Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Changing a Roadtrek Lightbulb

On a trip this summer we were at a campground and I went to turn on one of the Roadtrek dome lights that are above the front of the dashboard and the light did not come on. The light on the opposite side was on so there was no problem with the fuse. The problem was as simple as a blown light bulb but with the Roadtrek that turns out not to be quite so simple.

The first thing one needs to do is find out what type of light bulb is needed to replace the blown one and there is no list anywhere of the fixtures that Roadtrek uses and the bulbs that go into them. Before we could get the bulb I had to open the fixture and see what bulb was inside. The domes on these fixtures are frosted so you cannot just see through them to the inside as you can with the long fluorescent fixtures that are along the ceiling. Figuring out how to open the fixtures is like figuring out a Chinese box puzzle.

My first reaction was to get on the internet with the campground's wifi and ask for help on one of the Roadtrek Facebook groups. These groups are good for a fast reply - much more so than most forums. I did get answers - actually I got several answers from pry it open with a screw driver to turn the dome. I had tried turning the dome before I went looking for help, and it did turn slightly, but it did not come off.

I tried turning the dome and pushing in on it at the same time and this worked! The dome hit the right spot and disengaged and came down into my hand. I saw then that the dome has three tabs that line up with three slots and to remove the dome these tabs must be pushed up and turned. Replacing the dome requires the same movement with a turn in the opposite direction. Below is a picture of the dome seen from the inside. You can clearly see the three tabs set at thirds of the circumference of the inside edge of the dome lens.

Now I could see the bulb and it was unlike any RV light bulb that I have seen in stores. The bulb sits in a ceramic base and to remove the bulb you pull the bulb straight out. So now I have the bulb in my hand and there are no identifying markings on it at all! There is no way to look this bulb up on a chart without knowing what it is. Below is the bulb -

Back I went on Facebook to ask if anyone knew what this bulb is. I had a few suggestions that led to learn - about a week later - what this bulb is. I had hoped that I could go into the camp store at the campground the next morning and buy a replacement bulb. The store did have a selection of RV light bulbs but not anything like this. I asked the lady behind the counter and she told me that this is a "special" bulb. I am always thrilled to hear that I have to find something "special". I asked for the nearest RV dealers with accessories and the two nearest were not near at all. Rather than waste the day looking for the light bulb we put the search aside and enjoyed the day.

When we got home I started looking and asking about this bulb. I was able to find out that it is a "G4" bulb base - that is the two connection prongs coming from the bulb, that it is a 12 volt bulb (which I had known), that it is 10 W and that it is Halogen. Other than at an RV store which are a distance from where we live, I did not know anywhere else to look for this type of bulb.

You can purchase these on the Internet and not only can you get the halogen exact replacement but you can also get an LED replacement. The LED replacement is more than twice the price of the glass bulb but it will last longer and will use much less electricity which can be important when running your interior lights on your batteries.   The LED replacement for this bulb cost in the range from $9 to $15 a bulb. I decided that if I could not find the bulbs locally and I had to order them, that I would order the LED and I would order several and replace them one by one as the bulbs in these same fixtures blew out. There are four of these fixtures in my Roadtrek 190 - two in the front, one over the toilet, and one in the outside storage cabin. It appears but I am not yet certain (as I have not yet figured out the next Chinese puzzle of taking apart the small swivel spotlights) that the swivel spots also take this bulb.

So I knew what bulb to look for but I still had not conveniently found this bulb until I was walking through - of all places - an IKEA furniture store. We were walking past the lighting section and there was a display of light bulbs and there on the rack were 10 w Halogen 12 volt bulbs that looked just like these. I was not completely certain that they were the same and decided to go back to the store with the bulb in a few days. This got me looking at other possible places to buy these bulbs and I did find the exact ones in Home Depot. These same bulbs are used for garden lights and are sold in single and two packs. The crazy thing is that the single package is sold in the lighting department for $6.43 and the exact same bulb by the same company in a two pack found in the garden lighting section is $6.98. Here is a link to the bulbs at Home Depot.  Below is a photo of the package that you will find on the shelf.

It is extremely important that you buy only 12 volt bulbs and from some reading that I did on forums if you replace the bulb with a larger watt bulb and you can get these in 20 watts, you will melt the fixture. So do not buy a larger watt bulb.

For $3.50 each I now had the bulbs. I removed the dome again to replace the bulb. With halogen light bulbs YOU CANNOT TOUCH THE BULB WITH YOUR SKIN. All halogen bulbs are like this and there is a warning on the package. It will not harm YOU it will harm the BULB. The oil from your fingers will cause the bulb to burn right out when you turn it on. I got out a pair of latex gloves that we have in the Roadtrek to wear when we dump the black tank and put those on. I removed one bulb from the package and reached up into the fixture to insert the two prongs of the bulb into the two very small holes in the light base. This was a little tricky and it took several tries before it just went right in.

Of course the photo is a lot larger than the socket really is and the angle from which you have to work to insert the bulb does not allow seeing the face of the socket. Once you find the holes just push the bulb in (while wearing the gloves).

All that is left is to replace the dome lens and on the photo above it is easy to see the slot that you set the tabs into and then push in and turn clockwise to lock the dome in place. Once you have the bulb the whole thing is easy and now that I have done the ground work for you it will be very simple when you need to replace the light bulbs in your dome fixture in your Roadtrek.

Over time when I need to replace other bulbs I will make a list of the bulbs that go with the fixtures in the Roadtrek and post a chart on this site - something that Roadtrek should have provided in the manual.

I can add to this article that the fluorescent bulb needed for the overhead ceiling fixtures is a 12" 8watt 12 volt fluorescent tube made for RVs. These can be found in most RV supply stores and usually come in a package of two for less than $5.00. It is common to find the ones made/packaged by Camco. The bulb actually measures 11 inches but the replacement will say 12" inches on the package. The bulb in the Roadtrek and this bulb match exactly.

While I have not had to replace any of these yet, I have purchased a package of two bulbs to carry with us so that in the event that one of these goes out, we will be prepared. To open the flat lens on the ceiling fixture slightly push in and slide toward the passenger side. The plastic lens will slide on tabs in slots and come to the open position and then the lens just comes down in your hand. Take out the fluorescent tube by giving it a half turn so that the prongs line up with the slot and it will slide right out. Put the new bulb in by moving the prongs on each end into the slots on each end and pushing up. Give a half turn and it will lock itself in. This is no different than replacing a fluorescent tube in your house.

After replacing the halogen bulb, we went on our August extended vacation trip. The weather was hot and inside the Roadtrek at night, sitting under the bulb that I replaced, I was feeling more heat from the light above than it seemed to me I have felt before. This is the correct bulb and perhaps it was just warmer outside (and inside) than usual and while we were running the A/C it was set to automatically go on and off by the temperature set on the thermostat which is located in the back and we sit in the front. This got me thinking about replacing this bulb with an LED equivalent. As I speak about above, the LED bulbs are more than twice the price. There are a few advantages to LED bulbs. They do not give off any heat. They last a very long time. They use less electricity and if you run your interior lights on your batteries any saving in amperage is a good thing and your coach batteries will drain less quickly.

After we returned home I happened to see a G4 base LED bulb in Lowes that replaces a 12 volt, 10 watt halogen bulb. This bulb is priced at $9.88 for one bulb with a sign on the counter saying "new low price". I decided to try this bulb and replace the one that I replaced above as an experiment in using LED bulbs in the Roadtrek fixtures. One big advantage to buying this bulb at Lowes over ordering one on the internet is the bulb can be returned to the store if it is not a satisfactory replacement. The other advantage is that there is no shipping as I was buying it off the shelf. The price was about the same as LED bulbs that I have seen on the internet to replace this fixture's bulb.

The LED bulb is 1 watt. The halogen bulb is 10 watts. This LED bulb gives 90 lumens of light which is less bright than the halogen bulb that gives 100 lumens of light, but the difference of 10 lumens is not a lot. The LED bulb uses .083 amps of electricity. This is what is drawn from the battery in one hour. The halogen bulb uses .83 amps of electricity which is ten times as much. Now,
both bulbs are less than one amp and this is not very significant in how much less electricity the LED bulb is using over the halogen bulb. If a number of these bulbs were in use at the same time there would be a difference in power savings to consider. This LED bulb has a light color of 2800 which is about the equivalent of an incandescent bulb and is warm white and not the stark white or blue white that some complain about with LED bulbs.

The bulb fit the fixture perfectly. It installed exactly the same as described above. There is one small good difference. You can touch this bulb with your fingers and as indicated above, you are not supposed to touch a halogen bulb with bare skin.

It should be noted that when searching the Lowes store website for this bulb it cannot be found. This may be something only found in the stores.(Since this article first appeared I have not seen this particular LED bulb any longer in Lowes stores.)

Meryl feels that there is a noticeable difference in less light. I did not see this. As this is above the seat the I usually sit in when we are lounging inside the Roadtrek at night, it is fine for my needs.  We are going to keep and try out this bulb. I did purchase a spare. I am not running to change all of the light fixtures of this type to LED bulbs right now. As bulbs burn out we will consider what to do then. In the meantime the pair of halogen bulbs are safely stored inside the Roadtrek along with the spare LED in the event a bulb burns out when we are "on the road".

It is very important to purchase good LED bulbs for an RV. LED light bulbs can cause interference to electronics and you may find this showing up on your television if you use deep bargain LED bulbs. An LED is not really a light bulb. It is a Light Emitting Diode on an electronic circuit and this diode just happens to emit light. A poorly made circuit will cause interference. 


  1. This a very informative post and I think every Road Treker would get benefit from it. Great job!

  2. Excellent article. Thanks for sharing your research.

  3. Tnx, How do get you into the swivel lights in the back corners?

  4. It's easy enough to use a 2w LED in place of a 10w halogen G4 and get more light. Also, there is now a choice of color tone with the LED bulbs. It is still much cooler, though LEDs do put off some heat.

  5. theses work well in the deep sockets of the rear swivel lights for the G4 replacement.......HERO-LED BG4EX-9T-WW Extended Back Pin G4 LED Halogen Replacement Bulb, 1.8W, 15-20W Equal, Warm White 3000K, 5-Pack (Not Dimmable)
    Sold by: HERO-LED USA Product question? Ask Seller

  6. I bought an LED bulb at Camping World, but its diameter was too large to fit the lamp housing. I then found a 20-watt G4 halogen bulb at a Bi-Mart auto parts section. This wattage must have been too high, because it melted the plastic housing around it. I did not know what wattage the original bulb had. So now I have to replace the whole lamp. Any suggestion on how to remove the existing lamp?

    1. As I show in the article above, the original bulb is a 12 volt G4 10 watt bulb. It is not a surprise that a 20 watt Halogen bulb would melt the fixture as halogen bulbs get very, very hot when they are on and with the reflector in the fixture would concentrate all that heat into the dome. There are - as I show above also - LED replacements for the 10 watt halogen 12 volt bulb. There are some LED G4s that have prongs on the base that are too long for this fixture and those who have found this have clipped a little off the prongs - using an original bulb as a guide. This same bulb is used in several fixtures of the Roadtrek so you can always get to one to use for this. I have found that 12 volt bulbs are often found with low voltage garden lighting and this was where I found the 10 watt halogen exact replacement in Home Depot that I show above. Since installing the LED bulb in the fixture I find that it gives noticeably less light than the halogen bulb in the fixture right across from it. To REPLACE THE LAMP - look at the fourth article photo from the top. There are four Robertson screws (square head)inside the open fixture. Turn OFF the battery switch - do not be plugged in or running the generator when you do this - remove those screws and the fixture SHOULD be able to come down - take it down gently - and remove the screws gently - as we don't know what they are screwed into. The wiring should be there and it would be a swamp of fixtures from old to new. Where to get the fixture? Roadtrek should have them and you would need to order it from Roadtrek through a Roadtrek dealer/service center. Roadtrek will not take parts orders directly. The dealer/service will get the part for you and you might arrange with them for Roadtrek to ship it to you directly. If you need a set of Robertson screwdriver bits, Harbor Friehgt stores and online sells one that is inexpensive. Every screw in a Roadtrek is a Robertson screw and it is worth having a set of bits and a regular screwdriver bit handle.

  7. HELP..Our 2015 RT 190 Pop porch light switch failed after just a few uses. No longer "clicks"., RT sent a replacement, but it was the wrong part; they then sent the Right part. Click, NO LIGHT.,..have verified poles are connected correctly, but can't imagine the light bulb and switch failed at same time. QUESTION: Does ANYONE know how to remove the Porch Light? There are "tabs" on the exterior that are immovable and threaten to crack with any type of pressure...there is a tab on TOP of the fixture, it also refuses to move...HELP..anyone?..thanks, Jim B., Sedona, AZ

    1. All of the light covers seem to come off the same way. Putting a small screwdriver on the slot and using that to help works inside but it is very precarious in terms of breaking the cover. Have you put a meter on the wires that go to the switch and then on the switch poles itself - in the on and off positions with the wires attached to make sure power is going through? Does the inside of the light cover look dry? Could water have gotten in which would kill the bulb? Since you are in Arizona I assume that it is warm while you are trying to get the cover off - I would not attempt it in the cold. You might try getting a hair dryer and warming it up even more around the point of the tabs and then trying to get it off. Don't melt it! When I have found something in the Roadtrek that just gets to the point that no matter what I try it does not happen - I take it to the dealer. With a 2015 you are under warranty - and since you have the part - they should fix this.

  8. It would be great to have a youtube video of how to safely remove the cover from the rear swivel lights in order to change the bulb. MM

    1. I have never tried taking the cover off the rear swivel lights. While they appear to come apart the same way as the dome lights, looking at them closely, there may be something more needed to get them apart - and I am not going to try until we are in the dark and have to do it.