Alternative solutions for long-lasting trailer lighting

By Dave Osmolski

Manufactured by a reputable local manufacturer, my boat trailer gets the job done, but the submersible lights, or more correctly the electrical system, suffers and has issues after almost every launch.

I put about 3,000 miles per year on my trailer. That’s a lot of bouncing and banging, particularly for lights with plastic housings.

Last fall, after installing the second set of LED lights in as many years, I decided to find a way to make sure my lighting would work reliably and last more than one season. I reasoned that if I could mount my lights where they wouldn’t be submerged yet could still be clearly seen, my issues would be resolved.

At a local store that sells trailer accessories, I saw a set of LED lights with a harness intended for use on an automobile trailered behind a large recreational vehicle. The fixtures’ magnetic bases would attach to the rear of the towed automobile. The harness would drape over the auto’s roof and plug into the recreational vehicle’s signal light outlet.

While magnets wouldn’t be of much use on my boat’s fiberglass transom, you can remove the magnets and use screws to mount the fixture.

My boat, a center console fisherman, has two rod holders at the rear, spaced perfectly to accommodate the lights; however, fishing rod holders are angled to keep fishing line clear of the boat. The angle could prove problematic for someone with only basic hand tools and moderate skill with wood or metal fabrication. In that case, you could mount the lights at a simple 90-degree angle on those PVC uprights to allow you to see the trailer when backing up.

I made bases for my fixtures by cutting out wooden rectangles, duplicating the angle of the rod holders. I cut holes in the wooden rectangles at the correct angles to fit 1.25-inch dowels. I also cut a slot in the bottom of each dowel to fit over the pin that runs through the rod holder. This will keep the light fixtures facing backward.

Here’s where you can get creative. I fastened my lights to the wooden block using screws as fasteners. It’s also possible to fasten a metal plate to the wooden block and simply use the light’s magnet to hold it in place.

At highway speeds, the wiring harness could fly all over the place, perhaps pulling the lights off the standards or out of the fishing rod holders. To solve this problem, I fastened my harness to the boat’s rails with hook-and-loop ribbon. Available at most hardware stores, it comes in strips you can cut to the desired length. You could also use plastic zip ties or even duct tape to secure the harness, but hook-and-loop ribbon is reusable.

My lights have traveled over 2,000 miles since installation, and they still shine brightly and sit right where the driver behind me can see them and my signals.


David H. Osmolski of Charlotte Power Squadron/27 has been repairing boats since high school when his first boat, a canvas-covered canoe with cedar ribs, leaked in gallons per minute and required constant repair.

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