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Old 05-23-2016, 11:40 PM   #1
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Mountain driving 101

So on our maiden voyage last weekend, the truck made it up Petit Jean Mt. overlooking the Arkansas River Valley NW of Little Rock just fine. I actually got a little testosterone boost hearing the HEMI roar as it lugged the 29 ft., 6500 lb trailer around and up the switchback. Unfortunately, since I was only going about 30mph, the folks in cars behind us probably weren't as enthusiastic.

I must say, however, having never towed a trailer, that I was a little unprepared for coming off that mountain at the end of the weekend. Like the way the whole rig wanted to accelerate uncontrollably right towards that same switchback with the preceding 25mph warning sign, and the way I had to turn the brake controller up to 6 and ride 'em all the way to the bottom, all the while holding my breath and telling DW and DD to hush up!

So, for our second trip, we're going to drive about 1500 miles from the Midsouth/Memphis area to the Grand Canyon crossing the southern Rockies and Continental Divide in New Mexico. Having done this in a car before, I know that first you go up, and then you go down, maybe not quite as far as you went up, but down nevertheless.

I would really appreciate any advice anyone can offer on how to conquer the great mountains of the West behind the wheel. I've heard you're not supposed to brake with the TV, but rather use the manual trailer brakes from the controller. Is that true?

Newbie driving a Ram 1500 pulling a 29' Salem Cruise Lite 261BHXL

PS: I remember quite well I70 west of Denver having these things called runaway truck ramps. Hopefully I won't have to avail myself of such things!

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Old 05-24-2016, 12:01 AM   #2
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Use your engine. Gear down. You'll find gearing down as you go up the mountain will help you. typically you want to go down a mountain in the gear you went up in. I've been known to pull off at the top of a mountain in the truck pull off to stop and check everything before going down. You want to use the engine more than brakes. When you do use your brakes you want to hit them hard enough to drop about 10 mph and then let the engine try to hold you there. When your speed goes back up, repeat the process. Riding your brakes will overheat them and cause a very dangerous situation. Higher rpms are ok. Take it slow and easy.
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Old 05-24-2016, 12:09 AM   #3
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One of the best suggestions I have seen here and it is sage advice is to descend the mountain in the same gear you took on the way up. So what if the people behind are not happy, that is what passing lanes are for. Better to be under control than white knuckling it with searing hot brakes. Anther tip, your engine is not the only one working hard. The transmission will work up quite a sweat as well. If there is a long lump of traffic behind and no way for them to pass, pull over to let them by and also give the tranny a break. Just my 02 drachmas worth, guarantee you will see other great tips shortly.


Doh, for the record, asquared beat me to it!
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Old 05-24-2016, 01:01 AM   #4
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X3 great advice from both asquared and scOOter. Use the same gear going down the hill as going up the hill.
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Old 05-24-2016, 07:27 AM   #5
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Great! Thanks for letting me know that. So basically, putting the truck in tow/haul isn't enough. I still need to downshift with the gear shifter on the steering column?

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Old 05-24-2016, 08:01 AM   #6
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I70

I WOULD TAKE I 40, It would be easier on you and your rig.
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Old 05-24-2016, 09:00 AM   #7
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Thing is, DW has plans up north of I40. We're going I 40 to Santa Rosa, NM, and then heading north on US84/I25 to Santa Fe, then taking US550 from Albuquerque to Farmington, then it looks like US 160 up to Mesa Verde NP, then over to Monument Valley, UT, and on to Page/Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. So we should be crossing the Mts and Divide somewhere in there.

Coming back shouldn't be too bad because we'll be turning south through Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso and San Antonio. It's really the northern leg that looks like it will be hairy.

I definitely plan to weigh the rig before leaving to verify our weights.

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Old 05-24-2016, 09:19 AM   #8
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Great! Thanks for letting me know that. So basically, putting the truck in tow/haul isn't enough. I still need to downshift with the gear shifter on the steering column?
Yep, even in my diesel- the tow haul and engine brake aren't enough to keep us at speed when going down 7% or more grades. I use the gear shifter and find a gear that keeps me at a comfortable speed (aka posted "truck" speed).
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Old 05-24-2016, 09:48 AM   #9
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There are no significant grades at all on your route, won't even reach 8,000 feet. Some good size hills around Santa Fe and going south to Phoenix. Should be a pretty easy drive.


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Old 05-24-2016, 09:48 AM   #10
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Yep, even in my diesel- the tow haul and engine brake aren't enough to keep us at speed when going down 7% or more grades. I use the gear shifter and find a gear that keeps me at a comfortable speed (aka posted "truck" speed).
X2
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