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It's ALWAYS the lights

Started by Riley Smith, Nov 07, 2023, 05:51 AM

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Riley Smith

It's ALWAYS the lights.
So, the drivers side taillight wasn't working. It's BRAND NEW; well almost, maybe two months old. Yes, cheap CHINESE stuff and replaced by cheap CHINESE stuff. I had hoped that there was a nick in the wiring but the tester told me that I'd have to replace the light. At $25 dollars I didn't think the CHINESE light was very cheap.
If you're wondering why I used cheap CHINESE stuff, then you obviously live where there is a better selection. Just FINDING a light in my neck of the woods can be an adventure. Cut the harness, make the connections, dielectric grease and shrink tubing, and then test and re-install. I had visions of a sail after all that was done but the wind never got over 5 kts. And that was out in the open where the data buoy is. I can sail in 5 kts but just barely, and a moment's inattention will get you in irons every time. I was over frustration for a day so me and the wife took a Sunday ride instead.
 Oh well, we'll see how long THIS cheap CHINESE light lasts. It appears the guy that was SUPPOSED to seal the housing with a daub of clear silicon was thinking of egg rolls and noodles instead of doing his/her job. I once had an AMERICAN LED light that had a broken housing and poured water out when I pulled the boat, and it lasted FOR MONTHS.  In SALT water!!!! It was a sort of game to see exactly how long it would last. I killed the housing off by backing into a pile of lumber but it was still working before I finally finished it off for good.
It's getting harder and harder find good stuff.

Captain Kidd

Trailer lights are a pain. After over a year since having the Hunter out, I'm finally going to sail today. Wife and I have driven down to a resort with a marina and one of the best ramps I have ever seen. Her back isn't so great so we stayed in their lodge. Boat is ready to go. Trailer lights? Another story. I couldn't get all functions to work on one side. Decided to go with running lights since we'll be returning after dark tonight. I do have the brake light working on the other light, so not totally out.


A "test light" is a handy item.  Merely a regular taillight assembly with short wires terminated by alligator clips.  You move it around, even plug it into the vehicle, to see how the various elements are working.  Of course if you plug into the vehicle you only connect one turn indicator at a time.

Riley Smith

It sure is Nick. Mine lives in my truck.

Charles Brennan

I have enough issues with trailer lights that I don't NEED any help from our north central Florida Squirrels!
Just before the CDCR this year, I had to fix a busted ground lead on my trailer connector.
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No problem, thought I.
Then I checked the lights.

ARRGGGHHH!!  >:(   Rotten Squirrels ATE my trailer wiring!!   >:(
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I use exterior rated extension cords for my trailer wiring, since I believe:
"A Thing Worth Engineering, Is A Thing Worth OVER-Engineering!:D
And it STILL wasn't enough!   :'(

I noticed the squirrels seem to prefer chewing on the vinyl cable covers over the rubber cable covers, so I got a newer extension cord.
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Why unbolt the trailer coupler just to change out the wiring, you ask?
I put in construction foam to prevent wasps from making wasp nests in the tube, and it has to be drilled out to put in new wiring.
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Almost got this boat to where a mere 40 hours a week of back-breaking labor will keep her in trim . . . . . so, I feel your pain.

Charles Brennan


At least your varmints are cute, we get aggressive 'roof rats' that will destroy your cars' wiring, under the hood!

I'm facing the same task, what about 'clip on' lights? Is that a thing? I've seen people bolt trailer lights to a 2x4 too. Is there a more robust solution like that that can be put away when not in use?

Doug SC

I have two sets of removable trailer lights as backup. One stays in our Casita travel trailer, and one goes with whatever boat trailer I am towing at the time. Don't trust the magnets. Zip tie them in place.


A 2x4 isn't sufficiently "robust"? ;D 

Charles Brennan

Scooter, My Trail-Rite trailer that came with my boat when I purchased it new in November, of 1976, (and only lasted 5 years)  >:(  had trailer lights mounted on the trailer frame.  The trailer required being submersed to launch, so the trailer lights lasted roughly 60 days.  This was back in ye olde incandescent #1157 bulb dayes.  Even coating the sockets with dielectric grease to minimize corrosion, only managed to slow down the lamp failures.

So I went to a 2X4 with trailer lights bolted on that traversed my transom and had bungee cords that kept it lashed to the stern cleats.  The cabling ran from the tow vehicle, up to turn around the bow cleat, then a turn around the mast stand bracket, a turn around the jib winch and finally reached the transom.  When I tried running the cable down the length of the trailer at Interstate speeds, the wire slack would beat itself to death against the hull and leave unsightly marks on the hull, so that's why I went the deck route.

This worked well enough, but I tired of running the lines and the 2X4 assembly to go to the ramp, taking them down to rig the boat, then putting them back on to go home and then removing them again (and having to store them somewhere) after I got back home.
I've always had the philosophy that any loathsome chore that needs to be done more than 3 times in a row, should be automated.

So I went to this solution:
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The goal posts solve several problems for me.
1) The trailer lights are always out of the water.
2) The lights are easy to check on at night in the rear view mirror.
3) They help center the hull on the trailer in adverse winds and currents.
4) They are always ready and waiting, for me to go out without having to rig cables and 2X4s and whatnot.
5) They are right in the face of anyone behind you at night, that might not see trailer frame mounted lights partially hidden by the hull overhang at the stern.

The only problem I had was that the license plate snagged on the coaming and/or bow pulpit when launching sometimes, and bending the license plate.
This was easily fixed:
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I made a PVC license tag holder that pivoted, to launch and retrieve.
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And now that you know what you're looking at, you can see the license plate in the launch/retrieve position in the first pic, at top.

Here, you can see the screw that rests in the notch that keeps the plate from windmilling on the road.  There is another notch at 90ยบ for holding the plate  in launch/retrieve position.
It was made from the next larger size of PVC pipe, cut part way through a few inches from each end, then split down the middle and "unrolled" with help from a hot air gun.
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Considering that they are now roughly 35 years old and still going strong, I think they are sufficiently  "robust".  And I'll take rotating a license plate twice, over fooling with a 2X4 and wiring, 4 times per trip any day of the week! :D

Hope this helps, or perhaps I should say:
One guy's opinion,
Charles Brennan


Charles, I like you solution a lot; and the CA DMV registers the trailer with the boat (at least for my size boat) so I don't have the the license plate issue.

Yes I know that sounds wrong, especially if there's no boat on the trailer, but that's what they (the DMV) say to do.

Nick, I'm thinking of robust more like 'performing well under a wide range of conditions' like setup, storage, and use and not just strong.

Norm L.

Scooter, I used Charles's removable system of lights on board, board part of aft securing boat to trailer, and wires strung along the deck. But there was very little trailering.

Here is a photo of the famous Captain Bob Keim taking the Hartley to her new home in TN You cannot view this attachment. as a training and recreational boat.

Riley Smith

Charles, I tried the goal post trick on the former trailer and it worked as far as the lights were concerned. Somewhat. It's probably one of the best solutions there is, except that those goal posts WILL get hung up if you have a very tight space to hit with the trailer. Hit finally turned literal and I ripped one off. Maybe I should grow a pair and stand up to SWMBO and get rid of ALL THAT JUNK that gets in the way. It is common knowledge in the family that there is indeed a junk gene runs through the Anderson blood line. Somehow, the $25 light seems cheap comparatively  ;D

Wayne Howard

Quote from: Riley Smith on Nov 12, 2023, 04:26 AMMaybe I should grow a pair and stand up to SWMBO and get rid of ALL THAT JUNK that gets in the way.

That sounds as dangerous as walking on the wet kitchen floor.   :o
Wayne Howard
Master and Commander of S/V Impetuous
I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are missing.