Replacing caravan clearance lights with LED

Submitted: Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 11:00
ThreadID: 106622 Views:8684 Replies:7 FollowUps:12
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Looking for help/ideas!!

My old Trakmaster has "single wire"(+ve) incandescent clearance lights. The EARTH is the metal body of the light and the earth return is the aluminium cladding of the caravan.
I'm sure anyone reading this will know this type of light and be familiar with their poor waterproofing,the intermittent nature of the lighting primarily due to poor earth contact and poor contact/tension/corrosion of the two metal prongs suppying power to the festoon globes.
I want to replace these lights with LED units but the LED units are two-wire lights with a dedicated earth wire.
I am looking for suggestions as to how to install/mount these lights - particularly how to connect the earth. There is no option to run new earth wiring to all the lights without stripping out the caravan walls.
My initial thoughts are to make "spacers" on which to mount the lamps with room in the profile of these spacers to make the earth connection to the caravan body.
Any thoughts welcome

Rgds
Ron
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Reply By: scandal - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 11:22

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 11:22
I think you have just answered your own question.
LED's don't need much power, what ever has run globes will have no trouble.
Apart from intial expense, you will wonder why you didn't do it sooner
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Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 11:55

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 11:55
The other problem is the hole for the wiring behind the old fittings. That may be nearly as large in diameter as the narrow width of the new lights. I was thinking of replacing the lights as well. I was thinking of mounting the lights on pieces of 16 gauge aluminium. I was thinking of earthing the lamp to that with one screw. Then I was contemplating screwing that plate to the aluminium siding with at least 6 self tappers. My thoughts was that 6 screws would maintain a good earth for many years.

Comments on my thoughts please.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 11:57

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 11:57
ps I would be using plenty of sealant as well.
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Follow Up By: landseka - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 12:04

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 12:04
I used these https://www.dariocaravans.com.au/page.asp?parentid=87&parent2id=120&productid=1634

Same size as the festoon clearance lights. $22 each
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 13:24

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 13:24
Ron,

Following on from good suggestions above, just be wary of the fasteners you use with the aluminium cladding, for a reliable earth. Prob need stainless screws etc to prevent, or reduce any likelihood of corrosion. And if possible, spray the earth connection with a sealant.

Bob.

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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 13:58

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 13:58
Just a couple of thaughts.
1. Look for a light that gives you the best options...a dearer light may be cheaper after less fiddle.....better coverage of the holes..and more room behind the light would be good.

2. consider that the wall cavity may give you room to work...enlarging the hole so you can make use of it may be an option

3. yeh..when you are dealing with aluminium, there will always be corrosion issues....no matter what screw material you use.
Stalness is still the best choice.
be sure to scrape the surface good and bright....make sure you can bolt down tight and use a sealer wet when you screw down.

A small nut and bolt may be needed instead of a self tapper.

Duralac is a very well regarded anticorrosive sealer in marine circles..(its zinc chromate)..but plain ordinary enamel paint works.....leave the silicons well alone.

make your holes....make sure the screws, bolts or what ever will come down tight....now take those screws out and put on your sealer with the lug..sealer on everything....and screw it down tight...make sure you get good contact.....sometimes a star washer is needed to bite thru.

If you don't use some sort of sealant..you will get corrosion.

when you fit the body of the light...forget the silicon sealers..use a polyeurathane...sicaflex, bostic gold or similar..apply it like a gasket and screw it down wet....wipe away the excess..beautifuull.

OH btw..if you have not baught a ratchet crimper and some good insulated lugs...now would be a good time.

ALways pull test your lugs after crimping....the wire should break before the crimp lug lets go.

good luch.
cheers
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Reply By: Member - colin J (VIC) - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 12:22

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 12:22
Hi Ron,

I've posted a pictorial thread on the New Aussie Caravanners site in their technical section on replacing all of my clearance lights with LEDs

You may find it interesting and informative.

Regards from Col.
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Follow Up By: Member - colin J (VIC) - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 16:22

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 16:22
Here is a link to that thread I mentioned, it was in the Improve your rig section.

http://aussiecaravannersnew.proboards.com/thread/538/replacing-external-lights

A great little caravan and touring forum.

Col.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 21:18

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 21:18
That site can only be accessed by members

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Follow Up By: Member - Ron B (VIC) - Monday, Mar 10, 2014 at 12:27

Monday, Mar 10, 2014 at 12:27
Hi Peter,
yeah it was members access only but free to register and it was an easy process. Another caravanner's forum is good for me
Rgds
Ron
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Reply By: Bonz (Vic) - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 12:59

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 12:59
One thing I found with LED lights is that they use so little power. they need very good connections to make them work effectively, so I would pay attention to that
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Follow Up By: Member - Peter M (QLD) - Monday, Mar 10, 2014 at 07:55

Monday, Mar 10, 2014 at 07:55
I had LED clearance lights fitted to my Windsor by a qualified person in Townsville 2.5 years ago.
When we left Townsville and just south of Mackay a truckie called me up on the radio to say all my clearance lights and tail lights were flashing on and off.
I took the van to an Auto Electrician told him the problem and $350 later he said he had removed all of the lights and re earthed them. Problem fixed? NO the RHS lights and tail lights flash all of the time LHS dont.
Took van to an Auto Electrician in Yamba, he said the earth wireing on the tug was the problem $80 later all fixed?? NO it isn't.
We dont drive at night and I cant drive with my lights on during the day.
Back to Townsville in April will see the supplier/installer.
Could the problem be: the lights on the front of the van and the tail lights were NOT replaced by LED lights? Are they compatable on the same circuit?
Regards, stay well and staay safe
PeterM (Qld)
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Follow Up By: Member - Ron B (VIC) - Monday, Mar 10, 2014 at 12:45

Monday, Mar 10, 2014 at 12:45
Hi Pete,
not that I'm an expert but when I got my old Trakmaster some of the wiring was a bit 'dodgy" and the electric brakes not working so well. This causes some stange happenings with lights ,etc
Not sure if the problems were due to the original setup or made later by previous two owners.
I ended up tracing and testing the wiring myself down to the last wire and rewiring some appliances. I also made a complete new brake wiring loom and connected it direct to the car tow plug (was originally wired in the van loom). Together with new brake plates on the wheels,no probs again - also new solar and controller installed.

I mention all this just to make the point that I have little confidence in those who are supposedly "expert" in wiring up or repairing anything electrical on vans. Unless you have a complete wiring diagram of what was installed from new,I would be reluctant to let an auto elec anywhere near my van.

I don't think your problem is the lights but the van wiring.

It is possible that an earth or wire has been transposed when the new lamps lights were fitted. There will be a distribution panel and fusing somewhere in your van where all external light wiring will come together - this will include clearance lamps,brakes,parkers, indicators,hazard lamps,etc.
I can see no way that your new lamps should flash unless a wire or earth has been transposed and when you switch on your clearance lamps,the current is activating the indicator or hazard light relay.

Go to a qualifies auto elec who you trust and get him to trace and test everything.
Rgds
Ron
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Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 13:40

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 13:40
Hi Ron,
These are what you need.

12 Volt LED with festoon fittings

These 48 LED light panels are very good and give off a good amount of light and come with three different fittings to connect into existing light fittings.

I have them in my Jayco Sterling and are way cheaper than many other LED units.

Cheers, Bruce.
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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 13:54

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 13:54
Actually these panels should have a mounting bracket made

I have been going to do it for a while now so maybe in the near future i will get to it. A very light gauge aluminium will do it. Even aluminium flashing material from bunnings would do.

Cheers, Bruce.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 16:29

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 16:29
I don't think they would fit into the clearance light fittings. If they did they would render the lights as unfit for the purpose. The lights would no longer meet the requirements of the relevant ADR. Any replacement light source in those fittings has to be the same size, shape and intensity as the original globes.
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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 20:26

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 20:26
Thanks Peter, I totally misread the OPs heading. Seniors moment I guess. LOL

Yep, totally unsuited for the purpose.

I got it into my head the OP was looking to convert the inside lights.

Cheers, Bruce.
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Reply By: awill4x4 - Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 16:41

Sunday, Mar 09, 2014 at 16:41
When I replaced the festoon clearance lights on my van with LED's I hated the thought of still using self tappers to fix the lights so I used 5mm Nutserts into the alloy sheet which gives a much better threaded mounting point.
Regards Andrew.
AnswerID: 527980

Reply By: Member - Ron B (VIC) - Monday, Mar 10, 2014 at 12:20

Monday, Mar 10, 2014 at 12:20
Hi all and thanks for all the input and suggestions,some of which look good.
Col,I followed up your pictorial link and it was good to find another caravanners site that will be useful. As for your refit,looks real good and very neat - good job.
Unfortunately I have some issues which prevent me doing the same thing.

After taking all the inputs and suggestions,here are my plans for any final comments.
But first,my situation in detail:

1.confession - I bought good quality Narva LED lamps well over a year ago without too much thought re "swap compatibility". I am stuck with them and need to use them as they were not cheap - have looked at the job a few times but haven't got it done yet -but now is the time (very frustrating having to jiggle and play with the existing lamps on the road to get them working even though they were replaced with identical new units two years ago).
2.My existing lamps have mounting holes(self tapped) 75mm apart.
3.The holes to feed the wire out of the van is off-centre to match the backing plates on existing lamps.(to get round the central bulb mounting arrangements in the lamps I suspect)
4. The new LED lamps have mounting centres 50mm apart and the cable feed is in the centre of the backing plate.Total length of new lamps is 75mm.

My plans:
1.goal: reduce the number of holes drilled in the van to an absolute minimum and use existing holes where possible.Create secure connections for the wiring.
2.make a "backing plate" of 8mm poly big enough to accomodate the new LED lights AND cover the existing mounting holes. Use the existing lamp mounting holes to attach the "spacer" if at all possible.(I may use the suggestion of nut inserts for this). Attach the spacer and use sikaflex for a complete all-round seal. Seal wire entry to van also.
3.Features of the spacer before install -
- a hole drilled in appropriate off-centre position to feed existing wiring through to back of LED mount.
- an enlarged hole in the spacer big enough to facilitate earthing of the LED lamp by attaching a small lug to the earth cable from the LED lamp and through this hole,screwing this down directly to the aluminium cladding. I am reluctant to try earthing
the lamp by putting the lug under one of the spacer attaching screws due to probable movement of plastic due to heat,etc (see mention in replies of need for very secure earth connection for low current LEDs).
- the 8mm thickness of the spacer is to give room for earth lug and cable to be fitted as there is insufficient space behind the LED Lamp.
4. Connect positive lead to existing positive wire and screw the LED Lamp to the spacer using self tappers.
5.The only trick will be to position the cable and earthing access holes in the spacer such that the new LED lamp backing plate covers these when the LED lamp is fitted to ensure a neat finish.

Lastly,not sure if the spacer material is right - poly(chopping board stuff)

Any comments or further suggestions welcome

Rgds
Ron
AnswerID: 528029

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