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Old 05-22-2016, 07:50 AM   #1
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Grade Braking with GMC/Chevy 1500 (2015+)

I'm planning my routes for next week when I'll be taking the Airstream from Austin, TX to Yellowstone. On the first leg I'm contemplating taking 82 from Artesian, NM to Alamogordo to save a bit of mileage. There's a 6% down grade from Cloudcroft to Alamogordo.

I've got the 2015 GMC Sierra with the 5.3/3.42 package. I'm wondering what folks experience is with the grade brake on the newer Chevy/GMC 1500's on that sort of grade. You don't get grade braking if you go to manual, and this will be our first big trip with the Airstream and first where I'll have some steep grades to deal with.

Thoughts? Should I just go full manual and not take advantage of the grade braking? Or is grade breaking actually something that works fairly well? With 6000+ lbs on rear, I'm just wondering how effective the grade braking really is.
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Old 05-22-2016, 07:53 AM   #2
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If it is a maxtow, it has an automatic grade assist feature. Check your credit owner manual for details.
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Old 05-22-2016, 07:54 AM   #3
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It works very well. Try it. If you don't like it, use manual tap down.
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Old 05-22-2016, 08:06 AM   #4
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It has worked well for me in the Smokies.
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Old 05-22-2016, 09:13 AM   #5
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We have it on our new Ram and it works good on the grades we have been on so far. I suspect on steep grades we will have to tap it down manually to hold the speed.

The engine will rev pretty high to get the compression needed for engine braking as it should, I've never seen this as a problem. We never hesitate to add truck and Airstream service braking as needed to hold speed, deciding ahead of time what speed we feel is safe for conditions at the time and keep it there. Letting it go too fast and then trying to slow it back down is hard on equipment and can be nerve wracking for me. Stay ahead of it.
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Old 05-22-2016, 10:21 AM   #6
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Actually, Same concerns as We're relatively new at towing our 2005 25ft Intl CCD 5300/6300 and have exact same TV specs as you mentioned in a daily driver 2014 GMC Denali 1500, 5.3L, 3.42. 1488Lb door sticker payload and published 9600 TT cap. Eze-Lift WD 2-1000lb bars.

In like grade situations where we've traveled in Calif. Central Coast, was also very concerned on three grades 1st going down and then back up with our power train modest loading and 1/2 fresh water.

In our amazement so far, grade braking was effortless, kept our speed and control VERY comfortable as 1st time down the 6% Conejo Grade. Surprisingly did not touch the TV brakes once! Blew us away.

On way up the grades easy 58-60mph at 3000rpm. Also a pleasant suprize.

You hear many opinions on this forum and thus, trying to determine our own, asked CanAm on our setup and abilities, we were comforted that "the new trucks today have far more ability and your TV is more than able to easily handle the loads described". So far we would agree.
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Old 05-22-2016, 11:28 AM   #7
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Grade Braking?

Hate to show my ignorance, but what is Grade Braking? Thanks
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Old 05-22-2016, 11:47 AM   #8
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Grade Braking is a term used by GM to automatically shift into lower gearing for you and basically help reduce your speed by not having you apply the brakes as often. Think of it as using the engine compression like we use to do in the older standard transmissions (you can do this yourself using the manual shifting as well).

Here is what GM says about it:

"Powertrain grade braking is now included in all six-speed automatic transmissions. This feature reduces brake rotor temperatures 100 degrees Celsius on grade tests by downshifting transmission gears, thereby reducing brake applications on long downhill conditions."

With our older A-Frame camper, we didn't even notice the camper behind us, but you can tell we're hauling a lot more weight with the Airstream. But I haven't had to go up or down steep grades yet.
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Old 05-22-2016, 12:03 PM   #9
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I too also have GMC 1500 with Grade Braking. We have towed all over CA and 1 trip to TX. On steep down grades I have experienced 3500 to 4000 RPMs. It makes me very nervous. Is this an ok range fo rpm? I try to anticipate speed to avoid the high reving, but it seems inevitable. Have somewhat controlled by tapping accelerator to up shift. I have been hesitant to try manual +/-. Thoughts, please!
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Old 05-22-2016, 12:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vantair View Post
Actually, Same concerns as We're relatively new at towing our 2005 25ft Intl CCD 5300/6300 and have exact same TV specs as you mentioned in a daily driver 2014 GMC Denali 1500, 5.3L, 3.42. 1488Lb door sticker payload and published 9600 TT cap. Eze-Lift WD 2-1000lb bars.

In like grade situations where we've traveled in Calif. Central Coast, was also very concerned on three grades 1st going down and then back up with our power train modest loading and 1/2 fresh water.

In our amazement so far, grade braking was effortless, kept our speed and control VERY comfortable as 1st time down the 6% Conejo Grade. Surprisingly did not touch the TV brakes once! Blew us away.

On way up the grades easy 58-60mph at 3000rpm. Also a pleasant suprize.

You hear many opinions on this forum and thus, trying to determine our own, asked CanAm on our setup and abilities, we were comforted that "the new trucks today have far more ability and your TV is more than able to easily handle the loads described". So far we would agree.
I would only add, that you lock it in on the 4H all wheel drive mode. Makes all the difference down hill.
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Old 05-22-2016, 12:13 PM   #11
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That is a long grade. The rule of thumb while towing is use the same gear to go down a hill that you used to go up the hill. Since you will not have towed up that grade I would use grade breaking and be prepared to shift to a lower gear if it will not hold the speed and are using the break pedal.

If I remember correctly that grade does not have runoff ramps.
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Old 05-22-2016, 12:37 PM   #12
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We have the same engine / axle in our 2015 Silverado (standard ...not max trailer package).

The Grade Assist feature works beautifully without any intervention by the driver.

I believe it's a better option than manually downshifting in most cases. The computer does an excellent job of gear selection and protects against over-reving.

For inattentive drivers who don't understand or bother with down-shifting, it probably saves lots of brake pad in the process.
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Old 05-22-2016, 03:37 PM   #13
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I have been down that grade pulling a 12,000 lb trailer with a GMC 2500 Duramax. I manually downshifted even though the the Allison was designed to downshift automatically. My belief is that slower is better on a long steep downgrade, it is a lot easier to pick up speed if needed than to slow down if you get going too fast. A LOT more comfortable too!! Take your time, the truck and gears will save your brakes, trailer and nerves.
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Old 05-22-2016, 04:50 PM   #14
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Remember one thing about grades. They post the overall grade from top to bottom that does not mean you will not encounter steeper sections on the way down. So don't gear up just because it seamed to level out there is more to come.
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