Trailer Lights--Is this new? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-28-2014, 04:15 PM   #1
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Trailer Lights--Is this new?

Did they change the trailer light regulations recently?

I was one step away from terminating my trailer wiring.

I decided to check the US and Canadian trailer light rules. What I found out shocked me.

I'll have to add 7 light fixtures to comply with the law.

Careful review of the law shows that even short trailers need all kinds of extra lamps to be legal now. Did this change recently?

Trailer Poster Table for Website
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Old 04-28-2014, 04:56 PM   #2
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This has been the standard for many years, in general:
  • Rear tail lights and stop lights with rear reflectors in the lenses are all contained in each rear tail light.
  • Front and rear side marker lights usually also have reflector in the lenses
  • Licence plate light
Are there lights your trailer is missing?
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Old 04-28-2014, 05:20 PM   #3
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The first table in the link you posted is what Ian describes.

The numbers in quantity indicate 2 but that is one for each side. And as Ian says the lights even when off are normally designed to be considered a reflector.

Two rear tail lights, license plate light which is often just a clear panel on bottom of one tail light, side markers at each corner.

Deep breath, no worries.
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Old 04-28-2014, 05:42 PM   #4
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I have tail lights with integrated side marker lights, reflectors and license plate.

However I do not have clearance lights, nor do I have the three middle lights in the rear, and there is no sign the trailer ever had these. Plus I need front lights--no sign of these either.

My boat had only the typical rear light fixtures with side visibility and license plate illumination.

I did see a few missing reflectors, and the trailer frame has what may be adhesive stick on reflectors--I'd have to test to be sure.

The issue to me seems to be "forward facing" and "rear facing" clearance lights, and front side marker lights. I was hoping to avoid lots of cutting and splicing which will only fail as sea water gets into the joint.

My truck has clearance lights and these seem to be less forward facing than side facing, but the are visible from the front.

I'm going to pop over to West Marine and pickup some of these clearance lights, but I don't know how well they will work submerged on a boat trailer.
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Old 04-28-2014, 05:47 PM   #5
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I don't think mine has ever had front side lights, either. It has rear marker side lights (that don't work) and the DMV person who helped me finally get it registered didn't care one way or the other. Trying to remember about my boat trailer- but it only had rear lights, too.

I bet our older trailers are grandfathered in. Nobody had to go add those top back center brake lights to their autos when the law changed.

Edit- actually checked. I have front and rear side reflectors. I don't think they were every lights.
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Old 04-28-2014, 07:08 PM   #6
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My 34 year old Bigfoot is 96 inches wide. It has yellow upper lights on each corner of the front, red upper lights on each corner in the rear, 3 upper red lights centered facing rearward and normal tail lights with brake, turn, and driving bulbs. Also has reflectors at lower front and rear sides.
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Old 04-28-2014, 07:28 PM   #7
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BOAT trailer lights

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Originally Posted by Night Sailor View Post
I have tail lights with integrated side marker lights, reflectors and license plate.

However I do not have clearance lights, nor do I have the three middle lights in the rear, and there is no sign the trailer ever had these. Plus I need front lights--no sign of these either.

My boat had only the typical rear light fixtures with side visibility and license plate illumination.

I did see a few missing reflectors, and the trailer frame has what may be adhesive stick on reflectors--I'd have to test to be sure.

The issue to me seems to be "forward facing" and "rear facing" clearance lights, and front side marker lights. I was hoping to avoid lots of cutting and splicing which will only fail as sea water gets into the joint.

My truck has clearance lights and these seem to be less forward facing than side facing, but the are visible from the front.

I'm going to pop over to West Marine and pickup some of these clearance lights, but I don't know how well they will work submerged on a boat trailer.

Why don't you check on some of the BOATING sites and find our what BOAT peeps can tell your about lighting for a BOAT trailer.

FWIW: If you meet U.S. standards you do not have to meet any additional Canadian standards when you drive north of the border as long as you are not importing a vehicle.
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Old 04-29-2014, 12:51 AM   #8
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I found some weather-proof marker lights. The look well sealed and potted in. Just in case, I plan to cover the backs with dielectric grease or liquid electrical tape. I suppose I will find out how well they hold up to salt water. My experience with bilge pumps tells me any break in the wire no matter how well seals will corrode in salt submersion. That is why I avoid making any breaks and go nuts trying to seal them as well as possible, with the fewest places for water to get in.

My main concern is the wire splices. I must have splices at the back. Since I don't want to make any splice in the wires leading to those--a break there would ruin the most important lights--brakes and turn signals. I thought I'd make all my splices at the one spot where the wires are easy to reach. I have shink connector, shrink tubing, and liquid electrical tape. And I'll leave enough wire to re-terminate these later on if they prove problematic.

Typically the DOT only targets commercial vehicles. The fines are quite high now, I'm told. So I'm not taking any chances.


Canada may not be a problem, but each state down here is different. The one common thread is the light standards. My TV and tow are under 50' so I think I'll be good in any state.

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Old 04-29-2014, 01:06 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian G. View Post
This has been the standard for many years, in general:
  • Rear tail lights and stop lights with rear reflectors in the lenses are all contained in each rear tail light.
  • Front and rear side marker lights usually also have reflector in the lenses
  • Licence plate light
Are there lights your trailer is missing?
I installed all of the above. I was missing the clearance lights and front lights. My taillights do not serve the purpose of clearance lights. Unfortunately my fenders stick out farther.

I looked more closely and found a spot near one fender with a reflector. Adjacent to that were places where lights could have been--only directed out rather than the spec, forward and backwards. The other side shows a discoloration where a refector was. There are two holes in the frame forward where the two sides split. Perhaps there was a lamp on each side there. If so there is not a trace of it. I did see some wire splices there in the old harness, so I'll assume the lights were there.

The lights I found seem to shine in a 180 degree arc. So I suppose I can put them on the sides and they will be visible from the front, and back, meeting that requirement.
It seems the red ones should face back.
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Old 04-29-2014, 08:42 AM   #10
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Quote "Canada may not be a problem, but each state down here is different. The one common thread is the light standards."

Yes, each state is different, but are you saying that there are different lighting requirements for vehicles in different states? If so, please let us know.
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Old 04-30-2014, 03:56 AM   #11
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Lighting is the same for all of the US and Canada, except perhaps for instances of tandem towing big rigs.

The state differences seem to be related to weight limits, brake requirements, allowable widths, total TV and trailer lengths, and height limitations.
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Old 04-30-2014, 08:35 AM   #12
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We never drive at night, period. As long as I have some good stop lights and turn signals I'm good to go. Besides most of the driving is on the freeway or 2 lane country roads where there is little to no stopping or turning. I was happy to get any lights working on my trailer after 20 years of storage!
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Old 04-30-2014, 08:58 AM   #13
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In CA at least, you are required to turn on your headlights when it rains, meaning that trailer tail lights and running lights also have to work.

For that matter, the Vehicle code requires that all lights work, even if you aren't using them.
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Old 04-30-2014, 09:19 AM   #14
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As you know Bob, we are in the middle of a historic drought here in California, so the chances of me driving in the rain with the trailer is slim to none. Also my running lights, stop lights, and turn signals work just fine. Our vehicles and trailers do not have to pass an annual inspection like some other states require, so there are literally thousands of drivers out on the road on a daily basis without working lights, proper insurance, drivers licenses, and breaking numerous other laws while driving. So the chances of us getting busted for not having proper lighting on our trailers is zilch, and if we do, it's not more than a "fix-it" ticket. I drove through a U.S. Border Patrol check point after camping near the Mexican border, and all the officer wanted to know was if I had restored the trailer or not. He was never interested in my tail lights or whether or not I was harboring stowaways under my dining table.
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