Trailer light genius needed - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 16 Old 07-17-2013 Thread Starter
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Trailer light genius needed

It WAS fun, just owning a boat (finally) and working on it. The fun is gone, ready to sail!

I bought a four flat wire set specifically for my vehicle and bought brand new lights and wiring for the trailer. Nothing happens if I turn the car lights on BUT if I turn off the car lights, the trailer break lights work. Either/both turn signals causes both trailer lights to flash simultaneously (like hazard lights) -- the car lights do what they are supposed to in each situation (running lights, turn signals, breaks, etc).

I removed the ground, replaced the screw and sanded the contact point to bare metal and sanded the place that contacts the trailer ball. Checked, double, and triple checked correct wiring...Nothing. Obviously the lights are getting power, any ideas?
Any help would be appreciated!
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post #2 of 16 Old 07-17-2013
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Re: Trailer light genius needed

Sounds like there may be some mis-wiring. Check that the correct wire is being used as the ground at each of the trailer lights. Then be sure that the proper wire is being used for the ground at your loom. Sounds like a reversal of something. If your car has separate bulbs for the turn signals then you need one like
Amazon.com: ACDelco TC198 Professional Inline To Trailer Harness Connector: Automotive Amazon.com: ACDelco TC198 Professional Inline To Trailer Harness Connector: Automotive


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post #3 of 16 Old 07-18-2013 Thread Starter
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Re: Trailer light genius needed

Thanks for the help LL! Yeah, it does seem like a miss-wiring situation because I have lights, just not the right one's or something.

I am by no means electric savvy but the system I bought seems fool-proof. here is what have (I don't have enough posts to use a link) but it is a T-one wiring harness specifically for my car.

There is only one way to plug them in because the fittings are different sizes at the car side plug ins. Further, even though I have physically checked, the wires for the driver's side are too short to reach the passenger side and passenger side is long. Fool-proof... except in my case LOL

I think I'm going to switch the wiring at the tail of the trailer in the off chance that the light system I bought has the colored wires mixed up. Doesn't seem possible but I am at a loss.
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post #4 of 16 Old 07-18-2013
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Re: Trailer light genius needed

Be sure to test everything at the hauling vehicle's pigtail. I've had low current flow on both a '98 Pathfinder and a '00 Frontier. In both cases there wasn't enough juice to run the trailer lights on one side.
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post #5 of 16 Old 07-18-2013
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Re: Trailer light genius needed

A trailer light tester is a nice thing to have. A voltmeter is pretty essential too, but the tester is better to verify the lights since the voltage jumps up and down. A tester is a great tool to have since converters themselves can go bad when hooked up to bad trailer wiring so it's nice to eliminate that first.

4-Way Flat Circuit Tester, Model# DBP | Light Testers| Northern Tool + Equipment

But at least one of the problems is on the trailer side. It sounds like at the least you have the turn signal and taillight wires mixed.
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post #6 of 16 Old 07-18-2013
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Re: Trailer light genius needed

Be mindful of the ground wiring. Often the problems with trailer wiring is with the ground at the lights or vehicle. I can always tell when someone skipped hooking up the ground wire for trailer wiring and instead figured the trailer would get it's ground through the ball hitch. The trailer light flicker and flash going down the road as the ball hitch rattles around. On a flat bed trailer I have the tail light notoriously go dead as the light mounting bolts rust and the corrosion causes a loss of ground. Also a liberal smear of silicone grease on the bulbs when inserted and on the connectors keeps moisture and therefore corrosion at bay.

"Keep the company of those who seek the truth- RUN from those who have found it" ― Václav Havel
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Re: Trailer light genius needed

Wow that tester is dirt cheap. I'm going to pick up both the tester and a voltmeter tomorrow first thing.
Unless the factory mixed up wire colors, everything is hooked up right. I suppose the new tools will clarify that.

I re-drilled the trailer side ground today because I found that whoever set it up before me had set it on an uneven seam-- thought for sure I had it--but nooo!

Not sure what to do if/when I find a problem with voltmeter other than trace wires for damage but as I said, all wiring and lights are brand spanking new.

Will post what I find...thanks for all the help!
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post #8 of 16 Old 07-18-2013
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Re: Trailer light genius needed

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Originally Posted by TBApollo View Post
It WAS fun, just owning a boat (finally) and working on it. The fun is gone, ready to sail!

I bought a four flat wire set specifically for my vehicle and bought brand new lights and wiring for the trailer. Nothing happens if I turn the car lights on BUT if I turn off the car lights, the trailer break lights work. Either/both turn signals causes both trailer lights to flash simultaneously (like hazard lights) -- the car lights do what they are supposed to in each situation (running lights, turn signals, breaks, etc).

I removed the ground, replaced the screw and sanded the contact point to bare metal and sanded the place that contacts the trailer ball. Checked, double, and triple checked correct wiring...Nothing. Obviously the lights are getting power, any ideas?
Any help would be appreciated!
You bought a four wire flat specifically for your vehicle? Are you saying your vehicle is factory equipped with a recepticle and all you do is plug in the trailer? Can you elaborate on this? What kind of vehicle?
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post #9 of 16 Old 07-18-2013
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Re: Trailer light genius needed

Suggest you measure voltage at each contact on the vehicle plug. Start with the "tail", lights on, find 12 volts and record the color. Then turn on the the right turn light and find the contact, record color, same for left turn.

Open up the trailer wires and match accordingly to the plug. "Tail lights first until only the trailer "Tail" lights are on. Then, right & left turn lights. On some vehicles that use separate turn and brake light filaments, you may have to get an adapter to combine them into your trailer 3 wire plus ground plug.

Paul T
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post #10 of 16 Old 07-18-2013
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Re: Trailer light genius needed

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Originally Posted by TBApollo View Post

I removed the ground, replaced the screw and sanded the contact point to bare metal and sanded the place that contacts the trailer ball.

I had similar problems with my trailer. It turned out to be an insufficient ground.

(I don't understand your sentence above regarding the trailer ball. Are you using the trailer ball as part of your ground circuit?)

Neosec's diagram is correct and will work IF you have a good ground connection between the vehicle and the trailer. If you don't have a good ground wire connected to your vehicle that mates with the white wire in the trailer harness that is securely bolted/screwed to the trailer frame, try installing one. Or try using a set of jumper cables to connect the tow vehicle frame to the boat trailer as a test to see if a better ground will get this working.

On my trailer I had a ground wire connected correctly, but it turned out that it was too small of a wire to do the job. Once I added a second, larger ground wire, all my weird trailer light issues went away.

Last edited by captain_kelly; 07-18-2013 at 10:50 PM.
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