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Old 01-11-2013, 11:02 PM   #1
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TV Transmissions - Automatic v Manual

My father has always been the practical type - what he owns he does for a reason, not a desire. The only vehicle he ever owned as an automatic was the TV for our 16' Trottwood trailer when I was growing up. I learned on manuals; I drive manuals - I am a manual driver.

I am reviewing my options for a tow vehicle. Despite some negative experiences in the past with both brands, I am considering the Dodge 2500 and Ford F250 lines (likely diesel) either current year new, or recent year certified used. I may look at the Toyota again, but unsure at this time. That discussion though is independent of this question.

I am curious to know, beyond fuel efficiency potential and additional things to break, if there is any reason to consider automatic transmissions in a modern technology tow vehicle? Do the modern automotive computer add anything to sensing and compensating for trailer tow experiences in an automatic transmission system, or is it simply the comfort aspect? I believe the Ford may carry an 8-gear automatic transmission now - which is likely for fuel economy; but again carries concerns about the effect of automatic short shifts up/down when towing a heavy trailer.

Thanks for your thoughts,

Ian Poulin
Richmond Va.
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:23 PM   #2
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The best thing that could happen to a tow vehicle is an 8-speed transmission, to keep the engine in its best power and economy ranges. On many shifts you will barely know it's shifting.

However if it is shifting down repeatedly towing a heavy trailer, you are in too high a gear for your cruising speed and need to drop down to keep the transmission from overheating.

doug k
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Old 01-12-2013, 07:02 AM   #3
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My first automatic as well

Ian

When we bought Thumper, we also needed to buy a TV. I knew my 2002 Ford Ranger wasn't going to pull my 23 ft Safari.

We have had 5 Toyotas in our family over the past 36 years and while I looked at Ford and GMC, I liked the Tundra. But as you say that's a separate discussion.

That said, the Tundra is the first automatic transmission that I have driven on a daily basis. My wife has had automatics but I've stuck with the stick so to speak going all the way back to my first VW fastback.

I like the automatic at this point, because as I enter my sixth decade, wear and tear on the knees and the clutch is not something I wanted to deal with when towing.

We've made one trip into the moderate mountains of the Ozark region and I was very pleased with both the uphill towing/shifting capabilities and the downhill capabilities of the transmission. I think even on the steepest downhill grades, I seldom had to get on the brakes to maintain a reasonable and safe speed.

So in this instance, I vote for the automatic transmission. I found my Tundra on the dealer's lot and it had the shifter on the steering column, which at first I thought to be pretty old school, but then realized that I gained some great space in the front seat floor area that would have been taken up by the auto stick on the floor.

So I'm a happy camper, so to speak, with my automatic Tundra.

Dana
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Old 01-12-2013, 08:50 AM   #4
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If you go with an automatic makesure you have the ability to shift gears manually, I'm not sure about the new trucks but the some vehicles don't have the ability to select a specific gear, which can be a problem towing.

My Tundra has a collumn shift with a button to turn off Overdrive and a button on the dash to shift into First gear, the shifter has second through Drive.

My Flex has a floor shifter with the options of M (manual) or D (Drive/overdrive). To select a specific forward gear you have to put the shifter in manual and use the paddle shifters. Paddle shifters were only available on the Ecoboost Flex in 2010. My parents Edge has the same floor shifter as my flex but they can only select drive or Low.

I normally prefer manual for myself but there are some limitations.

First, my wife doesn't drive manual, so any vehicle she may drive has to be automatic.

Second, unless its a Sports car or a Jeep, automatics generally have better resale value or are easier to sell. If you flip vehicles regularly you'll probably be better off with an automatic when it comes time to sell.

Today's automatics are very reliable if treated right, services properly and up to the job of towing your load.
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Old 01-12-2013, 09:18 AM   #5
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The 2013 Ram diesel will be available with up to 850lbft of torque with a 6 speed auto.Rated to tow up to a 30klb trailer.There is no Airstream that will begin to Tax that truck
I have no clue on other brand offerings
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AldeanFan View Post
If you go with an automatic makesure you have the ability to shift gears manually, I'm not sure about the new trucks but the some vehicles don't have the ability to select a specific gear, which can be a problem towing.

My Tundra has a collumn shift with a button to turn off Overdrive and a button on the dash to shift into First gear, the shifter has second through Drive.

My Flex has a floor shifter with the options of M (manual) or D (Drive/overdrive). To select a specific forward gear you have to put the shifter in manual and use the paddle shifters. Paddle shifters were only available on the Ecoboost Flex in 2010. My parents Edge has the same floor shifter as my flex but they can only select drive or Low.

I normally prefer manual for myself but there are some limitations.

First, my wife doesn't drive manual, so any vehicle she may drive has to be automatic.

Second, unless its a Sports car or a Jeep, automatics generally have better resale value or are easier to sell. If you flip vehicles regularly you'll probably be better off with an automatic when it comes time to sell.

Today's automatics are very reliable if treated right, services properly and up to the job of towing your load.

My 2011 Tundra has a sport shifting option and paddle switch on the lever which allows you to choose your gear, it's what I used especially in downhill stretches where it let me pick what I wanted to regulate speed.
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:54 AM   #7
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Ian,

I'll state my bias upfront.
1. I work for an aftermarket clutch company.
2. The Dodge Ram and Cummins engine.
3. Airstream.

Couple of things, Ford and GM stopped offering diesels and manuals a couple of years ago. Dodge is the only one offering the manual transmission and a diesel.

Yes as Bob4X4 stated, (Hi to Bob4X4 from another forum that we frequent, didn't know you had an AS) Dodge just introduced their new stump pulling rig, very impressive.

The Dodge since mid 2005 has used what is known as a G56 transmission and in its stock clutch configuration has had an almost import gas engine clutch pedal feel (very easy pedal effort) and that is from the type of clutch used, self adjusting clutch cover and matched hydraulics for the clutch. If you test drive a friends G56 rig, make sure you know if it is stock clutch or an aftermarket replacement. The aftermarket systems typically have a pedal effort more like the older NV5600 6 speed, a bit heavier pedal effort.

Any one that feels that their pedal effort is really harder than they can enjoy most likely has either normal worn out condition or possibly an installation related "oversight" that is causing the heavy pedal effort. I can back this statement up very easily.

I enjoy pulling my 30' Classic with my handshaker and can't offer insight about what an automatic feels like.

And I am not aware of any computer connection to a manual transmission in the tow vehicles that you mentioned in your 1st post that talks to the engine controls. I kinda like that feature.

Enjoy your search.

Gary
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:59 AM   #8
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I Prefer Automatics

Having towed for travel trailers, and boat trailers, and utility trailers for more than thirty years, I prefer the modern automatic transmissions to anything else I have ever experienced. If one can "love" a mechanical object, I love my 6-speed Allison transmission. It makes towing safe and pleasant, especially in the mountains.
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Old 01-12-2013, 11:58 AM   #9
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Ken L, why would it be less safe to tow with a manual transmission?

doug k
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Old 01-12-2013, 12:28 PM   #10
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I like automatics also.

Years ago some vehicles actually had a higher tow rating with an automatic.

The biggest thing to me is slow speed maneuvering is easier on an automatic IMHO. Many slip the clutch quite a bit trying to backup a trailer.

Also GCinSC2 he mentioned a computer connection to an automatic not manual. That connection does help with some things in the transmission when towing, changing shift points and increasing line pressure for the transmission (extra line pressure firms up the sifts and reduces slipping, heat buildup and ware, the only reason the line pressure isn't normally this high is to please the automotive reviewers that mistakenly think super smooth shifts = better).
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Old 01-12-2013, 12:30 PM   #11
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I'm with Alumaholic. I have towed both ways and I prefer the auto. Years (and years) ago the standard transmissions actually gave you better mileage as you could control the shift points. They also were better in the snow for the same reasons.

I towed a small trailer with a standard and it did just fine until I had to back it up. Managing a trailer into tight spots, into an uphill approach and any other similar situation really puts a lot of stress on the clutch. I mentioned this on another forum and someone claimed that I just didn't know how to use a clutch. Amazing.

Anyway, today's transmissions are a different animal from the ones I drove back in the 60's. My Tundra has shifting capabilities, anti loc features, and traction control so I do fine in the snow, can control my setup on the hills both up and down and I doubt I would get less mileage than a standard. Get an automatic.
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Old 01-12-2013, 12:49 PM   #12
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Hmmm, I Hope I Didn't Say That

Quote:
Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
Ken L, why would it be less safe to tow with a manual transmission?

doug k
Since I have lots of experience driving manual trannies and trucks with two-speed rear ends, I am familiar with the specific choices and possibilities a manual transmission offers.
But I have noticed, in mountain country, the 6-speed Allison lets me focus on everything else while it takes care of downshifting. It allows me to keep my head out of the cockpit.
But no, a good driver will be just as safe with either manual or automatic.
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Old 01-12-2013, 01:22 PM   #13
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I want to thank everyone immediately for the quick, and well reasoned, responses. It seems to me then that beyond fuel efficiencies, the reasonings for automatics is more a resale/personal driving preference. Ken's discussion around safety I feel I would not be covered by as my confidence in the use of my every-day driving manual is fairly high [I wont ask though if Heel-to-Toe shifting can be done with a fully loaded Airstream behind a rig :-P]

I want to touch base back to Gary's reply concerning the Dodge clutch system change since 2005.

[a quick synopsis of my Ford and Dodge truck dealings - my '86 Ford F150 threw a rod halfway between Tucson and Phoenix in the middle of August on I-10; my '95 Ram (5.2L V8 petrol) had a standard clutch replacement at 69K, followed by a clutch linkage failure at 71K and a transmission failure at 74K; my '98 Dodge Ram (5.9LV8 petrol) had a complete transmission failure/rebuild at 36,500 (500 miles over the warrantee of which the local Boston dealership refused to support my petition to have it covered... However - all my father's vehicles when I was growing up were Dodge; the original TV vehicle for our Trottwood was a '68 Monoco that lasted 25 years in service... Finally - the reason I wont look at Chevy is due to physical constraints - I stand 7' in height and in a Chevy pickup, the ceiling liner bump where they run the wires to the center overhead light is too far forward and I cannot sit back enough without it interfering in my seating.]

Without morphing the conversation into a system reliability discussion, has these changes in '05 that Gary mentions dealt with alot of the earlier transmission problems that I (and I feel others) have had? On the Ford side, does anyone have a current setup Ford automatic that can describe the user-intervention capabilities of that automatic system?

Thanks again,

Ian
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Old 01-12-2013, 02:07 PM   #14
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Hmm for specifics you would have to check with Ford but I CAN tell you that when I was shopping for a truck in the 1/2 ton range I covered the bases and found some electronics that were specific to Ford regarding towing. Understand that I was shopping for 2-3 year old models- not new. I found that in 2009 Ford, on all trucks I was told, added electronic monitoring. This is the reason that when others on the forum who had a 2009 and newer F150 asked about brake controllers I posted to get the Ford one to add all the features to their truck as it ties in to the ABS, etc. Here is what it consisted of, some relating to automatic transmissions:

1) Electronic trailer sway control
2) Integrated engine braking/transmission shift (inclines and decent)
3) Electronic Brake pressure monitoring on Ford brake controller

The sway control brakes various wheel brakes to immediately compensate for any sway and will also apply braking to trailer to compensate if needed

The integrated braking kicks in when 2X taps in short interval are initiated in a decent per se and then the computer adjusts engine speed and braking and shifting as needed to maintain speed.

The pressure monitored braking is done using the ABS system and a brake pressure transducer. It regulates the pressure applied to trailer brakes to continually match the truck/trailer need for stopping. It, in a sense, acts something like ABS for the trailer too. You tell it what kind of brakes are on the trailer etc.

At the time I was shopping and got the spiel from the Ford dealer, I checked back with Chevy and Dodge on the used ones I looked at. None of them had all the features and from what I read afterwards (had electronic anti-sway) , it was not incorporated at that time in 2009 or 2010. I am not sure of newer model Chevy and Dodge trucks. Most likely it is now.

Here is a video from Ford about the transmission part of the equation. It mentions the larger trucks but it is not unique to them:

VOD CROSS BRAND TECHNOLOGY TOW HAUL MODE - YouTube
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