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Old 06-14-2011, 08:34 AM   #1
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What to expect on mountains?

I've been reading on various forums about mountain driving and I guess I'm getting a bit paranoid. We're planning a trip to Utah and will have a few "hills" to navigate. I've got a bunch of questions!


Here are the specifics on our G'town 280DS:


5.38 Rear axle ratio
6.8L 3v V10 gasser engine
5 speed auto tranny (5R110W auto with tow-haul)


We'll be towing a 99 Jeep Wrangler 4x4.

I don't mind slowing down as we go up and figure we'll do that but I'd hate for DH to have to get out & push!

Can we expect to be able to navigate over the higher altitudes encountered on Interstates & some red roads easily and not just the on the Utah trip but any of the higher passes in the Rockies? Should we avoid particularly high passes?

Is there a limit to the incline grades we can handle? How much does altitude affect engine performance? For example, is there a difference between an 6% grade at 5000' and one at 10000'? (Just throwing that out for comparison.)

Would driving separately so the MH is not dragging the Jeep make much difference?

I'm focused more on going up rather than down right now. I figure we can control decent with gears and the occasional foot through the floorboard to slow down but any tips on that aspect of mountain driving would also be appreciated.

Thanks for any advice!
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Old 06-14-2011, 08:47 AM   #2
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I don't mind slowing down as we go up and figure we'll do that but I'd hate for DH to have to get out & push!



We'll be driving to FL in December with our Roo and have similar worries.
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Old 06-14-2011, 09:17 AM   #3
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When we had our Itasca gasser we went out to Glacier and other areas of the Rockies and had absolutely no issues whatsoever. You'll climb up one mountain and down another with no problems. If you are uncomfortable going down, then down shift into a lower gear. If you have an exhaust brake or a mountain brake then use it. Take it easy and you'll be fine. If you were going to be taking an extremely long incline in the desert such as I-15 between LA and Vegas, then you might have to turn your coach A/C off to reduce the chances of overheating, but that's about it.
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Old 06-14-2011, 10:45 AM   #4
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Climbing steep grades affects us all slightly differently, but rarely as much as heavily loaded trucks. From what I have seen, most gas powered rigs will find themselves slowing to around 50 on the really steep grades. One big hazard is pulling out into the passing lane if you are going 50 in a 75 zone and the truck in front of you is going 40; expect to drive with the trucks in heavier traffic. On winding two-lane climbs, expect to have a train of impatient cars behind you. Try to look for pullouts to clear the traffic occasionally, but don't take a pullout where you won't have any visibility for getting back on the road at a crawl. Be prepared for people illegally passing you.

Altitude does theoretically reduce power, but few main roads get to really high altitudes. I have never noticed the difference in performance even though it is there. I would guess if you found a road over 10,000, you could find some really slow speeds on a climb.

Dropping the Jeep would make a noticeable difference, but you will never climb like a car. Even if you could hold speed, trucks and bad drivers will have you giving up speed occasionally that will take forever to recover going uphill. It won't likely ever be worth the hassle of disconnecting. Just be patient, the rig will climb any hill with a real road on it, just sometimes at a slow speed. Use your flashers when appropriate.

On highway downhills, air resistance is usually enough to keep speed in check. Winding two lane downhills can be painful, but if you keep your speed in line with the warning signs, you won't be riding the brake too much. Sometimes the warning signs seem exceptionally low, but they are usually right.
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:01 AM   #5
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When going down steep grades, and there are only 2 lanes (one lane each way) , what should be done? Should we go the speed limit? Go slowly down the grade? Or? I can just imagine how many impatient drivers could be behind you and then creating dangerous situations when they decide to pass you. Just throwing this out there as I believe it would be helpful to a lot of others as well.
Best Wishes,
Chuck
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:04 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by flumpydog View Post
When going down steep grades, and there are only 2 lanes (one lane each way) , what should be done? Should we go the speed limit? Go slowly down the grade? Or? I can just imagine how many impatient drivers could be behind you and then creating dangerous situations when they decide to pass you. Just throwing this out there as I believe it would be helpful to a lot of others as well.
Best Wishes,
Chuck
I go what speed that I am comfortable with. If it is below the speed limit, so be it. I am not going to let an impatient driver make me drive faster that what I deem safe.
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:25 AM   #7
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Rule of thumb for non-turbocharged engines is you loose 3% power for every 1000ft above sea-level. So if you're driving through the Eisnehower tunnel on I70 at 11,000ft your 362hp V10 is putting out closer to 250hp. I drove it last weekend and max power I saw on my Scangauge was 264hp. Weight is the biggest factor and my rig weighs about 25,000lbs with the towed and I can only manage 35-40mph on a 6-7% grade above 8000ft. You'll very likely find yourself behind a slower moving semi with no way to pass until you have a downhill. Going down you will need to downshift the tranny to 3rd or 2nd on 6+% grades to keep from riding the brakes on any long grades.

Take your time, enjoy the scenery, keep the tranny in tow/haul mode, stay in the right lane, turn on your hazards when you slow below 50, follow the instructions on the warning signs for truckers and you'll be ok.

Interstates are easier but If you're on 2 lane roads you can have steeper grades and sharper curves. Follow the signage warnings and only go as fast as you are comfortable with. If you get a line of cars behind you, pull over and let them pass when you have a safe opportunity.
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:32 AM   #8
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I go what speed that I am comfortable with. If it is below the speed limit, so be it. I am not going to let an impatient driver make me drive faster that what I deem safe.
I agree! I'd rather them be impatient than find myself as an In-Patient!
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:41 AM   #9
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I agree! I'd rather them be impatient than find myself as an In-Patient!



I like that statement.
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:54 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by flumpydog View Post
When going down steep grades, and there are only 2 lanes (one lane each way) , what should be done? Should we go the speed limit? Go slowly down the grade? Or? I can just imagine how many impatient drivers could be behind you and then creating dangerous situations when they decide to pass you. Just throwing this out there as I believe it would be helpful to a lot of others as well.
Best Wishes,
Chuck
Chuck, many roads in PA have truck speed limits on the down grade of 25 or 30 MPH. The trucks have quite a line behind them on the way down, but that's okay because we all just want to get there in one piece. There are impatient idiots out there no matter what you are driving so just take it easy and do what you can.
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Old 06-14-2011, 12:14 PM   #11
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One more idea for coming down steep slopes would be to make sure your brakes have been properly maintained, are adjusted per the manufacturers suggestions, and fine tuned by the operator before making long descents. If most of the braking force is required by either the vehicle or the trailer rather than both systems working together, the brakes doing the work could overheat and become less effective, even damaging the systems. Most modern brakes work very well but no braking system can take into effect my wife's desire to bring everything we own with us. So don't get crazy with overloading and make sure the brakes are adjusted properly with both braking systems working in conjunction with each other.
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Old 06-14-2011, 03:31 PM   #12
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I was just posting this more for others as I believe a lot of people have this question but might not ask. Tis a good way to get the discussion going ;-)

And agreed, I don't let the impatient ones behind me dictate how fast or slow I drive
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Old 06-14-2011, 07:16 PM   #13
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Georgetown has been fine in the mountains

We have a 2011 Georgetown (the bunk model). Honestly I've been surprised at how well it does on hills. I can not recall not being able to maintain the speed limit. The little map below shows the places we've been last summer so lots of mountain driving. One thing that did take getting used to for me is the SOUND the engine makes. Sweet husband says "it's a Ford Truck get used to it". Yes it is louder than my minivan when working up a hill. A number of folks have suggested not being afraid to put your foot in it and I guess that is an accurate description.

The other big surprise is how well it does in wind. Yes you can feel really gusty conditions, but on a trip coming up into Idaho we were really feeling the wind - even heard knocking from the antenna. I was going a good deal slower than the speed limit. Stopped to figure out what was making that noise and were practically blown over standing up. The radio revealed 70 - 90 MPH gusts.

All in all I have been pleased. Certainly not the gutless shoebox I was fearing.

Getting the thing stuck is another fear - we turn it around in our meadow. Right now the meadow is under a few inches of water and soggy enough to suck your gum boots off as you walk. Nope I wouldn't risk a turn in that swamp now. But it has done well in fairly soft ground.

The biggest problem has been it's bigness. Parking in Monterey for example is tough first to find a long enough spot and then one without branches. When you parallel park you have to watch the tail swing. A spotter is good for that.
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Old 06-14-2011, 10:23 PM   #14
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Wind in Idaho??? That's unheard of isn't it? LOL
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:10 PM   #15
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One thing about going downhill, don't depend on your brakes to stop in case of an emergency if you've been riding them all the way down. Slow down and use the same gear you used going uphill, then the engine will do a lot of the braking.
Someone mentioned that the wind resistance will provide most of the braking force. That would apply only to the most gentle slopes. Many mountain roads can be in the 6 to 8% grades, and those require a heck of a lot more than the breeze whistling through your hair to slow a 20,000lb+ rig.
The main thing is to relax, take your time, and don't kill anyone.
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