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Old 08-13-2018, 05:46 PM   #1
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Burning smell on steep downhill, not brakes

Drove up and over Teton Pass, heading east. F150, towing 23CB.

No problems uphill, with rpm’s around 3,000.

No handling problems going downhill, engine braking the whole way.

Some of this pass is 10% grade, with lots of curves, and going 20mph as suggested.

We were almost to the bottom of the pass, when we smelled burning smell. Didn’t seem like it’d be the brakes, since we were barely using them. And the engine was running at normal temperature.

So wondering what was overheating, and how to avoid this in the future.

Also, should we have been applying truck brakes more frequently, to engage trailer brakes?

This was the steepest pass we’ve been on in our 7,000 miles of towing. We’re headed to Colorado, and want to be better educated before we get there!

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
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Old 08-13-2018, 05:50 PM   #2
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What was the air temp, and do you have a separate cooling radiator for the transmission fluid? Just a layman's guess, but in hot weather with that much engine braking you might have been smelling the tranny heating up.

As you started downhill, it might have been a good idea to adjust the trailer braking gain, so that the trailer brakes were doing a bit more work on the downhill IMO. In a panic stop situation, it would be good to have the trailer doing this extra work, in order to avoid contributing to a possible sway event developing. Mountainous areas often have weird and unexpected cross-winds, and a sway situation can come on suddenly, especially as the tires don't grip as well, with the rig's combined weight "falling downhill."

At least have one hand on the brake controller at times like these IMO.

Peter
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Old 08-13-2018, 06:08 PM   #3
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How new is the F-150?
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Old 08-13-2018, 06:13 PM   #4
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F150 is 1 year old. Just had oil change and tire rotation the day before.

Was 80 degrees out.

No idea if there’s separate radiator cooler.

Trailer brake gain set to max (6).
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Old 08-13-2018, 06:29 PM   #5
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Maybe check for any kind of leaks that could be dripping on the exhaust. Sometimes when an automatic gets hot it can push out fluid from the vent or the front seal but on the newer transmissions I don't know if that is still true.
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Old 08-13-2018, 06:30 PM   #6
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. . .
Trailer brake gain set to max (6).
Thanks for the reply.

Gone are the days of having a transmission temperature gauge on the dash, but that is still a possibility IMO.

Are you sure this max(6) gain setting is necessary on a level road? There are posts about adjusting the gain in general. If this setting is too high, it is possible you were smelling the trailer brakes overheating. Also, there are posts about using a temperature-sensing device that you aim at the wheel for an instant reading. This might be good to try IMO.

Without knowing the temps of the tranny fluid, and of the trailer's wheels/brakes, we are just guessing IMO, so this layman will sign out of the discussion!

Good luck,

Peter
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Old 08-13-2018, 06:46 PM   #7
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When the exhaust got hot with towing I got a burning smell from the rust proofing being burned off the exhaust system.
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Old 08-13-2018, 07:24 PM   #8
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Smell was coming from truck. I sniffed around the trailer and trailer tires, and didn’t smell it.
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Old 08-14-2018, 09:14 AM   #9
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You gave some great advice, I think, in your first post in this thread. Thanks!
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Old 08-14-2018, 09:19 AM   #10
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Both my 2006 3/4T chevy and the current 2017 3/4T chevy pick up have transmission temperature gauges and going down hill they don't heat up at all. we went down hill for about 2.5 miles at a 10 percent grade with out problems. I like how the 2017 down shifts to help braking on hills
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Old 08-14-2018, 09:35 AM   #11
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When they changed the oil the day before, oil could of been spilled on the motor.
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Old 08-14-2018, 09:37 AM   #12
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I smell burning brakes on most steep downhill sections, very rare that it is me. Any semi traffic?
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Old 08-14-2018, 10:49 AM   #13
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it could have been smell from another vehicle that was or had been in the area.
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Old 08-14-2018, 02:12 PM   #14
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My F150xlt 3.5 has a temp gauge on the inst cluster. Top far right.
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Old 08-16-2018, 07:44 PM   #15
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Are you sure it wasn’t your brakes?
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Old 08-17-2018, 04:09 PM   #16
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Update.....

Since posting this, we’ve driven from Jackson, to Dinosaur National Monument, and to Salida, CO. A lot of that was winding and steep grades, though nothing as steep as Teton Pass. Have had no problems since.

Even though we still don’t know exactly what it was, thanks for trying to help us figure it out.
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Old 08-17-2018, 04:50 PM   #17
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A tool that I carry for questions just like this, an infrared temp gun. Shoot temps at drum, tires cast iron griddle etc.

It can be a very valuable tool.
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Old 08-17-2018, 06:47 PM   #18
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What others said. I ALWAYS smell burning bars on long downhills. It's never me, it's someone else. But it always makes me think it could be me, until I think it all through.
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Old 08-17-2018, 09:13 PM   #19
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Quote:
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So wondering what was overheating, and how to avoid this in the future.
I notice that in the mountains and it's often the trucks ahead of me.
The smell from their brakes hangs on the road and you'll drive through it.

My plan was to keep the speed down at the top, and only pump the brakes to maintain that speed, not slow down. Use engine braking and lower gears too.
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Old 08-18-2018, 02:14 AM   #20
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Just had oil change and tire rotation the day before.

May have been spilled oil burning off from the oil change.

You should be able to pull up a digital display of the transmission temp on the dash center display, that’s what I watch when I hit heavy towing.
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