An inspection checklist for your 5th-wheel trailer is a highly important tool as you check out trailers to buy. Just like when you buy a used car, it is highly important to "kick the tires" as you shop, making sure everything is in working order.
This is perhaps even more important when it comes to 5th wheel trailers, which can easily cost many times more than your average new car. Plus, it is something that you will be living in and driving on the road.
So, a good checklist is not just protection for your investment, but for you and your family as well.To assist you in your RV search, we have researched some of the best sources out there to create this 5th wheel inspection checklist.
5th Wheel Inspection Checklist
Here's a quick overview of the list (we'll go over everything in detail further down this post)
- Exterior Dimensions
- Coupling Equipment
- Wheels and Tires
- Water system
- HVAC System
- Safety Equipment
Okay, so now that you know what areas to check out, what exactly are we looking for on each item? Luckily, we have covered that as well. Below, we will spell out exactly what you need to check for on each and every item on the list.
How long would it take to run through this Checklist?
Okay, so like I said, this is a thorough list. To do it justice, plan on spending at least a couple of hours with the trailer. You can't really get a good idea of something like this if you don't spend some quality time in it, outside of it, on top of it, and, yes, even under it.
The Dimensions of Your New 5th Wheel
Before you start anything else, make sure that the 5th wheel are interested in meets your weight requirements. Check that the overall weight of the trailer plus everything you plan to put in it - water, cargo, recreational equipment, etc - doesn't exceed your tow vehicle's capabilities. To really be sure that you are safe, have the trailer weighed so you aren't just trusting the sticker. Check out our towing capacity article if you need help with this complicated topic.
Take note of the trailer's length, width, ground clearance, and height. Do these dimensions work for your storage areas? If you plan on driving in any tight spaces, you will want to find a trailer with a relatively low height.
Next, find the trailer's water tank capacities. Check that they offer enough capacity for what you plan on doing with the trailer. If you are planning on boondocking, for example, will the tanks get you through your trips without running out? Also check out the propane capacity and fuel tank, if offered.
Even among trailers with the same model name, there are usually several floorplan options. Make sure that the 5th-wheel trailer you are looking at has a layout that works for you. Is there enough sleeping space for your entire family and any friends you want to bring along? Does have a bathtub or whatever feature you have on your priority list?
Check for leaks or signs of leaks. Look at the surface condition - is it deteriorating or damaged anywhere? Find any dents, color irregularities, or overspray, which is an indicator of any previous repairs done to the trailer.
Make sure all the slides work properly. Because they are a big energy draw, slide them in and out multiple times to make sure you have no blown fuses. And don't just use the switches - make sure the manual operation works as well. Finally, check the seals and make sure there are no signs of leaks.
Check out both the hard doors and screens. Do they open and close properly? Check that all of the keys work to lock and unlock every outside door. Also, make sure that the screen door attaches to the outside door. A malfunctioning door could cause huge headaches down the road.
Make sure to inspect the awning. Are both the mechanism and the canvas in good shape, or will repairs be necessary? And, of course, extend and retract the awning to make sure it works correctly. Repairs can be surprisingly expensive on these items, so it's best to know what you are getting into.
The roof of your trailer is very important to inspect. Are there any cracks or signs of leaking? Pay special attention to corners or anywhere that two panels have been joined together. While you're up there, look at the various vents, antennas, solar panels, and air conditioners.
Crawl under the trailer, if possible. Look for any leaks coming from the trailer or its axle(s). Are the welds all looking good or are they coming apart? Do the stabilizing and/or leveling jacks all work properly?
Check that the kingpin and various other coupling components are all in good shape and function properly. That includes the 7-pin connector, safety chains, and brake wire. This is a highly important area that connects the trailer to your truck, so make sure it all works as it should.
Wheels and Tires
This is a big one - don't neglect to inspect the only area that connects your trailer to the road! Check the tire condition - make sure the tread is in good shape and that there are no cracks there or on the sidewalls. Ensure the tire pressure is set correctly. Also, check that there are no signs of damage to the wheels. And while you're down there, check that the lug nuts have been properly tightened.
Not only do you need to make sure the propane bottles are in good condition but check that they are attached to the trailer in a stable manner. Does the gauge accurately reflect the amount of propane in the bottles? Check that the shutoff valve works, if equipped, and that you are able to switch between the propane tanks.
Inspect all of the various utilities on the trailer. Are the batteries in good shape, or will that be a costly maintenance item in the near future? Are the cables and hoses all functioning and in good shape? Make sure all of the faucets and shower heads (including outside showers, if equipped) work.
This is also a good time to check out the generator if there is one. Note how many hours are on it, that the fluids are all full, then start it up. Make sure it starts and runs smoothly and without any smoke or signs of distress.
Check all of the obvious things - make sure the toilets flush and that there is no mold or damage on any of the various surfaces. Does the water drain immediately or is there possibly a blockage in the water lines? If you really want to be thorough, remove some of the wall panels in the shower or under the sink to check for any signs of leaks.
Turn on the water pump, does it pump water to the faucets? Does it shut off after the water is done running? Then, check that the water heater and water tank level indicators all work. If possible, hook up to a city water connection to make sure the water comes out of the faucets in the trailer. Make sure there are no leaks under the sinks while you are at it.
Inspect the countertops, sinks, cabinets, and floors. Make sure there are no obvious signs of damage or leaks. Try out all of the appliances to ensure they all work properly. Do the drawers and cabinets open and close smoothly? While you're at it, check for any signs of water damage inside of them.
Turn on all of the lights to make sure they all work. It is easy to forget this one, especially if you are conducting this inspection during the day.
Closely inspect all of the furniture in the trailer. If there is a fold-out bed, fold it out to ensure that it works. Look at the various materials on the furniture, see if there are any mismatches or damaged/stained areas.
Always be sure to fire up the heater and turn on the AC. Make sure they can get the trailer to the temperature you will want it to be when using it. Check that the system responds to the inputs you give it on the control panel. After all, a faulty HVAC system can be a hefty expense if you don't check it out properly.
Something that is easy to overlook is the electrical system. But it would be terrible to purchase a trailer with faulty TVs, wires, or speakers. So, go ahead and turn everything on. Make sure all of the speakers work, including any on the outside of the trailer. If there are any controls for moving the antenna or dish, operate those as well.
Moving on, check that the 12-volt outlets work. That means the trailer will probably have to be plugged in at the time you inspect it. But it is also worth your time to unplug it and then check that the things you expect to work still work - lights, control panel, etc.
One of the most important elements to inspect is the safety equipment. That includes such things as the fire extinguishers, smoke/propane alarms, and CO detectors.
Blinds and Windows
Open and close all of the windows. Same goes for the blinds. Check that the blinds are fitted correctly and that the valences are secure and straight.
How Much Does an RV Inspection Cost?
Alright, that's a lot of things to look at.
Naturally, you are probably wondering about simply paying someone to do it for you. That's a good question - after all, this would be a professional who knows exactly what to look at. Unfortunately, however, these professionals expect to be paid like, well, a professional.
According to alrvinspection, you can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $1200 for one of these inspections. For some of us, that could be a daunting figure. But, most likely, you are looking at spending many times that amount for your 5th wheel, so making this investment now could ensure that your trailer will work for you long into the future.
And, it could save you tons of money down the road. If the inspector finds anything problematic, the seller could very well go down on their price to compensate.
Good Luck with Your 5th Wheel Purchase!
Now that you have our checklist, you are ready to start checking out some trailers. 5th wheels are amazing machines that offer the ultimate RV experience. Like any machine, however, many have been used hard and abused. Not all owners care for their trailers and give them the maintenance that they need to stay in pristine condition.
Follow our inspection checklist for every trailer you are considering. Ensuring that your 5th wheel is in good condition can be the difference between the best RV experience of your life and a nightmare. Be thorough, don't skip anything, and find the best 5th wheel you can!