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Old 06-14-2014, 06:19 PM   #29
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Since the OP is going to have the tow plate installed in a shop, what is the incremental cost of having the permanent electrical system installed when the vehicle is already up on the lift? Is it enough to even consider a cheaper alternative given that the alternative will cost time and money to implement? Since the OP is retiring, can we reasonably assume he will be traveling in his MH and connecting/disconnecting fairly often, benefiting from the convenience each time?

I was quoted less than $900 by a major retailer for parts and installation of tow plate and electrical. The bulk of this is for the $400 tow plate and the time to dismantle and reassemble the front of the vehicle (search YouTube videos on Blue Ox Install). I estimate an hour of labor plus about $75 in electrical parts for the lights. This shop said that they only use diodes in their installations because they don't want to drill extra holes in their customers' vehicles. In fact, drilling the holes is more time consuming and error prone than installing diodes.

With a built-in system, the owner manual reads as follows:
1) Leaving campground - Push plug in
2) Arriving at destination - Pull plug out

If you know how a diode works, please skip to the last paragraph.
The OP's tech associates confusion with diodes. It sounds like the biggest objection to using them is a lack of understanding of what they are and how they work. Second only to a length of wire, a diode is probably the simplest and most reliable electrical component in your vehicle. Its sole purpose in life is to allow DC current to flow in one direction and not in the other. Physically, a typical diode looks like the eraser from the end of a pencil with a wire protruding from each end. Larger or smaller depending on the amount of current ( Amps) it can handle, and yes, they do come in other physical package styles. Take a simple circuit consisting of a battery and a light and instead of connecting one side of the battery to the light with a wire, use a diode in its place. Installed in one direction, the diode will allow DC current to pass and its presence will be completely invisible to the circuit. Turn the diode around in the circuit, and the lamp will not light because the diode's job is to block DC current from flowing in that direction. You can demonstrate exactly the same thing with an LED (Light Emitting DIODE). Plug it into the socket and it lights. Remove it, turn it 180 degrees and it does not light.

The perhaps ominous looking three prong diode packages supplied by Blue Ox, Roadmaster and others are nothing more than a convenient way of packaging two diodes together for automotive applications. There is nothing else in the package. The drawing below shows these two diodes with independent connections (A & B) on the left and one common connection (C) on the right.

A -----[->]----- C
B -----[->]----- /

The lamp is connected to C, the car's signal wire to A, and the motorhome's signal wire to B. You simply cut the car's wire near the taillight and crimp a connector on each end. Now plug the car end connector into A and the lamp end connector into C. To this point, you have accomplished exactly what we did in the first experiment with a battery, lamp and diode. The car's lamp circuit works exactly like it always did, oblivious to the presence of the diode. If you simply stopped the installation at this point, you would see no difference in the performance of your car's lights.

Now connect the wire from the motorhome to B and the installation is finished. If a 12 volt signal comes from either the car (A) or the motorhome (B) then the respective diode allows current to pass through to the lamp (C).

The whole point of the diode pair is that the other diode prevents current from flowing back into the other vehicle. If you have the motorhome lights on and start the car to lubricate the transmission, the car lights come on because it is dark and now two vehicles are trying to turn on the lamp. Not a problem, because the pair of diodes prevents each vehicle from knowing about the presence of the other. If you had wired this circuit without diodes by simply connecting A+B+C, then the vehicle with the higher battery voltage would attempt to charge the battery of the other vehicle and a fuse would blow because these wires/fuses are not heavy enough to carry that much current.

As other members have stated, the diodes do not demonstrate a significant failure rate and are a viable option if installed by someone that understands the principle.
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Old 06-14-2014, 11:41 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TwelveVolt View Post
With a built-in system, the owner manual reads as follows:
1) Leaving campground - Push plug in
2) Arriving at destination - Pull plug out

As other members have stated, the diodes do not demonstrate a significant failure rate and are a viable option if installed by someone that understands the principle.
I agree, $20 for the diode package, 1/2 hour to install. Bam. Done.
Roger
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Old 06-15-2014, 01:33 PM   #31
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Just curious. Why not simply stick the lights to the roof and be done with it? Seems like a lot of fabricating and you eliminate the possibility of putting a bike rack in the hitch.

Well, I don't have a need for a bike rack on the hitch of my toad. There is minimal fabrication required; hitch flag holder purchased from Camping World will due double duty; hold mag lite bar when towing and flying flag when parked. So only fabrication is one piece of alum pipe and a flat plate.

I prefer having the lights down near the toad's rear lights (same eye level). I also have a light bar and there is just no way to strap it to the rear of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I think this will be easier to use in the long run.
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Old 06-15-2014, 07:18 PM   #32
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I just finished converting from add-on bulbs to diodes. It took $25 in parts (4 diode blocks plus crimp connectors). About 15 minutes each side to unscrew the lens assembly, shake/blow out the drill shavings from the initial installation, cut the wires off the added bulb, strip, crimp, and plug in the new diode blocks.

FYI: there are three wires going to the factory high/low red bulb. On the Saturn Vue, the red wire is the brake/turn filament, blue is the running filament, and black is ground. If your color scheme is different, first verify that the brake and running lights work. Cut one of the wires. If neither brake nor running lights work, then that was the ground wire, otherwise it was the wire to the filament that no longer lights. Install the ground connection or diode on that wire and test, then cut the next wire.

This exercise has convinced me that add-on bulbs are a less than desirable solution.
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Old 06-15-2014, 07:40 PM   #33
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I currently use a Dolly but I wanted the extra lights at the rear. I built a simple light bar out of an Aluminum angle iron, drilled and mounted to the hitch with the hitch ball. I added a pigtail to the dolly to hook up the lights with a std 4 pin flat connector. Having the hitch on the car also makes handling the dolly easy (some sites have you store them in a designated place). If I would switch to 4 down I would still stick with this system, I don't like the idea of altering the car, and scratches sometimes seem to happen with magnet lights. I just pull the pin and put it in the MH "basement".
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Old 06-15-2014, 08:27 PM   #34
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If I would switch to 4 down I would still stick with this system, I don't like the idea of altering the car, and scratches sometimes seem to happen with magnet lights. I just pull the pin and put it in the MH "basement".
If you go to 4 down, you'll have to alter the heck out of it.
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Old 06-16-2014, 03:39 AM   #35
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If you go to 4 down, you'll have to alter the heck out of it.
Yeah, I really hate the thought of adding a base plate. However; for brakes I would use the Ready Brute Surge Brake tow bar.
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Old 06-16-2014, 07:58 AM   #36
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Are you installing a aux toad braking system? I sure hope you are. If you are it should take care of the brake lights.

I have had my turn and tail lights wired with diodes for about a year and a half with no problems and I did not have to disfigure the tail light housing.

You brought up an interesting point. Does the Aux brake device turn on the brake lights by pressing on the pedal?

On some vehicles the brake pedal to light circuit is always active. I know this because my friend's dog likes to lay in the driver's footwell and we often come back to the vehicle to find that the brake lights are on.

In my Saturn Vue, the circuit is not active in the OFF position. Turning the key to ACC to unlock the steering wheel activates the brake circuit. However, flipping the switch to effectively remove the IGN fuse deactivates the circuit. Thus when towing, the brake lights are only controlled by the MH, not the BrakeBuddy.
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Old 06-16-2014, 11:41 AM   #37
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My preferences in order:
Add a lamp type systems (Where you add anoter bulb to the socket) I really like, they have the advantage of the turn signals still working (though not as well) even if you are stoppign with a pedal pusher/puller brake system. And I only know of one brake system for the towed which is not a pedal operator (M&G if you wish to know, hooks up post-pedal).

Next is diode kits.. I have used both of the above and they both work well.

Finally the portable lights.. I would only recommend them if you change toweds often,, Like every trip often. Or if its a one-time tow and you do not wish to modify the towed.

My Current towed needed a Remoco LP-1 Lube pump.. the instructions with the LP-1 say it comes with a diode kit.. I got an "Add-a-lamp" type and love it.
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Old 06-20-2014, 12:57 PM   #38
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I like the idea of the diodes where may I fine wiring instructions to do that? Thanks, chris

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You know, I keep reading/hearing of people saying they've heard/seen where diodes have failed.....but I have never heard of anyone first hand who have said "they" have had a problem with them.

In my case, I've had three toads and I've used diodes on each of them without one failure of any type.

The wireless sounds interesting...

Ron
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Old 06-20-2014, 02:51 PM   #39
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First towed had diodes.. No tribbles at all. Just diodes.
New towed has add-a-lamp.

Portable lights sometimes.....grow legs and wander off.
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Old 06-20-2014, 02:56 PM   #40
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I like the idea of the diodes where may I fine wiring instructions to do that? Thanks, chris
Try etrailer.com They have a lot of online help and diagrams.
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Old 06-21-2014, 04:06 PM   #41
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On my 2012 I used a TowDaddy™ Wiring Harness Model #3011. When I got my 2014 I moved it to the new GC. I have been told that they are no longer available but I have tried.
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