Trailer lights, tricks to keep working?

fishonfishon Posts: 926 Officer
I have trailered boats for 25 years and the lighting still suck. I have put the lights on the PVC up rights and had great success. But the Boat I have at this time is wide, with a wide trailer. I do not wish to add PVC guides as I know it will cause a problem being to wide. So I am stuck using traditional LED submersible lights. All of my wire joints are good, but the lights are failing, either just not working more than a few months or they fill with water and do not work until they dry, so no lights on the way home. At home I go to replace the bad light and it has started to work properly as it had dried out? Do any of you have any thoughts or tricks to keep my trailer lighter working? It seems, I have to work on them every two or three trips. Now one fills with water upon launching the boat and is worthless until it drys? Thanks. Tomm
All fresh water use.
Triton 1870 Bay Sport, 115 merc. 4/stroke,
Fish Shallow saltwater, lakes central Fl. And Lake Oconee Ga.
Live in Lakeland

Replies

  • polliwogpolliwog Posts: 202 Deckhand
    I'm not sure why guides will cause an issue,since mine are right up against the rub rails. Is 5 inches that big a deal? I found the only way to solve your issue is to keep the lights out of the water and have the only connection at the light. I'm at 5yrs and no issues. You might try to find a fully sealed light and then use heat shrink connectors and another heat shrink tube over the whole connection. I'm surprised the fresh water has caused so much trouble, my earlier trouble was corrosion from salt incursion.
  • capt louiecapt louie citrus countyPosts: 9,054 Moderator
    My only thought is this...

    Why not fiber optic trailer lights ?? No stupid fuses,electric bulbs or wires.. Hook to the tail lights. (the ones that almost always work)..
    Please send my royalty checks asap ..
    "You'll get your weather"
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 6,786 Admiral
    I could never get the submersible ones to last either. Didn't matter, heat shrink, soddering connections, nothing worked. I rewired the trailer with household extension cord, ran it up the guides, and mounted the lights on the top of the guide on posts. That was almost a year ago to the day, posted about it on here with pictures as well.

    And my guide ons don't stick out further than anything else on the boat TBH, i don't think that would be a problem unless you're towing a triple axle 35' boat with a 10'beam. But most anything else, that 1" on each side isn't going to make much if any difference in anything.
    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • Rich MRich M Posts: 638 Officer
    Can't submerge the lights - it does stuff to the connections/crimps and the ground.

    Seems like 90% of my trailer light issues is ground related. 10% bulbs going. We've had good success with magnetic lights and other non-submersible lights rigged free of the trailer - we hang em on the boat...

    WD-40 on the ball also helps ground the trailer to the vehicle.
  • smooth movesmooth move Posts: 369 Deckhand
    i use the magnetic ones from harbor freight. i put a plug on the wiring at the rear of the trailer and unplug them and put them in the tool box before i launch. put em back on after i take the boat out of the water. if i need to run a long distance, i put tie wraps on em. a big bump will knock em off.
    le se' bon ton roulet
  • pottydocpottydoc Posts: 1,747 Captain
    Rich M wrote: »
    Can't submerge the lights - it does stuff to the connections/crimps and the ground.

    Seems like 90% of my trailer light issues is ground related. 10% bulbs going. We've had good success with magnetic lights and other non-submersible lights rigged free of the trailer - we hang em on the boat...

    WD-40 on the ball also helps ground the trailer to the vehicle.
    This. ^ Except, don't have ven bother trying to use the ball as a ground. Go to Home Depot and buy one of the 16 gauge 3 wire extension cords. Get one over twice as long as the trailer. Cut it in half, and run it to the guides then up through them. Mount them on the guides, hook the white wire to the tail lights, the black to the turn/brake lights, and the green to the bolt holding the light to the guide. Re pat on the othe side, then hook the flat connector to the proper wires, with the green going to the white ground. That way you are directly grounded to the vehicle. We have variety us assorted trailers, and pretty much never have any issues with any of them.
  • K-DawgK-Dawg Posts: 115 Deckhand
    The lights should be grounded directly to the plug. Grounding to the trailer WILL give you hell. Most good LED trailer lights are potted circuit boards, so they shouldn't let any water into the electronics. Over-tightening the lights to the trailer can crack the housings. Other than a plain and rare failure, you shouldn't be having any problems if you ground directly to the plug, seal all connections with adhesive lined heatshrink tubing, and don't over-tighten.
  • Alex from GAAlex from GA Posts: 1,084 Officer
    I have used several ways to combat the light problem. One is the removable light bar that I bungee to the boat and remove it before launching. Another is LED lights. Getting wet doesn't hurt them. Another is to drill a hole in the bottom of the lights and let the water out. Another is unplug the lights from the truck before launching. One more is to run the white wire to each of the tail lights and not using the trailer as a ground. I do have lights on pvc poles, and they never get under water, on one of my boats. These have lasted well over a year with launching at least a couple times a week.
  • aboveboredabovebored Posts: 1,222 Officer
    Many great recommendations on this thread. Thanks guys.
  • SaltySardineSaltySardine Posts: 140 Deckhand
    silicone...seal the all loving **** out of the lights you dunk. Works great. If water can't get in it..then it cant corrode.

    Also, one thing I always wanted to try...get that rope light which is cheap..and run it all long the trailer. take some shrink rap which is also cheap and run it on the parts you dont want to light up. That way, the only wire connections you have are at the tongue of the trailer and the rest is 100% waterproof rope light. Splice it into the wiring harness. Should work great
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 6,786 Admiral
    pottydoc wrote: »
    This. ^ Except, don't have ven bother trying to use the ball as a ground. Go to Home Depot and buy one of the 16 gauge 3 wire extension cords. Get one over twice as long as the trailer. Cut it in half, and run it to the guides then up through them. Mount them on the guides, hook the white wire to the tail lights, the black to the turn/brake lights, and the green to the bolt holding the light to the guide. Re pat on the othe side, then hook the flat connector to the proper wires, with the green going to the white ground. That way you are directly grounded to the vehicle. We have variety us assorted trailers, and pretty much never have any issues with any of them.

    I have a dedicated ground wire as well. The ones that ground to the trailer always rust or corrode no matter what you do
    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • surfmansurfman WC FLPosts: 3,525 Captain
    capt louie wrote: »
    My only thought is this...

    Why not fiber optic trailer lights ?? No stupid fuses,electric bulbs or wires.. Hook to the tail lights. (the ones that almost always work)..
    Please send my royalty checks asap ..

    Good idea.
    Tight Lines, Steve
    My posts are my opinion only.
  • surfmansurfman WC FLPosts: 3,525 Captain
    I have a dedicated ground wire as well. The ones that ground to the trailer always rust or corrode no matter what you do

    Yes!
    Tight Lines, Steve
    My posts are my opinion only.
  • fishonfishon Posts: 926 Officer
    All good advise, add two more tips. I have another ground wire coming off the truck frame to the Boat frame, connected with a male/female. All joins are connected with 3m silicone filled connectors. Connectors are never the weak link, so it is the lighting fixture! So I will be putting the lighting fixture on trailer guides and be done with it. Good three, thanks.
    Triton 1870 Bay Sport, 115 merc. 4/stroke,
    Fish Shallow saltwater, lakes central Fl. And Lake Oconee Ga.
    Live in Lakeland
  • Gary SGary S Posts: 508 Officer
    There are only two types of lights that I have found that last. The first one is a totally sealed light that is on my 1979 hitchhiker trailer.The weak spot is the plug in the back. I plug it in uncover it with grease.
    The second is a dry launch light. It is open on the bottom and the light bulb is on a slide and wiring is made up on terminals. When you back the trailer in the housing traps it full of air and no water enters. Been using it for years on bully net boat and air boats.
    Not a fan of leds . I see the all the time with some burnt out.

    boathttps://cdn.boatersplus.com/images/thumbnails/280/280/product/36/5801271.jpg
  • MelbourneMarkMelbourneMark Posts: 1,235 Officer
    I used an old extension cord that had a cut plug. I ran the 3wire down each side of the trailer, and thru my guide on posts. I mounted lights on my guide on posts. The 3rd wire is a direct ground to the tow truck, at the plug.
    Haven't had to touch the lights in ~8 years. I had to replace the plug once, as I damaged it by accident.

    Whatever you do, run a 3rd wire for ground to each light!!!
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 6,786 Admiral
    I used an old extension cord that had a cut plug. I ran the 3wire down each side of the trailer, and thru my guide on posts. I mounted lights on my guide on posts. The 3rd wire is a direct ground to the tow truck, at the plug.
    Haven't had to touch the lights in ~8 years. I had to replace the plug once, as I damaged it by accident.

    Whatever you do, run a 3rd wire for ground to each light!!!

    Did the same thing and every time I hook up to the trailer, i hit the flashers just to remind myself that i don't have to eff with those stupid trailer lights anymore! Man I hated trailer lights.
    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • shempshemp Posts: 435 Deckhand
    1) always unplug lights when backing in and hauling out.
    2) run wires in any kind of plastic or poly or pvc conduit you can...a little abrasion in the wires and + water = problems
    3) use LIQUID ELECTRICAL TAPE on every seam, screw, connection near / at the lights. This is 100% better than silicone IMO
    4) your lights will probably still be a p in the a...I have never been able to avoid headaches with trailer wiring and boat wiring. Good luck
  • finbullyfinbully Posts: 412 Deckhand
    di-elecrtic grease is your friend here...
  • fishonfishon Posts: 926 Officer
    More friendly and easiest and best wire connectors. You will never use anything else!
    Been using for years.

    3M Scotchlok 314 IDC Pigtail Electrical Connector Blue tops.

    Put the lights on trailer guides this weekend. No more weak link in lighting!
    Triton 1870 Bay Sport, 115 merc. 4/stroke,
    Fish Shallow saltwater, lakes central Fl. And Lake Oconee Ga.
    Live in Lakeland
  • pottydocpottydoc Posts: 1,747 Captain
    For y'all still coming up.with ways other than a direct ground, and getting your lights out of the water, you're going to still have problems. 99.9% of light troubles are ground issues. Direct ground to each light, Hooke to the white wire on the trailer plug, and then the white wire on the vehicle plug hooked to the frame, and you'll take care of almost all problems. Use liquid electric tape, quality heat seal connectors, and get the lights out of the water, and the only thing left is a bulb every few years.
  • Alex from GAAlex from GA Posts: 1,084 Officer
    I bought some LED replacements for 1157 bulbs. They came from China and were really cheap with no shipping. I've been using them in a trailer for over a year now. I think they were something like $1 each or maybe $2.
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 8,512 Admiral
    edited January 25 #24

    You got all of the good tips above:

    • separate grounds
    • high quality butt connectors with dielectric
    • cover all connections with liquid electrical tape, then heat shrink (protip: buy a heat gun)
    • (try to remember to) unplug when you load/unload

    Using the above, it has been 6 years since I touched my trailer lights. So far so good.

  • The Cat's EyeThe Cat's Eye Posts: 1,091 Officer

    When re-wiring coil extra wire at both sides of all connections so when a connection fails you can just cut off the bad stuff and make a new connection without much trouble. Also use marine wire on the entire trailer..... it makes a BIG difference.

    Giimoozaabi
  • The Cat's EyeThe Cat's Eye Posts: 1,091 Officer

    When re-wiring coil extra wire at both sides of all connections so when a connection fails you can just cut off the bad stuff and make a new connection without much trouble. Also use marine wire on the entire trailer..... it makes a BIG difference.

    Giimoozaabi
  • FlecFlec Posts: 403 Deckhand

    I bought a new boat/motor/trailer 3 years ago (small at boat) and had light problems after only 4/5 months. Most manufacturers don't care as long as they work when they are sold. After that it is not their problem. I have to clean the connections about once a month to keep mine working. Yes, mostly the white ground connections.

  • pottydocpottydoc Posts: 1,747 Captain

    @shemp said:
    1) always unplug lights when backing in and hauling out.
    2) run wires in any kind of plastic or poly or pvc conduit you can...a little abrasion in the wires and + water = problems
    3) use LIQUID ELECTRICAL TAPE on every seam, screw, connection near / at the lights. This is 100% better than silicone IMO
    4) your lights will probably still be a p in the a...I have never been able to avoid headaches with trailer wiring and boat wiring. Good luck

    If you run the wires in conduit of any kind, make sure one end is higher than the other, and that there are no low spots in it. Otherwise, it will hold water in the pipe, and sooner or later it will get into the wires and cause a short.

  • SloughSlough S.w. Ga./ St. JamesPosts: 3,194 Captain

    Use liquid tape and heat shrinks at all connections. Make sure you have good grounds.

  • m9000m9000 Posts: 1,954 Captain
    edited February 3 #30

    High quality, waterproof LED lights

    Use Anchor wire about 2 gauges higher than specified for the length of the wire run and the amperage

    All connections made with high quality, heat shrink connectors and then use heat shrink tubing with adhesive over the the connectors. Get a racheting crimper and heat gun.

    Dedicated ground wire for each light –never, never- let me repeat that, never ground to the trailer frame.

    Never ever use those connectors that break the wire insulation.

    My trailer lights are submerged with each launch and have been in use for 10 years. They still work.

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