Did you know the most common trailer end plugs are 4 way, 5 way, 6 way and 7 way? This wiring information chart will show you how to determine each plug style and what it is used for. The color the column is highlighted in, is the color of the plug.
Not sure which is the correct plug style for your trailer? See our selection of trailer end wiring connectors while taking the following into consideration:
4-Way connectors allow the basic hookup of the three lighting functions (running lights, turn signals, and brake lights) and one pin is provided for the ground wire.
5-Way connectors allow the basic hookup of the three lighting functions (running lights, turn signals, and brake lights) a pin for Ground, and also one additional pin is available to provide support for surge brakes or hydraulic brakes. The additional wire is tapped into the backup lights to disengage the hydraulic trailer coupler (actuator) when the vehicle is reversing, turning off the trailer's brakes
6-Way connectors allow the basic hookup of the three lighting functions (running lights, turn signals, and brake lights) The ground and two extra pins provide two additional functions, typically for electric brakes and 12 volt "hot" lead.
7-Way connectors allow hookup for running lights, turn signals, brake lights, and additional pins for electric brakes, 12 volt "hot" lead and backup lights.
Posted in TowingSours: https://www.hitchweb.com/blog/post//10/04/what-are-the-most-common-trailer-plugs
Trailer connectors in North America
A number of standards prevail in North America, or parts of it, for trailer connectors, the electrical connectors between vehicles and the trailers they tow that provide a means of control for the trailers.
In North American, but most commonly the USA market, it is very common for brake lights and turn signals to be combined.
On cars and light trucks (listed below as Light Vehicles) there is no formal standard, instead there is an accepted standard. However, you can not be entirely sure until you have measured the current connector on the vehicle and trailer that they fit each other.
Heavy Vehicles are standardized through SAE J which is similar to ISO
Note that different color coding can be used for certain functions, which means that you can not trust the colors mentioned here without measuring the contact and wiring from case to case. In some cases - as in the flat 4-pin or 5-pin connector - it is fairly obvious which color that is connected to which pin.
In case you have a vehicle that separates the left and right side position lights into 58L and 58R - like many German cars - it is advisable to choose 58L to feed the taillights. These two circuits shall not be merged because it can create problems in the towing vehicle. If you want to be more advanced you can make a simple connection with two diodes that provide balanced load of the circuits. Note that the diodes have to be able to handle high currents or that they are used to control a relay which in turn feeds the trailer. If you have a trailer with a lot of lights the diode and relay wiring is preferred, but if you have a trailer with a simple light arrangement it is usually sufficient to wire to 58L.
In market there are many special converters that solves the problem of connecting a car with European wiring to a trailer with North American wiring. What most of these converters do is to bring together the turn signals and stop lamp signal from a three-wire solution using 54, L and R into a two-wire solution using L54 and R54 according to DIN where brake light and turn indicator uses the same wire and bulb for each side. These converters usually don't handle the case of separate position light circuits for left and right side in the towing vehicle.
Heavy duty vehicles - SAE J
Physical design according to standard ISO  / SAE J
The plug for SAE J is physically identical to the connector ISO The difference is that J indicates that the voltage must be 12V and that wire areas shall be larger due to the higher currents needed when using 12V compared to 24V. Some of the pins in the connector have also a slightly different function.
The functional differences are small, but the difference in voltage and current requirements makes the SAE J and ISO incompatible without the use of additional equipment in the form of voltage converters. It is also necessary to pay particular attention to pin 7.
Note that the SAE J connector is not controlling the brakes. SAE J is typically used on heavy duty trucks and trailers with pneumatic brakes where only the power to the ABS unit and indication of braking by brake light signal is required. The brakes themselves are controlled using air pressure.
SAE J was introduced in , which means that older heavy duty vehicles (vintage) may have other connectors.
The following supplementary information exists for the connector:
- ^Area for pin 7 shall be at least 10 AWG according to DOT till 10 AWG.
Light vehicles, common connector types
Light vehicles use a plethora of contacts, but among these are two that are most common:
- 4-pin flat connector, often used for simpler trailers.
- 7-pin round blade connector, often used in caravans/RVs etc.
Due to this there are unified vehicle outlets on the market that combine these two into a single module.
7-pin round blade connector (SAE J)
This is common for RVs and other large trailers which have additional loads beyond the basic for tail lights and brake/turn signals. The standard is defined by SAE J, Automotive Trailer Tow Connector.
6-pin round connector
This contact occurs on medium duty trailers that have both reverse lights and electric brakes.
Flat 5-pin connector
This contact is not as common, but is compatible with the 4-pin connector in the way that a towing vehicle with this connector can be connected to a trailer with the 4-pin flat plug.
The extra connection is often used to block the surge brakes when reversing with the trailer.
Flat 4-pin connector
This contact is one of the most frequent contacts on the trucks in North America. It contains the minimum necessary signals for complying with regulatory requirements in the United States.
Less common connectors
These contacts are less common, and the wiring of these may differ from what is listed here, as well as Application area. The contacts can be for example be used for task lighting, etc.
SAE Jlike, type 1
Although this has physical similarities to SAE J, it is not electrically compatible and should be avoided. Wiring should be made in accordance with SAE J instead to avoid problems.
SAE Jlike, type 2
Although this has physical similarities to SAE J is not electrically compatible, and shall be avoided. Wiring shall be in accordance with SAE J instead to avoid problems.
6-pin rectangular connector
Because this connector has pins in two rows, it is not backwards compatible with the 4-pin and 5-pin flat connectors.
5-pin round connector
This contact is less common, and may have completely different wiring than that shown here. The wiring is same as for the 6-pin round connector with center pin (Reversing lamps) excluded.
4-pin round connector
This connector is available in some cases instead of the flat 4-pin connector. It is less common on the U.S.-built vehicles, than 4-pin flat connector, but is still used in the older truck and SUV setups. A distinctive feature of the trailers that require this type of connector is the fact that they do not have their own braking system and stop along with the towing vehicle.
3-pin round connector – DIN
Introduced by John Deere for agricultural hardware, then used for other purposes, like yachts and general electric cables.
|31||Ground connected to chassis||Black||?|
|82||+12V wire after relay (lock in)||Red||?||?|
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A trailer wiring connector is what links your cars electrical system to the trailer, allowing other drivers to see your lights even with the trailer blocking the rear of your car. This is not only a safety measure; its also the law. Requirements vary from state to state, so double-check the laws in your area to make sure youre in compliance. Heres a rundown on the most common types of trailer wiring connectors and how they work.
Types of Plugs and Sockets
In your house, you plug appliances into wall sockets. With your car, you plug your trailer into a vehicle socket. The shapes of the plugs and sockets vary, with the most common types being flat, round and RV blade.
- Flat: Flat connectors have all the pins lined up in a single row. Generally, youll find that flat connectors have a lower number of pins and are used for towing smaller loads, which dont require as many functions.
- Round and RV Blade: Both of these connectors are round with the pins arranged in a circle. On six-pin connectors and higher, theres also one in the middle. Though these do sometimes come with smaller pin counts, they most commonly have a higher number of pins and are used for larger loads that require additional functions.
The shape of the outlet and plug are the same for round and RV blade connectors, but the shape of the pins and holes changes. Round plugs have round pins and holes; RV blade plugs have rectangular pins and holes.
Number of Pins
Lets go back to what you have in your house. Household outlets work with two-pronged or three-pronged plugs. With trailers, think pins instead of prongs. So, imagine a four-pin trailer wiring connector as if its simply a household plug with four prongs. The most common trailer connectors have four, five, six or seven pins. The more pins in the connector, the greater the number of functions it can handle.
- Four-Pin and Five-Pin: Every connector has one pin thats a ground, so a four-pin connector controls only three things, a five-pin connector only four things and so on. Its all about lights with a four-pin connector, which controls the turn signals, brake lights and taillights. Move up to a five-pin trailer wiring connector and you add reverse lights or electric brakes, depending on the plug.
- Six-Pin: Once you get to a six-pin trailer wiring connector, you add a volt connection, which is more about convenience than safety. Rather than controlling the lights, this sixth pin is whats called a hot lead, and it will let you charge the battery in your trailer. Its unnecessary if youre towing something like a boat, but it comes in handy if youre hauling a small camper trailer.
- Seven-Pin: A seven-pin trailer wiring connector adds even more capacities. It includes the capabilities of the various smaller pin sizes, so you have all the lighting functions, electric brakes and the volt outlet. Again, this isnt something you need on a smaller trailer, but when youre towing a camper or an RV, it becomes much more important.
The variety of available trailer wiring connectors ensures that you have the right features no matter what kind of load you haul. Tow safely and legally with one of these types.
Check out all the towing productsavailable on NAPA online or trust one of our 17, NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information about trailer wiring connectors, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Nicole Wakelin View All
Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.
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