Chandlery November 15, 2003 Issue

Your Last Set of Trailer Lights?

Conventional, incandescent trailer lights have several built-in areas of weakness, starting with the bulb itself. It's possible, though difficult, to surround the bulb with a more-or-less watertight enclosure. Unfortunately, incandescent bulbs must eventually be replaced, which means that the housing must be able to be opened up, which in turn means that the light's watertightness must depend upon gaskets and rubber seals. It also means that you need a bulb socket, which is difficult to seal, and a prime location for corrosion-induced failure.

What would happen if you had a bulb that didn't get hot, could be submerged during operation, and didn't require replacement? Trailer light design would suddenly become much simpler. Well, such a "bulb" exists—it's called an LED. More properly, it's several LEDs: Where a conventional incandescent trailer light has a single bulb and requires a reflector and a lens to direct the light, an LED setup uses multiple small LEDs, each encapsulated with its own reflector, and relies on the lens solely to diffuse the light and avoid a "dotty" appearance.

The LED trailer light set we tested is SeaSense's Road Warrior (800/282-8725,

At first glance, there's nothing much unusual about it: A pair of square lights measuring 4.5" square by 2" deep; a plastic license-plate holder; a wiring harness; and an assortment of stainless clips, nuts, and connector. The eye-catching part was on the label: 100,000 hours of life! 100% submersible! And a 10-year warranty! That's unusual.

We tried them out. First, we hooked one up to a 12-volt battery and submerged it in eight feet of Long Island Sound water. It worked fine. We left it submerged and running for a week. Still worked fine. Then we left it submerged and turned the light on and off at 30-minute intervals to see if changing internal temperatures would affect it. Still worked fine.

We took it out of the water, and placed it on a vibrating table for four hours to see if road shock would damage it. When we tried it again, it showed no ill effects. We finally got mad, tied it to a car's bumper and dragged it around the block a couple of time. The plastic housing was scratched badly, but the lighting was unaffected. Last, we tested to see the effect, if any, of destroying the integrity of the sealed unit—we drilled a couple of holes in the lens, and allowed the housing to fill up with water. When we submerged it again, it still worked.

The Road Warrior is as close to indestructible as any light we've encountered. There are no bulbs to change, no gaskets to worry about, and installation is easy. The SeaSense Road Warrior carries a price tag of $69.99, which is a bit more than incandescent lighting kits we've encountered, but well worth it, we think.

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