Converting RV Lights to LEDs – Part 3: 18-inch Fluorescents

TheRVgeeks Electrical, Great RV Products, LED Conversion, Updates & Upgrades 13 Comments

Our previous videos about LEDs have generated so much interest that we wanted to share the details about the new way we’re upgrading our fixtures. This video covers the steps needed to convert 18″ fluorescent tubes to beautiful new LEDs.

Since 18″ fixtures are upgraded to LED in a different way than 12″ fixtures, we’re creating two  separate videos.  You can watch our other video on How to Convert a 12″ Fluorescent Fixture to LED.

If you saw our original video about converting our RV’s fluorescent lights to LED strip lights (if not, you can view it here), you may have noticed that it was quite a while before we shared any more tips about switching to LEDs.

The reason for that is because we were experimenting with converting our RV’s other lights (halogen, incandescent and even other fluorescent light options). But it was a bit frustrating, since options for LED color and brightness can be confusing, and many suppliers don’t accurately convey the information you need to choose the color temperature and brightness you want.

Then we heard about a company on the iRV2 discussion forums called M4 Products. The information on their website was really thorough, and the owner’s fast, detailed response to our questions made us confident that his lights would be the right color and brightness.

After so much trial & error, buying from M4 was the best experience we’ve had so far. Since we were heading toward southern California, where M4 is located, we made an appointment to stop by to see about upgrading more of our lights.

Being a fellow RVer, Steve, M4’s owner, was incredibly knowledgeable about LED applications for RVs, and the quality of his products was obvious. We’ve looked at, and tried, our fair share of LED bulbs, and Steve’s are the best quality and best value we’ve found so far.

Be sure to visit M4 Products!  They are still offering a special discount for RVgeeks viewers. Enter the discount code “RVgeeks5” at checkout to receive a 5% discount off your entire order!

Previous & Related Videos:

We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.

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Comments 13

  1. Hello, I have 16 of these 18 inch set ups so 32 tubes needed. My wiring is different than the set up in youre video. The black (live) and white (ground) are coming from the ceiling in middle of unit. The black wire runs directly into the switch (which is on opposite end of ballast) the ground goes to ballast but is only 4 inches long. Do i cut the end of the hot black wire where its attached to switch and splice it to connector wires on that same side its already on? And then run the white ground (from ceiling ) towards the Ballast side to tie in with the wires at that end?

    1. Post

      Hi Adam. Basically, you want to end up with switched hot power (i.e. the OUTPUT from the switch, not the black wire bringing 12V power INTO the switch) wired to one end of each bulb… and ground wired to the other end. What you’ll need to do is identify the other wire coming out of the switch (likely going to the ballast) and cut that one near the ballast end (use a circuit tester or multimeter to confirm you’ve identified it correctly). That will be your switched hot wire that you can wire up to the bulb mounting brackets on one end of the fixture. Then cut the ground wire (again, near the ballast) and connect it to the bulb mounting brackets at the other end… in your case, that sounds like you may need to use another piece of wire to extend it. Hope this is clear… let us know if you have any other questions and/or how you make out!

    2. Thanks for responding so quickly – and on a Sunday! I will follow those instructions. I just ordered the replacement LED tubes last night from M4, so I will rig one unit up and when the bulbs arrive Ill know wether or not I got it right – if not at least I know where to bring my questions, thanks again

  2. Great Video. I have 3 lights that I converted yesterday watching your video. A piece of cake! I am a woman (not that that matters) 65 and never done anything like that before. Just followed your directions and voila they all three worked the first time I turned them on. Thank you for your video. I have 2 more lights to convert that were added in the bedroom but the wiring looks different under the ballast covers. The ballast is on the opposite end of the fixture not at the end where the switch is. The red wire that connects the two sides together is at the switch end. Hope I am making sense.

    1. Post

      That’s GREAT, Jane! Congratulations on getting those lights tackled! So glad our video was helpful!

      As far as the wiring in the two remaining lights goes, it doesn’t sound like it should be a problem (of course, we’re not electricians and aren’t actually there to see it, so maybe that’s easy for us to say, LOL!). The wire connecting the two bulb mounting brackets together is just there to jump power between the two bulbs… so the end of the fixture it’s on shouldn’t matter. What you want to end up with is positive (+) 12V power going from the output of the switch to one end of each of the two bulbs. And ground (-) being connected to the OTHER end of each bulb… so that power flows through them when the light is switched on. With the 18″ M4 bulbs, it doesn’t matter which side gets + and which gets – since they’re not polarity sensitive. So we’d suggest that you use a multimeter (like this one: <-- it's a little expensive, but it's a good unit. If it's too expensive, there are cheaper ones that will work for this project, too ) to test each wire BEFORE doing any removing... so you can identify (and even label them... a little piece of masking tape works great) before cutting. If you take your time and spread the wires out like we did in the video, it should make it easier to see what's going on and plan accordingly. Hope this helps... and please let us know how you make out!

  3. Great video. I bought a used 5th wheel that a DIYer converted the fluorescent light fixtures to tape/strip led lights. They only partially light up and need replacing. The sockets and ballasts were removed. I contacted Steve at M-4 Products and he suggested I install new sockets. How do I wire them in? There are two wires coming through the ceiling and there is an on/off switch on each fixture. Three are 18″ and one is 12″. Do I follow your video’s for this situation?

    1. Post

      Hi Craig! Steve is a great guy, and knows his stuff. If he recommends that new sockets are the best way to go, we agree with him. That does make the most sense if someone cut away all the wires to the old sockets. Of course the ballasts being gone doesn’t matter, since they’re not used with the LEDs (we didn’t bother cutting ours out, but we could have if we’d wanted to).

      We don’t have a video about this situation, since we’ve never dealt with it before, but everything you need to guide you for the 18″ fixtures should actually be right here in this video. We’d suggest starting with the 18″, since they’re so easy.

      You’ll notice that we cut away the majority of the wiring, which is made possible by the fact that the 18″ bulbs are wired internally to both pins on both ends. That means that you only need power to one pin on one end and ground the one pin on the opposite end. The other beautiful thing is that the 18″ bulbs aren’t polarity-sensitive, so it doesn’t even matter which end of the tube gets the ground wire and which gets the hot wire. It’s almost impossible to go wrong.

      If you watch the part of the video where we attach the hot lead to the far sockets (at about 2:37 in the video), you’ll see that those far sockets are bridged together with the red jumper wire. If yours aren’t like that, you’ll just need to be sure to attach power directly to both sockets on that end of the fixture, instead of just the one, like we did.

      At 3:39, we connect the ground to one wire on each of the sockets nearest the switch, and you can do the same. As we mentioned, you can actually attach the hot side near the switch and the cold side to the far end, since the bulbs aren’t polarity-sensitive. Doesn’t matter which way you do it.

      The 12″ bulb is a little different, because it’s so small that the components aren’t internal and they’re polarity-sensitive. If you watch our video about that type, you should be able to see how we wired it, allowing you to replicate the sockets there too.

      Hope this helps a bit. Please let us know how you make out!

  4. RV geeks, thanks for the great video, I did the install no problem and the look great, so much cooler. When I did the install last week we were at a park where my roof top satellite dish was working, now we are in a location were I cant lock on, so I am using my crank up bat wing antenna, and when I turn on. The overhead 18″ LED it causes a signal loss, turn it off it comes right back, either light causes this, did you have this problem or have you been forced to use your bat wing since your install?

    1. Post

      Hi Eric. We’ve never had this problem, but that may be because we never use our batwing for watching TV. The only time we ever raise it is to use our WiFi Ranger, which is attached to it. We’re forwarding your note off to Steve at M4, who will surely know the correct answer to your question, and we’ll ask him to reply to you directly here. Thanks in advance, Steve, and have a great holiday weekend, Eric!

    2. Post
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  6. Great job! We love our M4 Products LED’s. Thank you so much for letting us know about them a couple of months ago. All interior lights are now M4 LED’s. We’re waiting for M4Products to get all of our exterior lights in LED form. Once done, we’ll be all LED! Thank you again!

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