy Roof Rack and did some photography tests. I took three (3) separate photos for comparison purposes:

  • Photo 1: Low Beams Only
  • Photo 2: Low Beams and High Beams
  • Photo 3: Low Beams, High Beams, and Baja Designs 20” S8

I do want to make one thing very clear…

Anyone who is aware of DSLR photography will know that it would be very easy to “alter” the light output to make a particular setup look brighter or darker. This would not give you an accurate or honest view of how much additional lighting the S8 provides.

In consideration of this, I shot each of the following three images from the exact same location at nearly the exact same time (all photos were taken within 1 minute of time). In addition, all photos were taken at the same F-stop, exposure time, ISO speed, and focal length. I also manually focused my camera so that the focus could be the exact same for all three photos.

Essentially, what you need to know is each picture was taken at the exact same settings for an equal and fair comparison.

So, how does the S8 do? Take a look at these photos so you can decide for yourself:

Photo 1 – Diode Dynamics SL1 Low Beams

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Photo 2 – Diode Dynamics SL1 Low Beams + DDM Tuning Raptor 3000K High Beams

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Photo 3 – Diode Dynamics SL1 Low Beams, DDM Tuning Raptor 3000K High Beams + Baja Designs S8 20” Light Bar

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In my opinion, it is very easy to see just how much light the S8 puts out!

My Diode Dynamics SL1 low beams and DDM Tuning Raptor high beams do a great job, but the additional light the S8 adds is pretty remarkable.

The light bar has a very good beam pattern and allows for a lot of light to shine down the road. This extra light is very helpful when traveling off-road at night.

Overall Impression

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After significant testing of the Baja Designs S8 light bar, I have found the Baja Designs S8 light bar to be one of the most used off-road accessories I have.

If you are looking for a high-performance light bar, I’d recommend taking a close look at the S8 from Baja Designs. While I opted to go with the 20” S8, you can choose from a variety of sizes, patterns, and white or amber color to suit your preference and need.

The Baja Designs S8 is sleek, produces a lot of lumens, and is made by a company with a reputation that is matched by few if any. One thing is certain with the S8…you will have a bright path leading the way for you.

Comments or Questions? Leave them below!

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Ryan

Did you purchase the Baja specific wiring harness so you can use the amber backlighting function on the light bar?

Clint Taylor
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Clint Taylor

Ryan, I do not have the Baja Designs wiring harness. I plan on running a separate wiring setup to power the backlighting.

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