Where is the ground hiding? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-27-2008, 09:51 PM   #1
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My exterior lights seem quite dim, especially in the daytime. People following our 1986 UHaul have commented that they can barely see the turn signals in the daytime and I don't think they're that bright at night, either. I've installed LED bulbs in the big taillights and all the rest are working push-in bulbs like the original style. It was suggested that I check the ground, since that might be causing this. I've looked quite a bit and can't find where it might be. Where is the ground usually found in these small trailers or are there several spots to check? We do have a circuit breaker box under one of the front seats. Might it be under there or on the frame? Thanks!
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Old 04-27-2008, 10:22 PM   #2
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There's a bare solid copper wire coming out of your breaker box or power converter (probably both.) Find and follow them down the frame, unbolt, and clean the grime and paint away and reaffix. Additionally, doublecheck that all your bulb terminals and backing plates (where the wires affix to the light housing) are shiny and clean with no corrosion. Then coat it all with a thin coat of vaseline or dielectric grease.
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Old 04-27-2008, 10:38 PM   #3
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Also follow the negative battery cable if you have a battery. Often it goes to the frame as the ground as well. I believe my converter/fuse panel goes back to the battery for it's ground.
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Old 04-28-2008, 12:13 AM   #4
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Might be different on different trailers and years. On Scamps, they have always run a white negative return wire around to all the circuits, along with the power wires, including the towing lights. The battery negative return wire also seems to be grounded to the trailer frame by the green ground wire from the converter.

If you don't have a white return wire to each light, I recommend adding one. Then be sure the truck's connector has a good connection to the truck frame.

I beefed up the truck to trailer power wire and also added a return wire back to truck battery terminals, as well as good connection from return to frame at connector.

Dim lights all around on the trailer could also be poor connections on truck. I had dim lights with my old truck, where trailer lights were effectively just tapped into truck wiring; my newer truck has a relay to provide separate power to the trailer lights and the difference was dramatic -- No doubt in my mind that something was wrong on old truck.
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Old 04-28-2008, 09:25 AM   #5
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Make sure you have a GROUND on your tow vehicle electrical connector where your trailer plugs into it. The white wire on the tow vehicle must be grounded to the tow vehicle. You must not count on getting ground through the hitch ball.

To check this: While hitched and electrically connected to the tow vehicle, take a wire and run it from the camper ground and the other end to the tow vehicle ground and see if the lights are brighter.
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Old 04-28-2008, 12:04 PM   #6
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Might be different on different trailers and years.

Dim lights all around on the trailer could also be poor connections on truck. I had dim lights with my old truck, where trailer lights were effectively just tapped into truck wiring; my newer truck has a relay to provide separate power to the trailer lights and the difference was dramatic -- No doubt in my mind that something was wrong on old truck.
I agree with Pete, no where on my Trillium is the ground connected to the frame, it goes through the white wire from every light, back to the truck battery.

I also noticed that when I changed tow vehicles, the lights are much brighter with a seperate power curcuit for trailer lights (built in from factory), rather than "tapping in" to existing light curcuit. I think part of the problem is the flasher device was only strong enough for the vehicles lights, now in the new truck, it has a seperate flasher device for the trailer.
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Old 04-28-2008, 01:20 PM   #7
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Here's something I ran across. It suggests that dim lighting is often that the current may actually being drained off to ground somewhere. Just another perspective/resource.

Trailer Light Troubleshooting
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Old 04-28-2008, 03:05 PM   #8
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From Steve's site:

"Dim lights are indicative of the hot lead that goes to the lights shorting current into the chassis. Check this wire out. If you discover worn insulation, use electrical tape to repair it. If the wiring has been spliced together, then you will also need to check out the connectors on them to look for possible water damage and corrosion."

In my case, the dimness went away when the old truck went away (only the trailer was dim; not the truck). New truck is bright all around, but maybe using relay for power delivers enough power to light trailer lights despite 'small' short.
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Old 04-29-2008, 06:33 AM   #9
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...In my case, the dimness went away when the old truck went away (only the trailer was dim; not the truck)...
Hmmm. I've been called a "dimbulb". Maybe I just have a short to ground.

Sorry. Back to the topic at hand...
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Old 04-29-2008, 08:52 AM   #10
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The LED replacement bulbs may be your culprit. They are very directional and do not have the "waste" light to fill the taillight area with bright light. The cars and trucks that I have seen with those bulbs are very difficult to see. A total taillight assembly replacement may be your ticket. I have done that with my Scamp with great results. Good luck.
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Old 04-30-2008, 09:52 AM   #11
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Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll take a closer look at all the points discussed in the next couple weeks. As to the LEDs causing the "dimness", the lights were dim before the LEDs. I'd hoped that they would help. Also, it appears (last night in the dark), that the only dim lights are the taillights. The running lights are all nice and bright. That probably means the ground to the tails may be bad or that the assemblies need some cleaning and repair. Thanks again!

Kevin
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Old 04-30-2008, 11:20 AM   #12
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Tail lifgrs and running lights are on the same circuit. Check the ground side of your tail lights.
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