02/24/2023 9:59AM

5 Things to Check Before Buying a Used Dry Van

You found a used dry van trailer to purchase. But before you do, make sure you complete a thorough inspection. Semi-trailers are a considerable investment, be sure the one you’re buying will give you longevity. 


“When evaluating a used dry van trailer to purchase, you need to look at the many stress points on the trailer. Stress points will typically deteriorate over time and should be you’re your focus,” said Sean Rozick of Utility Keystone Trailer Sales.

A new trailer has never put any miles on it, so of course, it will be structurally sound plus, the manufacturer will back it up with the new trailer warranty. But when purchasing a used dry van, you should be more prudent and look at the trailer’s value based on its condition. 

Below is a list of some of the most common stress points to check on a used dry van to examine.

1. Inspect the Roof

  • Check for Leaks
    The roof of a dry van trailer is one major stress point you want to consider. The operable word in Dry Van is Dry. You can have a DOT-inspected, ready-to-work trailer that, by the Department of Transportation standards, is perfectly fine to be on the road. But, to the carrier, that DOT sticker does not matter if there is water, moisture, or condensation in the trailer. To them, that dry van trailer is a useless piece of equipment.

2. Look for Corrosion

Surface rust can often be handled with proper care and maintenance, but structural rust could mean a shorter service life for the trailer or major maintenance further down the road.

  • Is the corrosion protection wearing off? 
    The rust will become more visible if the black tar-looking protection on the undercarriage wears off. 
  • Check for signs of Electrolysis
    Electrolysis is when two dissimilar metals together begin to corrode. For example, this typically happens on steel and aluminum trailers. When aluminum touches steel, the two metals will start to corrode.
  • Check if the Mylar Tape is properly installed
    Mylar tape is placed between dissimilar metals, like steel cross members and aluminum rails, to help prevent corrosion.

3. Is There Evidence of Stress Overload?

  • Side Rails
    Examine the lower side rails where the cross members meet the buck rivets. If you see the cross members beginning to push through the rail, you know a structural issue will need to be addressed.
  • Floor
    The wood flooring may start to delaminate, crack, separate, or break apart on older dry vans. Road and moisture damage are likely the reason for this flooring damage. If you see soft sections of planks, or light coming through anywhere on the floor, you want to repair the sections or replace the floor.

4. Look for Dock Shock

  • Dock shock is a term used to describe damage from backing into docks too quickly and slamming into the docks, which can test the integrity of the rear of the trailer. You want to look for a break, stress, cracks, or bends that should be addressed and fixed.

5. Inspect the Under Carriage

  • Check the Bogie
    A bogie is interchangeable. If it’s bad, you want to change it out. Also, check the hangers for the bogie for any rust or cracks. 
  • The Fifth Wheel and King Pins
    It is typical for trucks and trailers to connect and disconnect multiple times a day, creating wear and tear on the fifth wheel. Look for dipping where the fifth wheel assembly and kingpin hook into the fifth wheel plate. Any fifth wheel or plate damage must be addressed and fixed before purchase.
  • Examine the Cross Members
    The semi-trailer cross members are subject to aging, wear, and weather. They can be damaged when too heavy a load is concentrated in a small area or due to an accident or corrosion. 

    Crossmember damage must be addressed immediately to avoid a catastrophic failure of the trailer. It might be possible to straighten them if they are bent, but they should be replaced if they are bowed.

Remember that even when damage has been addressed and fixed, it was broken at one point, and you need to understand that going into this purchase. 

You might be looking at a great trailer with a repaired bottom rail. It will be fine if it is repaired in a quality repair shop. Just know you have an area on the trailer you will always want to monitor and keep an eye on simply because it’s not like it was when it was new. 

Choosing the best used dry van semi-trailer requires a reputable dealer who may be able to provide more accurate information on the trailer’s history, offering a higher level of credibility.

If you have any questions about your used dry van purchase, please reach out to a member of our team to learn more about what to look for before purchasing your next used dry van trailer. 

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