Friggin' Trailer Lights - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-19-2010   #1
Thronton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 668
Friggin' Trailer Lights

With all of the posts regarding trailers, I've always been happy to report how much I like my fold up utility trailer. However...

Last season, coming home from a trip at night, I noticed my left tail light on the trailer wasn't working. It checked out before I left, but at a gas station it wasn't working. When I went to fix it, I realized the issue only occurred when the headlights were on. All other scenarios, all of the lights on the trailer function correctly. With the headlights on, the left light does nothing - no brake light, no turn signal and no running light. All other lights function like they should.

So, I replaced the lgiht itself. No good. Then I notice some wiring got pinched, so I replaced the wiring. Still nothing. So from the research I have done, almost all things seem to lead to a bad ground. The problem is, nobody has a solution to the bad ground! I've tried grounding the trailer harness 3 different places, all with the same result.

I am wondering if the bad ground is a result of the trailer being of the folding variety. the frame isn't a continuous piece of steel, it has a hinge on either side. Parts that do touch are painted, so they wouldn't provide much in the way of continuity. Am I on o something? Has anyone with this type of trailer experienced this? What did you do to solve it?

I think I am going to try and run a ground wire from each light back to the harness directly, rather than ground to the frame. The lights don't have a ground wire, so my assumption is that the moutning bolts are to provide the gorund, so I plan to un my ground wire off of a mounting bolt at the light end.

Any other suggestions on how to get my stupid tail light working?

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Old 07-19-2010   #2
Evergreen, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 128
I have problems with the lights on my cheapo 4x8 trailer as well, but mine were tied to my trucks wiring, not the trailer. The guy who wired my camper top took a shortcut to get it done..
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Old 07-19-2010   #3
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,598
You should check the outputs from your vehicle converter first. When troubleshooting, always start from the beginning and determine what is right. This summer we've had the converter on both our truck and van go out (one was left/brake, other was right/brake) so that does happen.

Check out this site. It helped me identify our trailer problem, but I ended up rewiring it anyways. Once you've got a repair or two (splice), you might as well start fresh. You can get a nice wiring harness from a trailer supply store so you can have one continuous wire from your 4prong all the way to your lights.

Other than that it IS almost always a bad ground. Try filing some paint off, or drilling a hole so you get good contact to bare metal. If that doesn't work, the bad ground problem is probably not in the attachment, it may be in the ground wiring, the actual light fixture, or whatnot.

Trailer Wiring Diagrams |

I don't think you should go adding wiring/grounds, you will only complicate the matter, it probably won't fix it, and then you'll never be able to troubleshoot it.

Good luck, be patient, and welcome to TRAILER HELL.

And thanks for the foldup beta. I had been wanting one, but after trailer hell and other misc vehicle problems this summer, I DO NOT want another vehicular device! More shit to fix!
Living in Montana, boating in Idaho
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Old 07-20-2010   #4
Thronton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 668
I bought one of those plug in testers, and the vehicle end checks out on that.

I aldo replced the entire wiing on the trailer itself, so there are no splices or anything, it's new and all one piece.

That site is where I actually bought the trailer from! LOL

While this wiring issue has been hell, I still really like the trailer otherwise. It's perfect for me because I don't have anywhere to store a trailer other than my garage, so I can fold it up, put it of to the side, and get my cars in the garage too. I can still use it during the day without any issues, I just don't want a ticket at night, otherwise I wouldn't even worry aout the lights. LOL If I come up with a solution, I'll make sure I share it for those that are looking at one of these.
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Old 07-20-2010   #5
Littleton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 95
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 107
If you are using a 4 pin connector try inserting an awl or nail into the males to spread them out slightly for better contact, use a wire brush on the males and a drill bit with some steel wool to clean out the females. good luck, I hate trailer wiring!
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Old 07-20-2010   #6
the fort, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 672
wd40 the females and steel wool the males to clean them off for good contact. check and recheck fuses. check and recheck the converter/truck plugin to make sure power is coming out of there. start with the bare wires coming out of the trailer plug and isolate from there where the problem lies. anywhere on the trailer body should be a good ground. maybe buy a new 4-way plug and try that. those are a few places to start.

i do not envy you. trailer (or any kind really) wiring is one of my least favorite things to do in life.
By the waterside I will lay my head.
Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul.
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Old 07-20-2010   #7
Wondervu, CO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 487
After years of fighting intermitant electrical problems on my utility trailer I finaly got fed up and just re-wired the whole thing.

I used an off the shelf LED trailer light kit from auto-zone (about $35), I bought some extra wire and ran a ground wire from the plug to each light. No more depending on chassis ground.

I haven't had a light problem since....2 years and running. Well worth the effort.
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Old 07-21-2010   #8
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 52
Friggin Trailer Lights

I have been told to disconnect my trailer electrical from the vehicle before immersing the trailer in water. Is this necessary?

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Old 07-21-2010   #9
rwhyman's Avatar
Unincorporated Douglas County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 967
Originally Posted by Colorado Ice View Post
I have been told to disconnect my trailer electrical from the vehicle before immersing the trailer in water. Is this necessary?

When we was running sailboats, we had to put the trailer in the water and we always did the disconnect. I was told it saves you from popping fuses.
If I ever had to dunk my raft trailer, I would disconnect. It only takes a second even if it may not be necessary. I don't want to find out the hard way.
Karma is like this: If we set causes in motion the effects come back to us.
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Old 07-21-2010   #10
BaseCamp's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 8
try checking where your trailer light hookup (truck side) splice into your regular turn signals, brake lights and ground. I had a similar problem and after hours of cussing and scratching my head I found the the ground connection had a poor connection in the splice.
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