I was one of the lucky two that got the free 100 watt Off-Road Lamp kits from automatcentral.
First, shipping: The box arrived USPS priority mail within a few days of my "winning". Packing was adequate, the lamps are by no means fragile so not a lot of cushioning was needed.
Initial inspection: In my opinion, the lamps are not in "fancy" enough packages, meaning they don't have any "look at me!" appeal if you saw them on a store shelf. They do have a momentary contact switch on the package, when pressed the rings on the outside edge of the lamp area light up orange, sort of a "halo light" effect. The rings (while in the package) are powered by a 9 volt battery in the bottom of the package.
It's a shame they don't have that eye-grabbing packaging, since it belies the quality of these units (more on that later).
Installation: The box sent from automatcentral included a wiring kit. The kit appears to have everything needed for installation, including several wire sets, terminals, a 20 amp rated lighted switch (with black steel under-dash bracket), a 30 amp rated SPST relay and instructions.
The instructions are in English but may as well be in some extra-terrestrial language. Confusing to put it mildly. The manufacturer must have known this themselves, as there is an extra sheet of paper included which shows the wiring in a well drawn-out, super easy to follow picture format. Unless you're into some heavy bathroom reading head scratching time, I'd suggest just going by that extra sheet.
The wires included in the wiring kit are pre-terminated with the needed connectors and the kit is supposed to include terminals that you yourself put on the ends of the lamp pigtails. My particular kit was missing those add-on terminals. The wires included two needed fuse holders and fuses. The wires are plenty long enough for installation in a Tacoma, perhaps too long. Better to have too much than too little though.
I am not a "plug in and make it work" person, I tend to try and do professional grade installs. I've seen too many of those plug-in connectors come loose or corrode, so I do cut-to-lenght solder-and-heat-shrink electrical work. Therefore the too-long wires and missing connectors did not affect my installation.
The switch that comes with the kit is a very heavy duty green lighted rocker type, it came in a black powder-coated appearing under-dash mount. As the lights have two actual controllable lamps in each housing, the instructions show a three position switch. The switch included with my kit is an on-off only type. If you wished to control the seperate circuits in the housings via a dash switch (the actual off road lamp and the "halo" ring) you would have to find a different switch.
As I was replacing some cheap driving lamps already installed on my truck with these units, I had already installed a LED lit rocker switch in my dashboard in a blank just to the left of the steering wheel (1st gen Tacoma). I don't want to put holes in my dash to mount the included switch, so I re-used that one. The current for the off-road lamps is supplied to them through a relay, so the switch would only have to have enough capacity to trigger the relay (not much at all).
I removed my grill and quickly found a flat spot on the radiator support for mounting the relay. Following the included drawn-out instruction sheet, which has the relay terminal diagram on it, knowing where to put which wire was very easy. Do pay attention though, you could just by getting one wire wrong create a circuit that sends battery current directly to ground!
For mounting the actual lamp units, I did run into one issue: The lamps are fairly deep in the rear referenced to the mounting points. On my bull bar, the lamp mounting tabs are not very long, and there was not enough clearance to allow the lamps to be properly pointed (first time I turned them on they were shooting at the road about six feet in front of the truck). I remedied this problem by hitting the hardware store and buying 20 heavy duty fender washers and two longer bolts. I used ten washers between each side of the bull-bar and it's mounting brackets, with the longer bolts (and new locks) to insure it would never fall off.
Another potential installation issue I found was where the wires come out of the bottom of the lamp units, there is no grommet or anything to protect them from wearing through the insulation and causing a short down the road. This I fixed by moving the wires to the center of the hole they come through (the mounting bolt on the lamp assemblies) and putting some black RTV sealant in the holes. After it dried it occured to me that might cause problems later if I need slack inside the lamp housing to change a burnt out bulb, so I would in hindsight suggest some electrical tape in there instead.
The wiring kit also included a "quick tap" connector, the type you slip over an existing wire and insert a wire you need to tap that circuit with into the connector, then squeeze a metal tab into the wires and fold over a plastic tab to complete. I used that connector to hook the "halo" light rings to my left parking lamp circuit. The rings are now lit whenever the truck parking or headlights are on. I considered hooking each lamps "halo" rings to the truck turn signal on it's associated side, so they would blink with the turns, but after consulting a trusted friend on this forum decided that might look a tad "ghetto". It would have been easy to do though had I gone that way.
Quality impression: First, let me say these are very high quality units! The housing steel is by no means thin or poor quality. These units are failry heavy! The front lens is glass, not plastic, the reflector inside appears to be metal also and is flawless. The mounting hardware is first-rate, everything needed is included. There are two large steel rings for each unit, attached to these rings are two hard rubber "biscuits" which will provide some cushioning from off-road bumps and jars. Once tightened the lamps will not budge. You have to loosen the mounts for final aiming.
Functional impression: They are BRIGHT! The beams are tightly focused, so much they would be aimable so you could run them with traffic oncoming and not blind anyone that's smart enough to not look directly into them. The beams travel at least a few hundred yards, after about 50 yards the light pattern does spread out enough to make one solid well lit area. At even moderate off-road speeds that puts the hot spot well enough out so you can see what's ahead with enough time to avoid (or head for ) it. They do run VERY warm, you wouldn't want to go grabbing them after they've been on a while. It hasn't rained here since I mounted them, but I assume the lens glass is tempered so if they were hot when driving into a puddle or a rain storm no damage would occur.
That brings up another possible issue: Those holes in the bottom where the wiring comes out are open from the factory. The lamp assemblies may fill with water if submerged...perhaps my sealing them with RTV wasn't a bad idea after all.
Wants impression: I'd really like some sort of steel grill to put on these. I can see a tree branch or stick, a rock thrown up from a vehicle in front of you going right though the lens. I'm considering hitting Radio Shack and getting a couple six inch steel speaker grills and inventing a way to put them on these.
Overall impression: Would I buy these? At the $55 price automatcentral is asking? Hell yeah! Good quality, everything you need in one box, and being able to see that well on the trails is worth it!
I'll post pictures later, when I can get them with the lamps lit.
Thanks Andrew! First rate!