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Easy Steps To Update RV Light Fixtures

Updated: Mar 1

It's time to get lit, so we'll teach you how to replace and update your RV light fixtures!


Let’s be honest, most manufacturers use basic RV lighting and/or boring “upgrades” when it comes to lighting. Lighting can be overwhelming to some due to the electrical aspect. However, it’s actually a pretty simple process if you want to replace those old, dingy RV lights.


One benefit when installing new lighting is choosing the brightness and warmth of your lights. Light fixtures are unique in that they can either make a statement or subtly blend into a space. At rain2shine, we usually take the opportunity to make a statement; especially if the area we’re lighting deserves more attention.


So, let’s talk about lighting options when shopping for new light fixtures in your RV…


Often, people think you must use RV lighting in an RV. This is absolutely NOT true. There are a lot of fun options when you look outside of typical RV lighting. Below is a list of things to keep in mind when shopping for new light fixtures as well as a step-by-step guide on how-to replace those boring RV manufacturer lights.


BEFORE YOU BUY:

  • Make sure to check measurements before you buy for 2 reasons: 1. It needs to fit the space. 2. The base of it will need to cover the hole from the old light.

  • If the light fixture you’re taking out is wired to DC (12V) and the new light fixture will fit a 12V bulb, it will work in your RV.

  • If you’re unsure if the light you’re changing is wired to Alternating Current (AC-110V) or Direct Current (DC-12V), you can check with a voltmeter to be safe. To test your wiring, touch both wires with the probes on the voltmeter. It will either read 12V (DC) or 110V (AC).

  • Side Note: This can get a little confusing since you’ll probably be using an AC light with your pre-existing DC wiring. RVs have both AC and DC. The majority (if not all) of the lights in an RV run off DC (12V) while most appliances (receptacles) run off AC (110V). This is why an AC light fixture will only work if it will take a 12V bulb making it compatible with your pre-existing DC wiring.

  • Electricity should be taken seriously. However, I’ve been shocked by 12V and it’s like a bee sting haha. I wouldn’t recommend getting shocked with 110V though as it really hurts and can be very dangerous! Thank goodness most lighting in an RV is only 12V!! Like I said, it can be confusing but try not to overthink it.


HOW-TO:

  • Turn off the power to your RV before cutting any wires.

  • Remove the Current Light Fixture: Light Fixtures vary when it comes to removal. The main thing is to find the screws that are holding the fixture to the ceiling. These can typically be found in the base of the fixture. For example and as shown in the video, RV dome lights have clear plastic covers over the bulbs. You simply have to squeeze them to pop the plastic teeth from the base and they’ll come right out. Once the cover(s) are removed, you will be able to see and easily access the screws that need to be removed with a screwdriver or (recommended) screw gun/impact driver. This will free the base from the ceiling and the fixture will only be attached or hanging by the wiring.

  • Make sure to cut the wires as close to the existing light fixture as possible to give yourself enough wire to reconnect to the new lighting.

  • Use wire strippers on the existing wires to splice with the new light. As in, strip around a ½” of the black and white wrap/tubing so that you have the copper wires inside the tubing to tie to the new light.

  • With DC (12V), most RV manufacturers make the black-wrapped wire the ground and the white-wrapped wire the hot (the opposite of a brick and mortar home). Be sure to check that this is the case in your RV with a voltmeter before installing the new light. The ground won’t have a reading while the hot will. Match your new wires accordingly-hot to hot and ground to ground. If your wiring is as I mentioned above-black being ground and white being hot, then all you need to do is match white to white and black to black and tie the ground from the new light fixture in with the black.

  • With AC (110V), the black wrapped wire is the hot (keep that in mind, this is the opposite of DC). The white and the green wrapped wires are both grounds. In the rare case that you are installing a light into pre-existing AC wiring, you will need to use a 110V (NOT 12V) bulb which is what it should come with. You will be wiring an AC light fixture into AC wiring just like in a brick and mortar home.

  • Side Note: Pendant lighting can be flush-mounted if it comes with a base, so don’t let the height of the rope/cord deter you if you really like the light itself. It can be adjusted.

  • Use wire nuts to splice the wires together. Wire nuts have threading inside and will pull and twist the copper from each set of wires together making the connection.

  • Turn the power to your RV back on before finishing the install to make sure that everything is wired correctly and works.

  • Tuck the wires back into the existing (ceiling or wall) hole and finish installing the light fixture per the instructions. Typically, all you’ll need to do is screw the base of the light into the ceiling. You can adjust the placement of your new light fixture to your liking as long as it covers the existing hole. Note: If you want to add or move a light fixture all together, it requires more work including, patching the ceiling to running/adding wires to a new location, etc.

Light fixtures from some of our favorite RV projects:



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