Using 1,183 pieces of fiber optics, Rolls-Royce was able to create in the Wraith Eagle VIII the star arrangement as seen in the night sky in 1919, during John Alcock’s and Arthur Brown’s crossing of the Atlantic aboard a World War I Vickers Vimy bomber aircraft.
But the need for having ambient lighting in cars goes beyond aesthetics. A study commissioned by BMW and conducted by a team from the Ilmenau University of Technology in Germany showed ambient lighting helps increase spatial perception for the driver, eliminates fatigue and increases alertness.
Despite most new cars now using this idea, the number of cars on the road with ambient lighting is very small. Older cars, still in the millions of the world’s roads, are not equipped with this feature and they never will. Unless owners decide to do something about it.
There is currently a wealth of DIY solutions to this problem available in the vast world of online stores. Some are more successful than others, but in the end they serve the same purpose: bring a personal touch to the interior of the car.
Below is a short list of 5 such in-car ambient lighting solutions we selected based on several criteria, including the number of positive reviews they received from buyers.
Ledglow LED Tubes (ad) - With nearly 1,400 reviews on Amazon and a 4.5-star rating, the Ledglow is one of the most appreciated ambient lighting surface-mounted solution available online.
The system comprises four 9-inch tubes with 24 LEDs fitted inside that can illuminate in a total of seven colors - blue, red, green, purple, teal, white and yellow – and a control box. They can be fitted mostly in the footwell, beneath the seats, or under the dash, but with enough imagination, the sky is the limit.
In case the car electric system is not your thing, the system needs professional installation (each tube is fitted with 5 inches of wiring), but it has the advantage of coming complete with a 12V cigarette lighter adapter that allows instant plug-and-play operation.
On Amazon, the Ledglow LED tubes are priced at $34.99 and they can be fitted to any car, regardless of make and model.
Cool-Car Star Light (ad) - If you happen to be in a romantic mood, or you just really like red, then the Cool-Car Star Light system might be the thing for you.
The Star Light is in fact a projector that can be plugged into any USB socket available, be it from the car itself or a laptop or mobile charging head. It requires minimum work to deliver the desired effect.
The project sprays onto the roof of the car a myriad of lights, bathing the interior in a powerful red color.
The USB cord of the projector is 5 feet long, meaning you can even place it on the back seat so it doesn’t shine in your face.
With a guaranteed lifetime of 10,000 hours and IPX4 waterproof rating, the Star Light sells on Amazon from $16.99.
OPT7 Aura (ad) - At 12-inch long and made of a bendy material that allows them to be fitted on virtually any part of the car’s interior, the 4 LED strips sold as OPT7 Aura also received a huge number of positive reviews.
The system can be made to work by either plugging it into the car’s charger, or by using the fuse adapters to link it directly to the car’s fuse box.
More importantly, Aura is bass-sensitive, as its makers say, meaning the interior lights can be made to dance to the rhythm of your music.
On Amazon, this system is priced at $44.95.
Govee (ad) - Most of the systems in this category need either a control unit or a remote to operate at full capacity. There are however some that can be controlled via an app.
So is the case with the Govee, a set of LED strips that can illuminate in 7 main colors and an alleged 16 million other combinations, if your eye can see them all.
Taking power from the car’s cigarette lighter, Govee is also sound sensitive, meaning it can dance to whatever tunes it hears.
This system is priced at $19.99 on Amazon and there are hundreds of reviews available to give you an idea of what it is all about.
Jtech LED Light Bulbs (ad) - A far less pretentious choice when it comes to ambient lighting are the light bulbs. That’s because they usually emit one color and, with a little work, they can be fitted wherever there’s place for them in the car.
As all other lighting solutions of its kind, the Jtech LED bulbs can be used for indicators, parking and side lights, but can also be fitted inside.
As per its seller, the bulb emits white color at 6000K, which should provide an exotic look to the car. The bulbs are priced at $6.99 on Amazon, and ten of them are shipped in each package.