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Author Topic:   Trailer Lights (Tow Vehicle Side)
GAwhale posted 02-20-2002 11:56 AM ET (US)   Profile for GAwhale   Send Email to GAwhale  
I'm dreaming about my next tow vehicle. I want to buy a vehicle that has a factory hitch and trailer light hook up.

I have had lots of problems with the lights on my 1999 Ford Taurus Station Wagon.

I am fortunate have a really nice local hitch shop on the South side of Atlanta (Mike's Trailer Hitches and Accessories), and a good neighbor who is an engineer at the Taurus plant in Atlanta.

Twice my trailer receiver scraped and tore off the plug. Mike's finally ran the wire through the spare tire compartment. They did not charge for any of this.

I learned to disconnect my trailer lights before backing into the water. This can blow a fuse.

I have also had intermittent brake light problems on the car. My neighbor said that the the tail light assembly which they wired to is actually a wet cavity. This causes it to sometimes short out on rainy days.

Will all my problems be solved with a factory wired hitch assembly?

Landlocked posted 02-20-2002 12:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for Landlocked  Send Email to Landlocked     
My experience with numerous work boats and company vehicles is that no matter how hard you try, you'll always have trouble with trailer lights.

I wire the lights myself and just make sure I use a good electrical sealant and lots of tape on the connections. The little plastic clips that come with the lights are worthless.

You might consider permenantly installing one of the round plugs in your bumper rather than using a flat plastic connection. Corrosion is a problem with these but pinched wires are usually not.

As far as factory pigtails - I have had about as much trouble with them as hard wiring. Seems about every third trip I have ground problems or something else. I Just schedule a little time before every trip to go over the lights.


Dr T posted 02-20-2002 12:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     
I have had no problems with the Factory class III hitch and light wiring on my 1999 F150. It came as part of the trailer towing package.

I would point out, however, that pickups are designed with towing in mind, your Taurus was not. I have always found trailer wiring in cars to be questionable.

I agree with Landlocked that you want to make sure the wiring in the trailer was done correctly. Given that the boat trailer goes in and out of water, I have used marine grade crimp on connectors (no tape since it will hold water under the tape. With apologies in advance to your local guys, going to someone that does it for a living is no guarantee of a professional job.

SuburbanBoy posted 02-20-2002 01:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
I had a couple of Tauri (sic?). One wagon and one sedan. Very comfortable cars with very good performance. They required much more maintenance than other vehicles I have owned and used in similar environments. They both ended up with brake light switch replacements. Some of your problems may not be related to the trailer wiring. But, it is good practice to not have the trailer wiring as the lowest point on your chassis.


where2 posted 02-20-2002 01:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Considering I never dunk my trailer, you'd think I should encounter almost zero lighting problems. Not so, lighting problems are partly to blame on the poor design of the trailer lights themselves. Jamming a wire through a hole and expecting the copper tab on the side to make a great connection may be fine on the outlets in my house, but has proved to be the main failure point on my trailer lights. (it came with these lights, West and BoatUS both sell them, as does Walmart). Point is, the problem has nothing to do with the car.

Keeping the vehicle pigtail out of the weather keeps it from corroding. The pigtail on the trailer will only stay in equal condition if you keep the trailer indoors. Do-it-yourself lights can be done right, or done wrong, as can the installation by a shop. I wouldn't equate problems with the lights on your '99 Ford to all vehicles. I've had lights wired up on my '90 VW since before you bought your Taurus, and mine still work... I didn't need a VW engineer to wire them up.

In wiring the lights up on my wife's '98 4Runner Sunday night, I found the $35 kit that mates with the factory plugs to be a joy to install. The connections are all made inside the DRY portion of the vehicle behind interior panels. The pigtail will be fished out through the rear door when needed, and stored safely inside when not needed. (99.5% of the time). Considering the way it all went together, I expect we'll go 100k miles before we have any trailer light problems related to the added wiring harness.

triblet posted 02-20-2002 01:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
Trailer lights are always problematic. Check
them every time you hitch up. Turn on the
head lights and four-way flashers, and that
will let you walk around and check with having
a buddy/wife/GF/husband/BF hitting the brakes
and turn signal.

Not disconnecting the lights can also pop bulbs
when hot class hits cold water.

You should be able to do the whole wiring job
on the care without any soldering or crimping
by using one of the kits. These are a LOT
easier and just as good as doing it the hard

I don't like the round plugs as the wire gets
wet and will get wire cancer. I struggled with
one of these for about 8 months, then replaced
it with a flat-four and had zero problems for
the next three years when I traded that truck.

If you have a low vehicle, route the wiring
OVER the receiver rather than under.


WantaWhale posted 02-20-2002 02:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for WantaWhale  Send Email to WantaWhale     
Don't depend on those plastic connectors as they will corrode pretty quickly. I have been testing liquid eletrical tape on some of my connections and so far its working. You can get that at Boatus/west. I also periodly spray down the ends of the connectors with T-9 spray also at boatus/west. As far as a tow vehicles with built in hitch and light hook up's go..I just bought a new truck Saturday called a Tundra. It came with factory installed hitch and lighting connector on hitch. Unfortuanatly I cannot find specifications on it's capacities. Anyone ever heard of a Reese 3855? It's not listed on their website.
Tom W Clark posted 02-20-2002 03:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
As most of us can attest to, trailer lights are a perennial problem on boat trailers. It's hard to get power all the way back there. It is simple enough to splice in a wiring pigtail but even when done perfectly, there is always a lot of resistance by the time you get to the back of the trailer.

HOWEVER, there MAY be a technological improvement on this front. I haven't tested it yet but I am hopeful of this new setup:

My new Toyota Tundra has, what I perceive to be, a much more robust trailer wiring system. The trailer wiring is powered by its own 30A circuit. It only receives signals from the tail lights, not the power from them. This seems so sensible that I wonder why it hasn't been done before. Perhaps it has and I'm not aware of it.

Whether the Tundra is delivered with a "factory" (actually installed at the distributor) trailer wiring pig tail or retrofitted with one, there is a plug installed behind the bumper which you just snap into. No splicing! (though you could if you want to) If you have to buy the pig tail and converter it $170 from your Toyota dealer or about $50 from Draw Tite, U-Haul and others.

andygere posted 02-20-2002 04:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Four things have helped a great deal in my life-long struggle with boat trailer lights:

1) Use a hard ground wire from the trailer to the tow vehicle. Many systems rely on the hitch connection for ground, which is unreliable.

2) Get the trailer lights up and out of the water. Mine are mounted on guide-ons that are never submerged. This has eliminated 90% of the problems I used to have with sumberged lights.

3) I use the old style flat connectors, but I have a dummy connector for both vehicle and trailer to protect them from the elements when not towing. A shot of WD-40 or electrical contact cleaner before capping them really helps as well.

4) Try to eliminate splices and connections if at all possible, but if a splice is neccessary, solder the joint, and seal with glue-impregnated heat-shrink tubing. A layer of electrical tape on the outside adds abrasion resistance.

blackdog posted 02-21-2002 03:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for blackdog  Send Email to blackdog     
I have Factory Class 3 Hitch on my 00 Tacoma. I suspect yours is the same. It should be listed on the window stick if you bought her new.
I have had good luck so far with the Toyota factory wire harness / plug.
lhg posted 02-21-2002 08:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
If you do two things, you'll never have problems with trailer lights again: (except for normal life expectancy of the lamp filaments)

1. Buy and install DRY LAUNCH brand round submersible trailer lights. There is no more reliable brand, period! These are the best. I have totally submerged mine for 16 years, and they never fail, or get the lamp wet. High mounting is not necessary. Not necessary to disconnect harness before launching.

2. Use Clark Robert's method of making spliced wire connections: Use conventional plastic WIRE NUTS, then fill nut cup with silicone caulking.

As long as your wires don't get mechanically crushed or cut, your problems will be over, at least on the trailer side.

simonmeridew posted 02-23-2002 06:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for simonmeridew  Send Email to simonmeridew     
As my 3 year old trailer has tired lights I'm in the market. Where would I get DRY LAUNCH?
Am also looking at LED's, but need to sell my firstborn first.
Tom W Clark posted 02-23-2002 06:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

I agree that Dry Launch lights are the best. I have always used them and given what is on the market, they're the way to go. I still think they could be improved apon by being made more robust. I have bought them before and had the seal be bad. But everything else out there is just crap for boat trailers.

Dry Launch brand lights can be bought just about anywhere including West Marine.

timmyb posted 02-24-2002 11:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for timmyb  Send Email to timmyb     
just to let you know i tow my 86 whaler with a ford escort,never had a problem with the lights. i also did it my self,i got the rear wiring diagram and matched it with the trailer lighting. doesn't take much effort to figure it out. try it yourself and have fun.

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