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Old 04-28-2017, 09:36 AM   #1
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The Towing Question Of The Year.....

You live in the Rocky Mountains and you're pulling a 6000 pound airstream trailer up and down 7% or higher grade with 25 and 15 mile an hour switchbacks all day long, you need braking at very low speed's coming down and some pretty good muscle going up.

Which truck would you choose?

(i'm thinking 2008 3/4 ton Duramax with Allison transmission at 30,000 price tag?)
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Old 04-28-2017, 09:43 AM   #2
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Keeping with the $30K price?

You know this will go on for pages right?

I used to own a 2003 Duramax diesel to haul my Lance camper with my Jeep CJ in tow and it did a great job but did start to get expensive fixing things, transfer case from the dreaded pump rub at 90k, injectors at 110k sold at 120k
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Old 04-28-2017, 09:49 AM   #3
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The Towing Question Of The Year.....

I live on the front range north of Denver, near boulder and have put thousands of miles traveling through the Rockies towing my 2008 25' airstream. My trailer weighs about 7,000 lbs ready for camping.

I tow with a 2012 Infiniti QX56. 400 HP, 400lbs of torque and a 1,400lb payload+. Beats many pickup trucks in terms of power and has a fine payload for towing an airstream (my tongue weight has been measured at 760lbs which leaves another 650 lbs for payload stuff like people and the dog.

With independent suspension it provides for an extremely smooth ride. Plus its a luxury vehicle, so its nice an quiet inside with all the amenities. It also has supplemental air springs in back that help to firm up the suspension when the rear axel is loaded. Not a replacement for proper weight distribution, but helps with vehicle handling by supplementing the front-rear axel sway bars on the truck with a variable spring rate on the rear axle suspension.

Big brakes and engine breaking on this vehicle with a balanced setting on trailer brake voltage provides ample stopping power down long steep grades. I've been over just about all of the serious passes in CO without any hesitation or issues with this tow vehicle (Eisenhower tunnel, monarch pass, berthoud pass, rabbit ears pass, ouray to silverthorn, vail pass, canyon road up from boulder to Eudora, length of the peak to peak highway, highway 34 and 36 up to Estes park, etc. etc.).

As an example it holds 65mph all day long up a 10+ mile 7% grade. Confident braking and ability to stay at your target descent speed on the flip side.

You can pickup a used 2012 for about $30k in the Denver metro area. Just make sure you look at the 2011+ QX, the previous generation is a different animal and the current generation makes for a much better tow vehicle in the Rockies (I have owned both).
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Old 04-28-2017, 10:10 AM   #4
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I towed a 4500 lb trailer several times over the Rockies with a Mercedes diesel SUV. One time my trailer brake controller failed in the mountains without warning and it was not applying the brakes. The car's brakes handled both the trailer and the car on downhills without any noticeable effect. Of course I don't recommend trying this.
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Old 04-28-2017, 10:10 AM   #5
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If you are going to be doing a lot of serious downhill runs of the nature you describe, then get a diesel with an honest to goodness engine brake. Most newer, high-end 3/4 ton and better trucks will have this but check to make sure. Most auto & SUV diesels will not have a real engine brake. And some older and "low-end" 3/4 ton diesel trucks will also not have this feature.

There are some after market engine brakes that can be retrofitted on 3/4 ton diesel trucks that do not have them from the factory. I'm not sure about retrofits for autos and SUV's.

Don't be fooled into thinking that simply downshifting into a lower gear will be the same as an engine brake (a lot of people think that downshifting is an engine brake, but they are mistaken.) Downshifting is better than nothing but will not be any where near as effective on a long and/or steep downgrade as a real engine brake.
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Old 04-28-2017, 10:55 AM   #6
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The Towing Question Of The Year.....

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Originally Posted by AnnArborBob View Post
If you are going to be doing a lot of serious downhill runs of the nature you describe, then get a diesel with an honest to goodness engine brake. Most newer, high-end 3/4 ton and better trucks will have this but check to make sure. Most auto & SUV diesels will not have a real engine brake. And some older and "low-end" 3/4 ton diesel trucks will also not have this feature.

There are some after market engine brakes that can be retrofitted on 3/4 ton diesel trucks that do not have them from the factory. I'm not sure about retrofits for autos and SUV's.

Don't be fooled into thinking that simply downshifting into a lower gear will be the same as an engine brake (a lot of people think that downshifting is an engine brake, but they are mistaken.) Downshifting is better than nothing but will not be any where near as effective on a long and/or steep downgrade as a real engine brake.

I completely agree that engine braking with a diesel is a completely different animal (and a great safety feature!). Sorry if it came across that I was suggesting that engine braking with a gas engine has a similar effect as a Diesel engine brake, because it doesn't.

It's just my opinion based solely on my personal experience living in Colorado and having towed 1000s of miles through the Rockies for the past 5 years with a similar sized trailer that you just don't need that size of a vehicle to be safe towing a 6,000 lb airstream.... of course.... assuming you don't have any special payload needs like wanting to load a motorcycle in the truck bed while towing (we don't carry a lot stuff other than people in our TV).

Nothing wrong with going big, I've considered moving to a GMC 2500 Denali with Diesel many times because it's a cool tool, but I keep coming back to my current experience and tow vehicle which for my purposes and level of comfort/experience works well for me.

Be safe out there and see you on the road!
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Old 04-28-2017, 11:02 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by AnnArborBob View Post
If you are going to be doing a lot of serious downhill runs of the nature you describe, then get a diesel with an honest to goodness engine brake.
You and I might differ as to what a "Honest to goodness engine brake" is.
Can we agree:
1. Diesels have NO engine braking. Going downhill is like putting it in neutral.
2. Serious trucks (Rock haulers) have a "jake brake", your tow vehicle will not. You can hear them a mile away.
3. You're left with a "flapper" which will do two things. First, it will downshift to 4th. (at least mine did) and secondly, it triggers a flap in the exhaust somewhere in the path that creates back pressure. Otherwise, you're rolling.
4. Downshifting can be dangerous because you can over rev the engine. Mine was not supposed to engage above 60 mph. Otherwise the RPM exceeded 2500.
5. If you let the speed build too high, the engine brake will not engage and you're along for the ride on steel drums.
I tried to keep the speed at 55 going downhill using a combination of brakes and flapper. It was more stressful than going uphill, but it felt so good when you leveled off.
I usually smelled brakes, but it was from trucks in front of me, not me. I NEVER rode the brakes.
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Old 04-28-2017, 11:18 AM   #8
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GM Duramax Exhaust Brake System

FYI: Here is a link from GM that is a fair explantion of how the GM Duramax engine exhaust brake system works.

http://http://gmauthority.com/blog/2015/03/gmc-explains-how-its-diesel-exhaust-brake-technology-works-to-reduce-brake-wear-video/
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Old 04-28-2017, 12:07 PM   #9
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I have a older Dodge diesel (2007) without the engine brake and pull a 25'. It does have some engine braking at higher speeds.
You want a diesel truck, get a diesel truck. You will like it if you can get past the price.
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Old 04-28-2017, 12:12 PM   #10
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I have pulled a 12000+lb trailer with my GMC Duramax/Allison combo over the Rockies, Cascades and Canadian Rockies several times. That combination will work wonderfully for what you want. Learn how, if you don't already know, to use your truck's gears for going both up and down. Better to have more than you need than find out you don't have enough when you REALLY need it! IMO
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Old 04-28-2017, 12:34 PM   #11
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I very seldom run in tow mode with my 17 2500 ram, especially with the exhaust brake on, as I don't like downshifting, I can use 4 th or 5th when going down a long grade and it holds fine....it is not a Jacob engine brake but it works...
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Old 04-28-2017, 12:53 PM   #12
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Our Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has exhaust braking automatically applied (no switch) by the engine's computer to help maintain downhill speeds. The variable vane turbo closes off some exhaust flow, activated by touching the brake, or setting the cruise control. It is more effective in Tow/Haul mode. The transmission automatically selects the most effective gear.

In stock form it works well but does not close the variable vanes in the turbo entirely. GDE has an aftermarket tune that will close the vanes substantially more allowing greater exhaust braking if desired for towing larger trailers.

My preference has been to use this in combination with truck and trailer service brakes. I also wonder if there is excessive back-pressure in the engine's crankcase that may affect engine component's lubrication, maybe the turbo itself when exhaust flow is restricted?
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Old 04-28-2017, 02:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mollysdad View Post
You and I might differ as to what a "Honest to goodness engine brake" is.
Can we agree:
1. Diesels have NO engine braking. Going downhill is like putting it in neutral.
2. Serious trucks (Rock haulers) have a "jake brake", your tow vehicle will not. You can hear them a mile away.
3. You're left with a "flapper" which will do two things. First, it will downshift to 4th. (at least mine did) and secondly, it triggers a flap in the exhaust somewhere in the path that creates back pressure. Otherwise, you're rolling.
4. Downshifting can be dangerous because you can over rev the engine. Mine was not supposed to engage above 60 mph. Otherwise the RPM exceeded 2500.
5. If you let the speed build too high, the engine brake will not engage and you're along for the ride on steel drums.
I tried to keep the speed at 55 going downhill using a combination of brakes and flapper. It was more stressful than going uphill, but it felt so good when you leveled off.
I usually smelled brakes, but it was from trucks in front of me, not me. I NEVER rode the brakes.
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You will NOT get agreement from this former 7.4L gas GMC, who now has a 6.6L Duramax 2500 HD.
1. You have to be kidding. My engine braking uses the Turbo vane closing and works fantastically on steep grades, and with it I don't have to be in tow/haul, I just need to apply the brakes twice and it kicks in.
2. Yes and many towns have posted signs forbidding their use.
3. Sorry yours didn't work, mine does.
4. The Duramax owners guide says that over red-line reving of engine in engine braking mode is acceptable, whereas over reving it in pulling mode is damaging. Has to do with engine combustion force being applied in high rev situations.
5. My engine braking will kick in nicely at 65 or 70, though I usually start bringing the truck into engine braking mode before we start the serious descent.
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Old 04-28-2017, 02:59 PM   #14
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1. You have to be kidding. My engine braking uses the Turbo vane closing and works fantastically on steep grades, and with it I don't have to be in tow/haul, I just need to apply the brakes twice and it kicks in.
An engine brake is a compression brake. You have an exhaust brake. It is just using variable blades on the exhaust turbine instead of a flap valve.
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Old 04-28-2017, 03:41 PM   #15
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I have a 30' FC and tow with a QX-80. What pressure do you run in the air shocks? and what hitch do you use? I am having a small issue with porpoising. Blue Ox is sending me a set of 1500lb bars to try. Thanks for the info
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Old 04-28-2017, 05:42 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mollysdad View Post
You and I might differ as to what a "Honest to goodness engine brake" is.
Can we agree:
1. Diesels have NO engine braking. Going downhill is like putting it in neutral.
2. Serious trucks (Rock haulers) have a "jake brake", your tow vehicle will not. You can hear them a mile away.
3. You're left with a "flapper" which will do two things. First, it will downshift to 4th. (at least mine did) and secondly, it triggers a flap in the exhaust somewhere in the path that creates back pressure. Otherwise, you're rolling.
4. Downshifting can be dangerous because you can over rev the engine. Mine was not supposed to engage above 60 mph. Otherwise the RPM exceeded 2500.
5. If you let the speed build too high, the engine brake will not engage and you're along for the ride on steel drums.
I tried to keep the speed at 55 going downhill using a combination of brakes and flapper. It was more stressful than going uphill, but it felt so good when you leveled off.
I usually smelled brakes, but it was from trucks in front of me, not me. I NEVER rode the brakes.
Sorry but we can not agree with your statement regarding the diesel engine braking " Going down hill is like putting it in neutral". That is blatantly false.
Just what do think a Jake Brake is ? It works on the same principal as all diesel engines do.
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Old 04-28-2017, 05:56 PM   #17
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Sorry but we can not agree with your statement regarding the diesel engine braking " Going down hill is like putting it in neutral". That is blatantly false.
Just what do think a Jake Brake is ? It works on the same principal as all diesel engines do.
A Jake brake or other compression brake is a device that changes the valve timing of a diesel engine so as to utilize the engine's high compression to create a retarding force. Without that altered valve action, a diesel cycle engine has no effective engine braking (leaving aside potential exhaust braking). Without the diesel it is installed on, a Jake brake has no function, so it is difficult to see how it works on the same principal as the diesel engine, that principal being compression ignition.

If your point is that a diesel engine with an optional Jake compression brake installed has engine braking, then we are in agreement. I think Mollysdad would agree too, given that was his point #2.
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Old 04-28-2017, 11:16 PM   #18
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$30,000 budget will make it tough, as the engine brakes come on the newer diesels - which won't come cheap. I currently have a '15 Ram 3500 Cummins that has one and I love it, especially in mountainous towing. But it also has an option no one has mentioned here - a 6 speed standard transmission. *I* get to choose the gear and rpm I want, not the vehicle.

Our previous TV was a 2001 Dodge 2500 4x4 Cummins with a 5 speed manual. Although it did not have an engine brake, I could manage some pretty steep downgrades with just an occasional tap on the TV/TT brakes by starting off downshifting and slower speed and the truck would hold the grade in 4th or 3rd, depending on how steep, at around 2000 rpm. An older Dodge Ram with this combo might be hard to find, but well within your price range. I got $8500 when I traded mine in (it had 110,000 miles), and I'm sure the dealership got $12k for it, as it disappeared off the lot within 2 days. IMHO, the best TV for an Airstream is a Cummins - and they come wrapped in a Dodge! ;-)
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Old 04-29-2017, 12:04 AM   #19
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The Towing Question Of The Year.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adiredneck View Post
$30,000 budget will make it tough, as the engine brakes come on the newer diesels - which won't come cheap. I currently have a '15 Ram 3500 Cummins that has one and I love it, especially in mountainous towing. But it also has an option no one has mentioned here - a 6 speed standard transmission. *I* get to choose the gear and rpm I want, not the vehicle.

Our previous TV was a 2001 Dodge 2500 4x4 Cummins with a 5 speed manual. Although it did not have an engine brake, I could manage some pretty steep downgrades with just an occasional tap on the TV/TT brakes by starting off downshifting and slower speed and the truck would hold the grade in 4th or 3rd, depending on how steep, at around 2000 rpm. An older Dodge Ram with this combo might be hard to find, but well within your price range. I got $8500 when I traded mine in (it had 110,000 miles), and I'm sure the dealership got $12k for it, as it disappeared off the lot within 2 days. IMHO, the best TV for an Airstream is a Cummins - and they come wrapped in a Dodge! ;-)


I'm finding it next to impossible to find anything with a manual trans in it.... much less a dodge 2500 ..... went to 3 dealers today, these guys haven't seen one in a long time.... been giving the F150 ecoboost a strong look... reviews are pretty amazing. That 2014 model year to be exact....
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Old 04-29-2017, 08:25 AM   #20
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A Jake brake or other compression brake is a device that changes the valve timing of a diesel engine so as to utilize the engine's high compression to create a retarding force. Without that altered valve action, a diesel cycle engine has no effective engine braking (leaving aside potential exhaust braking). Without the diesel it is installed on, a Jake brake has no function, so it is difficult to see how it works on the same principal as the diesel engine, that principal being compression ignition.

If your point is that a diesel engine with an optional Jake compression brake installed has engine braking, then we are in agreement. I think Mollysdad would agree too, given that was his point #2.
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Not to necessarily disagree with anyone, but to further clarify what is going on in both types of Engine Braking: Jake and turbo vane pitch: A Jake Brake does use a change in exhaust valve timing to create back pressure because the compression of the exhaust gas within the cylinder has no easy place to exit. It also cuts back momentarily the flow of fresh fuel to the cylinder. It uses valve timing to create back pressure to slow the pistons and crank shaft and drive train. It works and it is loud, and many localities have posted signs prohibiting their use.

On the other hand the variable vane turbo engine exhaust gas method uses a shutting back on the pitch angle of the turbo vanes to retard the exhaust gas flow. The effect of this back pressure on the exhaust gas is the same effect as the Jake Brake's variable valve timing, in that it causes the exhaust gas to create back pressure on the travel of the piston, and the crank shaft, and thus the drive train down to the wheels. Both methods use exhaust gas back pressure, one uses the compression of gases solely in the cylinder (Jake) and the other uses compression of exhaust gases from the turbo vanes back through the cylinder, thus both are exhaust gas compression methods achieved by different technologies. Since the turbo variable vane method is much quieter they can be used even in communities that prohibit "Engine Braking."

I remember as a kid in the olden days when a mischievous lad might jam a raw potato into a car's exhaust pipe. That would create back pressure on the entire exhaust system back into the auto's engine. Either the car wouldn't start, would quickly stall, or the potato would fly out the tailpipe.

I don't know if the turbo vane pitch method of exhaust gas compression back pressure also momentarily cuts back the fuel delivery to the cylinders or not, maybe someone out there on the forum knows.
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