A professional mechanic or a car owner that has to work on his car engine either by design or necessity will always require plenty of light to do what needs doing. Under the hood of a car is a desperately dark place at the best of times; there’s no point in making matters worse.
So you must have a decent light to illuminate even the darkest recesses of your car engine. As is always the case with car engines, they need work when the weather is at its worst or dark.
There’s a handy solution, at times like these, and it comes with the underhood work light. However, they don’t all offer the same build quality or performance.
Now we know you’re too busy getting down and dirty under the hood to find the time to research the best underhood work light yourself. So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to explore the possibilities for you.
We’ve come up with the ten best underhood work lights for anybody working on their car engine. We also provide you with a handy buying guide to help you zero in on the one most suitable for your particular needs.
Editors Choice Best Underhood Work Light
Perfect for working on your car engine or even detailing the car if you need some extra light on the job. The Nightstick SLR-2120 is suitable for both professional or recreational levels.
To operate the light:
For convenience, the work light has on/off switches at both ends of the unit. They work in tandem, but either end can work independently. The controls have three functions, press once for full power, double press half power, and triple press turns the light off.
To mount the light using the spring-loaded carrier, snap the light into the carrier. Hook the carrier’s end onto the hood and extend the hook on the opposite end until you can grip the side of the hood. The hooks (grippers) will extend from 48-inches to 77-inches; that’s plenty to cover most sized hoods. Once in position, you can rotate the light up to 90 degrees for the best lighting solution.
If you choose to use the hanger-hooks, you can find them at the end of each handle. Take hold of the hanger-hook and rotate into the correct position for use. Hang the light where you need it best; you can use both ends or just one, totally depends on what you need.
- Hands-free use.
- It is capable of fitting under any automobile hood.
- The light is fully rechargeable and has AC or DC charging adapter.
- There is a choice of two lighting modes full-power and half-power.
- Fitted magnets allow the light to hang vertically.
- Inside the carrier, the light is capable of 90-degree rotation.
- Designed in the USA.
Why we like it:
The Nightstick operates hands-free, has two brightness modes, and has different mounting options.
The DeWalt DCL050 is an excellent work light, especially for mechanics and amateurs working under their hoods. Lighting is via 3 LED lights, which supply two lighting modes, 500 and 250 lumens. The brightness is optimum lighting to prevent glare from using lights that are too powerful. If 500 lumens is still too bright, use the dimming option to bring it down to 250 lumens.
The LED underhood work light has a built-in hook for hanging on the hood’s underside, and the 0-140 degree pivoting head means you can shine a light on any area you happen to be working around. The hook allows the unit to hang from a 2″ support while offering a full 360 rotation.
The DCL050 will stand upright if you don’t wish to use the hook option, for instance, if you’re working low to the ground or if there’s nowhere convenient to hang the unit. However, you cannot stand the DCl050 and then point it directly up; it will topple over. In the standing position, the light is more forward-facing lighting or pointing light downwards.
There is no significant pinpoint of light, more broad area light; it does not compare to a flashlight because its purpose is entirely different.
- The DeWalt has three bright LED lights with two lighting modes.
- The head pivots through 0-140 degrees.
- A hanging hook offers 360 rotation.
- Batteries are interchangeable with other DeWalt products.
- The DCL050 is capable of standing upright on the ground.
- Optimum lighting capabilities for working in dark areas.
Why we like it:
The DeWalt is a highly versatile light source because of its hanging hook and its ability to stand upright.
The Cat CT1000 is a pretty nifty budget underhood car light, being only 6.25 inches long and weighing 2.40 ounces. You can take this light everywhere you go.
Don’t be fooled by the size though, it’s capable of producing 175 lumens from 3 AAA batteries, and you’ll be able to use the light for a full seven hours on one set of batteries.
The small unit’s build quality is superb with a heavy-duty, water-resistant, and impact-resistant ABS body.
If you don’t have anyone handy to help you hold the light, no worries, the light is entirely hands-free thanks to its magnetic base and rear pocket clip.
Position the LED work light on a suitable steel point under the car’s hood to light any area you need to work.
Or attach the Cat CT1000 to your top pocket means you can get up super close.
The CT1000 features the latest LED technology using only industrial-grade materials.
- The CT1000 will produce 175 lumens.
- It’s capable of running for 7 hours with 3 AAA batteries.
- Handsfree by utilizing the magnetic base or reinforced rear-facing pocket clip.
- Low price.
Why we like it:
The CT1000 is handsfree with a magnetic base and rear-facing pocket clip.
The Commercial 2000LM is a wired underhood work light at the budget end of the price range for this type of light. Functionally it’s incredibly reliable with 120 volts and 30 watt AC power.
The durability and stability of the 2000LM come from the die-cast aluminum housing, and the long-lasting, energy-efficient, and low power consumption LED lights are capable of producing 2000 lumens, bright enough to light any underhood work area efficiently.
- Low price.
- Quality build and materials.
- The light produces 2000 Lumens of cool white light.
- Low power consumption LED lights.
Why we like it:
The 2000LM is a low price to pay for quality materials and predictable reliability.
The Milwaukee 2360-20 will provide illumination exceptionally bright and with an even spread. The light doesn’t create hot spots or weird shadows. Point the light in the direction you need, and it will illuminate the area evenly and naturally. You might even forget it’s switched on; it’s so natural.
It will work from an AC extension cord but doesn’t charge the battery; the battery needs charging separately. The M18 provides 3,000 lumens of high definition light output for 2 hours in high mode, 1,500 lumens in medium mode for 4 hours, and 650 lumens for 9 hours in low mode.
- The work light has three light modes 3000 lumens, 1500 lumens, and 650 lumens.
- The unit delivers a neutral white color.
- 240-degrees rotating light head.
- Three keyholes in the base of the light provide alternate orientations.
- LEDs do not require replacing.
- The Milwaukee 2360-20 also functions via an AC extension cord.
Why we like it:
The Milwaukee 2360-20 provides a neutral white color with high color rendering index and an even beam pattern.
This 50-foot long corded underhood work light features 60 LED lights delivering direct light no matter what you’re working on and lets you get light precisely on what you need to see with 35,000 Hours of life.
The metal reel containing the 50-foot cord has a hanging bracket so you can hang from your hood to illuminate your engine bay. The mounting system’s structure is pretty solid, and you can detach the bracket from the reel, so mounting is simple. Set the hang distance can where it’s more appropriate for where you want the light source.
Adding the extra-long cord gives this work light quite a bit more versatility. The Bayco SL-864 60-LED lights are useful for several applications, although the design is specifically for an automotive underhood work light. The magnets situated in the top and the body and the hook in the handle give it a complete hands-free option. Of course, it can illuminate any area that’s dark and poorly lit.
- The work light has 60 LED lights with 35,000 hours of life.
- A 50-foot extension cord housed in a metal reel.
- The wand has magnets in the top and body and a hook in the handle for hands-free use.
- The design incorporates Impact, moisture, and chemical resistance.
- Underhood work light manufactured in the USA.
- It is made from durable, heavy-duty materials.
Why we like it:
The Bayco wand comes with a metal reel and a 50-foot cord making the work light highly versatile.
The Astro 12SL is the slimmest and most durable rechargeable underhood work light available. The manufacturers claim it’s almost indestructible. Make no mistake; this is a high-quality light and can withstand daily abuse.
Featuring a high-performance LED light strip with 12 large, powerful Nichia bulbs that produce 400 lumens. You can charge the light via its 3.7v 2400mAH Li-Polymer rechargeable battery. The battery has an integrated PCM (protection circuit module) that prevents it from overcharging, and the battery has a rating of 1000x life cycle.
The charger has complete protection built-in, including over current protection, input reversal protection, overcharging, and temperature control.
- The light features 12 Nichia bulbs producing 400 lumens.
- Fully protected rechargeable battery system.
- A remarkably slim and highly durable design.
- You can clamp the light under the hood via its powerful neodymium magnet.
- The magnet has a fixing bracket for appropriate positioning.
- The light’s battery has a 1000x use rating.
Why we like it:
The Astro 12SL has an advantageous rechargeable battery system and is extremely slim and durable.
The Bosch FL12 features ten high-intensity LEDs, which provide an incredibly clear and bright light. There are two modes, high and low either can be the right choice depending on your work situation. The work light is equipped with a self-standing bracket to ensure you can adjust the angles, so the light illuminates where you want.
Bosch has created this work light to be as versatile and handsfree as you need it to be, with features such as 200-degree articulation, powerful magnets, a carabiner clip, tripod capability, and even a nail hook for mounting the light.
Two battery sizes give you a choice of runtimes. 2.0Ah battery will provide six hours, whereas the 4.0Ah size battery offers twelve hours of continuous runtime. It’s possible to double the amount of runtime for either battery by using the light dim function. Either battery is a separate purchase.
The Bosch FL12 is an incredibly well-built and robust cordless work light.
- The light has excellent run-time from the cordless rechargeable battery.
- 200-degree articulation for flexibility.
- Powerful magnets allow the work light to be handsfree.
- 330 lumens.
- Two brightness modes.
- The light is strong and robust.
- Self-standing bracket.
Why we like it:
The pivotal magnetic base on the Bosch allows the light’s positioning to be precisely where it’s necessary without it being in the way.
The Central Tools 12006 is an underhood fluorescent work light that doesn’t break but “bounces,” according to the manufacturers. It’s also oil and water-resistant.
If you need a rugged unbreakable underhood work light, this could be the one to choose. It’s easy to drop a work light working on and under vehicles, so these lights’ unbreakable and lightweight nature can be advantageous, never mind cost-effective.
The bounce light has a 13 watts fluorescent light, a hook to hang it under the hood, and a 25-foot cable for versatility.
- The work light bounces rather than breaks when dropped.
- 25-foot cable.
- Thirteen watts of fluorescent light.
Why we like it:
The almost indestructible nature of this work light makes it extremely cost-effective.
Best Underhood Work Light Buying Guide
Why Buy an Underhood Work Light
You might not be working in the dark or a dimly lit garage, but the light under the hood is rarely bright enough for you to see what you’re doing correctly. Mistakes you make because of lack of light could end up costing you a lot of money. Not to mention you could injure your hands.
But there’s no reason to take these kinds of risks because you can buy yourself an underhood work light.
There’s a lot of considerations before you buy one, though. So we’ve put together a quick buying guide to help you out.
Tips When Buying Your Underhood Work Light
In the article above, we’ve given you a list of nine work lights that we believe cover all the major options you need to consider. But in case you’re still a little unsure, here are some of the factors you should consider:
Of course, if you’re buying any kind of light, the brightness factor is significant. If you think you would prefer the light under your hood to be very bright, then you’ll need intense illumination, so look for a lamp with a high lumen count.
The minimum you should think about is 400 lumens. Even that might not be enough for you. So check out the prices of the lights that have between 600-1000 lumens. Remember, quality work lights will have different lighting modes, so you can reduce the brightness as and when you wish. Some demanding jobs might need that extra brightness for you to see what you’re doing, while other jobs might not.
Run time refers to how long you can use your light before the battery gives out. Once again, there are options for you to consider here. While some have a battery life of possibly three hours, others might last as long as 12 hours. The work light you choose should have a setting that will allow you to dim the brightness and thereby conserve your battery power.
If you’re opting for a light with high lumens, it will run through the battery much more quickly.
It’s highly unusual for there to be more than three lighting modes-low, medium or high. These settings refer to the strength of the light. You might come across some work lights having different modes such as strobe or SOS lights. There’s probably no reason for you to have any of these modes employed in an underhood work light. However, it’s always a personal choice.
Generally, you’re better off choosing a less heavy work light. If you keep the light in your vehicle in case of a breakdown, then you don’t want to be lugging an immense light that weighs a considerable amount. Plus trying to position a heavy light, so it shines on the area you need to work is difficult.
Neither do you want one made from inferior materials? So try to get the right balance. The light will also have to clip under the hood, either by magnets, a hook, or grippers. Whichever fastening method the light uses, it can’t be overly heavy, or your hood won’t take the weight.
Finally, the last thing to think about is mounting. How will you position the work light under your hood, at the side, or underneath your car? If you’re working under the hood, then powerful magnets are always a good option. They usually are positioned at either end of the light, so the light hangs vertically. But smaller work lights might have magnets on the side of the unit.
Of course, there’s always a hook. This mounting is perhaps the easiest and most common way to hang the light. It is not generally as maneuverable as magnets, but they do give flexibility for working on other areas of your car, such as underneath the vehicle.
The final method is the grippers. Clip one end to the side of the hood and the other gripper extends to the opposite side.
Whichever method you choose is not essential as long as the light is attached securely.