Wiring issues (why would I think it would work the first time?) - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-15-2017, 10:44 PM   #1
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Name: Slade
Trailer: Little Bigfoot
Alberta
Posts: 20
Wiring issues (why would I think it would work the first time?)

Hello friends. I had great luck with responses to my last post, so I will try another one on you. I looked through previous posts but couldn't really find anything that covered it fully, so here goes.
So just got my Little Bigfoot 13.5 this weekend. Background- I went to pick up the trailer after getting my van wired for 7way ( there are brakes and a battery involved). When I hooked up the trailer to my van, there were no lights. Bummer, but they worked when we hooked it up to the original owners van. Figured my new wiring was wrong somehow, but when I checked it at home all of the outputs were working exactly as they should, even the electric brake control could be ramped up and down. So I figured the camper end plug just wasn't making proper contact somehow with my van ( the plug was pretty old and scarred....). The original owner graciously delivered the camper for me, and I got to work cuttting off the old plug and rewiring a new one on, in what I had thought was the same way. Apparently not! No lights, and at some point I blew the fuse on my van so that even the van outputs would not work anymore. Fixed that, so the van is good, but am stumped with the trailer lights. I have exposed all of the 7 wires (no plug on there now) and tested each wire with the battery after identifying the ground. The brake wire works ( I can hear the brakes clank on when I power it) and the 12 V works ( I can get the interior lights to go on no problem). But when I touch the running lights, signal lights and reverse lights, nothing. Except one time, when my wife came home and I showed her how everything I was doing was failing- I hooked up the running lights and suddenly they all came on both sides. Totally excited, thinking somewhow it was good now, I disconnected the running lights and tried the right signal light. Nothing, and now I can't get the running lights working again either. What the....?
I am pretty new to this stuff, but learning as quickly as I can. I don't think the taillights have a fuse, do they? And if they do, why did they light up just one glorious time and never again? Is it somehow a ground problem? My testing works with the 12V and the brake, so why not the lights? Seperate ground somehow? I am prepared to strip everything back to see if there is an obvious connection problem somewhere, but figured this would be a great place to maybe get some ideas. I won't be able to work on the camper until next weekend, so hopefully I can glean some knowledge from you folks before I get started.
Sorry for the long post- just didn't know how to say it in fewer words
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Old 10-15-2017, 10:58 PM   #2
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Name: Eric
Trailer: 1987 Casita 16
Illinois
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wiring diagram and wire color

Do you know if the setup uses the standard wire colors? If you look at the wire setup on the van, make sure that the wire colors and position fit with the diagram. Then check and see if the box in the camper where the wire harness connects to the interior wiring passes the correct colors through. You might want to take some pictures and post them, that way people will be able to look at what is going one and make suggestions.
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Old 10-16-2017, 12:13 AM   #3
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Name: Slade
Trailer: Little Bigfoot
Alberta
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Pretty sure the wiring color is standard. White for ground, blue for electric brakes, green for running lights, red for right signal, brown for left and yellow for reverse.
The problem just seems to be that the green,red ,brown and yellow signals won't go through.
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Old 10-16-2017, 12:34 AM   #4
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Name: Byron
Trailer: 2006 Scamp 13' towed with a 2005 Dodge Dakota 4.7l Magnum W/full tow package (over kill)
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Did the previous owner put in LED lights for turn signals and running lights? LEDs are polarized hooked up backwards they won't work. Just a thought.

It's really difficult to trouble shoot problems from a distance.
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Old 10-16-2017, 01:47 AM   #5
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Trailer: Casita SD17 2006
California
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Slade, you just never know how a PO has changed things around. You said the PO delivered it to you so I have to think the lights were working fine with his tug. That really only leaves the connection you have on your tug for a miss match. I've wired a slew of vehicles & trailers and have to admit I've put a wire or two in the wrong spot a couple of times...hands in gear before the brain kicked in . If'en I was you, I'd open up the tugs connection and take a test light and mark/write down the pin each function is on. Some plugs are labeled for function though but...then use a 12V battery to test the TT's pins to determine which lights up what.
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Old 10-16-2017, 08:20 AM   #6
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Name: Kevin
Trailer: 28' Bigfoot Silver Cloud
Oak Park, IL
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You mentioned early in your post that you had your van wired for 7-way. Did someone else do the work for you? It sends like the problem has to be in your van wiring if everything worked for the previous owner (or he miswired the trailer to match a miswiring situation on his own tow). If someone did the van for you, you should probably take it back for another look-see. Having worked on old trailer wiring on almost every camping trip for 12 years, I feel your pain.
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Old 10-16-2017, 08:28 AM   #7
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Name: Slade
Trailer: Little Bigfoot
Alberta
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Thanks for the input so far.
The light bulbs on the taillights are standard bulb ones, not LED.
I have checked my vehicle's outputs with a tester, and everything is working there as it should. I have tested the trailer's wiring with the battery, and like I said, I could get the electric brake to work, and the 12V system to work, but not the running lights, taillights, or reverse lights.
I have a 4 pin adapter for the 7 way receptacle on my vehicle, and have hooked up a set of accessory taillights ( the magnetic ones you stick on the bumper), and they work perfectly, so it really doesn't seem to be my van that is the problem, it is something within the trailer wiring ( which is totally weird, I know, because it worked on the previous owner's vehicle ). When I asked him about it, he didn't think there was anything unique about his setup.
I think maybe Bob is right, take this to my mechanic and see what he can do with it.
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Old 10-16-2017, 08:58 AM   #8
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Name: John Michael
Trailer: Scamp 13
Madison, Wisconsin
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My local very reputable shop mis-wired my Subaru's 7 way jack which left my trailer brakes getting energy but not braking. The Prodigy/Tekonsa help line folks knew right away which wire was wrong and I asked the shop to make the change. Now all is hunky dory. Even experts make mistakes. The wiring seems simple, and I've wired lots of trailers, but my brain gets foggy sometimes. Seems expert brains do too. I almost bought one of these wiring testers. I wish the shop had used one.
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Old 10-16-2017, 09:04 AM   #9
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Trailer: 1979 Boler1700
British Columbia
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Try running a new ground wire to one of your running lights and see if it works. It seems to me that the one thing all the lights have in common is the ground. If the ground is faulty then all the lights wouldn't be working except the electric brake because it is grounded at the frame. If there is a broken ground inside the trailer then all the lights will not work.
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Old 10-16-2017, 10:08 AM   #10
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Trailer: Escape 21 & Jeep GC 5.7 (Previous 2012 Casita FD17 & 2010 Audi Q5)
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Slade,

There are two different wiring standards for small seven-wire trailers, not counting the standard for large commercial connectors. Fortunately the difference is not in which connections power which circuits, but only in the wiring colors used for different connections.

Then, there are two diagrams for each standard, depending on whether you are looking from "inside" or outside the connector on the vehicle. One is the mirror image of the other.

A fault is a case where there is no connection. A short is a connection that shouldn't be there. A trailer's four-wire wiring for running lights, brake lights and turn signals should be completely independent of the trailer's convenience wiring other than perhaps sharing a ground connection. A seven-wire system additionally includes a connection to the trailer's battery, and what should again be completely independent connections to the brakes and back-up lights.

In electrical work, if it tests bad it is bad. That's simple enough. However, if something tests good, it might be good. It also might not be 'good'. This is usually because of intermittent faults and shorts caused by unreliable connections or intermittent connections. It can also be caused by connections that will carry the small amount of current typically used for testing, but which will not carry the higher current required to sustain operation of a device.

It can take a great deal of time and occasionally being humbled to find the problem, whether an incorrect connection, a poorly-made or failed or intermittent connection, or some hidden place where the insulation was scraped away causing a short. I recommend someone use a tester, be methodical, try to isolate what you are working on or testing, study or develop your own wiring schematics, observe closely, unwrap heavily taped connections, and be sure to test anything that you or anyone else has 'touched' or otherwise worked on at least five times.

I used a paperclip as a jumper on the 7-way plug to test a repair on the Casita's turn signal circuit a while back as I didn't want to take the time to open a heavy gate and move the tow vehicle to where I could connect it to the trailer. The fault (no turn signal on one side) tested as having been successfully repaired. Later, once I connected the tow vehicle to the trailer, the problem re-emerged and I once again had intermittent operation of that particular turn signal lamp. My third repair in that case turned out to be replacement of the Bargman LED fixture which did the trick nicely TYVM.

For what it may be worth, I suspect that this was actually highly unusual to have to replace the sealed tail light unit. In fact, that mindset is probably part of why it took me three tries to effect the repair.

The connectors typically used on trailer wiring are often not of very good quality and/or are poorly implemented and/or will often fail over time. U Haul will guarantee your hitch forever, but your wiring for only two years. That says something in itself.
  • When we install a hitch on your car, you can add guarantee replacement with no limitation for any damage, including collision, corrosion, accidental overload, jackknifing and theft of vehicle. Also available is a wiring service plan to cover you for two years.
That guarantee statement tells us that welding is a lot more reliable than wiring connections. Wiring fails over time as necessary connections pull apart or fail due to vibration or corrosion, or new and undesirable connections are made due to vibration, moisture, and/or chafing. And, while we tend to think of this wiring as binary, meaning either on or off, poor or intermittent or inadequate connections can add another dimension.

Good luck and post further if you think there's something specific that someone can help you with.
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Old 10-16-2017, 10:09 AM   #11
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Name: Mike
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ststefan View Post
Try running a new ground wire to one of your running lights and see if it works. It seems to me that the one thing all the lights have in common is the ground. If the ground is faulty then all the lights wouldn't be working except the electric brake because it is grounded at the frame. If there is a broken ground inside the trailer then all the lights will not work.
Steve, this looks like an excellent place to start here.
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Old 10-16-2017, 10:24 AM   #12
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Name: Daniel A.
Trailer: Bigfoot 17.0 1991 dlx
British Columbia
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Working from memory here as I redid mine this past summer.

You say reverse is yellow, on mine the center pin is reverse and light green. You don't mention if your four way flashers work.

I am pulling with an Astro van this is the order of wires on the van side.
Counter clock wise colors are Blue, Dark green, Orange, Black, Yellow, White, and center pin is light green.
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Old 10-16-2017, 11:10 AM   #13
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Name: Ken
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Originally Posted by Civilguy View Post
Steve, this looks like an excellent place to start here.
In my experience with utility trailers, travel trailers and popup campers, 95% of the time this kind of problem is a faulty ground. Maybe even higher percentage.
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Old 10-16-2017, 11:10 AM   #14
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Name: Jim and Kathie
Trailer: 1979 Surfside
British Columbia
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Why Did I think it would work the first time?

I am laughing at the title - a question we all ask.

I am also saving this post, so my husband can try and figure out why our wiring didn't work the first time.... with the exception (so far) of the fuses, it sounds similar!

Anyway, that title made my day!
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