Mod #61: LED Lighting Upgrade

Mod #61: LED Lighting Upgrade

Submitted on: 12/26/08

     Category: featured, lighting
Mod Rating: 12345

(49 ratings)

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Mod Description:

If you do a lot of boondocking (no hookups while camping), then you know battery life is one of the most important things you must plan for, especially if you have a small battery bank. One great way to save a lot of power is to convert your existing incandescent lighting to LED lighting. LED stands for light emitting diode and provides light in a very different way than incandescent or fluorescent lighting sources. The biggest benefit for a boondocker is that LEDs require very little power to operate, so you won’t have to be so conscious of switching off lights when you don’t need them.

Mod Difficulty:

Just how much power can you save by going LED? In a typical travel trailer of say 27 feet with a super slide and a couple of bunk beds, you may have upwards of 20+ 12 watt incandescent bulbs. If you were to have all of these on at one time, you would be drawing around 20 amps of DC power. In a few hours, your single group 24 12-volt battery would be near dead. Even if you had two batteries, you wouldn’t have much left to finish out a 2-day weekend without a battery recharge.

Now if you were to replace every interior incandescent bulb in this fictitious travel trailer with a 24 LED array warm color lamp, each drawing 190 mA, the total power consumption drops to 3.8 amps, over 5 times less power consumption. You wouldn’t likely replace every incandescent bulb with a 24 LED array lamp
24 or 36 Super White LEDs
but you could and if you did, you would be using 5 times less power, even if you had every light switched on.

There are several different routes you can take when doing the LED lighting mod: individual lights, such as a night or reading light, all or some interior lights, interior and exterior, storage compartments, etc. Much will depend on your budget and coolness factor you are trying to achieve. Replacing every incandescent bulb may just break your piggy bank, but doing a few can still help save some battery power.

Using a single LED for a night light, like in the bathroom, can be a real life saver. Well, it may not save your life but if you have to get up at 2am to go, you won’t be blinded by the light and you should be able to go right back to sleep. A single LED connected through a SPST toggle switch mounted on the bathroom light fixture (see pictures) can provide just enough light to do your business.

Perhaps you just want to change a few lights out, like the lights over your bed, that are generally too bright to read by. There are direct replacement LED lamps that require no modification to the lighting fixture, other than swapping bulbs. For this type of LED lamp, use the “warm white” type. The cool white LEDs provide a bluish tint to the light color and may not appeal to your reading tastes. The warm white LEDs
Warm white on left, cool white on the right
provide a yellowish light color very similar to that of a normal incandescent bulb.

If you plan on replacing the main lights inside the RV and have the type of fixtures that contain two bulbs with a switch in the middle, you can replace just one of the bulbs to reduce cost. This way you not only save money, but you also can still provide more light when you need it by switching on the second bulb. For this case, you should consider LEDs that have a wide beam angle, at least 120 degrees
6 High Power White LEDs in a 360 degree beam angle package
. This is the angle at which light is projected from the lamp. The wider the better if you’re trying to light up a large area. These lamps are typically configured in a flat package with many LEDs, as many as 36 in some cases. They simply affix to the fixture with Velcro and plug in just like a standard bulb.

Another cool LED mod is to fit a LED rope light
Under-counter LED rope light and switches
under your RVs countertop. Many upscale RVs have this feature as a standard option but there is no reason you can’t have this classy look either. First, have someone help you test fit the rope for length, ensuring you have enough for the whole countertop. Then get some double-sided tape and stick it to the cabinet or under the countertop where you want the rope to run. If you have any left over rope, drill a hole the size of the rope’s diameter and run the excess through the hole. Just stick the rope to the tape and press firmly. You can also add a switch to control the rope power as well.

A step light is also another easy LED mod that consumes very little power. If you forget to turn it off, you don’t have to worry since it can be on for days and still be easy on your battery. You can use a courtesy light or an amber side marker light
Amber LED Wrap-Around Clearance Light
. These mount with a couple of screws to the underside of the stairwell. Power can be run to an inconspicuous switch inside. Some even have light sensors so they can automatically turn on when it gets dark and turn off in the morning.

Outside compartments are also a great candidate for LED lights. These can be powered through a pin switch
Adjustable door / hood pin switch
so that when you open the compartment door, the light turns on, and then off when you close the door. The color of the LED light is not so important as is the placement of the light. Compartments are usually rectangular in shape, so try and place the LEDs near the corners of the compartment. This way, you will get the most light to all parts of the storage area.

Finally, upgrading your RVs exterior lighting can make for a very clean look as well as improve safety going to the road. LED porch, marker, clearance, backup, turn, and running lights are all candidates for LED replacement. Fortunately for you, many companies, like Bargman for example, now make direct replacement fixtures that include everything you need to perform the upgrade. Just be sure to budget enough since total exterior lighting replacement can run in to the hundreds of dollars.

TipLED brake/tail lamps may not work with some older thermal flasher units found on some vehicles. An LED brake/tail lamp will require an electronic flasher/blinker unit which is commonly available at your local auto parts store. Just ask for the electronic equivalent of your thermal flasher.

ModMyRV recommends these parts for this mod:
Side Plug T10 194 wedge Base 12V 6 5050 SMD LED White
42mm High Power 3 LED SMT Festoon Bulb White 12 Volt DC
BA15s White 8-30V DC&12V AC 9LED 2Watt 144 Lumen
Dome Light T10 194 wedge Base 12V 6 5050 SMD LED White
2 Inch Adjustable Pin Switch
Sealed Mini Amber Rectangular LED Side marker Lights
Reese Towpower 86006 LED RV Tail Light Kit
Tridon EL13A1 Electronic Flasher

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62 Comments For This Mod

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  1. cpaharley2008

    I went to superbrightled’s website and had some trouble finding the right replacements or some of the items mentioned in this great mod- I was wondering if the initiator could give some part numbers, that would be helpful. Thanks

  2. ModMyRV

    Is there a particular item you are looking for? Most of the LEDs mentioned in the article are from or from Bargman has a nice catalog of LED lighting you can view here:

  3. cpaharley2008

    I can not find the night light single LED with resistor mentioned above on Superbright’s website. To a LED newcomer, I find Superbright’s website hard to maneuver. Anyway, I’d like to make this mod to my lights but can’t find the parts easily. Thanks for any assistance.

  4. ModMyRV

    It appears as though the LED with block resistor has been discontinued on BUT here is a great replacement:

    Scroll down about two thirds of the way and you will see a few products that may help you, specifically product number “LW-x-12VDC Wired LED”. These include the LED, the resistor, wiring, and mounting bezel. And they are CHEAP! 2-4 bucks.

  5. cccale

    This was a great mod although i did drop some serious cash at I replaced some 15-20w bulbs with LEDS that are < 3w. Now i don’t have to stress about running the tv a bit longer.

    btw, You should get commission from superbrightleds

  6. ModMyRV

    Yeah, I’m going to request a cut of every sale that comes from a ModMyRV member. :)

  7. Steadyfast

    This is an excellent article on converting to the low power LED lights. I have been interested in them for some time and you have some great ideas on how to use what is currently available. I have tried some of the direct replacments for the auto type bulbs, but they just don’t put out enought light and the color is still not what my wife and I would like. I am hopfeful that both the technology and price will improve quickly. Again, complements on a great update.

  8. jmt

    Any other places to get those LEDs?

  9. mhotchkiss

    I am a owner operator truck driver and I have discovered another place for led lights. Your local peterbuilt dealer will help you.

  10. gnarlykaw

    has anybody made a list of the bulbs they used, and what were the replacment numbers. were dealing with 194’s and 1156 bulbs. i can’t remember what the others were, maybe 912?

  11. cccale

    Here are some of the LEDs i used. They’re all from I had to call them to confirm the right bases for my RV because my bulbs were not labeled. They were really helpful!

    Overhead: T10-PCB-WHP9 White LED Lamp Warm White - 3100K
    Dinette: WLED-WHP9 Wedge Base Bulb White
    Reading lights: BA15S-WLX1 White LED bulb

    I’ve posted pictures on my gallery:

  12. McKannick

    I also found ’superbrightled’s’ site to be vague, but emailing for help got results quickly. My TT has the 912 lamps, which they gave me a couple product numbers to choose from. T10-PCB-Wxx White LED Lamp, T10-PCB-WHP9 White LED Lamp, WLED-WHP6-D Wedge Base Bulb, WLED-CWHP10-D Wedge Base Bulb should work according to the info I received. I’ve ordered a couple to see how they work.

  13. ModMyRV

    Hey thanks guys for part numbers. This is really helpful for those just learning about LEDs and what types are typically needed in an RV. And it’s good to know that Super Bright LED folks were so helpful!

  14. L.A. Woods

    cccale : They look brighter or is that the impression due to the angle of the camera.

    What do you think of the mod after you installed them?

    I am really interested in doing this type of mod. A couple trips back, my 9 year old left some exterior lights on all light. In the morning we had a surprise — no batttery. Yeahh!!!!

  15. cccale

    The three pictures of the LED lamps(rv122, rv123 & rv3186) were all shot with just the LED lights on and no flash. We have 5 overhead lights in the kitchen/living area. The LEDs put out about the same light as the old bulbs. The only difference is the light is more white. The dinette lights are about the same brightness but unfortunately it’s more focused then what was replaced. Still usable, it’s just the edge of the table isn’t as bright. One of the best features of the reading lights is the temperature. These lights are adjustable but with the old bulb they were way too hot. You would burn your hand if you tried to grab the housing. Now you can easily move them.

    I’m really happy with the upgrade. We often dry camp and now with the LEDs we can leave lights on, use the heater & watch dvds without worrying about the batteries running low. It was an expensive upgrade but worth it.

    I’d suggest ordering a couple to test and see how they look in your RV. The first ones we ordered were way too dim. We ended up putting those in the bedroom for night lights.

  16. Joe21

    Another good site for LED lights is I ordered one of their automotive bulbs to try out and it works really well.

    Also, I went to walmart and purchased two battery powered LED closet lights. I was able to pull them apart,wire them together, and install them over my bed for a nice reading light.

  17. Diegs

    I upgraded my Travel Trailer last year. I used

    I am very pleased with the warm white circuit board LEDs I have in my overhead fixtures.

  18. Mr.Usa

  19. Portagie68

    Try this site

  20. rvoutreach

    We swapped out 6 of our fixtures with LEDs and we love them. Nice bright white light instead of yellow light! We got ours from eBay, just search for “36 SMD 1210″ and they will come up.

  21. rklingborg

    I Have changed out almost all the vehical lamps and camper lamps with LEDs and florestent lamps and now it light for days in my camper and when i start up the truck the belt dont squeal after days of camping. I got mine at
    they do take a while to get

  22. Shawn Arron

    Another site for white LED lights and modules to fit different lights:

    Very bright and great color.

  23. D Gorton

    I saw a photo of a “Tail light LED replacement fixture installed with backup LED fixture”. I did not see where the part could be purchased. Is that information still available? Many thanks.

  24. ModMyRV

    I think this is what you are looking for:

  25. D Gorton

    Many thanks for your kind help. I’m ordering them.

  26. ModMyRV

    Sure. When you get your mod done, be sure to post some pics in the forums for all to drool over. ;)

  27. autumridge278

    I just made an brake/tail/turn LED upgrade on my travel trailer yesterday. Took me 5 minutes total and the results are extremely noticeabele. I could hardly see the original bulbs. Got mine from Command Electronics and it was an upgrade kit made specifically for the style lights my trailer came with. Check out for more info. Well worth the money.

  28. gafftaper

    I purchased my LED’s from They are great. If you do decide to upgrade to LED’s do your research. Do not be dazzled by the number of LED’s a product contains. This is useless information. It’s like asking how fast a car can go and having the salesman tell you how much the gas tank holds. You want to know how many lumens an LED produces and what it’s amperage draw is. A typical incandescent bulb uses around 1.4-1.5 amps of power and puts out around 280-300 lumens of light. Compare the actual numbers to any product before buying. By the way your typical fluorescent fixture uses about half the power of a typical incandescent lamp while producing 35% more light. So in my trailer I’ve installed a mix of fluorescent and LED.

  29. Jon

    Looks like there’s a new LED coming, the wedge base style that will be a plug and play replacement for the 921 series:

    I’m using a few of the 1141 warm whites from the same vendor and love them.

  30. daveinwa

    I purchased the warm white wedge type LED bulbs, for my trailer, on Ebay a while ago. Each bulb has 17 SMD style LED’s on them. They put out almost no heat, and produce almost the same light as the incandescent bulbs. The amp draw is reduced quite a bit, great for dry camping.

  31. wb6anp

    what are the programmable led lights for, there is no explanation about them.

  32. ModMyRV

    The programmable LED controller can be used to blink or chase the LEDs. Check out this link for a good explanation:

  33. Bill

    I have been replacing the light bulbs in my C class.Went to Home Depot and picked up low voltage 12 volt garden lights.Work fine.

  34. BradWalls

    Bought replacement bulbs from DAV Electronics on They work great so far and come with three different type of plug ins. Good price but no soft with only cool white so they have the blue hue.

  35. Lloyd BC

    Well guys, here’s something that might help all considering this Mod. This webpage gives a factor for converting MSCP to Lumens. [1MSCP = 12.57 Lumens], so a 921 bulb generates 21 MSCP or 264 Lumens, and if the reflector was perfect, and all the light was reflected, you would get 264 lumens directed in a 180 degree spread downward from the lamp. Now, if you consider the K-0031 conversion package, it produces 357 Lumens (35% more) all directed downwards, one might assume that you would have brighter lighting directly below, and maybe not quite as good at 90 degrees to the sides. But when you have a light that might be on for up to 4 hours at a time, I would consider the conversion, just for the drop in fixture temperature/fire danger, at least in the high use fixtures.

  36. Scott.S

    Is there a lcd replacment for just a tail light bulbs without having to buy the hole housing?

  37. jbradshawsr

    I also went with ebay. search for:High power 36-1210 SMD LED Festoon Dome Bulb Warm White-ebay item # 1705480030 It has a small circuit board that measures approx.1.25″x1.75″ thats Inches.also has 3 different lamp base adapters:sc mini bayonet,festoon,and the popular 912/921style pinch bulb. Keep in mind that the circuit board replaces 1 lamp. if your fixture has 2 lamps, install 2 boards. at $4.99 each with free shipping from China.I think its a smokin deal. I’ve bought 4 so far, they look great!

  38. Bill

    Have replaced several bulbs using 12 volt LED garden light bulbs from Lowe’s. They provide plenty of light.

  39. Don Zinger

    Big cost difference in the light modules to replace the 921 bulbs for the interior. $20+ at Command Elcetronics and $5 on eBay (Chinese). Are they comparable? Is there that big a diffence in the lighting or quality?

  40. Bob

    I have done some research into this mod. I think that it is easiest to use these:

    Shold change the mod difficulty from a 3 star to a 1 star.

  41. BackRoads

    These 1003, 1141, 1156 replacement bulbs are VERY bright and use only about .3 amps. The package says 250 lumens, and they are definitely close to the output of the 1156 incandescent bulbs at 20% of the load.

  42. HarleyFXRC

    I changed some of our bulbs to the LED’s. The first ones were too bright for my wife. The second sets were more to her liking. Try, remember the higher the Kelvin rating the whiter and bluer the light. I got the Cool White in the 3000 to 3500 range and they closely match the incandescent bulbs color but are just abit brighter. She loves them. About $17 a bulb.

  43. Hub

    I replaced all my lights in our 2009 Cougar with LEDs.It sure made a big difference on the draw from the batteries.I also replaced on 12 volt with two 6 volt Trojan batteries,a lot more juice and lasts longer between recharging.

  44. Bill W

    LED lights last longer, run cooler, and can really be super-bright. Be careful when installing them though - I’ve seen a few looks of horror from oncoming traffic in the other lane.

  45. 4rjbrooks

    I purchased several 921 replacement led lights that i purchased from ebay, they cost me $5.50 for two lights and $1.80 in shipping. i installed them in a few minutes and they are bright and a lot less heat (this is very nice in the bunks where it can get stuffy and warm quickly). I have just placed another order from the same seller to replace all the lights in the trailer to led’s. I did not go with the flat led, just the normal round and it seems to give much better lighting then the flat led.

  46. nepatoyhauler

    I used the following LED upgrade: Ledwholesalers Miniature Bulb BS15S 1156 Base Single Contact Bayonet 8-30 Volt 18 x 5050 SMD LED 3.6w Warm White, 1419WW and was not disappointed at all with the light output. Highly recommended.

  47. nodakbassmaster

    Look on Ebay!! You can get the LED panels with adhesive backs and a variety of interchangable bulb bases for a couple or a few dollars each!!

    I have some of the 36 5050 LED ones in the RV now that are great and I have some more of the 48 LED on the way to try out.

  48. rogerracer

    If you want to avoid this project, the 2014 Arctic Fox trailers will be 100% LED equipped!

  49. wowlites

    I installed a white LED light strip below the entry door above the steps to light the steps better at night. I also installed a new switch for them just to the left inside the door so the LED strip could be turned on from ground level without fully entering our 5ver.
    Works nicely and I can see the steps better in the evening…I think the prescription on my glasses has run out, getting harder to see at night some times hahaha.

  50. RVRob

    I just finished installing an LED in the outside light - huge difference from the incandescent. If the bulb lives up to the 50,000 hours of use that the site says it does, it won’t be me replacing it! I am also slowly changing out the recessed lights in the main area with the flat led chip lights. The amount of light from the LED is the same as the halogen bulb but with a lost less power consumption and heat. Try touching the lens of the fixture with a halogen light - you will burn your hand. LED - no heat at all.

  51. gregbauman

    My son & I just swapped out 10 1141/1156 lights in the RV using 48-SMD LED panels. These were the flat kind, so they easily fit into the existing fixtures, and came with adapters for the bayonet style connectors.

    I bought them on Ebay. Good price - great experience with the transaction. Here’s the link if you’re interested.

    I still have a few more 1156/1141’s to replace. And, I want to add more of these instead of those high-heat halogen pucks, plus a couple reading lights in the master bedroom area.

    Anyone know of an RV junkyard near the Austin TX area? :)

  52. Damon

    Thanks for the tip gregbauman, did the LED lights come with something to stick the panels to the top of the light fixture? I’m going to try these out.

  53. Damon

    This weekend I installed two 15′ LED strip lights under my awning that really add a lot of good light with minimal draw on the battery and done very inexpensively. I bought two of these and installed one under the awning where it attaches to the RV, and the other one is attached to the awning roller. I cleaned the areas with alcohol and used the self adhesive backing. No problem rolling the awning up as the strip is really thin. I attached the string under the awning to the porch light for 12 v, and for the one on the awning roller, I used a 12 v charger from an old phone, added a female plug to the end of the light strip and plug it in when the awning is rolled out. Gives off quite a bit of light, no heat and low energy draw. I’m slowly converting all the lights I practically can to LED (warm white for interior).

  54. Matt Leitch

    Hello, great article. I just finished the LED upgrade in my TT. While I was searching for bulbs they all seemed way too expensive, so I went to IKEA and found some lights in the ‘as is’ section. I found two strings and a pack of puck lights, I looked at the adaptors and the output was 12v! I removed the ac adaptor from the string lights, and the LED clusters from the puck lights and wired them up and they work great, what a deal!

  55. cooperrobt

    From what little I know about these led lights, it appears that the more expensive led’s are shielded for stray rf signals that will interfere with both the radio and tv reception.

  56. peter williams

    Most people I know prefer warm white bulbs to pure white for general illumination. the pure white bulbs might be better for task lighting - for example over a desk or sewing\crafts area. Many of the sources I have seen in the RV world are still trying to charge $10-15 for each LED bulb when they are readily available on Ebay for $1-2 each. You do need to look for sellers who specify the light output of the bulbs they sell - I have replaced all my bulbs with flat panels or pancake type bulbs that output 180-200 lumens with a color temperature of 3-4000K. Pure white bulbs with a 6000K color temp are a bluish white light that I find uncomfortable. Avoid bulb that dont tell you exactly how much light you are going to get or only specify 921 replacement because you likely wont get bulbs taht are anything like as bright as the bulbs you are replacing

    Some links×5050-SMD-LED-RV-Landscaping-Light-Lamp-Bulb-US-/301227596075?hash=item462290592b&vxp=mtr×5050-SMD-LED-RV-Landscaping-Light-Lamp-Bulb-US-/301227596075?hash=item462290592b&vxp=mtr

  57. ben31mods

    M4 has a wonderful LED replacement. The C0B04-CW Cool White Elite Series plate. The plate puts out a lot of extra light and is an easy replacement. You just remove the incandescent bulb, peel off the paper on the adhesive pad on the back of the LED plate, attach it to the top of the housing, plug it in, and then turn it on. This is finally a wonderful replacement for the bulbs. Until now, the LEDs just didn’t seem to put out any more light than the incandescent bulbs. This does the trick.

  58. jeffs259

    May I suggest that you watch the video “Exploding LED bulbs” on YouTube before you purchase dirt cheap LED’s from questionable sources? If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. I just converted my trailer to LED’s about a year ago. I bought only from reputable sources even though I had to pay more for them.

  59. Kim OBrien

    I did a direct replacement by using LEDs made to replace automobile lights. (Which is mostly what is in camp trailers.) I bought them from Auto Zone as we were on the road and I didn’t have an address. The lighting is bluer but it was a lot better than being woken up in the middle of the night with a propane detector going off due to low voltage. Since they draw about 10% of regular incandescents it was a real pleasure not to have to keep charging batteries every 4 hours.

  60. dlsacco

    I used a mix of cool white LEDs for the main cabin and counter lighting, and warm white for the slide and couch areas. The cool white is great working light, but too harsh for night time relaxing so switch on those warm whites for that time. Some led’s are really 12 volt only where aas some designed for RVs and boats can take from 10.5 all the way to 18 or 20 volts with little change in light output and safe from damage. Worth finding the ones that are made for this application!

  61. dlsacco

    I used a mix of cool white LEDs for the main cabin and counter lighting, and warm white for the slide and couch areas. The cool white is great working light, but too harsh for night time relaxing so switch on those warm whites for that time. Some led’s are really 12 volt only where aas some designed for RVs and boats can take from 10.5 all the way to 18 or 20 volts with little change in light output and safe from damage. Some are even made to be polarity insensitive as when fixtures were wired for filiment bulbs polarity didn’t matter whereas most LEDs need specific polarity. Worth finding the ones that are made for this application!

  62. Rick H

    These replacement LED squares are bright white and much brighter than the incandescent bulbs.

    Each one comes with 4 adapters to fit various 12v sockets. I replaced all my dual lens lights with these. Huge difference.


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