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Old 07-16-2014, 01:52 PM   #1
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Smile How important is relationship between vehicle weight and trailer weight?

So, here's the question: my wife and I have pretty much settled on one of the "30 ft." Airstreams for reasons having to do with our height (I'm 6'4" and she's 5'10"), the fact that our 100lb. Golden is along and the planned use is not just for a weekend or a couple of weeks' vacation.

Doing ALL the math regarding towing capacity, hitch weight, cargo capacity, GVWR and GVCW, it appears that the new GM 1/2 tons with the 6.2 liter engine (crew cab) will do the job, with a 10% (or more for the non-Classic models) margin over the trailer GVWR and with about 500 lbs. of cargo capacity after subtracting the tongue weight and the weight of the passengers.

And I've seen the FastLaneTruck guys use one of these to tow a 10,000 lb. (actual weight) trailer up and down the big 7% grade to the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 in Colorado. FWIW, they descended the grade using engine braking alone -- maintaining 65 mph -- which is pretty impressive.

So, the question is: is there any advantage to having simply a heavier tow vehicle in terms of handling the trailer? We could obviously step up to any of the 3/4 ton models and, as a minimum have extra cargo capacity (that I don't think we'll need). These trucks are anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 lbs. heavier, empty, than the half tons. Is there any benefit to that in terms of trailer handling, i.e. keeping the tail from wagging the dog (assuming an effective weight distributing anti-sway hitch?

Purchase price, there's no difference. In fact, I've found new RAM 2500 Laramie Crew cabs with the 6.4 liter gasoline engine for sale $3-4,000 less than the best I can get on a new Chevy 1500 LTZ with the 6.2 liter engine, both with the "short bed."

The 1/2 ton probably would be the more pleasant ride when empty and, with an EPA highway rating of 20 mpg, probably would use less gas empty (and maybe towing, too).

So, that's the question: is the heavier truck going to do a better job of pulling the 30' trailer, in terms of control, not necessary going faster uphill?

(Obviously, there are lots of lightly used 3/4 tons at or below that price, some of which offer diesels.) (Also, by my calculations, there is no Ford or RAM 1/2 ton that works. While a number of these have the towing capacity, they fall down on the cargo capacity measurement when you add in just the hitch weight and the passenger weight.)
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Old 07-16-2014, 02:11 PM   #2
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HA! We watched the same Fastlane Trucks video, the Ike Guanlant challenge! Well we watched them all.

FWIW, Dodge actually offers even more incentives than GM and you could probably get even more off. I keep reading about guys on the Ram forum getting close to 10K off MSRP at Dodge dealers right now and it makes me wonder if it really was worth buying late model used. They even give money off if you currently own a competitor truck and are buying one of theirs. It's also the reason Dodge has the lowest resale values, because of all their incentives. Ford's hold the best value, and GM comes in kinda behind Toyota in that arena.

I suspect however you're about to get dumped on with a variety of opinions.

I'm not going to comment. I went smaller for ride comfort personally. I also was unimpressed with the Silverado after test driving one. I've been a life long die hard GM guy. But test driving the Dodge Ram, both the 1500 and the 2500 won me over fast.
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Old 07-16-2014, 03:36 PM   #3
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I'd incline into the direction of investigating the 2014 Dodge 1500 TurboDiesel if you're looking for ride comfort combined with the capability to tow. You do get the best of several worlds:
  • Ride Comfort -- as it's a half ton truck, the ride is far more comfortable than the 3/4ths or 1 ton trucks
  • Daily Driver MPG -- 25 MPG combined freeway/street
  • Tow MPG -- 14-22 MPG depending on speed (55-70 mph, measured with a Crew Cab 4x4)
  • Tow Capability -- if you can manage the tongue weight, it can tow 8200 lbs comfortably.

But this also depends on which 30' Airstream you get. The Classics may not be as comfortable with the above truck, as its tow capability is reduced compared to the V8 Hemi's.
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Old 07-16-2014, 03:53 PM   #4
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Much of the contentious arguments about such a subject are moot.

Much (not all) of the time when people run their weight numbers for a 30' airstream, the numbers demand the payload of a 3/4 ton truck...28's these days have a bit higher toungue weight than the 30's too...so same for that length.

But beyond that, if can work out the payload numbers to meet spec...then by all means let the debate ensue lol...I made a point in reading many of these discussions before buying my 3/4 ton RAM (2010 model, diesel)....opinions vary widely it seems...
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Old 07-16-2014, 05:09 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by PharmGeek View Post
Much of the contentious arguments about such a subject are moot.

Much (not all) of the time when people run their weight numbers for a 30' airstream, the numbers demand the payload of a 3/4 ton truck...28's these days have a bit higher toungue weight than the 30's too...so same for that length.

But beyond that, if can work out the payload numbers to meet spec...then by all means let the debate ensue lol...I made a point in reading many of these discussions before buying my 3/4 ton RAM (2010 model, diesel)....opinions vary widely it seems...
Absolutely. The 28' International *is* on the higher end of what my Ram 1500 EcoDiesel truck is capable of, tongue weight-wise, and I will have to monitor it very closely if I add more batteries. I ran the numbers again and again.

Took a little bit of a roll of the dice -- and came up with sixes. Tows beautifully.
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Old 07-16-2014, 05:28 PM   #6
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Bruce, you're going to open a can of worms with this one

To answer your original question...I'm not sure how important the ratio of weight of tow vehicle to weight of trailer is...but in general a massive tow vehicle to a lightweight trailer = no problem. But, there's no reason a lighter a tow vehicle can't pull a heavy trailer if it's hitched right. Based on what you're looking at, in general, longer wheel bases on the tow vehicle help you. Beyond that, look at projection hitches such as the Hensley Arrow or the Propride.

Beyond that, we get into....

There are several variables at play here. It sounds like you've done your homework pretty well. But these include:

1. What percentage of the time will you be towing vs running empty?
2. Do you want a diesel or a gasser? (ENTIRE discussion unto itself)
3. Do you want to run fast up the mountains or are you OK with creeping up the occasional steep one?
4. Can you live day to day with a long bed or must you have a short bed?

There are probably more, but these are the most basic.

Looking at #1, if you drive solo 95% of the time and tow 5% of the time, as long as it's not a hazard to you and every other person on the road, you can tow with a variety of vehicles. Get a half ton Yukon and call it done if the former. Get a Duramax 3500 if the reverse (if you're a Chevy guy).

Looking at #2, ten years ago the answer was easy: Diesel all the way. Personally, I love my diesel. But when I bought my truck, diesels got at least 7mpg average better than gassers, had way more torque, you didn't need DPF, and diesel fuel cost less than regular. Now, it's 1974 as far as emissions are concerned with diesels, diesel costs just about as much as Premium gas, and there's that $6K premium to get the engine. If you don't tow a lot, then it may not be worth it. But man, do they tow nicely

Looking at #3, it follows #2; Diesels have torque like you wouldn't believe without driving one. They lope along at 2000rpm pulling the trailer where a gasser would need 5000 rpm to compete. But, if you don't tow that much, is it worth it?

Looking at #4: The long beds ride better. Why? The longer wheelbase spreads out the bump, and it reduces the angular acceleration. Yah, that's engineer geek speak, but the truth is a 3/4 ton HD truck with a long bed rides a whale of a lot better than a short bed. I test drove both. My dad's Dodge Ram with the Cummins Turbodiesel and a short bed rattles your teeth when you ride over a shadow. So did the ones I test drove. My Dodge Ram with the CTD with the long bed and four doors rides very nicely. It may not sound like much, but the extra 18" of wheelbase makes a big difference. A long wheelbase tow vehicle will ride better than a short one, all else being equal. And, a long wheelbase tow vehicle will track a trailer better than a short wheelbase one, all else being equal, because the resisting forces of the axles are spread further apart, so it can resist more swaying moment for a given axle scrubbing force. In English, that means the long truck tows better. Period. But, can you live with it in D.C.? I had a Ford Excursion before my Ram and took it down to D.C. and the parking lot attendants laughed at me.....the Ram is 2' longer. But it tows very nicely.

So anyway, you need to consider your variables and think about it some. If you plan to nearly full time and tow way more than drive solo, I'd get a 4-door diesel long bed truck from your favorite brand (I like Dodge, but they all make a decent diesel now). If you plan to drive it daily in D.C. traffic and tow only now and then, I'd get the best vehicle for day to day use and still pull your trailer. Something like a standard Yukon (not an XL). Suburbans are always great, but I'd lean toward the 3/4 unless you can get the 1/2 ton with the bigger engine. A 5.3 and a 3:23 rear would really stink for towing a 30' Airstream.

I personally use a Dodge Ram 2500 4-door long bed with a Cummins turbo diesel and pull an Avion 34X triple axle which weighs 5 tons and is actually 36' long. I've never met a hill I couldn't accelerate up, and the truck pulls the trailer effortlessly. I also really like it that the diesel just lopes along not straining. I've pulled this trailer thousands of miles with no issues. 8' bed is nice also for all the junk.... But anyway, I've been very happy with this combo. But, the big Mopar would be a handful in downtown D.C.

Anyway, hope this helps. I wish you the best of luck!
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Old 07-16-2014, 05:59 PM   #7
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Basically, the way you laid it out, you're fine with the 1500 Max Tow. BUTTTTTTT.......if you pick up toys along the way, like me, you'll run, out of rear axle capacity pretty quickly.

I have to have a 2500 with my 30'er, as I have added a front bike rack and 2 bikes +ramps for the scooter which is in the back of the truck along with a Mercury SIB, 10 horse motor, gas tank...and sometimes 2 honda generators. Stuff adds up over time.
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Old 07-16-2014, 07:27 PM   #8
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I see a trend with all the Dodge Rams
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Old 07-16-2014, 08:07 PM   #9
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Like Jim, I believe that long wheel base diesels are a good way to go:

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Old 07-16-2014, 08:29 PM   #10
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I'll stay out of the diesel issues, and the brand issues. Glad to see you are thinking hard about payload. Now to the original question, control.

Good control starts with good handling of the truck solo, before you even hitch up the trailer. Towing a trailer will raise the requirements for handling, so start with more capability if you can. A heavier vehicle will generally not handle as well as a lighter vehicle. Yes, that is a generalization. It will not handle transients as well, it will not corner as well, it will not brake as well. It has been a long time since any manufacturer seriously tried to sell people on road hugging weight as a design benefit.

Weight will help when we are only considering static situations. Hence, heavy anchors are good. When you are moving, you want the ability to change direction with certainty and precision, and for the vehicle suspension to respond to changes in the road surface. Stiffer springs and heavier vehicles are the opposite of what you want for control, assuming you are within the design load rating of the vehicle.

IMO, focus on payload first. Pick a truck brand you like and which has good dealer support. If you can tow the intended trailer and carry the intended payload with a lighter vehicle, all other things being equal, that would be a good plan in order to maximize system (truck plus trailer) performance.

As an aside, comments above discuss truck wheelbase. I agree longer wheelbase helps. But I would also look at the ratio of truck rear overhang to wheelbase, ie how long is the lever from hitch to rear axle. A truck with a shorter wheelbase would be better for control than a long wheelbase if it also had a better overhang to wheelbase ratio.

Jeff
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Old 07-16-2014, 08:51 PM   #11
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Like others have said, it's all a matter of personnal preference and usage. I went for a 1/2 ton with the HD package (2200lbs capacity), it's a 4 door with a 6.5' bed. This thing is a lot bigger than my previous mazda 3 and my wife's yaris, but in the end I really appreciate it. It's fairly easy to drive in traffic, a bit long for thight parking space in town but when I tow, I can put almost anything in the bed and don't worry about payload capacity.

My parents went from a 1/2ton to a 3/4 ton for their 28' box trailer and it sure makes a big difference in towing, but not that much in handling.
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Old 07-17-2014, 01:21 PM   #12
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Wow! 10 responses in 24 hours. I'm impressed! I didn't want to start a gas vs. diesel war. I owned a German diesel car 34 years ago and have had sail boats with diesel auxiliary engines. Sadly, the diesels I knew only faintly resemble the complicated beasts now powering our vehicles. Not that I favor "rolling coal" or a return to the pungent smell of diesel exhaust, but the emission controls are very much a "work in progress." Cuummins doesn't use DPF until it does ('13) ; Ford sticks its customers with two generations of "fail" PowerStrokes and so on.
I've thought about the wheelbase thing and, in a half ton, you can get a bed even shorter than 6 feet. I certainly don't need all that bed capacity and, while I recognize the benefits of a longer wheelbase, pretty soon the whole combination is more than 50 feet long and when you're making a right turn, you have to count to ten after the cab passes the corner before you turn the wheel. I've just read comments where people say they were "punished" pulling a trailer with "X" pickup until they replaced it with "Y" pickup and I'm trying not to get "punished."
Plans would be for this to be largely a tow vehicle and, secondarily, I'm thinking about how it would be as a DD. No, I'm not planning to stay in DC and, notwithstanding all of the moms who wield their Suburbans and Tahoes and Land Crushers around my city's streets, I think our Pilot is quite big enough.
A little off topic for this thread, but I recently learned that Airstream has ended their current "Classic" line and is bringing out a new Classic (30 Queen bed only) that's quite modern and lists at over $120K before options. Whew! The Cloud 30 will no longer have a sofa at the front; it has an L-shaped "lounge" which is really a wood box with some covered foam cushions on top. So, we may have to suck it up a little and get a 27 to get a twin. I can't see much benefit to the extra 3 feet. That certainly solves the tow weight issue, even though it increases the tongue weight a bit.
The new GM-half tons really are pretty impressive -- seriously quiet regardless of engine and somehow the V-8s get EPA rated highway at 20 mpg for the 4wd version; 22 for the 2wd version. I still think the RAM interiors are nicest, but the 1500 just doesn't have the cargo capacity to carry anything other than me, my wife and the dog.
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Old 07-17-2014, 06:28 PM   #13
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It does make a difference going around a sharp curve at the bottom of a long downhill stretch.
I have a 25 foot light Safari and a 3/4 ton Excursion. I can feel the trailer pushing me. It is nothing unpleasant but it is there.
My previous rig was a 26 foot sob travel trailer and a regular wheelbase Expedition. It was within the tow rating of the vehicle barely. The push was much more. Even with a Reece dual cam hitch, I had to get one of those friction sway control supressors and I would describe the rig's handling as tiring and stressful to drive.
No question, with a 30 foot Classic pushing 10k trailer weight and 1k hitch weight I would have a 3/4 ton truck and a premium hitch..
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Old 07-17-2014, 06:40 PM   #14
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Thanks for the question DC Bruce....I learned a lot!
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