Replacing your trailer lights with LED is a great upgrade to any boat trailer, travel trailer, or utility trailer. The old lights used were incandescent bulbs that either burned out easily or took a lot of battery power.
By upgrading your trailer’s LED lights, you are giving yourself years of maintenance-free bulb replacement. And on top of that, you are reducing your battery and power needs. Also, the best thing about replacing your lights is that the LED lights don’t need any special wires added; you can do it with all your existing wiring. No need to add additional wires!
This post will explore the process and procedure for you to easily and confidently replace your old incandescent light with new LED trailer lights, including:
- Selecting the best-LED light fixture
- Wiring your LED trailer light
- Mounting the LED light
Whether you are looking to replace a brake light, marker light, or turn signal, these basic procedures apply and can be used to replace any trailer light you want.
Table of Contents
- LED Lights
The incandescent light bulb has ruled our homes and trailer lights for dozens of years. Up until the turn of the millennium, all you could get for trailer lights were these incandescent bulbs. The problem was, and it still is today, that these bulbs don’t last very long and consume a lot of power.
On my previous travel trailers, the RV lighting was always incandescent. And since I boondock a lot, the RV battery would die down quickly and reduce my power capacity. Then came LED! Once I replaced those lights, my power consumption dropped by 50%! That is less time running the generator. Plus, I never had to replace a bulb again. No more worry about my RV lights again.
Now, let’s fast forward to today. Pretty much all incandescent bulbs have been replaced with light-emitting diodes or LEDs. Some people reference them as LED bulbs or LED light bulbs, but that is not exactly the case. These are actually electrical circuits instead of a filament in a bulb (incandescent).
LED replacement lights are all over home centers and hardware stores where you can choose the best for your trailer.
The first step in new LED trailer lights is the fixture selection. Take a walk through the hardware store in the trailer section, and you will see a full array of LED trailer light replacements.
When selecting the right LED fixture, stick with the same size and shape as the existing light you are replacing. This will help you save time in the long run for mounting, hopefully reducing the need to cut, drill and modify.
Now that you have your LED light fixture let’s get into the replacement and wiring. Before you do any wiring, start by disconnecting the negative battery cable on your trailer, ensuring you have no power to the lights. This is a good safety practice when working on your trailer’s electrical components.
Step 1: Remove Old Light
The first step is to remove your old light fixture. Find the mounting screws, which are usually behind the lens light cover or on mounting tabs. As you remove the screws, save them. This is helpful as the new screws with your LED light may differ, giving you a tough time later on.
Step 2: Disconnect the wires
Your old light loose should be hanging by two or three wires. Before cutting the wires, see how much wire slack you have on the new fixture and that you have enough wire to connect to the trailer. You don’t want too long of a wire either, as it will be hard to tie up and conceal. Going with the same length as the existing one will be a good rule of thumb.
Step 3: Connect the wires
The two main things to remember when connecting the wires are to connect the correct wires and to use waterproof connectors.
Your light fixture should have two or three wires, including a ground wire (this is mounted to the trailer frame). The ground wire is usually white wire, with the hot wires being another color. Depending on which light you are replacing, different color wires will be your hot. For example, a brown wire is for your tail light, while a green wire is your turn signal.
I always double-check in case someone in their garage built the trailer, and they may or may not have followed the wire color rules. To check, find the ground wire that is connected to the trailer frame. Use that as your ground and the remaining wire(s) then as your hot.
Next, make sure you use a waterproof connection. Avoid twisting the wires and wrapping them with electrical tape. This is not a waterproof connection, and you will eventually get corrosion in the connection, and your trailer lights won’t work anymore.
You can get many types of waterproof connections at the hardware store. Many are snap-in-place and are easy to use. They have dielectric grease that keeps out the water and your connection corrosion free.
Step 4: Mount the LED light
With your new LED light wiring complete, the final step is to mount the light to your trailer. Remember those screws you set aside? This is a good time to get them and mount the light. Make sure you tuck in the wires, and all that remains exposed is the light fixture itself.
Upgrading from incandescent bulbs to LED trailer lights gives you some advantages, including maintenance-free bulb replacement and lower power consumption. The replacement requires no additional wiring, simplifying the process. Various LED fixture options are readily available at hardware stores, making selection easy. The replacement becomes hassle-free by following a straightforward step-by-step procedure for mounting and wiring the LED lights.
Tony is an avid camper and RV traveler. He fell in love with camping on his first RV trip with his wife over 25 years ago. Tony loves sharing lessons learned and tips about RV maintenance and safe traveling.