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Truck Owners, towing and camper trailers.

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by daveswoodhauler, Jul 14, 2009.

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  1. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Well, I think I have the Mrs's conviced of getting a truck next spring, and just had a few questions as I have not owned a truck before.

    Seems like a large population of the members here have trucks, so thought I would ask some fellow burners on their thoughts.

    Basically, I am looking at either the Ford F150 or Chevy 1500..probably model years 2004-2007 or so. (I have selected these models for pricing and service in my area)

    1.) My inlaws have a trailer that they are letting us use to go camping. Its a 2008 21 ft unit, with a Towing weight of 3500 pounds empty. I am thinking the larger V8 (5.4L) vs the 4.6L would be my best bet considering the extra HP and torque. (Also, mpg's soesn't appear to be a huge difference) Any thoughts? (Travel distance to campgrounds would be appx 120-150 miles or so, with some hilly roads in the White Mountains, NH)

    2.) Trailer has electric brakes, any idea on the cost of installing a brake controller? Also, how do these units work....do they automatically work when the trucks brakes are used.

    Thanks for your input.

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  2. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    Brand for brand I'm sure you'll get plenty of responses for both. I'm a Chevy guy myself. Regardless - I would suggest getting the V8. In the past I have towed with both the 4.3L (older) and the 4.2L (newer) motors from GM and they are less than "amazing". If you are planning on towing more than once or twice per year I think you'd thank yourself for getting the V8. And like you said - you'd be amazed at how close the mileage is between the two.

    Brake controllers are easy especially if your truck is prewired. If the truck has a stock 7-pin round plug chances are good there are three wires under the dash just waiting for a brake controller. I found Amazon.com has some of the best prices on controllers. Less than $100 and the install is super easy. You just have to decide whether you want proportional or solid state. Solid state is good for most as it's cheaper and more rugged (arguably)...they can be had for $40 or so....
  3. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    Ohhh - to answer your question on how the brake controllers work - proportional controllers work by actually sensing when you apply the brakes on your truck and they then apply a similar amount of braking to the trailer brakes. A solid state controller simply applies a liner amount of brake pressure based on a timed delay that you can set. This is why the solid state units are so cheap. There are no moving parts and they have a nice option of being able to be mounted in any direction. Propotional units have internal devices that sense acceleration (deceleration) which drives the cost up and they must also be mounted in a proper position to work correctly....
  4. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Thanks Stee6...excellent reply...exactly what I was looking for. (Thanks for the laymans version on the brake controller as well)
  5. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I've been an RVer for many years. I currently tow a 24' nash trailer along with my equipment trailer and tractor.

    You will want the chevy here. The GM with the 5.3 gets excellent mpg and excellent power, nothing compares. I own that engine in a GMC yukon and love it. The Ford 5.4 is prefered over the smaller optional V8 due to power issues and the 5.4 is a respectable engine, just sucks more fuel than the GM.

    The RV crowd almost unanimously selects the prodigy brake controller from tekonsha. The controller senses deceleration and applies a corresponding amount of power to the trailer brakes. It works great and costs 125$ when I bought mine. There is great flexility in the mounting of modern proportional controllers. The wiring should be under your dash already and the prodigy will plug right in.

    Your next big issue will be the hitch setup and the proper W/D hitch system.
  6. woodsman23

    woodsman23 Minister of Fire

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    I have had a ford F-150 for 12 years and it continues to run and look great!. It is the 4.6 small V8 and this motor is bullet proof hands down over any other motor. I have 296,xxx miles on it and it still runs new. I tow and haul 2 tons of pellets no problem along with a 3,000lb boat. My neighbor has a chevy and has replaced the intake 3xs in 5 years and a number of other things. Any american truck is a good truck remember.......

    While the chevy may get better mileage and get you there, the FORD will also get back!!!!. ;-) (just messing highbeam)
  7. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I deserved that. I'm sure they're both great trucks, I've put in miles on both as my father owns the 5.4 ford.
  8. RAY_PA

    RAY_PA Feeling the Heat

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    if you tow anything over 3000lbs with that 4.6L engine...you wont be a happy camper! (pun intended)
  9. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Try and find one with the factory towing package. The transmission cooler is nice to have when pulling that much weight through the mountains.

    I'm curious how much more weight goes in these trailers when you load them to go camping? I am surprised at how many look overloaded on the highway and the number of mishaps I see every year. It wouldn't take too much gear in a 3500 lb empty trailer to go over the standard receiver rating.
  10. Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle

    Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle Minister of Fire

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    I can vouche for the integrated tow command system in the Fords. I love mine.

    I don't know if the F-150 had that option. Ford started that with 2005.

    Beats a control box heads over heals.

    I'd watch my weights, too. You might be better off with more truck, to handle the load, and improve stopping ability.

    Stopping is mucho importante.

    Good luck with your search !!
  11. JeffRey30747

    JeffRey30747 Member

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    If you are thinking of towing on a regular basis, I would at least take a good look at the 3/4 ton option in your brand of choice. IMO, 1/2 tons are suited for occasional runs to the big box store but that's about it. My daily driver is a Tacoma double cab but if I need a real truck, I opt for the '99 F-350 dually flatbed w/ 7.3L Powerstroke diesel.
    I second the recommendation on the Tekonsha Prodigy. I found the best deal online at RJay's and they are good folks to deal with, too.

    http://www.rjays.com/Tekonsha/prodigy-01.htm
  12. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the all the replys and help, much appreciated.
    As far as how often I am going to be towing, its going to be perhaps 3-4 trips per year, so its not going to be a lot.
    The trailer empty is 3500lbs, and we won't be putting much in it...wont be filling the water tanks and such.. as most of the sites we are going to have full hookups. Trailer stuff will be basically food and linens and such.
    For the cost, sounds like the best approach on the brake controller is the automatic one that judges acceleration/deacceleration and braking vs the other type that you pre set...seems like the additional cost is well worth it.

    Here is a pic of the trailer:

    Attached Files:

  13. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Unless your heart is set on a pickup truck, I would also take a look at Suburbans. They are built the same but more often than not are just used as passenger cars. The 5 year old 3/4 ton burb I bought 3 years was the same price as similar vintage pickups and was built out a lot nicer. Another plus is that the receiver had never even been used.

    As for the 1/2 ton 3/4 ton question, my previous Suburban was a 1/2 ton with the 5.3L. I pulled my 36 ft 4000 lb sailboat back from Florida when I bought it. 75 the whole way and even used cruise on the flat parts of 95. It was more than capable. However, when I started using the 1/2 ton for the equipment and dump trailers, it started to show its limitations. While I am very happy with the 3/4 ton with the 6L, the 1/2 ton rides a lot nicer at highway speeds and is much better on gas.

    Lastly, I'm not sure how much salt is used in your area. In Syracuse, it is horrendous. I have found that the drive to southern PA or beyond is completely worth it when buying 5+ year old trucks. Same price, fewer headaches. I drove the car down to pick up the last one and pulled it back behind the Suburban on a UHaul car trailer.
  14. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Pretty much set on the truck....have wanted one for the last 15 years or so, so the time is now.
    I was possibly looking at one of the larger SUV's for towing, but then what would I do with my scrounged wood :) (Plus, the Mrs's isn't happy that I offered to keep my inlaws trailer here, and I don't think she'll like 2 trailers sitting on our lot :)....the deal is that if I get the truck, I get rid of the utility trailer.
    Good advise on going a little south for the truck...makes sense.
    Thanks.
  15. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Another thing to keep an eye on is the rear end gears as they make a big difference in mileage and engine noise on the highway. For the weight you are talking about, 3.73s are more than enough. I would stay away from the 4.11s.
  16. blades

    blades Minister of Fire

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    ford vs/ chev both capable, min. 5 L 8, ford underpinnings heavier duty than chev, ford has leaf springs in back(on 3/4t) less sway and alot cheaper easier to add a helper spring if needed not sure on chev. both are coils up front i think in your year range. With either , if it does not have a trans cooler have one added lot cheaper than rebuilding a overheated tranny. I have fords a pair of 99's 150 +350. Word to wise on 150 find out which tranny is in it as ford has 2 that are installed in 150, most are the small light duty one which has 2 main issues at apx 100k overdrive band self-destructs and the rear main bearing siezes up,
  17. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

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    I'll throw in on this conversation because I feel I have a position that many of you don't.. I'm a mechanic.

    I will say up front that I'm a chevy guy..... You all know that i'm a "somehting" guy, so I'll be open on my brand preference.

    For what you are saying you want to do, a Chevy 1500 with the 5.3 is your best bet. The Fords DO have a slightly heavier chassis, and the integrated brake controller wiring harness (which in my opinion is SEVERELY undersized in wire gauge.... so dont use it....) but their interiors are hands-down a piece of cr@p..... They've come up alot in recent years, but they still aren't even close to Chevy on this....

    Motors, basically all the same. I will point out that the Ford Triton motors have a LOT of problems with blowing spark plugs out of the heads, which gets spendy.. And, if you're at all a DIY type, tune ups are a real PITA on them.... On the other hand, the Chevy 5.3 is VERY easy to do plugs/wires on, with just simple walmart hand tools.... And seems to have no common failures......

    For transmissions, basically equal here..... Chevy's do have the "Tow Haul" feature which makes it shift a little firmer to save the tranny... Not needed in my opinion, and I'll explain why later....

    Handling & Ride: Chevy's use to rule in this category due to their independent front A-arm suspension.... Ford has the same thing now.. Game over. I will throw out that ford has always used hi-arch springs in the back of their trucks to help keep the ride smooth in back, but that causes them to sag alot more in the rear end under the same tongue load...... But, if you're using the weight distributing hitch that you're supposed to, then that's not much of an issue.....

    Brake Controllers........ Tekonsha Voyager, hands down... I know most RV'ers brag up the prodigy, but I personally like the voyager better... It's a design that's going on almost 15 years old, and has been nothing but bulletproof in the very demanding farm/commercial markets... While it isn't as automated as the Prodigy (you have to adjust the level on the Voyager) it's more predictable and more reliable..... And cheaper.... And as far as braking performance.. Just as good if not better IMHO.

    Now. I'll tell you what I have for a truck and what I do with it.

    I have a 1995 Chevy 1500 2 wheel drive Extended cab with the old GM 6.5L turbo diesel... 4L80e automatic transmission. I haul heavy trailers often with it. In fact, I haul my sister's gooseneck horse trailer with it almost every other week..... Together with truck, gear, trailer and horse, I'm grossing close to 15,000 lbs. I have AirLift air helper springs in the back of the truck to help keep the back end up under load.... this truck is a real workhorse that I work the tar out of and it takes it in stride... I tow this 15K rig in Overdrive, all the time..... tranny is untouched (not so much as a filter change) with 155,000 miles...... Motor is a piece of crap like all early GM diesels (but hey, it's still a diesel! :) ) I think that a half-ton truck is ideal, and will take a large beating on an occasional basis without issue..... Now, if you're thinking that hauling may become a monthly thing, then a 3/4 ton might be a good choice..... Although, if you can get a really good deal on a clean, low mileage half-ton, then go for it, as there's lots that can be done to beef them up..... Trust me, I know.

    That's my $.02. Hope it helps you.
  18. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

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  19. North of 60

    North of 60 Minister of Fire

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    By the looks of that trailer in your photo I dont think technically you can call that camping. Your gonna have to call that home-ing. :lol: In any case what ever you do on desending on hills always start slow and you will end up slower at the bottom with the least amount of strain on your breaking system. Drop it out of drive and into a lower gear even before you crest the hill. The only away around that is a 3/4 ton or 1 ton with an exhaust/engine brake on a diesel engine. Good luck and safe travels with your new to you purchase.
    N of 60
  20. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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  21. deck2

    deck2 Burning Hunk

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    In Feb. purchased a 05 3/4ton GMC and the GM dealer wired in a Tekonsha Voyager. I have had no problems with the brake controller and have used it on our single axle dump about 3 tons fully loaded. My buddys tandum axle dump about 5tons fully loaded and my brothers 27ft camping trailer maybe 3.5tons. With that said my 6.0L V-8 likes to burn gas and lets face it I bought it to haul wood not to get good fuel economy, I will only use it for 5-6k per year so I don't really worry about that. This vehical was an up grade from a 97 Ranger 4.0 V-6 5speed so it is hard for me to compare my old wood hauler to the new one!

    My company car is a 2008 Ford Expedition EL with the 5.8L V-8 Trition, never a problem with it and almost 30K but never used it to tow. we seem to get around 16-19 mpg with it

    Our Family car is a 05 Dodge Durango with a 4.7L V-8 and I have used it tow our small box trailer less than a ton and to tow the 2 snowmobiles in the winter also less than a ton, never have had a problem with the drivetrain but the some of the crap that Dodge did it makes you wonder what the engineers/designers were paid for! We seem to get around 16-20mpg if you follow the speed limit and take it easy.

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  22. Backroads

    Backroads Feeling the Heat

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    Just wanted to add to what deere said, also myself a mechanic. And upfront I am a "Ford" truck fan.

    He's right to warn you about the 5.4L spitting the spark plugs in trucks. Research it online. It's a known problem that's costly if you don't have a warranty. It's not for certain it will happen and Ford has sold a ton of these trucks, but none the less it's something to think about. And just about all new vehicles are a pain to work on under the hood.

    I agree with the transmissions being fairly equal, ONLY if maintained. There's always the exception but I strongly believe some preventive service is necessary depending on driving habits. Filter and oil every so often is much cheaper than a rebuild/replace. As for the tow haul modes, my F250 has it and I only use it when I tow on the highway unless I got something really heavy. Overdrive is NOT designed to pull and therefore I highly recommend not using it while towing any significant weight.

    I would suggest the Prodigy for you for towing. If you are not towing often I believe it's an easier more user friendly unit. It's based almost exactly as the voyager just in a fancier package. If you want to save a few bucks(I think about $30) the voyager is a good bet though. Also I have heard nothing but good experiences with the Ford's integrated controller. And like explained, it's a breeze to hook up with the proper wiring harness.

    Interior wise, it's all personal preference. I like mine and am very happy with it with no complaints and I dislike the Chevy's. I know many people with the same or opposite opinion.

    Definately go with the factory tow package with either truck, you'll be happier in the long run than trying to piece it together.

    If you are for certain you will only be towing/hauling the amount you suggest the 1/2 sounds like a good bet for you.

    Chevy or Ford...Ford or Chevy...Test drive them both!! Research them. Find your best deal that makes you happy. Then make your decision.

    And from a fellow New Englander, South sounds good to me too! I drive I95 everyday, it is disgusting what the salt in the winter does to all of the vehicles up here. Good luck and remember to be an educated buyer and you will most likely get the best deal!
  23. deerefanatic

    deerefanatic Minister of Fire

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    Backroads is right on all counts here...... It comes down alot to personal preference...........

    I will add though that new Chevy's are a LITTLE easier to work on under the hood than fords...... :) (Just givin' yah grief man......)

    All in all, the point I was trying to get across is that they both have good and bad points, but that half-ton trucks definitely are up to the task as workers, and for occasional heavy use, they'll take it. I might add that no matter what size truck you get, I HIGHLY recommend air helper springs...... They take a tremendous load off of your main springs, prolonging their life, and add to your load hauling ability too....... Point in case, I put my EKO 60 in the back of my half-ton....all the way to the back of the bed........ Nobody else with a stock half-ton is going to get away with that! And it sat level!
  24. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Ah, knew I would get some flax regarding the camping term....prior to kids, my wife and I used to backpack camp and stay in leanto's...well, after three kids later we were going to get a popup, but my inlaws decided to buy a 21 footer that we could use. Funny, I remember my wife being 8 months pregnant with our third....and she suggested that we should probably get an air mattress :) She is a trooper.

    I have some time on my hands, and I can find F150's and C1500's around quite a bit, but since I have some time and am in no hurry, I am also looking at the F250's and the C2500's....seems to be a small decrease in gas mileage between the 2, and since I work st home 3 days/week I only put around 150 miles on the vehicle a week. A F250/C2500 may be a little more than I need, but better more than less, right?
  25. deck2

    deck2 Burning Hunk

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    My friend has a F250 with the 7.2? Powerstroke, He likes to bust my stones about the whole Ford-GM deal, but in his opinion the major advantage of the Ford is the solid front axle, but he really uses that truck for hauling! But his truck was down a few weeks ago and he need to move some equipment so he did end up using my GMC for a few days to move some equipment and he had to admit it wasn't that bad except the shot to his FORD Ego!
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