From time to time, questions come up from customers about our optional add-on LED lights for headache racks or side steps and usually center around installing and making the connections to their trucks' electrical system. Here're some answers, the reasoning behind them, and helpful tips.
Question: Does a headache rack with lights come pre-wired or include a harness with switches?
While most lights with wire leads come pre-installed (long LED light bars may be shipped separately) in our headache racks and side steps, the rack itself is not fully wired. We also don't include extra wire, connectors, or switches as part of the installation. "Ugh..." you say? Read on.
One of the reasons is cost. Wire and switches are not expensive but producing a custom wiring harness designed to fit a host of trucks and all their variations would be. We want to keep costs low and know you do too.
Another reason comes down to personal preferences. Until we learn how to read minds we simply don't know where and how you'll prefer to wire them into your truck. There are many ways to do it and the needs vary from customer to customer. Do you want it to come out on the right side or left? Will it need to go into the cab and be switched or tie into the vehicles' rear brake light harness? Do you want to control your lights through an existing switch or add one somewhere else? The answers might be yes, no, or all of the above.
So, rather than you paying us for extra wire and various other bits and pieces that'll end up in the trash because it doesn't suit your needs, we suggest one of the following:
A) DIY - plan things out and pick up the materials needed (ex: a spool of wire, switch(es), butt connectors, splice connectors, terminals, etc.) at any auto parts store. The materials and techniques you choose to make the connections will depend on how tidy and 'professional' you wish the end product to appear and perform. Granted, it takes a little more effort and a touch of skill but if you take your time you'll get years of trouble-free service in return, plus the satisfaction of a custom install tailored to your truck and specific needs.
B) Pop over to Amazon.com or Google and search for 'universal LED light harness'. There are lots of inexpensive kits that include wire, switches, fuses, and connectors. Of course, you'll still need to determine in advance if it'll be long enough, do the job expected, etc. And, some cutting and splicing will probably still be required along with some basic electrical knowledge.
C) We understand that wiring or electrical tasks aren't for everyone. If you're just not comfortable with any of it then we suggest talking with your favorite mechanic or even the service department at a local RV/Trailer dealer. They should be able to get you wired and connected in no time and at a reasonable cost.
Question: I know I'm getting 12 volts to my lights but they don't turn on - what's wrong?
Traditional incandescent style bulbs will usually light up no matter which lead you connect to your power source and ground. All LED lights, on the other hand, whether cube-shaped, light bars, oval-shaped turn signals, or the tiny bulbs available for our side steps are polarity sensitive - there's a positive and negative lead and if you hook them up backwards, they won't light up. Don't worry, you won't hurt them if hooked up backwards.
While it would be nice if all wires were universally color coded it seems some manufacturers like to mix things up. If the wires, lamp housings, or instructions (if included) don't indicate the connections, then it's worth testing in advance to confirm which should be connected to 12 volts and which goes to a good chassis ground.
Here's a video demonstrating how to determine which wire is which before making your final connections...