Tow Rigs

AssBurns

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#1
Let’s discuss tow rigs, and what to look for in a tow rig.


Reason being is I’m looking to pick up a dedicated tow rig in the next year or so. The plan is to sell the tundra, and buy a daily driver car, and buy a tow rig that I drive once a week or so when I need a truck.
Not sure on budget as of yet, but it’ll probably be under $30k. Preferably under $20k but that depends how much cash I have available for a truck in a year or so. I am not brand loual

Things I want in a tow rig
3/4 ton or 1 ton
Single Rear Wheel (not dually)
4 doors
Diesel
Auto trans
4x4

the plan is to buy a 26-32’ enclosed trailer with the basic amenities such as shitter, shower, sink, refrigerator, A/C and heat. Gonna be sorta heavy when loaded for long trips, so I’m leaning towards 1 ton.


What years, makes and models should I look for and avoid. And why?
 
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#2
As a contrast, how much will all this stuff weigh all up? My Ram 1500 had 3.92s and was good to 10,500 lbs towing. The F-150s with the 3.5TT can do over 11,000. Granted, my Ram got 6-7mpg when towing that much, but when unloaded it got 16-17mpg making it an excellent daily driver.

If you want a diesel 2500-3500, that’s cool. I would, too! Just thinking about your price point, you could get a lotta half ton truck for that money compared to a larger diesel and still be capable.
 

AssBurns

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#3
As a contrast, how much will all this stuff weigh all up? My Ram 1500 had 3.92s and was good to 10,500 lbs towing. The F-150s with the 3.5TT can do over 11,000. Granted, my Ram got 6-7mpg when towing that much, but when unloaded it got 16-17mpg making it an excellent daily driver.

If you want a diesel 2500-3500, that’s cool. I would, too! Just thinking about your price point, you could get a lotta half ton truck for that money compared to a larger diesel and still be capable.
Not entirely sure, but my 4runner will probably weigh close to 6k once I get bigger tires, wheels, and a cage. Then I want to be able to bring dirtbikes and quads. Spare fuel, tools, 50+ gallons of water, food, sleeping stuff, etc. I'm thinking the trailer itself will end up being 4-5k lbs empty.

I also want to be able to go on longer trips without worrying about stressing out the truck. It won't be a daily driver, so I'm not too worried about how nice it is. Just needs to be able to get me and the family wherever I need to go comfortably and reliably.
 
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#4
That’s a 15k trailer loaded up. A Ford 7.3 can just barely pull that. You can pull it but better be happy only doing 25-35 uphill. A Chevy or a ram diesel around 06 and newer probably pulls big stuff better. Just something to think about if you looking at the 7.3
 
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#5
I'd look for a 05-07 cummins with a manual or have the trans built... they are great motors, can be good power with simple tunes etc. and the quirks are worked out.. Will be hard to find one sub200k mi for less than 20k that's worth anything though, the used truck market is outrageous...

I have a ford f250 with the v10, just clicked 95k, crew cab short bed 4x4. Mine has 3.73s and I'd love to upgrade the gears to 4.56 or maybe even 4.88 since I may level it one day and run a 285/75/17. But it tows the race car well, towed my Tacoma to moab no problem. I've towed a Cadillac el dorado and early 70s ltd no issues... I averaged 8mpg from the valley to moab and that's lettin' her eat with a 18 foot trailer. We are currently looking into a genesis - overnighter as they are simple, have AC and a big enough deck for the car or whatever 4x'er I get when this house is closed. Yet to check one out in person though.

I set out with a similar goal/restraints you did than opened up to buying new and drove a few but the dealers didn't want to play ball much. Then stumbled across my f250 on the side of the road. All the maint records, 85k mi, lariat, new tires and just happened to fit the bill and not kill my wallet.
 

PCTaco

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#6
I mean for 30k you've got a lot of options. 4-5 year old HD diesel of any make with 100k+ miles are going around that.
 

Slim-Whitey

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#7
So I've owned a few diesels in my day @AssBurns . Have modified them successfully (and heavily) in all cases. Here's the skinny, from my POV:

My 1995 Ford 7.3L diesel with the ZF5 manual transmission was the singularly best truck I've ever owned. I got it with 220,000km (~125,000 miles) on it.
It towed EVERYTHING. I don't know what the towing cap was, but it didn't care about it.
For reference, I hauled a 16x8 dump trailer loaded with two pallets of nails out to a jobsite for my old boss. Each pallet was 4,000 pounds, the trailer was 3ish, and I had other materials on there as well.

As long as I stayed in boost (so 90kmh (55mph) in 4th, or 120kmh (75mph) in 5th. I got 13mpg doing it (fill before leaving, fill when we got there)
4 hour drive, plenty of elevation changes. Truck had no issues, and I was able to pass People with some time.
People think the 7.3 was a gutless engine, but they're lying to themselves. They will work and work and work and work and never mind. But compared to a Cummins, they're a rev happy engine. They make peak power at 2800+ rpm, so you've got to be ok with that.

They have cam sensor issues (can be changed on the side of the road), and the low pressure fuel system on the OBS trucks isn't awesome.
They have a sensitive, although simple to service, glowplug system. Aftermarket glowplugs are a good idea, OEM harnesses are a good idea.
They do well with a better exhaust, as the factory unit is terribly restrictive.
The super duty body style brought in an electric lift pump, which was a big upgrade.
They also use split shot injectors for emissions reasons. Ditch these if you can for a single shot set.
The 4 speed auto is a decent, if very outdated, unit. If I was shopping for a 7.3, I would go manual, as the E4OD/4r100 dates back to the C6 and won't hack really harsh use.
The zf6 in the super duty trucks is a good unit, similar to the ZF5, but with a very low first added.

Don't discount the 6.0 from Ford, if you can pick one up on the cheap and get it properly fixed. The issues with the 6.0 are 95% emissions equipment related. If you have to pass a smog inspection, you're likely hooped. They need an aftermarket oil cooler, head studs, egr delete, ficm relocate/replace, and a positive pressure to each injector system, instead of a fuel rail, to ensure proper pressure to each injector. A high mileage (300,000 miles) engine will likely need a cam, and they like aftermarket cams alot).
The 6.0 trucks have the benefit of coming with the 5r110, which is a stellar transmission. Ford makes a GREAT modern diesel trans. You should not be disappointed.

Skip the 6.4 diesel entirely. It is disposable. It is junk. It should not exist.

If you can, a 6.7 ford isn't a bad option either. The 6r140 is a fantastic trans. Early trucks had bottom end issues on really hot tune and hard use. That has since been sorted.
 

Slim-Whitey

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#8
The dodge offerings are more consistent.

Anything ore-4th gen with have a 4 speed auto that dates back to the torqueflight 3 speed introduced in 1953. They take a fair amount of maintenance, but they aren't a TERRIBLE trans.

Big thing is to keep BOTH bands in the transmission tightened. Most people don't, it's an issue.

You likely aren't looking at a 2nd gen, so I won't cover that.
The third gen dodges fixed a fair few issues found on the 2nd gen. The front ends are better built (still not GREAT, but better), the rear end is the same unit found in Chev HD trucks, the AAM 11.5(it's essentially an updated 14b with a dodge housing and some bearing differences).

The manual trans is again the better option, with the NV5600 being the offering. Geared similarly on the low and high end to the nv4500, the 5600 doesn't have the loss of OD issues, and places an extra gear between 3rd and 4th, which fixes the giant jump found on the 4500.

Cummins engines are great, but they have their issues. Common rails can run into hanging injectors. And when I e of those hangs open, it's 22,000psi of fuel pressure washing down your cylinder.
As with any I6, cylinders 5 and 6 have heat and oiling issues, and those are the ones you're going to see wear on first.

Finally, Cummins engines seem to love to leak oil. I blame the multi-use design of them. They are covered in plates, adapters, seals, and gaskets. For reference, the front timing/accessory area of the engine on a 2nd gen dodge diesel has 9 seals, gaskets, or O rings that can leak (pan gasket, timing gear case, front main, vacuum pump, power steering pump, injection pump, oil fill, timing gear case cover, front main housing).

It's a bit of a nightmare once they start leaking, to get it under control. Then there's tappet cover and valve cover as well. And they all piss eventually.
 

Slim-Whitey

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#9
Be aware that, and this is personal experience, any halfton with more than about 8,000lb behind it is flat out sketchy to drive.
I've been in EcoBoost F150s with 8,000 behind them. Fuck all of that in general.
 

Migraine

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#10
We just upgraded the Tundra to 5.29's I have no desire to tow anything north of 8K with it. I drove a friends with 5.29's and was towing 9k it was all great except for the stopping part and the front end pointing at the moon. He has since fixed that with airbags, better shocks and shackles.
 

Thesandaddict

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#11
Kinda the same boat. My tundra gets shit for mpg but can only tow 10k or so and itll need bags just to do that comfortably, and single digit mpg after that seems stupid. Buddy just got a 18 2500 ram and lives it. Gets 19mpg empty and 13mpg with his 30ft bumper pull.

Been looking at the lb7 and lbz myself. Llm is too new and out of budget, lb7 seems to be the best one but finding a lower mileage unit is tough. The lb7 also gets the best mpg out of the duramax. Finding an unmolested lbz that doesnt have 150k or beat to shit has been challenging but not impossible.

Staying away from fords as the 7.3 I've been finding in socal are all beat to shit or they want 25k which isnretardef for a truck 2 decades out of style.

I've checked out enough rams to love everything about them except they're wrapped in the cheapest shit known to man. Unless im getting a new one with a warranty i wont do it.

I haven't done a ton of research yet but iustnwhat I've talked about with buddies. Luckily have a few of each in our groups. Personally leaning towards the lbz duramax, ccsb for now.
 

Slim-Whitey

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#12
The LBZ Duramax is the last of the unrestricted engines in that lineup, so it carries a hefty price tag.

In Chevrolet's lineup, you'll want to avoid the first 3 years of the Duramax. They have injector issues, they have servicing issues, and they are rated at 235hp. That's the LB7. Plenty of those driving around hazing out the block because they're in need of a few injectors.
They used a 5 speed Allison unit. Not a bad trans, you don't hear much about them which denotes a good thing, I suppose.

In 04, the LLY was introduced. 310hp, injector issues fixed, etc. I believe the LLY trucks had the 6 speed Allison 1000 equipped. It's a good trans, but it likes to stay cool and it can't handle a bunch more HP than its designed to be behind. They're reliable, but they aren't a 5r110/6r140.

The LBZ was introduced in 06, and only stuck around to the 07 body style update. They command a high price because they lack a ton of the emissions equipment found on the new model engines. Much like the DPF exempt Cummins trucks from Dodge command a premium..

It's a bit out of left field, but if you're looking for a Chev diesel that isn't beat, look for a GMC. I don't know why, maybe it's anecdotal, but GMC, with their Denali branding and whatnot, seems to sell more to the higher end, "it's for looks" demographic.

The chev trucks suffer from a lighter duty front end than the dodge/ford trucks, and complexity. Servicing a 5.9 or 6.7 Cummins is a dream compared to digging into a Duramax.

The front end isn't a big deal, although you will want upgraded tie rods, as a general note.
 

Thesandaddict

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#13
I had read the lb7 Injector issues were resolved with gm warrantied replacements 7yr/200k miles.

Yea I would rather have a gmc baswd on the front grill alone but here they seem to pull an extra 5k or more because a good portion on the road are Denali models, which is nice and all, but I dont need all the creature comforts.

I would probably get a ram if more guys in our group had them or had them with no issues. We have 3 now, the 18 my buddy just got, a 19 that is a lemon, and an older one I think it's a 2006 and he hasnt had any mechanical issues just the interior seems to be falling apart.
 
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#14
Be aware that, and this is personal experience, any halfton with more than about 8,000lb behind it is flat out sketchy to drive.
I've been in EcoBoost F150s with 8,000 behind them. Fuck all of that in general.
The most I ever towed with my half ton was about 6500-7000lb 30-foot travel trailer. Weight-distribution hitch helped me with not spot-lighting squirrels. Highway travel was fine, and electric trailer brakes were a must. I can imagine how sketchy it could become towing at max capacity, though, especially if not properly balanced. My truck had trailer-sway countermeasures, but I managed to sway a light trailer with it once. Scary stuff.

I towed that same trailer with an F-250. Weight distribution hitch actually made it worse. Took it off, just let it hang off the hitch, and it was a dream. I knew then that one day I'd have a 3/4-ton truck.
 

Slim-Whitey

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#16
I had read the lb7 Injector issues were resolved with gm warrantied replacements 7yr/200k miles.

Yea I would rather have a gmc baswd on the front grill alone but here they seem to pull an extra 5k or more because a good portion on the road are Denali models, which is nice and all, but I dont need all the creature comforts.

I would probably get a ram if more guys in our group had them or had them with no issues. We have 3 now, the 18 my buddy just got, a 19 that is a lemon, and an older one I think it's a 2006 and he hasnt had any mechanical issues just the interior seems to be falling apart.
Plenty were done under that warranty, but not all. And you're still dealing with an engine down 75hp (and it's not just a tune, there's a fair bit to getting that out of an LB7 compared to an LLY). If the 7.3 is gutless, the LB7 maxipad definitely is, as it's even more rev happy than the Intersmashonal.

The only reason to go GMC over chev (besides the front end that doesn't look like a cross-eyed Chinese kid with a severe underbite) is the higher trim options keep the price up and the abuse away in alot of cases.

Dodge truck had fit and finish issues for decades, particularly in the low optioned trucks. You can thank Mercedes for the 3rd gen being made like a Lego set inside.

The most I ever towed with my half ton was about 6500-7000lb 30-foot travel trailer. Weight-distribution hitch helped me with not spot-lighting squirrels. Highway travel was fine, and electric trailer brakes were a must. I can imagine how sketchy it could become towing at max capacity, though, especially if not properly balanced. My truck had trailer-sway countermeasures, but I managed to sway a light trailer with it once. Scary stuff.

I towed that same trailer with an F-250. Weight distribution hitch actually made it worse. Took it off, just let it hang off the hitch, and it was a dream. I knew then that one day I'd have a 3/4-ton truck.
Are electric trailer brakes not required by law over 3500 pounds down there?
 
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#18
7.3 Ford with ZF-6 all day. 392k on original engine which I pulled and rebuilt due to oil leaks(yes oil pan was one of them). With Banks kit got 12.5 mpg running 90 mph. Once I rebuilt with Garret BB turbo, modded HPOP, B code injectors and some other goodies my average jumped to 14.3 if I stayed out of the pedal. But 42 lbs of boost is hard not to play with. Sadly due to my stupidity that motor only lasted 42k miles. Most I ever towed with it was around 12k and she pulled the hills up on I-80 at 90 mph without a hiccup.
I really need to get it back on the road.
 

Slim-Whitey

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#19
7.3 Ford with ZF-6 all day. 392k on original engine which I pulled and rebuilt due to oil leaks(yes oil pan was one of them). With Banks kit got 12.5 mpg running 90 mph. Once I rebuilt with Garret BB turbo, modded HPOP, B code injectors and some other goodies my average jumped to 14.3 if I stayed out of the pedal. But 42 lbs of boost is hard not to play with. Sadly due to my stupidity that motor only lasted 42k miles. Most I ever towed with it was around 12k and she pulled the hills up on I-80 at 90 mph without a hiccup.
I really need to get it back on the road.
Not bad.

A friend down in southern SK has an OBS F350. 4 door shortbox. Low enough mileage where it should still have a warranty. It's crazy. I think it has like 80,000km.on it.

He's running about 500rwhp out of it. Dual HPOPs, some real nice turbo setup, everything to support said insanity. . . Oh, a billet crank.
Yeah. Right around the 500hp mark he snapped the crank.
So, new block, transfer the goodies, billet crank.

Fuckin loco.
 

Thesandaddict

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#20
As for the trailer brake question I believe here it is required for tandem axles and up not single. I believe you can technically go as high as you want on a single but obviously that comes with many issues. My single axle work trailer is like 3500 empty and has no brakes. Have never had an issue with DOT or CHP
 
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