Tail light issue on Surfside - Fiberglass RV

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Old 07-14-2008, 10:27 AM   #1
Shelley's Avatar
Trailer: 1977 Triple E Surfside
Posts: 66
So on Friday I was finishing up the trailer and getting ready to go on my first trip in about 4 yrs...of course the last thing I thought about was checking the lights.

I have my dad's 97 Explorer as a temporary tow vehicle this year and it only had a flat 4 so that was the first problem - trailer has a 7 pin... Had a local RV place make me an adapter. Plugged that in and still no lights...grrr...so I hauled the whole thing to the RV place and felt better when they realized the adapter was wired incorrectly.

Then when it was all plugged in again I had a very dim left turn signal and no right signal. They seem to think it's an issue with the ground and are going to run new wiring for the tail lights (everything else was working when I was plugged in) instead of hunting for the issue.

Anyone else have this problem? Suggestions?

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Old 07-14-2008, 05:13 PM   #2
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Name: Peter
Trailer: 2005 19 ft Scamp 19 ft 5th Wheel
Posts: 1,555
Their thought that the ground/neutral connection might be at fault makes a fair bit of sense. Most of our trailers are wired with a single, shared ground wire that runs from trailer to tow vehicle connection all the way around the perimeter of the trailer. Each individual 12v light, fan, or other electrical device then taps into this shared ground wire so that electricity that's "sent" to those devices on their own wire has a way back to the battery. Add up all the different lights, fans, pumps, etc. that tap into this single, shared wire and that's a lot of splices that can go wrong.

The proper way to troubleshoot a ground wire problem is by disconnecting the battery and tow vehicle, then testing the ground wire connection at different points along the way to see where the problem(s) are, then fixing/replacing the specific wire splices or segments of wire that have gone awry. Your RV place may do the repair this way, or they may have an alternative "cheater's" solution.

The quick-and-dirty cheater's solution is to connect a new neutral wire from the TV connector to the tail end of the neutral line, giving the electricity two ways back to the battery instead of one. This approach is a band-aid approach that will probably fix the lights, but in doing so it camouflages the actual cause of the problem and makes future electrical system troubleshooting and repair more difficult.

From my description you probably have a clear idea which way I'd do this repair. Good luck.

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Old 07-14-2008, 06:58 PM   #3
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Name: Darwin
Trailer: 2002 19 ft Scamp 19 ft 5th Wheel
Posts: 3,087
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Our Scamp has the ground/neutral attached to the frame so it is easy to attach any light return just by running a wire to the frame.

Also: You can purchase a 7 wire to 7 wire adapter that also has a flat receptacle built in on the side along with 2 cigarette type receptacles. You can use either the 7 pin round or flat connectors.

www.northerntool.com and www.jcw.com has them.
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Old 07-14-2008, 08:53 PM   #4
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Trailer: 94 Casita 16 ft
Posts: 198
I just finished test fitting the Casita to my wife's Explorer, and the taillights were acting up. I had a dim signal on the driver's side, and no running light. I took the lens off the taillight, and jiggled the bulb to improve the connection. Viola!!! It worked perfectly.

Not saying this is your problem, but I like to start with the easiest solutions first.
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Old 07-15-2008, 12:46 PM   #5
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Trailer: 1977 Triple E Surfside
Posts: 66
They tried the easy stuff first - took off the tail light cover and played with the bulb, connections there etc. Unfortunately that didn't solve the problem so they carried on to testing voltage etc. and still seemed to think they might find something easy to fix so I could be on my way but after over an hour they admitted defeat on simple fixes. And I went home to see about toasting marshmallows over the BBQ...

I think the issue with finding where exactly the ground has an issue was the amount of time and $ involved vs running new wires to the tail lights. As I have not yet picked the winning lotto #s, I tend to be swayed by the cost-effective solution. On the other hand they did have me clear out the space under the front bunk so that they could get a closer look at where the wiring enters the trailer so...

Right now I'm just looking forward to having it back so I can head out - and so I can work on the window cranks next....*sigh*....

Thanks for all the suggestions!
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Old 07-15-2008, 06:44 PM   #6
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Trailer: 94 Casita 16 ft
Posts: 198
Alrightee then, here's another cheapie try for you. Pull off the lenses, and hook a battery up to the contacts. Make sure that there is no other battery connected to or in your camper, then you can use a testlight to check where the power is actually going.
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Old 07-16-2008, 09:08 PM   #7
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Trailer: 1977 Triple E Surfside
Posts: 66
Happy news! The RV shop called today and they didn't need to re-wire the lights. They looked in the control box under the front bunks and some of the connections were in rough shape - seemed to be all it took to fix it up! Hopefully now when I plug in the truck it's all ready to go! (Except for the other stuff I'm working on lol)

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