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Author Topic:   LED Trailer Lights
SuburbanBoy posted 08-06-2002 10:06 AM ET (US)   Profile for SuburbanBoy   Send Email to SuburbanBoy  
My trailer lights began to give me some trouble, so I purchased a new set of LED lights from Cablea's (~$50). I was suprised to discover that they appear to be polarized. If they are wired backwards (positive to negative reversed), they do not function at all. Of course I will not wire them this way but who knows if the original wiring on my two cars is correctly polarized. I will check before I begin the install. They are completely submersible, but must be spliced into the harness. Therefore, I will take appropriate waterproofing steps. More research is required.


JBCornwell posted 08-06-2002 10:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
Howdy, Sub'boy.

Fear not. The lighting in your vehicle is polarized.

The reason the LED lights won't work if connected backward is that LEDs are diodes and will only conduct current one way.

The reason your vehicle is polarized is so that all electric devices can use the chassis as a ground.

Good luck.

Red sky at night. . .
JB :)

KleyP posted 08-06-2002 02:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for KleyP  Send Email to KleyP     
I replaced all the lights on my trailer with LEDs ( (brake/tail lights, and 2 sets of side lights) with no change in wiring. Standard flat 4 prong plug hooked up to 7 pin adapter on my Ford van.

Have worked like a champ for 2+ years...probably highest satisfaction/$ spent!

Taylor posted 08-06-2002 02:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Taylor  Send Email to Taylor     
Yet another reason not to use an MG as a tow vehicle... postive ground. Almost every car *except* MG's are negative ground. Oh all right, avoid Morris Minors, too.
whaleryo posted 08-06-2002 03:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for whaleryo  Send Email to whaleryo     
You'll probably also want to stay away from a Hillman-Minx as a tow vehicle for the same reason (among others)
Dr T posted 08-06-2002 04:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     
How about a Morgan? The car, not the horse.


kingfish posted 08-06-2002 04:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Love those LED's!!

I've had them on my trailer for nearly two years, and am currently thinking about adding three little red clearance LED's to replace my current triple standard light on the rear cross member. With two red tail lights, two raised red tail lights, two mid-trailer amber clearance lights and two rised aft amber clearance lights, my trailer is starting to look like a Peterbilt convoy running at night.

BUT, I want motorists not to be able to misunderstand what I'm doing and what I intend to do both at night and during the day, and LED's do that like nothing else.

BTW, I recently learned something about LED's when I had to replace one in a hurry (I was surprised it failed after less than two years). My initial purchase of LED's was of Piranhas at about $70.00 a pop; they came in the standard truck-type 6" oval grommet or surface-mount type. When I needed a replacement in a hurry just befor a trip, and didn't have time to find or order Piranhas, I went to a local truck parts dealer and bought two matched replacement LED's for about $10.00 apiece. They don't appear to be quite as well built as the Piranhas, but so far they immerse just fine (I disconnect the lights before backing the trailer in as a matter of habit, anyway), they work well, and they are a helluva lot cheaper!


Dr T posted 08-06-2002 05:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     
Was it a dealer specializing in truck parts (BIG truck parts) or could you find the same thing at a regular auto parts store?

Thanks for the information on type of dealer in advance. I have to do this next week, and it will be useful to know where to look.


browning20ga posted 08-06-2002 06:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for browning20ga  Send Email to browning20ga     
You shouldn't have to disconect your trailer wiring if you are using LED's. The only reason to disconect the filiment lightd is the heat they create, when you back into the cold water and hit the brakes the light heats up and KABAM!!! My lights are up high on the guides so I never disconect anymore. I'm sold and will be changing to LED's ASAP just for a brighter light. The local truck stop sounds like a good place to start, thanks for the lead.
kingfish posted 08-06-2002 06:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     

BIG truck parts place - I'm not sure how close you are to Denver, but there'd be a handful of them there, and some (have to look in the yellow pages) here and there near major overland highways, in small towns and in-between.

Standard truck oval, LED or filament, is a little over 6" long by a little over 2" wide, and they both come in a surface mount style with a flange for screws, or a grommet style that needs a rubber grommet to pop into. Be sure to get the pigtail that is available for each light you buy, as the LED's have a nifty little plug that needs the socket on the pigtail for a connection. The wires on the pigtail are 8" or 10" long and you'll connect them to your trailer wires. The right way to make that connection is with heat-shrink butt connectors.

I don't think you'll find LED's at your ordinary car parts places, but may be worth some phone calls.


SuburbanBoy posted 08-06-2002 09:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
It is my assumption that the ground is not carried from the hitch/ball connection, but through the harness plug assembly. Therefore, it is possible that if the harness was incorrectly installed, the LED's may not function. A breif test will confirm correct polarity.

Also, one of my vehicles is English. My CR-V was made at the euro factory in GB. Cheers...


SuburbanBoy posted 08-06-2002 10:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
I almost forgot, the Cabela's lights are setup with built in side lights, something the truck LED's don't appear to have.


grandmufti posted 08-06-2002 10:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for grandmufti  Send Email to grandmufti     
The Cabela lights also have a built in license plate light on the left side light.White light shines down on plate.
kingfish posted 08-07-2002 07:57 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
I think I have seen the LED's in Cabella's - they are sort of square, like the typical trailer light?? I was intrigued by them due to the added license plate light as grandmufti mentioned - lighting the license plate is a challenge with truck-type LED's. The side lights mentioned by SuburbanBoy are also a nifty addition. I developed side lights by adding seperate clearance lights on my rig.


SuburbanBoy posted 08-07-2002 09:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
They are round, and include the side lights, and the license plate light. The kit also includes a license plate bracket, trailer wire, and the plug for the car side as well. The hardware is claimed to be all stainless.


Dr T posted 08-07-2002 01:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     

Thanks for the information and heads-up on the pigtail.

I used to solder and heat shrink the wiring connections. Lately I have started using the Marine crimp on connectors. It is a bit faster. I am not familiar with the connectors you refer to--but I haven't looked very hard at this issue.


triblet posted 08-07-2002 10:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
There are TWO reasons to disconnect the
trailer harness before dunking the trailer:

The hot bulbs on cold water may crack. Yes,
LEDs do fix this.

Electrolysis. LEDs don NOT fix this.


kingfish posted 08-07-2002 11:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     

Ancor makes marine heat-shrink butt connectors in a variety of sizes - I usually use a kitchen match to cause the shrink (they are also cement lined; the heat temporarily liquifies a cement that bonds the heat-shrunk butt connector sleeve to the wire insulation for a truly water-proof connection). Kitchen matches leave black stains on the connector and insulation though, and when I'm feeling anal I'll carefully use a propane torch or dream about a mini-propane torch made just for that sort of thing.

I'm pretty sure the Ancor heat-shrink butt connectors are sold in small quantities in West marine; also check out the Ancor website.


kingfish posted 08-07-2002 11:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
And Chuck-

Thanks for the comment about electrolysis - it's nice to find occasionally that one of my obsessive behaviors is actually good for something...


Backlash posted 08-08-2002 08:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for Backlash  Send Email to Backlash     

As John says, the Ancor heat-shrink butt connectors are the best available. I've used matches and lighters to shrink, but I've found a heat gun does the best job and doesn't discolor the connector. West has these in 3 packs for about $3.00. Pricey but well worth the money.


Dr T posted 08-08-2002 04:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     
Thanks for the source on the connectors. And, I use a heat gun to shrink the heat shrink stuff. It is much cleaner, and you can also use the the thing to strip paint and varnish.


daverdla posted 08-09-2002 04:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for daverdla  Send Email to daverdla     
I've used the anchor heat shrink crimp connectors. They are expensive but worth it.

My 62 Morgan is positive ground. I think even the British switched to negative ground by the late sixties. I had a 73 TR6 and a 72 MGB that were both negative ground. I can't remember but I think my brother's 69 MGBGT was negative ground.

Whaleryo - you must know cars. I hope I can my deposit back on that Hillman:)


KleyP posted 08-10-2002 08:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for KleyP  Send Email to KleyP     
Pls excuse my ignorance, but why would elelectrolysis be a concern for the 10 minutes the trailer is in the water, once a week?
triblet posted 08-12-2002 12:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
You can probably shrink the Ancor heat shrink
with a hairdryer and patience, but it's been
a long time (and way pre-boating and finding
Ancor) since I've tried. Now I have a
cheap heat shrink gun at home, a REAL one
(110V, 20A plug (won't plug into most
outlets) in the lab at work.

Electrolysis is a problem because there's
lots of current available from the car, as
opposed to the more normal boating
electolysis where it's millivolts due to
disimilar metals.

I suspect you could etch away some
significant stuff in ten minutes with the
tail lights on.


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