A long time ago, I built a pretty slick NHRA Stock Eliminator car in an unfinished 1,000 square foot garage—the car actually went on to win some major events, but that’s another story. Today, I’m here to talk about the shop.

It was cold, miserable, and incredibly dark.

How dark? Now…don’t laugh…the shop’s lighting consisted of a couple of old drop lights hanging from the rafters, complete with 60 watt incandescent bulbs. I was much younger and likely a bit more tenacious (ok, more like pig-headed) than I am today but it was still a royal pain. Unlike my example, you don’t have to be kept in the dark though, because there are all sorts of great shop lights available nowadays for the home and professional mechanic.

Some of the lights available are corded. Some are even available with cord reels. Others are rechargeable. Some are free standing. Others are equipped with traditional hooks. Others incorporate magnets. Some have fixed lights and others have lights that you can tilt and rotate. Sizes and shapes are considerable. Many of these have severe duty impact ratings.

Plenty of these lights are now LED too—and that’s a blessing. You no longer have to get roasted by a searing hot 60 watt bulb. Or dodge flying glass if you drop the light while in an awkward position.

Understanding Light Output & Lumens

You’ll find most lamps today are rated in lumens. We have all more or less been trained to think in watts. But there is a difference.

Lumens equal brightness. Watts do not.

Watts measures energy use, not light bulb output. The official definition of lumen goes something like this: “a unit of luminous flux in the International System of Units, that is equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candela intensity radiating equally in all directions.”

Bottom line here is lumens equals brightness. Watts do not.

To provide a very rough comparison: A 60 watt incandescent bulb has about the same brightness as an 800 Lumen LED lamp. A 100 watt incandescent bulb has about the same brightness as an 1100 lumen fixture. And a 40 watt incandescent bulb has about the same brightness as a 450 lumen fixture.

Benefits of Upgrading to LED Garage Lights

A big bonus with LED shop lighting is the lifespan. Some LEDs can live for 25,000 or more hours (of course, depending upon the conditions). They’re also more efficient—approximately 75% more efficient than standard incandescent lights.

Then there’s that little thing called heat.

Accidently lay an incandescent drop light next to bare skin and you’ll immediately know what we’re talking about—old timers like me probably have their fair share of damaged skin and scar tissue as proof!

Incandescent bulbs create light by heating a filament inside the bulb. That filament becomes white hot and produces light. The by-product of course, is heat, and sometimes, lots of it. The experts claim that roughly 90% of the energy input is turned into heat. Most old “trouble” or “drop” lights were equipped with steel housings and metal shields. This only amplified the heat. And as most know, halogen lamps are right up there when it comes to heat.

On the flipside, fluorescent bulbs use an entirely different method to create light. Both compact fluorescent light bulbs and fluorescent tubes only waste approximately 30% of their energy producing heat. That makes fluorescents far cooler and more energy efficient than regular bulbs.

But here, LEDs are king. Sure, they generate some heat, but not much. They don’t have filaments that burn out. Instead, they’re illuminated solely by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, and they typically last just as long as a standard transistor.


So then, what are your options when it comes to LED shop lighting? Honestly, you’ve got plenty.

In the following photos and captions, we’ll look at a few of the dozens of shop lights available at SummitRacing.com. Check them out—and stop working in the dark!

summit racing shop light
Summit Racing’s own rechargeable underhood LED work lights are designed with a pair of padded hooks. This allows them to attach to any hood up to 77 inches wide. Additionally, the lights can be rotated or detached for hand held use. The lamps are rechargeable and include a wall charger. (Image/Summit Racing)
Milwaukee shop light
This Milwaukee M12 underbody light incorporates a pair of swivel points that allow for horizontal and vertical rotation. It attaches with a strong magnetic base. The M12 LED light provides 1,200 lumens of high-definition output and the battery can run up to 15 hours on low or five hours on high. In addition, it is impact resistant as well as being resistant to most chemicals found in automotive applications. (Image/Summit Racing)
small compact LED shop light with hook
As you can well imagine, you can get all sorts of different light combinations. This Alert Reel Pro-Lite LED hanging work light doesn’t use a battery and simply plugs into an AC outlet in your shop. (Image/Summit Racing)
dual shop lights on large stand
Here’s a stout tripod double work light setup from Summit Racing. It’s actually a pair of multi-directional flood lights and they can be used with or without the supplied tripod that telescopes up to six feet high. The work lights have an eight foot cord with grounded plug, making them safe for outdoor as well as indoor use. (Image/Summit Racing)
shop light LED wand
This Astro Pneumatic Rechargeable LED Max Slim Light incorporates a larger battery for a long 13 hour run time when set at half power and a run time of 3.5 hours at full power with a 450 lumen output LED. The light has a collapsible hook configuration as well as a magnetic base—and it includes a charger. (Image/Summit Racing)
close up of an LED bulb with screw base
If you have a good old fashioned incandescent fixture and you need some decent light, take a look at this Summit Racing omni-directional LED bulb. It produces super bright 360 degree light where you need it most. The base is a standard A15 socket arrangement, which means you can simply screw it in. I use one of these “corn cob” lights in 3,000+ square foot steel storage Quonset hut that would otherwise feel like the inside of a cave! The one here is rated at 5,000 lumens, but there’s a 10,000 lumen version available as well. (Image/Summit Racing)

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Author: Wayne Scraba

Wayne Scraba is a diehard car guy and regular contributor to OnAllCylinders. He’s owned his own speed shop, built race cars, street rods, and custom motorcycles, and restored muscle cars. He’s authored five how-to books and written over 4,500 tech articles that have appeared in sixty different high performance automotive, motorcycle and aviation magazines worldwide.