You’re up high hurtling down the road in an RV that weighs 7,500 lbs or more. Sometimes much more! The last thing you need is to not be able to see as well as possible. Nighttime driving in a motorhome can be pretty different from a car because the headlights on some of them can be a little tricky. Here we will discuss some of the most common issues with motorhome headlights, and what to do about them.
Burned Out Bulb
A burned out bulb can happen to anyone, at any time, in any vehicle. When you’re driving a standard vehicle, you can usually shoot down to AutoZone, NAPA, or another auto parts store and quickly pick up a replacement bulb. These bulbs are typically pretty easy to just pop in and out, and you’re done in no time! However, with a motorhome, it may not be as easy to get a replacement. While there are a lot of RV dealerships out there, not all of them have motorhomes or a stock of all the bulbs. It’s a good idea to order a couple of replacements to have on hand so that if you do find yourself in need, you don’t have to wait for a part to be ordered.
As with all vehicles, the bulb and method of changing it is going to vary from model to model. For ordering these bulbs, you can usually find good sources such as BuyRVLights.com. Here you can find not only headlights but corner lights, tail lights, fog lights, and turn signals. All you have to do is put in the make, model, and year, and it will pull up the correct lights for your rig!
Once you have your replacement bulb in hand, you need to find instructions on how to replace it. Check your owner’s manual as there may be instructions in it that let you know exactly what to do. If you do not have one, or it does not have the instructions, you can usually find them with a simple Google search. You want to be pretty specific in your search and make sure you have the right rig before you start ripping stuff out! Ensure you include the make, model, and year and the words 'headlight bulb replacement instructions'. If it doesn’t come up this way, try searching via the chassis type.
This is a pretty big problem with older motorhomes. The composite plastic used to make the lenses gets small scratches in it and starts to cloud up overtime. This can be dangerous as it will block the beam coming from the light, diminishing its ability to illuminate the road well. The good thing is, this is relatively simple to fix. You could go to the store and buy a kit that costs $10+ and buff them out. Or you can get yourself a cheap tube of toothpaste and a rag and take care of it without spending a ton! All you have to do it get some standard toothpaste. Don’t get the fancy stuff or the stuff that is gel. You'll want the paste that has a slight grit to it. Squeeze a little on the rag and buff the headlight. This will buff out those tiny cracks that are making the light cloudy and dim. You may have to put some elbow grease into it! After you have buffed the light, wet the rag and wipe the paste off. You should have a nice clear headlight! If it’s not, do a 2nd application in the areas that are still cloudy. You will see a dramatic difference the next time you find yourself on the road at night.
If your headlights aren’t pointing in the right direction then you’re not going to be able to see well. They can end up out of alignment both vertically and horizontally and can not only affect your vision, they can also affect oncoming traffic if they’re pointed just right. Thankfully, aligning them can be a pretty simple job. Some headlights have bubble levels right in them and you can just adjust a screw to get them set. For others, you may need to bring you rig into where they have a tool they can pop on that measures the angle of the beam. Popular Mechanics has a great article on how to align them on your own, without the use of special equipment. While this isn’t going to be as accurate, it should help get them much closer to pointing straight.
Many older motorhomes seem to have some issues in the wiring of the headlights. They put in relay switches all over the place and those switches can tend to either go bad, or you end up with a blown fuse. To find out, start tracing your headlight wires from the lights moving back toward the motorhome. Look for any broken, frayed, or burned looking wires along the way. When you get to a relay switch, test the output there to see if the current is still flowing. Once you find where the current stops, you will have pinpointed the faulty part that needs to be replaced. You can find wiring diagrams online, especially when it comes to the Ford and Chevy chassis, with just a quick Google search. These diagrams will help you better understand what you’re looking at, where the wires start, and where they stop.
When it comes to your motorhome, headlights are one part that you cannot compromise on the quality. Keep yourself safe as well as others on the road by ensuring your headlights are in top condition and working to the best of their abilities. Keep other drivers in mind as you order the bulbs. Some places will try to sell you products like “Ultra Bright” headlights. While this is great for you to be able to see, you’ll end up blinding anyone oncoming or in front of you. You want a good quality bulb, but not one that is going to cause issues for others. You also want to avoid colored headlights such as blue and purple. Not only do these pose that same brightness risk to other drivers, they are actually illegal in many areas. Now that you know about some common issues with motorhome headlights and what to do about them, you can take care of your rig and enjoy your camping season!