Introduction: Use Your Ute's ("pickup Truck") Trailer Connector to Make You Easier to See When Merging Lanes

During the two years I have had my ute*, I noticed that drivers often wouldn't let me easily merge into their lane no matter how much I indicated before merging; in fact I got regularly honked at, and some drivers even got a bit road-ragey. Was it because they saw utes as threatening and ute drivers as arrogant as many drivers of those big "urban tractors" that were really designed for off-road use?

Well, I never stopped in mid-traffic to ask, until recently: apparently the lady concerned couldn't see my indicators. You, know, I can see the logic in that, as the rear lights are quite low and the front indicators are not easy to see in daylight. I tested this in Google Sketchup and again using my wife's car: as you can see from the pictures, one may not be able to see the ute lights if the ute is nearby.

What I really needed was indicators higher up and further forward, without making a permanent fix until I'd tested the idea. Here is what I did.

Wire stripper
Screwdrivers, Philips #2 and #1
Duct tape

* "Beautey", as in "Yeah, she's a real beauty, mate". In the US of A these are called pickup trucks.

Step 1: Procure the Lights

Fortunately, I still had the indicator board that my father made for strapping to our sailing dinghy whenever we towed it anywhere. Even more fortunately, it was no longer than the span of my wing mirrors, so did not need altering.

If you don't have one, these boards are easy enough to make if you have basic DIY skills and there are any number of trailer lights that fit the purpose. The white plank on mine has a hollow ribbed core, much like the cross section of synthetic decking*, which allows for the wiring to be hidden. The lights can be bought from any good automotive store or possibly a good hardware store.

This should also be possible in cars using after-market lights positioned high on the rear window. There are kits like this and window pads that you can buy online, or possibly at the automotive store. I thought there might be suction-cup window lights for sale somewhere, but even the Internet hasn't helped there.

A permanent installation need not use a board, of course: lights could be fitted to the deck rack itself and a cable taken down inside the uprights to be properly wired into the lighting wiring loom (I would use an auto electrician to do this). If a board is used, then once mounted properly the board could be easily removed for it's original purpose.

(* you could probably use a length of this as a board for this project if you like).

Step 2: (Re)wire the Connector and Make Sure All the Lights Work

In New Zealand, round connectors have pretty much been superseded by flat connectors. In my case, not only was the connector round, the terminals were corroded. I dropped in to the local hardware store and bought a new flat connector.

As you can see from the attached pictures, the standard wiring plan hasn't changed much in the last 35 years! In this case there are only five wires and I didn't need the "Service brakes", so I used the blue wire for the rear red and front white (side marker) lights instead of the usual brown wire. 

A couple of bulbs were burnt out but fortunately I had a selection in my workshop, so avoided a trip to the store.

Step 3: Fix the Lights to the Ute

As this was a trial, I used duct tape to secure the board to the top rail of my ute's rack. Duct tape also secured the cable across and down the rack, and along the tray to the trailer connector. Hindsight showed that I should have taken it down the other side to avoid the fuel cap...

Step 4: Check That Everything Works and Do a Road Test

After shifting the blue wire to the brown connector, everything worked fine. In the two weeks after this, I had no merging issues - not one! So everyone is now very happy.