Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, shipping delays of 2 to 3 days may occur and shipping times cannot be calculated. We apologize for the inconvenience.
A boat on a trailer

Trailer Lights Are for Everyone's Safety

Your boat's trailer lights are more than just a way to let others know of your intentions. They're a critical element to staying safe and keeping others safe, too. In poor visibility, your trailer lights may save you and another driver from a collision. So, be sure you have high-quality boat trailer lights in good working order. Saving a few bucks isn't a good bet when it comes to your and others' safety.

Each state has varying regulations regarding your trailer lights. Some of these regulations are based on the trailer's size and types of trailer light; for example, red ones for braking and signaling and white to illuminate the license plate from a set distance. Always follow state regulations for the state your trailer is licensed in and have other DOT and safety items on board.

For trailers eighty inches or less, you generally need tail lights, stop lights, turn signals, side marker lights and reflectors (both side and rear). Boat trailers above eighty inches require more illumination to help define their shape at night. A single bar of three red identification lights at the back and additional lights on the sides — at the widest point — will usually do the trick.

Incandescent vs. LED Trailer Light Bulbs: Which Are Safer?

Until the year 2000, when LED bulbs were first used (on a Cadillac DeVille), all trailer lights were incandescent. But a revolutionary new bulb changed the game. Nick Holonyak, Jr. invented the first true LED in 1962 while working at General Electric. He is often referred to as the "Father of the Light-Emitting Diode."

That light-emitting diode — LED — showed the automotive industry, and the world-at-large, what it could do much better than an ordinary incandescent bulb. Dozens of industries took notice and retooled, while others sprouted up to take advantage of this little, brightly-glowing lens. But what makes them the safest choice for your trailer lights?

Safety Advantages of LED Bulbs

  • Longer Life: LED bulbs are rated to last up to 100,000 service hours, while an incandescent only rates for 3,000. Incandescent bulbs have filaments that can break with vibrations or cold water. LED bulbs have no filament to break. LED bulbs last so long that, if they were on for four hours a day — every day of the year — they would last over sixty-eight years!
  • Instant Activation: An LED bulb comes on about 1/2 second faster than an incandescent bulb, so the driver behind you has more time to brake.
  • Zero Thermal Shocks: Boat trailer light bulbs might face icy water at the dock. Since they're not permanently sealed, incandescent bulbs generate heat and may become inoperable when wet. However, LEDs generate minimal heat and are permanently sealed, so this isn't an issue.
  • Low Profile: LED trailer lights have a much lower profile, so they'll suffer minimal or zero damage in a minor collision. Incandescents would likely need replacing.
  • Less Electricity Used: Good for your battery, LED trailer light bulbs use about 1/8 of what the current incandescent bulbs draw.

These and other considerations show that LED trailer lights are generally the safer choice. With longer life, faster activation and far less chance of damaging them with regular use, incandescents can't hold a candle to them. You can get LED bulbs for your trailer's tail lights, stop-lights, turn signals, license plate lights, fender lights, reverse lights and ID bars. They're a small investment with a big payoff!

How To Wire Trailer Lights

Don't worry. It's not rocket science, and most people don't instinctively know how to wire trailer lights. But with a little information and a trailer light wiring kit, you'll be on your way to the lake in no time. Fortunately, some standards will apply to most vehicles and trailers, making your job easier.

Speaking of standards, the one common denominator of state regulations on trailers is that they must be wired to the vehicle. No exceptions. So, time to dive in.

Wiring a Trailer for Lights

  • Most trailers have 3 circuits:
    • One for the tail lights
    • One for the left brake light
    • One for the right brake light
  • You'll need a ground wire: This is included and will run separate from the normal current path, so it prevents the entire system from shorting out. It will attach to the trailer's frame, not the hitch. The trailer's wiring plug will usually have 4 contacts.
  • Standard trailer connectors have 4 pins plus ground: Which makes it easy. You'll usually see flat pins all in a row. You got this!
  • Some connectors use up to 7 pins: Larger trailers will have more lighting and the need for more connections. Often, these will come in a prefab round connector you just plug-in.
  • If your connectors on the truck and trailer match: You win! Easy plug-n-play.
  • If they don't, such as a 4-pin truck with a 7-pin trailer: This is improv time! But don't fret. We'll have the pack you need with the matching adaptor at a great price and fast shipping. When you get it, just plug it in. That's all there is to it.

These and other considerations show that LED trailer lights are generally the safer choice. With longer life, faster activation and far less chance of damaging them with regular use, incandescents can't hold a candle to them. You can get LED bulbs for your trailer's tail lights, stop-lights, turn signals, license plate lights, fender lights, reverse lights and ID bars. They're a small investment with a big payoff!

Hooking up trailer lights isn't so hard when you know what to do. The number of connectors and pins may change depending on the trailer's complexity, but the principle stays the same. You match the wiring and make sure all the ground wires are connected to the trailer's frame. Now it's time to test them before you hit the road.

Testing Trailer Lights

OK, the boat trailer lights are wired to your vehicle; it's time to see if you did it right. The first step to testing trailer lights is to turn the vehicle over and flick on your headlights. Make sure the tail lights on the trailer come on. Next, have someone tap your brakes to check that the brake lights on the trailer are working, too. Last, test the blinkers.

As long as all look good, you've done your basic testing. But if you have a larger trailer with multiple lights, you'll want to check that each is working correctly and meets your state's regulations on the type of bulb, color and placement. Your state's Department of Transportation should have a site with all the necessary information to stay safe and legal.

Trailer Light Troubleshooting

What do you do when your trailer lights start to flicker or stop working? Here are a few simple steps that might solve your problem. Remember, a process of elimination from easiest to hardest is always best.

  • Check the ground wires: They should be clean and firmly attached to the trailer frame, not the hitch.
  • Clean and re-connect the terminals: A crimped + soldered connection is better than standard crimped-only ones.
  • Look for blown fuses: Inspect wiring on the trailer sides for possibly damaged in-line fuses. Check the converter for blown fuses, too.
  • Make sure the problem is with the trailer: Disconnect the trailer. If you have a stand-alone car battery available, run the trailer's white ground wire to the negative terminal and all colored wires to the positive. If the lights all function on the trailer, the vehicle is where your problem lies.
  • Rewire the trailer: Don't panic! Wires become corroded over time and old repairs stop helping. A trailer light wiring kit isn't expensive, and the work is not daunting.
Shop Husky now for all your trailer lighting needs