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Old 04-21-2004, 05:47 PM   #1
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TOW VEHICLE--Help me decide!! 96 Yukon or 01 GMC

I need some practical advise. I have a 74 Tradewind that is 4200 lbs dry. My current tow vehicle is a very nice 1996 Eukon with a 5.7 liter V8 and a 3.73 rear end with factory tow package. The GMC manual says max trailer weight is 6500 lbs. I pulled the trailer to New Mexico from Chicago in October and the truck did fine except for a slow down to about 40mph over Raton pass on I-25. I plan on camping a lot in the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado.

I am considering a 2001 GMC 1500 two wheel drive with a 5.3 liter V8 and a 3.73 rear end with heavy duty factory tow package. The GMC manual says max trailer weight is 8300 lbs.
My question is ---- Will the 2001 actually provide the increased towing ability that the manual seems to imply. Do I need 4 wheel drive to pull the trailer adequately? Some situations I can not forsee at this time. Your experience will help me in this decission.
I have looked at 3/4 ton trucks and at this time would prefer to stay with the 1/2 ton.
Thanks in advance for your suggestions. Shelby
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Old 04-21-2004, 06:05 PM   #2
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No, a smaller engine will not magically perform better than the larger engine you currently own. In the GM line you will want at least the 6.0, and I doubt if it will perform measurably better than your current 5.7. Nor do I think dropping to a 4.10 rear end would answer either, as your problem is not gearing but altitude.

Tow ratings are based on a number of factors, of which engine size is just one of many. The fact that a particular chassis/engine/transmission/brake/suspension/cooling package is RATED to tow a particular load actually says nothing whatsoever about how well it will do it.

Having said that, 40 mph over Raton pass isn't all that bad.

Your principal problem is altitude. Non-turbocharged engines loose power as the air gets thinner. Fuel injection and computers help a lot, but still can't replace oxygen that simply is not there. If you are really serious about wanting better performance you really only have two choices: big block engines (8.1 in the GM line), or a turbocharged diesel. The big engines will lose power with altitude but they have more to start with. The diesel's turbocharger will pack more air into the engine at altitude and the motor will more nearly perform as normal.

Many of us have found four wheel drive a necessity, some have found it to be a convenience, and some have had no use for it. It largely depends on where and in what conditions you camp.

Personally, I'd just drive the Yukon and go slow when I had to go slow. It should be a good match for your trailer.

Good luck

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Old 04-21-2004, 06:09 PM   #3
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I have the same truck as you with 80000 miles except it's 4wd Over time I've replaced brakelines and various other things so I know it's in great shape. In considering a new tow watch the total vehicle weight. There are several threads with detailed discussions of this.
I have an appointment at the local speed shop to increase the horsepower and torque of my truck for alot less dollars than a new one. New aircleaner and reprograming the little onboard computers. This may solve your performance problem.
Dealers will not do this here. Only speed shops.

Also there are threads on the 4WD issue you may find informative.
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Old 04-21-2004, 06:11 PM   #4
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Looks pretty strange to me, going from a 5.7 to a 5.3 liter V8 with the same gear ratio in the rear end. I would think you got the extra tow rating with the 1500 because of the change to a truck chassis vice a big station wagon.

I think you need to look closely at the HP/Torque rateing of each engine and see if the smaller engine will still get you over Raton pass at 40MPH. My gut feel is no.
You've done the pass before will less power still do it?
Good luck.
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Old 04-21-2004, 06:17 PM   #5
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The chief advantage of the 2001 you describe is the longer wheelbase, making the whole rig more stable when towing. I don't believe you will notice a lot of difference in towing power, so you may still go over Raton at about the same speed. Anyway, the big issue is not how fast you go in the mountains, but how much strain the mountains put on your tow vehicle. If the max. trailer weight you quote is accurate, then the 2001 should do the job easier, [perhaps no faster]; so the 2001 should do it better and last longer. You will definitely have much better brakes on the truck.

If you have the choice, the 3/4 ton is worth the difference in my mind, but my experience is with a longer and heavier AS. My last 1/2 ton was a '96 Suburban and I had no trouble with it towing [even in the mountains], but knew the strain of pulling 8600 lbs would probably cause a failure in another year. . . so I moved up to the 3/4 ton, without regret.

Hope you can choose just exactly what you need and enjoy it for years to come.
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Old 04-21-2004, 06:49 PM   #6
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5.7 to 5.3 is not that strange for Chevy


I owned the 99 Chevy Silverado which was the year Chevy/GMC replaced their 5.7 with the 5.3 litre. As strange as it may seem the 5.3 was a different engine that developed more horsepower and more torque than the older 5.7. That year they also went to a new generation of frame design utilizing hydroforming tube sections instead of C channels which is something Ford adopted this year. The frames are stiffer. The GMC 1500 also has a longer wheelbase than the Yukon. Those things add up to better towing. I'd go with the '01 GMC 1500. You will have no problem towing that TradeWind in my opinion.
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Old 04-21-2004, 06:57 PM   #7
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Actually you don't have a truck you are considering a truck, you have a Yukon which I was considering but now I'm not. I'm still going to the speed shop with my "truck". Soon. Not right away but soon.
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Old 04-21-2004, 07:12 PM   #8
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I'd agree. I'd either stick with your 5.7 or go to the newer 6.0L. I wouldn't go with the 5.3L. It's a good engine, don't get me wrong, but if you're gonna be in the mountains, I think the 6.0 would do a better job.
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Old 04-22-2004, 08:09 PM   #9
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Thanks to all of you who responded to my question. I will be pulling "Lady Bug" to the northern New Mexico mountains next week for her maiden voyage in her renovated form. I will pull with the Yukon and try to get a feel for the relative difficulty of towing the trailer loaded with water, equipment, and whatever else we feel is necessary. I will let you all know how it goes!!! Shelby
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Old 04-23-2004, 07:52 AM   #10
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Don't tow with full tanks!

Even if it means you have to fill up a few miles from your destination, there's no real need to tow a long distance with the extra weight.

As far as the tow vehicle- you'll probably be OK with the Yukon.

The longer wheelbase would be nice, but if it feels good, do it.

Really get a feel for the trucks blowing past you and how much it affects your stability.

We used a '97 Toyota 4Runner (max towing 5k) to tow an Avion T-20 from Oregon to California, then later from Ca to New Yoek (and to and from Tahoe a dozen times). I had a supercharger in it (and a Prodigy brake controller), so going and stopping were not a problem. I could even run the grapevine in Ca a 75 mph if I wanted to. It WAS, however, usually a white-knuckled trip....primarily from passing trucks and buses that always tried to blow us off the road.

I guess I didn't realize it was a problem (or that it was unusual) until we upgraded to a 2003 GMC Sierra 3/4 ton (Crew cab with Duramax/Allison). Big, heavy truck. Now, pulling the Avion (or our newer '56 A/S Safari) is, well, EASY.

Good luck!

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