View Full Version : Boat Trailer Question
09-23-2011, 07:13 PM
I think I may be running the risk of stating a dumb question but here goes. I am hoping to get my hartley-ts12 wet before the snow flies here. We are getting hit with a few more days of rain and the humidity is over 90 percent so the painting portions of my project are on hold. That leads me to my old trailer that has shot wiring. The first launch of the hartley will also be my very first use of a boat trailer. I bought a wiring kit and I am about to start the rewiring. Just about all of the things that I have read on-line tells me that eventually all trailer lights will leak and lead to corrosion -- even those touted as "submersable". My rear lights are mounted on metal arms leading about 6 inches from the frame.
It would seem logical to me to cover the light fixtures with and a plastic bag and tie them off with small stuff for the few minutes they would be under water.
Am I reading too much into this evolution and my idea won't work or does anyone else take steps to protect trailer lights in this fashion -- or is this just plain wacky? Thanks, Gene
09-23-2011, 07:23 PM
I like states where you can hang a light bar on the boat or trailor, but roll it and its wiring up before launching.
09-23-2011, 08:00 PM
I just back the trailer into the water and hope for the best. I just bought a set of LED trailer lights for a new baot and trailer I bought. The lights on my old trailer were still working after 7 years of freshwater use.
09-23-2011, 08:14 PM
Hi Gene, nice to hear that you're going to get her wet. I'm with Ian on this, buy or make a light bar to hang off the transom while you are trailering here and just take it off and either leave it in the boot of your car or along the back seat while you are launching and recovering her. Far less worry and you'll never have to consider whether the lights are getting wet or the wiring rusting out.
like the one at the bottom of this picture:
http://www.shop1auto.com.au/Images Tow accessories/trailer_lights.jpg
I'd add, don't take off the old light arms that you describe until you've put the trailer on and can see how much of it is visible in your mirrors without the boat on the trailer. Often when you go to back the empty trailer down the ramp to pick up the boat it is invisible from the drivers seat so having a couple of reference points that you can see in both mirrors will make it a whole lot easier.
09-23-2011, 08:22 PM
Great idea Greg ..thanks .
09-23-2011, 08:31 PM
In 15 years of trailering in salt water I've never made any special effort to protect trailer lights. Every now and again I clean the bulb contacts. I only recently read that some people disconnect the trailer before backing in to the water, so I've started doing that. I think I replaced them once a few years ago, but the replacements weren't expensive.
09-23-2011, 08:42 PM
The removable light bar sounds like a great idea, but if that doesn't work for your jurisdiction, try this. Cover all contacts and any exposed metal, including the bulb base with dielectric grease. Try to create a vapor barrier over any metal.
09-23-2011, 10:03 PM
Thank you all for the comments. I admit that I sometimes get overly anal on some of these issues. I had already considered the removable light bar style which I prefer -- but after reading what I could find in the PA codes I cannot discern if that type is acceptable here -- the codes, to me anyway, are pretty ambiguous.
GREG thanks for your input and pointers. Weather here is really messing with me but I am trying to get it done -- this year. Ryan's ts14 sure turned out nice -- I'd say he did Mr. Hartley proud. Gene
09-24-2011, 01:15 AM
I use a light bar here and dont know if its legal or not.Never been called on it. I also tow boats 6-inches to a foot wider than is legal without the required permit and never have a problem with the law. I'm not telling you to break any laws, I am just giving you some perspective .....FWIW
09-24-2011, 07:29 AM
I don't know what criteria they use to consider a trailor light submersible because they all seem to fill with water. A sealed led is the best bet but cost more,a cheap set replaced every couple of years costs about the same. When my light sockets corrode now I just replace them with plastic sockets from a junk car and cover all metal bits and contacts with grease. I just zip tie the sockets in so the bulb doesn't touch any plastic on the housing. A hole saw opening up the main light to the side light lets one bulb light both. I never understood why they have separate bulbs.
09-24-2011, 09:00 AM
I just changed the lights on all my trailers over to LED. I used to disconnect every time I submerged the trailer. The thought behind this is that the heat of the bulb hitting cold water causes it to pop. You just have to remember to reconnect before hitting the road again.
But, boat trailer lights can be as frustrating as Christmas tree lights! I always test mine every time I hit the road.
09-24-2011, 09:38 AM
When I lived in PA, light bars were common and legal. They are easy to make and use. Nobody likes to have the repair their trailer lights after a long day on the water.
09-24-2011, 08:01 PM
All I use is a piece of 2x4 with the lights on it and bungy it to the boats gunwales. Easy. I eliminate the need for wiring to the vehicle and just run two wires to the boat battery for tail lights. Nobody uses their indicators around here anyway, so I just copy them when the trailer is on.A third brake light on the truck is visible over the boat.
09-24-2011, 08:19 PM
Sometimes I disconnect, other times I do not. No disconnect on my trailer with brakes because without the connection the brakes will not allow me to back it up.
Answer to the query? I figure trailer lights to be expendable items. I have bulbs burn out and had to replace the light assembly because the bulb has corroded into the socket. Figure 3 years a set if you launch in salt or brackish water and are lucky.
Oh yeah, and getting lamps wet isn't the only bug-a-boo. Vibration and who knows what all beat up trailer lamps. If you want to get proactive find a very low milliamp transformer and keep the trailer wire harness active - not enough juice to light the lamps - while it is parked for weeks or the winter and lights and connections will last longer.
09-24-2011, 09:25 PM
Thanks for all the comments and recommendations - if I don't go the light bar route, I think I will just treat them as Bill Huson says -- treat them as eventual expendable items. I may try my original thought and try the bag-and-tie thingy just to see if it appears feasible or if it is not worth the hassle. Thanks again for all your input.Gene
I am also new to trailering, having launched a newly built Simmons Sea Skiff 18 this summer. I sprung for new LEDs for my hand-me-down trailer. I usually unhook the lights before backing into the water. Not sure how important this is with LEDs, but can't hurt.
At least on my trailer, it's guaranteed that the connectors at the lights are going to get wet, so when installing my lights, I used good waterproof marine connectors with adhesive-lined heat shrinkable insulators, rather than the cheap insulation-piercing connectors that come with the kits. Others I know solder the connections. I also elected to run a dedicated ground wire, rather than relying on the trailer frame and corrosion prone connections to it to complete the circuit.
I admire those with the discipline to use the removeable light bars. Seems like a lot to keep track of when launching and retrieving. Maybe when I'm on my 2nd or 3rd set of lights ...
09-29-2011, 08:19 AM
I just cut em and solder em when they act up. I do not even tape them up. Half an hour a year, no big ting.
09-29-2011, 09:54 AM
I have a set of (usually non-working) lights on the trailer, but totally rely on the light board for actual boat trailering. I also strongly recommend running the ground wire from the car/truck connector all the way to the lights themselves, not grounding it to the trailer frame as most wiring harnesses have it. Grounding failures are the most common reason for boat trailer light failures in my experience.
My light bar fits in the rudder gudgeons on both boats -
09-29-2011, 11:42 AM
I like light bars. Very quick to put on/take off. Stay clean. Very rare to have to replace a bulb. Gets the lights up higher, where following drivers are more apt to see.
09-29-2011, 01:03 PM
Here is a link to the PA vehicle code for trailer lights.
It does not seem to prohibit the use of light bars as long as they are properly fastened and you comply with the other provisions.
09-29-2011, 01:25 PM
1) Let the bulbs cool off before you submerge them (assuming incandescent), unplug the trailer before launching
2) Use underwater rated heat shrink on all wire-nuts or butt joints. It has essentially "hot glue" that is heat activated and flows to displace all air (and water) so your joints never get wet. This same stuff is used on water well motors for the butt joints that are submerged for 20+ years at high voltage (220 or 460vac).
3) Keep your lamps and wiring out of the water entirely by mounting on vertical posts. It is also handy to mount a running light on top of these posts so you can see the trailer while backing up at night.
4) Let wheel bearings cool down before submerging. Hot bearings will create vacuum when suddenly cooled, sucking in water immediately.
09-29-2011, 03:35 PM
If you like those tall upright guide posts on your trailer that help with loading, lights on the top of them would never get under water and always bo on the trailer.
Thorne's light bar is slick too.
And the ground wire is a good idea. Grounding through the rusty greasy hitch is absurd.
09-29-2011, 08:56 PM
thanks to you all for the continuing tips and recommendations....gene
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