Towing 24' 5,000 pound trailer, can't get over 45 MPH

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clalso

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Hello. I am hoping someone can lend me some advice.  My wife and I traded in our motorhome for a truck / trailor.  Our first trip was supposed to happen this morning but I'm home typing this instead.

We have an 87 Ford F-150 shortbed with 302, 4 speed overddrive. It's in excellent condition and runs like new. It's a new vehicle for me as I've only owned it a few weeks. About the same time we purchased a 24', 5000 pound travel trailer. We had the trailer brake system installed along with a hitch professionally installed this last week.  I was told by the dealer I didn't need an anti sway system.  We loaded up the trailer with maybe 500 pounds of stuff then took off.  All fine until I got on highway a mile from home.  Two problems.  First was I had a terrible time getting the truck up to 45 MPH.  Never got it higher than 45 MPH.  The second problem was at 45 MPH the sway was very noticeable, so much so that I did not feel safe going faster. I struggled with it, got off at next exit, turned back. We stopped then checked to make sure the trailer brake system wasn't locked or set incorrectly. The emergency trailer brake cable pin was all in the way in.  The trailor brakes were not hot nor did they smell. No brake burning smells from the truck at that point. We looked for a switch for the overdrive in case that was the problem with speed but we never found one. I believes it has automatic overdrive but I am hoping the seller will call me back soon to confirm.  We disconnected the trailer electric cable and drove a short while on a side road. Seemed a bit better easier to pull but I cannot be certain. It could've been my imagination (I did not want to drive far with the cable disconnected nor fast as I would be braking with just the truck).  I was so concerned about the sway and lack of speed I started back home on the side roads with the electric cable reconnected. A few miles later we smelled a horrible brake burning smell.  I think it was the truck brakes braking both the trailer and the truck. We pulled over again then followed all the instructions for setting the trailer brake control as shown on the DVD we received (even though the dealership said to use their instructions which were totally different). We then started back home very slowly. My wife slowly applied the trailer brake slider bar and it definitely slowed us down. 

After a weekend trip lost and a $50 lost reseveration fee I'm left wondering why my truck wouldn't pull a trailor of that size. The dealership assures me a 302 F-150 should easily pull a 5,000 pound trailer.  I am also wondering if I had been able to get up to 55 MPH or higher if the sway would have disappeared. I was told by two employees of the dealer for a rig of this type I didn't need an anti-sway system.  Anyone know about sway disappearing at higher speeds? Anyone have any ideas why my truck couldn't pull a trailer of this weight?

Any advice GREATLY appreciate. Signed very disappointed and discouraged.
 

Lowell

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I think you definitely need a sway brake of some sort.  I used to have an 89 Bronco, 302 cu in, and pulled a Coleman Plantation pop-up.  My first trip with it sounds a bit like yours with a lot of uncontrolled side to side motion.  I had a sway bar brake installed by a hitch company and never had that problem again.  As my Bronco aged, I also had a problem like yours when under any load, even with the light 2000 lb. pop-up.  If the transmission shifted down, it had plenty of power to pull the trailer up the hills.  But sometimes it wouldn't shift down and stuck in high gear and would just lug down.  It wouldn't even shift down if shifted it to low manually. I don't know what caused this and I ended up trading for an new GMC at the time. 

It may be that your truck is a bit marginal for the 5000 lb trailer and an 87 has some wear and tear on the engine and transmission. I'm sure others will comment that have more experience than I with this sort of thing but I'm sure you need a sway control device.
Jake
 

Carl L

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I was told by the dealer I didn't need an anti sway system

That turkey was lying like a cheap rug :mad:

Where do those clowns get off with that stuff?? ?You needed an weight dristibuting hitch with a anti-sway mechanism -- period? ?It is optional like brakes and seat belts are optional.? :mad: :mad:

Since we have established that your dealer is a liar, who told you that the trailer weighs 5000 lbs?? ?Him?? ?Look for the DOT plate on the side of the trailer, it should be near the front, probably on the driver's side.? ?Read off that plate the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).  Treat that as the real weight of the trailer for the purposes of tow ratings.? ?

I have a 95 Bronco (a bobtailed F150) with a 302? that pulls a trailer that comes in at 4650 lbs -- as actually weighed on a scale.? The trailer has a 5300 lb GVWR.? ? The truck, when new, rated at 6600 lbs for towing.? ?Note that when new.? ?As engines, and transmissions get old, they wear out.? ?The engine loses power from lost compression for one thing.? ?You have a 20 year old truck.? Has that engine ever gotten a major overhaul or replacement?? ?I doubt if it could pull half its theoretical tow rating.?

I do not know what state you live in, but if it were California, I would file a complaint on that dealer with the DMV.

So now you know your truck is thoroughly inadequate to pull the trailer.? So what do you do?

1.? Get a new, much lighter trailer.

2.? ?Get a new much more capable truck.?

I would go with no. 2.? ?A 1987 F150 is not going to be happy towing anything.? ?Determine the GVWR and start shopping.? ?Use the Trailer Life Tow Ratings from their website HERE.? ?Go to the Tech section and folllow the links.

Allow a 10% safety factor in the tow ratings shown.? ?Make that 20% if you tow in the mountain or Pacific west.? ?Use your trailer's GVWR as the trailer weight.

Sheesh,? what a sleazeball dealer.?
 

clalso

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The engine was completely overhauled 30k miles back.  It runs better than new.  The transmission was not but I have seen zero indications of problems and I know the previous owner took meticulous care of the truck.  What happens is I have to really rev the motor in 3rd up to 45 (normally I shift at 35) then I shift into 4th.  Since that's my highest gear I'm stuck there.  In 4th I can maintain 45 for a short time but then start creeping down.  I have to get below 35 before I can shift back down to 3rd.  I am hoping the trailer brakes are partially engaging causing the problem.  Sound like a possibility?  Thanks again ...
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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The dealership assures me a 302 F-150 should easily pull a 5,000 pound trailer.

That's what they always say. If you had come in with an old VW Beetle, they still would have said that. And you need a weight distributing hitch with sway control as well. That 24 foot trailer is longer than your truck and outweighs it too, so it's going to be a case of the tail being bigger than the dog. And your old dog needs all the help it can get!  :(

Your truck was pushing its envelope at 4000 lbs 20 years ago when it was new. At its current age its way over its head for sae and happy towing.

Still, it should have gone over 45, at least on the level.  From your experiments with the braking, it does not sound as though the trailer brakes are applied, but you might want to get them checked out to be sure.  It may be the transmission was slipping.  Yes, it is an overdrive but a 302 with that much load probably should not be in overdrive anyway. Chances are it won't even try to get into 4th (overdrive) itself, but if it does you probably want to shift it back the 3rd manually.

What is your basis for saying the trailer weighs 5000 lbs? Can you tell us what make & model it is?  I suggest that you get it weighed and see what you are really towing - you may be shocked.  It may well be 5000 lbs dry & empty, which would mean you are really towing something more like 6000-7000 lbs.

You also need plenty of weight on hitch to avoid swaying - approximately 15% of the trailer's total weight should rest on the hitch.  Since your truck is on the light side for this job, the dealer may have skimped on the trailer tongue (hitch) weight to keep from overloading your trucks rear axle. Especialy if they did not set you up with a weight distributing hitch.  That will result in handling problems such as you describe. What make and model hitch do you have?
 

clalso

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One other thing.  My wife has a theory that somehow the truck has a manual overdrive switch, we can't find it, it's turned on and thus making the vehicle labor.  I think that cannot be the case because that shouldn't matter until I'm up around 55 or 60.  I did find a red switch under the dash that I thought was an ignition turn off switch for antiitheft, I switched it to off but saw no difference. Can't remember what that switch is for but it probably doesn't matter.  In addition to my question above in my last post, anyone think overdrive being on could cause this inability to pull the trailer above 45 MPH?
 

clalso

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The GVWR on inside door panel states 7100.  The UVW is 5017.  I am sure we didn't add more than 500 pounds of our items.  The hitch say Shelby but I can't see a model.  The trailer is a 2003 Starcraft.
 

Ron

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IMHO you have just learned a very basic lesson in that you can't believe dealers or their salesman.? These guys are going to tell you what ever they think you need to hear, right or wrong, to close the sale.? Too bad you didn't find us sooner.? I am no expert but those that have posted earlier here are and so please take heed for your family and your own safety.? Basically I believe you were sold a trailer that is way beyond your Ford 150 capabilities thus possibly placing you in danger of an accident or breakdown.? It may be in your best interest to take the dealer to task and try to get your money back.
The only way to get an accurate determination whether the trailer is too much for your truck is to get the trailer weighed with the stuff you carry in it then get the trailer and truck weighted together. Check the weight limits for your truck.  If you exceed ANY of the weight limits then the trailer is just too much for the truck.  Good luck.
 

clalso

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Thanks for the kind encouragement and advice.  I really thought I was on to a great truck.  I paid a good deal more for it since it's in excellent condition.  Guess it must be the truck.  I was really hoping for some other explanation since I had parties not involved in the transaction tell me too it would do the job.  Pit in the stomach thinking about this mistake.  Hard lesson learned.  More money down the drain.  I just traded in my motorhome for this setup since I wasn't happy there. RVing can be a challenge for a starter.  Guess I should be happy I didn't lose tens of thousands of dollars. Hope I can get for the truck was I paid. 
 

Carl L

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clalso said:
One other thing.? My wife has a theory that somehow the truck has a manual overdrive switch, we can't find it, it's turned on and thus making the vehicle labor.? I think that cannot be the case because that shouldn't matter until I'm up around 55 or 60.? I did find a red switch under the dash that I thought was an ignition turn off switch for antiitheft, I switched it to off but saw no difference. Can't remember what that switch is for but it probably doesn't matter.? In addition to my question above in my last post, anyone think overdrive being on could cause this inability to pull the trailer above 45 MPH?

My 302 Bronco pulls my rig in OD on a level , and Ford says it can be used. It does 65 actually.? ? If I am in the foothills or on a twisty road I lock out the OD.? ?Get to a Ford shop and see if one of the old timers can spot the OD lockout switch.? ?Mine is a button on the shift lever.? ?

Did that overhaul do rings and valves?

Anyway you slice it tho, and no matter what we pontificate, the simple fact is that your truck cannot safely or effectively pull your trailer by your own described experience.? ?And the solution is either a new truck or a new trailer.? ?A new truck is a safer move.? ? Tow capacity is a matter of engine and transmission, and rear end, and wheels and tires, and brakes.


 

Carl L

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clalso said:
Thanks for the kind encouragement and advice.? I really thought I was on to a great truck.? I paid a good deal more for it since it's in excellent condition.? Guess it must be the truck.? I was really hoping for some other explanation since I had parties not involved in the transaction tell me too it would do the job.? Pit in the stomach thinking about this mistake.? Hard lesson learned.? More money down the drain.? I just traded in my motorhome for this setup since I wasn't happy there. RVing can be a challenge for a starter.? Guess I should be happy I didn't lose tens of thousands of dollars. Hope I can get for the truck was I paid.? ?

It is tough man, and we hate to dump all over someone's new purchases, but we are concerned with your safety more than anything.? ?Anyway, when you get around to the new truck you will want a Classs IV receiver and a weight distributing hitch and antisway mechanism.? ?To see what those? look like, take a look at the Reese Website by clicking on HERE.? ? Read their blurbs carefully and take a look-see at the pictures of what Reese offers -- they are an old-line reputable and widely carried mfr.. ?
 

clalso

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My understanding is the engine top to bottom was rebuilt.  It runs very strong.  I forgot to mention it's a 4x4 too. I checked everywhere for the OD switch. At this point I don't think it matters.  I would not expect it to play a part until I have the truck up around 55 MPH or higher.  Looked at the towing capacity for other F-150s.  The newer ones were the only ones I could find.  They aren't rated to pull more than 5 or 6 thousands pounds depending on the setup.  That's way to close to what I own! I had three different sales people from three different dealerships tell me a F-150 would have no problems towing a 4 or 5 thousand pound trailer. I bought the truck from the husband of the lady that works out of their repair facility.  I'm more inclinded to believe they ignorant than dishonest, but now I'm not sure. I don't know what kind of recourse I have here in Colorado.  We plan to go to the dealer with just the truck this Monday and ask that they tow a similar vehicle above 45 MPH.  Then I'll show them specs I found showing only 5 to 6 thousand pounds towing capacity.  Then I'll ask why they swore this truck would tow my trailer.  The put a hitch and trailer brake system on it so I'll ask they take it off and put it on my next new truck at their cost this time or if the next new truck has it I'll ask for a refund should the buyer not pay extra for it. My wife is ready for action.  All the combined may get us some satisfiaction but I still expect to lose a couple grand. Hard lesson learned.  I know to check the specs next time.  Really appreciate the advice so far and any other you have to pass along. 
 

Carl L

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I forgot to mention it's a 4x4 too.

I hate to say this but that costs you 400 lbs in tow rating.  The 4WD components add weight to the truck. :(

Good luck with the trailer dealer, but I fear you are in for a bit of responsibility dodging and denial of statement. 
 

Marsha/CA

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Clasco,

Just for further information.  In 1991 I bought a brand new 91 Ford 150 with tow package and was told it would pull 5,000-6,000 lbs with no problem.  We had  Reese load leverls installed, as well as, a brake controller for the trailer brakes.  We pull horses and at that time had a 2 horse trailer.  Horses, extras etc weighted about 5500 lbs.  At 20,000 miles I blew the transmission and had run through my truck brakes.  The dealer told me that I would have no problem with the weights....horse friends told me that I was under-powered with the F150.  I ingored my friends and trusted the dealer.  After the transmission was repaired I traded that 91 in on a new 1 Ton dually 454 with 4.10 differential.  Never had a problem after that.  I still have that truck to pull even a bigger trailer.  It seems some of us have to learn the hard way.

The major problem with the F150 is not only power; but chassie, suspension and braking.  It just can't handle a big amount of weight.

Marsha~

 

clalso

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Marsha, Yep, sounds like the lesson I've just learned.  I guess I should consider it a blessing that I still have this truck in great running condition for a trade in or sale. I may just trade in since this has become a nightmare I'd like to quickly get behind me even if it means losing a few bucks over what I'd get for a sale.  Anyone have recommendations on what to buy that will have no problems towing my vehicle but that will still get what an RV'er would consider very good gas mileage? Sounds like I may have to go with a much bigger eight cylinder which I wanted to avoid as I had hoped the 302 would do the trick and get me better gas mileage.  I really appreciate all the answers and suggestions here.  You have helped me through a very difficult time.
 

clalso

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One other thing about my question above concerning a good vehicle as a replacment, I'd like to buy something used for under 15k.  We have the ability to buy new but since my 6 months of RV'ing has already cost me lots I'm trying to avoid spending tens of thousands more. A used vehicle is where I'll focus my attention.  Based on very good advice here I know to keep the search for a vehicle that is newer than my '87. If I should open this question in a new chat let me know. Appreciate any recommendations.
 

Marsha/CA

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clalso,

Like Carl, for me safety is my main concern.  We live out west, so I know first hand about the mountains and hills.  If I were to buy a new truck I would buy a diesel because of the torque and the better gas milage.  I know it's a little more initially; but the ability to go up a steep grade with power and not overheat is my main concern.  Compared to the gas engine it gets better mileage.  My husband and I are Chevy people and really like the duramax engine coupled with the allison transmission.  I would get a 2500 short bed.  I would also add a "Jake" brake to help with going down hill.  If I were buying used I'd buy one that had less than 50,000 miles on it.

We spent tens of thousands purchasing a diesel pusher motorhome because we on the borderline with pulling our 3 horse slant load trailer fully loaded weighing close to 7500#.  We don't go that often with the horses any more; but I love the fact that we can cruise up and down hills without any concern.  The last thing I want is an accident or a breakdown with horses invovled.

Marsha~
On our way from San Diego to Niagara Falls

 

Carl L

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clalso said:
One other thing about my question above concerning a good vehicle as a replacment, I'd like to buy something used for under 15k.? We have the ability to buy new but since my 6 months of RV'ing has already cost me lots I'm trying to avoid spending tens of thousands more. A used vehicle is where I'll focus my attention.? Based on very good advice here I know to keep the search for a vehicle that is newer than my '87. If I should open this question in a new chat let me know. Appreciate any recommendations.

Your best bet is a newish F250/350 with a decently sized engine.? ?The biggest hit that a vehicle takes is in the first year -- 20-25% of its value goes up in smoke.? A 2-4 year old pickup in the heavier class is where to look.?

Remember, as your experience has shown, tow rating is engine and brakes, transmission, drive line, rear end ratio, and wheels and tires.
 

Lowell

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Clalso,

I have a 2005 Dodge 1500, 4x4, 5.7 litre Hemi engine and 3.92 rear end.  It pulls a 6000 TT very well and I am pleased with its performance and economy. I have pulled the TT through mountains passes as high as 11,000 ft. without concern.  But its a new truck with less than 10,000 miles and very little wear yet.  If I were to do it again, I think I would get a 2500 instead of the 1500, just because it provides more towing margin.  I'm not a fan of the diesel engine because I feel you need to keep it over 100,000 miles before the economy of the diesel begins to pay you back for the initial higher cost.  I don't usually keep a truck much past 100,000 miles and I don't care for the diesel smell.  But that's a personal preference.  If you are buying used, a diesel may be a better alternative as I believe they have a longer life before requiring overhaul.  Good Luck.

Jake
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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The GVWR on inside door panel states 7100.  The UVW is 5017.  I am sure we didn't add more than 500 pounds of our items.  The hitch say Shelby but I can't see a model.  The trailer is a 2003 Starcraft.

Hmmm. To the best of my knowledge, Shelby doesn't make actual hitches. They make the couplers that are on the trailer tongue, jacks, trailer hitch balls and ball mounts, but not the actual hitch. I think perhaps you are saying that you have only a receiver on the truck and a ball mount with a ball inserted into that.  That's totally inadequate for the tongue weight you are carrying, which will be something like 900 lbs.  You really need a weight distributing hitch.  I would also worry about the receiver rating - you need a Class IV receiver for that trailer weight. A Class III is insufficient.

A UVW of 5017 means an empty trailer, without any installed options (e.g. awning or a/c) and "dry" (no water or propane). So you probably started out at 5500 or so before you added your 500+ lbs of stuff.  Again, I recommend you get the trailer weighed as it now sits, ready for a trip. I predict you will be surprised at the weight.


...anyone think overdrive being on could cause this inability to pull the trailer above 45 MPH?

No.  Your vehicle may have an overdrive lock-out switch that prevents it from ever going to overdrive, but there is no switch that would force it to stay in overdrive. If it's an automatic, it will shift as needed based on engine load and vehicle speed.

Definitely get the brakes checked on the trailer. Or ask somebody else  to tow it and see what happens.  Something is wrong - your F150 shouldn't be that weak and ought to be able to tow at 50 mph on the straight and level.
 

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