Initial Impressions: KC Hilites’ Flex Era 3 Lights Already Saved a Deer’s Life

You’re welcome, Bambi. 

byJonathon Klein|
Lights photo


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KC Hilites is a brand that tickles my millennial amygdala. It’s iconic, it’s everywhere in desert racing, and it’s in Back to the Future. But for a long time, I didn’t need accessory lighting. I lived in Los Angeles or Chicago, and there’s not much need for the best off-road lights in the game in metropolitan complexes. 

I don’t live in those places anymore, though. I live in the woods. Well, I live on a mountain just outside of Park City, Utah. And there are no street lights or businesses on my way home in from town or anywhere else. There are no external lights to illuminate the utter freaking darkness that occurs when you live in the woods. Do you know what is in that darkness? Animals. A lot of animals. 

Over the last three years we’ve lived here, we’ve had numerous near misses and one side swipe from a full-grown buck. No, I didn’t hit it. It hit me. Yes, that’s a Gilmore Girls reference, but it’s apt and I was Rory in this situation. But even with our old Volvo’s adaptive headlights, and the Ridgeline’s brights, little penetrates the inky blackness around here. That’s no longer the case thanks to KC’s Flex Era 3 lights, which have already prevented a deer-on-Honda-Ridgeline collision. 

So let’s talk about these lights and then get into my initial impressions. 

KC In the House

Part of KC’s newest lineup, the Flex Era 3s are the perfect little ditch light for our family’s Ridgeline, as they pump out 3,672 lumens at 5000K color temp from a set of three 40W Cree LEDs per light, and the total beam distance is 385 meters. They’re also IP68, so water, mud, and dust aren’t going to be a problem.  

They don’t mount straight to the truck, so I grabbed a set of J-Sport ditch light brackets and then sized up the mounting hole to accommodate the Flex Era 3’s mounting bolt. Took maybe five minutes to get everything squared away. 

Wiring was equally easy, as KC sends you everything needed to get them illuminated. The kit includes the lights, wiring loom, and control switch. KC also sent me a set of amber covers, a different housing bezel, and accessory spot lenses for increased adaptability. 

Before I wired it all up, I researched the Ridgeline’s engine bay and how others had wired up their accessory lighting. What I found was that there’s plenty of space within the engine bay, but also plenty of space to wire it up so that everything remains factory-fresh. All I needed were some zip-ties to keep them in place in certain places, push the wires through the firewall’s wire hole that leads to the dash, and then pull the lower dash panel off. Everything took about 20 minutes total. 

What I also did was swap one button I never use, Honda’s Econ button, for KC’s light switch. It’s literally the same size housing and all I did was install a rear washer to make it lock in place with the dash. It literally looks factory, which I love, and it’s completely reversible. The Econ button is stashed behind the dash with another zip tie. 

From there, all you need to do is hook up the positive to the battery and attach the ground. Easy peasy. 

Let There Be Light

I didn’t get to use the Flex Era 3s for a few days, apart from the day I installed them to just set the right height and angles. I just didn’t need to go out at night. But then I did and, on our way home with Alli and the kids in the car, we were driving back toward our mountain compound when, sure enough, a deer decided to bolt across the street. 

Because of the lights, however, I saw the doe well in advance while it was still a good distance away from the road’s tarmac. Probably around 20 yards in, which is about where they normally start their blitz when they do cross the road. But because of how I set up the lights and how they integrated their light output with the truck’s low, high, and amber fogs, I had more than enough time to see the deer, slow down, and let it pass. 

They’ve since saved a number of other deer and one raccoon, and they’re a godsend when it rains with the amber lenses, as my eyes don’t strain under the white light of the LEDs reflecting off the water droplets. As I’m writing this, it’s also begun to snow, which should see even further capability. 

What I really also like is how much light they pump out. Now, these aren’t like other KCs that are designed to throw as much light out as possible for Baja or Norra or Dakar. Rather, they’re for situations like mine, along with trail running. Just enough light to help illuminate the darkness without requiring too much amperage or further accessories. A perfect middle ground for on- and off-road vehicles. 

Jonathon Klein

Bring on the Snow

At the time of writing, the KC Hilites Flex Era 3 2-light system will set you back a cool $450. That’s not bad considering KC’s legendary quality and the kit it comes with. You will have to supply your own mounting hardware, which cost me another $100. That still feels like good value given what you get and the projection these lights offer. 

And like I said above, it’s just starting to snow. And I’m still going out in the early mornings before sunrise to hunt. I’ve yet to truly put these KC Hilites Flex Era 3s to proper use. But that’s going to change in the coming weeks and months. 

But I’m curious to hear what you all think and what questions you have about these lights? Sound off in the comments below and let me know what else you want answered. 

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