Virginia State Trailer Inspections

What You Need to Know About Virginia State Trailer Inspections

The great Commonwealth of Virginia, thankfully, requires that any trailer with a brake, undergo a state certified inspection once every 12 months. This requirement does tend to keep those dangerous rigs, currently being held together by baling twine, off the highway. The state police do a relatively good job, considering ever limited resources, in policing this law. We can rest a little easier because our fellow horsemen are by in large obeying this requirement.

This is the good news. The bad news is that state inspection requirements are relatively basic and do not encompass all of those things that should be inspected, at least once every year, regardless of how often your trailer is being used.

The basic requirements, for a $16 state inspection are limited to:

-One wheel per brake axle (most horse trailers have brakes on both axles, so two of the four wheels will be pulled) must be pulled open. The inspector will look at only those 2 wheels and will inspect them to determine the condition of the brakes, magnets, bearings & grease and the springs

-All 4 tires (not the spare) and stems will be inspected for condition and dry rot

-All exterior lights and the license plate light will be inspected to insure that they are working

-The trailer frame, suspension, and wiring will be inspected for safety

-The coupler will be inspected to insure that it is safe and working correctly

-The breakaway system, battery and switch are tested.

Here are the things that a state inspection will NOT cover:

-The other two wheels on your trailer will not be inspected. Therefore, even if the two that are opened are found to be passable, this will not insure that the other two have sufficient and clean grease in the bearings or that the brake components are adequate and working correctly and even that these other two brakes are adjusted correctly. The wheels operate independently and one or two being passable says nothing about the condition of the other two.

This is a major flaw in the state requirements

-The spare tire is not inspected. The condition of the spare is as critical as the condition of the tires on the road, should you have a blow out and need it. That is NOT the time to find that your spare has inadequate air or is flat or has dangerous dry rot

-The interior lights are not inspected

-The floor, the wall supports, the roof supports are not inspected. This is the structural integrity of your trailer. If you have floor deterioration issues or stress fractures affecting the walls and/or roof of your trailer, it would not be detected. The door hinges, windows and screens are not inspected. Most importantly, the condition of the rear ramp is never inspected

-The trailer jack is not inspected

-The roof sealant is not inspected. All aluminum roofs are sealed with a marine grade caulk that will dry up and shrink with sun exposure, weather and age. If the caulk is not replaced every 4-5 years, you risk leakage into the trailer, often in undetected areas that will exacerbate the problem over time

-The roof vents are not inspected for damage or leakage

In short, a full inspection, of all the above issues should be conducted annually, by a competent trailer service shop.

TRAILER TIP: The biggest road hazard problem we see is underinflated tires. This leads to blow-outs and significantly reduced tire life. Inflate the tires to the PSI listed on the sidewall when the tires are cold (before use). Check tire pressure every time you pull the trailer.

Donna Martin
Blue Ridge Trailers


Virginia State Trailer Inspections — 22 Comments

  1. I have a boat trailer with duel Axel but without brakes that is rated over 3000 pound will it need to be inspected

    • In Virginia, a trailer with a GVWR of 3000# or more requires brakes and state inspections. Are you sure that the tandem axle trailer you have does not have a surge brake coupler- rather than brake drums on the axles?? Surge brakes are typical of most boat trailers.

    • Hi Chris,

      In Virginia fenders are not required–they form a cosmetic function, particularly on a very wet and muddy road, but are not required by VDOT.

  2. I like that you said that the floors aren’t inspected often. If I was going to get a trailer I would want to know that I wouldn’t have to worry about the condition of it. Maybe I should hire a professional to help me learn about what I can do to know if it is in good condition.

  3. I live in Florida but born in Henrico VA thinking of moving back to VA I Hanover, I have a tandom trailer 16 long feel by 6.5 wide it doesn’t have trailer brakes does it have to be inspected each year? Mostly I carry a 0turn mower on it. thanks

  4. In Virginia, any trailer with GVWR of 3000# or greater must have at least one brake axle and be inspected every year. If the GVWR is 10000# or greater, the trailer must have brakes on both axles to be legal in Virginia. Any trailer with brakes must have an annual inspection

  5. I just bought a 27 foot boat with tandem axel trailer from Massachusetts. Their laws are a bit different then ours in Va, someone removed the braking system completely. I’m trying to figure out if I need to put brakes on both or one axel to pass the Virginia inspection. I found a kit online with a single axel 12 inch disk brake, 8500 lb surge tongue and lines. Is brakes on one axel sufficient to pass inspection?

  6. I have a small open top single axle utility trailer rated at 2000# does this need inspection? There are no brakes on this trailer.

  7. Is a Virginia State Inspection required for a pull-behind trailer with a Motorcycle? Enclosed, single axle, luggage size and type, minimal weight….

  8. I am a resident of and live in Virginia, but store my RV in Florida. My RV is registered in VA, but I want to keep it down in Florida in storage. Can I get it inspected in Florida? I do not plan to bring it to VA just to get inspected

  9. I am looking to purchase a used equipment trailer with two axles and a GVWR of around 10,000#. I have looked at the DMV for requirements but uncertain if it includes everything. Do you have an all inclusive list of requirements in one place or document that one could use when checking out trailers? I want to be legal and safe. Most trailers dont have a title. Can I title it in Maine and be legal? Are surge brakes different than breakaway brakes? Does a certified inspection garage also inspect trailers? If a person has a trailer with FARM USE tags does it still legally require a brake on 1 axle if over 3,000#’s and 2 brakes if over 10,000#’s?

  10. I just bought 15′ camper traver trailer weigh is at 2500lbs ,this singer axes they do have break on camper, so this one had to state va inpection?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *