When light bulbs first arrived courtesy of Thomas Edison in 1879, it changed the way people thought of lighting and what it could do. The same thing happened when Nick Holonyak, Jr. invented the light-emitting diode (LED) in 1962.
The latter has paved the way for some of the sharpest and farthest-projecting light sources to come about, and is the strong suit of Rigid Industries, based out of Gilbert, Arizona. The company’s innovations in the field of LEDs have made it a top-tier leader in the field, and made it possible for enthusiasts to enjoy more off-pavement exploration and competition when the sun goes down.
One such enthusiast is Dustin Marshman, owner of the 2013 Ram 2500 we used to install a 2013-16 Dodge Ram 2500/3500 Grille with 30-inch RDS LED Light Bar (PN 41588), also known as an LED Grille. As an avid diesel owner and part-time off-roader, Marshman was very familiar with Rigid and its catalog. “I run Rigid’s 10-inch amber and 30-inch spot-flood lights on my Polaris RZR,” he said. “What I like about Rigid is you don’t have to worry, since you’re getting quality and dedication to the product.”
Given that response, it went without saying that Marshman was thrilled to be receiving this new LED Grille. But first, we reached out to Rigid’s Mitch Kistner to hear some more about the part and the difference it would make on the truck.
Shining The Spotlight On The LED Grille
Rigid Industries understands that the off-road hobby is quite multi-faceted these days, as UTVs have edged into the market in a big way, but trucks, SUVs, and buggies still remain popular platforms to build upon. Even within the world of full-size vehicles, there is the issue of deciding where on the vehicle a light could (or ought to) be mounted. This was partially why the LED Grille was invented, as Kistner explained.
“One of the problems off-road enthusiasts were having was a limited number of mounting locations for certain vehicles,” he said. “The idea of bolting a light bar to a bumper or attached to the windshield was unappealing to some. We took both of these problems and created a solution in the LED Grille. The LED Grille not only allows for a clean install but it allows for an added, efficient, and ideal mounting location.” Marshman came to a similar conclusion on his own after seeing the LED Grille installed, which we’ll discuss later.
The LED Grille is made from laser-cut 304 stainless steel, which is widely used in the aftermarket and known for its rugged properties. It also comes powdercoated, making it easy for users to simply install without having to worry about its looks. But the star of the show is the 30-inch RDS Series light bar, mounted high on the grille and sporting some great features all on its own.
“The RDS Series is the apex of form and function,” said Kistner. “It’s been in testing and pre-production for the last two years and was first tested by BJ Baldwin at the 2012 Parker 425. Since then, our engineering team has gone over numerous design changes, incorporating multiple patent-pending utility and design features. Our RDS LED light bar transforms the regular light bar Rigid created in 2006. It offers a futuristic design sleekness that translates to an increased light spread from side to side.”
Now that we had the background and utility of the LED Grille figured out, we felt ready to proceed with the installation.
To get a sense of how to best compare the sensation of having the LED Grille before and after the installation, we first positioned the truck head-on to a wall about 15 feet away. We tested the headlights to see how much area it covered using low-beam and high-beam settings, and then set about our install.
First, the radiator cover had to be removed. It was held in using plastic molding clips like you would find on inner fender liners, so we used a plastic trim removal tool to extract them. Fortunately, none of them broke, so they could be reused later.
Next, we undid the four top bolts holding the grille onto the front end. We laid the grille down on a towel to prevent it from scuffing against the garage floor, and then undid all of the bolts and clips holding the grille inserts to the grille.
With the grille lying on the ground, we took some masking tape and lined it up to where it would leave stubs on the top and bottom, and be completely ground down on the sides (the top and bottom would be anchor points for the LED Grille).
We used an air tool to cut through the plastic, making sure to carefully follow the lines we had made with a permanent marker. With that done, we laid the LED Grille on top and mocked up where it would sit before making drill marks on the Grille (having someone else hold the Grille by the bottom was helpful to making sure the Grille didn’t move). Then it was time to drill, baby, drill!
Post-drilling, we took two of the supplied Allen bolts and tightened them on the top and bottom anchor points. We then went around the perimeter of the Grille, locating all 16 metal tabs and bending them to conform with the Ram grille frame. We would drill and bolt in each of these, and save the tightening for the final step of this phase.
The LED Grille was now fully installed onto the Ram grille, and was ready to accept the RDS light bar. We installed it into the grille and were now ready to do our mock-up with the truck. We did so and noticed that the air intake was in the way of the light bar, so we cut out the upper right portion to create clearance. Another mock-up later, we found everything fit perfectly.
We bolted the grille back onto the truck and now had to take care of wiring. Unfortunately, our grille did not come with instructions on this aspect of the install, but we found a way to make it work regardless.
We decided the best spot to put the switch for the light bar would be on the lower portion of the driver’s side dashboard. It would be on a flat, vertical spot where no other electronics were, but still able to be easily reached and without worry of accidentally hitting with one’s knee.
Gently, we popped the dash panel out and made sure we were right that there was nothing crucial in our proposed switch location; there wasn’t, thankfully. We then took the wiring for the light bar and wrapped a string around it using electrical tape, and then tried guiding it through a grommet in the firewall where other wiring was already routed. It took a few tries, but we eventually succeeded with feeding it through.
Next, we taped down the area (similar to what we did before with the grille) and step-drilled a hole just large enough to where the switch would pop into place. A nail file was used to deburr the hole and provide a clean contact surface for the switch to fit snugly into. The wiring was attached to the switch as well as the battery terminals, and the moment of truth arrived as the light bar turned on and off successfully. Huzzah! The dash panel was reinstalled, the hood was closed, and we turned off the lights to see what sort of illumination this LED Grille could really do.
The Moment of Truth
Wherever LEDs are involved, you can be sure the end result will be bright. We’re happy to report that the LED Grille made an astounding difference in terms of what light the truck could now produce.
Before we did the installation, we lowered the lights in the garage and closed all doors as much as we could to create a darker environment. The low-beams and high-beams were in working order, and produced decent light for what they were: factory bulbs intended to serve a catch-all purpose across thousands of truck owners.
However, with the new LED Grille installed, we now had a center-directed beam that shone so brilliantly, it was blinding – in a good way! All 60 of the LEDs, 30 in a double-row arrangement, gave off illumination that would definitely come in handy for nocturnal off-roading.
Even with the high-beams on, the RDS light bar was still the most powerful light source on this truck. Whenever and wherever Marshman decided to go, he could be sure that his Rigid LED Grille would not let him down. Not to mention, the fitment of the Grille looked perfect on the truck, as if it came that way from the factory.
We reached out to Marshman a few weeks after our install to get his feedback on the LED Grille. “First off, it looks great,” he said. “I like that it mitigated the overwhelming amount of chrome that comes with the stock front end. Also, I appreciate the fact that the light bar is mounted at the very front of the truck; I’m not a fan of mounting the LED bar above the cab, since it results in a lot of reflection off of the hood. Having the light bar in the grille avoids the glare and keeps the light projecting where I need it.”
Regarding the brightness of the light bar, Marshman’s thinking echoed our own. “Once I flick that switch and make daylight, my low-beams seem totally inadequate,” he said.
From its clean, professional appearance to its unstoppable forward light, the Rigid Industries LED Grille is a great product to consider for your vehicle. What’s more, Rigid makes it for a variety of applications, from Ford to GM to Toyota. See more on Rigid’s website, and don’t forget to follow the company on Facebook, too.