A handheld work light is generally a small, slim, and lightweight luminaire designed to illuminate tight spaces where conventional LED lights would not fit. It’s often one of the toolbox essentials for automotive mechanics, industrial machinery mechanics, marine mechanics, electricians and plumbers. The handy lights come in various forms. It can be a flashlight or an omnidirectional light tube, but the most typical form of mechanics work lights is a stick.

A mechanics work light is primarily designed as a flood light but may come with a spotlighting function. The floodlight module is comprised of either an array of discrete SMD LEDs or an integrated COB LED array. This configuration ensures a uniform light distribution over the illuminated area. A COB LED array is fabricated by mounting a high-density array of LED chips on a ceramic substrate or a metal core printed circuit board (MCPCB). The enormous advantage of this technology lies in the resulting coherent light emitting surface (LES) that enables a high uniformity beam of light to be created.

Performance and features

Handheld work lights typically produce a light output of several hundred lumens. The color rendering performance and color temperature of the light source vary according to lighting application. Car painting and detailing applications, for instance, require the use of light sources with a high color rendering index (CRI) in order to accurately match colors and identify bodywork imperfections. To keep workers alert and motivated as well as to aid in color discrimination, a color temperature exceeding 4,000° kelvin is often selected for the LEDs.

The LEDs are driven by a constant current regulator which provides a regulated current to the LED load independent of supply and LED forward voltage variation. Handheld work lights can be divided into mains powered and battery-operated systems. In mains powered systems, the LED driver should be configured to convert the AC line voltage to a low-voltage DC output suitable for driving LEDs. Overvoltage protection should be provided by the LED driver in order to protect the driver circuitry and LEDs against switching-related surges that are typical of industrial environments.

LED drivers incorporated in work lights may also be configured to allow dimming of the connected LEDs for variable light output. Both step (high, medium, low output) and continuous dimming are available for handheld work lights.

Battery technology

Running a handheld work light off the integrated battery power makes the mission-critical illumination instantly available wherever and whenever there’s a need. Battery powered illumination eliminates the inconvenience and even the risk of working in a tight space with a mains powered light which operates on power delivered by dangerous high-voltage cords. Monumental improvements in light source efficiency and the advent of high energy density battery technology make it practically possible to provide dependable illumination with cordless work lights.

Battery-operated LED work lights commonly incorporate rechargeable electrochemical cells to deliver the power needed for maintenance-free operation, convenience in use, and long-lasting illumination. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are often the battery of choice for portable lighting applications due to their high energy density, excellent charging/discharging performance and long cycle life. These batteries have built-in safety mechanisms that are designed to protect the electrochemical cells against excessive discharging as well as overcharging.

Design and construction

Handheld work lights are engineered to survive the rough and dirty conditions of the professional working environment and thrive even in outdoor environments in all kinds of weather conditions thanks to a high ingress protection (IP) rating and a scratch-, impact- and chemical-resistant construction.

Aside from the durable construction, extreme user-friendliness is one of the defining features of these slim lights. An ergonomic design ensures a secure, comfortable grip for single-handed operation. Handheld work lights often come with strong magnets on the base or the back of light and a built-in hook, which allow hands-free operation. A foldable inspection light typically has a pivoting head that allows light to be provided in a variety of angles.