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Towing mileage/capability

Bluedeacon
Explorer
Explorer
First, I did see a 'what are you towing with?' post. Be darned if I can find it. I'm happy to read suggested posts if you point me to them.

We have a 2021 Wolfpup 16fq, 3200 lbs, nearly 12' high if you include the AC; figure 4000 max with us and fuel and gear.

Right now I'm towing with a 2003 Yukon, but in a year or two we'd like to get something better - better mileage the priority, but failing that, capability and/or comfort, as well as lower to the ground if possible, as my wife has problems climbing into high trucks. So I'd like to hear from people with experience relative to our trailer, if possible.

I work on my own so older vehicles are worth considering, too. My experience is, rated towing does not always align with capability, and while I've found 4wd is helpful at times at county sites, I wonder if front wheel drive - like the Flex (4500lb tow) or the Traverse (5500lb tow) are up to the task.

Our experiences:

My Dakota supposedly had a 5500 lb rating (3.57 ratio and 135k on the V6) ; I had upgraded brakes in anticipation of towing since it had the towing capacity. It manhandled the trailer fine and actually brakes better without trailer brakes (yet) than either of the GM full size. However while mileage here in the rolling hills of eastern Iowa was 14, it wanted to spend most of its time in second gear which made me a bit nervous. I suspect a V8 one would be fine. Very comfortable on long trips.

We bought a 2001 Silverado Z71 with the 5.3 V8, 4.10 gears, trailer package but while replacing the brake lines found a cracked frame covered up with undercoat and the rear axle leaked Iike a sieve; we replace it with the Yukon (340k) also with the 5.3 and 3.73 gears. The Silverado towed well, rarely went out of overdrive, and got 14/21 not towing, 12 to 14 towing, and climbed those steep hills along the Mississppi. By contrast, the Yukon will only tow in third and wants to shift liberally to second; mileage at best is 10/17 not towing and 8 towing, on the same roads as the Silverado; it struggles on steep hills. Both of these newer trucks kill my back. Actually the '95 Silverado K1500HD (trailer package and 350, extended cab long box) towed and got better mileage than this Yukon does with the '71 Holiday Rambler Vacationer we had some years back. That truck was much easier to work on, too.

So what are other's experiences with towing trailers around this size? Are there better choices without spending a huge amount?

Thanks, Bruce
46 REPLIES 46

grymsfing
Explorer
Explorer
I've had three Chevy Duramax Diesel Duallies, 2005, 2011, & 2018. The 2005 pulled two TT, a 24', then a 30', then a 35' Fifthwheel. Saw very little mileage difference between them. The 2011 pulled the 35' 5er, then a 40' 5er then a 43' 5er. Again very little difference in online reporting tools mileage

Grit_dog
Nomad III
Nomad III
Bluedeacon wrote:
For anyone reading this, we began the hunt for a different truck. If things fall into place, I may have a pristine '07 Avalanche with relatively low miles by the weekend. Failing that, I'm probably going to stay to GM or Ford, 5.3 or 5.4, there are several Silverados with 80k that are 2wd in the area, look spotless, might be worth it. I did run into a '95 K2500 with a 454 (!) but if it's anything like our Olds 455's I grew up with the mileage falls in the range of "if you have to ask" to "ouch" lol. I like the Dodges but they're quite a bit higher than the GM's, and the '04 we looked at she just couldn't get into.


Can't go wrong with a mid 2000s LS motor GM, IMO. 07 should have AFM and I'd disable that if I was keeping it for the long term. Otherwise It'll doo everything you need it to.
That mid 90s big block won't really pull any better then the Avy either, just a heavier duty chassis. And more thirsty when not towing.
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

Grit_dog
Nomad III
Nomad III
Bluedeacon wrote:
Thanks. I'm thinking southern truck, too. I have one friend in Tampa but I'm not sure how the ocean treats things. I can always reach out on one of my long term forums for the Southwest, and I have a former dealer - son of our elderly neighbor - in Atlanta. It may be sooner than later, the Yukon died again and depending what I find it might be time to find new. If I can revive it...


Our son just began school in Tampa (St Pete) last fall. He and I have both been keeping our eyes out for something local for a car/truck for him, rather than driving or shipping his car down there next year.
In general, it looks like a bad place to shop for vehicles.
Of course one can find a needle in a haystack sometimes, but between the sun and salt, not a mecca for good condition older used cars.

Having lived in many parts of the country, I'd rank, in general, worst to best for old car condition as follows.

1. The salt belt, upper midwest/northeast.
2. The mountain west states
3. Gulf/Atlantic coast.
4. "Humid southern states
5. "Dry" southern states
6. Inland NW
7. Coastal PNW
The difference around here on the wet side of WA/OR is very little salt, as the immediate coastal areas are sparsely populated, so very few vehicles get the salt air.
The 6+ mo of rain is a big bonus across the board. Less UV damage than most other areas. Less wear n tear on chassis/drivetrain as wet surfaces are overall easier on components (easy evidence is how tires last longer here). Constant undercarriage wash for 6 months a year. Any salt or calcium they do put down here gets washed off by default if you drive it regularly.
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

Michigander
Explorer
Explorer
For what it is worth we have had Yukon Xl's since 2000. They are great tow vehicles for sure but we have a FWD Traverse that is no slouch either. While I would not recommend the FWD platform over the AWD if actually works quite well with a load distributing hitch. I had to bring a 33 ft travel trailer from Panama City Beach. FL to Northwest Ohio with it. I ran 55-65 and was very comfortable with it. Got some funny looks but had no issues. The Traverse has 241K on it and I'm going to order a new one with AWD to replace it. the Yukon XL is king but the Traverse is very capable if you use your noggin!
2008 Winnebago Sightseer 35J
Honda civic toad "RGOCART"

"A father measures his wealth not in his possessions, but in the happiness of his family"

Bluedeacon
Explorer
Explorer
For anyone reading this, we began the hunt for a different truck. If things fall into place, I may have a pristine '07 Avalanche with relatively low miles by the weekend. Failing that, I'm probably going to stay to GM or Ford, 5.3 or 5.4, there are several Silverados with 80k that are 2wd in the area, look spotless, might be worth it. I did run into a '95 K2500 with a 454 (!) but if it's anything like our Olds 455's I grew up with the mileage falls in the range of "if you have to ask" to "ouch" lol. I like the Dodges but they're quite a bit higher than the GM's, and the '04 we looked at she just couldn't get into.

Bluedeacon
Explorer
Explorer
Thanks. I'm thinking southern truck, too. I have one friend in Tampa but I'm not sure how the ocean treats things. I can always reach out on one of my long term forums for the Southwest, and I have a former dealer - son of our elderly neighbor - in Atlanta. It may be sooner than later, the Yukon died again and depending what I find it might be time to find new. If I can revive it...

Grit_dog
Nomad III
Nomad III
Bluedeacon wrote:


If a full size ends up making more sense, which powertrains are good, what problems are known to avoid? Another question, I sometimes see older 3/4 and 1 tons in apparently good shape - if mileage is not hugely different would one be more robust/reliable and so worth the money or just overkill?


Couple thoughts, you're on point to recognize that towing in Iowa is different than towing in the mountains. But, IMO, that part is about how often you're going to be maxxing out the truck and how patient you are, when in that situation. (IE are you fine with pulling the passes at well below the speed limit when on vacation in CO, compared to the rest of your use of the vehicle?)
Full size, I've owned, been assigned to, or driven many, or maybe most, of the full size truck configurations from all of the big 3 over the last 25-30 year models.
The only trucks I wouldn't touch are Dodge V10s and 6.0/6.4 Powerstrokes. Aside from that, every vehicle has it's quirks, some worse than others. But if talking $10k-25k price range, you're looking at older and or high miles. With that, history, maintenance, care and condition are arguable more important than a particular model.

You're not going to inherently gain "reliability" by going to a HD pickup. In fact many of the components and systems are the same as a light duty model. All things equal, you will realize longer life out of certain components that are designed heavier than a light duty, provided you're using it as a light duty.
With your budget and locale, finding something in the over 10 years old range that is not rusting out or on it's way to rusting out is fairly limited, IMO.
Once you figure out what you want, unless the "right one" falls in your lap near home, I would seriously consider finding a vehicle that hasn't been kickin around the salt belt for a decade or 2. Which means traveling to get one. That alone will boost reliability in itself, as you won't have to contend with the rust related problems for some time to come.

If I was on a $10k ish budget and needed a truck, the top of my list would still be your old truck. 90s GMT400 something or other.
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

Bluedeacon
Explorer
Explorer
Sorry about the delay. Overtime and cold meds fog??.

Opening note: I've been having problems with the Yukon - finally tracked it to the MAF/IAT sensor, which might also explain the crappy mpg- I took the time to check actual mileage on my worst trip, which turned out to be 5mpg over the rolling hills of southern Iowa. $200 in fuel for 240 miles towing plus about 60 miles of unhooked sidetrips. Ouch. That kind of mileage kills thoughts of trips to Colorado or the like.

Budget wise: we spent $4k for the Silverado - ran great, 160k, a bit of rust and in need of brake lines, but it had the trailer package, air bags, set up for 5th wheel (still in bed) or class IV. Unfortunately we discovered while changing the lines that someone had undercoated over rust and cracks on the frame. Too bad, ran great. We bought the Yukon for $3500 hoping it will last till the covid overpricing comes back down. As is common the DIC on the panel just strobes through languages, giving only the occaisional glimpse at the odometer.

New or nearly new would be nice from the standpoint of hopefully no repairs for awhile, but budget limits when the Impala is paid off would likely be $25000 or less. Used but good (older) I'd love to keep under $6000 but at least right now that looks more like $10k - only bright side is insurance and registration is less.

I kinda prefer smaller, partly because it fits better in the garage, partly just preference. I'm sure a V8 Dakota or Colorado would do the job but can the I6 in the Colorado or Trailblazer? I've had two Blazers with the 5000 lb towing, but how well can they stop or control the trailer in an emergency? These are the kinds of things I'd like to learn.

If a full size ends up making more sense, which powertrains are good, what problems are known to avoid? Another question, I sometimes see older 3/4 and 1 tons in apparently good shape - if mileage is not hugely different would one be more robust/reliable and so worth the money or just overkill?

mkirsch
Nomad II
Nomad II
Grit dog wrote:
The early “heavy halfs” were made to skirt new emissions regs in the late 70s. Side benefit was a little more spring capacity in a half ton.
GMT 400s actually got a heavier axle. And IMO the gmt800 1500hd was too close to the new 2500hd and not very popular.


I've got a 2000 model year GMT800 "2500" sitting out back rusting away. No "HD." Standard cab, 8' bed. Semi-floating 14-bolt axle with 8-bolt hubs. 8600 GVWR.

The 1500HD was strictly a crew cab 6.5' bed configuration as I recall. If you wanted something different you bought a 2500.

I think it was either an answer to Ford's F150HD/F250-non-Super-Duty with the 7-bolt hubs, or a marketing thing for folks in HOAs with 5th wheels that needed capable trucks with GVWRs of <10,000.

You are right they were never very popular.

Putting 10-ply tires on half ton trucks since aught-four.

Grit_dog
Nomad III
Nomad III
@blt2ski, yeah, you could be right. At this point, we’re just reminiscing about trucks that are or almost are old enough to wear classic vehicle tags, responding to a question from a person who doesn’t know if he wants to try to resurrect an old Ford Aerostar, rebuild a 30 year old pickup, or find something newer.
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

valhalla360
Nomad III
Nomad III
Bluedeacon wrote:

For the record. No, I'm not looking for something for nothing. Physics still apply. However, fuel efficiency has improved quite a bit over the years and you'd think there might be more fuel efficient options to tow 4000lbs than a full sized V8 getting 8-10 mpg.


The problem is most of those improvements have occurred when the demand on the engine is light.
- variable displacement (they turn off cylinders under light load)
- Stop-start (they turn off the engine when stopped)
- Hybrids (they fill the battery when under light load and use that stored power under heavy start up loads)
- Etc...

Problem is none of that really applies to towing. Your typical RV'er gets on the freeway, gets up to speed and holds it there. There is negligible light load operations to save much fuel. Under heavy load, 10-20yr old motors were already operating pretty darn efficiently.

And, given the percentage of time people tow and the rules for how the govt punishes poor fuel economy, the manufacturers don't really have a lot of incentive to improve towing efficiency even if there was much room to do so.
Tammy & Mike
Ford F250 V10
2021 Gray Wolf
Gemini Catamaran 34'
Full Time spliting time between boat and RV

blt2ski
Moderator
Moderator
Grit,
Their were some 400 & 800 GMs badged with 1500HD that for ALL intents, were 8600 gvwr 2500's. Wolves in sheep's clothing.
The 400 HD 1500's you are referring to, in 88 they were 2500's, the 1500's had a 6600 gvwr, and the 3500's an 8609 gvw. No dullies until 90-91. 89 maybe 90 an 8600 2500 came out. Only engine option was a 350. The 454 was in a 9200 sw3500. When fully 3500 came into play, the 8 lug 2500/3500 and DW 3500 got the 350/454 options, and 6.2/6.5 diesel options. About this time iirc the 6 lug 2500 became a 1500. So one could get a 6600 or 7200 gvw version. The 7200 version is really no different than what you and I drive today.

Please note I'm going by memory. From owning an 88 K3500, 89 R3500 square body chassy cab, a 96 K3500 crew cab, 2000 reg cab C2500.

Marty
92 Navistar dump truck, 7.3L 7 sp, 4.33 gears with a Detroit no spin
2014 Chevy 1500 Dual cab 4x4
92 Red-e-haul 12K equipment trailer

Grit_dog
Nomad III
Nomad III
blt2ski wrote:
Actually, the 1500HD in the late 90's, into mid 2005 or so. Had the C14 SF ra, HAD a 4l80e trans iirc the actual gvwr was 8300 or 8400. It had 10 ply tires, same frame etc as an 8600 gvwr 2500.
You could ONLY get this with a 454 or 6.0 gas rig, crew cab with a 6.5' box. A VERY capable tow rig!
But as noted, not a lot of them around.

Marty


The early “heavy halfs” were made to skirt new emissions regs in the late 70s. Side benefit was a little more spring capacity in a half ton.
GMT 400s actually got a heavier axle. And IMO the gmt800 1500hd was too close to the new 2500hd and not very popular.
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

Bluedeacon
Explorer
Explorer
Sorry for the confusion. Weird thing, I updated several times and there had been no more posts past the unicorn remark. I post again and suddenly there's four pages lol. Let me catch up, and I'll try to focus :).

My '95 - only a handful built. On the title it did say Z71 HD. Where standard 350 Z71's had a max tow of 7000 this one had a rating of 8500 with a bed haul of 2250. Other than the tranny it appeared standard, 4.10 limited slip rear and 350 ci engine. Hard to say.

I'll try to be back on track this weekend.