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Old 04-22-2012, 09:24 PM   #1 (permalink)
dchil
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Default Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

This post if part venting and part teaching.

I've owned my boat for about 3 years now, bought it used from the original owner. Over the years I have had a few trailer lights out and I have actually replaced every single light on the trailer except for the light bar on the rear. Well, over the past week I have been blowing the trailer light fuse in my truck. Frustrating! I originally decided to take off the lights, and redo the connections but then told my self, why don't I just rewire the trailer and do the project right (since I have not done this to the trailer and its 15 years old). The supplies cost about $20 (a little more if you don't have any wire connections and tape on hand) and today I spent about 2 hours doing it.

Now, I'm not going to lie, this project was a PITA, but now thats its over I'm really glad I did it. The hardest part was running the wires through the closed frame in my trailer. Man that was a pain. I ended up taping the new wires to the old ones (after disconnecting the lights), and pulling the wires to the front. After I saw the original wires, I was amazed at all of the poor connections and exposed wires. The way I have my wiring done is by grounding the trailer (instead of running a ground cable), so every exposed wire that touched the frame was causing a short and then popping my fuse or a light. I feel really good about the project now and my advice to anyone having a lighting problem is to completely redo the entire trailer wiring. This will save you down the road.

My last bit of advice is, do the job the right way. Electrical tape is not a cure all!!!! That is all!
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Old 04-22-2012, 09:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

Imagine that Derrick. I to redid my lights today. They went out on me yesterday coming home and a nice police officer was good enough to let me know.(just a warning). Anyway I went to Wal mart and got a new set with wires. IT took me about 2 hours to get everything run and since it was still light out I needed to test them. I didn't attach them just set them down so i could see them. Well they would only work if the lights where on, blinkers and hazards worked but no brake light. Well I spent the next 2 hours checking my truck ground trailer ground then truck and trailer ground over and over. Lesson one, just because we are guys and mechanically inclined does not mean that little piece of paper that comes with it that has a header on it that says"Installation Instructions" is just there as filler. Low and behold after reading said paper it said in number 6,"lights are self grounding once installed." Well since it was dark now I properly installed them and what do you know, They work. Now I have nice lights on my old trailer...You are right do it the right way.
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Old 04-23-2012, 05:54 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

Derrick, back in the olden days, when I was in the Air Force, just after the Wright Brothers retired, I learned and was told that there was no place on an airplane for electrical tape. Now I know that a trailer is not an airplane, but most "electrical" tape is a bad thing on a car or a trailer. If properly installed and wrapped tight, it can stay intact but if it gets any oil on it, or an end gets loose it is unsuitable. If one has to install a wire joint, solder and electrical tape is usually a bad way to go, but a properly sealed wire splice is best. Using the trailer frame as ground seems O.K. to me. I have never seen anyone run separate grounds to each lamp assembly.
Bottom line: I use wire splices and seal the ends with RTV to keep water out. A good crimper is necessary, and good splices are important. Some Chinese splices are no good the metal inside is too thin to hold wire. If your splice won't hold a 20 pound pull it is not good. Heat shrink is pretty good, but nothing seals out water better than liquid electrical tape (in the can) or an RTV.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:13 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

I had to rewire my trailer not long ago Derrick, I can attest to it being a pain trying to fish all those wires out the multiple locations for the trailer parking, and marker lights. I solder my connections, then put heat shrink tubing and cover it with liquid electrical tape, it should last as long as the trailer does now. I also started replacing my lights with leds, I have never had those supposedly waterproof lights last very long. Glad you got it done, and everything is working.
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Old 07-05-2012, 02:48 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

I had to redo some of the wiring on my Charger trailer. Someone put four of those splices that cut into the insulation back to back to back to back. After some soldering I was back in business. I'll cut a wire and add a third to the two cut ends before I use those insulation cutters.
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Old 07-05-2012, 03:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

I had to do my lights. I may have posted this before but oh well. I found wire nuts like you would use on interior wiring in a house. That was not working well. I used bare wire clamps and shrink tubing. That should last a long time. I also extended the wire. This give me room to cut and replace wire with out shorting the main wire running through the trailer.
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:52 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

The under carriage trailer environment is severe; submersed in water every time you launch the boat, road chemicals that create corrosion and trailering vibration.
DC current requires a good low resistance ground path, a redundant ground wire is always a good idea. The hot wire or power wires should be color coded the same as your tow vehicle to prevent cross wiring and trailer wire kits are readily available.
Seal all the connections after testing the light circuits.
Tape will insure moisture will stay in the connection and cause you problems; coat connections with a sealant. Loose wires will snag something, so tie the wire down with zip ties.
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Old 07-05-2012, 09:46 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

This is all great advise

I may have to be re-wiring my trailer soon and it's good to hear this.

Alright, at the risk of sounding stupid, What is RTV??
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Old 07-05-2012, 10:08 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

Quote:
Originally Posted by stealthfisher
This is all great advise

I may have to be re-wiring my trailer soon and it's good to hear this.

Alright, at the risk of sounding stupid, What is RTV??
Silicone sealant, you should keep a small tube of marine grade sealant in your boat emerancy kit.
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Old 07-06-2012, 08:07 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Trailer wiring - Electrical Tape is not a CURE ALL

R T V stands for Room Temperature Vulcanizing. Vulcanizing is the name of a process that was invented to make rubber stronger through the introduction of various chemicals. In ancient Roman religion and myth, Vulcan (Latin: Vulcanus) is the god of both beneficial and hindering fire, including the fire of volcanoes. RTV is generally the stuff in tubes, or cans that sticks to other stuff and hardens and makes a seal. Sometimes it remains flexible, sometimes not.
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