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irish44j UltimaDork
10/3/18 8:25 p.m.

One recent thread discussing towing with an old S10 vs. a more recent FX50 Infiniti (on paper the S10 has a higher "tow rating" got me thinking of an interesting GRM future feature, especially since you guys love your old ramp truck. We all know tow ratings are some kind of black magic to determine what is true and what is just 'legal' speak. There are vehicles with high ratings that seem to struggle and others with a low rating that really SHOULD be able to tow way more based on specs alone. But old stuff (say, 80s pickups) had pretty large ratings, even though they appear far inferior to even "lite" SUVs these days in terms of power, torque, brake size, etc. I've watched my friend Brian struggle up mountains and in braking with his 90s Suburban, even though it has a monster rating on paper. And I've watched another friend towing easily with a Porsche Cayenne pulling a 24-foot enclosed trailer with a car inside. And we all know those guys who tow 5k trailers with a crown vic or something like that. 

So here's the test: Using some kind of pre-set criteria (something like the way modern vehicles are "rated" I guess....), test a few popular old-school tow rigs that often pop up here on GRM. Maybe an old full-size pickup, an old mid-size like the S10, an old Suburban or something, K10 blazer, IDK. We know what they were advertised as "rated for" so compare them to a handful of modern vehicles that are "rated" for the same numbers. Do braking tests, acceleration tests, or whatever. 

Anyhow, could be a fun test. If you need a Miata involved, make that what's on the trailer or something ;) Maybe you could get some forum members to submit their oddball tow rigs, etc...

[edit: just to clarify, all tested rigs, regardless of age, would need to be in "well-maintained" condition regarding tires, brakes, suspension, etc. No testing of CL-bought beater trucks and stuff of unknown condition. There would have to be some kind of minimum standard to keep it relatively "real"]

Tom_Spangler PowerDork
10/3/18 8:31 p.m.

I love this idea. I have a feeling that the modern stuff will blow the older rigs away. Of course, the older rigs make up for it with the coolness factor.

irish44j UltimaDork
10/3/18 8:52 p.m.

ugh, accidentally put this in the wrong forum. Mods - can you move to the general forum?

irish44j UltimaDork
10/3/18 8:54 p.m.
Tom_Spangler said:

I love this idea. I have a feeling that the modern stuff will blow the older rigs away. Of course, the older rigs make up for it with the coolness factor.

I think it's a given that the new rigs are better for a billion reasons, in terms of towing if not coolness. What I'd really like to know is what is the "modern and realistic rating" that many of the old rigs would be given if they came out,, with the exact same specs, today. Would a K10 actually be rated at 6500lbs (more than, for instance, a mid-2000s Tundra is)? etc etc.

dj06482 SuperDork
10/3/18 8:57 p.m.

Great idea!  It would be interesting to see a sample over time, say a 1988, '98, '08, and an '18. I know the logistics would be brutal, but this would be great to see.

RealMiniNoMore PowerDork
10/3/18 8:57 p.m.

Personal experience:

S10 Blazer, 2500lb (loaded), 5x10 utility trailer - pulls Ok, needed trailer brakes, handles ok.

S10 CC pickup, 21' cuddy cabin boat, surge brakes, can't remember weight (2000lb?) - pulls ok, stops ok, scary as berk handling.

E150 van, 2500lb (loaded), 5x10 utility trailer (with brakes, this time) - didn't know it was back there.


Floating Doc
Floating Doc HalfDork
10/3/18 9:30 p.m.

88 Silverado, C20. TBI 350, 700R4. Stock, except for an enormous transmission cooler and a clutch-type LSD. About 400,000 miles, burns about a half to one quart between oil changes.

I don't tow much with it. The farthest I've towed was about 100 miles last February pulling the trailer in the photo. I started out pulling in 3rd gear but it really didn't need seem like I needed to lock out Overdrive.

I just left it in OD, and had to be careful to keep my speed from creeping past 70. Temperature gauge never moved. AC on the whole time. Florida's good and flat between Jacksonville and my destination, so I just eased off the throttle on the overpasses so it wouldn't downshift.

Good brakes on the trailer, and didn't need to stop hard, so that wasn't a concern.

I'm comfortable with the prospect of towing with this truck again. As for the"coolness factor," I posted this photo on GRM at that time, and the truck got as much attention as my new Miata.

dj06482 SuperDork
10/3/18 9:31 p.m.

Two data points:

- '94 Chevy K1500 regular cab short bed 5.7L, AT 4X4 7500lb limit - towing a  backhoe at the limit it was OK power-wise, handling was OK, and the brakes were inadequate.  You could definitely feel all the weight of the trailer, and it was probably too much for the truck.

- '06 Dodge RAM 1500 Quad Cab Short Bed 5.7L AT 4X4 7700lb limit - towing the same backhoe, power was not an issue, brakes were great, handling was good.  You could feel the trailer back there, but it didn't feel like it threatened to overpower the truck.


Ransom PowerDork
10/3/18 11:05 p.m.

I'd be curious to hear how my truck would fare. I've never actually used a trailer at all yet, evar... '97 F-250HD (the HD actually seems to matter...) with the 460. My impression is that before me, it lived two lives hauling trailers (one horses, one racecar). It's clearly easily capable of some significant towing, but I'd rather know what it's limits are than discover them myself...

EDIT: And yeah, I'd love to know how the '69 F-250 I really wanted would compare cheeky

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UberDork
10/4/18 5:59 a.m.

I would be up for this test as well.  My current setup is a 1998 GMC Yukon 4x4, Vortec 350 SBC/rebuilt 4L60E, towing around 4500-5k lbs- power is acceptable, handling is fine, stability is questionable and braking is really not great.  I'm well aware that newer trucks would do a lot better... but they're expensive.

I used to have a 3/4 ton Suburban like what Brian mentioned in the original post drives- better stability than my Yukon for sure, but it really didn't like to pull any faster than about 60mph with the 454 TBI.

My next tow rig will most likely be a 3/4 or 1 ton pickup, but it's funny to see an Infiniti FX mentioned... for a while I was really into the idea of building an "FX45 Dakar" type thing as a service rig.

ultraclyde PowerDork
10/4/18 7:12 a.m.

Yep, interested in this as well.

Patrick MegaDork
10/4/18 7:38 a.m.

I had a 1990 chevy extended cab 3500 big block dually.  My 14’ enclosed cargo trailer(14k gwvr so beefy heavy trailer) with my tools in it made the truck painfully slow, pushed it around, and even with trailer brakes it felt a bit scary sometimes.  Same trailer with a car inside instead of tools, the new truck(2016 ram 3500 srw diesel) was like lol what you hook me to a little red wagon?


JtspellS SuperDork
10/4/18 7:46 a.m.

I would read it, and though it would complicate things a little you could also do a pt. 2 with SUV’s as well for those who need to haul people too.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
10/4/18 7:50 a.m.

My 2007 1/2 ton crew cab Silverado doesn't have enough brake. Just towing 5-6k lbs can be hairy when you're in 5 lanes of traffic moving at almost 70. Driving slower isn't much help as it causes people to make abrupt/angry moves to get around you. I'd be interested in a chart that shows improvement in passenger car braking vs. truck braking distances over time. 

logdog UltraDork
10/4/18 7:55 a.m.

Our trucks over the past 15 years have been an 86 F250 460, a 2006 Silverado 2500 6.0, and now a 2015 Ram 3500 6.4.  When we jumped from the 1986 to the 2006 I knew there would be a big change in ability but I was surprised at how much the 2015 is improved over the 2006.  It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to notice the difference in towing (horses and cars in our case) but it would be interesting to see actual data on braking distance, 0-60, cup holder count, etc.  The integrated trailer brakes are amazing compared to the add-on ones.  Testing from the OEMs was so questionable pre SAE standard that you cant really compare numbers published at the time of manufacture.


MINIzguy HalfDork
10/4/18 7:56 a.m.

SAE J2807 states the new requirements to rate your truck for towing ratings. I doubt GRM could do similar tests being in FL, but it'd be cool to break it down some. I read it for my old job when we were planning trans cooler testing, but a lot didn't apply to us either.

yupididit UltraDork
10/4/18 7:59 a.m.

My current rig is a 7.3 2wd excursion. No complaints with it at all.

Other than getting blown by these new trucks hauling a larger load up hill. Had a new F250 with at least 12k lbs of trailer and tractor behind it blow past me uphill when I was towing about 6k. I thought my excursion was being a beast going up that hill at 60mph while maintaining good temps. Then this truck just goes by effortlessly and quietly. 

Cooter Dork
10/4/18 8:10 a.m.

I've towed a lot with older rigs, a bit with newer.  Usually car haulers and a 24' enclosed Haulmark Race Trailer. For me, wheelbase, proper suspension, and tight steering are key, either old or new. I once used a brand new Expedition on a 1000 mile trip in a heavy crosswind, and it was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. 

My '93 DRW D350 and 80k mile 440 powered D200 Crew Cab never seem to have an issue with large loads.


Of course, proper trailer loading comes into play, as well, since many of the trailers I see on the highway and online don't have 10% tongue weight. 


Trailer towing ain't no joke, but plenty of people think nothing of it. I think there should be a separate endorsement to pull a trailer, especially on the highway. 

AngryCorvair MegaDork
10/4/18 8:36 a.m.
Cooter said:


My '93 DRW D350 and 80k mile 440 powered D200 Crew Cab never seem to have an issue with large loads.

Of course, proper trailer loading comes into play, as well, since many of the trailers I see on the highway and online don't have 10% tongue weight. 

Trailer towing ain't no joke, but plenty of people think nothing of it. I think there should be a separate endorsement to pull a trailer, especially on the highway. 

i was gonna embed this video, but...  simple example of how trailer loading matters

Curtis UltimaDork
10/4/18 9:17 a.m.

It will be really hard to do an apples-apples comparison when you're comparing a brand new F150 to a 1977 F150 without knowing the condition of the ball joints, pitman, tie rod ends, shocks, etc, but I would love to see this article written.  For instance, oddly enough my 94 Mazda B4000 (ranger) tows my boat better than the 02 F150 it replaced.  This is mostly due to the fact (I think) that the B4000 has proper C-range LT tires while the previous owner of the F150 cheaped out and put P-metric tires on it.  Very noticeable sway in the F150, most likely from the squishy tires

Of course, the F150 was better in every other way; bigger brakes, more torque, more weight, etc.

Start digging for the testing process for new vehicles.  Do a search for the SAE and ASTM testing they do.  Engineers come up with a vehicle that "should" be able to tow X based on brake torque, cooling capacity, transmission torque capacity, etc.  Then they use the standardized testing in pre-production to actually make sure of its abilities, then accountants and marketing committees ruin it all with their own made-up numbers.

A good example:  96 Caprice wagons were rated to tow 5000 lbs with a 4.3L V8 and 2.93:1 gears.  The Impala SS stepped things up with additional oil cooler, trans cooler, steering cooler, 3.08 gears, stiffer suspension, and a 5.7L V8, and it was rated to tow 3500 lbs.  A classic example of how marketers and accountants assumed fewer people would buy an SS to use as a tow vehicle, so they de-rated it to save on warranty claims and liability.

I also think that new tow ratings are getting a bit out of hand.  I like that new trucks are getting beefier, but its hard to fathom how my 95 F250 diesel was rated to tow 9600, but a new F150 is rated for 12,000.

frenchyd UltraDork
10/4/18 9:33 a.m.

In reply to irish44j :

Too variable.  How much towing experience does the driver have? Anybody ever Driven a class A Semi with double bottom?  ( that’s 2 trailers ) 

after that anything is better.  

I’ve towed a 28 ft enclosed triple axle using a Big Mercury sedan  S10 Blazer ( and S15 Jimmy ) Chevy  2 ton truckcamper/ hauler. K1500 shortbox reg. Cab ( my personal favorite ) & F150 reg, cab shortbox  

i’m ignoring a few one off, like a 26 foot GMC Eleganza pulling a 24 trailer. A couple of Ford and Chevy Vans pulling various trailers.  

My point is a few races a year doesn’t really put a person in a position to make an unbiased judgement. 

Plus let’s be honest, some people need documentation and confirmation before doing anything.  While others tend to be more, “Well let’s try and see”. 

Curtis UltimaDork
10/4/18 9:42 a.m.

I think it is still viable and a great resource for any level of experience.  As a seasoned CDL tow person myself and someone who has RVs and boats, it would be great to see real-world experience of how vehicles do with something behind it.  If I were a complete noob, the tech in the article would really help me choose my first tow pig.

I would love to contribute to this article.  I've likely towed more than 90% of people on the road ranging from a 500-lb utility trailer up to a 26,000 lb gooseneck.  5ers, gooses, TTs, doubles, you name it.  I even custom engineered my 66 Bonneville to be able to tow 10k (although I never would except maybe across town)

Patrick MegaDork
10/4/18 9:48 a.m.

In reply to Curtis :

I’ve always been told the impala was rated lower due to the rating of the wheels.  The ratings are based on the weakest link in the chain.

Vigo UltimaDork
10/4/18 9:49 a.m.

I love reading all the towing anecdotes on the forum but i think the logistics of a comparison test make it a pretty tall ask. Something maybe a little easier to produce and put into print that I haven't seen much of before is to maybe talk to manufacturers that are doing towing-specific stability control programs on new trucks and get them to lay out the basics of what their systems have to detect and what the vehicle does in reaction to that. Might be some real interesting information out there just waiting for the right journalist to go asking for it. Might also just ask NHTSA if they have data sets specific to towing-related incidents and see what the trend is over time. 

iceracer UltimaDork
10/4/18 10:02 a.m.

My 2002 Liberty KJ was rated 5000 lbs with tow package.

 Came with two fans, I removed the clutch fan, never saw any signs of overheat even with a bug screen.

 Towed 3900 app. lb. trailer with applomb with brakes.

Always in overdrive and cruise.  Never over 70. Just didn't like the feel any higher.

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