Free 7 Day Trial RV GPS App RV Trip Planner Campground Reviews RV Maintenance Free 7 Day Trial ×

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 08-12-2008, 04:13 PM   #1
2 Rivet Member
HankO's Avatar
1997 28' Excella
Eden , Utah
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 87
Automatic or Stick?

Hi all,

I'm currently pulling a 28 foot Excella and am looking to purchase a new TV.

I have seen some great deals lately for new (and used) Dodge Diesels, but I was wonder what would be better for pulling, a Automatic or a Stick?

My son is not sold on the Automatic Trannys on the Dodges and is recommending I buy a stick, but I've had sticks my whole life and find the thought of an automatic to be more pleasing to my old knees.

Any thoughts?

HankO is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 04:29 PM   #2
4 Rivet Member
norsea's Avatar
2008 30' Classic
On the road since 2000 ,
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 254
In Search of The Holy Grail....

Originally Posted by HankO View Post
Hi all,

I'm currently pulling a 28 foot Excella and am looking to purchase a new TV.

I have seen some great deals lately for new (and used) Dodge Diesels, but I was wonder what would be better for pulling, a Automatic or a Stick?

My son is not sold on the Automatic Trannys on the Dodges and is recommending I buy a stick, but I've had sticks my whole life and find the thought of an automatic to be more pleasing to my old knees.

Any thoughts?

Ah yes, nothing like a subject that no one has an opinion about!!

I am afraid that I am a confirmed manual transmission kind of guy when it comes to a big vehcile (truck) that is going to haul/tow lots of weight. I also find four wheel drive to be very beneficial with a heavy trailer.

We have a 2008 F250 Ford with a manual gear box and four wheel drive. My old man legs and knees have not had problems with the clutch at all. In very slow stop and go traffic I put it in compound low and let the clutch out and cruise at about 3-5 MPH with my foot off the gas pedal; usually I don't have to stop and I find this speed works well if I can fall in with some big rigs.

Good luck whatever you decide. I am sure you will get LOTS of responses.

We are travelers with an attitude. We get to go anywhere, anytime, and have attitudes about what we see and hear.

"Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice and being narrow minded."
norsea is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 04:31 PM   #3
Rivet Master
1960 22' Safari
in the wilderness , The great Mojave Desert
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,055
IIRC Dodge auto trans were pooping out after 300,000 miles. I'd get the auto trans.
I'd rather be boon docking in the desert.

AIR# 13896
CA 4

Yes, we have courtesy parking for you. About an hour North of Los Angeles.
Goin camping is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 04:43 PM   #4
2 Rivet Member
Currently Looking...
Spokane , Washington
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 25
For the Dodges, go to to get more information.
Here's a quick run down: from 1998.5-2002.5, the automatic diesel trucks were notorious for puking their automatic trannies. If you are looking this era, get the manual and if at all possible, find a 6speed. With the 5speed, which is what I have, the drop from 3rd to 4th is about a full 1000 rpm, which is bad when towing.
After 2002.5, the automatics were upgraded and are less prone to failure. If I were shopping newer, I would still look for the 6speed manual as you will get better mileage.
I've got a buddy with a 2004.5 6spd, crew-cab with the long box and a canopy and he regularly gets around 19-20mpg.
FlytoFish is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 04:51 PM   #5
Rivet Master
TinShack's Avatar

2005 28' Safari S/O
Paradise , California
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 3,445
Images: 28
I had nothing but manual transmissions in my cars and trucks for years. I moved to automatic for the truck to tow trailers and never looked back. Towing a large trailer is adventure enough. Anyway I can make that easier suits me fine. My F250 with the tow command system and tow/haul mode is sweet.

For driving down steep grades, a low geared manual is best. I used to drive a '56 Chevy PU around the steep mountains of Big Sur. There is nothing like that Granny gear for keeping your brakes cool on those steep mountain roads.

The car is a different story. Been through 2 Miatas since 1992 and the manual tranny is my preference. I recently bought a new BMW with the steptronic (clutchless manual or automatic) and it is sweet too.
TinShack is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 05:33 PM   #6
Rivet Master
DEITZ645's Avatar
2006 30' Classic S/O
Currently Looking...
Mohrsville , Pennsylvania
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 1,313
Images: 10
Like CA Streamer I too was a died-in-the-wool manual transmission man. That is until I got my '06 GMC with the 6.6 L Duramax and 6 speed Allison automatic tranmission with the transmission break. She pulls up grades great and the down grades are a piece of cake. I get about 18 MPG without the trialer and about 13-14 MPG pulling one of the Airstreams. If I wasn't going to be trailering I would go back to a manual transmission truck.

Another problem is when I went to order the new truck you really couldn't get a manual transmission with all the bells and whisltes I wanted to order. If I wanted a manual transmission I basically had to order a plane-jane work truck.

Plus my Harley, Miata, and VW Jetta TDI are all manual and it is a nice change of pace to get in something and not have to be bothered with shifting.
Carl, Elaine & Finn The Beagle
2006 30' Classic W Slide & Limited Package Katarina
2006 GMC 2500 HD 6.6 Turbo Diesel Crew Cab 8' Bed
AIR #14487
NQ3U (was KB3UOM)
DEITZ645 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 05:37 PM   #7
Rivet Master
willyd's Avatar
1993 34' Limited
Melbourne Florida , Springfield Ohio
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 759
Images: 5
My best bet - purchase a certified Dodge diesel with manual. Save a few dollars and get more warranty.
willyd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 05:46 PM   #8
1 Rivet Member
2006 31' Classic
DuBois , Pennsylvania
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 15
This was a question I had myself.

When I went truck shopping, I decided on a diesel after borrowing a friends 03 Dodge and another friends 97 Powerstroke.

From the start I wanted a stick truck because, at the time, I wanted to add an engine brake to my truck and it wasn't available with an automatic. I tried to do as much reading about Dodge/Ford/GM and the good and bad of each.

I ordered an 05 Dodge 2500 with the Cummins & Heavy duty NV 6-speed. The early 05's used the NV trans while the later 05's and current use the MB 6-speed.

I didn't go for the auto becase of the engine brake desire and the problems that Dodge had with their automatics. My buddy with the 03 had to go into his automatic twice. The second time he upgraded to the RE48 which the 05's had.

To be fair, I didn't go Ford(longtime Ford guy)becase of the 6.0 engine problems(ie injectors, turbos)and their automatics had problems as well.

I didn't look real hard at the GM's as GM has a bad knock for letting their customers find the problems with their drivetrains. I did read positive things about the Allison automatic,however.

I pull an 06 31' Classic and feel that the Dodge is a great setup. I was in NY over the weekend and pulling the hills and coming down the other side with the Jake brake on was great. The engine brake really takes it easy on the brakes.

Pulling my trailer, the truck did 14.5 mpg. Taking the truck empty on a trip, it has recorded as high as 22.5 mpg...and I live in PA(not exactly flat). The motor only has 25,000 on it and a number of folks I know that also have CTD's tell me that the mileage will improve as the motor gets some miles on it.

I am sure that you will get many points of view on this....but for me, the 6-speed was the correct choice. Best of luck and if you are leaning Dodge, I recommend TDR site as well.... It was were I went to learn.
Streamin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 05:55 PM   #9
Rivet Master
overlander63's Avatar
1993 21' Sovereign
Colfax , North Carolina
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 21,252
I like manuals, and have a manual transmission in our tow vehicle. However, the manual reduces the tow rating by a ton, literally. I still like it, but my next door neighbor has gone through 3 manual gearboxes in his 2002 Dodge with the Cummins powerplant. His trailer? a 2002 22 foot long SOB...
overlander63 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 06:47 PM   #10
3 Rivet Member
blacksheep's Avatar
1965 26' Overlander
1962 24' Tradewind
Vincennes , Indiana
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 145
Images: 3
If you are looking at a new Dodge then go with the 6 speed auto. These are sweet trannys and the truck will also have the factory exhaust brake both of which are computer controlled. I drive a 2001 Dodge with 6 speed manual and exhaust brake which I have 674,000 miles on delivering campers all over the country. If I were to buy a new truck it would be the Dodge with 6 speed auto and 3.73 gears (if available).

TV1: Black Sheep, 2001 Dodge 3500, 800,xxx miles, a few non-stock parts here and there...
TV2: Brownie, 1989 Dodge W250, only 256,000 miles!
TV3: 2004.5 Dodge 3500, 415,000 miles, 6 spd
TV4: 2005 Dodge 3500, 478,000 miles, 4spd auto
"Too much of what I once knew I now know not" Me
blacksheep is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 07:15 PM   #11
4 Rivet Member
RBolton's Avatar
Belington , West Virginia
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 304
HankO, I am a Dodge Dealer and I agree with blacksheep - 6 speed auto with standard exhaust brake and 3:73 gear. If you can swing new, go for it NOW. Trucks are cheap now but if fuel prices continue down, they'll go back up in a hurry.

Be careful on the gear ratio. Starting in '08 the standard ratio on these trucks is 3:42. There are still dealers and experts at Dodge that don't even know this ratio is available. Most literature shows only the 3:73 and 4:10. If the sticker does not specifically indicate that the truck is optioned with one of these it more than likely has the 3:42 which may still be enough depending on your towing needs.
RBolton is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 08:35 PM   #12
Vintage Kin
Fort Worth , Texas
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 8,014
Images: 1
I specifically went for a used Dodge diesel since the engine is superior to the competition (for example, MTBO [mean time between overhaul] is 350k miles on the Dodge and 250k on the competition. This means that engine wear -- degradation of performance -- is likely to be unnoticeable during the life of the vehicle. And, as towing can put plenty of stress on a drivetrain, engine wear can start to accelerate making ownership less and less palatable), and for a manual transmission since the maintenance is less, the durability is unquestioned, and the the torque of the motor is more easily handled and finessed.

One never needs to use the throttle to complete a shift, loaded or unloaded. I've never had to "slip" the clutch, unlike in some Fords I've driven.

A manual transmission, as Norsea suggests, allows a wider envelope of choices WITHIN each situation. A "situation" is comprised of:


None of these items is ever ideal, and usually a combination of two or more is pressing a particular choice depending on driver ability, alertness and motivation, and the tow rig condition is shaping that particular choice through the driver. As the rpm range is limited, one can easily go from "torque" to "horsepower" (boost) in a very short throttle travel range, and then choose another gear to optimize what is happening, in anticipation of what appears to be happening.

A manual transmission in a Dodge means low end torque management made easy for the driver, the brakes need hardly be considered. And the prevalence of manual trans Dodges isn't due to a "weak" automatic, it is because the straight-6 Cummins and six speed is so superior. A manual in a Ford or GM is about impossible to find, because one has to rev up those V8's to get them to leave the line, and that is wearing, wearing, wearing.

Here in South Texas -- there simply cannot be more HD pickups, per capita, on the road than anywhere but here -- a two-tone Ford diesel with leather, shiny chrome and a jackup kit seems fine to go to the store or endure another wax job, but when it is time to get some work done, you have to slide a Dodge under the load (judging by the hotshotters, oilfield guys, ranchers [giant ranches down here] and farmers). I travel the roads 150-500 miles daily down here, and have plenty of time for observations.

I have a cheap time-based brake controller at present. I hardly notice it because it hardly matters, as downshifting takes the load off of the brakes. Nor have I ever experienced the "Hensley bump" as my control over my tow rig has thus far precluded having had to, I suppose, hit the brakes hard enough to feel it (if it actually exists as a phenomenon; maybe the hitch simply isn't optimized on those who complain of it). Also, at 140,000 miles I am about 1/2-way through the first replacement brake pads. A Dodge with a six speed is really great for controlling the mass of the rig according to road, load, traffic and weather.

The trade-off is that the truck is "slow" to accelerate (my driving style doesn't vary for solo or towing), and there are days I would prefer an automatic.

And I would try, if buying new, one of the auto equipped/standard exhaust brake Dodges. I suspect (as do some hotshotters I know) that this may be the best compromise.
slowmover is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 09:50 PM   #13
More than one rivet loose
thecatsandi's Avatar

Currently Looking...
Los Alamos , New Mexico
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,756
Originally Posted by HankO View Post
Hi all,

I'm currently pulling a 28 foot Excella and am looking to purchase a new TV.

I have seen some great deals lately for new (and used) Dodge Diesels, but I was wonder what would be better for pulling, a Automatic or a Stick?

My son is not sold on the Automatic Trannys on the Dodges and is recommending I buy a stick, but I've had sticks my whole life and find the thought of an automatic to be more pleasing to my old knees.

Any thoughts?

One who has towed my 31 classic with first s tick and then an automatic will never go back to towing with a stick. Much more stressful and much less fatigue.
Michelle TAC MT-0
Sarah, Snowball

Looking for a 1962 Flying Cloud

thecatsandi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2008, 11:50 PM   #14
Rivet Master
Fyrzowt's Avatar
Currently Looking...
West of Fort Worth , Texas
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 6,698
Images: 8
There was a time when I would have advised you to get a manual trans, but technology has improved and changed my mind.
I would definately get the auto trans.
AIR #15800

"Wimpy" 1/2 ton 2002 GMC Sierra 4X4 Z-71 Gasser
2000 Safari SS 25'
Fyrzowt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2008, 07:00 AM   #15
Silvertwinkie's Avatar
2004 25' Safari
. , Illinois
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 10,476
I like the auto, but that doesn't mean that manual is bad. Terry hit it right on. Some vehicles are not designed to tow with a manual, or tow heavier weights. I never understood why, but since I'm a GM guy, I don't worry about that kind of question in my trucks (most are autos)...Corvette though, definitely, go manual.

I have also heard bad things about the Dodge trannies. I know the 4L80e and the Allison are fairly bulletproof for the average RVer or person that tows. I have over 100k of hard driving and towing on my auto 4L60e. The real key for any trans is heat, though reports I heard from the Dodge camps were clearly not heat related. At any rate, keep it below 200 degrees, don't wait until 100k to change the trans fluid, don't drive it like you stole it when towing, and you could have a trans last a very, very long time.
Computers manufactured by companies such as IBM, Compaq and millions of others are by far the most popular with about 70 million machines in use worldwide. Macintosh fans note that cockroaches are far more numerous than humans and that numbers alone do not denote a higher life form. -NY Times 11/91
Silvertwinkie is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-03-2008, 04:58 PM   #16
Rivet Master
mustang's Avatar
1999 27' Safari
Kent , Ohio
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 806
Stick shifts today arent like the ones from the 70s or before. Most of them have ATF fluid in them now. Before Gear Lube. Automatics generally have a higher towing capacity also.
mustang is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-03-2008, 05:43 PM   #17
Commercial Member
Airslide's Avatar

2012 25' FB Flying Cloud
Currently Looking...
Wilton , California
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 1,708
Images: 50
When i was a kid i thought i wanted to be a big rig truck Dad quickly talked me out of it. But i find now that I drive a Ford Crew cab dually with a manual trans towing a trailer thats 30 feet long.. If navigating isnt enough its even more of a thrill when you are pulling a grade and your determined on making that downshift smooth and seamless to keep your Rpm correct and not wake the passenger..

It all comes down to preference. The whole thing is just an expression of who you are. I work with people that have the opinion that camping is only done at the hilton hotel... not to mention ever pulling around a travel trailer. We are a rare breed.

Just one mans opinion.

"Old fashioned service on your late model Airstream"
Airslide is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-03-2008, 06:01 PM   #18
Liquid Cooled
RedSHED's Avatar
2017 27' Flying Cloud
Columbus , Indiana
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 549
Images: 2
Real men drive automatics; they are secure enough to let the gears shift themselves.

That said, for a tow vehicle, I'd take whichever transmission was cheapest. To me, it does not matter at all.

Mrs R, however, insists upon a manual. I married above my station in life
RedSHED is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-03-2008, 06:01 PM   #19
eubank's Avatar

Airstream - Other
2016 Interstate Grand Tour Ext
Bosque Farms , New Mexico
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 6,791
Our Ford to tow the AS is the first automatic we've ever owned; all the rest have been/are manuals.

For me, it's a toss-up. I like the automatic. It's convenient -- and really nice when starting up a grade from scratch with an obstacle immediately behind us. But I constantly reach for the shifter and cluth when driving it.

WBCCI 21043
eubank is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-03-2008, 08:42 PM   #20
Rivet Master
mustang's Avatar
1999 27' Safari
Kent , Ohio
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 806
Thats funny eubank .. My kids have laughed at me when I slam my left foot against the ground, My wife asked once "whats that all about"
mustang is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Dip Stick Bill Resseau Mechanics Corner - Engines, Transmission & More... 26 11-09-2010 04:08 PM
The Joggle Stick samb General Interior Topics 1 01-08-2008 09:37 PM
weatherstripping didn't stick Chuck Leaks - Weatherstrips, Gaskets, Caulks & Sealants 14 04-03-2005 11:49 AM
What does stick to aluminum? malconium Interior Restoration Forum 21 08-26-2004 05:20 AM
Stick-on-States Stefrobrts On The Road... 21 12-18-2003 02:02 PM

Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by


This website is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Airstream, Inc. or any of its affiliates. Airstream is a registered trademark of Airstream Inc. All rights reserved. Airstream trademark used under license to Social Knowledge LLC.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:31 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.