Project Ford E350 Tow Rig: Part 3 – Step into the light…
two small metal u brackets with 2 holes in each resting on pavement butted up against one another
Here’s the final product.

Look, not every fabrication project has to be beautiful. Sure, we could’ve used something nicer, but this was going to do the job and was going to be entirely invisible.

laying on pavement drilling up into bottom of bumper with yellow dewalt cordless drill
After much measuring and mathing, the holes were drilled.

We thought about taking off the bumper to make this easier, but that idea was quickly abandoned because it seemed like it would take way longer than needed. We hoped to get lucky with good measuring and patience. We were rewarded.

close up of socket cap bolt with washer held in hand
In the case of the way we ended up mounting the light bar, socket cap screws were easier to manage.

Getting a hex key into the socket cap as opposed to trying to get a socket or wrench onto a bolt head was going to be way easier. We used nylon locking nuts on the bottom to ensure that they didn’t back out over time. Still, the tightness of the fasteners should be re-checked periodically.

angled view of front bumper cutout with LED light bar turned on
Here’s the light bar mounted in the slot.

It came out really awesome.

light bar shining down driveway illuminating trees on other side of road
Here’s the interior view with just the light bar on.

This is just the light bar! And, in reference to the other photos, this is the same 1/40 shutter speed and F2.8 aperture, but the ISO dropped again to 2500. That’s less than half as sensitive for the CCD yet again! This thing is insanely bright, but you can see that it concentrates most of its throw right in the center.

high beams and light bar shining down driveway illuminating trees on other side of road
This is what it looks like with the highs on and the light bar.

When the light bar and the high beams are on, it’s like I have the power of the sun inside the van shining out. You can see that in comparison to just the light bar, there’s more coverage to the sides and on the ground. And, yet again, the ISO/sensitivity of the camera has dropped to 2000.

I’d say that forward-motion is well covered now. In the future we’ll address rearward lighting with the Lit LED light pods. Now, if only getting in and out of the van wasn’t such a scary proposition.


  1. Spray Boeshield in all freshly drilled holes for rust protection. It will save you a lot of frustration down the road.

    1. @DocWalt we had looked at that option. The bottom of the E350 bumper is not flat and also is not wide. It actually steps down to a lip which reduces the mounting area. If you look at the picture where the light bar is installed, you can just make out the nuts on the bottom side of the bumper. When it’s just the nuts under there, it’s not a problem. In order to install the entire light bar below the bumper and still have sufficient adjustability, we would’ve needed a more complex mount. Then you have the difficulty of dealing with the wiring having to get around the lip and so on and so forth.

      We also considered on top of the bumper where the old lights were. But, again, the lack of a flat surface would’ve made constructing the mounts more difficult.

      I agree that there is a definite airflow sacrifice here. In towing performance thus far we have not seen any issues with the transmission temps, and the light bar is more blocking airflow to the extra trans cooler than the radiator. The vans are not intercooled. Once the summer comes on and we make longer tows we’ll get a better idea as to whether or not it’s a problem. Fortunately it’s just four bolts to undo and one wiring connection and the light bar is removed if it turns out to be a problem.

      There’s also the roof 🙂

    2. Isn’t this a diesel? Can’t see how you would need that much cooling unless you were running it during the day in the middle of the desert.

      1. It is a diesel, but it’s used primarily for towing, so the transmission cooling is somewhat important. It does routinely get into the 90F range here in the South East, and there are a couple of decent mountain climbs depending on which direction you head (for example, Monteagle between Chattanooga and Nashville). That being said, I’d think that this is not going to make a meaningful difference in cooling. Fortunately I have the Edge CTS2 Insight display to tell me if something is wrong!

  2. Wow, the light output from the headlights looks great! Hopefully you got em aimed right 😉 Give that red wire +12v im guessing and you got yourself some cool DRL!

    1. @3phase_power – I actually didn’t hook up the DRL. I am not a huge fan of them and I would’ve had to hack up some wiring to get something to work. The van has enough of a hackjob of wiring going on, I don’t need to add to it 😉

  3. Oh wow! Eric, I think you’ve given me my next project for my E450 tow vehicle. Have you tried the 5 star tuning upgrade on your E350 that I did four years back (mine is gas). Long term analysis – I really like it! The mini LED project that I did was to change all of the E450 RV’s interior lights to LED – literally a night and day difference on brightness plus a huge saving on the duration of charge held by the RV cabin batteries. Plus I replaced my outside ‘porch’ light with two LEDs. I put one at the front and one at the back. Now if I need to do some night work on the car, I’ve got superb lighting.

      1. @Frank Ewald Which 5Star upgrade are you referring to? The Van is a weird 7.3 Powerstroke in that the ECU is different than the Ford trucks of the same years and some of the PIDs are different. This is why the Edge programmer (Evolution) version of the Insight wasn’t used — Edge claimed they couldn’t program the van. I do have a much older Edge tuner that came with the Van and I have supposedly programmed it for “towing” (Level 1) mode. I’m not entirely sure how much difference it made because I never really compared it back-to-back.

        As for the interior lights, I am definitely considering upgrading everything to LED. It is quite dark in there.

        As for back-up, well, you’ll have to wait and see! (pun intended)

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