Trailer Lights: 33 Facts You Need To Consider (Explained)


trailer-lights

If you plan on driving a trailer, then you may need trailer lights.

This will ensure that the people driving behind you know when you are braking, when you are turning, and are able to see you when you are driving at night.

On this page, we have decided to go through 33 of the most commonly asked questions about trailer lights.

So, if there is something that you really need to know, then chances are that we will have included it on this page. 

1. Can I put LED lights on my trailer?

Can I put LED lights on my trailer? Yes. You can put LED lights on your trailer. However, you need to go ‘all in’ with the lights. You should try to avoid having standard incandescent trailer lights mixed up with LED lights as this could cause problems.

So, if you are planning on putting LED lights on your trailer, you now need to ensure that absolutely every light on that trailer is an LED light.

The only thing that you should be thinking about beyond this is the color of LED light that you are using on your trailer.

You must remember that some colors are banned in certain states. You will have to do your own independent research to determine what is and what isn’t legal here.

Read also: Do Travel Trailers have Back-Up or Reverse Lights? (Is It Legal?)

2.Are LED trailer lights better?

Are LED trailer lights better? LED trailer lights are better than traditional ones because they do look a whole lot better than traditional lighting. They last a lot longer too (a single bulb could last decades), and they will not consume that much in the way of power.

However, the last one probably isn’t a huge issue since your vehicle will be constantly charging that battery to give power to the lights anyway.

Normally, people would purchase LED lights for their homes as they are brighter than traditional lights. However, on the back of a trailer, this probably isn’t going to be making that much of a difference.

You aren’t trying to illuminate anything for your benefit.

How to Install Trailer Lights on most Vehicles Easy >> Check out the video below:

3. Do LED trailer lights need a resistor?

Do LED trailer lights need a resistor? No, in most cases, LED trailer lights will not need to have a load resistor. We suggest that you start by not having a load resistor in the circuit and test out the lights. If there is no hyper flash on the lights when you turn or brake, then you should be fine.

However, if there is a bit of flashing, then you will need to install a load resistor. You will only need to attach this to the circuit where the flashing occurs i.e. if it occurs on the turn signal, then attach the resistor to that circuit.

Generally speaking, once you ditch the incandescent lights, then you no longer need a resistor in place.

4. What are the 3 wires on LED lights?

What are the 3 wires on LED lights? The 3 wires on LED lights are black, white, and red. However, in most cases, the white wire is going to be the ground wire. The other two wires are going to be the positive wires. If you have three wires on your LED lights, then you have what is known as multi-function lights.

You will have to read the instruction manual for your lights.

You will, of course, need to know how to hook them up to your system to activate the multi-function nature of the lights. The manual should give you a decent overview of how to do this.

How To Wire LED Trailer Lights >> Check out the video below:

5. What are the best trailer lights?

There are a lot of trailer light manufacturers out there. The best option for you one person may not necessarily be the best option for another.

So, what are the best trailer lights? most people would agree that the best trailer lights are from these companies:

  • CZC Auto
  • HQAP
  • Partsam
  • Blazer Products
  • Maxx Haul

If you opt for something from any of these companies, then you won’t go far wrong. They have a huge selection for all trailer types, and their products tend to be quite hardwearing. 

6. LED trailer lights kit: what to consider?

An LED trailer lights kit is probably the most hassle-free way to get lights installed on your vehicle. While most LED trailer lights kits should be universal, you may still want to check the product description to know that it is going to be fine for your trailer.

You will also need to ensure that the kit comes with all of the lights that you need. For example, trailers that are longer than 80′ will require different lights to utility trailers.

Although, the vast majority of LED trailer lighting kits should tell you exactly what sort of trailers they should be compatible with.

Finally, you will want to ensure that the included colors can be used on the roads of the United States.

This should be fine if you buy the kit from a reputable store in the US. However, if you are importing, you will need to do some extra research into your state’s laws. 

Read also: Trailer Brake Controllers: 25 Facts You Should Know (Explained)

7. What lights are required on a utility trailer?

What lights are required on a utility trailer? On a utility trailer you will likely need to have the same lights that you have on the back of your vehicle normally. This means that you need brake lights. You will also need to have turn signals, tail signals, and reflectors.

There may be additional requirements in certain states.

8. Do small utility trailers need lights?

Do small utility trailers need lights? Yes. Small utility trailers need lights. It doesn’t matter how small your trailer is, it will always require lights. The type of light that it will require will be dependent on the state that you live in.

However, at the very minimum, it will always be brake, tail, turn, and reflector lights. These lights will also have to be very specific colors.

9. Can you tow a small trailer without lights? 

Can you tow a small trailer without lights?  No, you should not tow a small trailer without lights. All trailers are required to have brake, tail, turn, and reflector lights. However, you may be able to get away with it during the day, if you are driving the trailer at night, then you will almost certainly be stopped by the police.

The same would apply if you are planning on driving the vehicle during darker weather (snow, heavy rain, heavy fog, etc.)

10. Why do my trailer running lights not work?

Why do my trailer running lights not work? If your trailer lights are not working, you will need to check the following:

  1. Check for any loose or broken wires in the circuit.
  2. In rare cases, it may be because the bulbs on the trailer running lights have died.
  3. If none of your running lights seem to be working, then this is unlikely to be the problem.

Without seeing the vehicle, it is tough to diagnose the problem. However, in most cases, it is going to come down to a break in the circuit somewhere.

11. Does my trailer need side marker lights?

Does my trailer need side marker lights? If the trailer doesn’t require lights, then there is no obligation to add side marker lights. Some people will do so anyway. This helps to ensure that they are covered for absolutely every eventuality.

However, it depends on the length of the trailer and where you live. If you have a trailer that legally requires lights, then you will need to have side marker lights on them.

12. Do trailers need lights during the day?

Do trailers need lights during the day? Yes, trailers need lights during the day. You do not necessarily need to be using them, but you still need to have lights. This is because certain types of weather can make it too dark for vehicles to be seen unless they are illuminated.

If you are caught by the police driving a trailer that legally requires lights in this type of weather, then you could be pulled over and charged.

13. Do you have to have trailer lights if you can see truck lights?

Do you have to have trailer lights if you can see truck lights? Yes. You will still need to have trailer lights. Remember, people need to be able to see your vehicle’s lights unhindered.

There is always a small chance that the trailer lights could end up becoming obstructed. If they are on the back of the trailer, then you can be sure that everybody is going to be able to see your lights.

14. What are chicken lights on a semi-truck?

What are chicken lights on a semi-truck? Chicken lights are all of those extra lights that you find on the front of certain trucks. Nowadays, they do not really serve any purpose beyond aesthetics. However, in the past, they would have been used extensively.

The name chicken lights come from the idea that the vehicles that used to haul around chickens would have loaded up a ton of lights onto the front of the vehicle to let everybody know that a chicken-carrying vehicle was coming through the area. T

he name just ended up sticking. Some people do have different ideas when it comes to the origin of the term, but this is the one that is touted the most.

15. Can you have blue lights on a semi-truck?

Can you have blue lights on a semi-truck? No. You can rarely have blue lights on a semi-truck. In fact, you probably will not be allowed to have blue lights on any sort of vehicle. The problem is that while blue lights can look brilliant, they can also be mistaken for the emergency services.

Some states will allow blue lights under certain situations e.g. if they are a certain shade of blue. However, we suggest that you just steer clear of blue lights overall.

There is no real need for them, and because most states will not allow you to use blue lights, you will be restricting yourself when it comes to where you drive.

16. What lights are required on a boat trailer?

What lights are required on a boat trailer? In most states, your boat trailer will only require lights if it is over a certain size. If it is over a certain size, then you will need to ensure that you have tail lights, brake lights, side marker lights, and signal lights.

If you have all of them, then you should be fine. Of course, you will also need to ensure that you have reflectors too.

Look into the rules for your state, often found on the DMV website for your state, and they will be happy to tell you absolutely every single requirement for lighting that needs to be going on your vehicle. 

17. Do boat trailer lights need to be waterproof?

Do boat trailer lights need to be waterproof? Yes. The boat trailer will need to be taken into the water when you launch the boat. Therefore, if you do not have waterproof boat trailer lights, they won’t last that long. That being said, most trailer lights nowadays should be waterproof anyway.

After all, trailers do have to be driven through the rain and the like. That being said, it is still worth doing a little bit of checking.

We highly encourage you to only purchase lights that have been specifically manufactured for boat trailers.

boat-trailer.lights
Boat trailer lights

It is going to save you a lot of hassle later on. These boat trailer lights will also have a warranty. Some trailer lights may remove the warranty if you end up taking them into the water.

18. What color should trailer marker lights be?

What color should trailer marker lights be? In most states, trailer marker lights should always be amber. Even if you do not live in a state with color requirements, we suggest that you get amber trailer marker lights anyway.

If you do not, then you will be severely limiting the places that you are going to be able to take your trailer.

19. Does a trailer need to be hitched for the lights to work?

Does a trailer need to be hitched for the lights to work? No. A trailer does not need to be hitched for the lights to work. What the lights do need, however, is a source of power. As long as you have power going into the trailer, then the lights should work.

Obviously, the brake likes and the like probably wouldn’t work if you are not hitched up to a vehicle. This is because the trailer won’t know when to turn them on.

However, the rest of the lights should be working perfectly fine, assuming that you have the right power connector. 

20. Do side marker lights have to be amber?

Do side marker lights have to be amber? In most states, yes. Side marker lights will need to be amber. You can do your research to discover whether this is a requirement in the state that you live in. However, even if you are allowed to drive around your state with non-amber lights, we wouldn’t really recommend that you do so.

It will limit your ability to take your trailer into other states. You are also much more likely to be stopped by a police officer.

While it is unlikely that you will have to deal with any charges for not having the sidelights be in amber, being stopped is just an inconvenience.

21. Do LED trailer lights need to be grounded?

Do LED trailer lights need to be grounded? Yes. You will need to have the LED trailer lights grounded. Thankfully, this shouldn’t really be that difficult to do. In most cases, the ground wire will likely attach to the trailer hitch or the frame of the trailer.

It is worth noting that your trailer lights will likely work even if they are not ground properly. However, this is going to be a huge safety risk for you.

22. Do you need a resistor for LED lights?

Do you need a resistor for LED lights? No, in most of the time you do not need a resistor for LED lights. However, you should still test your lights to ensure that they are not flashing when you use them.

If they are, then you will need to install a resistor. However, this does seem to be incredibly rare nowadays.

23. What is the point of Raptor lights?

There isn’t really any benefit to Raptor lights beyond the fact that they look good. However, let’s be honest, the vast majority of people want their vehicles to look good, so this is probably a major benefit for most!

That being said, you do have to remember that Raptor lights may not be 100% legal everywhere you drive. You will need to do your research to discover what the law says for where you live.

24. Are grill lights legal in California?

Are grill lights legal in California? It does seem to be highly dependent on the police officer. However, it is generally agreed that both white and amber grill lights on the front of the vehicle are perfectly fine. If you use any other color, then you will likely end up running into problems. Of course, you may still have to be prepared to be stopped by a police officer.

However, when the law is read literally, it does seem to imply that you are fine to use those grill lights, so likely nothing will come of it.

Just bear in mind that these laws will not apply if you leave California.

25. How do I test my trailer lights?

How do I test my trailer lights? To test your trailer lights, you will need two people for this job. One inside of the vehicle, and one standing outside of the vehicle behind the trailer. Make sure that the trailer is connected to the electrics of the vehicle. It should also be hitched.

The person in the vehicle will then need to test the hazard lights, brake lights, and the turn indicators. So, just use those functions in the same way that you normally would if you were driving a vehicle.

If the lights come on correctly, then you know that everything has been connected up properly in the trailer!

How to quickly and easily test trailer lights with a battery >> Check how the video below:

26. Will trailer lights work without a ground?

Will trailer lights work without a ground? In most cases, no. The lights do not need a ground. The hitch ball will end up being the ground for the lights. That being said, it is a safety issue to note have a ground. So, you should always try to ensure that your trailer lights are grounded wherever possible.

Chances are that you won’t have to do much to ground the lights anyway. It is normally going to be ground to the trailer chassis.

The wiring diagrams that came with your trailer lights will tell you exactly how you to need to ground the lighting. 

27. Should I unplug trailer lights when launching a boat?

Should I unplug trailer lights when launching a boat? You don’t have to unplug trailer lights when launching a boat. In the past, people would have disconnected the trailer lights because they would have heated the glass. This meant when the trailer lights went into the water, the glass would crack.

Nowadays, this isn’t something that you really need to worry about. For example, if you have LED lights on your vehicle, then the lights would not get hot enough to crack anything when the trailer goes into the water to launch your boat.

We do not really recommend that you unplug the lights anyway. If you do, then you may forget to plug them back in when you head out there on the road again, and this will just cause you way more issues.

28. Is it illegal to not have license plate lights?

Is it illegal to not have license plate lights? The vast majority of states do require you to have adequate lighting for your license plate. This ensures that your license plate can be read even if it is dark outside.

While some states allow you to get away without having license plate lights, these states are few and far between. This means that if you drove outside of those states, you would likely be breaking the law.

Since license plate lights are not really that expensive, most people will have them installed anyway. In fact, chances are that your trailer will already have them in place.

29. What color can license plate lights be?

What color can license plate lights be? It is a requirement to have the front with white lights. On the back, then it should be red lights. Although, you will need to look into the rules for your state, so you know what you are going to be allowed to have.

Remember, in all cases, if you do have license plate lights, then you need to make sure that the position of them does not distract any drivers.

The lights should not be obscuring the license plate. It should be easy to see, whether the lights are on or off.

Read also: Does a Pop-Up Camper Need a License Plate? (Explained)

30. Are green clearance lights legal?  

Are green clearance lights legal?  No, green clearance lights are not legal?  Any clearance lights need to be amber in color. Obviously, there may be some areas where you can get away with using green side marker lights. However, these states are rarer.

There is a chance that they may end up ditching these laws in the future. In any case, you should be getting amber lights anyway.

If you don’t, then it will probably limit where you can drive with your vehicle. 

31. What color running lights are legal?

What color running lights are legal? In every single state, you will not be allowed to use blue lights at all. This is because these lights can be mistaken for emergency service lights. Beyond this, you will have to look into what lights are explicitly illegal.

For example, in some states, you may find that you are not allowed to use red or green lights outside of certain situations.

In others, the intensity of the color is going to be the problem. Remember, if you are planning on taking a trailer through multiple states, then you will need to be abiding by the laws of every state that you drive through, otherwise you are going to be running into issues.

32. Are tail light covers illegal?

Are tail light covers illegal? Yes. It is illegal to have tail light covers. While some police officers will let tail light covers slide, most will not. Even if you get away with driving with them on your vehicle for a while, you will eventually be caught out.

If you are caught out using these tail light covers, then you are going to end up dealing with a rather substantial fine.

You will also be asked to remove them as soon as you possibly can. This means that there is simply no point in having tail light covers installed because, eventually, you are going to need to remove them.

It is going to be a complete waste of money.

33. Are smoked LED tail lights legal?

Are smoked LED tail lights legal? If it is easy to tell when you are turning, then they are 100% legal. If somebody is not able to see when your vehicle is about to turn then, yes, smoked taillights are illegal throughout the United States.

Chances are that if you purchase tail lights from a reputable company in the United States, then you can be sure that they are going to be legal to use where you want.

We do suppose that it is all dependent on how ‘smoked’ the taillights are.

If you are importing, then you will probably need to do a bit of research to know that you are making the right choice.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of things that you will need to know about trailer lights. However, do bear in mind that we have only started to scratch the surface here.

There may be small laws that you will need to pay attention to in the state that you live or are planning on traveling through.

Ensure that you do your research, and you should be fine.

References

https://www.newreg.co.uk/blog/

https://www.etrailer.com/faq-trailer-lighting-info-and-regulations.aspx

Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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