Road Warrior

Now is the Time to Pay Attention to Your Trailer

T.M. Golub May 12, 2017

Nothing is more frustrating than improperly working taillights on trailer, car or truck, especially if a sheriff’s deputy and ticket are involved. That being said, if you routinely transport your boat to the local ramp or distant angling arenas you want nothing to stand in the way of reaching your final destination.

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Routine inspection of your trailer taillights will help uncover wear and tear before its too late.Photo: Doughertyphotos.com

With as much traffic as we experience on a day-to-day basis, safety is of great concern anytime you’re on the asphalt, especially if your prized possession is nestled on a trailer in tow. Paid off or not, it’s a platform that gives you the opportunity to escape and enjoy your time outdoors. Despite your driving ability or the lack of points on your license, it’s your fellow commuters you need to worry about judging the distance behind your trailer, knowing the distractedness of incoming smartphone texts or calls is now a common factor in many collisions.

Some of the benefits of LED lights include higher life expectancy, lower power draw, and lack of filaments to break due to typical road vibration.

For practical purposes, the abundance and choice of trailer taillights for your boating transport needs is a growing market with numerous options. With many brands to choose from, the over-all design remains similar from brand to brand, aside from the width of trailer in question. The dividing line for purchased light kits and legal requirements is a width greater or less than 80 inches. Trailers less than 80 inches wide are required to have stop/tail/turn in addition to marker lights and reflectors to be mounted along the length of trailer. Trailers greater than 80 inches require a few additional lights to define the width of the trailer including red rear clearance lights at the trailer’s widest point, and three red identification lights centered on the back of the trailer spread between 6 and 12 inches apart. Many kits contain an average of 25 feet in wiring, brackets, all necessary hardware and instructions. Prices for such kits run the gamut from $45 to $90 depending on the vendor and overall quality of the product.

When it comes to lights, incandescent bulbs have been the industry standard,although LED technology is quickly gaining trailer light market share. Some of the benefits of LED lights include higher life expectancy, lower power draw, and lack of filaments to break due to typical road vibration. Additionally, LEDs are fully sealed, much brighter than incandescent bulbs, and if a diode goes out the remainder of the light strip will still illuminate. However, LEDs are temperature dependent and low signal intensities or even outright failure may come from high temperatures alone so constant monitoring of your trailer taillights must be part of your pre-trip inspection and also immediately after emerging from the water.

Although there are state requirements as to where the lights need to be mounted, you may be able to mount your lights in certain spots to eliminate them from ever submerging. You can also unplug the trailer wiring harness before dunking. But, for more visibility and durability, the vertical PVC guide rails at width’s end of your trailer provide a good mounting location. This may require additional hardware than what is included in the purchased kit, but if you’re handy this shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re not that mechanically inclined, there are products on the market that include pipe light trailer LEDs—in essence, pipe sleeves that may be slipped onto and down the vertical PVC guide rails making installation easier for the novice in all of us.

Maintenance is an important task to keep up with. This is very important when certain brands advertise a submersible product but design a drain hole on the light’s side that will inevitably fill up with water thereby corroding the unit. This leaves you no choice but to purchase another one of their taillight kits or bulb replacements. Simple caulking will take care of this, as will dousing the taillights with freshwater after emerging from the salt.

Trailer lights may very well provide the most grief for trailer-boaters and driving without these essential safety features is a definite hazard, so it’s important you check the wiring harness and electrical connections along your trailer’s frame. Unfortunately, with routine submersion in the harsh saltwater environment even the best lights are unreliable. Corroded light sockets, damaged wires, poor connections and improper waterproofing are only some of the issues you will be faced with throughout the life of your trailer. When you have the tough task of diagnosing an electrical issue start by making sure all of the connections are tight, clean and properly secured.

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