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Old 05-03-2015, 01:32 PM   #1
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Upgrading the Leaking Tail Lights - the Saga Continues.

I did my spring inspection of the RV the other day, and yep - the dang tail lights are leaking again, after all the work I did last fall to prevent it from happening.

I am so disgusted with this.

I did buy some replacements last year, but I have been hesitant to install them as I have to do some cutting to enlarge the holes the lights fit in. The replacement lights are almost identically the same width, height, and depth, but they require a slightly larger hole to fit.

Here is the before photo:



And here is the after photo:



A couple of issues I had, is that the wiring color code is all wrong. There are three sets of wire colors; Green, Black, and White.

Green = turn signal/brake
Black = tail light
White = Ground

I did verify this by metering the wires after I cut them.

However, silly me... I assumed that the green wire on the lights would go to the green wire on the RV, Black-to-Black, etc.

But not so.

When I wired it that way, the Tail and Brake/Turn Signal lights were backwards, meaning the Tail Lights were the bright element of the bulbs, and the Brake/Turn Signal was on the dim element. This means with the headlights on, you could not see the blinking or braking as the bright element on the tail lights masked the dim blinking lights.

So either the old light manufacturer, new light manufacturer, or Thor messed up big-time in wiring the lights up as someone reversed the color codes of the wires.

So I made a note to myself:



Today I am going to do the right-side light. This one will be a bit more difficult as I have to work around the ladder. I used a router to make the hole bigger on the left side, but I don't have sufficient room on the right side to do so. But I think my multi-tool will work.
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Old 05-03-2015, 01:46 PM   #2
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The replacement set looks pretty good.

You know the Thor guys probably just splice in any old wire to make the length fit from where the Ford harness ends. Thus I predict the colors on the right side will be completely different from the left side!
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Old 05-03-2015, 02:04 PM   #3
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The nice thing about the Bargman lights I used is they are easily converted to LEDs, by buying these modules that replace the individual light lenses:

http://www.pplmotorhomes.com/parts/rv-lights/led-tail-light-upgrade.htm

They just plug right into the existing lamp sockets.

Or you can buy LED versions from the get-go.
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Old 05-03-2015, 02:06 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by JamieGeek View Post
The replacement set looks pretty good.

You know the Thor guys probably just splice in any old wire to make the length fit from where the Ford harness ends. Thus I predict the colors on the right side will be completely different from the left side!
If I discover that is the case, I will have to write myself another note to the inside of the light cavity.
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Old 05-03-2015, 08:02 PM   #5
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After further investigation, I am certain that Thor wired the lights backwards. The reason being is that the original light bezels are ambidextrous, that is; you can plug in the light bulbs either way. So if you wire the lights backwards, simply turn the bulbs 180Deg.

The new lights however, are the more typical bayonet bulbs and have one lug longer than the other, so they will only fit one way.

And, where I snipped the wires - they ran straight into the light bezels without any breaks in the wires, so the color codes have to match the light bezels and not the coach.

Yea, I am sure Thor did it wrong. Why is this not a surprise?

I cannot decide if this is sheer incompetence or sheer lack of caring.
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Old 05-03-2015, 09:14 PM   #6
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FWW,

For what it's worth, the lights you installed are the ones that Forest River installs on the Sunseeker and Forrester Class C coaches. I never had an issue with leaking lights in the 3 years I had my Sunseeker.
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Old 05-03-2015, 11:14 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by dstankov View Post
FWW,

For what it's worth, the lights you installed are the ones that Forest River installs on the Sunseeker and Forrester Class C coaches. I never had an issue with leaking lights in the 3 years I had my Sunseeker.
Good to know.

The old lights I replaced are used on some Forest River (FR3), entry level Coachmen, Thor, and some Winnebago coaches as they are very popular. As far as I know, Jayco uses the Bargman lights as well (the ones I upgraded to).

I have also seen the Bargman tail lights on E450 buses around my locale (the one's that pick up senior citizens, etc), so they seem to be on many of the more commercial vehicles.

There are at least 5 people that visit this forum that have reported they have had leaking problems with the old tail lights I had. The lights and the gaskets just don't seem to me to be up to the task.

I even replaced the gaskets last year, and when I got the new ones, they were simply foam rubber material, and I immediately became skeptical that they would not do their job.

So I just got fed up and upgraded the tail lights.
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Old 05-03-2015, 11:28 PM   #8
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I installed the right side today. They look so stylish...




I also replaced the license plate holder with a LED and metal bracket (the plastic one was just about ready to give up the ghost).
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Old 05-03-2015, 11:47 PM   #9
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I enlarged the hole on the left side primarily with a router, first with a router bit having a ball bearing on the bottom which cut a notch in the side, then with a bit having a ball bearing on the top (bottoming bit). That way, I always supported the router with a ball bearing resting on the edge of the workpiece.



You might notice a slight gouge in the upper right corner - that was due to the earthquake we had yesterday while I was using the router (at least that is the excuse I am giving).

I squared off the holes with a multi tool.



For the right-side, I used the multi-tool almost exclusively as the ladder was in the way and would not let me use the router much.

Basically, I had to enlarge the hole by cutting out about 1" on the top, and squaring off the corners.
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Old 05-04-2015, 12:11 AM   #10
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Here is a template I used to remove the material. Basically you need to shave off an inch from the top, and square off the corners. You cannot easily take 1/2" off the top and bottom as the metal wiring channel is in the bottom.



I suppose though you could easily cut the channel with a multi-tool, but there is no reason to over complicate things. Shaving 1" off the top still leaves enough room for the new lights to overlay the hole.

As well, if you lowered the lights, you would have to relocate the license plate holder, and you might then end up with the old license plate holes showing.
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Old 05-04-2015, 12:37 AM   #11
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FW28Z;
What's your advice to a new owner? How do we avoid the leaking issue that seems to be very prevalent? I have a 2015 28Z just the same as yours. We pick it it up from the dealer this week. The last thing I want to deal with is water inside the rear compartments.
Thanks in advance for your help and advice.
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Old 05-04-2015, 12:59 AM   #12
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FW, LOVE the sign to yourself!


Nice job wit the lights BTW. They are the same ones that were on my 2003 Sunseeker.
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Old 05-04-2015, 01:04 AM   #13
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I would certainly ask the dealer to open up the tail lights during PDI. If it has been on the lot for any length of time, there is probably already water inside.

Otherwise, if you want to keep those lights, I would at minimum silicone seal the gaskets to the backwall, but don't silicone the tail light lens itself to the gaskets.

Silicone works well in this application as it is semi-removeable.

I keep a product called JWB Anti-Bond in my toolbox, which essentially debonds sealants. It can be hard to find though. It works better on polyurethane sealants than silicone, but it seems to semi-work on silicone.

Antibond 2015

There are other products especially formulated for removing silicone, but I have not tried them yet.
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Old 05-04-2015, 01:15 AM   #14
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Thanks for the advice. Will have the dealer look into the light area are at PDI. I'm thinking that the Flex-Seal may a good idea also to keep any moisture issues at bay. Your tail light upgrade may be in the near future if I see any water getting in the opening. Here in Florida it has been know to rain just a wee bit..
The coach only has been on the lot for less than 30 days. We shall see.

Thanks for the help.


Jim.
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Old 05-04-2015, 01:26 AM   #15
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Oh how I'm kicking myself for having them not make the cutouts when they replaced my back wall, so I cold go with a surface mounted light.

I'm glad that you have found a nice looking solution. Just too bad that it takes a lot of cutting!
ANyway, good find on that fixture, and nice looking job! Thank you for sharing it
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Old 05-04-2015, 06:27 AM   #16
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If anyone wants to make the cutouts larger, I would highly recommend a multi-tool. Mine is a Porter Cable and it cost less than $100. These tools are great as you can flush-cut, and they are rather precision as you can really do some fine detail work.

You even can't cut yourself with one. I showed my wife that, because she didn't believe me. If I put my finger on the blade with it running, it won't cut my finger. The oscillations are so fast that it basically just vibrates your finger.

Of course, if you laid your finger down against a solid object, then the multi-tool would likely cut it, but I am not going to test that.

As I explained, I used both a multi-tool and router. The router was a time saver, but it can get away from you pretty fast if you are not that experienced at using them. On the other hand, the multi-tool works wonders, but it does take awhile longer.

The only downside is the tool tends to get hot, and you have to put it down after a few minutes to let it cool off.

And the one I have, you can angle the blade to get in around obstructions. This came in very handy around the right-light as the ladder was in the way.
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Old 05-04-2015, 06:56 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by JRS950 View Post
Thanks for the advice. Will have the dealer look into the light area are at PDI. I'm thinking that the Flex-Seal may a good idea also to keep any moisture issues at bay.
Another thing you can try is Cap't Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure... no joke, that is a name of a product.

Capt. Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure

I tried it on my boat that had leaking windows, but it didn't work as the windows were under the rear deck, and each time you walked across the deck, the stresses re-cracked the sealant around the windows.

But in this application, it might just work. I would not be afraid to apply it to both sides of the gasket after the light is attached to the back wall.

If you have to change out a light bulb, you will probably rip the gasket apart, but the stuff should easily scrape off. So each time you replace a light bulb, you might have to replace a gasket. But you can buy the gaskets from the company for $2 each.

It kind of reminds me of white glue, but it is waterproof once dried.

Another thing you can try is a RV Gutter, which is what ultimately fixed the leaks around the windows on my boat:



You can probably see the gutter in the photo, which runs along the top ridge of the window.

Essential Products RV & Marine - EZE RV Gutters

If I were keeping the old lights, I might at least put a set of those gutters over the lights. Probably wouldn't look too bad, as you can see from my boat photo. Ten feet of the gutters are about $20, and they are self-adhesive. Also, you could run a bead of silicone across the top of the gutters if you wanted to as well.

The gutter solution is probably the easiest fix for the problem., as you would not have to put any sealant on the lights.
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Old 06-26-2015, 03:17 PM   #18
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Back to the tail light leaking issue, which I thought I had fixed once and for all. Removed the tail lights this morning to make sure leak fix was working and it did, but found that the water was migrating into the screw holes and some, but not all were soggy and stripped. I am drying them out now and will probably use "Get Rot" or similar to plug and coat. Also will dab a little silicone sealant under screw heads before tightening. Hopefully I can forget about this issue after messing with it this time.
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Old 06-26-2015, 03:30 PM   #19
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water is one tenacious thing to stop!
Based on my experience any fix is almost always temporary in nature.... in situations like this with a poorly designed joint or seam anyway.

I'll say it again.... I'm kicking myself for not going to surface mounted lights on my rear wall!
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Old 06-26-2015, 03:41 PM   #20
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I was up on my roof a couple weeks back cleaning.
Notice that with my new clearance lights, I have water in them again.
I knew that I would so i was not surprised, since the fixtures themselves are a horrible design!

I looked and looked and never really found any sealed LED clearance lights that I thought might easily replace the factory ones while nicely covering up all the screw and wire holes up there....

So my idea, I'll throw out for brainstorming purposes....
I was thinking a fix might be this.
Once I find some suitable replacement fixtures
I might try to find some good sheet material.... I'm thinking like some sheet FRP, or some HDPE or something.... something that I could hopefully get in a color close to or complementary to the grey color on my coach....
Then epoxy the sheet across the whole area, sealing in all the old screw holes, scratches from the dealers and my efforts to remove and reseal, etc....
giving me a clean surface to mount lights to.

And on another note for brainstorming, I have come to notice taht almost all commercial trucks use these recessed fixtures taht pop into a rubber gasket. Even used on u-haul trailers and such.
I wonder if these are a better solution....
like this

your thoughts?
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