Buying a used reefer trailer is serious business. Taking a damaged or worn-out trailer on the road can pose a significant safety risk to you and everyone near you and set you up for significant financial losses later, whether in the form of unwanted fines or unplanned repairs.
So you can’t be too careful when looking for a used reefer trailer to buy. To get started, here’s a list of 12 things to keep in mind, so you’ll know how to choose a used reefer trailer—the right way.
1. Take Your Time
When asking, “how to choose a used reefer trailer,” advice like “take your time” may be obvious, but it could save your life. Buying a used reefer trailer isn’t something you can take lightly. You should inspect the trailer just like you would inspect a used car you’re considering—only with three times as much effort.
You may want to come back on another day to look around the trailer a second time—or even a third time. Every visit to look at the same trailer is like seeing a movie a second time: you always catch something you didn’t see before. If you discover something that would require expensive repairs on your third visit, you’ll be glad you took your time.
2. Check for Leaks in the Trailer
During daylight hours, enter the trailer and close the doors. Once your eyes adjust, examine the corners, seals, and floor for any light seeping in.
3. Check Floor Quality
Floors are an important factor when you’re figuring out how to choose a used reefer trailer. Stomp on the floor to make sure it isn’t loose anywhere, especially near the back, where forklifts land. Get underneath the trailer and inspect every floor beam for damage or significant wear. If you can, have the floor acid washed, then inspect it closely for corrosion and small holes.
4. Check the King Pin
Wipe the grease off of the king pin and make sure it’s smooth and in good condition.
5. Check Lights and Brakes
Check to ensure the lights are working. Test drive the trailer for an hour if you can. Check the breaks and electrical connections. If possible, have a friend drive behind you to see if the trailer lights blink off and on while driving on a bumpy road—if they do, that could be a sign of a weak connection.
6. See How it Rides
When you test drive the trailer, also have your friend watch for how it looks as it trails behind. Does it follow straight, or does it tend to run off to one side of the road?
7. Examine the Tires
When you’re looking at used reefer trailers, the tires are one of the most important parts. Check the tires for any signs of wear.
8. Check the Hubs
Check the hubs for oil or grease. If they use oil, use a flashlight to check for oil leaks after you’ve taken the trailer on a test drive.
9. Look at the Doors
Check the conditions of the trailer doors. Do they feel flimsy, or are they loose on the hinges?
10. Inspect the Roof
Get on the roof and see if anyone has damaged it by running under a low bridge.
11. Inspect the Reefer
Check the reefer’s fuel tank for leaks. See if it’s attached properly to the trailer and if there’s any significant corrosion on the trailer or brackets. Keep in mind that California law now requires reefers to be 2002 or newer to keep up with new emissions regulations. Older reefers can be retrofitted to meet the new standards, but the process can be costly.
12. Check for Wet and Heavy Foam
You might want to run the trailer over a scale to see if it weighs what it should. If there are any leaks in the skins, the foam in the walls or floor can soak up water over time. This can cause a reefer trailer to gain hundreds—even thousands—of pounds. The most weight a reefer trailer can carry is 44,000 pounds, and you don’t want to take up a significant portion of that weight by hauling water around.
And there you have it—12 things to look for in a used reefer trailer. From now on, you’ll know how to choose a used reefer trailer.