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Troubleshoot Utility Trailer Wiring

Written By Neno on Sunday, November 6, 2011 | 10:33 PM

Your trailer’s wiring system will inevitably face certain problems over time because of wear and tear. Troubleshooting trailer wiring problems will not require a lot of equipment. Most of the time, you will only require a test light.

Instructions Troubleshoot Utility Trailer Wiring

  1. Watch the lights of the utility trailer while someone in the tow vehicle uses all of the lighting system functions. These include the left turn signal, the right turn signal, the brake lights and the taillights, which should come on when the towing vehicle's lights are turned on.
  2. Note which function is not working properly. If none of the utility trailer lights are working, the problem will probably be with the main power at the connector to the trailer wiring harness.
  3. Check the connector that connects the wiring from the tow vehicle to the wiring in the utility trailer. You can usually pop off the connector by using a screwdriver on the latching arm. Use a voltmeter to see if the voltage is present, typically 12 volts, at each pin when the tow vehicle's light function is used. For example, when the tow vehicle's right turn signal is on, there should be 12 volts at the right turn signal pin. If voltages are present, the problem lies with the utility trailer wiring.
  4. Connect the ohmmeter probes to see if there is a break in the wire for the light function that is not working properly. For example, if the right turn signal is not working, check the wire from the pin for that function to the right turn signal light at the back of the trailer. The ohmmeter probes will not be long enough for this, so you'll have to connect a jumper wire from one of the probes to the light. If there is continuity, the problem is most likely the light bulb. If there is no continuity, the wire is broken.
  5. Visually trace the wire in question to find the break.
 Trailers add the convenience of being able to carry added loads. However, malfunctioning electrical systems might often result in non-working lights, which can be dangerous and even illegal in some jurisdictions. Have your trailer wiring inspected regularly to ensure a safe and secure ride. When in doubt, refer to a mechanic for professional help.

Tips & Warnings

  • Park your utility trailer in the shade if it's a hot day so you can be cooler when you're troubleshooting.
  • Set the parking brake on the tow vehicle and place a block behind a rear wheel of the utility trailer while working on the wiring.
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