Best LED head torches 2019

An LED head torch lights up under your bonnet and leaves your hands free to work. We pick the best from eight…

There are lots of times when drivers need extra light when working under the bonnet, wheelarch or elsewhere on a car.

It may seem that inspection lamps are arriving every month, but there is still a place for a head torch as they can put the light exactly where you are looking and leaves both your hands free to work. This also makes them perfect for sorting out night-time emergencies.

So which is the best one to put in your glovebox or tool kit? We slipped on 10 and tackled a range of jobs to find out. 

How we tested them

Each torch was used to perform a number of limited-light tasks on a car, working on the brakes and in the engine bay. We looked for comfort, ease of beam adjustment, focus and practicality. The spread of light from the widest beam to spot at one metre was also measured.

Extras, such as flashing mode, red or coloured beams, power-saving and a protective bag, gained extra points. All non-rechargeables came with batteries. Prices were from online sources. 

Verdict

The Coleman has knocked former winner LED Lenser off the top spot with its impressive array of features plus its attractive price. The former champion is now is second place while the NightSearcher collects the bronze podium.

  • 1. Coleman CXS+300R LED Head Torch
  • 2. LED Lenser SE03
  • 3. NightSearcher Zoom-580R
  • Reviews Coleman CXS+300R LED Head Torch

    Price: £26.95
    Rating: 5/5
    Power: Li-ion rechargeable

    Coleman’s torch is rated to the IPX4 standard for splash resistance, ANSI-rated against drop damage from two metres and packed with useful features. First up is BatteryLock, which disconnects the battery during downtime to prevent drain and comes with a band that stops it from being accidentally unlocked.

    Then there’s REAX, which automatically adjusts the beam from close up to distance. And KineSix lets you toggle through settings by using gestures. This was ideal when we had oily hands, although it sometimes mistook a working movement for a gesture.

    While there was no zoom, the four white spot and floodlight modes made up for this. The claimed 300 lumens meant its outside illumination was very good, falling between its rivals. Performance, price and features make the Coleman our new champion.

    LED Lenser SE03

    Price: £24.98 
    Rating: 4.5/5
    Power: 3 AAA

    Our previous winner remains impressive, not least for its build quality and seven-year warranty. Conventional in operation, the 100-lumen lamp toggles through low, high and flashing white beams, with a red light option.

    This torch is also one to consider if you work outdoors, with its IPX6 protection against water projected in powerful jets, and dust protection to the IP5X standard; the best here. The LED Lenser performed well in all our tests, but couldn’t match the Coleman on features.

    NightSearcher Zoom-580R

    Price: £44.94 
    Rating: 4/5
    Power: Li-ion rechargeable/3 AAA

    There’s no doubt that 580 lumens is serious firepower and this torch blew its rivals away in our distance tests. The three white-light modes meant it could be dialled down for inside work, and the warm-white setting in effect took the place of a red light for reading.

    We liked the versatility of replacing the rechargeable battery with three AAA batteries, but while its performance and specification earned points, it was held back by its price.

    Princeton Tec Fuel

    Price: Around £23
    Power: 3 x AAA
    Rating: 4/5

    At just 74g, the Fuel was the lightest torch here and very comfortable. Yet the unit comes packed with features, feels well made and is supplied with an impressive five-year warranty.

    Asymmetric and IPX4-rated like its Sync stablemate, it angled through 90 degrees in 10 clicks and the power switch was centrally placed. Despite having no focus control, the torch was efficient; the four LEDs switched through three brightness levels, with a bright 14cm spot surrounded by a flood of 50cm on max power. A keener price could have seen it on the top step. 

    Ring Cyba-lite Sensor Infrared Head Torch RT5160

    Price: Around £23
    Power: 3 x AAA
    Rating: 4/5

    Well priced and well balanced, the Ring stood out because the light intensity could be selected from 100 to 10 per cent, giving it an edge on power-saving. It was easy to adjust the beam angle through 90 degrees and seven clicks, and the light was one of the brightest we tried. The focus ring changed the beam from 18cm to 46cm, the second lowest in both instances.

    Its wave on/off feature could be a boon with dirty, greasy hands, but equally, it would switch off as the focus was adjusted and occasionally when using tools close to it.

    Laser Headlight Torch 6808

    Price: Around £16
    Power: Rechargeable
    Rating: 3/5

    Charging via the supplied USB lead, the Laser was up to speed in three hours. It was the second lightest torch here (83g), but had a top strap which was more usual with the heavier units. The camera-shaped torch worked via a single button, although it was a bind toggling through the high/low/flashing beams to turn it off. While light quality was reasonable, it could only be angled via four positions.

    Despite the focus spot result being great at 6cm, the wide beam was more limited at just 38cm. However, the price was the best on test and it’s our choice of the rechargeable models here. 

    Ring Cyba-lite Oculus RT5138

    Price: Around £18
    Power: 3 x AA
    Rating: 3/5

    Ring’s Oculus is getting on a bit nowadays (it was a winner way back in 2011), which perhaps explains its weight penalty compared with some more modern lights; it topped the charts at 195g. It was balanced with the battery at the back and we liked its integral solid/flashing red light, but it was tricky to use when lying on a creeper to slide under a car.

    The red, blue and green LEDs complemented a good white beam, albeit with a very limited spread at 24cm and 47cm. However, the beam could be angled at one of nine positions and the price went some way to balancing its cumbersome nature. 

    Princeton Tec Sync

    Price: Around £28
    Power: 3 x AAA
    Rating: 3/5

    The asymmetrically designed Sync didn’t have a focus control, rather a white LED for spot and another for flood. We could choose between a combined spot/flood plus full or reduced power via a neat rotary control on the left, which in many respects was better than a push button system.

    At just 85g, it was one of the lightest and most comfortable units on test, and the beam angled through almost 180 degrees, giving the Sync wide range. The lack of focus didn’t affect our car work. However, it was the most expensive of the non-rechargeable torches, which hampered its rating.

    Sealey Rechargeable Head Torch HT108LED

    Price: Around £31
    Power: Rechargeable
    Rating: 2/5

    This torch’s strong aluminium construction contributed to its 181g weight, the second heaviest on test. It could be turned at any angle, because it simply spun in its rubber holder, but it felt a bit wobbly at times.

    Despite the price and weight, there was no focus control, rather a combined spot/flood beam of 15cm/53cm. This was reasonable, but not as good as some others and meant that much of the time it was a compromise. The infrared on/off control was useful, but sometimes turned off inadvertently. High price was its main drawback.

    Michelin LED Head Lamp M40L44

    Price: Around £40
    Power: Rechargeable
    Rating: 2/5

    Another one shaped like a camera, this had a USB charging cable, a 12V car adaptor and carry bag. The simple rotary control gave huge focus range from 6-67cm and the beam was bright enough.

    At 133g it was the third heaviest torch and, more importantly, the long lens was constantly in the peripheral vision when angled downwards. As with most others here, it had a single toggle button, but it didn’t reset and so sometimes getting the beam required five presses. As it’s new to the market we couldn’t find a cheaper price, which really hampered its chances.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *