Reaping the benefits of LED lamps goes beyond simply spec’ing the product. The wiring harness plays a major role in today’s LED solutions.
“Here’s the thing that always bothered me: You have fleet managers who are going with the expense of LED lights that are more expensive than incandescent, but they’ll still use the same old, over-molded connector to back that light,” says Tim Gilbert, corporate director of heavy-duty sales with Peterson Manufacturing. “It’s not just the expense of the harness, but by using those over-molded connectors that don’t seal, they’ve put the LED investment at risk.”
Surprisingly, some fleets are still employing the connectors of the 60s and 70s, which are not appropriate for today’s road conditions. The chemical cocktail of calcium chloride and everything else that is spread on the roads during the winter can chew through a vehicle’s electrical system.
So what’s the big take-away in terms of system spec’ing? Dennis Damman, national fleet sales manager with Phillips Industries, explains:
“Specify a sealed harness, one that adequately keeps water out of connections. Harnesses should be sealed throughout the run on the trailer. Any place the harness crosses or goes through any structural or body member on a trailer should be protected against rubbing and wear. The same practices should apply when you are adding on equipment such as tracking, lift gates, additional lights, sensors, etc.; make sure you are running sealed wires to the components to keep water from wicking into other parts of your wiring system.”
You’ll also want to specify exactly what you want on a trailer from the manufacturer—such as a couple of drop-outs for future use—so that they are included in the OEM harness to avoid cutting into harnesses later.
A majority of today’s lighting OEs also offer their own proprietary harnesses that guard against the elements and ensures a proper, secure connection. Peterson, Grote, Truck-lite and Phillips Industries all offer extensive warranties when coupling their harness and lighting systems.
“Our customers realize that it’s not just the lights or the harness systems to power the lights. You need these things to work together,” says John Grote, Grote Industries vice president of sales and marketing. “Fleet managers want to deal with one company for a solution. They’re looking to spec reliable products.”
Brad Van Riper, Truck-Lite senior vice president and chief technology officer, explains how some fleets have specified and OEMs have allowed, in the past, one company to supply the harness and another to supply the lighting and then have been disappointed by the poor interface.