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chadly

Pulling a camper at distance

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  I have a 2015 GM express passenger van.  3500 with 6.0l.  I also have a 2015 Keystone travel trailer that is about 7,000lbs fully loaded.  I’ve been pulling this setup for three years and feel very comfortable doing so.  I do use a weight transfer hitch.  Most of our camping is 3-4 hour drives with some at 6-7.  However I’m looking at doing a 13 hour one way trip late this summer.  I will have some elevation to deal with.  One thing about the van as opposed to the truck is the vans only have the option of 3.42 gearing as most the trucks I’ve seen are 4.10.  So I’m under powered compared to the trucks of the same set up.  I had the transmission fluid and filter changed at 50,000 miles.  It was darker than I would have guessed not terrible but I could see the discoloration.  Pulling the camper on this trip is going to save me about $200/day for a 14 day trip.  However if I burn up my transmission then all is lost and then some.  Am I just being over concerned or should I rethink this?  I’m well under the pulling capacity of the vehicle.  Thanks in advance.  Chad

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Have you perused the towing sections of RV.net?

https://www.rv.net/forum/index.cfm/fuseaction/listings/forum/40.cfm

https://www.rv.net/forum/index.cfm/fuseaction/listings/forum/41.cfm

I went through similar research almost ten years ago when I had a Chevy Silverado 1500, 4.8L gas, 3.42 rear (& oversize tires making the equivalent of 3.08) towing a 6,000 lbs loaded toy hauler.  I could pull the trailer but the transmission would get hot so I added a big trans cooler to the truck.  But within a year I upgraded to a Chevy Silverado 2500HD, 6.0L gas, 4.10 rear because I wanted a bigger safety margin for other things like braking and a stiffer platform.

How much elevation are we talking and you are using the tow/haul feature?  Both of my trucks had the 4L80 transmission -- in other words, a four speed. I imagine you might have a six speed?  Lastly, I do know some shops can change the final ratio gearing.  Don't know what that costs.

Anyhow, going through RV.net takes some patience and of course, you'll get the full range of opinions.

Here's a chart for 2015 tow ratings for your vehicle:

Untitled.png.efb0a975c1d6b0c70681b1817cd62ffd.png

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Posted (edited)

I do have the 6 speed trans and and use the tow haul feature in manual mode.  5th on the flats and 4th on hills.  I do not have a trans temp gauge.  the highest point is about 7,000 ft that I would pull to.  I do have the stock external trans cooler.  Wondering about a larger on and a gauge.  I will check out the sites you posted.  My rating is the 9,700.  Thanks. 

Edited by chadly

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  I have a 2015 GM express passenger van.  3500 with 6.0l.  I also have a 2015 Keystone travel trailer that is about 7,000lbs fully loaded.  I’ve been pulling this setup for three years and feel very comfortable doing so.  I do use a weight transfer hitch.  Most of our camping is 3-4 hour drives with some at 6-7.  However I’m looking at doing a 13 hour one way trip late this summer.  I will have some elevation to deal with.  One thing about the van as opposed to the truck is the vans only have the option of 3.42 gearing as most the trucks I’ve seen are 4.10.  So I’m under powered compared to the trucks of the same set up.  I had the transmission fluid and filter changed at 50,000 miles.  It was darker than I would have guessed not terrible but I could see the discoloration.  Pulling the camper on this trip is going to save me about $200/day for a 14 day trip.  However if I burn up my transmission then all is lost and then some.  Am I just being over concerned or should I rethink this?  I’m well under the pulling capacity of the vehicle.  Thanks in advance.  Chad
Auxiliary trans cooler and a temp gauge, do it now.

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1 minute ago, The Deplorable said:
1 hour ago, chadly said:
  I have a 2015 GM express passenger van.  3500 with 6.0l.  I also have a 2015 Keystone travel trailer that is about 7,000lbs fully loaded.  I’ve been pulling this setup for three years and feel very comfortable doing so.  I do use a weight transfer hitch.  Most of our camping is 3-4 hour drives with some at 6-7.  However I’m looking at doing a 13 hour one way trip late this summer.  I will have some elevation to deal with.  One thing about the van as opposed to the truck is the vans only have the option of 3.42 gearing as most the trucks I’ve seen are 4.10.  So I’m under powered compared to the trucks of the same set up.  I had the transmission fluid and filter changed at 50,000 miles.  It was darker than I would have guessed not terrible but I could see the discoloration.  Pulling the camper on this trip is going to save me about $200/day for a 14 day trip.  However if I burn up my transmission then all is lost and then some.  Am I just being over concerned or should I rethink this?  I’m well under the pulling capacity of the vehicle.  Thanks in advance.  Chad

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Auxiliary trans cooler and a temp gauge, do it now.

This. If you don't know what's going on inside the slush box, you have no idea if damage is being done. keeping it cool is everything to longevity. 

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Posted (edited)

I just called a local transmission shop to get a quote on an enlarged external cooler.  I explained to him what I was doing and he said since I'm well under the GCWR of 16,000lbs to leave it as is.  That does not give me much security.  Thinking I should get a temp gauge and see what is happening on some of the local 3 hour trips over the next few weeks while the hot summer heat is on.  Just curious?  If I used my heat temp gun to hit the trans pan would that give me anything remotely accurate to inside temp?  Thanks for the help.  

Edit:  I just called a second shop.  He duplicated what the first said.  He also said that the van has a trans temp over heat light on the dash that would come on if I was getting too hot.  I asked about the temp gun on the pan and he said his opinion it would be within 5 degrees of actual temp.  I'm going to try it.  What should the temp of trans be while pulling?

Edited by chadly

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Posted (edited)
29 minutes ago, chadly said:

I just called a local transmission shop to get a quote on an enlarged external cooler.  I explained to him what I was doing and he said since I'm well under the GCWR of 16,000lbs to leave it as is.  That does not give me much security.  Thinking I should get a temp gauge and see what is happening on some of the local 3 hour trips over the next few weeks while the hot summer heat is on.  Just curious?  If I used my heat temp gun to hit the trans pan would that give me anything remotely accurate to inside temp?  Thanks for the help.  

Edit:  I just called a second shop.  He duplicated what the first said.  He also said that the van has a trans temp over heat light on the dash that would come on if I was getting too hot.  I asked about the temp gun on the pan and he said his opinion it would be within 5 degrees of actual temp.  I'm going to try it.  What should the temp of trans be while pulling?

No driver info center on the vans?  My 2015 Silverado 2500 HD 6.0 LT has a trans temp gage in the DIC.

Also never seen mine go above 200 pulling about 7500# with 5 people in the truck. I have a Diablew tune and 275's on it too, stock is 265.

Edited by 3Deuces

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There are charts that show the temp. vs. wear for transmissions.  Install the gauge so you can watch it and pull over to let it cool when it gets to a certain temp.  The gauge will show you what happens to temp when you use different gears and will give you a good idea of what past temperatures you have suffered.  Location of the gauge sensor is important.

 

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My Siverado 1500 did not have a temp gauge so I got a Scangauge for it that plugged into the OBD port.  I had to program it to access the trans fluid temps.  The upper right corner, "TFT", was what I was watching.

ScanGauge.JPG.4ffafc8586ba196d0e0c091f06e72035.JPG

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Posted (edited)

I have a similar set up as you. ‘17 Express 3500 RB w/ 6.0, 3.42 gears, and toe package. Running a slightly taller tire than stock, so gear ratios are slightly off. Towing a 8.5k toy hauler 3+ hrs with elevation changes. Stock setup does okay, but the hills will push your temps. I installed a TruCool 40k transmission cooler to replace the stock unit and installed an Ultragauge w/ GM option to monitor my transmission temps. 

OEM cooler is junk. What GM utilizes for your van’s transmission cooler is what they use as a power steering cooler for the trucks. As a test of how well it works I ran the stock cooler on an 85* day w/ no trailer, regular highway driving (70 mph AC on) for 30 miles. Transmission temp got to 125*. Got into town with stop and go traffic and temps climbed to 180*. Got back onto the highway and required 30 miles of flat ground at 70 mph to get the transmission temps down to the original 125*. As soon (within minutes) as I got back into stop and go traffic in town, the temps came right back up to 175-180*. Installed the TruCool unit, ran it hard (high rpm’s and holding gears) on varying hills to get the temps up (175*on a 87* day), took 2.5 miles of flat 70 mph driving to get the Temps back down to 120*.  Just towed 5k two weekends ago in LA traffic and never saw anything over 175* on a 95* day, and once traffic was moving dropped the temp within minutes by 25*. Totally worth the investment. 

I do recommend when towing hills to just pick an rpm range to hold at and not be concerned with speed. I have found 3500-3800 to be pretty good. I try to not go past 4000 rpm, even though I know these 6.0 motors make power at higher rom’s  Can’t tell you how many 3/4 ton trucks towing large toy haulers I see on the side of the road on large grades. They put their foot in it and they rev the snot out of the motor, and something let’s go. Even the newer vehicles aren’t immune.  Good luck on your search and have fun towing. 

Edited by BBBTHREAT
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5 minutes ago, BBBTHREAT said:

I have a similar set up as you. ‘17 Express 3500 RB w/ 6.0, 3.42 gears, and toe package. Running a slightly taller tire than stock, so gear ratios are slightly off. Towing a 8.5k toy hauler 3+ hrs with elevation changes. Stock setup does okay, but the hills will push your temps. I installed a TruCool 40k transmission cooler to replace the stock unit and installed an Ultragauge w/ GM option to monitor my transmission temps. 

OEM cooler is junk. What GM utilizes for your van’s transmission cooler is what they use as a power steering cooler for the trucks. As a test of how well it works I ran the stock cooler on an 85* day w/ no trailer, regular highway driving (70 mph AC on) for 30 miles. Transmission temp got to 125*. Got into town with stop and go traffic and temps climbed to 180*. Got back onto the highway and required 30 miles of flat ground at 70 mph to get the transmission temps down to the original 125*. As soon (within minutes) as I got back into stop and go traffic in town, the temps came right back up to 175-180*. Installed the TruCool unit, ran it hard (high rpm’s and holding gears) on varying hills to get the temps up (175*on a 87* day), took 2.5 miles of flat 70 mph driving to get the Temps back down to 120*.  Just towed 5k two weekends ago in LA traffic and never saw anything over 175* on a 95* day, and once traffic was moving dropped the temp within minutes by 25*. Totally worth the investment. 

Thanks.  Do you have a link to where you got the cooler?  The ultragauge as well.  Was the install much of a hassle.  Thanks again.  

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https://ultra-gauge.com/ZC/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=57&zenid=9ad678c7ea923440b24b101274c3a1f5

Plug and play for the Ultragauge. Make sure you select the GM option. 

I bought my Tru-Cool 40k on eBay for $80. But they are usually around $115 shipped. You may be able to find them cheaper if you look around. They have all you need for the install. Add a couple of these so you can splice into your hard lines, unless you have a flaring  tool.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Teckpak-CR-1011-Transmission-Compression-Fitting-3-8-to-3-8-Hose-Barb-ALL/372638524411?hash=item56c2fca3fb:g:s90AAOSw6xVcnAsq

Install was straight forward and also have an extra qt of ATF to top off while you do your bleeding process. Took about two hours for the install and bleeding process and that was taking my time. Hope this helps. 

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10 minutes ago, BBBTHREAT said:

https://ultra-gauge.com/ZC/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=57&zenid=9ad678c7ea923440b24b101274c3a1f5

Plug and play for the Ultragauge. Make sure you select the GM option. 

I bought my Tru-Cool 40k on eBay for $80. But they are usually around $115 shipped. You may be able to find them cheaper if you look around. They have all you need for the install. Add a couple of these so you can splice into your hard lines, unless you have a flaring  tool.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Teckpak-CR-1011-Transmission-Compression-Fitting-3-8-to-3-8-Hose-Barb-ALL/372638524411?hash=item56c2fca3fb:g:s90AAOSw6xVcnAsq

Install was straight forward and also have an extra qt of ATF to top off while you do your bleeding process. Took about two hours for the install and bleeding process and that was taking my time. Hope this helps. 

Thanks a bunch.  Is this the same cooler?

https://www.amazon.com/Tru-Cool-LPD4739-4739-Pressure-Transmission/dp/B00803CTDA/ref=pd_day0_hl_263_2/133-1580854-7533529?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B00803CTDA&pd_rd_r=389a13cf-a291-11e9-a213-f70688893b5a&pd_rd_w=Vcr9M&pd_rd_wg=Khwpw&pf_rd_p=ad07871c-e646-4161-82c7-5ed0d4c85b07&pf_rd_r=Z7QGNVMF2VDXK44B92CD&psc=1&refRID=Z7QGNVMF2VDXK44B92CD#customerReviews

 

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Same one. That one has a thermal bypass, so it will allows the transmission to get to 160* before it lets the cooler come into place. Good to have if you live in n area that sees freezing temps regularly. I live in California, so I did not opt For that. 

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5 hours ago, BBBTHREAT said:

I do recommend when towing hills to just pick an rpm range to hold at and not be concerned with speed. I have found 3500-3800 to be pretty good. I try to not go past 4000 rpm, even though I know these 6.0 motors make power at higher rom’s  

Thanks so much.  I'm going to buy the cooler and install in the next month before the big trip.  I really appreciate all the input and advice. 

I also I've found the same with not beating the piss out the motor to maintain a speed.  I try to keep the rpms under 3200.  Most pulling I run 2100 rpm.  However this trip will have larger hills.  I've uncountable times had a half ton with smaller motor pass me up a hill with grin on his face as if he was better.  I'm not in  a race or a competition to the top of the hill.  I just want to get there and do it again with no issue.  Thanks so much to all.  

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I find it interesting that 2 separate independent trans shops told you to leave your van stock when they could have sucked you in to do a fluid change and add a trans cooler. Think they might know what they are talking about? I have been towing with a F250 for 19 years on the stock trans and cooler for 195,000 miles now. I feel that if I have a problem it will because it has 195,000 miles on it not because it will overheat. 

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Normally I would agree with you and the opinions of the transmission shop, but I came to a different conclusion. The 3500 vans are comparable to the 2500 trucks of 10 years ago as far as towing capacity. They are equipped about the same: 6.0 gas motor (trucks have a little better tune, but very close as far as hp/tq numbers), 6L90e transmission (van) which is an updated version of the 6L80e (truck), and similar gears (3.42) which all the new trucks have. The trucks do have bigger/taller  tires compared to the van. Both vehicles are equipped to tow 10000 lbs. 

The difference then comes in the form of the transmission cooler. Both are routed the same with the lines first going to the radiator and then to the cooler, then returning to the transmission. The van cooler is literally the same size/unit as the truck’s power steering cooler, and the truck utilizes plate/fin set up.   One of the biggest complaints of the 2500 trucks from 10-15 years ago was the transmission cooler being undersized. The van’s cooler is even smaller, and yet they both are capable of towing the same amount. Taking that into consideration, my thinking is that the OEM van setup is inadequate. Considering the OP already had his transmission fluid changed and it was darker than he thought it should be, he probably got the temps up higher into the danger zone at some point, probably not for any sustained amount of time, but heat is a transmission’s enemy. Hills during the summer will push his setup and a cooler would probably be beneficial. 

Here is the van cooler and the other pic is the current cooler on a 2016 2500 truck with a 6.0l motor. 

427CB94A-AC19-46E5-821B-CADED11D7D8F.jpeg

77BA87CA-DAFE-48D2-A770-4DD414DC076A.jpeg

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I posted this subject on another car forum I frequent.  The response was similar to here other than one person said to see if they make a larger trans pan.  I had never thought that route.  Wonder which is better more fluid or better cooling.  I've not yet ordered the cooler but guessing that will be the route.  Thanks everyone you have been very helpful.  

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Your van doesn't care if you are driving for 1 hour or 10 hours  straight once everything gets to normal operating temperature. AS long as everything is working properly you should have no issues. If you don't hesitate to go on a 3-4 hour trip  what is the difference adding more hours to that? obviously elevation gains and driving at elevation will affect your vehicle performance. 

Unless you are going to be seeing elevation gains and drive at elevations outside of your typical range for your other trips I would not think twice about taking your rig on this trip. As others have said a trans temp sensor would be helpful. 

Fresh engine oil and trans fluid is always a cheap piece of mind before a long trip.

AAA and/or trip insurance is also a nice piece of mind. 

You can try lightening you load by keeping water and gas tanks empty until you get close to camp. Buy your food, beer, ice, etc close to camp. have someone else carry some of your gear in their vehicle if that is an option. 

$200.00 savings per day for 14 days is $2,400, that's about what a trans would cost any ways. Either way its up to you. 

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