View Full Version : Do your trailer brake lights work?

06-22-2001, 01:04 AM
As you read the subject line, you all are thinking, what a silly question!

Well, today a local competitor was in front of us travelling. We were doing at least 40mph. When suddenly, I thought we were going to rear-end him. We had no indication that he was coming to a DEAD STOP in the middle of road where there shouldn't have been a stop.

His brake lights did not work!!! He stopped because two dogs were in the road, and he didn't want to hit them. Glad the dogs didn't get hit, but we were VERY lucky we didn't wreck into the back of him.

Matt got out of the truck while he was still stopped because the dogs were in the way, and Matt walks up to the truck to tell him that he has no brake lights. And he says, "Yeah, I know." That's all he said. Nothing else. Not even thanks. Just, "Yeah, I know." I was ticked off bad! What a jerk!.

So, just a heads up to everyone. Check to make sure your brake lights are working. Be safe!

06-22-2001, 01:21 AM
I don't know why people do this. It's so dangerous. Another point, why would you want to attract a cop, get a fix it ticket, then deal with the hassle and any associated fee's.

Beginning next year in California, if youíre a commercial vehicle (at least in my state, that means any p/u, since we all get commercial plates) towing a trailer minus functioning lights, you will get a moving violation ticket. That is if your stopped by the highway patrol.


Lawn DOG
06-22-2001, 01:25 AM
Jodi thats funny you mention that. We have four trailers and every time I check I always find at least one out. Today was no exception. Thanks for the reminder. I will be sure to get mine fixed. Lets hope the inconsiderate individual that you encountered does the same.

GreenQuest Lawn
06-22-2001, 02:22 AM
I check lights daily when the trailer gets hooked up

06-22-2001, 09:14 AM
I have said for years that you can retire on just working on trailer lights. Everytime I look I see a bulb out, trailer light broke, or something. BUT...

I would rather spend an extra 30 to 40 minutes at the shop before I leave fixing them, then the hour or more on the road in an accident.

I got rear-ended about a month ago and I felt better when she said, "Yeah, I saw your lights working. It's my fault."


It burns me up when I see these junk trailers with no tag, no lights being pulled by a beat up car or truck. I realize that may be all they have but really how does being poor excuse breaking the law and being unsafe.

Premo Services
06-22-2001, 09:54 AM
I check mine in morning, and at the last job to see they work. The way these peopler drive these days, it scares me, and I don`t want someone running into me and they say his lites are not working. This spring I finished my last job, and it was getting dark. I checked the lites and they worked. I was almost home and a state county police pulls me over, and tells me my lites are not working, and about the ticket I am about to get. I said that the lites are checked in morn, and after last job, it must have been the potholes. He kinda laughed and said, you know, looking at this truck, trailer,equiptment setup, I don`t think you would knowingly drive with no lites. Then he trys to help me fix them, with no luck. it is getting dark now, and he says I will follow you to your house with my lites on.I used hand signals for the turns and when we got to my house, we joked about how most of the drivers probally would`nt know or even notice a hand signal. The lites are still checked in morn, and at last job before going home.

06-22-2001, 10:08 AM
As for all the guys having trouble with trailer lights. I re-wired my entire trailer 6 years ago, all new from the plug to the tail lights. I used all BETTS lights, ran all wires through solid wire loom. Used epoxy filled wirenuts. The OEM wiring and lights that todays trailers (or yesterdays) come with are totaly useless and are only designed to get it off the sales lot. "Knock on Wood" but I have yet to replace a bulb or lens in these past 6 years.

06-22-2001, 10:16 AM
I try and check them daily. My biggest problem has been the dab burn ground. :)

06-22-2001, 10:16 AM
We have so many trailers that we have bulbs out everyday! It's been such a problem that we a slowly changing out those light to Napa 40202 LED lights. A bit expensive at $75, but are lifetime warrantied! The big benefit is that if one led goes bad, there are about 30 more that still work. Just idea for ya'll who find this to be a frustrating thing, especially when it's not the bulb.

06-22-2001, 05:29 PM
I only have 2 trailers but the lights are always in working order. Also, try to focus on the movement of the vehicle in front of you not just his lights and you'll aviod some accidents. Russ

06-22-2001, 07:09 PM
I build my own trailers, and I absolutely HATE light problems. My cure has been to run my main wire into a junction box with threaded stud connections. Tail and marker lights are on (I think) three seperate lines from there, so it's easy to isolate a problem if there is a short. Each brake light/turn signal has its own lead from the terminal strip, as does each brake magnet and backup light. Everything is run inside conduit or the trailer frame (square tube). All the lights are the sealed type with the plug in pigtail on the back and each has a dedicated ground. Grounding is with a wire through the plug to a welded stud in the junction box (welded to the trailer frame). The ground lead from each light goes to the welded stud. Every connection is a ring terminal, or the factory pigtail, soldered to the wire. Wiring is all duplex wiring with one length from the junction box tot he lamp it services. Yes, it takes a long time to wire one like this, but I only do it once. Lighting failures are virtually a thing of the past now, other than the occasional burned or broken bulb.

Lawn Dog2001
06-22-2001, 07:23 PM
It is funny that this topic came up. I have been driving with a trailor light problem all year. All of my lights work perfectly, but for some reason when I use the brakes and either turn signal at the same time both lights will blink. I dont know why this has happened. At the begining of the year I checked everything and it is perfect. I guess there must be a short somewhere. I am planning on rewireing the whole thing this offseason. I compensate for this problem by putting on my turn signal a little earlier so that the driver behind me sees where I am turning before I start to brake. I would never just flat out drive without lights though.

06-22-2001, 07:49 PM
1Majortom, I have breaklights myself but you should be following a car and trailor length seperating you from the vehicle in from you as taught in defensive driving school. You should be able to see the car in front of the vehicle in front of you. Thus giving you plenty of time to stop.

06-22-2001, 08:40 PM

It's a car length for every 10mph.

06-22-2001, 08:46 PM
I know, I included the trailor since she was pulling a trailor

06-22-2001, 08:52 PM

I don't want to seem picky, I just don't want someone to misunderstand what I meant. It's a car length for every 10mph; if your going at 30mph, there should be three car lengths between you and the car in front of you; 50mph - five car lengths. At least that is what was on my driving test.

06-22-2001, 09:03 PM
Interesting how the "double standard" works sometimes: when I drove the big trucks for a few years if the brake lights on the trailer weren't working you (as the driver) were in BIG trouble, even if no traffic accident occurred.

In addition to the points brought up by everyone on how to keep the trailer wiring up to snuff, I have had good luck with the sealed-beam style trailer lighting made by Truk-Lite, among others. These snap into a rubber grommet for mounting and the wiring "plugs in" making replacement a simple matter. I find these lights a good compromise between the kind with the individual bulbs and the $$$ LED style.

Biggest problem I used to encounter on the big 'uns was corrosion chewing away at the plug terminals both on the lights and the "pigtail" connecting tractor to trailer. Keeping the connections well greased up will help prevent this problem. Mind you, I was putting around 100,000 miles a year on the truck/trailer in every kind of weather.

06-22-2001, 09:08 PM
Its not a double standard. Its the fact that vehicles under 11000 gvw do not fall under DOT regulations and god forbid we ever do lol But the local guys are still suppose to enforce the laws but there is a shortage of them around here

06-22-2001, 09:50 PM
Originally posted by greenquestlawn
I check lights daily when the trailer gets hooked up
Thats how we do it!

I have to agree with you Jodi there is nothing worse than when you almost have a new hood ornament because of the Jerks out there who cannot be bothered to take the time to check their vehicles for faulty wireing and such.

Heres some SCAREY NUMBERS! We had two of our vehicles travel thru a Memorial Day inspection stop by Local and State authorities. I saw a friend who's a NYS Trooper the other day and he said that our two and one other outfit were the only three of over two dozen LCOs to pass thru the stop successfully that day.

Makes you shiver when you think that there are over 100 legitimate companies traveling on the roadways daily, plus the hundreds of new generation yet to be named companies.


06-22-2001, 11:59 PM
Originally posted by Grassman
I only have 2 trailers but the lights are always in working order. Russ

Only... two! I only have one:)

I have not had any bulb problems, just connection trouble. I have to loosen the four prong connector to get the lights to work. I think the truck side plug was corroded during the winter.

06-23-2001, 12:42 AM
Originally posted by Lawn Dog2001
All of my lights work perfectly, but for some reason when I use the brakes and either turn signal at the same time both lights will blink. I dont know why this has happened. At the begining of the year I checked everything and it is perfect. I guess there must be a short somewhere.

Check your ground. Thats what happens to me. I clean the rust out of the receiver on my hitch and its ok for a few weeks.:)

06-23-2001, 02:00 AM
Quote: You should be able to see the car in front of the vehicle in front of you. Thus giving you plenty of time to stop.

What vehicle? There wasn't any vehicle in front of the guy we were following without brake lights. There were two small dogs in the road. And no, I couldn't see them in front of the vehicle we were following until we came to the dead stop. Had the guy had some brake lights, there would have been at least some indication that he was coming to a sudden stop.

06-23-2001, 03:43 AM
I've got a lot of trailer
the gut are requierd to check a couple time a day and carry spare bulbs just in case

last year I got pull over just after dark with no traile light that morning I just rewired it and put LED light on it told the cop that and he thought i was kidding went back to check for my self no lights whent to the back of the truck to check the plug and wiggled it and pushed it back in ahhh light no ticket cop said have a nice night see you later buy

in april this year one guy got a ticket for a light out on trailer and I told him (after he told me) did you check the lights he say yes and handed me the ticket
I handed him the ticket and said you on your own I put a light in it and works fine your paying your own ticket he tried to argue with me over a $15 ticket he wouldn't have got if he would have check like he was saposto

but the way we check the truck lights to

06-23-2001, 08:47 PM
Couple of suggestions to help alleviate some of the "light problems" mentioned:

Toroguy, I use a 6-pin plug with a spring loaded cover (same style as the plugs used on tractor/trailer rigs, just a bit smaller) with a female plug on the truck AND the trailer. This way the trailer connector isn't out in the weather when the trailer's sitting parked - the "pigtail" goes in the cab when not in use.

Sammy, rather than relying on the hitch receiver for the ground connection, there should be a terminal on your trailer connector (the white wire if you're using the flat 4-pin style connector) for the ground circuit. Wire the trailer side of the connector to a good ground on your trailer, same with the truck side. (Ideally, the frame is the best place to ground to, make sure to remove any paint/rust/grease when you attach the ground wire)

Being aware of the car in front of the vehicle you are following is a good practice when possible, but it can't always be done! For example, the welding rig I drive at work is 8 feet wide and the welding machine sits crossways right behind the cab. Anything smaller than a cube van isn't visible to the person behind me!

And I know that rules and regs vary from state to state, but here in Ontario a similar rule to the one Charles mentioned is in place: vehicles under 10,000 # Gross Vehicle Weight don't fall into the "commercial" category. ("Commercial" requires an annual inspection and corresponding validation sticker) Put a trailer on though, and the rules change. Now it's the Gross COMBINATION Weight that's a concern, and if the GCW is over 10,000 # both the truck AND the trailer require the yearly inspection/sticker.

As I said, rules are different everywhere, just make sure which of the laws in YOUR state/province you're expected to play by!

06-23-2001, 11:24 PM
Like I said, my trailer lights work just fine, but a few days ago while hitting the brakes for a yellow light, I got smacked in the back of the trailer by a mini van.
His bumper took it all, and my tailgate didn't even get the paint rubbed off. It gave me a shot as well, but thankfully no whiplash.