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Author Topic: Loosing taillight voltage with trailer?  (Read 2377 times)
Bryan
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« on: February 14, 2014, 10:18:36 AM »

Hey guys, we are trying to wire up for attaching a trailer. When we hook it up, all the taillights on the bus get dim. Also the trailer lights are dim. Any suggestions? Thanks!
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2014, 11:20:29 AM »

and to clarify, the front marker lights are not affected, only the rear end of the bus (taillights and markers)
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2014, 11:48:55 AM »

What kind of bus? Led's on either! More info!


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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2014, 12:24:25 PM »

It's a ground problem fwiw
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2014, 12:35:16 PM »

What kind of bus? Led's on either! More info!


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GM 4107, there are no LEDs, but would that help?
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2014, 12:42:52 PM »

It's a ground problem fwiw

would the ground problem be on the bus or the trailer? As you probably know, underneath the engine hood directly behind each taillight housing there is 5 screw in connections for wires.

screw#1. Ground
screw#2. Reverse (which don't work) [any suggestions?]
screw#3. Blinker
screw#4. Brake Light
screw#5. Markers

We have connected the trailer ground wire to the bus ground connection screw #1. If the ground issue is within the bus, would it be smart to run another wire from screw#1 to a metal part of the bus? or does that even come close to fixing the possible problem? Of course when I look at ALL the wiring in the engine compartment, it's quite intimidating  Shocked Shocked Shocked LOL!

Thanks for your help
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2014, 01:01:04 PM »

Bryan - if its not a ground problem it could be that the locaton the lights for the trailer are tied in is on the other side of the bus tail lights wiring the trailer lights in series with the bus lights as opposed to being wired in parallel.  That would cause a voltage drop across the lights.


-Sean

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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2014, 01:18:31 PM »

When I picked up our 4107 and turned the lights on as it got dark my chase car said tail lights are flashing on and off.  Was only grounding through the hinge.  A pair of vise grips to hold the broken ground wire to the frame got me home.

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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2014, 01:27:58 PM »

GM got real creative with the wiring on some of the 4107 and 4108 buses ,I fought grounding on 1 for a week till a GM guy told me some operators ordered those buses with the grounding done through relays a piss poor idea IMO  don't you know the one I was working on was ordered that way
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2014, 05:07:42 PM »

If a big if here! any type of 3 to 4 wire box converter is used. Lots of problems are traced back to them being unable to handle the amperage needed of many lights. I think that prompted the led question.  Ground is of course the first choice..  Bob
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2014, 05:56:40 PM »

One thing I failed to mention is that we don't actually have the trailer hitch attached, just the wires which has a ground in it. I know that sometimes the hitch makes the ground but I figured the ground wire would be enough
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2014, 05:58:52 PM »

Bryan - if its not a ground problem it could be that the locaton the lights for the trailer are tied in is on the other side of the bus tail lights wiring the trailer lights in series with the bus lights as opposed to being wired in parallel.  That would cause a voltage drop across the lights.


-Sean

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Thanks Sean. I'm using the right side of the bus for all the connections with the exception to the left blinker, are you saying that we need to use the left side with the exception of the right blinker? Thanks!
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2014, 08:31:31 AM »

  ...   I know that sometimes the hitch makes the ground,,, 

      Yeah, some people do that but it's about as bad an idea as you can come up with.  You *really* do want a good, low-resistance wired ground from and through your trailer harness to a solid ground on your frame (or other appropriate ground point). 

      The ground thing just screams out at me, too, but what Sean said about wiring in series is something to think about -- that's exactly how the lights would work (it would drop the voltage in half on both of them) if that was the problem.  It would be possible to have a good ground to one light and have it bright and a bad ground to another and have it dim (of course, a combined bad ground would dim them both) -- the fact that both lights go dim when they're together and at least one is bright when they're not wired together puzzles me.

      Of course, the biggest principle when dealing with electrical stuff is "NEVER assume that you have only one problem"!  In this case, I'd check bulbs and sockets for corrosion, the grounds (and I'd check to see if the resistance/ohmmeter reading is the same from all the bulbs), and the "hot side" wiring -- and everything else I could think of.  If you have more than one problem and you only fix one, there's a good chance that the one(s) you didn't fix will show up on the side of the road late at night in a cold rainstorm.
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« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2014, 04:07:28 PM »

okay, thank you everyone for helping me with this. Here is a new update. Just incase it was the fact that I didn't have the hitch attached, I hooked jumped cables from the hitch to the bus frame. This made NO difference. Wiring in series and parallel was a little confusing to me, so what I did was detached the wiring harness all together, leave the jumper cables on, and ONLY attach the marker lights (screw#5, as stated in earlier post) wire to the trailer. Although the trailer markers lit up, they are still dim, and it also dimmed the bus lights as well. Here is a short video to show the amount of dimming when connecting to trailer... www.youtube.com/embed/PLwuUhMdhxM
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2014, 05:45:50 PM »

I've continued to research this, and I found a suggestion that since I have a lot of running lights on my trailer (about 20), that it could be sucking all of the voltage out, if that is the case, I found this product to upgrade the voltage, basically you hook it to your battery and to your tail light wiring, then connect it to the wiring harness... http://www.etrailer.com/Custom-Fit-Vehicle-Wiring/Tow-Ready/119179KIT.html

here is my question, I'm concerned that being that the bus is so old, could this potentially create bigger issues? or is the worse case senario I blow a fuse and have to replace it? I certainly don't want to short out my tail light system entirely.  Smiley

Thanks for your input guys! What would I do without you BusNuts?
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2014, 05:59:18 PM »

First, I would make sure that your jumper cables are working as a good ground.  You could do a continuity test from the bus to the trailer to see that.  If not use the cables to make a good ground connection from/to somewhere else.  Further, I would test the various trailer lights with a direct power source instead of through the module you are using.

While it is conceivable that adding 20 lights to the system on wire that is sized to small would reduce the current, since you have tested using only the tail lights and had the same problem, that would not seem to be the issue.  
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« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2014, 06:05:59 PM »

This is a complete stretch and guess, but could it be the relay that communicates with the tell tale system that will show of a bulb is burned out?  When I changed to LED bulbs I had some issues with the turn signals not blinking since it blinked by detecting the amp draw from the bulbs.  Plus if I brake light goes out I get a tell tale dash light and the led's triggered that light.  Could those systems backwards restrict current?  He might not even have those systems but just throwing it out as a far reaching possibility. 
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2014, 06:18:14 PM »

First, I would make sure that your jumper cables are working as a good ground.  You could do a continuity test from the bus to the trailer to see that.  If not use the cables to make a good ground connection from/to somewhere else.  Further, I would test the various trailer lights with a direct power source instead of through the module you are using.

While it is conceivable that adding 20 lights to the system on wire that is sized to small would reduce the current, since you have tested using only the tail lights and had the same problem, that would not seem to be the issue.  

Thanks Lin!

Don't I have to have a special tool to do a continuity test?

As far as testing the trailer lights with a direct power source, do you mean to hook them directly to the battery to make sure the trailer is not the problem? We use this trailer with our SUV all the time with the 7 prong plugin and it works great.

And lastly when you say that I have tested it using only the tail lights, I'm a little confused as to where else I would hook them up to if I want to get the blinker signals and brake light signals. Thanks so much for your help!  Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2014, 08:16:45 PM »

Brian -

A couple things - 1st is the bus 24v or 12v?  And the trailer?  Make sure they are both wired for 12v (or 24v).  I'm assuming its a 12v bus and the trailer is wired for 12v.

On my bus I have tail lights that have red wire leads for the +12, and red wire leads for the -12.  (I don't know why...the lights are not original) if I mistakenly grabbed the -12v lead off the tail light on my bus and wired it to the +12 on the trailer then I'd have them wired in series and would have a voltage drop when hooking up trailer or toad lights. Here's a rudimentary  sketch to show what I'm talking abou

I'd of course make sure you have a solid ground for the trailer (just run a piece of 10 gauge straight to the negative post on bus battery to check) and then make sure you are grabbing the +12v for the trailer lights (running, blinkers, brakes) from the source/signal wire for your bus lights not from the lights themselves.

-Sean


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« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2014, 08:54:29 PM »

Sean, first of all... THANK YOU for taking the time to teach this to me. I think I'm getting a grasp of what you are saying, it needs to be wired in before it hits the actual light as opposed to after it hits the light? I hope I'm understanding that right. When you say to hook it to the source and not the light itself, I'm hooking it to the terminal spot that goes out to the light, so I'm not sure if that would be considered the source or the light. I'm going to post 2 pics below, one is zoomed in, and one is zoomed out to see where the back of the lights are. from left to right they are labeled...
1. Ground
2. Reverse
3. Signal
4. Brake
5. Markers
*if you look closely, we have added the brown wire to markers, white wire to ground, and green wires for signal and brake (it's not the same green wire)


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« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2014, 09:40:55 PM »

Buy a multimeter.  I have several that cost under $10.  They give AC and DC voltage, resistance, continuity and amps under 10 amps.  You should have the minimal tools needed for a particular job, and a multimeter is such a tool for this and probably many other electrical tasks you will encounter.
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« Reply #21 on: February 16, 2014, 05:51:07 AM »

You mentioned it was set up for modern suv system now going integrating with no computerized bus system without a converter box???   Was your bus a 7 wire system originally? were the brake lite-running-stop-turn-all separated are some functions combined.  also your considering the feed to the post you hooked on to supply more power to additional lights.  Most do this by using that post to as a signal to trip  a relay with a separate power supply to light up you trailer lite. OR or common trailer relay box.   FWIW
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« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2014, 08:30:41 AM »

Brian - thanks for the pics....that helps.  Its hard to figure this one out because -  I can easily see where the lights are wired in but I cannot tell where the wires that are providing the voltage/signal on the other side are running to or from. 

The easiest way to do this is going to be to start from the beginning and check each wire one at a time.  So unhooking all the wires for the trailer from here except your ground....we are assuming that it is a continuous connecrion back to the ground on the trailer...check that you have continuity.  Turn the lights on the bus on with only the groind connected and see if they are dim.  If not then  hook up only the reverse light (with the ground still connected) and connect and turn on your lights and see if they dim when you turn on the reverse. If not then hook up your blinker next and do the same thing.  My gut after seeing this is that the "marker" and brake lights are where the problem is coming from....but check each one at a time and see what you end up with.

Let us know how you make out with that.

-Sean

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« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2014, 09:20:15 AM »

I've continued to research this, and I found a suggestion that since I have a lot of running lights on my trailer (about 20), that it could be sucking all of the voltage out,

Sounds like you might have found your problem. You have 20 incandescent bulbs on the trailer, each drawing about 1 amp.  Then you have 9 or 10 markers and tail lights
on the back of the bus, if not more. All of these are drawing power off a single feed wire from the front of the bus, probably 16 gauge, which is rated for about 10 amps.
It sounds like you have about 30 amps draw on that one little wire, which obviously is not properly protected by a fuse or breaker.  Yeah, I would expect all your lights to
be dim. I'd also expect that maybe you will start smelling insulation melting if you keep it up  Roll Eyes

It's good that  you're willing to learn, but I'd suggest you get someone who has the proper tools and knowledge to help you with this one. You need a meter and
a good understanding of electrical basics.

craig
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« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2014, 10:56:12 AM »

Bryan -

Craig's got a good point there.  If you have an android or iPhone device then you can download Blue Seas Circuit wizard to make sure your wiring and components are properly sized.  I figured if your trailer is all LED lights it can't be pulling more than 4 watts per fixture...that's about 350ma or ~.3 amps per fixture. No more than 8-10 amps total on the trailer (10 or 12 gauge wire). Add that to what rhe bus lights are pulling and youll need to make sure that distro that all those wires are tied to can handle a 30 amp load. 

-Sean

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« Reply #25 on: February 16, 2014, 11:20:21 AM »

From past experience I would say this is what you need. Supplies voltage from battery source....
HTH....Tim

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« Reply #26 on: February 16, 2014, 01:41:27 PM »



I've had a couple people that hook up trailer lights a good bit come and look at it, they think it's a voltage problem as well. I could probably order this on ebay and at least give it a try, but my question is this, is there any risk in messing up the original bus electrical system by hooking that powered converter up? Thanks!
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #27 on: February 16, 2014, 02:26:41 PM »

No this is exactly why I asked of there were led 's involved!
I once had a stacker trailer that I started towing with my bus, and just like yours and everyone else's bus, it wasn't designed or wired to pull a trailer so the wiring is only designed for a certain amount of lighting. Once you add a trailer or a car, the wattage goes up and puts a heavier draw on the original equipment. I added the above link from eBay AND switched the 10 amp breaker that supplied my marker lights to a 15 amp breaker and never had another problem!


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« Reply #28 on: February 16, 2014, 04:46:58 PM »

okay another update!!! maybe you guys will know the answer? I hope!  Grin

let's completely take the trailer out of the picture, I disconnected all wires leading to any wiring harness or trailer, so now we are back to square 1 with only the bus.

I walked thru some testing with voltage meters with an auto mechanic over the phone. I can't believe I didn't check this already, but we completely ruled out a ground issue. I started out by checking the battery itself which was 12.5 volts, when I check the voltage on the wires running to the bus lights, they are only 9 volts, doesn't matter if it's markers, blinkers, breaks, etc, it's all 9 volts. To eliminate a ground issue, we run a wire directly to negative terminal of the battery to the ground at the lights, still only 9 volts, we then ran a wire directly from positive side of battery to the lights and got the full 12.5 volts, and the lights got a lot brighter. This means somewhere between the battery and my tail lights, I'm loosing voltage.

what should I check from here? or is there a quick fix? Thanks!!!
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Bryan Edmonds
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« Reply #29 on: February 16, 2014, 04:58:18 PM »

Was the vehicle running when you checked the voltage? If so, charge or better yet change your battery/s. Running should be 13.6v
9v is not enough voltage to make the lights full lit.

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« Reply #30 on: February 16, 2014, 05:30:34 PM »

the vehicle was not running
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« Reply #31 on: February 16, 2014, 06:48:47 PM »

Bryan -  you'll have to do some good old chasing wires here.  Pull out your manual if you have one.  Some of the older bus gurus might be able to give you a better idea where to start.  Check to see if there are any numbers or labels on the wires.  If you have a toner you can tone out the wires.  Might be best to disconnect your batteries while you do this.

Keep it going...you'll figure it out!

-Sean

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« Reply #32 on: February 16, 2014, 07:14:39 PM »


... when I check the voltage on the wires running to the bus lights, they are only 9 volts, doesn't matter if it's markers, blinkers, breaks, etc, it's all 9 volts. To eliminate a ground issue, we run a wire directly to negative terminal of the battery to the ground at the lights, still only 9 volts, we then ran a wire directly from positive side of battery to the lights and got the full 12.5 volts, and the lights got a lot brighter. This means somewhere between the battery and my tail lights, I'm loosing voltage.


Corroded terminals and/or wire somewhere between battery and lights. Could be bad contacts in a relay. Could be a bad breaker. Could be the switch.

You'll need to figure out where the feed wire is connected to the battery, and where it goes. Start at the beginning and check the voltage at every
junction along the way. Could be the main battery cable is corroded right at the battery terminal. Not uncommon. Could be corrosion in a wiring panel.
Also not uncommon as many were installed in the engine compartment where there's persistent road spray from the tires and radiator fans.
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« Reply #33 on: February 22, 2014, 09:47:59 AM »

We have traced the wire back to the main junction box above the engine and have found a little voltage drop. We ran a jump wire from the switch all the way back to the junction box and got some increased voltage. Is this am ok thing to do? I didn't know if there were relays or anything I'm bypassing that could cause an issue.
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« Reply #34 on: February 22, 2014, 02:16:27 PM »

We ran a jump wire from the switch all the way back to the junction box and got some increased voltage. Is this am ok thing to do? I didn't know if there were relays or anything I'm bypassing that could cause an issue.

Are you saying you're now running the tail and marker lights through the light switch?  Maybe ok, depending on the rating of the switch, but personally, for the number of lights you have
going, and the potential current draw, I'd probably run that wire to a 30 amp relay or two, fed directly from the battery with 10 gauge wire.

I don't know whether your bus had relays or not. I don't think so, but I'm not a GM guy.

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« Reply #35 on: February 22, 2014, 02:44:14 PM »

What is the difference in the voltage between the two?  Did this solve the trailer light issue?
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« Reply #36 on: February 23, 2014, 09:49:01 AM »

About 2 volts. We haven't hooked the trailer back up yet. We are concentrating on getting the voltage right first then going install trailer wiring harness again. Working on this today so hope to let you know how it goes. We have located the factory wiring and adding 12 gauge to it for markers, breaks, and signals.
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