PDA

View Full Version : Trailer Rewiring


Rockman
03-15-2005, 02:15 PM
One project that has been on my "To-Do" list for the last year or so was to get all the lights on our trailer working properly. The trailer is in good condition as it is garaged all the time. Our boat sits on our lift for most of the season.

When we bought our BF200 in 1996, from day one, the lights on the trailer never worked properly. Since we didn't do much trailering back then, it wasn't a big deal. Now that we have a full size pickup, we have done alot of trailering.

My first idea was to just take it to the general boat dealer in town and have them fix it, whatever the probelms may be. It is a good shop but I am afraid of getting raked over the coals and a bill for $1,500 for labor, etc. I could just buy a new trailer for that much. My other idea was to do it myself but I have not had much experience with lights on the trailer or truck. I have installed fog lights and backup lights, but that is about it.

The problems we had were that the running lights on the trailer do not work at all, so traveling at night is not a good thing. The directionals work fine. The brake lights work fine.

So what does everyone suggest? Is rewiring the trailer feasible to do? Or should I try to troubleshoot my problems first and then as a last resort, rewire the whole thing myself or have the dealer do it?

The truck we have is a 2500HD with the HD towing package and all the light attachments, etc.

Thanks in advance for your help!

RM

jsonova99
03-15-2005, 02:32 PM
Good question, I gave up on mine and ordered a new trailer. I had no lights working, a fair amount of rust, an no place to work on it.

jake
03-15-2005, 02:34 PM
The lights on a trailer are about the simplest wiring problem you could take on. Would probably take a day and cost $25 to start over and run new wires to everything (assuming your actual fixtures are good). I'm going to do the same this summer and do good soldered connections rather than the cheap 3M crimp connections (which are the source of my problems).

Driv3r
03-15-2005, 02:38 PM
A friend of mine and I rewired my Prostar 205 trailer in approximately 2 hours. I had one bad lighting element that needed to be replaced, but that was it. Then, for good measure, I sold it and got the 05 X-30 as a replacement

Driv3r
03-15-2005, 02:52 PM
IIRC.
1. disconnected all lights, labelling wires as we went,
2. Tagged, with masking tape (all we had) the ends of the old wires with their functions (Brake - L, Brake - R, etc.)
3. Taped and tied new wire to old at the rear of the trailer.
4. Pulled old wires out, thus pulling new wires in.
5. Pulled large slack loops in leg wires for fender mounted clearance lights. (So we would have enough wire to wire them in)
6. Spliced running lights in and crimped connectors on.
7. Remounted Brake light elements
8. Spliced new 4 element plug onto hitch end.

Hope this helps

FrankSchwab
03-15-2005, 02:57 PM
Here's (http://www.easternmarine.com/em_store/tech_info/light_tech.html#wiring) a good diagram of the standard 4-wire trailer lighting. It's probably a half-hour job for someone who knows what they're doing, an hour job if you want it to last forever (soldering connections rather than crimping, etc).

The easy way is to go down to Pep Boys (or the equivalent auto-parts store in town), and get a trailer-wiring pigtail (http://shop.easternmarine.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=catalog.prodInfo&productID=4983&categoryID=209) . It'll have the four-position plug on it, and 25 feet or so of wire to stretch to the rear lights.

The only tricky part is that, if your trailer is like mine, you have an extra set of red clearance lights on the side of the trailer, and an extra set of taillights. Wire the extra red clearance lights the same as the amber clearance lights shown, and wire the extra set of taillights the same as the displayed lights.

Connecting the wires together is relatively easy. The cheap, easy, but not long-lasting approach is to use the crimp-on splices that they'll sell where you bought the wiring harness. There are cylindrical ones that attach two wires together:
Butt connectors (http://www.radioshack.com/product.asp?catalog%5Fname=CTLG&category%5Fname=CTLG%5F011%5F003%5F004%5F000&product%5Fid=64%2D3111)
as well as devices meant to clip onto an existing wire to provide a second tap (the way the clearance lights are wired:
Splice tap (http://shop.easternmarine.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=catalog.prodInfo&productID=5049&categoryID=211)

The better way is to solder the wire connectors together, and use heat-shrink tubing or a gob of electrical tape to insulate the joint.

All in all, not a difficult job. If the wiring in your trailer is currently in good condition, it'll be easier and cheaper to just have someone figure out what's wrong; from the diagram, you can see that it's probably a problem with the brown wire. It might be a problem in your vehicle; in my explorer, the running lights are on a seperate fuse from the brake/turn signals. Since it appears that you have had the problem in two different vehicles, there are two possibilities that leap to mind:
1. There is a short in the brown wire that blows the fuse in your vehicle
2. The brown wire is simply broken someplace.
Diagnosis should be quick and easy.
1. Is there 12 volts present at the vehicle's connector at the brown position when you have the vehicle lights on? If not, check the fuse block - if the fuse is blown, there's probably a short in the brown wire on the trailer.
2. If there is 12 volts at the vehicle connector, then the brown wire is probably broken. Find out where (follow it all the way back on both sides), and using one of the butt connectors, fix it.

Good luck,

/frank

rem_pss308
03-15-2005, 03:12 PM
I concur with above. It doesnt take that long to redue everything.
Less than $50.00 to replace all four lights, gaskets, and the light bar in the center undernieth. New plug, and wires.
I would solder all connections, and use heat shrink.
It will last a long time after that.

If you want to repair your existing setup, then get a volt meter, and check at the plug on the vehicle first. if everything is working properly there, then check the wires a few inches back from the trailor plug.
The volt meter should have metal points and they can be inserted into the wire to get a connection.
if everything is working there. then go back to the first light, and check it, then the next, and so on. Check both sides of the butt connections. You will probably find that the electricity is not going thru the butt connections due to corrosion. or that the light assembly's are bad.

Hope this helped some.

Lance
03-15-2005, 03:36 PM
Concur with all that has been said. This should be within your grasp if you have wired up fog lights. Of course you have to keep track of more than plus and minus but not much more.

The one problem that I have had on my trailer is that the ground wire on the trailer side (white) was clipped off and not connected to anything. The ground was established through the hitch itself which was not ideal. I might not remember the resulting symptom exactly correctly but basically when I turned on one of the blinkers the alternate taillight would blink at the same time. Somehow the alternate taillight was being used as a grounding path back to the vehicle.

I fixed the problem by clamping a fairly heavy guage wire (like 14 guage) with alligator clips at each end between the trailer and vehicle. This solved the problem but was just one more thing to do.

I rarely trailer my boat now so haven't done any more with it. I believe the correct solution would be to connect that white pigtail to the trailer frame.

Bottom line, if you see funky problems like this make sure your ground is good.

MarkP
03-15-2005, 04:31 PM
One project that has been on my "To-Do" list for the last year or so was to get all the lights on our trailer working properly. The trailer is in good condition as it is garaged all the time. Our boat sits on our lift for most of the season.

When we bought our BF200 in 1996, from day one, the lights on the trailer never worked properly. Since we didn't do much trailering back then, it wasn't a big deal. Now that we have a full size pickup, we have done alot of trailering.

My first idea was to just take it to the general boat dealer in town and have them fix it, whatever the probelms may be. It is a good shop but I am afraid of getting raked over the coals and a bill for $1,500 for labor, etc. I could just buy a new trailer for that much. My other idea was to do it myself but I have not had much experience with lights on the trailer or truck. I have installed fog lights and backup lights, but that is about it.

The problems we had were that the running lights on the trailer do not work at all, so traveling at night is not a good thing. The directionals work fine. The brake lights work fine.

So what does everyone suggest? Is rewiring the trailer feasible to do? Or should I try to troubleshoot my problems first and then as a last resort, rewire the whole thing myself or have the dealer do it?

The truck we have is a 2500HD with the HD towing package and all the light attachments, etc.

Thanks in advance for your help!

RM
Rockman

Those side markers are crap. If all else works you could just about bet money its just the ground on the marker lights. Get a new bulb and go around to each marker and clean up and or re-attach the ground..

east tx skier
03-15-2005, 05:30 PM
Rockman, with such good advice, it really boils down to whether or not you're up to the job. If you're up to it, you've got plenty of instruction right here. If you're not up to it though, you don't have to take it to a dealer. On some issues, your local auto mechanic or trailer shop will probably be happy to do the job and most times, will let you furnish the parts, many of which can be obtained at Wal*Mart.

OhioProstar
03-15-2005, 05:38 PM
I think I comes down to how many beers you have in the fridge.

SkySkiSpokane
03-15-2005, 05:57 PM
If you don't want to do it find a buddy who is willing and pay him in beer. A marina will charge a ridiculous amount for a simple job. I have done it with no sweat at all. Just a little patience. Good Luck! :)

AirJunky
03-15-2005, 06:10 PM
Funny you mention that, Dave. Sunday I found the pup had chewed the 4flat off the trailer & I got to spend a few minutes installing a new plug. Had to replace a brake light & a side marker to complete it. All in all, it was a 2 beer job......

Bongo
03-15-2005, 07:38 PM
Rockman,

You've gotten a wealth of good advice in this thread, both to replace the whole works as well as diagnosing the problem.

If it were mine...I'd try to diagnose the current set-up before going whole hog with replacement wiring.

First, make sure the plug on your pick-up is live when it should be. If it isn't, you'll need to address this whether or not you start fresh. As mentioned, there might be a short in the trailer wire that is causing a fuse to blow. Regardless, you'd hate to rewire the trailer and fine out you've still got the problem.

Second, I'll echo what Lance says. The most overlooked problem with automotive wiring is a good ground. Most people pay attention to the hot wire and ignore the ground. So make sure the ground (white wire on the trailer) is connected well to your trailer. Even if it looks good, I generally disconnect, check and reconnect the ground. And a bad ground might affect different circuits differently, since some might have an alternate ground they "found".

Third, follow the hot (brown) wire and test it at the various points.

Heck, its already been a one beer job just thinking through this post. :)

Good luck.

Bongo

captkidd
03-16-2005, 10:35 AM
I posted this on the "Off Topic" section, but it fits better here.

I have a utility trailer that I recently rewired because the lights didn't work consistently. Now they're consistent, but they're consistently not working. I've got power coming through the plug at all 3 of the wires (rt. turn/stop, lft. turn/stop, and tail), but no power at the lights. My guess is that my lights are not grounded sufficiently. I ran the ground wire from the plug to a terminal lug that I screwed to the trailer tongue, but I'm thinking I may have to extend this ground wire to all the lights as well. I used my little cheap-o tester (alligator clip with a wire running to a metal probe with a light bulb in the handle) and attached it to the trailer frame; when I touched the metal lead going to the clearance light, the clearance light came on very dimly but the tester light did not. Does this sound normal?

milkmania
03-16-2005, 11:20 AM
Last year I started soldering EVERY connection I've made on just about everything then used Liquid Electrical Tape on all the connections.

works well

http://www.aquaticeco.com//images/items/SX13_rgb.jpg

even used it on my anchor rope...
ran the rope through the anchor eyelet, laid the loose end of the rope against the main rope, wrapped it well with nylon twine, then coated the whole thing with liquid electrical tape.... kinda extreme, but I was bored:purplaugh

but, now the loose end of the rope is secured and no loose ends

whitedog
03-16-2005, 11:36 AM
Rockman and CaptKidd

As hs been said here before, check the ground connections, should be the first thing. I pull a trailer all winter, not boat trailer though, need to rewire parts of it at least once a year, usually the ground connection goes bad somewhere. Also check the connection of each bulb for corrosion. The whole process should not take more than 2 or 3 beers.

If anyone is doing a complete rewire and new fixtures I would recomend switching to the new LED style, brighter and no bulbs to burn out.

IMO that liquid tape over soldered connections is a must.

milkmania
03-16-2005, 11:44 AM
the liquid tape also waterproofs, and keep air out so there's no oxidation on the connections I've pulled apart (for others reasons)

it also helps seal around the rubber grommets, because I've seen a few that are not water tight.

Rockman
03-16-2005, 01:15 PM
Thanks for all the good advice.

I am going to trouble-shoot the problem first by checking the grounds. That may be the cause as I remember one of the side marker wire were not too good. :(

If not, the whole thing is getting rewired! Anyone in for a day of cocktails in Chicago? :D

Thanks again for the 411...

whitedog
03-16-2005, 01:18 PM
If your north of chicago I would be up for a couple of cold ones.:)

Rockman
03-16-2005, 01:24 PM
Whitedog,

The boat and trailer are actually north of you in Wautoma.

A summer project will be marked on the calendar. I'll keep ya updated.

whitedog
03-16-2005, 05:43 PM
Whitedog,

The boat and trailer are actually north of you in Wautoma.

A summer project will be marked on the calendar. I'll keep ya updated.
Rockman, just keep me posted. Not all that far. What lake are you on there?

Rockman
03-16-2005, 06:11 PM
Whitedog,

We are on Little Hills which is good for the weekdays since no one is on it but Silver Lake is across the street and is good for early am footin since the lake is narrow and long. Ours is more circular with a shallow bay.

Rockman
09-07-2005, 02:25 PM
Well,

Did alot of skiing on vacation and didn't get a chance to look at the trailer lights at all, can you blame me? The weather was awesome and the trailer was in the garage most of vacation.

BUT, I did notice something strange last week when I grabbed ERK's ProStar from his house. He was already out on the river with another group but we needed his boat to ski as well.

When I hooked up my wire harness from my 02 2500HD Silverado which has the heavy duty tow package, the day-time running lights were on the truck, but the trailer did not light up. I turned the lights "ON" in the truck but nothing changed. The brake lights and the directionals worked but the running lights didn't. This is the same problem I have with my trailer! :confused:

I looked in the owners manual for my truck and it says that I have the 5 or 8 wire system (rear brake de-activator included). The factory only provides an adapter for a 4 wire system. So I have all the wiring from the truck I need, I just need to match it up with the trailer, right?

I do think I will need to pick up a different adaptor to plug into the truck. I will need one that has more outputs !? :confused: The one I have is a round adaptor with a cutout on the top having 4 outputs to the trailer.

Anyone who has a Chevy/GMC gone through this already?

Any advice would be appreciated. I don't want to spend any money I don't have...but am willing to spend the money on the right parts.

Thanks in advance for your help! :toast:

Kevin 89MC
09-07-2005, 02:50 PM
If yours is like mine on my '04 Trailblazer, I made my own converter. I have a round 7 pin connector at the truck. The convertors sold locally was like the adaptor you have: the round barrel with the 4 pin on the back. That should work fine, but my trailer harness is not nearly long enough to reach it. I did not want a separate pigtail, so I bought a barrel connector and a 4 pin with 2' of wire attached to it, and wired that to the barrel connector. Works great so far.
Good luck,
Kevin

whitedog
09-07-2005, 03:02 PM
I have the same set up as you. I also have about 5 adaptors due to differnt trailers I pull. Just got to Napa or someplace and pick up the plug you need. Under $20.00.

Rockman
09-09-2005, 10:41 AM
Well,

Picked up a new 7-4 adaptor and also a new 7-5 adaptor. Tried them last night and still no go.

Looked at the fuse block on the side of the dash and all ok.

Popped the hood and checked the large fuse panel on the left side of the engine...sure enough...a blown 15 amp TRL fuse. :mad:

All that and a simple fix. :rant: Anyways, thanks for the advice on the trailer wiring...I'm sure the information will benefit others on the board.

Workin' 4 Toys
09-10-2005, 12:53 AM
Yes, but what blew the fuse?

erkoehler
09-10-2005, 09:36 AM
I guess I will have to have you trailer my boat around for me to make sure that your wiring is all fixed :D