How To Replace Your Airstream Clearance Lights
I’ve got a couple of clearance lights on our 2014 23D International that are on the fritz. One is out and the other is only working intermittently. They are all starting to show some age. So I decided I’m going to replace them all with new ones, because who want lights with cloudy lenses anyway? I will also add in a few upgrades along the way.
I ordered the replacements (7 Red and 4 Amber) from “The Trailer Shop”, an eBay store, for $165.15. Amazon also has them available here. I have recently found a great place to purchase most RV LED lights, LED4RV.com. I was unaware of this store at the time of my purchase.
What you’ll need
First, a list of things needed for this project:
- Replacement clearance lights
- Wire cutters
- #2 Phillips head screwdriver
- Properly sized heat shrink butt connectors
- Crimping tool
- Heat gun
- Bone tool or flathead screwdriver for gently prying
- Sikaflex-291 sealant
- Cleaning supplies for cleaning trailer skin
- Clear silicone caulk (optional)
I’m going to run through the process of installing one light, but I will be swapping out all eleven lights. The process will be the same for the other 10 lights.
How to remove the clearance lights from an Airstream
Many people have asked how to remove the clearance lights from an Airstream. This can be a little confusing because there are no clearly exposed fasteners. It’s actually pretty easy. Just pull as hard as you think you need to and then pull a little harder.
I was hesitant at first to pull as hard as needed, but if you look at my photos below, you will see the lights are held in place to the chrome bezel with two clips and a small piece of 3M double-sided tape.
You can also use a plastic bone tool or flathead screwdriver to help carefully pry and release the lights from the chrome bezel. Once the light is removed from the bezel, there are 2 Phillips head screws holding the bezel to the skin of the Airstream. Remove both of the screws to remove the chrome bezel from the trailer skin.
Replacing Airstream clearance lights
You will note that the wire that powers the light will be coming through a grommet in the aluminum skin. It will have some sealant around it. Carefully remove the sealant. This will free the wire to move. Now pull just enough of the wire out of the trailer so you can comfortably work with the light.
With the 12-volt power disconnected and lights off, clip the wires from the old light and discard the old light and bezel.
Next, you are going to want to clean the trailer skin around the light. This gives you a clean surface to reattach the new light. I used warm soapy water and mineral spirits on a soft rag for the tough spots.
Carefully remove the plastic grommet from the wall. Do not let the two wires fall back into the wall. Once the grommet is removed, slide it over the wires on the new light.
The reason for removing the grommet is to allow you to make your new connection behind the grommet and stick your new heat shrink joint in the wall behind the grommet.
I used heat shrink butt connectors, correctly sized, for the 18 gauge wire. Crimp the connectors with a quality grade crimping tool. This will ensure the connection is solid.
Once the connections are made, use a heat gun to heat and shrink the insulation of the connector. Once the insulation is shrunk down, I pushed the crimped joints and all but about 2” of wire back into the wall and replaced the grommet. Make sure you thread the grommet onto the new light wire before you make your joints.
I then placed a dab of Sikaflex caulk in each screw hole and around the wire going into the wall behind the chrome bezel.
Dip each of the two screws tips in Sikaflex caulk and, while holding the chrome bezel in place, replace the screws into their original holes and snug them up.
All that is left to do now is dab a little Sikaflex around the little bit of wire sticking out and remove the red adhesive protective cover on the 3M VHB tape.
While realigning the light, allow the remaining wire to slip back into the wall and clip the light in place. Press firmly allowing the 3M tape to grab and stick.
I had a problem with moisture getting inside the “sealed” lights. I believe the problem was caused from the lights being improperly thermo-welded by the manufacturer. The colored lens is heat welded to the black plastic back piece. This seam could easily break and leak.
My solution was to placed a very thin bead of silicone around the back edge of the light, over that joint, before I snapped the light into the chrome bezel. I’m hoping that this silicone bead will help prevent water from getting inside the light due to a faulty or failed weld. I didn’t think it could hurt.
Anyway, plan some time for this project. It took around 3 hours to complete due to the tedious nature of the project. The shear number of lights, trying to make sure the electrical connections were good, and adding the silicone to decrease the possibility of a leak, all played a role in the time needed to complete this project. Follow these steps, take your time, and you should be able to do this project with little or no frustration.