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Old 04-19-2014, 03:08 PM   #1
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Tow Vehicle vs. MPG

I am new to this forum, new to Airstream and in need of some solid advice from folks with experience. I am switching from a 14,000 lb 5th wheel pulled by a Ford 7.3 L Diesel dually to… a 1/2 ton (Dodge, Ford or Chevy) gasoline powered pickup, pulling a 25ft. Airstream with a GVWR of 7300 lbs.

The truck dealers I have been working with pretend to know all about towing until I get into the real specifics, then they give me a look that says “I haven’t the foggiest idea what you are talking about” and I get the first idea that pops into their head. Like asking a politician for an honest answer.

If anyone can help, please be specific with engine size, rear axle ratio and approximate mpg under different conditions e.g. Mountain driving, against a strong head wind, or on an expressway at 70 mph etc. I want a truck that blends the power to handle winds and hills yet gets a reasonable mpg. Actually I don’t really know what is a reasonable mpg pulling an Airstream. What should I expect? Or hope for?
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Old 04-19-2014, 03:30 PM   #2
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I tow a 1975 31' AS with a similar GVW. Mine weighs around 5200# empty and just a tad over 6,000# for weekend camping. We tow with a 2003 F150 4.6l V-8 3:55 rear end, factory towing package. Mileage towing on flat ground is ~13mpg or a bit less. Truck doing the same trip not towing gets ~19-20mpg. I won't tow in the mountains with that rig and I try to stay around 65mph as my max speed. For mountain or longer distance towing I switch to my 1996 F 350 PSD CC... in it, or on it, it IS going with it! Funny thing is the dually gets about 14mpg... towing, go figure. But it does have the 4:10 rear in it.

One thing to be very careful of is the truck loading. If you are towing it will quite often deduct from the amount of weight you can carry in the truck not leaving you with any carrying capacity.

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Old 04-19-2014, 04:08 PM   #3
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Hobo 2014 Sierra 1500, 3.42, 5.3L usually 11.3mpg. Just got back from a Denver/Albuquerque/Las Vegas trip. Mountain passes, hills of western of NM. Cruise at 63mph (65mph rated tires). No problem towing. Issues with 1/2 ton and why mine is trading this week for a 2500 is lack of weight capacity on the truck side. With full fuel, wife, dog, nothing in the bed, ProPride and FC25RB I have 80-90# left for cargo in the truck. Again, tows like a champ through steep hills. But forget putting anything in it that you might normally carry. Some folks never weigh their rigs but I want to know where I am from a safety standpoint.

Something to think about now if you are considering getting a new truck. So a one ton Gas or Diesel might be a better choice if you want to safely carry stuff in the truck bed.
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Old 04-19-2014, 04:12 PM   #4
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Do you have a reason for getting rid of the Ford? I have towed all sizes of Airstreams with 3/4 ton Dodge diesels, both a 99 and a 2013 and run 14 to 16 mpg. I doubt a gas 1/2 ton would do any better and possibly not quite as well.. Of course there may be other reasons to replace the Ford.
My best guess, based on delivering numerous fifth wheels is you will see about a 3 mpg improvement over your fiver with the Airstream because of the aerodynamics which is much more important than the weight.
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Old 04-19-2014, 04:48 PM   #5
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We pull are 25 FC with a 2014 Ram 1500 Hemi with3.92 rear end. When we left for Florida this year the truck had 700 miles, pulling the trailer we got 13.2 mpg, that included going through the mountains of Tennessee. Without the trailer our mpg was 20-21 while driving the interstate around Tampa. I expect the mileage will increase as more miles are driven.

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Old 04-19-2014, 07:22 PM   #6
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When I pulled my 25' Excella (6800 gvw, I think) with a 1997 F150 with a 3.73 I got 9-11 mpg. I did not tow it enough to break it down the way you asked. I would just fill the tank and hope for 10 and go,

Now I pull it with a 2500 dodge diesel (2007) and get 14-16 mpg. Headwinds cuts it to 13.5-14. Give me flat ground and a tailwind and 17 is doable.

just curious, what millage did you get with your Ford and 5th wheel?
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Old 04-19-2014, 07:34 PM   #7
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15-16 mpg seems to be the magic number for many different kinds of tow vehicles - from diesel trucks to SUVs or even vans.
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Old 04-19-2014, 07:35 PM   #8
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I generally get 11-11.5 MPG(US) towing our 31' Classic with a 2008 Sierra 2500HD diesel at interstate speeds of 70-75mph.

No doubt I'd do better if I slowed down a bit - and I do try! I usually start out the day slower, but soon wind up just keeping up with the flow!

Oh well, at least I have the 16" Michelin LT tires on now so the 65mph towing restriction with ST trailer tires is gone!


Brian.
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Old 04-19-2014, 07:53 PM   #9
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We tow a 30' Classic with a 2013 2500 Ram, rated that year to tow 17,000# !! Climbs like a dream, great exhaust braking, many creature comforts. Towing: ~ 13.8 mpg. In town: ~17+, Open road with two kayaks on top: ~ 21+ !!

Only 12K miles on the engine…not broken in yet!
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Old 04-19-2014, 08:18 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoboplayer View Post
I am new to this forum, new to Airstream and in need of some solid advice from folks with experience. I am switching from a 14,000 lb 5th wheel pulled by a Ford 7.3 L Diesel dually to… a 1/2 ton (Dodge, Ford or Chevy) gasoline powered pickup, pulling a 25ft. Airstream with a GVWR of 7300 lbs.

The truck dealers I have been working with pretend to know all about towing until I get into the real specifics, then they give me a look that says “I haven’t the foggiest idea what you are talking about” and I get the first idea that pops into their head. Like asking a politician for an honest answer.

If anyone can help, please be specific with engine size, rear axle ratio and approximate mpg under different conditions e.g. Mountain driving, against a strong head wind, or on an expressway at 70 mph etc. I want a truck that blends the power to handle winds and hills yet gets a reasonable mpg. Actually I don’t really know what is a reasonable mpg pulling an Airstream. What should I expect? Or hope for?
I don't think a 25 foot Airstream has a GVW of 7300 pounds.

The axles are not rated that high. What year 25 footer do you have.

All you need if you still want a truck, is a 1/2 ton, with a transmission oil cooler.

Then when traveling, be aware of the winds. When you have headwinds, slow down, and with tail winds, you can speed up.

A properly installed airspeed indicator like they use in airplanes tells you what the winds are. Contrary to some opinions, that device will help you BIG TIME, if your interested in MPG. I used it for years and it extremely well served it's purpose. You compare it's indication with your speedometer, it's that simple. If the indicator says more, then you have a head wind, and if it says less, then you have a tail wind.

You don't need a Peterbilt truck, nor do you need all that heavy duty stuff.

Years ago, 31 footers were well towed with a properly equipped car.

A heavy duty truck is a waste of money and MPG.

The other big factor with MPG, is be patient. When you get there, you get there..

If your in a hurry, then get a helicopter, otherwise, use a speed depending on the winds and you will very quickly see the HUGE advantage of using an airspeed indicator.

Welcome to Airstreaming and all it's mysteries and opinions.

Andy
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Old 04-20-2014, 02:12 AM   #11
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Wow! I never expected such a quick response. This is a great forum made up of really nice and informative folks. I wish to thank everyone for the helpful spot on information.

Where do I go from here? Guess I try to answer some of the questions. Boy this is fun.
My reason for giving up the 97 Ford diesel is the age and condition. It has a 4.10 rear end and a full Banks Conversion Package that I installed 13 years ago. After the conversion it got 9 mpg @ 70 mph and 13 mpg at 55 mph. I was pulling a 14,000 lb. 5th wheel with a very large flat front. I am concerned about the trucks reliability. At 72 I’m not as flexible as I used to be thus, I don’t wish to risk breakdowns in the middle of nowhere. Also the noise of the old diesel is significant when you have lost some of your hearing. Then there is the problem of driving on the narrow roads of Yellowstone in that wide dually. So we are ready to move on.

The New 25’ FC Airstream is still on order. We expect delivery in late June. My Airstream literature does list the GVWR at 7300 lbs.

Castaway was really on the mark with the exact TV that we are favoring. That info was really helpful. Next order of business is crunching the numbers to make sure we won’t be overloading the truck. I want to add a topper and an in-bed fuel tank. This may already exceed the truck capacity and force me to a ¾ ton.

Thanks all, Hobo
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Old 04-21-2014, 04:42 AM   #12
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Hobo, best of luck in your quest. I'm sure you will be happy.


For me, at age 70 I'm sticking with my 1996 F250 diesel. It's giving me mileage in the mid-teens towing and has been absolutely reliable for the past 18 years. I'm sticking with it.


Happy travels.
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Old 04-21-2014, 06:46 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoboplayer View Post
I am new to this forum, new to Airstream and in need of some solid advice from folks with experience. I am switching from a 14,000 lb 5th wheel pulled by a Ford 7.3 L Diesel dually to… a 1/2 ton (Dodge, Ford or Chevy) gasoline powered pickup, pulling a 25ft. Airstream with a GVWR of 7300 lbs.

The truck dealers I have been working with pretend to know all about towing until I get into the real specifics, then they give me a look that says “I haven’t the foggiest idea what you are talking about” and I get the first idea that pops into their head. Like asking a politician for an honest answer.

If anyone can help, please be specific with engine size, rear axle ratio and approximate mpg under different conditions e.g. Mountain driving, against a strong head wind, or on an expressway at 70 mph etc. I want a truck that blends the power to handle winds and hills yet gets a reasonable mpg. Actually I don’t really know what is a reasonable mpg pulling an Airstream. What should I expect? Or hope for?


An old rule of thumb is that a 7-8k TT is where one might switch over from a car/minivan to a 1T truck if carrying a lot of stuff is part of camping. The penalties are that a truck is a lesser vehicle for towing due to decreased safety and increased operational costs. In short, fewer miles, more slowly travelled.

Questions about operational economy are always good. Fuel costs towing and solo are relevant (use cpm [cents-per-mile] to mark the difference). Any real savings are in vehicle specification, at the very beginning. This TT type is best for low fuel burn. A turbodiesel TV is best for same . . the penalty is the purchase price. It works long-term, not short term (10+ years, not 5). "Real" savings would be purchase of both TV & TT a few years old to offset depreciation and not affect longevity.

How well one uses the TV in solo duties is the question to answer. The best TV will still be the one that suits solo duties (needs, not wants) and that can still tow the TT. A vacationer uses the TV differently than a full-timer, but both put on more miles solo than towing. A pickup with no IRS-deductible miles is not a good match despite what RV'ers tend to think these days . . they decidedly didn't a generation and more ago. Those good reasons haven't changed.

Fuel costs can be offset by better solo use. Combining trips and doing a better job of driving. IOW, reduce annual miles and drive the remaining miles for best economy. It is possible to underwrite significant vacation miles this way.

As to looking at EPA MPG ratings, start by using the combined or average number. 30-40% penalty for towing versus solo, for highway, otherwise. Assume a 60-mph travel speed. This hasn't changed in over forty years despite tech changes (as aero and the quality of the lash-up are what matter most).

Good luck

.
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Old 04-21-2014, 06:47 AM   #14
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I have a 2012 1/2 ton extended cab ,with a 5.3L engine full tow package ,6 speed transmission,3.42 locking diff,4x4, 6.5 foot box,we're towing a 2012 19 foot flying cloud 4500gvw, we get 19 miles per Canadian gallon going 50 -55 mph, using 10 % ethanol fuel !this lowers fuel economy by aprox 3%, as others have said slow down and fuel economy goes way up! what's the rush!enjoy your drive !half the fun is getting there! My truck gets 30 miles per gallon (Canadian )with no trailer, also the engine in my truck will go into 4 cylinders mode even while towing if I put trans in tow / haul mode. Best fuel economy for this truck is 45 -50 mph .


Don
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