Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Archive for ‘September 10th, 2018’

Installing Dimmers on Reading Lights

The LED reading lights in the Airstream are too bright for me, so I end up turning them to the side or taping a paper cup over them. On the Airstream Forums site, http://www.airforums.com, there are others with similar complaints. Some have found filters that tone the light down and give it a warmer, yellow color. Since it has bugged me for a long time, I decided to place dimmers on them. Of course I know nothing about electricity or wiring, but hey, you can learn these things can’t you? I am writing this up here because the videos come up on the page, I can put more pictures up and the links will work. If you don’t need dimmers, you can quit here.

I found two good videos and one diagram page on this subject:

http://www.rv-project.com/gear/dimmers2.php has diagrams of all the possible wiring scenarios. Without these three sites, I could not have done the job.

First I looked at the dining area light where I found two wires from the light to four wires from the house. This little corner has a lot of wiring for a radio and a DVD player. I decided to let that one hang for a while and went to the front bedroom.

IMG_2619

IMG_2621

It makes no sense to me that the negative wire (with a minus tage on it) is white and the positive wire is black. From other videos, I learned to put the Fluke multimeter probe in the negative screw connector and the the other on the positive connection. Putting the positive probe on the black connector here, there was a 13.3 reading. Reversing the connections does no harm, but gives a -13.3.

I hooked everything up “on the bench” to make sure it worked. This in NOT connected correctly as I would learn later, but I think it’s a good to connect everything on the bench. It’s just easier to see everything. Then tag everything. Once I put the light back in and the dimmer in, all the wires are coming through a hole where I removed an audio speaker. I was working upside down and made several mistakes before finally getting it right.

I also learned a lot about connectors, going to Lowe’s and Martin Hardware a bunch of times. Twist connectors are great to test everything, but then I found it more secure to use crimp connectors or push-in connectors.

IMG_2660

IMG_2661

img_2662.jpg

I ordered mine from Amazon, but it came from https://www.leisurervparts.com: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079TJZ6DF/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

IMG_2648

I bought a Black and Decker jigsaw at Lowes that is rated well. Two big things swayed me: it costs $30 and it’s very light. Since I had to work upside down, I wanted something light. Don’t buy cheap safety glasses though. Get the sealed rim ones, because all that dust is coming into your face and hair. The dining area light was easier because it was the second one I cut and there is no cabinet rail in the way. I made a cardboard template to mark the hole. Below is the dining area hole. I drilled holes in the corners and a slot for the wires to go through. Then made them bigger. In the dining area there were so many wires in the way, I put a roll of tape above the cutout area to support the wires out of the way. In the bedroom, I could just push the wires out of the way. I taped the speaker wire out of the way.

IMG_2666

With the wires labeled, the light and dimmer in place, working through the speaker hole, I first connected with twist connectors to test everything. Once I was sure, I made more secure connections. Two pictures show highest and lowest dim. It doesn’t show well, but it dims just like the ceiling lights that have the same dimmer.

IMG_2652IMG_2653IMG_2654IMG_2655IMG_2656IMG_2657IMG_2658IMG_2659

The whole story: The first time I wired it wrong. I had the red wire going to light positive instead of the house positive. It turned on and dimmed and I was quite happy with myself. Then I went to work on the dining area light. In the course of working, turning on and off the electric kill switch, I noticed the bedroom ceiling lights were dim. I turned the wall dimmer all the way up, but still dim. I turned the reading light dimmer up and down and they just got more dim. Measuring the power to the light now, I only had 7.6v on the multimeter!

Idiot! Now I have to take it to a dealer and tell them my story. I’ve spent all this money on  parts and tools and now I am going to spend a bunch more. Searching the internet, I looked for a reason for half power. No, it’s not the battery, still at 13.3, and everything else works fine. There were no blown fuses. Could I have cut or pulled a wire loose? How in the heck could I trace it through the walls? Not finding anything on the internet, I didn’t sleep well. Going back to the trailer in the morning, I stood there for a while, trying to calmly figure what it could be. OK, retrace the steps. The battery tested 13.3 and the current through the light still tested 7.3. Checking the fuse box, there was one lit up, meaning it was bad. Replacing the fuse made the ceiling lights fine, but not the reading light. Retracing the wiring steps, I found I wired it wrong, cut the power off, cut the wires and rewired successfully. If I could just follow directions!

The dining area light was easier and more difficult. Easier because it was a nice flat area to cut the hole. Harder because there were a lot of wires up there. It’s actually the same as the bedroom light, except there are two house positive and two house negative wires. I added wire to the light and the dimmer so I didn’t have to work inside the speaker hole loaded with wires. I tagged all the wires. it would have been nicer to have different color tags for wires from the house, the light and the dimmer, but it worked. It did make me appreciate connectors. Four wires came loose as I pushed and pulled things around. I had recently replaced the radio, so I was somewhat familiar with its wiring. Actually it worked out better because I found the wire to the house mike that I couldn’t find before. I show below removing the radio and reconnecting those wires with better connectors.

IMG_2619

IMG_2663IMG_2665IMG_2666

IMG_2667

Showing the roll of tape I used to hold the wires out of the way. A box would have worked as well, but the weight of the tape kept it in place

IMG_2668

IMG_2669

Red and white connections dropping through the hole are radio speaker wires

IMG_2670

Tools for removing the radio. There are two of these that came with the radio. Slim butter knives will work, but these are easier.

IMG_2671

Tools pushed into slots on the side of the radio until they click. Then pull on the tools to pull the radio out

IMG_2672

IMG_2673

I found a loose red wire

IMG_2674

Wiring diagram from the radio manual

IMG_2675

The red wire connects to positive as described in the manual. Fortunately the yellow wire also goes to positive too, so I could follow it to find house positive.

IMG_2676

Then I found a loose orange wire. It also went to positive. I reconnected these to positive with a 4-hole push-in connector that should hold better.

IMG_2677

Success! The radio works; the lights work and the dimmer works : }

IMG_2678