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DIY Jackalopee Type Lighting Converter with Weatherproof Box for $30


CA_Tallguy
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I came across a mention of the Jackalopee in another thread and didn't want to hijack that any further about DIY solutions.  The Jackalopee appears to have many fans and if you have more money than time, it's probably a great solution.   Some of us are trying to DIY build a lot more of our own HDT (I'm still exploring HDT) so I wanted to post some info that may help others trying to save a few bucks to make their own solution.

The other benefit of DIY is you can use standard components available EVERYWHERE and if you have any problems, any competent vehicle mechanic with electrical skills can help you.  Other folks have pointed out that ET Hitch is amazing with their service and you can talk directly to the designer of the product for help.  That's great, but I think it is even better to be able to replace any component from a DIY solution any day of the year in any city in north america (probably the world) and you can get hands-on help everywhere too.   But honestly, if you use good relays you will likely never have a problem.

The DIY plans in the FAQ are conveniently numbered to match standard relays so anyone should be able to follow along to build their own unit. Thanks to @Nigel for directing me to this http://www.hhrvresource.com/node/203.html

I also designed my own 4 relay circuit that you can play with on CircuitLab here: https://www.circuitlab.com/circuit/5r6nrm9kfcax/trailer-light-converter/  --  It works by passing through the turn signals when a brake signal is absent.  If brakes are also pressed when a signal is engaged, the turn signal +12v is used to power one of the relay coils to cause a momentary interruption in the brake light on the indicated side.  Said another way, the power from the turn signal is used to TURN OFF (flash) the brake light on the left or right side.  This method will be opposite of what your truck is showing -- so when the truck has a blinker ON, the trailer would have the blinker OFF.   If this inversion bothers you, just spend a little time adjusting the circuit or see if the circuit in the FAQ is more to your liking.

The main function of Jackalopee appears to be provided by a set of 5 relays in a weatherproof box.  You can get a highly rated weatherproof box at Amazon (4.6 out of 5 stars from 1510 reviews) WITH SIX RELAYS and a set of fuses (extra protection over the Jackalopee, I think) for $29.95..... https://amzn.to/3eWNttx

In comparison, the Jackalopee price on the website right now is $180.90.

To save even more, you could purchase the same brand relays as on the Jackalopee for about $3 each and fashion your own wiring.  The DIY plans posted in the FAQ call for 3 or 4 relays depending on which method you choose.  So we're talking $9 to $12.  https://www.qualitymobilevideo.com/bu5084.html

Or you can get this set of 5 relays + 5 sockets with wiring for $13 https://amzn.to/3eRD6Y9 (4.7 out of 5 stars from 3381 reviews) -- these are also numbered so you can follow along with the DIY design in the FAQ linked above.   MOST of the wiring is from one relay to another, so since these sockets have wires already attached. you would be splicing or soldering a lot of these wires together.

The additional wiring option for Jackalopee (about $100 today) is mostly some wire + a socket and adapter.  You can get a wide variety of pigtails and mounts at Amazon to suit your needs, such as this 8ft for $30 or 12ft for $38: https://amzn.to/3eg1JP8 (you could use some of the wire in this pigtail for your cross-relay wiring).  If you shop around on amazon there are many deals to be found and you can get higher or lower quality to suit your own taste and budget.

If you like the LED's that the Jackalopee has, you can pick up a cheap LED tester for 7 way blade RV sockets at any RV supply store or probably at any Walmart.  For example this one is $10: https://amzn.to/3toFUBq 

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Edited by CA_Tallguy
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Thanks for the info but further review is necessary, the first item you mentioned shows an IP65 rating which is not waterproof. IP65 rating is dust proof and can resist water projected from a nozzle. The bottom of the case is open and then probably can only be mounted certain ways. No wiring is included. I didn't check the other links. How much time would you expect it would take to assemble the relays and jumper wires assuming you have the tools and knowledge to do it? I would guess about two hours, so at a $75/hour labor rate, You are probably into it total for about $200 or more. 

Good suggestion but probably the whole box assembly would be better off mounted in a completely sealed enclosure with a terminal junction block for the wiring so that you can easily hook up and unhook wires without disturbing the seal on the back side of the relays.

 

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This is a classic example of different strokes for different folks. When I was younger, poorer and more ambitious, I would definitely have been in the group of those who wanted to "roll your own". I enjoyed the projects and the process and did all kinds of projects. I no longer am that interested or ambitious, so I opted for the complete, high quality and well thought out Jackalopee. I have relays laying around doing nothing, so I could've used them with no investment. I'm still happy I chose the finished product. To each his own. Jay

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A long time ago when most of us guys on this forum were considering changing from LGTs to HDTs and having bed builders install what was needed at the time (and a lot of that has changed) and wanting a safer way to tow our ever increasing RVs around the country, a very knowledgeable DIYer knew we had problems with the commercial unit that was being installed at the time (with a major failure rate), Henry stepped up to the plate to meet the needs.

I agree with the 3 comments listed after your presentation above and would caution anybody wanting to take this on by themselves, be careful!   The small increase in price that has happened since it's inception (what hasn't increased?) is pretty minor compared to changes that have taken place with the truck and trailer wiring!

Things can always be done cheaper (especially if I'm doing them) but then you get what you pay for and then sometimes deserve!

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Posted (edited)

As I said in my opening -- if you have more money than time, then by all means spend away.  Those of you who have purchased a truck already done by one of the outfitters will likely fall into this category.   If you like the make of the Jackalopee, go ahead and support him.  But not everyone is going to have this luxury.

Other folks are going a DIY route, and this is a simple way to save a few bucks.  Spend that money for things you can't do yourself, or to upgrade some other component that you otherwise would not that would make a bigger difference to your vehicle.   "DIY where you can and spend where you must" may be a strategy for some.  If all DIY'ers priced their labor at $75/hr I doubt there would be much DIY happening in the world.

Some other folks like me will just balk at paying nearly $300 for something I can put together myself for pocket change.  In minutes, not hours.  (Just crimp together some wires on the $13 relay set with wired sockets I posted. 5 relays + 5 sockets with wiring for $13 https://amzn.to/3eRD6Y9 4.7 out of 5 stars from 3381 reviews)

Maybe some people will opt to try an option from another source like Tekonsha that only costs $30.  I would suggest they study the reviews carefully on any unit to try to determine if it is reliable and long lasting.   I don't believe that ET hitch has the only solution.  (ET's solution is lovely but some people may decide solid state is preferable to mechanical relays.)

We all have our own ways of doing things and our own priorities -- that's why no two HDT's are exactly the same, right?  So there can be more than one "correct" solution here.   Multiple DIY solutions are already listed by the HDT community in your FAQ so I'm not proposing something new and radical here. 

There are many benefits in addition to cost savings, such as repairability with standard components available anywhere and immediate availability without waiting for an order to be delivered.  Perhaps someone will come upon this information when they are doing their final prep after a build, not having realized this would be a problem to solve, and hoping to go on the road tomorrow and they need a solution right now.

There are many ways to accomplish this functionality for under $20 and a couple of minutes crimping connectors (not 2 hours) instead of $180 (plus $100 for the wiring).   You can put the relays inside a toolbox or other protected location with some improvised moisture and dust protection.  Or for $30 just get this enclosure that is about as highly rated product as you will find on Amazon.   They have free returns so there is no harm in ordering it and sending it back if you don't find it suitable.

 

 

Edited by CA_Tallguy
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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Star Dreamer said:

Thanks for the info but further review is necessary, the first item you mentioned shows an IP65 rating which is not waterproof. IP65 rating is dust proof and can resist water projected from a nozzle. The bottom of the case is open and then probably can only be mounted certain ways. No wiring is included.

[...]

Good suggestion but probably the whole box assembly would be better off mounted in a completely sealed enclosure with a terminal junction block for the wiring so that you can easily hook up and unhook wires without disturbing the seal on the back side of the relays.

 

Is anyone mounting their Jackalopee in a location where they need more than an IP65 rating?  Seems unadvisable.

An enclosure for these relays is a luxury more than a necessity.  The relays could be mounted in a toolbox, drawnbox, or the cab, for example.   Most people I would guess have many electrical components mounted in various places and few are probably in IP65 or greater cases.

The enclosure I posted does have means for protecting the wiring in the back -- which would be required for the IP65 rating.  There are numerous alternatives on Amazon if you are looking for something better.   This one was the highest rated and is marketed to off road enthusiasts, so I'm guessing that over the road use is a lighter use case.   4.6 out of 5 stars from 1510 reviews which is about as good as it gets.  I find the reviews and customer Q&A on Amazon will likely address or surface any issues you may be concerned about.  https://amzn.to/3eWNttx

Edited by CA_Tallguy
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Seems like a lot of effort to convince a lot of people that you have a better idea. It's true that you can source relays almost anywhere, including Amazon. Until Amazon gets their counterfeit problem under control. I'm almost done buying there. Your light tester is also readily available, but only tells what lighting circuit is working/not working.  The Jackalopee has LEDs to indicate input and output conditions. Helps with troubleshooting. A handful of crimp-on connectors, some relays and bases, strain reliefs, and a simple waterproof box would be the cheapest way to complete the stated mission, while the Jackalopee is arguably the most reliable. Part of the counterfeit problem is dealing with involves their review system, so Caveat Emptor applies even more. As far as E-Trailer, I have no opinion on their reviews.

 

Having said all of the above, we don't have a lighting combiner, as we used the truck tail light circuit to drive the trailer lights. Our truck also doesn't have a lighting control module. I replaced all the wiring runs, myself, when our truck was converted.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Darryl&Rita said:

Seems like a lot of effort to convince a lot of people that you have a better idea. 

I never said it was a better option.  I've said it is an alternative -- one that the HDT community already lists in the FAQ -- that some people will prefer.  It seems a lot of people are very passionate about the Jackalopee and I've said again and again.... that's great.   I've said it is a lovely product.

This will be the third time I've said  -- some people may have more time than money and this can work for those people.  It's really all anyone needs and will likely be completely sufficient for as long as they own the truck.

Most every post has been to tear apart the unimaginable notion that someone might wish to simply wire together a few relays costing $13 (perhaps even the very same relays in your Jackalopee) and spend the remaining couple hundred bucks on something else.

Here's the link to the FAQ again:  http://www.hhrvresource.com/node/203.html

If this is a terrible idea, perhaps someone should update the FAQ to remove it.

Edited by CA_Tallguy
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CA_Tallguy, I, too, am a DIY person.  I like the experience I get from the project and I like to do my own work.  

First thing I do when I get to a junkyard (car or truck) is take all the relays (with their wires if possible) and fuses.  Sometimes they want money for them, mostly not if I buy a big part.  The Chinese fuses you can buy today are crap.  The thickness of the pins are so thin that they will not always make good contact.  Therefore, I have a good supply of parts.

I built my own light conversion box as I had not heard of a Jackalopee when I first got my Volvo.  If I had to do it again, the Jackalopee is a great buy and I would opt to buy it.   My box is still working.  It has LEDs on the inputs and outputs and fuses on both sides, too.  It is well documented so anyone that works on trons could fix it.  

At the 2019 ECR, a member came to me for an assist with his lights.  He had been towing for years without rear brake lights on the trailer or truck.  I had a couple of relays and got two from RandyA.  I installed them on the wall, driver's side storage compartment and made everything work.  I will bet that the Red Volvo is still running with them.  

 

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@NeverEasy thanks for the reply.  It's great to hear from someone who appreciates that diy OR jackalopee are both fine solutions.  The experience you had a the 2019 ECR rally is exactly the type of scenario when a DIY option is perfect because sometimes you want to implement a solution right on the spot.

I agree with you about being careful with quality of many of different components you can source.  I do tend to gravitate toward reputable brands and sellers.  On Amazon, if there are a large number of positive reviews -- AND (very important) if the product is sold by one seller only (so you can know the reviews are applying to not only the product but also the seller) -- I may take a chance on the product as long as there are not a lot of reports of faulty items in the reviews themselves. 

I also priced out the same brand that I could see were used in the Jackalopee and am pleased to see that they were modestly priced too.... just $3.59 at the first place I looked so I didn't bother to go any further.  Now I just looked again and see the model I linked is also WATERPROOF so that's a nice bonus and makes a separate waterproof enclosure less important if used for a DIY installation.  https://www.qualitymobilevideo.com/bu5084.html

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10 hours ago, CA_Tallguy said:

Is anyone mounting their Jackalopee in a location where they need more than an IP65 rating?  Seems unadvisable.

An enclosure for these relays is a luxury more than a necessity.  The relays could be mounted in a toolbox, drawnbox, or the cab, for example.   Most people I would guess have many electrical components mounted in various places and few are probably in IP65 or greater cases.

The enclosure I posted does have means for protecting the wiring in the back -- which would be required for the IP65 rating.  There are numerous alternatives on Amazon if you are looking for something better.   This one was the highest rated and is marketed to off road enthusiasts, so I'm guessing that over the road use is a lighter use case.   4.6 out of 5 stars from 1510 reviews which is about as good as it gets.  I find the reviews and customer Q&A on Amazon will likely address or surface any issues you may be concerned about.  https://amzn.to/3eWNttx

We have seen the Jackalopee mounted outside the on the rear of the cab and I think I recall seeing one mounted at the rear next to their hitch. We have seen so many trucks at the various rallies that it is hard to remember them all! 

Alternative methods are good, but obviously may not be for everyone and in some cases the simpler the better. Me, I hate soldering and avoid it at most cases, I would rather use crimp connectors and a bunch of heat shrink and tape because I can't solder for crap. 

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34 minutes ago, Star Dreamer said:

Alternative methods are good, but obviously may not be for everyone and in some cases the simpler the better. Me, I hate soldering and avoid it at most cases, I would rather use crimp connectors and a bunch of heat shrink and tape because I can't solder for crap. 

My soldering is also not great although recently I have been trying to improve.   Some also say that solder for a mobile application isn't great while other people swear by it.    Like you, I mostly opt for crimping.

That's why I would probably end up using relays with pigtail sockets like I previously posted: https://amzn.to/3eRD6Y9  (maybe a waterproof version with waterproof relays)

Then I would use marine grade crimp connectors AND marine heat shrink tubing over those.  (I'm always afraid that I might puncture the heat shrink on the connectors while crimping.)

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Posted (edited)

Looking over my circuit design, there may not be too many crimps to do.... hell this has to be easier than putting together a piece of Ikea furniture LOL!

INCOMING CONNECTIONS

  1. GROUNDS - Relay terminals #85 for all four relays get tied together with the incoming and outgoing ground
  2. RIGHT TURN - Tie the incoming right turn wire to terminal #86 from one relay and #30 on another relay
  3. LEFT TURN - Do the same for terminals #86 and #30 for the other two relays and the incoming left turn wire
  4. BRAKES - Tie the last two #30 terminals to the incoming brake wire

RELAY TO RELAY (the above gives us a "right" and "left" relay pairs)

  1. For the "left" relay pair, connect remaining terminal #86 on one relay to #87 on other relay
  2. Do the same for the right pair

OUTGOING CONNECTIONS

  1. LEFT TURN/BRAKES - Tie the two #87a terminals on the pair of "left" relays to the outgoing left turn/brake wire
  2. RIGHT TURN/BRAKES - Do the same for #87a on the two "right" relays with the outgoing right turn/brake wire

I think the remaining wiring gets passed through from incoming to outgoing wires (running lights, reverse) and the brake controller is connected to the brake control pin on the 7 way blade connector.

Disclaimer: I have not tested this except using a simulator online so if anyone tries this it may be good to rough out and loosely connect the wires at first before doing final crimps and heat shrink.  Refer to my circuit diagram for troubleshooting or revert to one of the methods in the FAQ if things needed.   If I get into this maybe I'll try the circuit on a breadboard to verify.

With quality, waterproof relays of the same brand as used on the Jackalopee, it should last the life of the truck. https://www.qualitymobilevideo.com/bu5084.html

Edited by CA_Tallguy
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7 hours ago, CA_Tallguy said:

Looking over my circuit design, there may not be too many crimps to do.... hell this has to be easier than putting together a piece of Ikea furniture LOL!

INCOMING CONNECTIONS

  1. GROUNDS - Relay terminals #85 for all four relays get tied together with the incoming and outgoing ground
  2. RIGHT TURN - Tie the incoming right turn wire to terminal #86 from one relay and #30 on another relay
  3. LEFT TURN - Do the same for terminals #86 and #30 for the other two relays and the incoming left turn wire
  4. BRAKES - Tie the last two #30 terminals to the incoming brake wire

RELAY TO RELAY (the above gives us a "right" and "left" relay pairs)

  1. For the "left" relay pair, connect remaining terminal #86 on one relay to #87 on other relay
  2. Do the same for the right pair

OUTGOING CONNECTIONS

  1. LEFT TURN/BRAKES - Tie the two #87a terminals on the pair of "left" relays to the outgoing left turn/brake wire
  2. RIGHT TURN/BRAKES - Do the same for #87a on the two "right" relays with the outgoing right turn/brake wire

I think the remaining wiring gets passed through from incoming to outgoing wires (running lights, reverse) and the brake controller is connected to the brake control pin on the 7 way blade connector.

Disclaimer: I have not tested this except using a simulator online so if anyone tries this it may be good to rough out and loosely connect the wires at first before doing final crimps and heat shrink.  Refer to my circuit diagram for troubleshooting or revert to one of the methods in the FAQ if things needed.   If I get into this maybe I'll try the circuit on a breadboard to verify.

With quality, waterproof relays of the same brand as used on the Jackalopee, it should last the life of the truck. https://www.qualitymobilevideo.com/bu5084.html

Hi CA,

Wish you the best in your challenge. I hope your project turns out the way you are hoping for. If you didn't have a DIY'er you won't have a HDT. Please post how things work out. Inquiring minds need to know. 😃  I do have a Jackalope in my truck because it made my life easier. That has been a few years ago when prices were cheaper.

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I too am a big DIY'er....

But you need to compare apples to apples... in this case it is not fair to compare a the price of a Jackalopee (with stuff like diagnostic LED's, strain reliefs, connectors, proven track record, etc) to a no frills design (which I like...it does the same functions, but doesn't include any extras). Your pricing doesn't factor in connectors, heat shrink tubing, extra wire. I am sure that the first edition Jackalopee built for his own use was built for $50 or less but has evolved to a pretty much plug and play device...hence the price difference.

Not bashing you, I would probably build my own as well.

A fairer comparison is to the Hoppy 46255, which can be had for $60ish.....same basic functions but no frills as compared to a Jackalopee.

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A couple of my DIY sealed units for ideas.  They weren't $30, but they came from the same diagrams.  They keep the relays out on the frame rail so you don't have to hear the relays clicking under your bunk.  They make sealed MP280 junction boxes and micro relays that work great for this.  Or a RTMR if you want to mount it to something.  The 4 into 1 splices I probably won't crimp again and would use two sealed 280 splice connectors.  Ones been on the truck since 2012 and the other 2016 with no troubles.  The top one runs a trailer and goes inline of where the trailer connector harness plugs into the truck.  The bottom one runs a headache rack.

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20160625_024527_zpssg9ghxbr.jpg?width=45

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Posted (edited)
On 5/6/2021 at 9:08 PM, porky69 said:

I too am a big DIY'er.... But you need to compare apples to apples... in this case it is not fair to compare a the price of a Jackalopee (with stuff like diagnostic LED's, strain reliefs, connectors, proven track record, etc) to a no frills design (which I like...it does the same functions, but doesn't include any extras). Your pricing doesn't factor in connectors, heat shrink tubing, extra wire. I am sure that the first edition Jackalopee built for his own use was built for $50 or less but has evolved to a pretty much plug and play device...hence the price difference.  Not bashing you, I would probably build my own as well.

A fairer comparison is to the Hoppy 46255, which can be had for $60ish.....same basic functions but no frills as compared to a Jackalopee.

Well, I think it's more like there are green apples and red apples and washington and granny smith and more.  Lots of options.   But the "core" of all of the relay based options is less than $20 in relays, even for the exact same relays used in the Jackalopee.    Is the rest worth $180 (with shipping) or $280 with some extra wiring?  To me that is a heavy premium.

You can get this waterproof version of the relays used in the Jackalopee for $4 each https://www.qualitymobilevideo.com/bu5084.html

Donald Trump may crap on a golden toilet but I'm fine with porcelain LOL.  They do the same thing and there is nothing deficient in my porcelain toilet over his.

I think some people said the Hoppy didn't last very long but there are dozens of other ready made alternatives such as below.   To make things really easy, you could get one of these 7 way trailer connecter sockets that can take a 4 way input, which some of the units below provide as output -- ( https://amzn.to/3uyedHJ ) and then you just do a direct run TO THE SOCKET of your brake controller, +12v aux/charging circuit if needed, reverse lights if needed.   No real need to put those through the Jackalopee anyway.  It can't get much more plug and play than this.... even less wiring than with the Jackalopee!

The main consideration with these is how much current your trailer will draw, apparently.  If your trailer has LED tail and stop/turn lights, you are probably fine with any of them.  Perhaps the people using Hopkins in the past had incandescent lights and the low power version?

 

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Edited by CA_Tallguy
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Posted (edited)

STILL TOO MUCH DIY? HOW ABOUT NEARLY ZERO WIRING!!? This Tekonsha 119251 ZCI Zero Contact Interface Universal ModuLite Kit ($130) uses current sensors on any wiring you can find with the signals you are interested in.  You simply provide +12v to the unit and then clip the current sensors on the signal and brake wires, etc.  https://amzn.to/3xYjgTE

Then take the 4way output and plug it into 7way, run your brake controller and you've done enough to get on the road....  Hopkins 47185 Multi-Tow 4 Flat to 7 Blade and 4 Flat Adapter ($20): https://amzn.to/3uyedHJ

So you have a complete wiring solution for $150 instead of $280.  And it's far more simple to install than the Jackalopee.  I think only 3 wires are essential -- +12v, ground and the output for your brake controller.

NOTE: THESE ARE NOT TAPS -- THEY DO NOT CUT INTO THE WIRES!  You would likely need to put the current sensors somewhere on wiring to the existing tail lights on the truck as they need to sense current to operate. (It may not work if you put them on the normal trailer wiring connector as there isn't any current on the wire without your trailer connected to it.). 

 

Edited by CA_Tallguy
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Yea MP280 sealed and the small PDM's made for them from Littlefuse or GEP.  To skip all the terminals and crimper and stuff you can buy an Amazon one built and ready to go, just hook all the end wires together in how you need.  I've not used one though so don't know much in regards to how well they built it up.

Amazon PDM

 

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