Some bright ideas

Replaced often and used frequently, every single shop has purchased and used worklights. Ask any tech for a light, and he’s almost guaranteed to be carrying a personal flashlight in his pocket. Walking through a shop, look under the hood of any serviced vehicle, and you’re likely to find a worklight under the hood.

They might be everywhere, but before a technician purchases a new light, what kind of features does he search for?


A majority of techs list LED bulbs as an important feature when searching for any type of light used at the shop.

LED, or light-emitting diode, technology has become a frontrunner for light manufacturers over the last few years in everything from household lamps to automotive equipment. Oftentimes replacing the incandescent bulb, LEDs boast a lifelong runtime of sometimes more than 30,000 hours, draw little power and remain cool to the touch regardless of how long they’re left on.

“LED is the single most important thing to look for in a light, whether rechargeable or not,” said tech John McCaskey, in response to the Professional Tool & Equipment News blog, from PD’s sister publication.

Along with bulb preference, McCaskey has other criteria he looks for too.

“Longer run-times (are) always a plus. I would love to see companies put a lithium rechargeable battery system in a light.”

Some techs prefer rechargeable lights, while others would rather have a battery-powered option.

“Headlamps are useful, but can get in the way at times. A rechargeable work light comes in handy, but it often takes too much time to position it accordingly,” said McCaskey.

“I like that more and more companies are going to LEDs which have good brightness and are generally cordless,” said Mike Steptoe, owner of Reliable Auto Care in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

Whether powered by rechargeable or replaceable batteries, Steptoe likes to see the cordless options.

“You have fewer tangles and you can bring the light right to where you need it,” said Steptoe.

Steptoe also looks at the physical makeup of the light.

“It’s important to me on a light where the switch is. I like it to be recessed instead of exposed, so you’re less likely to accidently switch it off by bumping it.”

And who can forget about aesthetics? Along with strength and brightness, technician Duane Jones looks for what he calls the “cool factor.”

Also in response to PTEN’s blog, Jones explained, “Let’s be honest, when we as techs buy a cool new tool, we have to be able to make everyone else in the shop (want to) borrow it.”


No tech wants to walk around with a heavy, bulky flashlight in their pocket. These lights need to be small but powerful.

When looking for pocket lights, Jones said his main criteria for a personal light include durability, brightness and accessibility.

Along with being able to withstand drops and grease, Jones focuses on what the light can do for him.

“(The light) has to fit into the same places I have to cram my body into and not get in the way,” he said. “It has to light up the deepest and darkest places with the right color of light so that it does not reflect off everything, blinding me, defeating the whole purpose of a light.”

Accessories are always a plus, too. Techs oftentimes look for rechargeable features, flexible or extendable lights and magnetic-based functions for easy storage and for pick-up by illuminating items.


Some techs, like Steptoe, prefer to keep older models around too. He explains that his shop still uses fluorescent bulbs for some applications, because they’re easy to set up and use while working under the hood.

Posting to PTEN’s blog, technician Harry Zier explained he also sticks with fluorescent bulbs for under hood applications. His rechargeable light came as part of a power tool set, so Zier can use the same battery for more than one piece of equipment.

“My … Makita 14.4V rechargeable fluorescent light is very bright, doesn’t give off any heat and (is) durable,” said Zier. “It’s great for turning the dark underside of a dash bright without having any tangled cords.”

Zier also uses his Central Tools Underhood Light with a perch on a daily basis.

“It mounts under a vehicle’s hood with a spring-loaded, hooked bar,” he said. “The fluorescent bulb stays cool and can be pivoted to shine in a certain direction. It’s the perfect light source for doing any type of engine work.”

When selling work lights, remember that most techs will look for LEDs and the brightness of the bulb, as well as durability and how much damage the light can withstand over time. They want to increase productivity and be able to see the job to get it done.