How big to go on a tow rig

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by Jimmy the Heater, Apr 14, 2014.

  1. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Tilting the Horizon

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    Oh yes, this part is well known. I'm not trying to get 20 mpg while towing. That is an impossibility. 20 mpg when I'm NOT towing is the goal so the rig can double as a family truckster.

    That is good news about towing at 60-65 and not feeling like it was being pushed with the 5.4 (an engine that doesn't have the best reputation). That really is my main goal. I tend to take it pretty easy on my vehicles and don't want to abuse them.
    #41
  2. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Tilting the Horizon

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    Gotcha...that makes sense.
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  3. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Tilting the Horizon

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    Yup the only Dodge with a Cummins that I have found that was under 6k here had well north of 500k on it. The engine would still be viable but the body was falling apart around it. Most extra cab cummins 3/4 tons go for around 12k here, maybe 10k if they were 2wd.

    As mentioned by another poster a page or so ago, you can get a 2wd Cummins in Phoenix area for significantly cheaper but I believe by the time I fly down there, get set up in a hotel, rent a car, search CL and then drive back to the PNW I'm gonna be over budget again.

    Don't get me wrong...I've driven both the 12 valve and 24 valve Cummins and they are brilliant engines and would easily do the job. The gap between 3rd and 4th wouldn't even be noticeable with as little weight as I would be towing. But I simply can't afford one in good enough condition. Gotta save the $$ for more motorcycle purchases!
    #43
  4. PaddedHat

    PaddedHat Been here awhile

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    We tow travel trailers to the point of it being more than a hobby. I doubt a year has passed, in the last fifteen, when we logged less than 10K miles hitched up, some have been mid-20s.

    Having owned a 1999 and a 2006 Tahoe, I think you will find them to be an excellent choice. As with any decision, it comes with a few foot notes. First, 20MPGs ain't happening to you. Drop $40K on a modern rig with 2-4 more gears in the trans, multi-cylinder displacement, and all the other tricks, yea, you will see 20 on occasion, on a 10-15 year old Chevy, you will see 17 occasionally, if you drive like there in an egg on the pedal.

    As for the rig, it needs a bit of help to be a really solid performer. First it's critical to teach yourself how to read and understand build codes, since you are going to want a Tahoe with the tow package and 3.73 rears. Some of the truck enthusiast websites will have built sheets that spell out every single build abbreviation, just take a copy with you when shopping.
    Don't fall in love with a Tahoe that's everything you dream of, with 3.08 rears, been there and it sucks, don't kid yourself that it will do.

    The other issue is that the whole soccer mom ride quality needs to be addressed. First, lose the P rated car tires and find a good set of LT rated truck tires. My first Tahoe handled a trailer like a stoned water buffalo until I lost the car tires. this involves a bunch of complicated issues with regard to slip angle, and input response, and I had some great assistance from a GM engineer who was kind enough to assist me understanding them. Briefly, a car tire grips well and has a soft carcass, so it has two separate events happening at the same time, The tread is firmly planted, while the vehicle wallows above it. A heavy duty LT tire is stiff enough to quickly respond to input without wallow and resist sway. I have had great service with Firestone TransForce HTs and typically wear them nice and even 'till they are spent at 50-55K. Michelin LTXs are even better if you plan on long term ownership and can handle the bill.
    The other issue is tail sagging. The rear is sprung soft and needs a bit of help. I had great luck with Air-Lift brand air bags. Prior to hitching up, I would inflate the rear tires to 80lbs, and the fronts to 55-60, then blow the bags up to max working pressure. When you're done towing, drop the bags to 5lbs and all the tires to 45 and the truck will feel pretty much stock, but handle a bit more crisply.

    Other than that, change EVERY filter and fluid in the thing, don't let the trans overheat, and you will be more than happy, towing or using the thing as the luxury barge that it is. I can honestly say I can honestly say that I loved every minute we owned ours.
    #44
  5. Tinfish

    Tinfish Long timer

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    I used to have a 4x4 F250 with the 5.4. I just checked on Fuelly and the best MPG I ever got was 15.9 miles per gallon on an unloaded highway trip in the summer. Around town that dropped like a rock, and then towing was worse yet.

    I doubt you'll get 20 MPG with anything that can tow your load other than a diesel or the Ecoboost.
    #45
  6. WVhillbilly

    WVhillbilly Long timer

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    You mentioned a Grand Cherokee. Do you own one?
    If so, use it.

    Bigger trans cooler, maybe some Air-Lift bags and see how it does for a while.
    Another option to consider is an Expedition. A buddy just bought one to tow his bread trailer (distributor) and loves it.

    20mpg with anything that will tow that trailer easily isn't happening on your budget, and would be hard to find with a much larger budget.

    My Tundra gets about 16.5 mpg empty, but it's rarely empty.
    A trailer like yours, loaded and it's going to be around 10-11 mpg probably.

    Any diesel you find at or under $6K I wouldn't want. Folks here treat them as if they are made of gold, prices are stupid.
    I know a guy with one of the GM military trucks, and a Blazer (CUCV?) he swears by them, but he is an old fart and I doubt he's been more than 100 miles from home for 20 years.
    #46
  7. RockyRaccoon

    RockyRaccoon Found:Gideon's Bible

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    A few years ago my daugher snagged a very nice '96 F250 short bed extra cab Powerstroke with about 115k miles on it for $7k. It's 2wd but has a nice limited slip differential. It's a towing monster that gets pretty good mileage when not towing. She uses it to tow a fairly heavy 16-foot gooseneck horse trailer. Too bad you can't find a truck like that.
    #47
  8. vtwin

    vtwin Air cooled runnin' mon

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    Get this and you'll need a bigger trailer.

    1985 ford centurion cruiser E350 Diesel very rare - $5200 (brentwood / oakley)

    <figure class="iw"> [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    </figure> 1985 Ford E350 odometer: 75000 title : clean

    Very rare 1985 ford centurion cruiser E350 International Diesel Engine 75k miles automatic transmission runs great tow package and 5th wheel Hitch Power windows power door locks air-conditioning Back seat folds into a bed currently registered clean title $5,200 call for more info (707) &#8226;&#8226;&#8226; &#8226;&#8226;&#8226;&#8226;
    #48
  9. Big Bird 928

    Big Bird 928 Long timer

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    I sold a 97 powerstroke for 5500 a few years ago with 199000 on it, it was a very good runner, got 20+ mpg unloaded but it was a standard cab 2 wd. I still miss that truck, it is hard to get 350 horsepower at the tires and that kind of fuel economy in a truck. Oh yeah and it did not even make any noise when I hauled a 30 foot gooseneck loaded to 32000 lbs... Ok maybe it groaned a little bit but I took it slow and easy for 600 miles.

    sent from my phablet.
    #49
  10. Gummee!

    Gummee! That's MR. Toothless

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    My 96 'Stroke would get 14-17 around town and low 20s on road trips. ...as long as I drove gently and kept it to about 62mph on the freeway.

    I had 4.11s in the rear and was planning on dropping that to 3.53s.

    I'd tow the ex-'s Camaro on a u-haul trailer and get 10-14mpg depending on whether I was headed east (tailwind, downhill) or west (headwind, uphill)

    I swear that truck was happiest when hooked up to something heavy. Certainly rode much nicer towing.

    M
    #50
  11. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Tilting the Horizon

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    Nope I don't have a Grand Cherokee, I don't have any tow rig right now to be honest. I have easy access to a couple of 3/4 tons mentioned in the original post but I don't want to rely on someone elses schedule.

    The only reason I mentioned the GC was as a reference point for a smaller vehicle with a V8. I could have substituted an Explorer V8 or Durango V8 in there just as easy.
    #51
  12. WVhillbilly

    WVhillbilly Long timer

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    From my experience I would stay far away from an Exploder or Durango.
    Grand Cherokee would have the same drivetrain as a 1/2 ton Dodge and will get about the same mileage from what I've seen.

    I'd look for something like this.
    http://westmd.craigslist.org/cto/4431626947.html

    [​IMG]

    $3800

    About the same as an F150, but with a nicer inside and more room.
    The 5.4L did have a habit of popping the plugs out if the coil pack or plug is bad, but it's not that hard of a fix.

    I had a couple company trucks (F250) with that engine and both went over 200K miles with very few problems.
    One popped a plug out at 170K miles, it was a $250 fix at the dealer. :dunno

    Used to get 14-18 mpg with them, better than my current 6.0L Chevy.
    #52
  13. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Tilting the Horizon

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    There are a ton of these in the PNW and they are going for thousands less than the comparable Tahoe. While I'm not a fan of the 5.4, if the plug popping problem is that cheap a fix, that would certainly be an option. I was under the impression that it was much more expensive/serious a problem.
    #53
  14. WVhillbilly

    WVhillbilly Long timer

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    Mine lost one in 218K miles.
    It's nothing I'd lose sleep over and the fix is a Heli-coil.

    A co worker's popped 3 plugs in 260K miles.
    The 5.4L is a little underpowered compared to a 2014 engine, but things have moved along quite a bit in the last few years in the HP department.
    #54
  15. Gummee!

    Gummee! That's MR. Toothless

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    Little brother's Expedition is still going strong at 320k

    M
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  16. WVhillbilly

    WVhillbilly Long timer

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    BTW 01-03 were the worst about the spark plugs coming out, with the 03 being the worst offender of those I think.
    I've never seen an 04 or newer do it.
    #56