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Old 01-02-2007, 09:26 AM   #1
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Question Tips for Smaller Truck/Smaller Trailer Combinations

Many threads here extol the virtues of towing with super-duty (at least ¾ ton) trucks, but after reading those threads you find that almost everyone posting is towing 25 footers or bigger. For one big reason (must keep truck in garage and an F-250 wouldn’t fit), I was unable to purchase a ¾ ton truck and ended up with the ½ ton Lincoln Mark LT (essentially a Ford F-150 super cab). The truck came with a 5.4L 3-valve Triton V8, HD Trailer Towing Package, and 3.73 limited-slip differential.

Having chosen that vehicle, I found recommendations here in the forums to stay in the 70% range of the tow vehicle’s capacity (8,900 lbs x 70% = 6,230 max trailer weight). The 23’ Safari SE meets our needs and with its 6,000 lb gross weight, we’re at 67.4% of the trucks capacity.

We pull with an Equal-i-zer hitch and so far, our results are excellent as far as acceleration, braking, maneuvering, and stability. Admittedly, we have only pulled a couple hundred miles so far in Florida where a hill is an interstate highway overpass, but we have encountered some strong crosswinds, and we have plans to head north and west into bigger country.

I’ve posted this thread to troll for tips, recommendations, advice, etc. from the experts out there, for those of us who pull the smaller truck/smaller trailer combinations. For example, what’s the best way to negotiate the upgrades and downgrades in the mountains? Should you pull with cruise control on or off? When should you switch off Overdrive?

We want to stay safe and not “blow-up” the truck or shorten its life. Your advice will be greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-02-2007, 11:35 AM   #2
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rgodfrey, you should be fine with that combo. I don't know if that truck has a tow/haul mode, if it does it should always be on when you are hooked up. If not, I would suggest always towing with OD off to minimize tranny hunting which can generate excessive heat causing break down of tranny fluid viscosity, and ultimately tranny failure. Change your fluid annually, switch to synthetics (both sump and gear box) and you should be fine. A tranny temp gauge would be a great idea also. You may need to drop down a gear or two manually on steeps. You might also get away with OD on the flats, but I found when I was towing with a 1/2 ton that leaving OD off, tow/ haul on, all the time, pretty much much gave me the best situation. You may also be able to use cruise control at times. The objective, in all cases, would be to minimize tranny hunting.
Do you have a brake controller?

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Old 01-02-2007, 11:56 AM   #3
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I have learned with cruise control, to tow with it off. Every tow vehicle I have had, when towing, the cruise would hold until starting up a hill of any kind, the speed would drop a couple of miles below set speed, the cruise would floorboard the accelerator, the transmission would drop at least a gear, and the engine would be screaming like a banshee. This can't be good for the engine or transmission. This was towing with overdrive off.
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Old 01-02-2007, 12:04 PM   #4
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BillTex has pretty much hit the rivit on the head. We tow 22' Safari with a Tahoe with the tow package. Forget Cruise control. Don't need it and don't want to. Tried it once and as soon as we got to a slight grade down it shifted and we were doing 7000 RPM and 15 MPH. Never us OD and always keep it in tow mode. Drove 6K Plus this past September and found this to work really well. All the way up the Big Horn keeping it in 2nd up and down. You wil find what works and what doesn't but I think these are soom good starting points!
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Old 01-02-2007, 12:04 PM   #5
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Ditto, we never tow with cruise or overdrive...so far so good.

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Old 01-02-2007, 12:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillTex
Do you have a brake controller?

Bill
Yes, a Tekonsha Prodigy that was installed by the Airstream dealer.

Thanks for the feedback.
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Old 01-02-2007, 12:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
I have learned with cruise control, to tow with it off. Every tow vehicle I have had, when towing, the cruise would hold until starting up a hill of any kind, the speed would drop a couple of miles below set speed, the cruise would floorboard the accelerator, the transmission would drop at least a gear, and the engine would be screaming like a banshee. This can't be good for the engine or transmission. This was towing with overdrive off.
I use cruise control a lot and don't have that problem, but then I have a 460 CI 4V engine with a flat torque curve and peak at 60 MPH. I have no problem with loosing speed on any overpass or short upgrade with the Lincoln unlike with my wife's Chrysler minivan. I know the newer engines have a high torque peak and do not have a flat curve like the older engines, a consequence of the emmission requirements.

Bill
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Old 01-02-2007, 01:42 PM   #8
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We're definitely pushing the limits with our GMC Safari Van and '78 Argosy 24'. What I'd recommend is that you be ruthless about unecessary weight. If you're not going to use something don't haul it along. Water in the tanks is a big one. Books can add up pretty fast. All the "sundry" items can end up being a lot and another benifit of traveling light is you have a lot more space without the clutter.

With your 1/2 ton truck and V8 you're far better off than we are. Still, spending some time to optimize the hitch set-up for ball height and torsion bar load is well worth the effort. Likewise make sure you've got the tires air'd up. You'll probably find tire pressure for the truck should be higher when towing.

Don't know about your engine tranny combo but keeping the RPM close to max torque is what I like to do. I'd probably avoid OD since I'm guessing that 3rd is probably still 1:1 or what my old '86 Ford called overdrive anyway. I've been told the new trannys will lock out the torque converter even when not in OD. Locking out the torque converter should decrease heat. I use cruise control on long flat stretches; keeps me from gradually creeping up over 60mph.

Only other hint I can give is to plan the trip so that you avoid the really nasty hills during the hottest part of the day. You'd probably be just fine but unless you've got something really important on the schedule why push it?

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Old 01-02-2007, 03:10 PM   #9
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Not really pushing the limits...

That truck and trailer combo is actually a pretty good match, and you shouldn't worry about being overloaeded or overmatched...

Here are a couple of other useful tips if whole process is still somewhat new...

1. I believe Fords are OK with OD NOT locked out on real flat roads at speeds under 60 or 65... If it downshifts, that's a sign, and lock it out...
2. Same theory on cruise control... Here we have Interstate 5 in the central valley of CA, where the total elevation change over 80 miles is 6 feet... Cruise OK there but not in hills or with a lot of speed changes.
3. Keep tires pumped up/at proper pressure. Much of squishy squirrelly feel and sway has to do with tow vehicle tires or trailer tires under-inflated. Ride smoothness suffers, but control and load carrying improve. We pump Excursion tires from 45psi up to 65-70 psi when we tow.
4. Adjust speeds for weather/slow down.. Wind and rain are nature's way of telling you to slow down, though big trucks may not be leaders... Until you've practiced panic stops in the rain on wet slick roads, you may not appreciate how hard it is to stop 7 tons of mass on 8 little rubbery contact patches... Even on sunny days and dry pavement, 60+ mph is probably fast enough for most of us
5. Don't get distracted and do look a long way ahead to anticipate problems. Many times we've seen a buffoon way ahead of us and had time to slow down or change lanes or prepare for the panic stop they were going to cause.
6. When traffic is heavy and everyone is "tailgating" your only safety cushion is the distance between you and the bumber ahead of you. Some extra space should be reserved for the jerk too close behind you, as your extra room in front might prevent you ffrom being bonked in the rear... If someone is dangeroudsly close to rear of trailer, a few brake taps might encourage them to go around or back off...
7. Check the lights every time as well. A blown fuse is easy to miss, and your most sincere signaling won't mean much of the trailer lights are dark...
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Old 01-09-2007, 10:07 AM   #10
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Smile First "Real" Towing Experience Was Positive

I think I have a good operation procedure now for pulling with my truck/trailer combination. I'd be glad to hear any comments and/or recommendations.

We just returned from almost a 1,000 mile round trip from home to the Florida Can Opener Rally. We encountered everything from the usual highway buffoons to city traffic, very heavy rains, and some steep, but short grades.

On the long flat stretches in east and west Florida, the truck cruised right along in OD with cruise control on. In this configuration, when we encountered a little rise (railroad or highway overpass) the truck would downshift one gear, pull up the hill, then go back to where it was cruising. Mileage readout said we were getting about 14 mpg.

When we got into the rolling hills, I switched off OD to keep the truck from constantly downshifting, but left it in cruise control. Unless the grade increased more than what seemed to be the usual highway standard, the truck never downshifted just pulled right along maintaining the set speed. Mileage readout said we were getting about 11.5 mpg.

On the few steeper grades, it was better to kill the cruise control, and hold a constant accelerator pedal pressure letting the speed fall off. Otherwise the truck would downshift dramatically, and we would be climbing at high rpm trying to maintain speed. On these climbs, mileage would drop to around 9 mpg. When in the future, I encounter steeper and longer grades, I will manually downshift to get the climbing power or engine braking needed, of course with OD and cruise off.

This seemed to work without stressing me or the truck. Again, I would appreciate any comments.
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Old 01-09-2007, 10:14 AM   #11
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IMO you've got it exactly right. Also don't use cruise control in wet conditions.
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:24 PM   #12
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In praise of weight distributing hitches

You've got a good setup there. I hope you're using a weight distributing hitch... and here's an unexpected reason.

I had my rear roadside TOW vehicle tire blow out at interstate speeds going up a 7 degree hill in West Virginia. My Suburban 2500 has oversized tires, and I'm betting it would have rolled over on me if I hadn't been towing or had been towing without my W/D hitch.

In this case the weight distributing hitch kept the roadside rear end of my truck UP I maintained complete control - the Airstream axles actually started bearing some o fthe truck's weight. This allowed me to pull right gently and come to a slow safe stop.

You should be fine with your tow vehicle/trailer combo.

Best of luck, Paula
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Old 01-09-2007, 03:07 PM   #13
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Randy,

I think your common sense approach to using OD and cruise is pretty good. You've got a better truck/trailer ratio than I do. One thing you might try is comparing milage while towing on the flat in OD vs 3rd. I found that at 60mph the difference is zero to .2 mpg. With that kind of differential (pardon the pun) it hardly seems worth stressing the transmission and running gear. True the engine is turning higher rpm but it's about the same as driving in OD at 70mph and I'm betting that being closer to the peak on the torque curve and having less torque load on the crankshaft makes engine wear about a wash. Besides, it's usually transmissions that are the weakest link.

-Bernie
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Old 01-09-2007, 03:42 PM   #14
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Lots of good replies, and it sounds like you have things well under control.

The only point I would add is regarding frequent up/downshifting in ANY gear. If your trans is shifting frequently on a hill, manually pull it down to the next lower gear and leave it there until you reach the top. Heat kills trannys, shifting increases heat. This occurs in all gears, not just O/D.
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