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Old 02-15-2006, 06:59 PM   #1
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1969 25' Tradewind
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Towing a 25 footer in the mountains with a Suburban

I have a 1969 25 ft Trade Wind with and empty weight of 4340 lb. I am considering buying a new Suburban with a 5.3 liter gas V8 to pull it. I would like comments on how well the Suburban will do while towing across the rockies. Will I be slowed to a 20 mph crawl or just down to 45 mph or so? Also, do you recommend that I get the 4.10 rear end or can I get by with the 3.42?
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Old 02-15-2006, 07:21 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terry & pat
I have a 1969 25 ft Trade Wind with and empty weight of 4340 lb. I am considering buying a new Suburban with a 5.3 liter gas V8 to pull it. I would like comments on how well the Suburban will do while towing across the rockies. Will I be slowed to a 20 mph crawl or just down to 45 mph or so? Also, do you recommend that I get the 4.10 rear end or can I get by with the 3.42?
If you tow regularly, then the 4:10 is a good idea.
You will slow way down, probably to 30-40mph or so.
I did, when I towed my TradeWind over Wolf creek pass in Colorado with my Suburban 5.7l, with 3.73 gears. 4.10's would have been more confidence inspiring. Your 5.3 l has more hp, and moer torque than my 5.7l has. I'd say if it does not happen once a week, you should be fine.
Actually, brakes were a bigger issue for me, coming down the other side. Your future truck has much better brakes than my 1997 has.
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Old 02-15-2006, 07:29 PM   #3
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5.3 L motor issues....

Welcome!

I have a 01 2500HD Burb with the 6L and 3.73 gears. I tow a 34'er. It does great but the high mountains can be a chore for my combo. Not horrible but definately slower than I would like. I do not however have the gas penalty that the 8.1L motor imposes when not towing - the majority of my driving.

I really wouldn't consider any motor smaller than the 6L for towing - it is a great motor! I would also not go with anything less than the HD option - bigger radiator, Trans cooler, HD brakes/shocks/etc.... Stopping is often MORE critical than getting it moving! The 4.10 gears are also a plus and do not seem to impose a big non towing penalty. Changing over later is not practical.

There are plenty of choices in new TV(tow vehicle) for your AS. Use the search function (upper right) and type in "Tow vehicle" you will be reading all night.

Hope that helps!

Axel
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Old 02-15-2006, 08:02 PM   #4
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Suburban towing

I would go with the 3/4 ton Suburban with the 6.0. I tow a 25 ft Sovereign (about 5500 lb) and am quite satisfied with the combination. I considered the 1/2 ton at the time of purchase, but decided to go 3/4 ton for the extra towing margin.

The 4L80 transmission in the 3/4 t has more torque capacity than the 4L60 in the 1/2 t (basically the same transmission as used in the Astro van). The 4L80 stays in lockup at highway speeds without "hunting". This helps the fuel economy. Currently, I am averaging about 12 mpg towing at 55 - 60 mph. Almost all trips I take see mountain grades of 6% or greater.

As someone else mentioned, the fuel economy penalty for the greater capacity of the 8.1 isn't worth it considering the percentage of my driving that is towing.
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Old 02-15-2006, 08:12 PM   #5
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I'd have to agree. The 6.0L is an all around better engine. If you said you had a Bambi or smaller/lighter or if you were not mountain towing, I'd say sure, why not. But folks here as ususal are right on. 4.10 gears and a 6.0L 3/4 ton with a 4l80e transmission is really what the doctor ordered for towing in mountains with what you've got.

I have a 3/4 ton Burb with 4.10s and it does a great job towing our 2004 Safari (6300lbs GVWR).
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Old 02-15-2006, 08:18 PM   #6
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For what its worth here are my cryptic notes on my observation. I’m looking for a new tow vehicle. Still open minded in my data gathering but focusing on a Chevy van.
First thing to do is identify your requirements as best you can.
Then have you needs justify your wants. Good luck

Observations:
A 6.0L w/ 4.10s in a 3/4 ton truck is very good.
Chevy Avalanche P/U truck is too expensive vs. Express Van
A 8.1L is too much, burns lots of gas.
Best (?) 2400HD, 6L engine, 2WD w/ 4.10 axle, can pull 12,000lbs. max

Chevy's website:
1500 2WD w/ 3.42, can pull 7,300lbs, and 8,200lbs with a 4.10 axle.
1500 4WD w/ 3.42, can pull 7,100lbs, and 7,900lbs with a 4.10 axle.
2400 4WD w/ 3.73, can pull 10,200lbs and 12,000lbs with a 4.10 axle.
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Old 02-15-2006, 08:27 PM   #7
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I don't give manufacturer's specs much credibility. They were created by sales engineers who sit at desks with computers. I doubt many of them have actually towed anything. A weak tow vehicle is like an underpowered speedboat - NO FUN.
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Old 02-15-2006, 08:31 PM   #8
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3/4 ton 6.0 engine good advise

We pulled our 1992 29' with a dry weight of 5600lbs this last summer up through Eisenhower tunnel west of Denver at about 10,000 ft. Glad I had the TV I had. Wouldn't want to it with anything less. Going up AND coming down. You and your vehicle will both last longer.
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Old 02-15-2006, 08:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JStanley
Still open minded in my data gathering but focusing on a Chevy van.
jcanavera has a 3/4 ton GMC van (same as the Chevy). He started with a 1/2 ton, and upgraded to the 3/4 ton after he got his 2004 30' Classic slide out.

From what I can tell he loves the van and he also told me it tows the 30' slide out (note very heavy coach) very well.
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Old 02-15-2006, 08:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hookedonclassic
We pulled our 1992 29' with a dry weight of 5600lbs this last summer up through Eisenhower tunnel west of Denver at about 10,000 ft. Glad I had the TV I had. Wouldn't want to it with anything less. Going up AND coming down. You and your vehicle will both last longer.
With a 34' I'd have to agree!
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Old 02-15-2006, 10:08 PM   #11
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Why do we recommend 3/4 ton and bigger V8s all the time?

I read these towing posts all the time and I am not sure why the response is always get a 3/4 ton with the bigger V8 or diesel. Going gas vs. diesel is a whole different discussion that I'm not going to get into here.

The poster is asking about a vintage 25 footer with a dry weight of 4300 lbs. That's a very different animal than a new Safari 25 footer (dry weight around 5400), a new Classic (6000), let alone the 30 to 34 footers that most of the responders are towing.

I had a 1975 Tradewind 25 footer and I towed it for four years with a 1998 Suburban 5.7L and 3.73 rear end. We went over 30,000 miles crossing the rockies a couple times every year. We weren't the fastest ones over the rockies, but we weren't the slowest.

I was always much more concerned about coming down the back side. Rule of thumb I always used was don't crest the mountain any faster than you wanted to go back down. So I didn't mind cresting at 50 MPH, cause that was my target speed going back down. Another consideration was my engine braking and where it was the strongest. The Suburban did a better job holding my speed between 40 and 50 MPH down the big grades. I had a much harder time with engine braking near 60 MPH. This varied slightly based on the grade, but it was mostly a gearing issue. And I certainly didn't want to fly down any of those grades faster than that. So hitting the top at 50 MPH was just fine.

One of my best investments was a $15 Mountain Pass book that documents all the steep grades. After a while I learned what grades I was comfortable with and I tried to avoid anything over 10%.

So my rule of thumb has been a Vintage 25 footer or less will work with a half ton Suburban. A Vintage 28 footer or more will be better served with first a long wheel based pickup, and second a re-evaluation of the weight to see if it pushes you to a 3/4 ton and bigger engine. I'm on the fence with Vintage 26 footers.

We don't talk much about the disadvantages of a 3/4 ton. The stiffer suspension will be harder on the trailer. The stiffer suspension is there all the time and when you are driving around town with the spouse it will not be as cushy as a half ton Suburban - worth considering.

When it comes to newer Airstream units, I respect all the good arguments that have been presented for 3/4 tons big blocks and I don't have a good feeling where the cutoff is 19/22 footers or 22/25 footers - it depends on many factors and I'll defer to others.

I'm just interested in more discussion about these towing recommendations before immediately jumping to the big hammer (3/4 ton big block).

- Mike
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Old 02-15-2006, 10:33 PM   #12
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I agree with air10, you don't need a 3/4 ton truck to pull your trailer. My 1/2 ton Avalanche 5.3 litre engine with a 4.10 pulled my 96 30' classic, no problem. Alot of people may not believe it but it was a great TV. I would never recommend a gear ratio less than a 3.73 The Burb is on the same frame and drive train as the Av. Don't go 3.42, you will enjoy the Burb with the 4.10 won't cost that much more in gas but you will love the performance. good luck.
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Old 02-15-2006, 10:35 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terry & pat
I have a 1969 25 ft Trade Wind with and empty weight of 4340 lb. I am considering buying a new Suburban with a 5.3 liter gas V8 to pull it. I would like comments on how well the Suburban will do while towing across the rockies. Will I be slowed to a 20 mph crawl or just down to 45 mph or so? Also, do you recommend that I get the 4.10 rear end or can I get by with the 3.42?
A 5.3 with 4.10 gears is PLENTY for your trailer. I used to tow a 19' Bambi with a 5.3 powered pickup with 3.73 gears and I had more than enough power for any situation, even when towing in The Rockies at over 10,000'.

3.42s would be marginally OK in the flatlands and miserable anywhere else.
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Old 02-15-2006, 10:51 PM   #14
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Yes, towing a Bambi is different than towing a loaded 25' coach.

When you're going into the mountains, with such a coach that is loaded, you will exceed 2.5 tons of rig behind you. A loaded Bambi is just slightly over 2 tons. True less than a new Safari, but still a good rig behind a person in the mountains. It is true that the 5.7L is a great engine. I have 2 copies of it, but I will tell you first hand that the 6.0L is a MUCH stronger engine. I agree in this particular case 8.1L or diesel is overkill, but if you have the funds and you want no question of issues going up or down mountains with 2.5 or more tons behind you, go for it. Too much tow vehicle is NOT a bad thing. In addition, the cost used or new between 1/2 ton and 3/4 is so minimal that it's hardly worth arguing about, so why not consider a better, more robust vehicle? The 5.3L will do the trick, but to compare the 5.3L 1/2 ton to the 6.0L 3/4 ton, there is just no comparison. The 6.0L is in a whole 'nuther league. BTW, the suspension in a 3/4 ton Suburban is not as still as the suspension in a 3/4 ton pickup, so the point of the 3/4 Burb being too rough is just plain untrue. Yes it's a bit stiffer than the 1/2 ton, but nothing like the pickups due to the heavier rear end.

BTW, talking GM, which we are here, when you go to 3/4 ton, you're getting upgraded axles, transmission, engine (in most cases), brakes, hubs, trans temp gauge, etc. The only GM truck that comes close is the 1500HD. Everything else is simply a 1/2 ton truck (downgraded axles, hubs, trans, brakes, no trans gauge).

There is more to the 3/4 ton than just an engine and gears.

I fully stand by my (and others recommendation) that you strongly consider a 3/4 ton w/4.10s. Will it be a bit more than you need, maybe, but I have never heard of someone that complained, man, I need to upgrade this 3/4 ton. I will again add I own 2 5.7L powered vehicles with 4l60es and the same driveline and one 6.0L 3/4 ton Suburban. I'm speaking from personal exp. having towed weights similar or greater than your situation. I fully disagree with Steve, Basecamp and Air19 here as most (note, not all) other members would also most likely disagree.
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