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12VDC Trailer Lighting Retrofit using LED Strips

Trailer, hauler, RV, and automobile lighting typically operate from a 12VDC power source, making it a simple project to retrofit existing automobile lighting with brighter, longer lasting and energy efficient LED Lighting. For this project we replaced two dull halogen fixtures with (6) 5ft strips of Ribbon Star Ultra White Waterproof LED Strip Lights. We tapped into the existing wiring of the halogen lights making the project quick and easy. The crisp bright white LED strip lights were exceedingly brighter and made the trailer suitable for mechanical projects in extreme conditions. See the steps below to replicate this project in your trailer, hauler, RV, big rig, motorcycle car or truck. For projects requiring larger amp loads additional batteries and/or upgraded alternators may be required.

PROJECT INFORMATION
Completion Time 30 minutes - 1 hour for average person
Skill Level Intermediate
Tools Used Rubbing Alcohol, Screw Driver, Tape Measure, Marker, Scissors, Wire Stripper, Wire Connectors
12VDC Trailer Lighting Retrofit using LED Strips

Need Assistance? Give us a call and we'd be happy to help you with your project. We provide free quote and layout services.

1.) Remove Existing Fixtures

The first step of this retrofit is to remove the old fixtures that you wish to replace. Since these fixtures are conveniently wired to a wall switch by the door of the trailer we are simply going to tap into the existing wiring of the fixtures to keep that functionality. So do whatever you want with the old fixture but be sure to keep as much of the old wires to minimize your wire connections further into the project.
Trailer Retro 1

2.) Keep Existing Wiring

As mentioned in Step 1, keep as much of the existing wiring from the old fixtures. We will use this wire to power the LED strip lights and keep the functionality of the wall switch. As you can see from the existing wiring that the red positive wire carries the power back to the battery source and the ground wire is being grounded to the metal framing of the trailer.
Trailer Retro 2

3.) Measure the Installation Space and Make Guides

After the existing fixtures have been removed you can now measure out the space where you plan to install your LED Strip Lights. In this case we were using 5ft (60") strip light lengths and the beam we were adhering the strip to was 68" long, so we made a marked with a permanent marker at 4" from the outside of the beam to perfectly center each strip.
Trailer Retro 3

4.) Clean the Surface and Adhere the Strip Lights

Clean the mounting surface with rubbing alcohol or a degreaser to remove any dust, dirt or oils from the surface, let dry. Use your measured mark to install your strip lights and do your best to keep them as center as possible down the beam for aesthetic purposes. Press firmly on the strip to create a solid bond between the tape and the mounting surface. The VHB mounting tape will create a permanent bond as its sets, as long as the area is clean, smooth, and dry.
Trailer Retro 4

5.) Connect Strip Light Wires to 12VDC Power Source

Once your Strip Lights have been adhered to the mounting surface you can now begin to connect your lead wires to the 12VDC power source. Never connect power wires with live power, be certain that your power source is switched off or disconnected. Use wire connectors, or solder and heat shrink to connect your 12VDC+ wires to the wire that leads back to the positive output of your 12VDC source. As you can see the 12VDC negative or ground wire is simply being grounded to the metal framing of the trailer.
Trailer Retro 5

6.) Test your Connection

It is always a good idea to test your connections as you make them to ensure everything is working properly with no electrical shorts. This can save time by locating a wiring issue firsthand rather than later down the line when the project is nearly complete.
Trailer Retro 5

7.) Install the Remaining LED Strip Lights

Install the remaining LED Strip Lights in the same manner previously described. Test each connection as you go. Use new or existing split loom tubing to conceal your wiring and provide a professional finished look. Lastly enjoy your new ultra bright, energy efficient, durable, and eco friendly trailer lighting.
Trailer Retro 6
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