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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-07-2012, 09:30 PM Thread Starter
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LED Light Installation on Inside of Clamshell

Like many, I have a clamshell trailer that has only the factory-installed "dome" light inside near the front access door. In my opinion, this is very inadequate and I wanted much more internal lighting.

I had toyed with a number of different options and ultimately settled on LED lighting strips that I would install overhead in the cover. I ordered up two 5 meter rolls of LED strip lights. What follows is my installation "so far", and will ultimately wrap up with the installation being finalized.

Here's a quick look at the front of my trailer from inside...

Pic 1 - Before doing any work
Pic 2 - Lens removed from the dome light
Pic 3 - Light unscrewed from the trailer frame

The reason that I unscrewed the light from the frame is because I will be tapping into the output side of the light switch in the back of the fixture. This will allow me to switch the LED strips on and off along with the dome light.
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Last edited by meburdick; 12-07-2012 at 09:46 PM.
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-07-2012, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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I tested out the rolls, one at a time, by connecting a 9V battery to the leads. This is the result in a somewhat dark hallway.
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Name:	03 - Testing Light Strip.jpg
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-07-2012, 09:35 PM Thread Starter
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I opted to cut the long strips into pieces that would match up with the pieces of frame that I would be attaching to. This would ensure that the light strips weren't "floating" in the air, but it meant I would need to solder connector wires between the strips. I measured everything out so that I knew all of the different lengths that I needed and set to work preparing the strip lights.

Step one is to scratch the coating off of the end of the strip where the connection points are so that you can get the solder to adhere. I used the point of a razor blade to scratch up the surface. Pic 1 shows the difference between one that has not been touched and one that I have prepped.

In Pic 2, you will see that I have heated the strip and some solder to create a solder joint on the surface.

Pic 3 is the completed soldering of the end of a wire.

In Pic 4, you can see the completed junctions that were made, along with a small wrap of electrical tape over each joint to protect them.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-07-2012, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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I had initially planned on using the adhesive backing of the light strips to attach them directly to the frame of the trailer. This provided to be useless as the adhesive simply wasn't strong enough to stick to bare, cold aluminum.

After much hunting around and thinking, I found the "tape" of an old, broken tape measure. I unrolled it and used tin snips to cut it into the appropriate lengths to hold the light strips and then stuck the strips directly to the back side of this painted metal. The results were excellent with strong adhesion and a very lightweight, rigid support for the strips.

Pic 1 shows the cut piece of metal.
Pic 2 shows the lights being installed to the metal strips.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-07-2012, 09:42 PM Thread Starter
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In this pic, you will see that there are six frame supports that go front to back. Two of them are on the outboard positions and don't lend themselves well for position of lighting. The two inner-most ones have additional supports attached to them and don't lend themselves well to attaching the light strips. The remaining two are positioned almost directly over the position of each sled and are a great location for the lights. So, that's where they go!
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Name:	09 - Trailer Before Install.jpg
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-07-2012, 09:45 PM Thread Starter
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Here are two pics of the first strip in place, connected, and lit. Pic 1 appears more "dull" and has a bit of an orangish hue. The flash fired in this one.

In Pic 2, I disabled the camera flash and you can get a reasonably good idea of just how much light is thrown by just the one strip.

The installation is on hold at this point because I believe I have an issue with the ground connection to the LED strips. I was using the quick-connect clips and I believe I need the next size down from what I was using. Once I get the correct size, I will correct these and then finish the wiring off.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-07-2012, 09:49 PM
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Can't wait to see the finished product

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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-07-2012, 10:06 PM
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Nice job Mark, the LED strips were a perfect choice!


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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-07-2012, 10:48 PM
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Looks good so far!!!

The 1 thing about trailer lights that bugs me is the ground that seems to come & go!!!! On my utility trailer I rewired it within the first year and ran a ground wire to each light. (Knock on wood!!!) I haven't had a ground issue since!!!! Just a suggestion if you can't seem to win the "ground" battle!

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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-08-2012, 07:33 AM
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I made this a sticky so it can be used by others.

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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-08-2012, 08:41 AM
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Trailer will either ground through the plug or through the ball/receiver.

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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-08-2012, 03:35 PM
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Hell yeah, add a rotating disco ball in the Center and you will be good to go lol, no but seriously it looks good man.

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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-08-2012, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JheLrey View Post
Trailer will either ground through the plug or through the ball/receiver.
In an ideal world it does! Lol I don't know how many times I had to chase a bad ground down. Get a little corrosion on the light mounting stud, and issues start.

As I mentioned, I haven't had an issue since running a ground to each light.

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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-08-2012, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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The trailer is "supposed" to ground back through the plug. Mine, however, only properly grounds through the hitch. As a result, I believe I have a break someplace in the wiring ground and will simply re-attach it.

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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2012, 06:45 PM Thread Starter
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More updates...

First, I re-did the wiring so that the positive leads are all being fed by the output side of the dome light after the switch (allowing for that single switch to drive the dome light AND the LED strip lights). I also put ring connectors on all four of the negative leads and connected them directly to the frame of the shell (two on each side, one self-tapping screw per pair of leads). I also removed the previous wire taps that I was using and re-did the connections with the next size down. The end result is that it now works flawlessly.

Pic 1 shows the inside of the trailer with all of the lights turned on. No flash.
Pic 2 shows a close-up of the wiring on one set of strips, including the grounding. This picture was taken WITH the flash to show better detail on the wires.
Pic 3 shows the view through the access door up front, no flash.
Pic 4 is a shot of the odometer on the 440, no additional light beyond the new interior lights - this shows just how well the lights illuminate the inside

All photos taken at night, during a light rain (no sunlight, no moonlight, overcast).
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post #16 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2012, 06:46 PM Thread Starter
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I need to put the new wiring inside of the protective wrap and secure it to the frame and this project is done.

Then, I need to re-do the ground connection from the wiring harness to the frame of the trailer. Clearly, there's a gap somewhere since I can only get the lighting to work by grounding the trailer frame to the truck frame.

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post #17 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2012, 07:14 PM
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looks good
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post #18 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-09-2012, 09:31 PM
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LOOKS GREAT!!!

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post #19 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-13-2012, 08:34 AM Thread Starter
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I'm adding an additional picture to show the zip-tie attachment method for the strips to the frame. On the shorter pieces, I used one tie toward each end (about 3" in, actually). I did the same with the longer strips but also attached one in the center.

There's a foam strip between the frame rail and the skin, and I had to "force" the tie through there. You can see from this that it's important to align the LEDs on the two strips so that the tie doesn't cover one of them. I had originally considered offsetting the LEDs, and was extremely glad I didn't when I went to attach them!
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post #20 of 22 (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 08:19 PM Thread Starter
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Took out the multi-meter tonight and checked the wiring... As expected, it took me about 12 seconds to find that there was no continuity from the plug to the frame, and it was the result of the ground wire being snapped off of the ring connector. I'll be putting in a new ground wire to the frame, self-tapping screw through a ring connector directly to the frame. I'll quick-tap that into the existing ground wire to the plug and the issue will be fixed.

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