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Old 01-18-2003, 03:24 PM   #1
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towing information

We are thinking about getting 2003 1500 Chevy Suburban with a standard 5.3 l engine with a 3.73 gear ratio and the locking rear differential (2WD). Will this be a good enough vehicle to pull a 23-25ft airstream of some type. Any recommendations on getting a 2WD or 4WD vehicle? And the pros and cons of the 1500 or the 2500 Suburbans?
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Old 01-18-2003, 04:08 PM   #2
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5.3L

Mine pulls my 5000# International just fine, but I would buy the 6.0L engine if I were doing it again. I already had the truck when I bought the A/S.

I bought 4wd because I got a stupendous deal on a salesman's truck. It does come in handy starting out on loose gravel without spraying gravel and/or on soft surfaces. I punch in the automatic 4wd mode when towing in hard rain. If I lose traction, it goes into 4wd automatically.

Right now, I would opt for the 1500 HD, even though I prefer the extended cab to the crew cab. For a 23'-25' model, that would be my choice. The 6.0L has a lot more torque.
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Old 01-18-2003, 07:08 PM   #3
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Towing Information

Greetings Cindy Foxx!

I have towed with a K2500 GMC Suburban for the past four years after struggling with a K1500 Chevrolet Pickup with the Z-71 package. With the size trailer you anticipate, you should be well within the manufacturers towing recommendations. My trailer is just a bit too heavy for a C/K 1500 series GM vehicle at nearly 6,000 pounds when loaded for an extended vacation. I would suggest that you opt for the largest engine offered in the 1500 series Suburban as well as the numerically highest axle ratio offered.

The choice between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive is strictly a personal one. I have it on my tow vehicle simply because it is the vehicle that I drive to work in bad weather, and when I bought it I was a resident of Wisconsin and needed the four-wheel-drive to get from my home to work on a rather frequent basis. Four-wheel drive typically lowers the trailer tow limit by a small amount, your maintenance costs will be a little higher, and it may cause the vehicle to burn a little more fuel. It is quite nice to have, however, when parking or maneuvering on unpaved surfaces with your Airstream.

When I purchased my current Suburban in 1998 (it was the first '99 delivered to my dealer), I chose to special order as I wanted no doubt as to its capabilities. My choice was the K2500 with the then largest engine (7400 VORTEC) and the then numerically highest axle ratios available (4.10). It is overkill, at least according to its rating (10,000 lb. trailer tow rating); but it is so nice to not be concerned about whether it will struggle with grades when towing in the Rocky Mountains (one of my favorite destinations). My maintenance and repair expense has been far less with the K2500 series than my previous K1500 series Pickup - - about 30% less overall. Fuel cost has been only marginally higher - - '95 K1500 Chevrolet Z-71 {5.7 Liter V8} (3.73 axles ratios) - - 16 MPG Solo/9.5 MPG Towing (8 MPG in mountains)- - 1999 K2500 Suburban - - 14.5 MPG Solo/11.5 Towing (9 MPG in mountains). <When traveling solo, I set my cruise 2 MPH below the posted speed limit, and with the trailer I try to maintain 55 MPH as a maximim speed via cruise control.> My theory is that the larger engine has to strain less to handle the load thus its higher mileage towing when compared to my previous K1500 pickup. The difference in solo fuel economy really surprised me, but this is over 99,000 miles plus of drving with between 35 and 50% towing either the Airstream or Argosy. I guess you could say that my advice would be to over-buy when purchasing a tow vehicle as I have heard very few complain of having too much tow vehicle, but there are a number who have wished for a larger tow vehicle.

Good luck with your decision. Regardless of series, I am sure that you will truly enjoy traveling with a Suburban as a tow vehicle.

Kevin
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Old 01-18-2003, 07:30 PM   #4
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Cindy,
The 6.0 engine is happier with the 4.10 rear end according to both forum members here as well as on www.pickuptruck.com forum. I have the 8.1 and Allison 5 sp. auto transmission in my 2500HD along with the 3.73 rear end. I get 15 mpg on the highway without AC/unloaded and anywhere between 10-13 towing my 31' Excella 500 which is not light. The 6.0 gets around 18 mpg unloaded, at least in the pickup. I think you will be more comfortabe and would be able to handle any situation with the 2500 Suburban, 6.0 and 4.10 rear. A 1500 Suburban with 3.73 can be put in a few situations where it would be straining and that will lead to decreased drivetrain life.
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Old 01-18-2003, 07:50 PM   #5
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Cindy,
The answer is yes, as has been already pointed out however the 4.10 gears will make any engine drink more gas over the 3.73 because of the higher RPMs. I battled that desision when I bought my superduty ( I realize that is Ford) and am glad I got the 3.73 because of the fact that "most" of us tow less than 10% of the actual miles we put on the tow vehicle. I know there are some that tow all the time and maybe you will too, but the "average" RV owner would be suprised. I think the 3.73 gears will get you going just fine with a 5K trailer and once on the highway you can cash in on the better gas milage, not to mention the trips to Wallyworld when you don't need low gears. As for the 5.3 L, I would make the compromise and get the big engine for passing and climbing power and the tall gears for the the gas milage. Just me though.
Randy
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Old 01-18-2003, 08:34 PM   #6
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Cindy,
Randy is correct in that the 4.10 rearend in most cases will cause the engine to rev at a higher RPM thereby using more gas. I took this into consideration when I chose the 3.73 over the 4.10 rearend but I also considered the fact that the 8.1 with 340 hp and over 500 lbft of torque could handle it. If you plan on towing on flat ground with no big hills i.e. mountains, then the 5.3 V8 in the 1500 Suburban will get you started and stopped. If you ever upgrade to a heavier trailer or if you find that you plan on trips through a mountainous region then good luck. I'm not trying to push you into a larger vehicle because I have one but because there is a margin of safety involved as well as comfort once you arrive at your destination. Many of the forum members have experienced the same thing I have i.e. whiteknuckles when trucks pass, engines screaming to get to the top of a long hill and then just plain tired when I get to where I'm going. If you think the 5.3 with 3.73 will suit you then go for it.
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Old 01-18-2003, 08:35 PM   #7
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I pull a 25' 1985 Sovereign with a K1500 diesel with 3.73. It is excellent in most conditions and adequate on steep hills. In my case the 3.73 is a much better choice as the engine rpms would be uncomfortably high at highway speeds with a 4.10. This is not the case with a gas engine, however.

The 4X4 issue caught me by surprise. I have it because I bought the truck used, and that's the way it was. However, as I park the Airstream on the grass out behind a barn it has been a real asset. When the grass is merely wet it is sometimes absolutely necessary to engage the 4X4. I often find wet leaves at campgrounds are hard to deal with unless I engage the 4X4. I say this even though in general I am not thrilled by a 4X4's complexity, weight, and cost.

I think (not really sure) that the new 1500HD is roughly the same as the former 2500 in weight/tow ratings, so comparing the current 1500/2500 to previous models may not be quite apples to apples.

Mark
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Old 01-19-2003, 12:43 AM   #8
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For a 5000# 22' International, I'd want the 1500HD 6.0L w/4.10:1 limited slip and 4WD.

I'd want the 2500HD 8.1L w/3.73:1 limited slip and 4WD for a 6300# 23'-25' Safari, but for a #7300 lb 25' Classic, I'd go to 4.10:1 even with the 8.1L

Gas engines get their torque and horsepower at much higher rpms than diesels and can be spinning too slow in Drive and OD to pull well and may downshift below that.

Trying to stay in Drive and OD is important because the torque converter is locked and the transmission doesn't get nearly as hot.

The 4.10:1 only spins the engine about 10% higher. It won't cause noticably worse gas mileage around town where acceleration is always happening, it may even improve it like it would pulling the trailer. It will hurt a little on the highway.

Having a little extra truck makes a big difference in the mountains, and 4WD is priceless on wet grass or leaves!
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Old 01-19-2003, 07:34 AM   #9
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Smile My 2 cents

We all have our personal preference and I'll share mine too.

I drive a K-1500 5.3L with a 4:10 reargear with the larger brake pads. Towing cap 9000#'s.

My trailer weighs 6760#'s and I get 17mpg w/o the trailer. 13mpg while towing on the hwy & 10.5 on two-lane roads and on mountain passes.

I pull steep mountain passes (6-8% grades) at 30mph @ 2500rpm.

Also IMHO, the new Chevy Vortec engine is awesome. I bought my truck new in Nov 2000 and I currently have 54,000 miles on her and she's showing no signs of major wear or tear.

If I was going to get a new Suburban, I'd get the 5.7L 4:10 with the tow package(larger brakes). This I feel will give you all the power you'll need, with the best gas mileage possible.

Remember, it's in the rear grearing when pulling those long steep mountain passes.

John
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Old 01-19-2003, 09:40 AM   #10
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lotsa trucks

cindy

i have towed my trailer 6800# with the following trucks.

89 chev. 1500 4x4, 5.7L and 3.73 gears

91 chev. 1500 4x4, 5.7L and 3.73 gears, z 71 package

92 chev. 1500 suburban, 4x4 5.7 and 3.73 gears

97 chev 1500 4x4 6.5L turbo diesel, and 3.73 gears

and my present truck

'00 chev 2500HD 4x4 6.0L, with 4.10 gears.

by far the best two of the bunch were the 6.0 and the 6.5 turbo diesel. they both had/have 3/4 ton running gear.

but my all time favorite is the '00. best engine/gears for power and mileage.

the suburban was the most comfortable. but i take my harley with me when i travel, so a pickup is the only way to go for me.

john
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Old 01-19-2003, 09:49 AM   #11
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oh yeah i almost forgot,

when you go to a 3/4 ton you get the 4L80E transmission.

that allows you to tow in O.D.

john
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Old 01-19-2003, 11:43 PM   #12
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Mark,
You are correct on the 1500HD having the 8,600 lb. GVWR, the same as the 2500LW (light or non HD) pickup. The 1500HD is only available in a crewcab fleetside short box configuration. When I compared the 2500 to the 2500HD I noticed that the frame area adjacent to the rear wheelwells was shorter in heigth on the reg. 2500 i.e. frame was heavier on the 2500HD which increases the GVWR to 9,200 lbs. The 1500HD was only avail. with the 6 litre engine and 4.10 rear the best I remember.

The Chevy catalog shows that the GVWR of 6100 is the same for the 2wd and 4X4 in the regular cab, the long box goes to 6400 lbs. The extended cab reg. cab 1500 shows 6200 lbs. for the 2wd and 6400 for the 4wd. The ext. cab long box 1500 GVWR is 6400 lbs. in 2wd and 4X4.

Max. payload you can carry in the vehicle is higher with a 2wd because you do not have the extra weight of the transfer case, front drive shaft/differential found in the 4X4. This was not a consideration for me because I will never be without a 4X4 due to snow and hunting back on logging roads which may be muddy.
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