What Is a Trouble Light? (A.K.A. Drop, Rough, or Inspection Light)

July 28, 2022 5 min read

new trouble light / drop light versus old school style drop lights

Whether you find it in a garage, kitchen counter, or in an interrogation room where it swings back and forth, drop lights have always been helpful in any given situation.

However, you may not know that drop lights are also referred to as a trouble light, rough light, or inspection light. That’s a lot of names. Nevertheless, the reason behind this is quite rational.

A trouble light is a heavy-duty semi-portable corded light that you can use in situations that may subject the light source to abuse or damage. Therefore, it’s built to withstand challenging conditions where illumination is not accessible. The bulbs are commonly protected by a metal or plastic shroud or cage and the power cable comes out the bottom of the handle. 

Moreover, its design comprises a hanging hook and a long cord. You can just hang the cord or hook on or near your project. This is why it’s referred to as a drop light.

You may wonder why there’s a lot of names for a trouble light. Nonetheless, it only hints at its many uses and its long history as a portable lighting device.

And if you want to satisfy your curiosity, just read on to learn more about trouble lights and some of the newest products in this category like the TriLight Shoplight V2.

 

Car mechanic shop use TRiLIGHT ShopLight V2 STKR Concepts

What Is a Drop Light or Trouble Light Used for?

A trouble light or drop light is used for inspection or when working on areas with no light fixture.

As the name suggests, trouble lights are drop lights held through a cord you can drag around. The bulb or light head has a hook that allows you to transfer the device whenever necessary.   

Likewise, given that this type of light has to go through all sorts of “trouble,” and in spaces not ideal for an ordinary bulb or lighting fixture, trouble lights are incredibly reliable. This means they are sturdier and have a durable protective framing that can withstand a bit of harm.

Trouble lights are popularly used in automotive mechanics, engineering, mining, and medical care. They are also used during emergency and rescue operations.  

Why Is It Called a Trouble Light?

A drop light is also called a trouble light because it’s often used in difficult situations and places wherein illumination is not ordinarily available. Moreover, they are subjected to conditions that can bring potential harm.

For example, trouble lights are used when exploring drainage tunnels or narrow spaces that could be problematic for any other type of light source.

But given the structure and design of drop lights, you can just imagine how they can be portable in the most obscure spaces.

 

evolution of the trouble light poster featuring a two older-style drop lights and one new Shoplight V2 from STKR Concepts

 

The Evolution of Trouble Lights

Long before flashlights and batteries were in the market, drop lights or trouble lights were used first. This handy light source can penetrate narrow and dark places. Hence, it was also referred to as a plumber’s light or inspection light.

Early on, plumbers would use a trouble light to crawl under houses with wood frames to check on the plumbing system and repair leaks and damages. They would drag along with them the droplight enclosed in a metal casing and attached to a well-insulated cord.

Nowadays, the term trouble light has broadened its meaning. Although used heavily for aesthetics, drop lights are still essentially trouble lights as they remain valuable in rescue and emergency operations.

 

Incandescent bulb full breakdown poster

Can I Use a LED Bulb in a Trouble Light?

Yes, you can use a LED bulb in a trouble light provided that it fits the socket of the trouble light.

A classic trouble light uses an incandescent bulb. However, the problem with these bulbs is that they tend to overheat as the filament harbors more electric current. Not only is it challenging to handle, but it can also increase your electric bill.

And then, there’s LED. This modern light source has a good reputation for being energy efficient.

Unlike incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs use a microchip instead of a filament where electric current passes through to provide illumination. As a result, LED bulbs do not produce excessive heat.

Nowadays, modern trouble lights and universal drop lights use LED. Hence, you can notice higher light intensity and coverage with just a single drop light which are qualities you won’t easily find with incandescent bulbs.

How to Choose the Best Trouble Light for Your Needs?

Trouble lights can be used in many ways. But they are widely used in focus work like in automotive mechanics and standard garage projects. 

Considering how rigorous these works are, you will need a reliable trouble light through and through. So if you’re wondering how to choose the best trouble light for your work, you better check out the following criteria.

Number of Lumens

Lumens are used to describe the light output of a certain light fixture or source. Simply put, the higher the lumens, the brighter the light is.

When it comes to trouble lights, brightness becomes subjective based on how you intend to use the device.

For example, if it’s for emergency use, you can settle for a trouble light with about 100 to 650 lumens.

On the other hand, if it’s for work and general purposes, the most flexible trouble light comes with about 2500 to 5,000 lumens. If you want to know more about the number of lumens for work lights, just click here.

To give you an idea of what to expect, a traditional drop light will produce about 800 lumens whereas the TriLight Shoplight V2 from STKR Concepts produces 5000 True Lumens.

TRiLIGHT Shoplight hanging in front of an RV camping scene at night

Portability

A trouble light that isn’t portable is simply trouble. By standards, trouble lights are compact and can be carried around without unnecessary burden.

However, it’s not uncommon to find trouble lights that have multiple panels or bulbs. As efficient as this may seem, it can be a bit of a hassle bringing them into more narrow spaces.

Nonetheless, there are more innovative designs that merge efficient lighting and portability. Take, for example, the TriLight Shoplight.

This multi-featured portable lighting device provides an array of light without sacrificing its compactness. You can use it in different ways as it can transform from a drop light into a multi-directional shop light bringing you the benefits of each design.

Durability

A sturdy design is non-negotiable when it comes to trouble lights.

As you know by now, trouble lights are used in conditions not suitable for any regular lighting device. They are dragged, pulled, and gets bumped into solid surfaces.

So, if the materials used lack durability, you might end up with a trouble light with a lower lifespan or is damaged easily.

The TriLight Shoplight is made from extremely durable materials and has been drop-tested to make sure it can handle the demands of a work light.

Cord Length

A longer cord for trouble light means wider coverage of use in the area. You can transfer and hook your trouble light just as long as the cord is able to stretch.

Therefore, if you’re working on larger projects or multiple tasks, better find a trouble light with a longer cord.

As a rule of thumb, the most flexible cord length runs at 6 feet.

 

diy flooring install by a male figure that's illuminating his project with a Shoplight V2

Summary

Trouble lights remain necessary considering their resistance to harsh conditions.

With more drop lights in the market, it is easier to find a trouble light that functions well.

However, it’s not as easy finding trouble lights that can transform into a shop light with a highly durable make and optimum illumination.

But you can forget about the hassle if you pick up a TriLight Shoplight V2 as you will find everything you need in a trouble light.

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