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Old 10-01-2002, 10:54 AM   #1
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Question Tow Vehicle Question-for a 34 ft, 3 axle Excella

I have just purchased a 1991 34 ft, 3 axle Excella 1000. I have a 3/4 ton Chevy long wheelbase with a 350 cid engine that was adequate for my Overlanders. I haven't gotten a chance to do much towing yet with the new trailer, but is this tow rig adequate for a 34' trailer? It seems to do fine on flatland here in Mississippi, but I don't know if it is adequate for any type of real hills or mountains.

If not, what would be good. A diesel? A dually? A big block gas?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 10-01-2002, 12:30 PM   #2
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What I'd do....

I'm a GM man, so bear with me! With that rig I would go with a 3500 Chevy or GMC dual rear wheel truck, with a 454 (7.4L) or 496 (8.1) engine. If you can afford the extra $4500 go for a Duramax diesel. If your a "Weekend Warrior" like most of us a diesel is a waste of money. Most Duramax owners are getting about 3 more MPG than a big block gas engine. Diesel is now .15-.25 higher than regular no so you'll never recover the cost of the diesel engine, if you buy brand new. Another option would be a used Medium Duty Truck or MDT such as a Freightliner FL60, or FL70. I met a fellow a few weeks ago that got a nice FL70 with 125K miles on it for $37,000. But he was a "Fulltimer" and was pulling a 36' SOB fifth wheel.

RoadKingMo has a 34' triaxle, maybe he'll chime in here!
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Old 10-01-2002, 01:28 PM   #3
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Check the tow and weight ratings of your truck, as it is equipped. Take into consideration the gearing and any special equipment that the truck has for towing. If it matches the weight of the trailer, then take it for a spin, perhaps more than just around the block and see how it does on onramps, how it handles, and if you feel safe in it. Since you already towed Overlanders, you will get a pretty good idea how it will do on the occasional hill in your area.
If the trailer weight exceeds the trucks tow rating, then go shopping. Pick had some excellent choices for you on that option.
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Old 10-01-2002, 02:23 PM   #4
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What is the rear end ratio of your 3/4 truck?

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Old 10-01-2002, 02:25 PM   #5
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I wouldn't want to tow a 34' with a small-block, no matter what the gear ratio is. Even in relatively flat land, you can often find a serious dip, and if you have to stop at the bottom, behind a car waiting to turn left, for example, you may have to accelerate from a stop up a fairly steep grade. Yeah, it might make it, but it won't be fun. There's no way I'd take on seriously hilly country with it.

From the Ford perspective (2002 F250SD, 158" wheelbase SuperCab/Long Bed 7.3L PSD, 4WD with electronic shift-on-the-fly)

Assuming roughly 31" tall tires (265/75 X 16), go with either a big-block gas with 4.10:1 or so gearing or a diesel with 3.73:1 or so gearing. These combos will give about the same torque to the wheels at any given mph, other things like tranny ratios being equal.

MSRP of my diesel was $5000-$5500 (I forget and didn't pay MSRP). It takes 15 quarts of oil and has to be changed a bit more frequently. It adds about 500 lbs to the curb weight, which means that payload for a given GVWR is 500 lbs less... and payload includes your tongue weight, driver and passengers, and a tank of gas.

Most diesel I'm seeing is $.05-.10 less than regular. There's a LOT of variability in pricing... some stations really gouge for it. When you consider the gearing to get the same torque, the diesel does considerably better on mileage. But I don't expect to break-even on the purchase cost and maintenance with fuel savings.

It's about range for me. Another 5 mpg on a near 40 gal tank is another 200 miles. And you aren't going to get a 57' long rig into just any old gas station along the route. Just because it says they sell diesel on the highway sign, doesn't mean you'll fit. Look for truck stops (fuel is cheaper and fresher there).

Even though you have huge amounts of torque you still can't pull the lead sled if you can't get the power to the ground. It doesn't have to be a muddy field to halt a 34' pullin' rig. Wet grass will do it. That's why I opted for another who-knows-how-much-money and 400 lbs of 4WD (and 100 lbs of ESOF), not to mention because I commute in snow and ice with it.

I opted for a single rear wheel 3/4 ton because that's what I could find in left-over '02 models. I won't buy a new engine or tranny in the first two years of production and that's what Ford is for '03.

To me, duallies are a PITA if you have to use them as a daily driver. But they're definitely a plus if you have a high center of gravity load like a big 5er... or in my case, a 750 lb RoadKing and a 500 lb Sportster up high in the 4WD bed (w/o trailer). But IMHO, duallies are overkill for a low Airstream, even a 34'.

3/4 ton vs 1 ton. There's really about a half-ton difference in GVWR between them, so getting the SRW F350 offsets the diesel and 4WD as far as payload's concerned. Dunno about GM, but the '02 Ford F250SD with camper package has the same drivetrain, frame, springs, and axles as the SRW F350SD. The latter has 4" blocks between the rear springs and axle while the former has 2" blocks. There's a kit with 2" blocks to lower the F350 because its bed is too tall for some 5ers, and the kit doesn't lower the GVWR. The F250 only rides a bit better because the tire pressure sticker calls for fewer psi, where the F350 has the same tires and calls for max pressure in them.

If you're going to load the 34' up to it's GVWR (and that's a lot of load), resulting in a 1000 -1200 lb tongue weight AND you want to carry more than a couple of people, full fuel tank, and a few odds and ends in the truck... i.e. you wanna carry two or more people and a Road King AND pull the trailer, I'd opt for the SRW one-ton and get the sticker that says you're legal doing so. If you get in an accident over the sticker GVWR, you could be held partially liable, even if it wasn't your fault.

That's my take on it...
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Old 10-02-2002, 10:56 AM   #6
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There are quite a few 34 footers being pulled by small block Suburbans. One gentleman that I talked to said it pulled fine around the southeast but he wouldn't go to the Rockies with it again.

Since you already have the truck and trailer, use it and let us know what you think.

We tow our 34 with a 3/4 ton Chevy Diesel.


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Old 04-19-2003, 11:32 AM   #7
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Old 01-18-2007, 06:48 PM   #8
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I Just Purchased A 1986 34 Ft 3 Axle Excella In Florida, At Ladzydays Rv Center. I Towed It Back To Pennsylvania With A F-150 Ford 5.4 With 355 Rear End. I Didn't Have Any Trouble At All, The Trailer Pulled So Nice That Most Of The Time I Didn't Think It Was Behind Me. The Total Trip Was 1400 Miles. Kerran
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Old 01-18-2007, 07:02 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by kerran
I Just Purchased A 1986 34 Ft 3 Axle Excella In Florida, At Ladzydays Rv Center. I Towed It Back To Pennsylvania With A F-150 Ford 5.4 With 355 Rear End. I Didn't Have Any Trouble At All, The Trailer Pulled So Nice That Most Of The Time I Didn't Think It Was Behind Me. The Total Trip Was 1400 Miles. Kerran

Kerran, Welcome to the Forum and Congrats on the new purchase . I use a 2004 Suburban with a 5.3 engine to tow my 1991 34ft trailer and I do not have any problems here in the southeast. I am still working so I don`t have enough time to venture away too far. I also have a Crew Cab dually if I need the extra towing muscle. Davis
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Old 01-18-2007, 07:03 PM   #10
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towing 34' Excella

FWIW We have a 1989 34' Excella. It has been towed back and forth to the Phoenix area from our home in Grand Junction, Colorado. This route includes two 6% grades and several smaller gradients. The Excella has also been towed on several other trips here in western Colorado/eastern Utah over quite steep grades.
The tow vehicles have been a 1995 Suburban K2500 and a 1999 Subarban C2500(2wd). Doth have the 7.4 liter motor , tho the 99 has the Vortec edition w about 8% more hp. Both did a great job tho I was sometimes in 2nd gear. Also tow a 27' sailboat that weighs in about #9000 with similiar results.
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Old 01-18-2007, 07:08 PM   #11
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BTW this rig also has a Hensley hitch, not sure if that makes any difference. Use a Reese hitch w our 25' Excella and no eq hitch w the Minuet.
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Old 01-18-2007, 07:12 PM   #12
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Towing 34'

We pulled out 87 34' a couple of times with our Lincoln Navigator which many told us was adequate. I quickly realized that it was not safe and would soon destroy the Navigator which is a very nice vehicle we wanted to keep. I decided I wanted a diesel for the long term. I did quite of bit of research and came to the conclusion that the Dodge Cummins had the most consistent reliable track record. I actually was directed to the site below after I purchased my Dodge, I think some interesting points are made. It becomes a personal choice.
All Diesels Are NOT Equal
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Old 01-21-2007, 10:21 PM   #13
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Recommendations for 34' TV

Currently I tow our 34' with slide out with a 2004 diesel Excursion. While this is a superb towing machine, paticularly for a family, I always keep my eyes open for what I would do if I had to replace it. Keep in mind that the 34 w/SO is a fairly heavy beast - the mother ship.

Since they don't build Excursions anymore, and being prone towards something diesel, I have looked at Ford, Chevy/GMC and (possibly) Dodge trucks. The Chevy looks interesting since it does have a rear DVD option - which with family becomes valuable. The Duramax/6 speed transmission combo sounds appealing - although I have seen mixed reviews (how shocking!).

For Ford, I would have no problem buying an F-350 diesel with single rear wheels. However, it does not seem to have a DVD system, and if I am not mistaken I think this is the last year of the 6L diesel engine.

While I have no immediate needs, I would be curious about others opinions!
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Old 03-23-2007, 09:20 AM   #14
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'86 34 Ft 3 Axle Excella

Originally Posted by kerran
I Just Purchased A 1986 34 Ft 3 Axle Excella In Florida, At Ladzydays Rv Center. I Towed It Back To Pennsylvania With A F-150 Ford 5.4 With 355 Rear End. I Didn't Have Any Trouble At All, The Trailer Pulled So Nice That Most Of The Time I Didn't Think It Was Behind Me. The Total Trip Was 1400 Miles. Kerran
Hi Kerran!

And welcome to the forum. That is the same year and model AS that I have. If I can ever be of any help please let me know. What floorplan do you have? Mine is a center bath, rear bedroom with twins. I have decided to change to center (of back br) queen, then changed my mind, then back to wanting a bigger bed.

I'm glad to see that you didn't have any trouble going back to PA, although I am not at all surprised. There is a lot of misconception and misinformation about the 34' that is quite common here. The weight difference between a 31' and a 34' is less than what would be found if the tanks were full, and the extra axle makes the trailer easier to pull and more stable -- not less!

Anyway, I would like to hear from you about your 34' and maybe we can compare notes. I have had mine quite a long time and have replaced and repaired quite a few things. I think mine is in pretty good shape for its age and miles, but some of the cosmetic interior things are beginning to get on my list -- I'd like new curtains and new upholstery and maybe new carpet (smile). But they have been moved down the list by my addiction to the internet and boondocking and cold ac. Just bought two Honda eu2000's and am in the process of setting up my tripod satellite internet system. Recently upgraded the AC to a 15,000 btu and replaced the frdge last year.

I (almost) full-time in mine. I own a home in Texas and a farm in Louisiana where I frequently park for weeks at a time, but stay in the AS since it has become my "home." This last winter I parked at the farm for four weeks, but next year plan to go to South Texas or Quartzsite.

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Old 03-23-2007, 10:05 AM   #15
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I agree, a small block for a 34' loaded is gonna be at or beyond what a 350 should do. I agree with what I've read so far here. I would look at a 7.4L or 8.1L and if you can swing it, a Duramax.

I have a 6.0L w/4.10s and I can tell you that as great as this combo is, the 6.0L could struggle in mountains with the load you are talking about, and my 5.7L would surely struggle sooner than my 6.0L.
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Old 03-29-2007, 06:52 AM   #16
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I tow a 2004 34 foot with a slideout. I have previously towed it with a 2004 Ford F-350, 4 door 4x4. That truck did a fine job. I just made my first trip with my 2008 Ford F-350, 4 door 4x4 with the new 6.4. There is a huge difference with the new 6.4. Go drive one and see for yourself. I am sold on the combination.
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Old 03-29-2007, 12:11 PM   #17
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Welcome to the forum

As the proud 'papa' of a 1990 34' Excella 1000 I have your answer . Of course you've recieved about 20 other right answers thus far.

We have a 2005 F-350 6.0 liter diesel which pulls our trailer very nicely. I get 21 MPG on the hgwy when not towing and 14 on the hgwy towing the Airstream. Of course we added the Banks Power system which was well worth the investment. It has given us an additional 3-4 MPG in fuel economy.

As for price...just shop around. The sticker on this truck (I bought it brand new) was about $52k. Since it was a 'demo' with 2500 miles I was able to talk them down to $38k.

By the way this is the fully loaded truck with the tow command package, 4 wheel drive and Lariat interior package. I now am able to 'out accelerate' my friend that tows a much lighter trailer with his gas engine. Diesel all the way!
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Old 04-19-2007, 10:32 AM   #18
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Diesel vs. gas engine.I currently have a 95 dodge 2500 w/5.9-360 gas with factory tow pac,and class 5 recv.I've been a truck driver apx. 24 years,and was an owner operator the last four.To me a diesel would have to be the dodge with the CUMMINGS.Reason:Cummings has made diesels forever in semi's,many over a million miles on 'em.I however prefer a gas motor simply because it's quieter,cheaper to work on,etc...
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Old 04-19-2007, 10:57 AM   #19
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....Cont....A gas engine has less pulling power than the diesel,but is still decent.The main difference between g or d is dead stop take off,m.p.g a little better with the diesel,and pulling hills,where a diesel will perform better.Back in the old days 90% of the class a and c motorhomes ran gas engines in them.As for me,I'll keep my gas engine.The last thing I want to hear when I get off work is a diesel .You can upgrade both engines with tons of after market parts to make them perform even better.
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Old 04-19-2007, 04:07 PM   #20
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Whatever you choose you won't need a dually.
I'd rather be boon docking in the desert.

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