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Why I Switched to LED Trailer Lighting

An operational LED tail light on the back of a utility trailer

When I bought my trailer, it came equipped with incandescent lights. And in the first year I owned the trailer, I replaced the bulbs several times. It seemed like every time I used the trailer, I had to change a bulb.

Mind you, I was using good bulbs. But the same Sylvania bulbs that can last for years in cars that are driven daily seem to last only a few driving hours in a trailer. Why does a light bulb used in a car last so much longer than the same lamp used in a trailer?

It turns out that there are two good reasons why trailer light bulbs burn out so often: vibration, and heat.

Passenger cars have finely-tuned suspensions and shock absorbers to make the ride smoother for the people, and the cars themselves enjoy the benefits of a smoother ride. Most utility trailers, on the other hand, have only rudimentary suspension systems, and therefore bounce around a lot. All that bouncing and vibration takes their toll on incandescent lights that work by heating a delicate metal filament to white-hot temperatures.

Exactly a year after I bought the trailer, I had to take it to the inspection station to get it inspected. My appointment was for early in the morning, so I hooked the trailer up to the car the night before. Then I tested the lights, and sure enough, one of the tail lights wasn't working.

I fumbled around in the dark of night finding a bulb and changing it yet again so the trailer would pass inspection the next morning. Then I ordered a set of LED trailer lights from Amazon. I haven't had to touch them since. In fact, the only things I didn't change during my trailer-rewiring project were the LED lights themselves. They're still going strong.

More recently (but before the rewiring job), I also bought a set of Type 168 LED bulbs for the marker lights to replace the factory incandescents, which had also been changed a few times. Now the trailer's lighting is 100 percent LED, and I haven't had to change a lamp since.

Why LED Trailer Lighting is Better

If your utility or boat trailer has incandescent lights, it's hard to think of a good reason why you shouldn't replace them with LED trailer lights. Lets look at a few of the advantages of LED lighting.

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LED Lighting is Much Brighter. LED lights are three or four times brighter than incandescent bulbs, and about twice as bright as halogen bulbs. Other drivers will be able to see that you're pulling a trailer even in rain, fog, or snow.

Longer Life and No More Bulb Changes. Unlike incandescent lights, LED trailer lights don't have filaments that burn out. The average lifespan of an LED is about 100,000 hours.

Faster Response Time. LED lamps light instantaneously, so you don't get that slight delay between when you hit the brakes and the brake lights come on.

Much Lower Power Draw. On average, LED trailer lights draw only about 10 to 20 percent of the power that incandescent lamps require. Among other advantages, this can help extend the life of your wiring by preventing it from ever heating up. It also allows for the use of a smaller-gauge wiring harness than incandescent lights would need.

As I said earlier, I can't think of a good reason not to use LED trailer lights, especially since they're so inexpensive now. If you're looking for a project to pass some time, upgrading your trailer's incandescent lights to LED lighting would be a good way to do it that will pay for itself over time.

A utility trailer tail light. The side marker light of a utility trailer. A tray full of heat shrink wire connectors of assorted types and sizes. A crimping tool being used to crimp an electrical connector on a utility trailer. A few inches of heat shrink tubing over the wires of a utility trailer. A heat gun being used to shrink and attach an electrical connector to a wire. A wire stripper being used to strip the ends of the wires being installed on a utility trailer. Wire loom installed over the wiring of a utility trailer to protect it from damage. A floor jack being used to lift a car.

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