Each year, you take your truck or car in for inspection to ensure it’s up to par with safety regulations. Whether you rely on your vehicle for daily commutes or to haul massive loads, it’s never an option to skimp on making sure your brakes, tires and other components are in top condition — and these rules apply equally to trailers and campers. When it comes to inspections, you not only have to think about different parts of your car, but you also have to examine the various workings of your extended equipment.

You could be hauling anything from heavy machinery and construction materials to ATVs and antique cars. Or, if you’re an avid traveler who loves an adventure, you could be taking your RV on cross-country trips. No matter how you use your trailer or camper, you always want to make sure this essential add-on to your vehicle doesn’t fail. It could leave your possessions damaged or have you stranded on the road.

When you need a team of professionals that perform trailer inspections, Trailer Superstore is an official Pennsylvania state trailer inspection station you can trust. We execute checks on different makes and models of trailers to keep you safe during your travels.

Trailer Inspection Requirements

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, the following requirements apply to trailers from 1967 and up.

1. Body

Fenders that have sharp edges are prohibited, along with hazardous projections from any surface of the trailer or camper that don’t latch correctly. Experts check for attached doors to the frame, and the floor of an RV must withstand its intended load. On boat trailers, the guides, pivots and rollers must be secured. When it comes to ramps on flatbeds, they must also be fortified if they don’t flip all the way back.

2. Brake Equipment

Any trailer that has a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 3,000 pounds should have a braking system on all four wheels. When set, the system should hold the trailer in a stationary position and control the movement. Electric or air brakes are required on pieces that are more than 8,000 pounds. Either system must be operable at the driver’s seat of the towing vehicle via a person’s hand or foot. If you have a non-commercial trailer, it can have surge brakes that have a gross weight of under 8,000 pounds.

You can also have surge brakes if you have a commercial trailer, but only if the equipment is not subject to intrastate and interstate limits. If you own an RV with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more, the commercial trailer also requires an emergency breakaway device. Inspectors often take your trailer or camper for a road test to see if it can halt within its maximum stopping distance. The test will help validate that the equipment or RV doesn’t swerve out of control.

3. Number Plate

The number plate on your extended equipment should be in a horizontal position, tightly fastened. It should be illuminated with a white light and fully visible when carrying a load.

4. Fenders

Your trailer or RV will need fenders if the rear area of your equipment doesn’t provide adequate protection from the spraying of water and dirt. The fenders you have in place must cover the tread width of your tires. But how do you determine if it provides enough protection? The height of the rearmost portion should be about one-third or less than the distance from the center of the rearmost axle. However, this doesn’t apply to farm trailers.

5. Frame

The frame of your apparatus should support its intended load without flexing. Whether you’re loading on hiking gear, heavy equipment, other vehicles, junk or anything else you can think of, you need to make sure the frame can withstand its specific weight. Fish plates are required as reinforcements at stress points, which should be parallel to the ground.

6. Hitch

The hitch is the part that’s securely mounted to your towing vehicle. It should be adequate for the specific weight you are drawing. Commercial hitches have markings on the balls to see if they are compliant with weight. If no markings are present, refer to the Society of Automotive Engineers ratings to establish the maximum weight as follows.

  • 1 and 7/8-inch ball: 2,000 pounds
  • 2-inch ball with a 3/4-inch bolt: 3,500 pounds
  • 2-inch ball with a 1-inch bolt: 5,000 pounds
  • 2-inch ball with a 1-3/8-inch bolt: 10,000 pounds
  • 2 and 5/16-inch ball with a 1-inch bolt: 5,000 pounds
  • 2 and 5/16-inch ball with a 1-1/4-inch bolt: 7,500 pounds

7. Identification Lamps

Trailers that are more than 80 inches in width need three red identification lamps in the center. The center of each light should be no fewer than six inches and no more than 12 inches apart.

8. Reflectors

You should mount the reflectors on your trailer at heights between 15 and 60 inches.

When you take your equipment in for inspection, there are also regulations about trailers that are less than 80 inches wide, according to the DMV. For example, homemade trailers should have two red reflectors at the rear and be mounted as far apart as possible.

Trailers built after 1968 should have two red reflectors at the rear and two red side reflectors, plus two amber reflectors on the sides if it’s more than 61 inches long. Trailers that are more than 10,000 pounds require white and red reflective tape on each side and the rear. Then, for pieces that are 30 feet or more, they need one amber reflector in the center of each side.

9. Side Markers and Clearance Lamps

Trailers that are less than 80 inches and that were manufactured after 1968 need two red side lamps near the rear. If your equipment is more than 61 inches long, you need two amber marker lamps near the front. Pieces that are 80 inches or more must display the same side marker and clearance lamps as the manufactured trailers made after 1968. If it’s more than 30 feet long, it requires one centered amber side lamp on the left and right.

10. Stop Lamps

There should be at least two red stop lamps mounted at a height between 15 and 72 inches on your trailer or RV.

11. Turn Signals

Your turn signals should be operating with red or amber lights at the rear with a height between 15 and 83 inches. If your equipment is less than 30 inches wide, it’s exempt from the stop lamp and turn signal regulations listed above. You will only need one of the following devices located near the center of your camper or trailer — a reflector, stop lamp or tail lamp lit with a white marker light.

12. Safety Chain

If you are using a tag-along, drawbar or coupler hitch to attach your camper to your tow vehicle, it also needs to be coupled to the frame of the car or truck via safety chains or cables. The cables control your trailer while in motion or in the event of failure. Two chains or cables are necessary unless there is a trailer tongue.

13. Suspension

Trailers with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 1,000 pounds have a suspension system, as opposed to an axle.

14. Tires

The extended piece on your vehicle should have a 2/32-inch center tread with no bulges, cuts, exposed cords or dry rot.

15. Wiring

The wiring within your RV or trailer should be insulated, supported and secured, and the maximum distance between each wiring session is 18 inches.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth list of trailer equipment inspection and regulations specifically for Pennsylvania, refer to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s online guide.

How You Can Prepare for Inspection

For you to maintain your camper or trailer before any trip, there are a few things you can do that don’t require a full-scale inspection. Starting from the ground up, you can check components such as tires, brakes and suspension.

  1. Check your tires for condition and pressure. Examine each tire for tears and the appropriate amount of air pressure. Off-road equipment will have different working pressures compared to touring versions, and the pressure will also depend on how much weight the trailer can carry.
  2. Analyze the bearings, trailer axle and wheel hubs. Begin this step by jacking up each wheel. If you feel movement from side to side, tighten your bearings. If you spin the wheel and it rumbles, replace the bearings. And, as the last task, check that the axle is straight and centered to the spring.
  3. Inspect the brake system. Make proper adjustments and look for wear and tear on the pads or shoes. You should also check the hydraulic fluid, if relevant.
  4. Look at the suspension. The components may vary from trailer and RV, but several items to keep an eye out for are cracked leaves, leaf separation, loose bolts, leaking shock absorbers, split bushes and wear marks on bolts.
  5. Review the chassis for cracks. Cracks can appear in the steel, welds or other areas prone to rust. Also, tighten any loose bolts in the frame.
  6. Consider the lights and wiring of your equipment. Clean out any dust from the lenses for a higher intensity of light for increased visibility. Make sure the globes and all wires have strong and clean connections.
  7. Look over the tow hitch. Make sure to lubricate the tow hitch and inspect the pin. Check for excessive wear. If your equipment has a ball mount, ensure each part is greased, and adjust the mechanical override brakes if necessary.

After you finish your inspection, you can travel with a back full of tools or a lot of gear for your hobby. When you reach the point of needing a thorough review to keep you in line with state regulations, call on the pros at Trailer Superstore.

What You Need to Perform

While there are general guidelines for trailer examinations,

  • Check tire pressure
  • Inspect tires and wheels
  • Look at safety chains
  • Adjust brakes
  • Grease all fittings
  • Torque wheel lug nuts
  • Check breakaway system
  • Inspect coupler
  • Examine light system
  • Look over brake magnets
  • Check suspension parts
  • Inspect brake lines
  • Examine brake cylinders
  • Review brake linings and wiring
  • Check hub/drum