Towing Long Distances with Older Tow Rig

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The rig: 2003 Dakota 4X4 5-speed 4x4, 61,000 miles. 5100lb tow capacity with current gearing The load: 20’ boat on tandem axle trailer. Boat = 3070lbs, trailer 970lbs. Figure 4500lbs. with fluids and gear. The tow: Adirondack mountains, route 30. 55 MPH max speed limit. Max tow distance 220mi. round trip. I tow locally 20 miles round trip and it does great. I can go up the hill by my house in 3rd at 45 mph with the A/C on and the temp gauge doesn’t move. I was going to change all fluids beforehand (except motor oil and coolant since this is already new), as I need to do this anyway. I think it’ll be fine. I also have roadside assistance on both the truck and boat. Anyone else towing a decent load with an older truck?
 
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It's up to how you feel with the truck. Last year after swapping in a junkyard engine (long story) with 110K miles, I towed my Jeep to Rausch Creek off road park from Syracuse NY area. Some steep hills on the way down. I think the load was close to 7000 pounds. It was a bit slow on some of the hills, but other than that, it kept up 65/70 all the way. It's a 2001. I have also done a few 150 mile round trips with either one of my Jeeps on a borrowed or rented trailer. There's always the possibility that something can go wrong. It was my Dad's truck and sat in my parents' yard since 2008 pretty much untouched. It had all new engine fluids, new radiator (planned on replacing the cooling system anyway), hoses, thermostat , brake fluid and a few other things. There's definitely things to worry about, but you know the vehicle. Right now, apart from a leaky new radiator hose and a blown out passenger side manifold, I'd feel comfortable driving the 17 year old truck down there towing my Jeep. In fact, over the winter, I towed a friend's 1984 F150 on 3/4 ton axles with another friend's borrowed equipment trailer. This one was close to the max on the truck. It handled it very well. It would start slowing down about a mile before any sort of hill.
 

oilpsi2high

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Nice. The trailer is only a year old and has disc brakes. I feel very confident around town with the setup. I live in the southern ADKs so it’s pretty hilly even towing locally.
 

oilpsi2high

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Also I see you're from Onondaga County. That's where I bought the boat from - did the sea trial on Onondaga Lake. Here's a photo from the boat launch at that park by the salt museum: And a pic of the rig:
 
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I tow my boat with either a 1988 Big Bronco, or 1993 F-150. So when you say older rig, I have to smile ... My BIL tows with a 1968 F-250 and a 1949 F-1 with a flathead V8 ... So I dunno about towing with anything as new as you have laugh
 

Nick1994

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I think it'll be fine
Originally Posted By: Miller88
It's up to how you feel with the truck. Last year after swapping in a junkyard engine (long story) with 110K miles, I towed my Jeep to Rausch Creek off road park from Syracuse NY area. Some steep hills on the way down. I think the load was close to 7000 pounds. It was a bit slow on some of the hills, but other than that, it kept up 65/70 all the way. It's a 2001. I have also done a few 150 mile round trips with either one of my Jeeps on a borrowed or rented trailer. There's always the possibility that something can go wrong. It was my Dad's truck and sat in my parents' yard since 2008 pretty much untouched. It had all new engine fluids, new radiator (planned on replacing the cooling system anyway), hoses, thermostat , brake fluid and a few other things. There's definitely things to worry about, but you know the vehicle. Right now, apart from a leaky new radiator hose and a blown out passenger side manifold, I'd feel comfortable driving the 17 year old truck down there towing my Jeep. In fact, over the winter, I towed a friend's 1984 F150 on 3/4 ton axles with another friend's borrowed equipment trailer. This one was close to the max on the truck. It handled it very well. It would start slowing down about a mile before any sort of hill.
For some reason I thought your truck was a dually?
 

JHZR2

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Concerns? Is the safety equipment and hitch up to the task? Are the brakes good? Is the cooling system sufficient? Is the transmission functioning well? Fundamentally an older vehicle should perform fine if the things that degrade with use/age are kept up. That's on you. A newer vehicle will do everything better, not just due to better specs, but younger age. Assuming you know weak points and are on top of everything, there isn't much to fear.
 
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I must be out of touch - I thought my '85 GMC was the "older" tow rig. My brother-in-law's girlfriend was coming through St. Louis at about 11 AM when her '09 Focus blew a radiator hose. She got it pulled over and shut off before any more damage was done, but it was a Friday and to have the car fixed up there over the weekend was a gamble. So I rented a U-haul, threw my tools and fluids in the truck, and embarked on a 700-mile trip at about 4 PM. Truck ran great all night. I knew about this load before hand, but it was a 300-mile trip in 90+degree heat, and Astro vans aren't necessarily light. Once again, no problems. To top it all off, the transmission in that truck leaks a spot the size of a cookie sheet overnight, and when cold takes a good minute or two of fussing with it to get the forward gears to engage. But once they engage the first time they keep engaging until it sits overnight again, and the fluid leak also mostly quits when it gets warm. It needs oil cooler lines, valve cover gaskets, control arm bushings, and plenty of other smaller things. Not to mention, of course, a transmission rebuild. The carbureted 454 gets right around 11 MPG towing an empty trailer and 10 (9 on a bad day) hauling loads like these. Point is, age isn't as much a factor as condition of the vehicle and knowledge of what you're doing.
 
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An 03 truck with 61K miles??? That's a new truck. My 03 4Runner with 165k miles tows a horse trailer on desert dirt roads and I consider it almost new. One frequent trip on terrible roads is almost 50 miles. My only concern is the horses, not the vehicle.
 
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Just got a 2000 Dakota with 88k.. From what I'm seeing on it.. When was the brakes last serviced.. and what was done? The brakes were seizing up on the front, the back's ok. How's your belt and pulleys? On this one the belt is severely cracked and the tensioner is at angle lol. Transmission fluid age? If all the basic maintenance is done should be a breeze. Judging by the looks of yours I'd guess it would be good shape though!
 
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I just pulled a U-Haul 5x8 box trailer with my son’s modest furniture collection 500 miles from Michigan to Hoboken, NJ, with my ‘95 Dakota, 3.9 V-6, 2WD, 5-speed, 222K miles. Trailer probably weighed only about 2000lbs loaded, but it was about as aerodynamic as a parachute. Lots of 4th gear uphills in PA and NJ, but the truck could manage 65mph without real difficulty. Burned only a half-quart of oil for the roundtrip. Thought I would leave my OEM clutch in Jersey City after some stop-and-go traffic with uphill starts, but it’s still A-OK. The truck is well-maintained, and the basic design seems to have been pretty robust.
 
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Originally Posted By: Nick1994
I think it'll be fine
Originally Posted By: Miller88
For some reason I thought your truck was a dually?
Nope. Justa SRW. It has 4.10 gears and half of the snow plow prep package, though!
 
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I think what will get most folks is downgrades. Automatics, weak and old brakes with factory fluid. Not knowing how to stab brake. Stuff like this. Plus, being smooth and easy while heavy I would bet is good for the frame and chassis!
 

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Originally Posted By: Eric Smith
Just got a 2000 Dakota with 88k.. From what I'm seeing on it.. When was the brakes last serviced.. and what was done? The brakes were seizing up on the front, the back's ok. How's your belt and pulleys? On this one the belt is severely cracked and the tensioner is at angle lol. Transmission fluid age? If all the basic maintenance is done should be a breeze. Judging by the looks of yours I'd guess it would be good shape though!
Front brakes were done about a year ago. Rears were completely overhauled about 100 miles ago - pads, rotors, and calipers. One of the rear calipers was sticking on mine as well. Gained 2 MPG by fixing that! Trans fluid is probably original, but I'll be changing that soon, and it's a manual so it's not like it's as important as an auto's fluid, especially while towing. Belt is new, good tension. Very well maintained truck with minimal rust.
 

oilpsi2high

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Originally Posted By: khittner
I just pulled a U-Haul 5x8 box trailer with my son’s modest furniture collection 500 miles from Michigan to Hoboken, NJ, with my ‘95 Dakota, 3.9 V-6, 2WD, 5-speed, 222K miles. Trailer probably weighed only about 2000lbs loaded, but it was about as aerodynamic as a parachute. Lots of 4th gear uphills in PA and NJ, but the truck could manage 65mph without real difficulty. Burned only a half-quart of oil for the roundtrip. Thought I would leave my OEM clutch in Jersey City after some stop-and-go traffic with uphill starts, but it’s still A-OK. The truck is well-maintained, and the basic design seems to have been pretty robust.
That's a good tow for that truck. I honestly think these are the most underrated trucks out there. The only bad thing I could find on the Dakotas was the automatic transmission - having the manual pretty much eliminates that. This thing with the 4.7 and 5-speed manual is actually really fun to drive when unloaded, and sounds great.
 

oilpsi2high

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Originally Posted By: mjoekingz28
I think what will get most folks is downgrades. Automatics, weak and old brakes with factory fluid. Not knowing how to stab brake. Stuff like this. Plus, being smooth and easy while heavy I would bet is good for the frame and chassis!
With surge brakes you're actually supposed to stay in 4th or 5th (basically don't downshift) and use the brakes as needed when going downhill. It said to do this in the trailer owners manual, which I'm glad I read because I definitely would've downshifted on all of the hills. I guess if you downshift it makes the trailer brakes engage and can overheat/burn them out.
 
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Originally Posted By: oilpsi2high
Originally Posted By: mjoekingz28
I think what will get most folks is downgrades. Automatics, weak and old brakes with factory fluid. Not knowing how to stab brake. Stuff like this. Plus, being smooth and easy while heavy I would bet is good for the frame and chassis!
With surge brakes you're actually supposed to stay in 4th or 5th (basically don't downshift) and use the brakes as needed when going downhill. It said to do this in the trailer owners manual, which I'm glad I read because I definitely would've downshifted on all of the hills. I guess if you downshift it makes the trailer brakes engage and can overheat/burn them out.
The Uhaul I rented had surge brakes and on pretty much all of the hills on 81 through PA I didn't even have to downshift going down the hill. I'd just let off the gas (it's a 5 speed manual) and the combination of engine braking and the trailer brakes held the truck at a safe speed. There was one hill - that the truck could only pull at 35 - that I had to stab brake and downshift to 4th.
 

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I tow 7500LB boat with an 04 titan all the time. typically through the scorching desert heat 100-110 - It handles it just fine. I maintain it properly and as such dont worry about a thing on a trip. Ive made a few mods over the years to make it better. UD
 
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