Inspection (PDI) Checklist
for Trailer & 5th Wheel Purchases
The goal of this PDI narrative is to give the new trailer
owner “food for thought” for when they take delivery of their new RV. Many people don’t think about these
things in detail until months later, when a problem arises during their first camping trip and spoils the outing for everyone.
By then, the dealer’s service center is booked for the season and the owner has little or no alternative than to schedule
a repair and wait.
I advocate a full “New
Owner PDI” while the trailer is still on the dealer’s lot and still belongs to the dealer.
Only when everything in the trailer is cosmetically and functionally correct should the new owner sign the paperwork and take
delivery. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into accepting the trailer before you are satisfied! This way, new trailer
problems can be quickly and easily corrected and the parties involved can do so on a clear commercial basis.
This list is a compilation of several available on the net along with
ideas and suggestions from my own experience, thinking & reading. No guarantees are made on the efficiency or correctness
of these procedures or that your dealer will agree to any or all of them (although he should!)-Your mileage may vary.
If you don’t understand some of the procedures, bring a knowledgeable
friend or have the dealer PDI person demonstrate & explain in detail to help your understanding. A still camera or video
camera is useful to have during the PDI for your future reference.
Please email me with comments or suggestions.
STARTING POINT — A flashlight with a strong
beam is a useful tool to have. A screwdriver with a straight, Philips and square bits will come in handy as well. You should
also have available the delivery invoice for the trailer. It will show all the standard equipment and ordered options and
should be compared to what you thought you ordered and should be referred to during your inspection.
You will need the understanding & cooperation of your dealer for this process,
as it probably involves far more depth & detail than they normally anticipate and schedule for. Make sure they know about
it in advance. (You may get a better-prepared trailer if you do!) At the very least, tell the person doing the “owner
inspection” or “walk through” what you intend to do, give him or her a copy of this checklist and work with
them to plan the time accordingly. A sense of humor will also come in handy!
Finally, my assumption for this PDI is that both (if fitted) propane tanks are full, shore power is available,
city water and a hose are located close by and sewer connections, a drain or a dump station is available. A fully charged
battery must be connected as well.
OUTSIDE WALK AROUND — The outside walk around
should take around one hour. At this point, you’re generally searching for anything that does not look right.
& Fixtures— You will need to get up on the roof here, so round up a ladder or carefully inspect
the one on the back of the unit. Check that all the mounting points are solidly attached to the body and the rungs are firmly
fixed to the frame.
Climb on the roof and inspect
all seams, gaskets and any other place that the roof material has been cut or holes drilled.
Check that all shrouds & covers are intact, unbroken and properly seated on the
roof. Proper polyurethane caulking should have been used to seal all places where the roof has been penetrated.
Check closely around air conditioners, vents, antennas, sewer vents,
and side seams.
Look for any signs of bubbles (large
and small), delamination, foreign objects or protruding screw or nail heads under the membrane (if a rubber roof).
Windows — check closely around each window to make sure it has
been properly aligned and sealed.
— check the gasket used on all doors for proper adhesive and coverage.
Look closely at the door from the inside and confirm that it sits flush against the inside of the doorjamb.
Confirm that each key works in the appropriate lock.
The main door should open & close smoothly and lock with out undue
Check that the screen door opens smoothly
alone and locks to the main door without any extra effort.
Baggage Compartments — open and close each door checking for
alignment and gasketing.
Confirm that each key works
in the appropriate lock
All hinges should be tight
and secure and the latches should hold the door tightly closed and still be easy to open.
Look for any signs of moisture that might indicate rain leakage.
Verify that compartment lighting (if fitted) works properly.
Any gas cylinders used for keeping to door open should be properly installed
so as not to interfere with items stored in the compartment. If clamp-type door hold-opens are used, make sure they are present
and hold the door correctly.
Fresh Water Connections — Inspect this area on the trailer to make sure that nothing is broken or deformed.
If appropriate at this time, make sure you understand
how each valve or fitting works.
proper function of the black and gray water valves.
tank flushing is installed, understand how it operates.
where the low point drains are for the fresh water system.
Telephone & Cable TV Connections— Find and understand the
telephone and cable connections.
Make sure a weather
cap is present for each connector and that connectors are properly identified & mounting plates are properly sealed.
Propane —If the tank(s) are contained in a compartment, here
should be no possible way for propane to enter into the RV or any other compartment.
Understand how the regulator works and how it switches between cylinders.
Confirm that a leak test has been performed on both pigtails between
the tanks and regulator and the rest of the system.
and understand the operation of the main shut off valve (if any).
Battery — Check the battery box to verify that it is ventilated
and that any compartment slide mechanisms work properly.
Verify that no battery cables are rubbing on any part of the frame because that will eventually end up with a short
circuit and possible fire.
Understand the battery
type provided and how to maintain them.
& Siding— Carefully check the paint finish on the RV. Any problems can be verified and corrected
at this point with a lot less hassle.
Site down the
side of the unit to check for bumps or depressions in the siding.
Divide each side of the unit into 2, 3 or 4 sections and inspect for siding issues: color variations, dents or irregularities.
Do the same for the ends of the unit
Look at places where vinyl film is used to make sure it is free of any air bubbles.
Check ends of any decals for uniformity or “mistakes” that
may have gouged the siding.
closely where masking tape was used for paint graphics to make sure there is no over-spray.
Carefully check for surface smoothness and any place when paint coverage is marginal
or where there are bubbles.
Tires and Wheels — Closely inspect the tires and wheels and understand the proper
Verify the torque of the lug
nuts or have the PDI person do it while you watch.
out the proper jacking point for the trailer and what kind of jack to use.
Determine if your tow vehicle lug nut wrench will fit the lug nuts on the trailer or if another size
Spare Tire — Check the condition & pressure of the spare tire.
Understand how the carrier works if it is the fold-down type.
Awnings — Extend and retract each awning paying particular attention
to how the awning is locked in the retracted position.
sure all springs, locks and supports work well and are properly aligned.
Wiggle the mounting points for the support arms to get a feeling for how solidly they are mounted to
Inspection — Put on some old clothes or coveralls and get a good-sized piece of cardboard or carpet to make
it easier to lie on you back while checking around under the trailer. If it’s possible to do so without jacking up the
rig, it’s a lot easier, but do what makes sense to you.
You want to be able to Inspect all air and / or hydraulic lines, wiring, shock absorber attachments, and in general
every place that a wire or pipe could rub against something that could cause a problem later.
All wiring and piping should be properly fastened.
Slide Out Operation — If your RV includes a slide-out or slide-outs
then spend the time it takes to understand its operation.
Start by checking the seals while the slide is retracted.
You should not be able to find any places where you can see light or detect airflow.
Use a flashlight to look into dark corners.
Understand the mechanism that extends and retracts the slide.
Operate it several times and understand any restrictions on operation.
Understand the manual retraction process and actually perform the retraction
as if the automatic mechanism had failed.
proper alignment of any wheels that may ride on carpet or other flooring, to insure proper clearance.
Understand any locking mechanisms that are used to hold the top of the
slide out tight against the top of the RV.
best to make sure the seals are properly installed and operational when the slide is retracted and also when it is extended.
FIT AND FINISH — Now its time to go inside. In general you are looking for things that are not finished correctly
since it is too late to inspect the design of anything.
Cabinets — Inspect & open all of the cabinets to insure
that all the hinges and latches work well.
each drawer out to its stop, return it closed and then try to open it like road vibration might do.
Makes sure that there have been no water leaks and that all the wiring and pipes are
Inspect the linings (if any), to
insure they are fastened securely.
Run your hand
along all edges, front & back to check for and delamination or loose edges on molding or vinyl wraps.
Molding & trim — Go over all the trim on walls, doors &
Make sure that everything is fastened
on well and not loose or ready to come off.
Lighting — Operate every light switch and observe its function.
Use the monitor panel to check battery levels.
Understand and verify any battery disconnect switches.
(At this point, only 12V lighting can be tested, as the unit is NOT
connected to shore power yet)
Closets —open and close all closet doors checking for free operation and proper
Hanger rods should be properly fastened
Check out the lighting that is provided
and any switches that are used.
Furniture — Examine every piece of furniture to check for construction, upholstery,
pattern and cloth matching.
Check out the dinette
by making it a bed with the appropriate cushions.
the same with the couch or sofa.
Blinds — Operate each blind and check for alignment.
Look at all valances and trim to be sure they are secured.
Counter Tops — Inspect all counter tops for alignment and fastening.
Make sure that any trim pieces that should be there
are in fact tight.
Check for caulking quality everywhere
there may be water, especially edges near a sink.
the installation of sinks and faucets.
Windows — Open and close every window and operate the latches.
Pay particular attention to the two safety egress windows or emergency
windows and make sure they operate smoothly & easily.
Floor Coverings — Inspect carpet and other floor coverings in
all corners to insure that they have been properly fastened down.
Check areas that slide outs may roll over for pulled threads, cuts or other problems.
Check closely for gouges or cuts in linoleum tile.
Wall Coverings — Check to make sure that all the wall coverings
actually cover and join properly.
Look for any discoloration
or patch jobs that may cover hidden problems.
to find any places where it is not perfect since now is the time to get it fixed while matching patterns are in stock.
(Some folks suggest ordering extra fabric, carpet, and wallpaper now
so that matching material is available to make small modifications or repairs at a later date.)
TEST OF ALL HOUSE SYSTEMS — You should be about two hours into to the PDI by now and you are ready to test
all of the house type systems.
Shore Power System— Now is the time to connect up to shore power.
Pull out all of the AC cord, confirm the length
and inspect the plug for proper attachment.
the unit, check any 110V lighting and switches.
you have a 110V receptacle tester, check all outlets for proper wiring/polarity.)
Find the GFI-protected outlet and test using the push button.
Understand which receptacles “down stream” from the GFI are protected.
Any electrical problems here should be corrected
— Confirm the operation of the converter/charger that is installed.
Turn on several interior lights to create a load for the converter and confirm no excessive converter
noise or vibration.
Have the PDI person explain
the operation of the converter, the AC circuit breakers and the DC fuses.
Make sure that there is a written list of the loads connected to each.
Water Pump — Your PDI person should have filled the fresh water
tank, so now you can test the function of the water pump.
After turning it on, you should hear it pump for several seconds, even up to a minute to create enough pressure in
If the pump does not shut off, then
there is a problem.
Run water in the kitchen and
bathroom sink and notice that the pump will come back on until proper water pressure is restored.
Now is the time to fix a noisy pump if it is vibrating or making any irritating sounds.
City Water System — Turn off the pump, connect up to city water
(use a regulator if overly high pressure is suspected) and confirm that the connection works correctly.
Look for leaks under sinks and confirm the operation of all fixtures.
Tankage — Re-fill the fresh water tank if necessary and run
water into the gray tank to verify the gauge reading and that there are no leaks.
Filling the gray tank until water comes up in the shower will make it easier to find leaks
inside & out.
Do the same thing to the black
water tank, including filling so that water comes up inside the toilet. Check for leaks (if the toilet is installed correctly,
there will be no leaks!) You can fill the black water tank by using the tank flushing system (if fitted), by using a
garden hose adapter for the sewer connection (through a backflow preventer) or by bringing the water hose inside and filling
the tank through the toilet. This last method can be a little cumbersome, and I don’t recommend unless you’ve
done it before.
Check the gauges for accuracy while
you are filling
Now is the time you want to find
leaks if there are any.
Drain the gray and black
water tanks using the sewer hose or the garden hose adapter.
Water Heater — Try the water heater on propane first.
A few seconds after you turn it on, you should hear the click of the
igniter and the small pop when the burner lights.
red light should stay on until that process happens.
it does not ignite, then there is a problem.
the AC element in the water heater (if connected) and confirm operation.
Make sure you know the location of the electrical switch at the water heater and the correct operation
of the interior switch.
If your unit is so equipped,
understand the operation of the bypass valves for winterizing.
Confirm that hot (or warm water depending on how long the water heater has been on) comes out of the hot tap at the
Furnace — Now its time to understand the operation of the thermostat that controls
heating and sometimes the air conditioning.
the furnace on and set a temperature demand that is at least 10 degrees hotter than ambient temperature.
In about 30 seconds, you should hear the furnace fans come on.
Shortly thereafter you should hear the click of the igniter and the
sound of the burner. If not then there is a problem. It could also be taking a while for propane to get to the heater, so
Let the furnace blow and you
should get hot air at about 110 degrees coming out of all vents. Check each one.
Now turn the furnace down and the hot air will gradually turn cooler and the fans will eventually
stop after the furnace has cooled sufficiently.
this process have someone with a good nose checking for any smell of material getting too hot, or exhaust coming out.
Air Conditioners — Some air conditioners also have a heat strip
or heat pump feature so now is the time to verify these functions.
Turn on the air conditioner.
After a couple
of minutes, cool air, 20 degrees cooler than ambient, should be coming out of the registers.
If you unit has ducting in the ceiling, make sure a good airflow comes out of each
Learn how to clean the filters at this
and Carbon Monoxide Alarms& Smoke Detector— now is a good time to check the function of these alarms.
The PDI person should have a small canister of gas that can be sprayed
at the alarm to test its operation.
them perform this test while you watch and learn how the alarms work.
Confirm that there is a new battery in the Smoke Detector (write the date on it for reference)
Activate the test button to check operation of the smoke detector. Understand
how to turn it off.
Refrigerator — Most modern refrigerators work on propane or AC and have an automatic
mode that gives preference to AC and then will switch to propane if AC power is not available.
Understand the controls and the status lights and set the unit on propane. The RV may
need to be unplugged for this to happen.
to the refrigerator vent grill and make sure that the propane heating column is lit and heating.
While the refrigerator grill is open, check to make sure the drain line is positioned
for proper drainage.
Set the temperature at the highest
cooling setting, because setting it to lowest will typically cause the coils to collect moisture and ice up.
Come back in about 10 minutes to feel that the coil/fins is actually
starting to cool.
TV VCR Antenna and Switching —For the most through test, bring a small AC/DC TV
with you for the initial test.
Review and understand
the switching system that allows the selection of viewing channel on the front and rear TV.
Raise the TV UHF/VHF antenna and learn how to turn on the amplifier and the DC outlet.
Find out the power rating of the DC outlet and compare
it to the load of the equipment you will connect to it.
the control on the front TV that scans for local stations.
Learn how to rotate the antenna to maximize the quality of the picture.
Air Vents — Test the operation of kitchen and bathroom air vents
making sure they open and turn on properly (if powered). Verify that they retract and close tightly.
Check any other vents for proper operation.
Microwave — Put a cup of cold water in the microwave and set
the timer for 5 minutes.
The water in the cup should
boil in less than 5 minutes.
Make sure there are
no unusual sounds coming from the Microwave.
Propane Stove — Turn on one burner of the stovetop while the AC’s and Microwave
are running and the automatic igniters should cause a strong spark to light the burner.
Turn on the other burners to verify that there is enough propane flow to operate the
refrigerator, water heater and all the burners.
everything is OK, turn off the burners on the stove.
your unit has an oven, then understand how the pilot is lit and verify its operation now.
Note: Sometimes the burner igniters interfere with the operation of the thermostats
for the roof AC. This is the time to find this problem.
— You have now done a simple test of the major house systems and can shut everything off. By now, you will have a list
of things that you feel need correcting, but it may be then the end of the day, so plan on camping near the dealer for the
night. This will give you a chance to further test the various functions. Prepare yourself for waiting until these things
are corrected and don’t be tempted by the PDI person to sign the acceptance paperwork just yet. For a really serious
checkout of your new trailer, you should "dry camp" the first night and not be tempted to hook up to shore utilities
just yet. Bring enough kitchen equipment and food so that you can prepare an evening meal. There is no better way to test
the living facilities than to actually use them. Don’t be tempted, since you’ve had a tough day to go out to eat.
ACCEPTANCE — When you are satisfied that all
systems are "go" then sign the acceptance papers that the PDI person will anxiously provide for you. Schedule your
first return trip to the dealer for about a week to a month from now. You are now ready to take your "shake down"
SHAKE DOWN CRUISE —
Select an interesting destination about 100 miles away for your maiden voyage. Actually use all the systems multiple times
to try to detect and infant failures (electronic equipment fails at greater rates at the beginning of its life). Carefully
note any problems or discrepancies in a list and make a copy for the dealer when you take the trailer in again.