Power Question for all Running Lights tug/tow - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-17-2010, 07:43 AM   #1
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Do not want to hijack this subject, but hope this is more a clarification question. How does one tell if one's tow vehicle has enough power for trailer brakelights, and maybe addtional marker lights? I tow with a 6cyl van - does the engine and its alternator size govern? (Ok, now that's my sum knowlege of automotive electronics.) Please explain in girlie layman terms if possible.
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Old 04-17-2010, 09:50 AM   #2
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It is not an issue that you need to be concerned about.
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Old 04-17-2010, 02:48 PM   #3
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Good to know that I am currently OK, but am still wondering what will define 'not enough power to run trailer lights' for future reference when getting new tv next year.
What do I look for?
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Old 04-17-2010, 03:13 PM   #4
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Anything tow vehicle you purchase that has a "GOOD" battery and a "GOOD" alternator will have enough electric power to work the trailer lights.

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Old 04-17-2010, 09:30 PM   #5
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It is the size of the wires to the tail lights that is the problem.
They are using such small wire that it can not handle the trailer load.

I still don't know how to tell if my car has big enough wire.

They put the tail light converter box on my car when the hitch was put on.

Bill K
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Old 04-17-2010, 10:30 PM   #6
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Hi Pam,
Really, any vehicle that has the tow capacity (in terms of weight) will also have the capacity to run your camper's brake lights, running lights and blinkers. If you want to add a few more clearance lights that should not be a bit of a problem. Those lights use very little energy. People need to boost their power (often with a larger alternator) when they add monster stereos and speakers or other power-hungry items. If you're not trying to light up your camper like a Christmas tree, any stock vehicle will give you everything you need.

If you're still concerned, why not switch the auto bulbs with LEDs? They use a fraction of the energy, are brighter and emit a broader visible spectrum to boot. I'm going to replace my tail lights with LEDs so I have more visibility, not because I am concerned about power.

If you do a lot of boondocking, anything that conserves energy is good since a battery is being used and you may not have the conditions for charging (shorepower, solar). Hence LEDs are a very good choice for interior lighting. When parked, however, you are not using brake lights, running lights or blinkers. Those items get power from your tow vehicle when you are driving; and when your engine is running your alternator is basically always working to supply power.
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Old 04-21-2010, 02:49 PM   #7
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Hi Pam,
I replaced my trailer tail lights with LED bulbs last year, which were direct replacements for the existing #1157 socket. Before the replacement, my trailer lights worked fine driving in the daytime, but at night with the van lights on they would sometimes light improperly when the brakes and/or turn signals were applied as well as everything else, especially if interior appliances were also using power at the same time.

A typical incandescent tail/brake/turn light bulb uses a substantial amount of 12 volt current, about 3 - 4 amps each. A typical automobile alternator has a current output anywhere from 30 (very old) to 50-70 amps, and vehicles are generally designed to use about 80% of the alternator capacity while driving. This means that you likely have only 10 - 15 amps of current as "spare capacity" in a tow vehicle, less if you installed a bigger stereo, the fan is going full blast, and the kids run a laptop while driving.

That is why your headlights may dim a bit while you are idling at a stop light at night in the pouring rain with the wipers and fan going. The current demand from the car at that moment has exceeded your alternator and is drawing from the battery.

So having the extra 6 lights for the trailer can mean a noticeable increase in overall load current, which it did on my vehicle, and it can bring you close/over the limit of the alternator at times. Since replacing the two trailer tail lights with LEDs (which use only about 5% of the power of incandescents for similar brightness), I have not had this problem and the lights work properly all the time, even at night when the stereo is going full blast and the kids have computers plugged into the car. I still left the side running lights on the trailer as incandescents, since I didn't need to replace them to solve the problem.

I note that LEDs actually emit only a very narrow spectrum of light, so you should get red LED bulbs for red tail lights, orange LED bulbs for orange side lightinig, etc. Because of the narrow spectrum, a white LED bulb behind a red tail light lens will give you very little or no light at all. It is not like an incandescent bulb, which gives off light of all frequencies and so can be filtered to any colour.

Also, as pointed out in an earlier post, the size of the trailer wiring is important, as is having connections in good condition. It is worth replacing much of the trailer running light wiring with bigger wires, if convenient. It is especially worth making sure that the connection between the tow vehicle and the trailer wiring is in good shape.

Hope that helps.

Rick G.
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Old 04-21-2010, 03:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
[b]It is the size of the wires to the tail lights that is the problem.
They are using such small wire that it can not handle the trailer load.

I still don't know how to tell if my car has big enough wire.

They put the tail light converter box on my car when the hitch was put on.

Bill K
This is particularly true it the tow vehicle is wired for LED lights. According to Toyota, installing trailer lighting in my RAV4 requires a kit that provides a run from the trailer connector to the fuse panel under the dash. They do not recommend tapping the run to the taillights...
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