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Old 02-17-2010, 12:27 AM   #1
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Towing with a clutch

I have pickups on the brain today.

My current TV was purchased mainly as a plow truck. It lacks sufficient seating for my family so we end up taking two cars. I'm thinking of getting a new truck in the next year or so.

Of the trucks I have bought new over the years, all have had manual transmissions. I like automatics. I like them a lot. But I am broadly unwilling to pay around $1500 extra for the privilege of not having to shift.

For a while I drove a late 1960s twin-screw dump truck with an unsynchronized twin stick setup. Meaning a five-speed transmission with an auxiliary gearbox that had 3 ranges--direct, OD, and underdrive. The underdrive was for off-road and other extreme situations, and the direct and OD served as a gear splitter so you had to split shift. So I can shift.

I get it about convenience and resale and am prepared to make those tradeoffs.

The main question I have is on the lifespan of modern, automatic, 3/4 ton truck transmissions. Towing a large traylah, with frequent fluid and filter changes, will the transmission last for the life of the truck?

Any experience or comments on the lifespan of manual transmissions and clutches would be welcome, too, although I'm inclined to believe that the clutch will outlast the engine in use cases that involve mostly highway miles, and that a manual transmission will outlast the truck most of the time.
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Old 02-17-2010, 12:44 AM   #2
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Haven't a clue, but there is no way we would have anything other than an automatic. That being said we own a 2009 Toyota Tundra, which may soon zoom up to 110 mph. That isn't good for gas mileage or our safety. But we will keep it anyway.
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:05 AM   #3
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Hi, I can, and have, tore-up the clutches on every vehicle I have ever owned with a stick. The best clutch I ever had was in my Jeep CJ-5; It was a 10 1/2" double disk. In my part of town, most streets and freeways become parking lots. [ or very slow moving / stop and go] Sticks are fine if you are in the sticks, [out of the crowded city] other than that, I wouldn't own another one. [My opinion]

There is no magic number on how long any trans will last. Doing a soft overhaul on an automatic will cost about the same as a Syncro-rebuild and clutch on a stick.
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Old 02-17-2010, 06:23 AM   #4
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This is a tough area to addresss,
I drive for a trailer transporter so have the opportunity to see a lot of trucks driven a lot of miles.
My impression, and it is only that, is the life expectancy of the automatics seems to be around 200K

My own vehicle is a 5 speed manual, I have had no transmission problems, I have changed a clutch due to pilot bearing problems. The clutch was nowhere near worn out at 300k but it was common sense since I was already in there.

I can change a clutch myself but am not qualified to rebuild an automatic.
We are also of course talking about a manual with a real creeper gear as used in 3/4 ton vehicles.
Currently have 548K on the TV. Most would probably never use up a transmission with a 200k life

"Your mileage may vary"
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Old 02-17-2010, 08:06 AM   #5
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I learned that newer trucks with automatics have a significantly higher tow capacity than ones with manuals. Two years ago, I had an F250 with a manual transmission, the tow capacity was about a third less than one with an automatic (per the owner's manual).
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:03 AM   #6
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I have used both also and find the auto is with out a doubt better for me. When getting stuck in traffic, when going thru a city, or during road construction the auto is unbeatable. I now have a Chevy with an Allison 6 speed auto. It has an extrernal spin on filter that is easy to change. I combine that with synthetic fluid and I think it will last a much longer time than the older tranys.
Try one out at a dealer and take it on the road in the Tow/Haul mode and see for yourself that these tranys are the best thing going. Match it with the Duramax engine and "it's like heaven man".
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:19 AM   #7
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The life expectancy of an automatic trans is directly effected by the operating temperature.

I have towed with a Ford FMX that everyone said could not be used for towing. That car drove itself to the junk yard after the frame rotted through. I removed the trans coolant lines from the radiator and installed my own coolers forward. This kept the temperature well below the 180 of the engine thermostat under normal driving and did not allow it to raise under load to the temperatures that do damage, 270 degrees.

I did a similar system on my 700r4 GM trans and it is still towing with 190,000 miles. Additionally on that truck I installed a manual locking system for the converter and often drove in 3rd gear with the converter locked on none interstate roads, a type of driving that would normally Kills a transmission from overheating

If you install a temperature gauge and secondary cooling and drive by them an automatic will work.

Having said that, if were buying new, I would prefer a stick 4 or 5 speed since the newer computer controlled transmissions are not designed to be modified for towing. 1996 was the last year for GM and 2003 was the last year for Ford that you could manually control the locking of the converter.
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
I have pickups on the brain today.

Any experience or comments on the lifespan of manual transmissions and clutches would be welcome, too, although I'm inclined to believe that the clutch will outlast the engine in use cases that involve mostly highway miles, and that a manual transmission will outlast the truck most of the time.
My first Tv for my classic 31 was a Ford F-250 4X4 Gas, Manual six speed. I rarely used first under regular use. I rarely used 6 while towing. That said, the manual tired you out faster while towing. There is a lot more work to do, Especially if you are in the mountains.

The convience of an automatic is wonderful when towing. Much more relaxing and one less thing to worry about. When I replaced my TV I went with a F-250 4X4 Diesel, automatic. What a difference! Much more relaxing while towing.
I also installed oil temp, Trans Temp, and Exhaust Gas Temp; pre turbo. Now I know if anything is getting too warm and I can back off or stop and let it cool down. This has never happened, even towing out west.
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:50 AM   #9
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:24 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
...The main question I have is on the lifespan of modern, automatic, 3/4 ton truck transmissions.

Towing a large traylah, with frequent fluid and filter changes, will the transmission last for the life of the truck?...
short answer to this specific question, NO.
_____________

a new 3/4-1 ton truck used PRIMARILY for towing by a trailer OWNER (not transporter) could/should see 20+ YEARs of duty...

and most likely have SEVERAL owners during that time or the "life of the truck"

so MANY of the driveline parts may/will need major service...

including the tranny and including the consumer version of the alli'.

kept for a decade of towing and with sufficient USE

i would expect ALL of the modern auto/trans to need SOME sort of major repairs.
__________

now, in the 'lifetime' of the original new truck buyer, which is typically LESS than 4 years...

who keeps up on service/maintenance and provides good care FOR the tranny...

it's reasonable to expect NOT to do major repairs.
__________

this is also brand/maker dependent, and EACH of the truck enthusiast groups have larger forums...

where tranny issues get a LOT of time/posting on service and repairs.
__________

transporters seem to have a fondness for manual gearing, probably because of the LOWER cost factor and maintenance costs...

those folks log 100s of thousands of miles basically at crusin' speed, taking units from A to B....

but they don't spend 2-4 hours backing in/out of a UPhill/twisted camping slot and making 200 shifts...

just to get the trailer perfectly aligned.

cheers
2air'
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Old 02-17-2010, 11:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2airishuman View Post
short answer to this specific question, NO.
_____________

a new 3/4-1 ton truck used PRIMARILY for towing by a trailer OWNER (not transporter) could/should see 20+ YEARs of duty...

and most likely have SEVERAL owners during that time or the "life of the truck"

so MANY of the driveline parts may/will need major service...

including the tranny and including the consumer version of the alli'.

kept for a decade of towing and with sufficient USE

i would expect ALL of the modern auto/trans to need SOME sort of major repairs.
OK, thanks, that's what I was looking for.

Quote:
now, in the 'lifetime' of the original new truck buyer, which is typically LESS than 4 years...

who keeps up on service/maintenance and provides good care FOR the tranny...

it's reasonable to expect NOT to do major repairs.
When I buy a new car it doesn't get out of here alive. I don't get rid of them until they're basket cases. There has been one exception where changing life circumstances required getting rid of my wife's Sebring convertible when it was only six years old and still perfectly good. We replaced it with a minivan....

Paying $1500 extra for an automatic up front, then $3000 for repairs down the road, not to mention fluid and filter changes that a manual does not need, would be the tradeoff then.

Quote:
but they don't spend 2-4 hours backing in/out of a UPhill/twisted camping slot and making 200 shifts...
I'm getting closer to making up my mind. I will gladly pay $3000 for a hitch that will help my avoid a sway accident at speed. I will not pay $10,000 for leather seats nor $4500 for the privilege of not having to shift. I'm a ONE with the MACHINE kind of guy and I don't even notice the clutch or the gearshift... i AM the automatic and the traylah goes where I look with no thinking to get in the way and screw things up.
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:46 PM   #12
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Have manual, will travel....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
<SNIPPY>

Of the trucks I have bought new over the years, all have had manual transmissions. I like automatics. I like them a lot. But I am broadly unwilling to pay around $1500 extra for the privilege of not having to shift.

<SNIPPY>

The main question I have is on the lifespan of modern, automatic, 3/4 ton truck transmissions. Towing a large traylah, with frequent fluid and filter changes, will the transmission last for the life of the truck?
I cannot answer this; no experience with current automatics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
Any experience or comments on the lifespan of manual transmissions and clutches would be welcome, too, although I'm inclined to believe that the clutch will outlast the engine in use cases that involve mostly highway miles, and that a manual transmission will outlast the truck most of the time.
We purchased a 2008 Ford F250 P-Cup truck in late 2007. Had to order it from the factory for two reasons:

1. We found one manual Ford on a dealers lot within 1000 miles of us. It was sold and being loaded on a transport for another dealer while I was on the phone with the sales manager.

2. To get the truck we wanted equipped the way we wanted. Had to wait two months for the truck to reach the front of the manufacturers queue before it was produced.

We have 50K+ miles on the truck now; we are full time with our 30' Classic. 90%+ of the miles have been amassed with the Classic in tow.

Additionally, we have a 1,000 lb. motorcycle/sidecar loaded on the aluminum flatbed that we replaced the P-Cup bed with.

We were able to order an upgraded suspension package which coupled with the weight rating of the axles that come with the diesel engine that allowed us to use an F250 rather than having to spend the funds for an F350.

To date we have encountered one campground where backing into the space might have been easier with an automatic. But, having said that, my wife was driving and I was doing the guiding and it all went very well. It just took us about 5 minutes longer because we are firm believers that a clutch pedal has two positions - all the way in OR all the way out.

As for destroying clutches, ya, BTDT but it was in an off road situation with a very heavily loaded motorcycle sidecar going up a dirt mountain road; the back way out of Sand Dunes National Monumnet. But the clutch was still good enough to get us from Colorado to Oregon after I cooked it pretty good.

I don't foresee any situation with the truck that would cause us to do anything that would lead to a clutch failure.

As for the stop and go traffic situation I find that more often than not all I need to do is get in a lane, shift into granny low, let the clutch out and cross my legs; interpret this to mean that I do NOT have a foot on the gas, the brake OR the clutch pedals. We just creep down the road and avoid the stop and go stuff. I find that we can fall in with the big rigs who will also employ this strategy. This sure takes the worry out of riding the brakes and accelerating to just brake again.

I have destroyed several automatics because they could not handle that which the manufacturer said they could. The guys at the Aamco shop hated to see me come in the driveway because they knew that they were going to put yet another transmission in my Dodge van. At last count that van was on the fourth transmission when I last saw it.

So ya, I too am VERY biased toward manual gear boxes for heavy duty work. There is a reason that big rigs have manual gear boxes. What is interesting is that the new models can shift the manual gear boxes automatically. Really neat technology, at a price.

Of course, as always, YMMV.

Jim
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:07 PM   #13
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the duramax/allison guys sing high praise for their combos.

i don't know the service issues/reliability of the alli' but...

suspect the % of owners doing MUCH serious towing is small.

ford used to report that 95% of superduty buyers were towing something...

shopping all 3 makes it was clear the fords were EQUIPPed better for serious towing.

when diesel fuel prices went UP lots of folks who had big trucks and did NOT really need a big truck, dumped them.

the 05 i have is used for towing 95% of the time,

and has 70k+ miles pulling the 34 and with ~19-20k lbs per the scales, typically.

it's had 2 tranny fluid baths and i've had NO issues with the trans except for one 'code REflash while still under warranty.

i'd be thrilled if it goes past 100k towing without issues, my driving style isn't hard on these things...

for example i'm still on the original brake pads on the truck.

flush/filter is 160 $ and sometimes as low as 99$ from the F dealers who send mailers and coupons.

while i'm a big fan of 3 pedals and have had lots of cars with clutches, i am HAPPY to have the floor space and idle left foot towing.
___________

the '11 fords have a new tranny and they aren't OUT yet to use or generate customer reports...

it's supposed to be a TRUE 6 (forward) speed (the last version had 5 forward gears available but 6 in the box)

and an INCREMENTAL upgrade to the current torqueshift.

these newer torqueshifts (from 05 on) DO preform much better than previous generations

in regard to HOLDING downshifts and automatically shifting DOWN with grade or brake input...

that's a nice feature when towing in the wide open spaces and elevations west of dodge...

cheers
2air'
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Old 02-18-2010, 08:58 AM   #14
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All the studies I have seen indicate an automatic will outlast a manual trans especially when used for towing.

Of course if you drive a manual, regular clutch replacements are a maintenance item. We have not even counted them.

If you buy a truck equipped for towing, install a cooler and maintain it by the book it should last the life of the vehicle. Especially if you use synthetic fluid or B&M fluid.
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