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Old 04-19-2018, 11:22 PM   #1
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Advice for Newby through the Rockies with RAM 1500

If there are any folks out there with whiskers willing to pass on some towing knowledge it will be greatly appreciated. We've been reading a lot of pros and cons on engine braking and the like and would like a fresh perspective since today's vehicles are a bit different than older models.

We will be heading through the Rockies this May with a 1500 Ecodiesel pulling our 25' Flying Cloud.

Aside from a payload of less than 300 pounds, my wife and two Retrievers I would estimate the trailer at about 6,500 pounds. We may keep a full tank of fresh water (preferred) which will push up the 6,500. These numbers may be a bit high since we travel pretty light.

Oh, and a platform bike rack attached to the front of the RAM. About 120 pounds total, bikes, rack, and receiver.

Although we have only been trailing for about a year, I have used the Cat Scales about four times. We've been doing quite some traveling but not through the Rockies.

The 1500 is a loaded vehicle with, I'm guessing, every imaginable bell and whistle RAM had right down to four-corner auto-compression air packs.

If I need to share additional vehicle info please let me know.

We're told the Rockies are a different animal so we want to prepare.

Thanks in advance,
Rick
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Old 04-19-2018, 11:41 PM   #2
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I've crossed the rockies many times on I-70. You wouldn't have any problems if you just take your time. The grade out of Denver is 7% but it wanders back and forth and levels off for long stretches. The steepest part will be between Vail Pass and the Eisenhower tunnel. The road is wide and has pull over areas if you want to stop and wait or cool off or whatever.
Going down it's the same deal, just stay well under the speed limit, I always shot for 55 mph and touched the brakes at 60 mph.
Now, that's the interstates, obviously there's lots of other choices.
I've pulled a smaller trailer over on Hwy 50 through Pueblo and Gunnison and don't remember any horror stories or white knuckle runs. It's 2 lanes part way, but often has a third lane for the uphill side.
The only real white knuckle road for me is the beautiful "Million Dollar Highway", 550 south of Ouray. Not steep, but curvy and a lack of guardrails.

If you have a route in mind, others will have better local knowledge.
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Old 04-20-2018, 08:56 AM   #3
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Thank you.

This is a rough plan but, from the east (Chicago) into Estes Park. Then south through Central City, Conifer, Manitou Springs, west to Gunnison, Grand Junction, up into Utah to Dinosaur National. Then pretty much north to Gardiner.

Thanks to you and future advisors.
Rick
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Old 04-20-2018, 09:41 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by upnorththree View Post
This is a rough plan but, from the east (Chicago) into Estes Park. Then south through Central City, Conifer, Manitou Springs, west to Gunnison, Grand Junction, up into Utah to Dinosaur National. Then pretty much north to Gardiner.

Thanks to you and future advisors.
Rick
That would send you over Monarch Pass unless you really go out of your way. It's a good road over a high pass, I've done it a couple of times with a bit lighter trailer and a wheezy naturally-aspirated 5.4 V8. The general adage is to try not to exceed the speed going down that you maintained going up, but with modern vehicles it's often easier to maintain more speed on the climb than you really want on the way down. With properly-maintained brakes on the trailer and the big modern discs on the pickup you shouldn't have trouble keeping the speed under the limit on the way down.

It works better if you brake periodically as speed rises, slowing down below your target speed and then letting off the brakes to cool them. If you brake lightly but continuously the trailer's brakes can heat up to the point that they're ineffective. Make sure you know how to limit your transmission to lower gears for the descent... tow-haul mode with application of the brakes works for most modern trucks.
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Old 04-20-2018, 09:45 AM   #5
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If you go from Gunnison to Grand Junction (through Montrose) instead of taking Hwy. 50 to Grand Junction, look to taking 141 from Ridgway to Grand junction. It has to be one of the most beautiful drives in America, relatively untravelled, scenic beyond belief, a great road, 100 miles in a canyon.

You could also go from Blue Mesa reservoir north on 92 to Crawford and Delta, but I'd highly recommend you take the road less travelled, 141.
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Old 04-21-2018, 09:30 AM   #6
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I've done exactly what you're asking about in the same vehicle. I owned a 2015 RAM 1500 Laramie Limited 4x4/ecodiesel. In the summer of 2016 we left our home in Florida heading to NYS then on to California pulling our 25' Airstream. We crossed the Rockys from I-70 through Denver.
I had two issues with the trucks ability, one climbing & the other declining five, six & seven percent long (many miles) grades. On most inclines if the stretch was long enough the temp gauge started to get near the red line so I had to slow down to 35mph or less to prevent overheating. On the declines the brake assist (in tow mode) only dropped down 2 or 3 gears & with an 8 speed transmission that was not enough so I began using the manual shift mode to reduce speed & save my brakes. Their was some white knuckle driving as I left Denver on the decline heading west. All in all the RAM ecodiesel did very well and averaged over 16 mpg for the entire 10,000 mile trip. I have since traded for a Nissan Titan XD with a cummins 5.0 diesel, 14" brakes and a 1500 lbs payload.
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Old 04-21-2018, 09:37 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by upnorththree View Post
This is a rough plan but, from the east (Chicago) into Estes Park. Then south through Central City, Conifer, Manitou Springs, west to Gunnison, Grand Junction, up into Utah to Dinosaur National. Then pretty much north to Gardiner.

Thanks to you and future advisors.
Rick
Check for road construction, I know hwy u.s. 34 has been closed off & on since the flood in 2013 from just w. of the city of Loveland to Estes. I think it's supposed to be open by summer season.
Agree w/DKB-SATX, I evan downshift when coming downhill in out Buick. you can always tell when someone is burning their brake or transmission, when you smell that burnt metallic smell.
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Old 04-21-2018, 09:47 AM   #8
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What the previous respondents suggested, with one key addition: MAKE SURE THE UMBILICAL BETWEEN YOUR TRUCK AND AS IS WILL STAY SECURED! Its miserable and dangerous when it disconnects....I know. Safe travels, and just take your time. jon
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Old 04-21-2018, 09:49 AM   #9
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I've a eco diesel and tow a 19c. I think it's about an ideal combination. plenty of power and the mileage etc. is great. Just returned from a trip out west and never really had issues, the only concerns were steep downhills so just took it easy and made sure I didn't go over the top too fast. My opinion is you are pushing that truck with that load! I sure as heck would start by not lugging 400 lbs of water over the Rockies! Other than that keep speeds down and kick it out of cruise going up hill. I hear complaints of over heating with the eco diesel but mine never has come close and I attribute that to not using cruise on long steep grades, downshifting if needed and knowing where the max torque is.
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Old 04-21-2018, 10:01 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mollysdad View Post
If you go from Gunnison to Grand Junction (through Montrose) instead of taking Hwy. 50 to Grand Junction, look to taking 141 from Ridgway to Grand junction. It has to be one of the most beautiful drives in America, relatively untravelled, scenic beyond belief, a great road, 100 miles in a canyon.

You could also go from Blue Mesa reservoir north on 92 to Crawford and Delta, but I'd highly recommend you take the road less travelled, 141.
Thank you but, I'm a bit unclear. I've been looking and looking at Google and my brand new Garmin and can't see 141 connecting in Montrose.

If I'm going to Grand Junction west from Gunnison, the only way I can see getting to 141 is to take a hard left at Montrose (550) and then a hard right in Ridgway to 62 . . . and then another right to 145 in Placerville which melds into 141/145.

Am I doing this right?

How "less traveled" is 141? It seems on screen it is going to be a great place to be.

Thanks again.
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Old 04-21-2018, 10:05 AM   #11
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Does your RAM jabe a good transmission cooler. Mine has kept my tranny safe over 150000 miles
I would expect your diesel would have a heavy duty transmission, and so also have good additional cooling
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Old 04-21-2018, 10:27 AM   #12
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Manual down shift

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrjkq View Post
I've done exactly what you're asking about

On most inclines if the stretch was long enough the temp gauge started to get near the red line so I had to slow down to 35mph or less to prevent overheating.

On the declines the 8 speed transmission that was not enough so I began using the manual shift mode to reduce speed & save my brakes.

All in all the RAM ecodiesel did very well and averaged over 16 mpg for the entire 10,000 mile trip.
What a wealth of info Joe. Thanks and Kudos on your new truck.

My instrument panel has digital temp readings for all fluids in addition to the needles so, I'll be sure to watch the digits closely.

I have two questions. While my 1500 Laramie does have the tow/haul switch it does not have a way to manually downshift. I have D and N and that is it. How do you manually downshift? I'll have to call Chrysler on Monday.

The second thing is, my panel has an electric trailer brake which can be set in .5 gain increments as well as an instant trailer brake button. Would there be a benefit to changing the gain on that switch for down-grades? I typically have it set for .5 gain.

Yes, the EcoDiesel is a remarkable engine. My ABSOLUTE best, and never since repeated, was a full payload, wife and two dogs (NO trailer) 30 MPG on I-39 without the "truck" ride.

I ran into a guy who said he got 32 . . . once.

Thanks again,
Rick
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Old 04-21-2018, 10:34 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by JCWDCW View Post
Does your RAM jabe a good transmission cooler. Mine has kept my tranny safe over 150000 miles
I would expect your diesel would have a heavy duty transmission, and so also have good additional cooling
JCW
I've done Appalachia as high as 11% grade (although not as long runs and elevation as the Rockies) without issue. I think the elevation will be the bigger issue.

The panel has the typical full-time needle gauges as well as digital readings for all fluids on the selected screen.

I have been very, very pleased with this machine and I was a GM guy for more than 45 years.
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Old 04-21-2018, 10:40 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by B00merang View Post
What the previous respondents suggested, with one key addition: MAKE SURE THE UMBILICAL BETWEEN YOUR TRUCK AND AS IS WILL STAY SECURED! Its miserable and dangerous when it disconnects....I know. Safe travels, and just take your time. jon
I can tell this is experience speaking.

I'd have taken that for granted.

Thanks Jon.
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Old 04-21-2018, 11:15 AM   #15
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I think you have plenty of truck to feel safe on this trip.

Lots of folks are saying use same speed downhill as going up. The actual old advice was to use he same GEAR going down as up (probably not good advice with newer vehicles with more power and automatic transmissions). Remember that on downhills your stopping distance will be greater — maybe much greater depending on the grade — so the same speed going down as going up could be too fast.

Bottom line: use your gears, know the speed-holding features of your truck, slow BEFORE (not in) the curves, and err on the safe side. You may see others going faster; don’t let them intimidate you (because some just ain’t too bright). I’ll bet you’ll start to get more comfortable after a few miles of downgrade as you get familiar with what’s happening and how your vehicles are acting.
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Old 04-21-2018, 11:36 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Dan and Liz View Post
I think you have plenty of truck to feel safe on this trip.

Lots of folks are saying use same speed downhill as going up. The actual old advice was to use he same GEAR going down as up (probably not good advice with newer vehicles with more power and automatic transmissions). Remember that on downhills your stopping distance will be greater ó maybe much greater depending on the grade ó so the same speed going down as going up could be too fast.

Bottom line: use your gears, know the speed-holding features of your truck, slow BEFORE (not in) the curves, and err on the safe side. You may see others going faster; donít let them intimidate you (because some just ainít too bright). Iíll bet youíll start to get more comfortable after a few miles of downgrade as you get familiar with whatís happening and how your vehicles are acting.
Thanks for those words.
I feel a little more at ease now.
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Old 04-21-2018, 04:15 PM   #17
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Follow the advice an you'll be fine

Good advice in the prior comments.

• Test and verify trailer brake operation and set gain as outlined in your manual
• Keep your speed in check with your tow/haul mode
• Use your brakes intermittently to shave off speed, allowing them to cool in between
• Watch your fluid temps
• Enjoy the ride

Just took my F150 and Safari 25 on AZ 60/77, including the steep and curvy descent and climb through the Salt River Canyon (someone else's video below) two days ago. No problems. The hairier part of the drive was the 60 mph gusting crosswinds between Show Low and Springerville, AZ!

Safe Travels!

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Old 04-21-2018, 07:19 PM   #18
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Colorado has a nice web page that provides the grades for common highways passes.

https://www.codot.gov/travel/maximum...in-passes.html

Note, it is a long way down hill from the IKE tunnel to Denver. Keep your situational awareness engaged. The grade is not excessive, the curves are not super tight, it's just a long way down. Some, but not all, trucks tend to make up time with the gravity based horse power so watch out for closing speeds, both front and rear.

Note, the semi's travel the tight and twisty highways. If there is room for them, there is room for you. However, if not comfortable with drop offs, no guard rails, or narrow shoulders, pick your route to avoid those highways.

Note, it is a beautiful area. Watch for folks not watching out for you. Watch for motorcycles that cut corners, tows that are over the center line, and MoHos that need your lane too.

Enjoy the beauty. Travel safe. Pat
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Old 04-21-2018, 07:27 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by upnorththree View Post
What a wealth of info Joe. Thanks and Kudos on your new truck.

My instrument panel has digital temp readings for all fluids in addition to the needles so, I'll be sure to watch the digits closely.

I have two questions. While my 1500 Laramie does have the tow/haul switch it does not have a way to manually downshift. I have D and N and that is it. How do you manually downshift? I'll have to call Chrysler on Monday.

The second thing is, my panel has an electric trailer brake which can be set in .5 gain increments as well as an instant trailer brake button. Would there be a benefit to changing the gain on that switch for down-grades? I typically have it set for .5 gain.

Yes, the EcoDiesel is a remarkable engine. My ABSOLUTE best, and never since repeated, was a full payload, wife and two dogs (NO trailer) 30 MPG on I-39 without the "truck" ride.

I ran into a guy who said he got 32 . . . once.

Thanks again,
Rick


Your ecodiesel does have shifter buttons on the steering wheel
They are labeled gear+. And gear-
These will manually shift your 8 speed tranny
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Old 04-21-2018, 07:44 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by upnorththree View Post
What a wealth of info Joe. Thanks and Kudos on your new truck.

My instrument panel has digital temp readings for all fluids in addition to the needles so, I'll be sure to watch the digits closely.

I have two questions. While my 1500 Laramie does have the tow/haul switch it does not have a way to manually downshift. I have D and N and that is it. How do you manually downshift? I'll have to call Chrysler on Monday.

The second thing is, my panel has an electric trailer brake which can be set in .5 gain increments as well as an instant trailer brake button. Would there be a benefit to changing the gain on that switch for down-grades? I typically have it set for .5 gain.

Yes, the EcoDiesel is a remarkable engine. My ABSOLUTE best, and never since repeated, was a full payload, wife and two dogs (NO trailer) 30 MPG on I-39 without the "truck" ride.

I ran into a guy who said he got 32 . . . once.

Thanks again,
Rick
Hi Rick,
I have the same truck and also tow a 25' International Serenity. You down shift by using the buttons on the right side of the steering wheel. I can't remember it it is +/- or arrows right now. We are out of town and I am not in the truck. The gear you are currently in will display, until you are back in the top gear (8). Works perfectly.

Enjoy the truck. I have 30K on my 2016, and plan on keeping this truck for a long time. The best average MPG has been 27 for me because of the 4x4. 29 is listed for the two wheel drive. Average between 15-16 when towing. Of course in the mountains you will get lower MPG.

-Weston
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