Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Even The Simple REPAIRS - Cleaning & Refurbishing Exterior Lights

Lots Of Lights!
    My RV has Clearance lights....lots of them! They aren't really sealed very well from the elements. The covers simply snap on and are held in place by a small plastic tab. Water and dirt get in all the time, especially at speed. Eventually the copper/brass contacts and wires corrode to the point they are hindering the flow of electricity into the bulbs and the lights go dim or, worse, out. In many states they are a DOT requirement. Removing and replacing them with sealed LED units would be great. Swapping in LED bulbs is good, too. What if you just want them to work? No problem, here's how.

Lights Out!
Get yourself a sturdy ladder. Since these lights run along the top/side edge of your RV, you really want a sturdy work platform! Take a good look at your lights. I began with the ones that were out, but the basic section of this maintenance can be performed on working lights as well. Preventive maintenance is a GOOD thing! Begin by looking at the light itself. Is it (like mine) the type that the lens simply pulls off? Mine pull up a bit from the bottom edge then lift off. They COULD have a couple of screws holding the lens on. If so...unscrew them! Of course, if your lens is watertight you may only have to replace the bulb if it's been leaking. Then make sure the leak is repaired! A little bathroom-style caulk goes a LONG way for a fix. Use VERY little and be prepared to wipe away the excess!

Typical Light Fixture
Once you get the light fixture open, wiggle the bulb with the power on. Did it turn on, even for a second? Then you may just have to clean the contacts or re-insert the bare wire end into the clips. To clean them, make sure the power is OFF!! Then use a fine wire brush for bad corrosion first. If it's not too bad (you can see the bare metal underneath) use a fine grade of sandpaper or some steel wool. If it's just dirty, a pencil eraser rubbed on the contacts (bulb, too!) works wonders. Since I already have the lens off, I like to clean all the surfaces. On mine, the lens gets really dirty on the inside and that reduces light output significantly.

See, STILL Out!
Put the bulbs back in and turn on the power. Make sure everything is working. If not...try another bulb before you start playing with contacts and wires! Turn off the power. Now put the lenses back on using the reverse of the way they came off. Go and turn the power BACK on and check that the lights are working. Give each one a light tap to confirm that they STAY on! Sometimes they are making contact, but so lightly they become intermittent. If you get a bad one, turn off the power again, take out the bulb and try another (known) good bulb. If that doesn't fix it look at the contacts that are touching the BACK of the bulb. Make sure they have enough spring tension pushing them against the bulb. Often they become weaker with age and use. BE VERY CAREFUL if you want to bend the clip a bit...they become fragile with age and are very easy to snap off. Then you DO need a replacement fixture. Ask me, I know...two of mine snapped quite easily.

That's it. Not very complicated nor difficult. Can be done on a cool early evening in a hour or so. Maybe less. Will definitely save you $$$ over going to the RV service emporium.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

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