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Old 03-24-2013, 02:17 AM   #1
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1979 31' Sovereign
Stephenville , Texas
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Running lights acting funny/Not working - 79' Sovereign

I just got a '79 31' Sovereign and I'm having trouble getting the lights to work.

For starters, every single clearance light is dry rotted, cracked, and corroded. Only 3 work and thats because Ive replaced one of them today. Yes, I do plan on replacing them all once I have the money.
And the tail lights are pretty corroded and kinda work after replacing all 6 bulbs.

Ho'kay, so...

I plug into my truck and turn the driving lights on and the 3 clearance lights that work come on but only stay on for a few seconds. The slowly dim after a few seconds till they're out and typically wont come back on unless I unplug and plug back in the 7 way. The tail lights will often do the same thing but are more prone to stay on. The drivers side shine the brightest but both sides will often dim or actually fluctuate as if it has some kinda of weakening power surge. If I apply the breaks, all lights will go out.
Now here is where it gets odd for me...
When my truck is plugged in, my blinkers will not work at all. And if I apply the flashers, my truck flashers will hesitate and blink very slowly and dimly as if my batteries are dying. Once I unplug, the truck is back to normal.

Could all of this be a big ground issue from all of the clearance lights being deteriorated or bad grounds on the rear light housing cups?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!
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Old 03-24-2013, 06:20 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forums, and congrats on your trailer.


Yes, this sounds like a ground issue.

I would make sure the correct lug of the seven way plug had a good, clean attachment to the frames of both vehicles.










Regards,

JD
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Old 03-24-2013, 07:41 AM   #3
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I have found that " almost" all trailer lighting issues come down to a ground issue. Take care of the ground and many problems will disappear.
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Old 03-24-2013, 07:51 AM   #4
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Also-- take the plug coming from the trailer and blow it out with short blasts to spruce it up of any small critters and dirt/dust particles. This helps a alot too. You know, - with one of those hose fittings for that purpose.
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Old 03-24-2013, 10:51 AM   #5
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1979 31' Sovereign
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I appreciate y'alls input!

I've cleaned the trailer plug head the best I can. I purchased some electronic cleaning spray and blasted all of the plug inserts and shoved my light tester point down inside to scratch up the surface. Part of me thinks I should just replace it and I probably will once I have the cash.
Where is the ground located on the trailer? Inside the fuse box at the head of the trailer?

I wire brushed every fuse connection inside the fuse box and replace every fuse. I even pulled the wires from the housing and trimmed them back a bit to expose "fresh" wire for the fuse box.

I also forgot to mention, when plugged in to the truck and having my tester ground hooked to truck, every single wire past the plug will have fire. Except when the break are pressed, then they have none.
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Old 03-24-2013, 12:23 PM   #6
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It is fairly common for a circuit to test good with a meter and then fail when real use current is applied.

In the case of the ground connection, remember all the current being sent to the trailer: every tail and marker lamp, the 12 volt charging circuit, and the trailer brakes must be returned on the single ground connection, shared only by whatever connectivity might flow via the hitch and ball.

The hitch and ball is usually a fairly resistive path especially with a receiver hitch.

You need to check the places the ground wire leading to the 7-way plug is connected to the frame of each vehicle.

The plugs themselves are probably ok, after your work.

Another way to test if a good ground will fix your issues is to connect a temporary wire from the frame of the tow vehicle to the frame of the trailer. If the issues go away, you have found problem.

A wire with alligator clips on both ends works well for this.

Good Luck.

JD
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Old 03-24-2013, 01:23 PM   #7
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The hitch ball and coupler should NOT be part of the ground/common circuit on the coach.
There is a ground common circuit wired thru the 7 pin connector for your TV and coach. This connection is at the 5:00 position on the 7 pin TV connector which would match the pin at 7:00 on the coach connector when looking at the end.
If all lights go out when you step on the brakes in the TV. I would say you have a bad ground/common connection. Or possibly a bad brake magnet. But the voltage drop indicates a bad connection, since you are apparently not blowing fuses.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:51 PM   #8
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Running lights acting funny/Not working - 79' Sovereign

Greetings Gasgano1979!

Since you are working with a recently acquired 1979 Vintage Airstream, there is one other issue that might be a part of your problem. If the trailer's connector has not been rewired to the current industry standard, it may be a large part of your trouble. The wiring schematic for the Bargman 7-pole connector on 1979 Airstreams was not consistent with today's industry standard and I don't believe that the wire function/color relationship corresponds to the modern standard either. I am attaching a pdf that contains the schematic utilized in 1979 that may be of help.

I have also found that the actual wire terminals in both the trailer and tow vehicle end (blade-type connector) need an annual cleaning to keep corrosion at bay (at least in my climate). Even with annual cleanings, I often found corrossion bridging spaces between terminals . . . a problem that I haven't encountered in the four seasons since converting to heavy duty round-pin connectors.

Good luck in resolving your wiring issues!

Kevin
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Old 03-24-2013, 06:52 PM   #9
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1979 31' Sovereign
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I think the plug may have been updated at some point because there is a splice just on the plug wires half-way up the tongue before it enters the trailer.

Yesterday I peeled back all of the electrical tape on the spice to find matching wire colors joined by in-line wire crimps. Some of the crimps were bad as wires would easily slip in and out. Yesterday I cut out all of the crimps, cleaned or cut back the wires on both ends and put on all new crimps. Still no difference.

Overlander, thank you for the PDF. The diagram you posted definitely shows a different configuration that what I saw. It makes a lot of sense that this may be the issue. The only thing that confuses me now is that the man I bought it from says it has worked on his vehicles when he used it in the past up until 2007. I guess the next time I have free time Ill go back to it and try crossing wire colors to see if this works.

I was just thinking though, could the wires inside the plug itself be different than industry standards?
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Old 03-24-2013, 08:48 PM   #10
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Running lights acting funny/Not working - 79' Sovereign

Greetings Gasgano1979!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gasgano1979 View Post
I think the plug may have been updated at some point because there is a splice just on the plug wires half-way up the tongue before it enters the trailer.

Yesterday I peeled back all of the electrical tape on the spice to find matching wire colors joined by in-line wire crimps. Some of the crimps were bad as wires would easily slip in and out. Yesterday I cut out all of the crimps, cleaned or cut back the wires on both ends and put on all new crimps. Still no difference.

Overlander, thank you for the PDF. The diagram you posted definitely shows a different configuration that what I saw. It makes a lot of sense that this may be the issue. The only thing that confuses me now is that the man I bought it from says it has worked on his vehicles when he used it in the past up until 2007. I guess the next time I have free time Ill go back to it and try crossing wire colors to see if this works.

I was just thinking though, could the wires inside the plug itself be different than industry standards?
I am not certain when and on what models Airstream utilized the removable umbilical cord, but your Sovereign would be from that approximate era if I remember correct (late 1970s early 1980s). If that were the case, there should be a round connector similar to what is on your tow vehicle that acted as a receptacle for the umbilical cord . . . this was typically a point of confusion to owners not familiar with the intricacies of Airstream . . . so if that was abandonned and a new umbilical created you may have some real mysteries. If your coach wasn't one of those with the removable umbilical cord, there should be a junction box either immediately above or below the floor where the front lounge is located. The coaches that I am familiar with have their junction box behind a removable panel found in the curbside front corner of the underbelly; however, I have heard that some of the later coaches have their junction box behind a panel in the floor below the front lounge.

I suspect that you are on the right track working from the spliced joint that you have located. Using a 12-volt source it should be possible to isolate the function of each of the existing wires, but it sounds like you may have a problem elsewhere . . . and I would highly suspect the juction box for the umbilical cord.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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