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Sea Tow Blog

News, press, tips and more can be found in the Sea Tow Blog. Have a suggestion for a story? Email us!

Trailer Lights: Plugged or Unplugged?


There’s a debate going on among several of our members as to whether you should leave your trailer lights plugged in or unplug them when backing your boat into the water to launch.

Some people insist that it is necessary to unplug the trailer lights to prevent them from bursting, or fuses from blowing, after a hot bulb hits cold water. Others say, no, they never have and never will unplug them. To answer the question, we called trailer repair shops in all four corners of the United States to get a random sample for whether to plug or unplug when submerging the trailer in water. 

By the way, according to the popular boating discussion board/website The Hull Truth, this is in fact a very common conversation with responses being about 50/50 for those who insist on unplugging their lights and others who for years have never even bothered. Click here to read one thread just for chuckles.

So, here it is, a random sampling from Maine, Florida, California and Oregon. Special thanks to the owners who helped us settle the score.

Brian Gary from Brian’s Trailer Repair in Berwick, ME, says, “In general, everyone should unplug them.” Brian has been in the trailer repair business for more than 11 years and notes that even though LED lights don’t get as hot, there is always a chance that a hot light hitting cold water can cause a bulb to burst or a fuse to short.

Joe Fasano, the owner of Trailer Depot of Miami in Miami, FL., says, “Leave them plugged in.” His reasoning goes back to properly wired lights, their maintenance, and wire connections as they are heat shrunk to keep water out so there should not be an issue. He also points out that LED lights are made to take the dip.

Butch Wheeles of Wheeless Trailer Sales & Repair in Springfield, OR says, “Most definitely, unplug them.” He notes that if you still have incandescent bulbs, you should always unplug your lights because when they’re hot and cool water gets in,  the bulbs pop. 

Last but not least, Dennis Allen of Affordable Marine Services in San Diego, CA, says, “It is always best to unplug your trailer lights.” Dennis says the biggest reason to unplug them is that if a short circuit happens to occur you could easily blow a fuse inside your vehicle, which can sometimes be difficult to diagnose or find.

It looks like the score is 3 to 1 for unplugging your trailer lights. From those here at Sea Tow who have seen lots of trailer lights and fuses blown, we say take the easy route and unplug your lights to avoid blowing a personal fuse, so to speak.

Before we unplug from this article, please share your experience in the comments below for whether you plug or unplug your lights before taking the dip.

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