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Old 12-11-2006, 06:27 AM   #1
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OK - this is kind of long, but it might help other Alpine owners. You can skip to the bottom to read the final fix.

After several months we finally resolved a problems we've been having with our toad brake lights while towing.

We tow a Jeep Liberty (Blue-Ox tow bar and SMI braking system).

One of the neat things about a Jeep Liberty, is that it has a couple of "extra" empty tail light locations (one on each side). In other words, the rear bottom red lens on each side is unused.

The Blue-Ox "Bulb and Socket Tail Light Wiring Kit" gives you a couple of light bulbs and sockets for this location. This lets you run tail lights independently of the car's own lights - you can avoid installing the diodes, etc. that come with tying the motorhome to the car's own bulb wiring.

This seemed like a great idea (we did our own towing installation). But it did require the use of a 3 to 2 converter box to convert the amber signal setup of the Alpine Coach to the single bulb setup of the toad wiring.

Our first installation worked just fine for a while. We used a standard (el cheapo) 3 to 2 converter you can buy at any auto supply place.

But after almost a year we had intermittent problems with one of the brake lights coming on (blinkers, parking lights all worked fine). After trying bulbs and flexing wires and checking sockets we finally decided that the 3 to 2 converter was to blame. Indeed RV places have told us since that those types of 3 to 2 converters usually only last about a year and then they start "acting funky".

We bought a better quality 3 to 2 "heavy duty" converter box to replace it. Unlike the original, this box took a ground wire as an input and was supposed to make the tail lights "brighter" in addition to being a heavy duty 3 to 2 converter in general.

It took us a while to figure it out (for the first month John thought Audrey was tapping the brakes LOL!), but the brake lights would flash on for about a second, after which they would turn off and then flash every few seconds. Actually, this behavior would only exhibit occasionally with the engine off, but ALWAYS with the engine on. Not only that, but the motorhome brake lights would flash too! Arrrrgh!!

So, we though we had a bum 3 to 2 converter and replaced it with yet another heavy duty one - different brand. Guess what! Same behavior and only if the engine was running.

John became convinced that the problem was too much current being pulled - at least initially there is quite a bit of current draw when the light bulbs are first lit. The Vansco output for the brake lights is limited to 6 amps, and if the car tail lights as well as the motorhome lights were being run off the same current the flashing could be the Vansco way of limiting the current. His theory was that we were just at a marginal condition, and maybe the engine running boosted the voltage enough to increase the current draw slightly.

So he ordered some LED 1157 lightbulb replacements for our toad tail lights. Very low current draw.

PROBLEM SOLVED. Finally!

I don't know if anyone else has run into this problem but it sure took us a while to figure it out!

Audrey
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Old 12-11-2006, 06:27 AM   #2
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OK - this is kind of long, but it might help other Alpine owners. You can skip to the bottom to read the final fix.

After several months we finally resolved a problems we've been having with our toad brake lights while towing.

We tow a Jeep Liberty (Blue-Ox tow bar and SMI braking system).

One of the neat things about a Jeep Liberty, is that it has a couple of "extra" empty tail light locations (one on each side). In other words, the rear bottom red lens on each side is unused.

The Blue-Ox "Bulb and Socket Tail Light Wiring Kit" gives you a couple of light bulbs and sockets for this location. This lets you run tail lights independently of the car's own lights - you can avoid installing the diodes, etc. that come with tying the motorhome to the car's own bulb wiring.

This seemed like a great idea (we did our own towing installation). But it did require the use of a 3 to 2 converter box to convert the amber signal setup of the Alpine Coach to the single bulb setup of the toad wiring.

Our first installation worked just fine for a while. We used a standard (el cheapo) 3 to 2 converter you can buy at any auto supply place.

But after almost a year we had intermittent problems with one of the brake lights coming on (blinkers, parking lights all worked fine). After trying bulbs and flexing wires and checking sockets we finally decided that the 3 to 2 converter was to blame. Indeed RV places have told us since that those types of 3 to 2 converters usually only last about a year and then they start "acting funky".

We bought a better quality 3 to 2 "heavy duty" converter box to replace it. Unlike the original, this box took a ground wire as an input and was supposed to make the tail lights "brighter" in addition to being a heavy duty 3 to 2 converter in general.

It took us a while to figure it out (for the first month John thought Audrey was tapping the brakes LOL!), but the brake lights would flash on for about a second, after which they would turn off and then flash every few seconds. Actually, this behavior would only exhibit occasionally with the engine off, but ALWAYS with the engine on. Not only that, but the motorhome brake lights would flash too! Arrrrgh!!

So, we though we had a bum 3 to 2 converter and replaced it with yet another heavy duty one - different brand. Guess what! Same behavior and only if the engine was running.

John became convinced that the problem was too much current being pulled - at least initially there is quite a bit of current draw when the light bulbs are first lit. The Vansco output for the brake lights is limited to 6 amps, and if the car tail lights as well as the motorhome lights were being run off the same current the flashing could be the Vansco way of limiting the current. His theory was that we were just at a marginal condition, and maybe the engine running boosted the voltage enough to increase the current draw slightly.

So he ordered some LED 1157 lightbulb replacements for our toad tail lights. Very low current draw.

PROBLEM SOLVED. Finally!

I don't know if anyone else has run into this problem but it sure took us a while to figure it out!

Audrey
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Old 12-11-2006, 06:59 AM   #3
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Audrey:

Interesting post. As you can see from my sig, I have a Winne on FL chassis. My original tailight converter (a Hoppy non-powered cheapo) caused some goofy things to happen with the TOAD lights when I replaced my coach tailights with LED lights. In talking with the Hopkins folks, I replaced that converter with one of their 'short-proof powered' converters.

http://www.trailerwiring.com/graphics/parts/46365t.gif

Worked for about 8 months then I had only a constant-on right brake lite on the TOAD (I also have the Blue Ox Add-a-Bulb set up). Called Hoppy, they said the converter had failed and I got another. That one lasted less than 3 months...same problem....no running lights, no turn signals, just the right brake lite on constantly. I am on my third Hoppy powered short proof converter and Hopkins' only suggestion was to make sure my grounds were good, which I did.

Maybe I should try the LED 1157's in the Add-a-bulb set up??

Where did you get the LED 1157's?
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Old 12-11-2006, 12:01 PM   #4
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Audrey,

I wish I would have paid attention and asked specifics about your tail/brake light problem earlier. I too tow a Liberty. Since the tail lights lend themselves to installing additional bulbs, I went to the local auto parts store, bought two bulb sockets that accept dual filiment bulbs ($1.79 each) and two dual filiment bulbs ($2.49). Drilled the "spare" location in the Jeep tail lights, ran wire to the front of the Jeep and mounted a connector. No converters required...straight hook-up to the Alpine connector. Used a volt meter to determine the pins for left-turn/right-turn/tail lights. Brakes lights are common to left and right turn lights and did not require a converter. Since I have a 2001 perhaps my rear connector is wired different.
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Old 12-11-2006, 02:35 PM   #5
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Steve:

The brake signal on our Alpine comes out on a different pin from the left and right turn signals. Do you have amber turn signals on your 2001 Coach? Probably not.

Audrey
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Old 12-11-2006, 03:33 PM   #6
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Quicksilver, Teddybear and Bear:

I ordered 1157-LX3 LED light bulbs from Super Bright LEDs

This information page has some good tips about choosing the right LED bulb. In particular, read "Which Color LEDs should I use?", "Brightness of LED Car Bulbs", and "Are your bulbs standard size?". I did not have any of the issues discussed in "Turn signal issues with LED bulbs".

-John
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Old 12-11-2006, 05:43 PM   #7
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Audrey & John,

I see you use the SMI. I have the SMI permanantly mounted under the back seat of my pickup, so I only have to flip a switch to go. But my SMI was an older one and recently SMI stareted using a voltage regulator to protect the sending unit in the coach from high voltage spikes from the brake lights. I had to have the regulator added and replace the sending unit as the spikes were quite high and had caused damage. Anyway, just a warning if your SMI is older, like mine was.

Terry
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