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Old 06-04-2013, 06:40 AM   #1
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2WD diesel vs. 4WD gas - new twist on question

Ok, I know this is comparing apples to oranges but I have an unusual comparison to throw out there for you.

I found my Airstream (Argosy 26) last winter and the restoration will be hopefully complete soon. I had an underpowered 4wd (older) 6 cylinder Toyota at the time I towed it home. I didn't like the way it towed with that vehicle.

A few months ago I bought a pristine low miles 2008 GMC Sierra 2500HD diesel. I love it except it is not 4wd. A month later I inherited a 2008 Ford F150 gasser from family, its loaded with 4wd.

I have been driving them back to back for last month or so and thought it would make it easier to decide which I liked better, but it is really comparing apples to oranges.

Pros for the diesel
1) good fuel economy on highway 18-19 not towing, probably getting around 14 in town, haven't yet towed Airstream with it.

Cons for the diesel:
1) I tried to drive (empty, not towing) up a slightly damp grassy slope in a field to park at a festival and slid all over the place and could not get up hill. There were lots of Scions, Hondas and regular cars that were parked there no problem- it was crazy to have 600 pounds of torque and have people watch me slide sideways.

Pros for the gas F150 (5.4L V8)
1) easier to drive, back up, park, run errands with around town, gets about 17mpg empty on highway
2) its a loaded edition with all amenities/sunroof/etc.

Cons for the F150
1) smaller backseat/legroom, and bed is smaller
2) getting worse mileage than diesel running around town - around 12.5-13
3) It got bad mpg towing Airstream and another midsize trailer (around 10.5-11

If the diesel were 4wd it would be a no brainer to make this decision. My thoughts for now are probably to keep the diesel and sell the gas F150, then if I get stuck on a regular basis with the 2wd diesel sell it eventually and get a 4wd version of it. I live in the south where we don't have snow, but one of the camping places the Airstream will stay at a lot is a grassy camp area and I still have bad memories of sliding sideways on the hill recently. I guess I could also get an inexpensive winch under the front bumper as insurance against getting stuck.

Thoughts anyone?

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Old 06-04-2013, 06:55 AM   #2
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You have valid concerns. I would only say tow the trailer with each truck over the same or similar route before making your decision.

The Ford gasser will be a better everyday driver. The Diesel will pull effortlessly. Maybe with the tongue weight on the Diesel the traction will be adequate for you.

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Old 06-04-2013, 07:20 AM   #3
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Any empty two wheel drive pick up truck is in trouble on a slippery hill or even a flat surface. Without any weight on the drive wheels, they can lose traction very easily.

As to your dilemma, a lot would depend on how much time you will be towing the Airstream. The diesel will probably make a better over the road tow vehicle, especially if the truck bed is loaded with gear. On the other hand, the gas truck may make a better every day driver.

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Old 06-04-2013, 07:50 AM   #4
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My latest thought is to add some weight to back axles in 2wd to gain traction in those circumstances.
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Old 06-04-2013, 07:54 AM   #5
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Sell the ford & install an air locker in the diesel rear end, should solve your broblem.
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Old 06-04-2013, 08:55 AM   #6
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If you can't make up you mind, sell them both and get what makes you happy.
When you add the trailer, traction will only be worse with the 2wd pulling uphill. Since I got stuck in the dew on grass, I will always have a 4wd.
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:51 AM   #7
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Sell both and get a 4X4 diesel.
I'd rather be boon docking in the desert.

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Old 06-04-2013, 11:21 PM   #8
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I am a fan of 4X4 diesels and have driven them for years. I don't want anything else, however in over 11,000 miles of pulling my airstream last year I used four wheel drive one time, and that was on slippery grassy hillside. it is certainly not a necessary thing to have a four wheel drive or a diesel but I don't want to be without either. If in your predicament I would do as others have said; sell 2 and buy one.
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Old 06-05-2013, 07:07 AM   #9
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I think sell both may be best option and get 4wd diesel. I am intrigued by the air locker idea also, how hard is that to do and how much does it cost?

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Old 06-05-2013, 08:21 AM   #10
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Diesel and get a locking rear differential to make up for the lack of 4x4!

I would have a qualified shop do the install - 2 hours of labor plus the part.

Next question please...
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Old 06-05-2013, 08:27 AM   #11
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I know GM makes a locking differential as my last truck ('08 3/4 ton 4X4 Duramax) was equipped with one. And a 2WD with locking diff will go almost where a 4WD will go.

The locking diff equipped 2WD truck will go where it will only cost you $100 or so to get towed out, while a true 4X4 will get you to where it will cost $500 easily to get towed out.
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Old 06-05-2013, 10:36 AM   #12
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I'm biased as I have a manual transmission, diesel, 4x4, which is older and gets better mileage than the newer diesels. Diesel is even cheaper right now where I'm at, but I know that is consistently inconsistent.
The Diesel engine is obviously much heavier than the gasser (which contributed to your sliding a bit) but also has greater longevity. I'm planning to get 500,000 miles out of mine... I bought it with 200,000 and now have 230ish.
I also see you are in a warm climate, so I'd vote for the diesel 4x2 or like you agreed with someone else, sell both and get a 4x4 diesel.
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Old 06-05-2013, 10:33 PM   #13
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A TT that small will be fine behind any number of better TVs (non-pickup) unliess you insist on carrying the kitchen sink. Let your solo miles come closer to dictating what is best for you. On-road performance will be substantially improved. The truck questions are relevant if you otherwise have IRS-deductible miles in using one for work, etc.

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Old 01-23-2014, 07:03 PM   #14
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Ok, so I drove both trucks around for last nine months. The F150 was nice, but I really like the diesel better. I took it on a 1500 mile trip with the Airstream and it was effortless, and still got 13-14 mpg towing at 70+ mph at times.

I sold the F150 this week, just bought a bolt in Detroit Locker differential kit. I found a few local shops to install it, one was quoting about $700 for labor which seems high. For that price he would completely rebuild differential, install new bearings and the locker kit. Its a well respected shop, just wonder if I need full service on a truck that only has 38000 miles on it.

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