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Old 09-22-2017, 12:08 AM   #1
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Steep Downhill Grades & Towing With 2003 Southwind Workhorse GAS Engine

Hubby has asked me to ask you fine folks:

When going downhill, even though he is in 1st Gear how do you avoid burning your brakes out? He often has to pump the brakes and is concerned about that. Appreciate all suggestions, guidance, concerns etc.

Second Question If you'd be so kind:

We've never had a toad for the past 15 years on many extended trips, and managed awesomely. However, now retiring and spending more time on longer trips, looking to add a toad to our Gas Engine MH so we can stay longer in one place and explore further a field.

Hubby concerned it not being a diesel about towing "ideally" a Jeep. Any help suggestions, what to be concerned about? In the ideal world he'd love a DP, but RV newbie budget wise, I'm not comfortable yet going that route for a couple/three years away.

2003 Southwind 36ft 2 Slides

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Old 09-22-2017, 02:31 AM   #2
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Interested in answers as well

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Old 09-22-2017, 03:54 AM   #3
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Having 10 + years behind the wheel of a gas coach and a lifetime in Colorado I think I am qualified to share an opinion. Sounds like you are doing everything right. As far as the brakes go, and assuming the pads and shoes are within spec and serviced, you will be fine. People burn or glaze pads when they drive too fast. At higher speeds there is intense heat that builds up, and you would tend to stay on the brakes longer as well. In first gear, and most cases in second gear, the rotation of the wheels is slow enough to manage the heat that is generated. Just use your brake to slow your rig below the target speed, and then get off the brakes and let them cool before applying again. Pulling a toad does not change any of this, as the toad would be using its own brakes and doesn't change anything in the formula...at least not on the downside of the hill. Anything in the 5% to 8% grade should not present a problem. Jeeps are light weight and track well, and certainly easy to hook up. There a many other good choices as well. One last thing, there is no minimum speed on the downhill side of a mountain pass. I go as slow as I choose, and if someone in a fast moving car gets all bent out of shape, well, too bad. Many drivers have expressed the fact that I am #1, not sure why it is always the middle finger that is used to express this?
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Old 09-22-2017, 04:01 AM   #4
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The few times I've been in a first gear, down hill situation ( New Hampshire ), I would let the engine do what it could and then apply the brakes to get it down to 10 mph or so. Then I would let them up and do it again. I recall doing this quite a few times.

It's a situation where you don't have any options, but to use the brakes as much as you need to, to stay under control.

In that situation you are going slow anyway, so the heat buildup should be less then at highway speed. If you can pull off the road safely for a few minutes, on a long downgrade, that can help.
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Old 09-22-2017, 04:08 AM   #5
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I do the same as twinboat , however I found it revs up too much in first gear ( Ford v10 ) and chose second gear. When speed limit was reached , I apply hard and steady brake down to 10-20 MPH and get off the brake. This gives the brakes ample time to cool.

Cliff,Tallulah and Buddy ( 1999-2012 )
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Old 09-22-2017, 04:33 AM   #6
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As stated, the key is not to ride the brakes but use them to scrub off speed and then let speed build again while the brakes are cooling. Here is a Workhorse tech report on safe mountain driving. It should help with the basics and provides similar information as the prior posters. The second link is basically the same article although it may contain a little bit different information. I downloaded both to my computer.

Workhorse Tech Report - Mountain Driving

Mountain Driving

The only time I got into real trouble was in Maine where there was no grade sign prior to a downhill. Ended up in too high of a gear and as luck would have it there was a work crew and single lane around the corner from the bottom of the hill. Only time I have smelt my brakes, was not a good situation. I usually pick my gear at the top of the hill based on the known downhill grade, especially on unfamiliar roads. And its best to pick one gear lower than higher when entering an unknown grade.

One other note. If you don't have the Mountain Guides in hand they are very useful for route selection and predetermining the grades you will be dealing with on particular routes. I have the printed books but that also now have apps with the same information.

Mountain Directory East & West
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Old 09-22-2017, 04:57 AM   #7
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The whole issue with a toad and a Gas Class A is there weight of the toad and the available weight left from the GCWR of the motorhome after deleting the actual GVAW, and the hitch rating,
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Old 09-22-2017, 05:54 AM   #8
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Good advice on the down hill braking. With the toad, don't know what size/model your MH is. We have a Ford F53 chassis with the V10. We have been towing a '99 SL2 on a tow dolly. Total weight of about 3100 lbs. I don't even know it's back there. The dolly has surge brakes and definitely helps. We have towed this way for about 3500 miles.

We just upgraded to a '13 CRV. These are 4 down towable. The one we bought had been towed behind a MH so it was already setup and came with everything to flat tow it. I hooked it up and drove around the block. Still don't feel anything. It weights about 3500 lbs.

You need to take into account how much weight your MH can tow. A lot of the gassers don't have a lot of towing capability. 3500-4000 lbs is typical. We were looking at a Wrangler but it was too heavy for us and also we HATED the ride. Too stiff and felt every bump. You also need a braking system. Don't skimp on this and think your MH brakes will be fine, they need help.

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Old 09-22-2017, 08:10 AM   #9
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It's simple set a target speed (say 50 mph) when you reach that speed slow to 40 mph with a strong application of the brakes. Repeat as necessary.
Make sure you get a brake system for your toad.
We had many years and miles in gassers before moving to a DP. We crossed the USA 10 times in gassers and learned from overheating the brakes to use the above method.
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Old 09-22-2017, 08:18 AM   #10
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I select a downhill gear that provides a speed that I am comfortable with, then watch the tachometer. When the RPM reaches 4000, I get on the brakes hard to bring the RPM down to 3500 or so, then repeat this sequence until the bottom of the grade is reached. Important to not ride the brakes,and select a gear that will not over rev the engine. I drive Workhorse Allegro with 8.1 engine and 5 speed Allison transmission.
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Old 09-22-2017, 10:16 AM   #11
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2003 Winnebago on a Workhorse chassis, 2007 Malibu toad. Drove from MI through the Black Hills and on to Yellowstone. There's some pretty step grades going over the Big Horns but we had no issues. Just so you know, the Allison trans won't downshift to a lower gear if it will cause engine RPMs to go to high. You can try but the dash display will show Shift Denied. Use the brakes to slow and then the trans will downshift.
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Old 09-22-2017, 10:30 AM   #12
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To the OP. Check the towing capacity of your MH. I suspect a two door Jeep might be under that weight, but pretty sure the JKU four door will be too heavy. Unless you intend to do back country exploring, there are lighter more comfortable toad choices. I read somewhere that an exhaust brake was available for certain gas engines. That is what the entry level DP's have. If available, it could do a lot to insuring a safe descent on most grades up to 10%.
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Old 09-23-2017, 07:45 PM   #13
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I have gone up and down the Wyoming Big Horns both east to west and west to east on US14 pulling a Jeep Wrangler. I didn’t have any problems. I used the techniques discussed in the links in Vettenut’s response and drove slow. This year we decided that my wife would drive the Jeep when the grade exceeded 7% or was very long and greater than 6%. This worked out well for us. I went up grade faster and had more safety margin going down grade.

This year for roads that we were not familiar with we used the Mountain Directory also linked to by Vettenut. The directory is not 100% consistent between all roads. Nor does it list every grade. It is just a good starting point.

BTW, having that Jeep along has really added to our enjoyment. For example, last year we went for a ride on a segment of the Oregon Trail just west of Atlantic City, WY. This year we drove up a narrow gauge railroad route to the northeast of Gunnison, CO. I am a sissy though. I use the 4 wheel drive to get me out of trails that I should not be on and not to get me to trails that I have no business being on.
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Old 09-23-2017, 08:08 PM   #14
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I tow a 5th with a RAM 3500 diesel. On steeper grades I will have the tow/haul engaged, exhaust brake n and down shift at the top of the hill. Typically I'll shift up and town multiple times on the decent as the grades changes. As. Goal I try to do the decent without ever touching my service brakes. Some times I will brake to bled speed prior to entering a curve. Always enter a curve at the lowest speed and permit the speed to built some while coming out of the curve. I just highway 14 over the Big Horns two days ago and hardly touch my brakes. Easy ride down. As for those behind you, don't worry. Your job is to get you, passengers and rig down the hill safely. If traffic does build AND I find safe place I will let them pass. Whatever don't ride the bakes, use the gears.

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