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Old 07-18-2016, 06:39 PM   #1
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first time towing down the mountains

I'm probably overthinking this but it never hurts to ask. We managed to get ourselves up in to the Adirondacks, having owned our Airstream (27FB) all of 2 weeks. Now we have to get back down this week. We have a 2016 Tundra and with tow haul on the way up wasn't too bad, the roads are a little twisty turny. But now on the way back down I want to avoid riding the brakes on longer hills, I understand tow haul manages a lot of that, or should I consider switching to manual and downshifting myself? There's really only one hill (Minerva if anyone is familiar, before exit 26 in Pottersville getting on 87/Northway) I'm concerned about and I'm sure just prudent braking will be enough but I don't want to smoke them Any tips/advice welcome!
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Old 07-18-2016, 06:43 PM   #2
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first timing towing down the mountains

Rule of thumb is do not go down any faster than you went up.

I'm sure other owners of your Tundra TV will chime in.


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Old 07-18-2016, 06:51 PM   #3
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Very def. down shift to keep speed down and not smoke brakes, if you do they will be useless after smoked. Keep speed down and don't worry about speed racers going hell bent, just take easy so don't wind up looking at wrong side of grass. Truckers down shift and use exhaust brake to keep under control, be safe.
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Old 07-18-2016, 07:33 PM   #4
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Assuming you have a modern vehicle, your brakes are powerful and less expensive to maintain and repair than your engine or transmission. That said, don't ride them. Slow down to your target speed...45, 55, your choice. You determine your target speed by trying your brakes. A speed that requires what you define to be too long a distance to make a full stop is too fast.

On a reasonable grade (3-6%) slow down to 5 mph below your target speed. Then let off the brakes and allow the rig to increase in speed to your target and repeat your slow down to 5 mph under. This is how you descend the grade. Apply the brake smoothly so you do not unsettle the rig. Letting off the brakes lets them cool. Be ready to stop completely if someone pulls out or stops in front of you.

On a significant grade (6-10%), you may need to cycle through 10 mph around your target speed as the rate of acceleration between braking cycles will be more and you will gain speed faster.

If you feel more comfortable, downshift to the gear you would be in to climb the grade at your target speed. Do not allow the engine to over-rev as you descend the grade. Brake before a curve. A light pressure on the brakes can help settle the rig in a turn, but apply smoothly and release so you do not ride the brakes and allow heat to build.

Set your brake controller per your operating instructions. On a very long grade, you may want to stop and let the brakes cool. Brake maintenance is appropriate if you use them.

Travel safe. Pat
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Old 07-18-2016, 07:47 PM   #5
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On long steep grades, my advice is to shift down to second in manual mode at the top and try to maintain a speed that YOU are comfortable at. Don't do something unless you are comfortable.

On these grades, if there is a posted maximum speed for trucks that is what I usually try to do as a maximum. When I reach that point or a little over, I'll start using the brakes to slow down 5-10 mph then give the brakes a minute to cool before doing it again. I've done some 8% and 10% grades recently. At lesser grades I find the brakes may not be required at all. That truck speed limit is where I feel good. I don't like one of those 80,000 lb semis riding my bumper, so I'll move over and let them pass if they want to go faster.

Don't be afraid to let the RPMs get up around 4k or more. As long as you don't red-line the tach, that is what you and the truck are supposed to do.

add edit:
I done the above many times using a half ton pickup, sometimes towing at over 14,000 lbs combined weight.
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Old 07-19-2016, 12:06 PM   #6
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Gunnrack

Just back from the west coast, I found putting my f150 in the manual mode helped, also start your decent slow,20MPH, down shift to 2nd gear, that should do it. FYI, I'm in Alabama, Roll Tide!
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Old 07-19-2016, 12:10 PM   #7
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first time towing down the mountains

Just back from a trip to the Gaspe in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador. Lots of 11 to 13% grades. Coming into Perce on the Gaspe there's a 17% grade into the little town with a speed limit of 50 kph (30 mph). Started at the top at 50 k in first gear, let the speed climb to 60/65 then used the brakes moderately hard down to 50, then let it climb back to 60/65. The grade is not that long so only had to do that a few times. Just made sure that by the time I got to the bottom where all the tourists are, I was totally in control. In my mind drivers behind me didn't exist.
Do whatever it takes to be safe and comfortable. You're the one responsible for anything that happens with your rig.
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Old 07-19-2016, 12:13 PM   #8
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This is something that I wrote last year (2015) 2015 - F250 Diesel - 1st Major Trip Stats -
OK, here’s what’s happening on the first leg of our first long trip with our new F250 - crew cab, short bed, 26 gal. tank - cap on truck bed - much gear and generator in bed.

In June we did a shakedown trip from Vermont to the Maine coast with 27ft. AS FC & 2, 17ft. kayaks on roof/cap rack. All went well. Now we are headed west to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, where we have been many times. We are towing our AS fully loaded but no kayaks on this trip. Our last truck was a 2007 Ram with a Cummings and Jake Brake and 30+ gallon fuel tank. These are some stats that may be interesting to fellow truck geeks. We averaged about 650+ miles per day for the first 3 days going on the Interstate from VT, thru NY, PA, OH, IN, IL, WI, MN, SD, WY. Day one included 3 hours of slower state routes in VT to get to the NY Thru-way. Averaged 13+ mpg - fair weather driving to OH. We found fueling up was a more common occurrence with this small tank, but thought that it got us out to stretch more often. In reality we miss the longer range of the Ram tank. When we hit quarter tank in our F250, we were looking actively for fuel. Day 2 thru OH, IN, ILL and WI we were in the 12.5+ mpg, keeping our speed at about 65 mph. Day 3 was “interesting” thru MN and especially SD. We had a headwind that was up to 35mph. Our mpg tanked at 10mpg, and that was keeping my speed at 70mph, when the posted speed was 80mph. Day 4 the wind subsided as we continued across SD into WY. I found that 68mph the best for my fuel economy, but it was humbling as we were passed by most people going 85+. We were close to 13mpg that day until we hit the Big Horn Mountains and Powder River Pass (Rt 16). Going up the mountains we had the low of 6.2mpg. The diesel had power to spare. The going down was “interesting”, as I experimented on some of the shorter inclines before the BIGGIES - STEEP pitches including hairpin turns at 20mph. This is what I found best. I left the transmission in “Drive” while engaging my “Jake (engine) Brake”. One light tap on the brake dropped me from 6th gear to 5th. Next tap brought me to 4th - next to 3rd - next to 2nd for the steepest sections with the hairpins. The engine did all the work. I didn’t have to brake at all once I was in 2nd gear. Awesome!!! The down mountain and flat roads to Cody WY got my mpg up from the low of 6.2 up to almost 13. An interesting trip so far to say the least. We are at 2327 miles as of Cody with about 90 miles left to go for Yellowstone.
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Old 07-19-2016, 01:53 PM   #9
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If you have 4WD. Stop at the top and shift to 4WD low range. I do that in Colorado. It'll take me to the bottom going about 30-35 with very little use of the brakes. Then I pull over and go back to 2WD in tow haul. Good luck. Be safe.
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Old 07-19-2016, 02:20 PM   #10
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the TOW HAUL on my 06 f350 v-10 does all the work downshifting on these huge AZ mountains! So I would take advantage of that as it knows how to keep gravity at bay! I put it on and as im going down the hill I brake once at the speed I want to keep and it takes over!

SIMPLY AMAZING!
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Old 07-19-2016, 02:21 PM   #11
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Personal experience from my previous post:

Down shift, use lower gear to help you go down slow. If you have a brake controller, set it to max, so you trailer will brake more than your TV.

Just go nice and slow.
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Old 07-19-2016, 03:12 PM   #12
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I had a 2010 Tundra with a P2 controller. Took the Airstream out to Utah and back via Colorado in June 2015. I always tow with tow haul on. Didn't think it helped on the down hills so I always shifted manually. Set the transmission in S and then towed in 5th. On up hills manually shifted down and down hills manually shifting down since the transmission wouldn't do it automatically. On several down grades on I70 in Colorado I felt my Tundra brakes vibrating under heavy braking. Once the brakes cooled they were smooth again.

My Tundra was a 2x4 and after that trip I decided to switch since I wanted 4x4 and more payload for future extensive trips after retirement. Ended up with a 2015 Ram Big Horn 4x4 Crew with the Cummins. The integrated brake controller is much better than the Prodigy P2. The tow haul actually works on the Ram. Touch the brakes and it starts to shift down. Coupled with the exhaust brake heavy braking on the hills is no longer required.

Hopefully, Toyota on the 2016 Tundra with integrated brake control has improved tow haul.

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Old 07-19-2016, 03:24 PM   #13
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So far this summer I've learned some important lessons. Both involving hills!

We traveled from Ohio thru Tenn. to attend Springstream. We chose to do the diagonal off 75. We hit several miles of quick curves and tight grades. We made it home safely to Ohio with new respect for the South.

Shortly after, we attended International in Lewisburg WV. No problem as I have traveled WV before. Well, I never towed East of Beckly! Those are some doozies there!

My TV is a 1996 2500 2wd Suburban w/350 and the wrong gears. I've been told I should be downshifting to save brakes, but have been leary to do so. Tranny work is $$.

After arriving in Lewisbug, my brakes were toasted. They rotors felt very warped and I was frankly somewhat concerned about making it home without a brake job.

Time came to head to Ohio. I elected to "see how it goes". The big passes were within the first dozen miles or so. I downshifted to third and second. Everything felt much better. The truck did great. I certainly did not win any races, but my knuckles were not white either! It was much more comfortable.

So from now on, it's "let'um pass me". I'll catch up later.
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Old 07-19-2016, 03:47 PM   #14
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Don't do what I did on a 6% down grade, complete with wind and a ripple in the road...
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Old 07-19-2016, 03:48 PM   #15
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That used to be my 27' Airstream...
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Old 07-19-2016, 05:08 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dalecamp` View Post
If you have 4WD. Stop at the top and shift to 4WD low range. I do that in Colorado. It'll take me to the bottom going about 30-35 with very little use of the brakes. Then I pull over and go back to 2WD in tow haul. Good luck. Be safe.
NO, NO, NO...you never want to use 4WD low on pavement unless you want to replace your drive train. 4WD low is only to be used on dirt, sand, snow or rock crawling on loose material.
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Old 07-19-2016, 05:27 PM   #17
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There are some really scary posts here with what I consider BAD advice. I've lived in Colorado all my life and drive and tow in the mountains regularly. One of my best friends is a former aircraft and diesel mechanic. That gives you a little background on my recommendations.

- As previous poster mentioned, do not tow in 4WD. The torque on turns can really mess up your truck.
- DO use the tow/haul mode, and manually shift into the Triptonic mode. Downshift when necessary, I try to keep the RPM's at 4,000 or less. In my Tundra, that's usually 2nd or 3rd gear.

Keeping the transmission in Drive and braking down 10 mph once you roll up the speed is a recipe for brake burnout! Your transmission is made to be used downhill, you aren't going to burn it up. Try to keep at a level speed, not yo yo up and down. I manually apply my trailer brake through my Prodigy P2 controller when necessary to help. I've got it set on 7.0

Slow and easy is best. An extra 5 minutes on a long downhill doesn't make much difference at the end of a trip. And my blood pressure is much better!
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Old 07-19-2016, 07:06 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dalecamp` View Post
If you have 4WD. Stop at the top and shift to 4WD low range. I do that in Colorado. It'll take me to the bottom going about 30-35 with very little use of the brakes. Then I pull over and go back to 2WD in tow haul. Good luck. Be safe.
I agree with MOJO and MFREZ, DO NOT use the 4WD. Just use the Select modes in the transmission as suggested.

Note that I drive a Tundra, live in Colorado and Arizona mountains and this is the technique I suggest.
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Old 07-19-2016, 07:08 PM   #19
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snip>>>>

Keeping the transmission in Drive and braking down 10 mph once you roll up the speed is a recipe for brake burnout! Your transmission is made to be used downhill, you aren't going to burn it up. Try to keep at a level speed, not yo yo up and down. I manually apply my trailer brake through my Prodigy P2 controller when necessary to help. I've got it set on 7.0

Slow and easy is best.
<<<<< snip
A little about me. I've been towing camping trailers 40+ years. I also drive in the mountains on a regular basis. Many grades at 8% losing 3,000 or more feet in elevation in one downhill run.

I have a couple questions/comments. (Not starting an argument, just wanting to learn and understand):

(1) I agree there is some scary advice. I think LOW gear and SLOW is the best advice that we can give and we all seem to agree on.

(2) You seem disagreed with me about usage of brakes. I advised to use brakes while in second gear to slow down intermittently when the vehicle speeds up (meaning to NOT use the brakes constantly so that they become overheated). You seemed to say to maintain a constant speed using the brakes to main that speed. (I take that as use the brakes constantly if necessary since you said to not do it the other way) I think using the brakes continuously on a long downhill will contribute to overheating and possibly brake failure. Maybe we agree but expressed ourselves differently. Your thoughts please.

(3) You said to use the trailer brakes manually instead of using both truck and trailer brakes. It seems to me that using only one vehicle's brakes to slow two vehicles would over stress them. Why would you not use both truck and trailer brakes?

(4) I'm wondering about your statement about brake controller setting at 7.0. Do you leave at 7.0 all the time, or turn it to a higher setting on the downhill? I keep mine the same once they are adjusted properly.

Again, not arguing, just wanting to understand.
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Old 07-19-2016, 07:24 PM   #20
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Do the same as a big truck, start down slow, like you did going going up, and keep it geared down, you get the brakes hot , they quit working and you are in trouble, with the exhaust brake on my dodge, you very seldom touch the brake pedal.....
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