Home » Children of God Publications » Have Trailer – Will Travel! – Pt.24: Trailer Lights! – How To Hook’m Up!!

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TRAILER LIGHTS!--How to Hook'm Up!--By Father David       DFO812-24       9 May 1980

       1. WELL, THERE YOU ARE FOLKS! GBY! THAT'S YOUR LITTLE TRAILER FOR YOUR ESCAPE!--That's your flee bag! Since the car & trailer are in your name, you will have to have the responsibility of getting your little outfit rigged up; get the hitch on, & be sure when you put the hitch on that you put the electrical hitch on too. (G: Well the guy who puts the hitch on has to take it to the other shop for the electrical.) All right, get somebody else to put that on. You could do it yourself, but anyway you might as well let them do it. They know more about it.

       2. IT'S PRETTY SIMPLE REALLY: ALL YOU DO IS FIND WHICH WIRES IN THE TAIL-LIGHTS ARE FOR WHICH LIGHTS. Usually they've got about three or four wires plugged into the back of the parking-light/tail-light assembly. You turn on the parking lights & you keep pulling the wires off one by one to see which light goes off. Then you just run a wire from there to the proper hole on the electrical hitch.

       3. (G: YOU DON'T HAVE TO RUN ANYTHING FROM THE BATTERY?) No, only for the inside light. The inside light has to work when you're travelling, when you're hitched up & you car lights are off, so you have got to run that all the way from the battery. (Your inside trailer light.)

       4. YOUR OPERATING LIGHTS ARE THE FIRST THING TO HOOK UP. Turn on the parking lights, & keep on pulling off each one of those wires until the parking light goes off, then you know you've got the hot wire. Then usually all I used to do was strip my wire, stick it in the hole, it's usually got a little male prong there, & just stick the plug back in. Then it's in tight & you don't have to solder or cut into the wire & tape it or anything. You've got to use a piece of wire maybe a meter or two long; make sure it's long enough to go from your tail-light down to your electrical socket on the hitch.

       5. ONCE YOU'VE FOUND THE PARKING LIGHTS THAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE. You find the wire on one side & then you can do the same to the light on the other side. You wire it into the parking light system that goes back there. Usually just one of them is all that's necessary for your parking lights, because all your parking lights back on your trailer are usually on one circuit. Your female socket that's on the hitch is usually on the left, as you face the back of the car, on the left side of the ball. So you usually wire most of your connections into the left tail-light because that's the closest, & you usually only need one meter of wire.

       6. SO YOU FIND OUT WHICH ONE IT IS BY PULLING OUT THE DIFFERENT PLUGS OR WIRES ON THE BACK OF THE TAIL-LIGHT. Turn on the tail-lights/parking lights. Pull out one wire at a time until you find out which one makes the tail-light go off, & then you just stick the stripped end of your wire in the same hole & plug it back in, & attach the other end to one of the hitch holes. Now if that one connection makes all the trailer tail-lights go on, all the better. But it may only cover one side, so you may have to wire the other side too. Next thing you do,

       7. HAVE SOMEBODY SIT IN THE CAR & PUT THEIR FOOT ON THE BRAKE & that lights up the bright red brake lights. You keep pulling the wires out of the back end of the tail-lights until that light goes off, & then you know that's the brake light. Have another little wire ready that you stick in the hole & put that plug back on. Then connect the other end in another one of the holes in the hitch socket.

       8. YOU CAN JUST TOUCH THE WIRE TO THE DIFFERENT PRONGS OF THE MALE TRAILER PLUG & that way very easily find which hole to connect it to, or you can stick them in the back of the socket where it attaches, whichever. But you must be sure it's situated so it hits the right prong & turns on that particular brake light. Now if it makes them both go on, fine. If it does not, if it makes only your left trailer brake light on, then you connect a wire to the right one too the same way.

       9. IT'S JUST BY TRIAL & ERROR, EXPERIMENTATION to find the right way to do it: Which hole fits best, which prong goes in which hole. This is a simple lesson. If you guys are going to travel in cars & trailers, you have to know a few things about these prongs & holes & sockets & to travel through life you have to know a lot about prongs & poles & plugs & sockets & holes.--Ha!--All life is very sexy!

       10. ONCE YOU'VE FOUND THE RIGHT POLE FOR THE RUNNING LIGHTS, maybe on one side or maybe on both sides, depending on how your trailer's wired, you just do it by experimentation, then you find the right one for the brake lights. Either one side will operate both lights, or one for each side. Quite frequently it's one for both sides, & sometimes it's just one on one side, it just depends on how it's built. Now for that reason,

       11. IF BOTH TAIL-LIGHTS ARE ON ONE CIRCUIT, & you put the tail-lights on to find which hole is for the tail-lights on the left hand side & you've got it wired to one of the prongs & the tail-lights don't work, it may be because the right hand tail-light is the one that's on the hot circuit. Savvy? You might have to wire into that one instead. You just have to try, it takes a little while. (G: So one side of the car could run both?) Yes, so if that side doesn't do it, you might have the wrong one.

       12. ACTUALLY IF IT'S WIRED IN SERIES FROM UP FRONT & IT LIGHTS BOTH TAIL-LIGHTS, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET JUICE OFF EITHER ONE. But the thing is, you can get juice on both tail-lights of your car, but probably the tail-lights of your trailer have only one wire going to that prong of the hitch & unless you hit the right prong, whether it's from either tail-light of the car, you're not going to get any lights on the tail.

       13. SO THEN YOU CONNECT THE BRAKE LIGHTS THAT WAY.--And for God's sake turn off the other lights! Don't leave them on too long. Have somebody sitting there with a foot on the brake while you experiment with the other wires for your brake lights. Then finally, you should only have to have one connection for tail-lights & one for brake lights actually, then you have two more for other lights. Those are definitely then those two circuits, savvy?

       14. SO WHAT YOU DO THEN IS TURN ON YOUR LEFT SIGNAL LIGHT or have somebody sit in the car & you holler, "Turn on the left signal light!" While it's blinking you try the different prong & you attach to one of those two vacant holes that are on your plug. (G: Are the tail-lights & running lights the same or separate circuits?)

       15. YOUR TAIL-LIGHTS & RUNNING LIGHTS ARE ALWAYS ON THE SAME CIRCUIT. So the minute you turn on your parking lights or head lights either one, all of your tail-lights & your running lights on the sides of the trailer usually light. Most trailers have two tail-lights & four running lights, two on each side, but a little trailer like that might only have one running light on each side because it's so small. Nearly all trailers have running lights, as they're usually required by law on a trailer, so that a car, whether approaching from the back or the front, will know you're pulling a trailer & that it's usually wider than your car, & can see it & won't try to go too close to you or they could get caught by the side of your trailer!

       16. AS YOU TURN ON YOUR LEFT SIGNAL LIGHT YOU KEEP PULLING PLUGS & TRYING DIFFERENT CONNECTIONS until you find out which one is your blinker on the left side. Once you've located which wire it is, then you put your little connecting wire in that hole & push the plug back in.

       17. YOU CAN WIRE THE HITCH SOCKET FIRST WITH A BUNCH OF WIRES A METER OR TWO LONG so they're all ready, & then run them up into the trunk, & then by turning the lights on find out which hole it is & plug that wire in. You keep trying the different wires until you find out which one is operating your left bright blinker.

       18. YOU'LL KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BECAUSE IF YOU'VE GOT THE RIGHT HOLE THE LEFT BLINKER WILL ONLY BLINK YOUR LEFT TAIL LIGHT, but if you notice that it's blinking all your lights then it's the wrong one!--That's the tail light & running light hole. If you notice it's flashing both of your tail-lights, then you know you've got the wrong hole, that's the brake light hole. You just keep trying the different holes until you find the right one. I always liked to find out which was the right light hole on the car first, then once I had the right one there I'd run my wire outside & try the different prongs on the trailer to see which one fit the right lights.

       19. NEXT TURN ON YOUR RIGHT BLINKER & PULL OUT THE PLUGS BEHIND IT UNTIL YOU FIND WHICH ONE IS THE ONE THAT MAKES IT GO OUT completely & stop blinking & you've got the right one. Stick the wire in & put the plug back in. You do all this right in the same position with the trunk lid up & it's pretty easy. Once you've done it you'll know how. You probably already located which holes are which on your socket by that time. You've only got three left, & one of those three is the one that's going to operate your right blinker on the tail of the trailer.

       20. IF YOU DO THIS IN THE DAYTIME OF COURSE YOU'LL HAVE TO HAVE SOMEBODY OUT BACK WATCHING to let you know. Believe it or not, in some ways, if you don't have somebody to watch, it would be easier to do at night, because you could see it flashing up against the wall or something. But usually you can do it in the daytime when you have somebody to stand back there--behind the trailer & tell you.

       21. YOU FIND THE RIGHT-HAND BLINKER HOLE & PUT YOUR WIRE IN, & THEN YOU TAKE YOUR WIRE & TEST THE DIFFERENT PRONGS OF THE PLUG. As soon as you've found one that doesn't flash both brake lights & it doesn't flash tail-lights & running lights--it just flashes that right hand rear light, if it's the right hand one, then you know you've got the right one: Just a process of elimination, by trial error, which one it is. Savvy? It's that simple. You guys watched that trailer technician do it. Did you kind of get the idea how to do it? (P: I understand a lot better now.)

       22. HE HAS YOU IN THE CAR TO TURN ON DIFFERENT LIGHTS WHILE HE'S BACK THERE EXPERIMENTING WITH DIFFERENT WIRES while somebody else stands out back telling which lights are going on. It usually takes three people, definitely takes three people in the daytime. One guy in the car, one guy behind the trailer & you in between. You can see which car tail-lights are going off & on, brake lights, turn signals, but you can't see the back end of the trailer, so you've got to have somebody out there, & you need somebody up front too, it saves time.

       23. OF COURSE YOU CAN DO IT ALONE. I'VE DONE IT ALL BY MYSELF. You run up to the car & turn on your parking lights, then you run back there, stick in one hole, see what it's done back there & then you stick it in another hole & you run back & see, but it's a hassle doing it by yourself. It's real quick if you have three people. Once you've done it, you'll know it all.--Ha!

       24. (MARIA: DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE FAMILY THAT HAVE GOTTEN VANS & TRAILERS & THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE THEIR DRIVER'S LICENSE & they never have learned to drive before in their life? They don't know a thing about it! That's true! Can you imagine them getting a trailer before they even know how to drive?) Well Lord, I hope nobody tries to pull a trailer unless they are really a good driver to begin with! (Maria: Well, that's what you're for, Honey!) I can't teach them how to drive! Lord help us!

       25. THEY HAVE A STANDARD SYSTEM IN EUROPE WHERE THEY ALL USE THE SAME TYPE OF CONNECTION & always put the same type of light in the same hole. So if those lights are hooked up to work on one car's hitch, they'll work on any hitch. If the guy that you go to is a trailer man & knows the compatible holes, which one he's supposed to put the wires to, then you should be able to drive right home, hook up the trailer & everything works fine! But if it doesn't, then he didn't. Then you'll have to do it my way.--Ha!

       26. OH REALLY, IT'S NOT HARD; IT'S FUN, LIKE A GAME, like a puzzle! I always enjoyed electronics & mechanics, it's really fascinating. You just learn as you go, sometimes. Well, what other lessons did you want me to teach about trailers? (Maria: Are you done with that one?) That's about the lights.

       27. FINALLY, OF COURSE, THERE'S YOUR INSIDE DOME LIGHT. You may want to use it while you're travelling & hooked up to the car for an inside light, like when you stop at night or maybe you stop after dark to eat; you shouldn't, but sometimes you get caught. At least you want to have a light when you go to bed, have a snack or whatever, & it only takes one little light. You don't need very much in a small trailer like that. You'd be surprised, one little light's all you need.

       28. SO BEFORE YOU START ON YOUR TRAILER, MAKE SURE YOU TAKE THAT WIRE & YOU TIE IT TO SOMETHING NEAR THE HOT POLE OF THE BATTERY. Don't wire it to the battery yet, but just tie it to something there that's handy so you'll know you've got enough wire when you're ready to stick it into the clamp on the hot pole of the battery. Then wire it somewhere along in the engine compartment, usually you can wrap it around something to keep it from pulling loose. But be sure you don't wire it to anything on the engine itself, or to things that are going to interfere with the engine or things that vibrate too much. Too much vibration or heat will wear off the insulation, then you've got a short & you don't know where it is! I can tell you how to find a short in the car too, that's very simple, but some mechanics don't know.

       29. ONE OF THE TOUGHEST JOBS ABOUT A CAR IS TO FIND AN ELECTRICAL SHORT, because it could be in a thousand different places! Anywhere where bare wire is rubbing on the frame or anything metal, it'll short out the fuse. So always be careful about wiring.

       30. LET'S SAY YOU'VE GOT A FUSE IN THE CAR THAT KEEPS BLOWING OUT. Maybe the headlights go out everytime it goes out, maybe the tail-lights go out or the dome light or something goes out. You found the fuse that keeps blowing, & you put a new one in & that blows too. Let's say it is just the dome light, so you know it's somewhere in the dome light circuit. But my Lord, the way those wires are running around every place it's hard just finding the right wire! You usually have to start with the dome light & trace all the way back, & it usually goes inside the wall & you have to take off the wall panelling & all to find out where it is!

       31. IT'S USUALLY SOME PLACE WHERE IT'S BEEN RUBBING & IT'S RUBBED THE INSULATION CLEAR OFF & it touches the frame. So everytime you turn it on, the hot shot in the battery goes short circuit straight into the frame, & it could really knock your battery for a loop pretty fast if you leave it on too long!

       32. A MECHANIC OUT IN TEXAS TAUGHT ME WHAT TO DO once, to find a short. I had a short that kept shorting out all the time--I think it was the dome light--& I couldn't find out where that short was, where it was rubbing. I traced the wire & everything. He said, "Well, all you do, instead of putting a new fuse in & keep burning out fuses,

       33. "JUST TAKE A BOLT ABOUT THE SIZE OF THE FUSE, SAW OFF THE HEAD & STICK THAT IN THE FUSE SOCKET!" Then stay there until you smell smoke & look all around to see where the smoke's coming from, & that's your short!" Of course, it could knock your battery flat if you leave it too long, but that's the way you do it & it's the quickest way in the World to do it!

       34. SO I STUCK THE BOLT IN, LOOKED AROUND, & SMOKE WAS COMING OUT FROM UNDERNEATH THE CAR! I looked under quick & there it was, coming from this wire that was running underneath & had been rubbing on the frame. It found right away where the short was, & of course I turned off the lights & took the bolt out right away quick! Then I just got down there, wrapped up that spot with tape, & that was it!

       35. SO, THAT'S THE WAY YOU HOOK UP LIGHTING FOR YOUR TRAILER if you don't already have it hooked up by some mechanic. Otherwise just drive it to some trailer mechanic who usually knows what he's doing & can do it pretty quick. Don't just go to some ordinary mechanic.

       36. OF COURSE THE BEST PLACE TO GET IT DONE IS WHERE YOU BOUGHT YOUR TRAILER, just insist that they do it. Now some of them will consider that part of their responsibility to wire the trailer compatible to the car when they hitch you up. You go to pick up your trailer & you hitch up, & then you make sure all your lights are working.

       37. YOU'VE GOT TO WIRE THE INSIDE LIGHT CORD ALL THE WAY FROM THE BATTERY TO THE CONNECTION that's attached to the dome light of the trailer. You have to do that because there's no point in wiring it, like some of them will do, just into the parking lights. While you've got your parking lights on it works fine, that's good, but it'll only work when the parking lights are on! When you need it you are not going to be standing there with the parking lights on!

       38. SO, IT HAS TO BE WIRED ALL THE WAY STRAIGHT FROM THE BATTERY CLEAR TO THE HITCH, so that when you're standing still & all your lights are off, the dome light will still work & that hole on your socket is always hot. So you've got to watch about that, always wire the dome light straight to the battery so it's always hot. These are important points if you're going to be working with trailers.

       39. IF YOU TAKE IT TO A GUY TO WIRE IT, HE'LL PROBABLY WIRE IT RIGHT. Of course he may say, "Well, how am I gonna wire it unless you bring the trailer?" Well, why go through all that trouble when you can do it yourself easy. It's simple: You just try it, that's all.

       40. THAT'S ABOUT ALL YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE OF BEFORE YOU TAKE OFF with it, make sure all those lights are working. Make sure your safety lights are working, & it's always nice to have the dome light working if you're on the road & stop at night. Of course the dome light won't work anyway if your car is disconnected, & when you're parked it usually is, unless you're just on the road & stop for a night, & that's when you need it. Otherwise you can usually connect to an electric cord for lights at a campground.

              41. ALSO BE SURE YOUR TRAILER BRAKES ARE WORKING! In N. America older trailers sometimes have electrical or hydraulic brakes either of which are complicated, & the car controls operate with a lever hooked to the car steering column, that must be installed by an expert mechanic, with various connections. These are older heavier trailers & need'm! But nearly all modern light weight travel trailers have automatic tongue-operated brakes that apply themselves!--Get one! GBAKY!

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