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How To Upgrade Your RV Light Fixtures

Fancy RV interior with solid wood cabinets and bright ceiling lighting - RV light fixtures

Why You Should Upgrade Your RV Light Fixtures

RV interiors have definitely come a long way in the last few years. Lighter colors for flooring, cabinets, and trim give modern units a much-needed facelift. Although the RVs of the past have a build quality that seems to be harder to find these days, the dated interiors desperately needed a change.

Among these changes, RV light fixtures have been updated. However, they are typically smaller, cheaper fixtures installed by the manufacturer. The small, rectangular flush mount lights in RVs have been the most common RV light fixture for years.

RVs and their components must be able to withstand the harsh bumps and shakes of travel. For these reasons, expensive RV light fixtures aren’t going to be used. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have nice fixtures though, and it’s not uncommon for RVers to upgrade.

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RV light fixture options

RV light fixtures, as mentioned above, need to be able to withstand travel and also have 12-volt DC wiring, unlike residential fixtures. This means that all the beautiful fixtures in stores are not made for RVs. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be used, and in fact, some people do indeed use them.

The RV industry has made some effort to offer aftermarket lighting options, and parts and accessories catalogs do have a selection. These are made to be direct replacements and are likely the easiest lighting fixture upgrade.

Your other option is to find a residential fixture you like and convert it to work. Since many residential fixtures hang freely, this is something you will have to consider. If you choose a lighting option that hangs, you will need to be able to secure it for travel. If your RV is stationary, you don’t have to worry about this and can easily go with these styles of lights.

Safety first

RV 12-volt lighting is very basic on the electrical skill scale. There are only two wires to connect: in most cases, a black and a white wire. They will usually be connected with slide-on connections. That said, it is still electricity, and caution should be taken when doing any work. Before you do anything, disconnect the batteries and shore power, and when in doubt, ask a pro.

How to update RV light fixtures

If the sole purpose of your light fixture upgrade is better lighting, you have a really simple solution available. Switching out the often-seen white flush mount, rectangle lights with modern LED ones will fix your lighting problems. Depending on how old your current ones are, new LED replacements may have a slightly more modern look. Newer lights will be bright white and provide better lighting.

In many cases, these RV light fixtures will be a direct replacement. Unscrew the old ones from the ceiling, disconnect the wires, connect the wires to the new fixtures, and screw them to the ceiling. RV 12-volt lights only have two wires to connect (usually a white and a black), so it’s an easy upgrade for any RV owner. If you choose a non-RV-specific fixture, there will be a few more steps and considerations to make.

How do I use residential lighting fixtures in my RV?

The residential lighting fixture market has endless options available for homeowners. With more and more people living full-time in their RVs, building RVs, and remodeling older RVs, residential lighting fixtures are finding their way into RVs.

The wiring on residential fixtures is actually pretty much the same as RV fixtures, with the exception that they are designed to use 120-volt AC power. They usually have a black and a white wire, just like your old RV lights; it’s actually the bulb that will be the difference here.

The light bulbs used in your residential fixture will have to be 12-volt bulbs. These are easily found at any hardware store. Although not as wide of a selection, there will be a few options for you.

The other issue you may run into is the switch for the light. Often, RV lights have a switch on the light to turn it on and off; residential lights generally do not.

If the light you are replacing is wired to a wall switch, this won’t be an issue; however, if there is no wall switch, you will need to add a switch to the light. This is pretty basic wiring and doable for most RVers.


Keep track of your RV maintenance

Regardless of brand, RVs are all somewhat alike. Putting your personal style on your RV can make it feel more like home. Switching RV lighting fixtures is not only a cosmetic upgrade, but it can significantly improve the livability of your RV.

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.

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