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Old 08-06-2016, 04:39 PM   #1
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Towing performance expectation?

We sold our 27' class C, since it struggled mightily climbing the mountains with our Beetle convertible in tow. To replace it, we bought a 2005 Zeppelin Z281 travel trailer (4200 lbs dry weight, 6400 lbs GVWR). I bought a 2000 F250 supercab (3.73 gear ratio, 2 wheel drive, automatic, 6.8 V10). I'll install a Husky Centerline WD hitch with sway control.

I'm comfortable I'll be well below the towing and payload limits of my truck. I've got new tires, brakes, and shocks on the truck, and it runs and drives flawlessly. I'll plan to tow with overdrive off at roughly 60-65 mph on the freeway. My question is, what should I expect to see as far as performance? How will it pull up the long grades to Flagstaff from Phoenix? Should I expect to manually downshift to 2nd on the steeper grades? What speed should I expect to pull going up a 6 mile long grade, some sections at 6%? Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet - how will the truck handle that?

I know gas mileage will be poor - I knew that going in - I'm more interested in getting there without crawling up the hill in first gear, like I was in the motorhome.

I haven't towed with the truck yet, but driving it around it seems to have plenty of torque.
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Old 08-06-2016, 07:45 PM   #2
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The Ford V10 has lots of power, it's used in the biggest Class A gas RVs. It does have to rev pretty high to get the torque, just get used to the noise. On grades, don't pay attention to the speedometer, the tach and the coolant temperature is much more important. Learn the power curve of the engine and shift to keep it close to the peak of the curve for pulling hills. If the coolant temp starts to rise, downshift.
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Old 08-06-2016, 08:51 PM   #3
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I had a '99 F350 with the V10. Excellent service with the V10. My 5ver weighed 14,000 lbs. You are considerably lighter than I was pulling. You should be OK. Don't hesitate to shift down to 2nd. I had the 4.33 rear end, you only have a 3.73. But you are lighter. A very important thing, Keep the Rev's up! On the I-17 once your rpm's get below the torque curve its near impossible to get them back up. I was going south on the I-17 and for some reason I lost the rpm's. 1st gear floored I barely got 10-15 mph. Almost considered pulling over and putting it in 4wd LOW. But again, you are much lighter.
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Old 08-07-2016, 10:28 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Gdgarth View Post
...2005 Zeppelin Z281 travel trailer (4200 lbs dry weight, 6400 lbs GVWR). I bought a 2000 F250 supercab (3.73 gear ratio, 2 wheel drive, automatic, 6.8 V10). I'll install a Husky Centerline WD hitch with sway control.

... My question is, what should I expect to see as far as performance? How will it pull up the long grades to Flagstaff from Phoenix? ... Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet - how will the truck handle that?
Your truck has GCWR of 16,500 pounds with tow rating of 11,100 pounds. The GCWR is an engineered number you can rely on. The tow rating is overstated by a lot, because it assumes you wet and loaded F-250 weighs only 5,400 pounds before you hook up the trailer. Your wet and loaded tuck will weigh a lot more than 5,400 pounds, so ignore that tow rating. But when your truck is loaded to 9,000 pounds when wet and loaded for the road, the GCWR indicates you could still pull a 7,500 pound trailer without overheating anything in the drivetrain of the F-250, and without being the slowpoke holding up traffic on hills and mountain passes. So the GCWR means, assuming a well-tuned engine with well-maintained tranny, you should be able to drag that trailer that's loaded to 6,400 pounds without any problems, even up the long grades from Phoenix to Flagstaff.

But it's a gasser, not a turbo-diesel. That means you have to know the RPM of the power band and keep it reved up to stay within that power band when towing. Ford did a good job of calibrating the automagic tranny, so I'd leave it in Drive range and let the computer determine which gear you need to be in. Use cruise control set at about 55 MPH when climbing steep grades, then you won't be the slowpoke holding up traffic, but you won't be the first in a race to the top of the pass, either.

At 7,000 feet altitude a non-turbocharged gasser loses a lot of the power and torque it has at sea level, so you will definitely notice the lack of power when pulling a steep grade at 7,000 feet. But you should have enough power and torque to tow that wet and loaded trailer with no problems - other than a screaming engine at high RPM.

That screaming engine will be just fine as long as you don't exceed the RPM red line on your tach. If you don't like all that screaming racket when the engine is working hard, you shudda bought a turbo-diesel.
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Old 08-07-2016, 10:46 AM   #5
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Thanks for the response.

From what I can tell, the V10 makes maximum torque at 3250 rpm, and max HP at around 4750 rpm, so I should try to keep it between those numbers while pulling up the hills, right? I'm guessing that means I'll be in 2nd gear at 55 mph.

Our motorhome had the Ford 460, but the transmission didn't shift until the rpm's dropped so low that you dropped too much speed (and engine temp was rising), so I always manually shifted to avoid that. No tach in the motorhome, so I climbed hills at 45mph in second, with the engine rpm's pretty high. If the pickup tranny shifts appropriately, that will be much easier. I'll watch the tach, and try to make sure it stays in the right range.

There's no red line on the tach - I assume max rpm is above 5,000 rpm?

Thanks again for the excellent response.
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Old 08-07-2016, 12:11 PM   #6
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The ECU limits you from over-revving the engine, thus no red line on the tach.
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Old 08-07-2016, 06:19 PM   #7
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But when your truck is loaded to 9,000 pounds when wet and loaded for the road, the GCWR indicates you could still pull a 7,500 pound trailer without overheating anything in the drivetrain of the F-250, and without being the slowpoke holding up traffic on hills and mountain passes.
Bad example. I forgot that my '99.5 F-250 had GVWR of only 8,800 pounds. Your tongue weigh of a TT loaded to 6,000 pounds would be around 850 pounds. 8,800 GVWR o your F-250 minus 850 tongue weight means you could load the F-250 to a max of only 7,950, including the hitch and a full tank of gas, without exceeding the payload capacity of your F-250.

So let me restate that. When your truck is loaded to 7,950 pounds scaled weight before you tie onto the trailer, the GCWR indicates you could still pull a 8,550 pound trailer without overheating anything in the drivetrain of the F-250, and without being the slowpoke holding up traffic on hills and mountain passes. You'd be overloaded over the payload capacity of your F-250, but not because of a lack of pulling power of your V-10 drivetrain.

Note: GCWR indicates pulling power. GVWR indicates hauling power on the 4 tires of your F-250. Your F-250 an PULL a lot heavier trailer than it can HAUL the hitch weight of that trailer.
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Old 08-07-2016, 07:12 PM   #8
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Not sure of the distinctions between haul and pull, but you completely left out the braking and steering components in determining GVWR. While climbing a hill it might be important not to go so slow you can't make it, (I wouldn't worry about others on the road if you're that close to the limits of your tow vehicle) it's the going down that could really be life changing. Braking is pretty important in that situation, as well as emergency stopping on level ground.
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Old 08-07-2016, 07:42 PM   #9
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What's lost in this discussion is I'm not pulling an 8,500 pound trailer - GVWR of my travel trailer is 6400 (or 6200, I can't remember off the top of my head). I did that on purpose so I wouldn't be close to overloaded. All I'll have in the truck is my wife and I and the dog, along with the tongue weight of the trailer, of course. I haven't checked the tongue weight yet, but it should be between 800 and 850 lbs. I don't believe I'll be over the payload capacity of the truck.

I'm confident I'll be ok going down the hills - I always downshift before starting down, and rarely have to brake. I did have all new brakes put on the truck, but I know that no brakes will hold up if you ride them all the way down the mountain. I assume I'll get enough engine braking from the v10 to manage it ok, but of course I haven't tried it yet. I don't have a problem going slow down the mountain (or up it, for that matter).

Every salesman I talked to told me all the trailers I was looking at were "1/2 ton towable", but I'm not quite that stupid. It seems to me this trailer should be right in the wheelhouse for my 3/4 ton.
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Old 08-07-2016, 09:40 PM   #10
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Not sure of the distinctions between haul and pull,...
The weight you "haul" is the weight on the tires of the tow vehicle. You haul hitch weight, but you pull the rest of the trailer weight. "Pull" is the max combined weight your drivetrain can handle, ignoring payload capacity.

If your trailer is a 4-wheel wagon-style trailer with almost no hitch weight, like a farmer's grain trailer or cotton boll trailer, then you don't have to worry about payload capacity. You can use GCWR as your limiter.

But a tandem-axle RV trailer has significant hitch weight, about 13% of gross trailer weight for a TT and 18% of gross trailer weight for a small 5er. With a tandem-axle RV trailer, you'll run out of GVWR before you get close to GCWR, even with a V-10 gasser.
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Old 08-08-2016, 09:13 PM   #11
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We sold our 27' class C, since it struggled mightily climbing the mountains with our Beetle convertible in tow. To replace it, we bought a 2005 Zeppelin Z281 travel trailer (4200 lbs dry weight, 6400 lbs GVWR). I bought a 2000 F250 supercab (3.73 gear ratio, 2 wheel drive, automatic, 6.8 V10). I'll install a Husky Centerline WD hitch with sway control.

I'm comfortable I'll be well below the towing and payload limits of my truck. I've got new tires, brakes, and shocks on the truck, and it runs and drives flawlessly. I'll plan to tow with overdrive off at roughly 60-65 mph on the freeway. My question is, what should I expect to see as far as performance? How will it pull up the long grades to Flagstaff from Phoenix? Should I expect to manually downshift to 2nd on the steeper grades? What speed should I expect to pull going up a 6 mile long grade, some sections at 6%? Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet - how will the truck handle that?

I know gas mileage will be poor - I knew that going in - I'm more interested in getting there without crawling up the hill in first gear, like I was in the motorhome.

I haven't towed with the truck yet, but driving it around it seems to have plenty of torque.
Don't turn OD off. That 4R100 transmission is more than capable of hauling bigger loads than this in 4th gear. Leaving it in 3rd will increase your RPMs by a lot and adds to a great chance of premature engine wear from constant high rpms. Motorhomes with this transmission are well over 20K lbs and run great in 4th gear. Boom trucks, commercial trucks etc always drive in 4th gear. You turn it off if you find your truck downshifting a lot in heavy hills. What works best for me is if I see a hill I anticipate and drop it into 3rd to keep from the downshift in mid climb. Other than that it is in 4th. I scale in at 23K lbs loaded on my 2000 F53 motorhome.
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Old 08-13-2016, 10:05 AM   #12
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Gdgarth,
I've been on that stretch of road (I17) several times in our older mh and now our new rig. You covered the part I was going to bring up,,, the going down hill. Good job !! You have gotten some good advice here, just make sure your cooling system is in top shape. Belts and hoses ? Radiator clean inside and out ? Watch the temps and you'll be fine. Have fun !!!
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Old 08-14-2016, 07:49 AM   #13
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I love it when they talk about how well Fords tow downhill.
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Old 08-14-2016, 11:03 AM   #14
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I think you did a good job staying in a lighter trailer and buying a bigger truck.

FYI - a non-turbo gasoline engine will loose 3% of it's power per 1,000 ft in elevation gain.

I have driven a gas powered car at 6,000' and did notice the power loss. But I think the 6.8 litre V-10 will do just fine.

Getting to Flagstaff is a great way to get out of that low desert heat.
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