Exterior RV Light Maintenance, RETRO-WINNIE-2

A New and an old Bad Headlight in my Winnebago

Winnebago Headlights, with a bad light on the left side. Figuring out that the headlight was bad was not a problem. I looked and this Sealed Beam headlight had water standing in it.
Winnebago Headlights, with a bad light on the left side. Figuring out that the headlight was bad was not a problem. I looked and this Sealed Beam headlight had water standing in it. | Source

Headlight Replacement Required

While I was on my "new, old, Retro-Winnie Shakedown trip, I drove during the daylight hours only, so I never got a chance to examine the function of my headlights.

After we were set up in our Campsite in Virginia, I was able to do a "walk-around" of my Rig at night. I just started the engine, and turned on my RV lights and then I went outside and performed a careful check of all of the exterior lights on my motorhome.

Happily, all of my exterior lights were working well and the lens covers were clean and unbroken. That is, except for my right side headlights. They were ON, but they very dim. I went back inside and turned the engine and lights OFF for the night.

The next morning, I took a flashlight outside and examined the two headlights. Even when turned OFF, the two lamps looked dull and not as brightly reflective as the two headlights on the left side that had worked well the night before.

I looked closer and the problem became obvious. Each of the lamps had about 1/4-inch of water in them.


Old Rv with Old Headlamps

II know that you have driven down the road at night and seen the variety of the brightness of headlights from vehicle to vehicle.Some of this difference is due to wide variety of replaceable bulbs available for the different vehicles. You can even purchase replacement bulbs that shine at different colors.

Incandescent lamps, which are used in sealed beam headlights and many older vehicles. These bulbs will eventually age and lose a certain amount of their brightness.

Being an older motorhome, it used what are called "sealed beam" headlights. That means that the lens assembly and the actual bulb are one piece and the unit is sealed against the weather.

Newer headlights have a lens assembly and a replaceable "bulb" on the back side of the lens, that is typically accessible from the front engine compartment. For Diesel Pushers, without an engine compartment, they are often accessible from areas that have a removable cover for lamp replacement.

Anyway, I removed the old headlamps which just takes a Philips screwdriver and a little patience to perform. I took the bad ones up to m the closest automotive parts store and they cross-referenced the lamp with their inventory and sold me two new lamps, a low-beam, and a high-beam.

I installed one lamp and then I tok a picture to demonstrate the difference between an old and a new headlamp, once the weather gets inside the lens and erodes the reflective material on the walls of the lens. See the picture!

And, in just a few minutes, I had all of my lights working properly.

Exterior Lights and Safety on the Road

All RV owners need to understand that one of the most important things on their RV is fully functioning exterior lights.

Face it, these motorhomes and towed campers are not stopped very easily. When you hit the brake your motorhome has a lot of mass to bring to a halt and at night, the driver needs to see as far down the road as possible to increase his chances of stopping safely.

To this end, a motorhome needs not only good brakes, but great headlights.

And, all of those marker lights on the top front and top rear of the motorhome, as well as those on the sides give the motorhome a better chance of not being hit by another vehicle, if they are all well lit.

Then there are also the signal lights, brake lights and on some spotlights that aid the motorhome driver in having a safe trip.

Motorhome Exterior Light Covers.

So you heard a crunch passing under that tree and you just knew that it was not a good thing.

Later, you checked and you had a cracked Taillight lens. It could be a side lens or a rear roof light lens or even a parking light on the front of your RV. It doesn't matter which one it was, the problems is you now need to replace the darn thing.

Well here are a couple of facts for the unknowing RV owner when he is looking for a replacement lens on his RV.

First of all, RV manufacturers do not manufacture any of the lenses that they use on their vehicles. It's a simple thing; really it turns out that it's just cheaper to use lenses manufactured by other companies.

Oh, if you or your mechanic calls their parts department, they will happily sell you a replacement. And, it is going to be expensive, after they mark it up 100% or more over their purchasing and handling costs.

Buy Exterior Lights and Lenses from the original manufacturers.

But, if you check around and do a little research, you will find out that you can get these parts a lot cheaper from the original manufacturers.

Here are the most popular sources for pretty much ALL RV lenses:

Automotive Parts

Almost all Motorhomes use headlight and taillight assemblies form automotive manufacturers. If your motorhome is on a Ford chassis, then go to a Ford parts department and take the lens part number, or ven yetm, the whole broken assembly with you and they can find you the right part, and at a much lower price.

As to the others, you just need to snoop around on the web sites that provide answers to owners questions about RV problems and someone will probably be able to tell you which is the right replacement lens for you. My favorite site is the Forum on rv.net.

I know this works because a few years ago, I was backing my Camelot motorhome out of my driveway and I tapped my mailbox. When I looked , I had cracked my right rear taillight assembly lens.

Not knowing what to do, I got on the Forum at RV.net and asked for help from my fellow campers. The next day, I had an answer. A fellow in Arizona told me that the 2007 Camelot used the taillight assembly and lens that was originally on the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

I then questioned a service rep for Monaco about this and he admitted that it was true, that year they did use that manufacturers assembly.

I ordered one from my local Jeep dealer and had the lens in less than two weeks. And it was a perfect match, at far less than half the price that Monaco had given me.

Headlight Assemblies

Of course, the same is true for RV headlight assemblies. They also use those parts designed for other vehicles and what you might need to replace can be found out easily.

RV Side Lights and Roof Lights

If you look closely, those yellow running lights on the side of your RV as well as on the front and rear roof lines of your motorhome all seem the same. And they are the same.

These are manufactured by several of the larger light manufacturers and the design of the base, lens and bulbs have been used for decades.

A quick search on stores such as Amazon and you will find dozens of varieties of these lights that are available for your purchase.

You can even upgrade your old dull lenses with more decorative shapes if you wish.

LED replacement lamps

Newer RVs utilize LED lamps instead of the old incandescent lamps.

And really, this is a good thing. An LED lamp is not only more efficient that its incandescent equivalent, it uses less current, is just as bright, and has a much, much longer life.

But, they are much more expensive than the old incandescent lamps, so shop carefully for the best price possible.

In the last several motorhomes I have owned, I have always replaced my incandescent bulbs with LED lamps when they go bad. But, I did it, grumbling the whole time over the price.

Click this site; Camping World LED Lamps, for a wide variety of LED replacement lamps.

How OLD are your Headlamps/Bulbs?

How old are your Headlght Bulbs or lamps?

See results without voting

In Summary

So, one of the things I had to work on whenI took my old Retro-Winnie on its maiden shakedown trip, was the headlights. And I am a safer driver now that I have the extra range of night vision I get from my new headlights.

Headlight Bulb Replacement Tips

Replacing and Caulking RV Marker Lights

© 2014 Don Bobbitt

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Comments 5 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

I write a lot of articles about car maintenance for customers, and I'm still a bit surprised why more people don't do basic maintenance themselves to save money. Many projects like this one are quite easy, and you can save hundreds of dollars by doing them.

Anyway, good idea.


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida Author

Billybuc, my Man!

Great to hear from you again. You are so right about doing your own maintenance. When I was young, I had no training but I had the best incentive you could get. I was POOR and I had to learn how to work on things.

I got pretty good at fixing things and one day I knew I could work on anything. I put new Kit in a 1956 Ford four-barrel carburator. And it worked. LOL!

Today? I can still do some things as long as I don't have to get down on my blown-out knees, or lift with my blown out back, etc.

Thanks for the comment,

DON


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

I have heard that crunch of the lights. Ouch. So glad companies use standard lens instead of making their own. When the economy turned down in 2008 the company which made our trailer went out of business. We have had trouble getting parts. Thankfully not lenses. Love you maintenance hubs. We only got out once in the trailer this year. We flew every place else.


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

I have heard that crunch of the lights. Ouch. So glad companies use standard lens instead of making their own. When the economy turned down in 2008 the company which made our trailer went out of business. We have had trouble getting parts. Thankfully not lenses. Love your maintenance hubs. We only got out once in the trailer this year. We flew every place else.


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida Author

tirelesstraveler- I really enjoy your articles. Great variety and well written.

Thanks for the read and the comment on my long-term efforts as I upgrade and improve my old Winnebago.

As to parts for your older trailer, try asking questions on rv.net/forum/ . This is a forum for camper owners who have problems looking for parts and need advice on maintenance. I think you will find what you want.

Thanks again for the comment,

DON

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