Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

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Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby working on it » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:07 pm

renamed thread, changed from Tow Vehicle Project: between Scylla and Charbydis to promote readership Sometimes I feel caught up in a Hellenic mythos; my job reminds me of two, combined: working at the labors of Heracles, yet doomed to the repeated failures of Sisyphus. Once again, I find myself in another Greek myth: Scylla and Charbydis (paraphrased: caught between a rock and a hard place), caused by my indecision on starting a new project. As a psychological salve, I need to keep "working on it", whatever it is (project, pipedream, pie in the sky...). Seventy-one months ago (I'm still counting), at age 58, faced with lay-offs and a 40% pay cut, and supporting my invalid brother (and with my wife not working regularly, with health problems), I voluntarily gave up drag racing, as the financially responsible thing to do. Working on my car, and racing it, had been my release and therapy from the stress of the job, and other "life" problems. After a couple of years away from that "therapy", I latched onto another "project"- my trailer build. I justified it by saying it was for my wife's benefit (and maybe I truly intended it to be, then), and started slowly, conservatively, semi-economically (remember, I was under the sword of Damocles at work, as they closed my plant, and the other financial drains got worse). I took my mind off the other problems while I planned and planned and built a little here and there, when and where I could.... Eventually, I started recovering a little, financially, enough to accelerate the build (which had now become mine). And finally, it was finished (actually, never to be "finished", but campable!). Now, between camping only twice so far, and making sporadic improvements to the trailer, I find myself seeking more "work therapy". My job has become so taxing, I need the release!!! My plan: start a "camping related/automotive" project. My justification to the wife: small daily drivers (HHR, Cobalt) can't tow the little trailer; the trucks are older, high-mileage, and reserved for the big tows (carhauler/utility trailer, 20-ft."business" trailer). We need to keep them running and available for necessities! We need an in-between sized/functional vehicle, for other duties. My proposed solution: buy or create a mid-sized vehicle to fill three usage slots> a)tow the little trailer/become the wife's "bad locale" travel vehicle (she has to go into storm-damaged areas for her work), b)serve as our around town people-mover (we have no four-door vehicle, everyone we know has bad knees and needs easy entry into our car), and c)"most importantly"serve as my last "work therapy project", before retirement-finances, and old-age infirmities set in. My first dilemma-Scylla: the wife doesn't see the need for another vehicle (except perhaps for the "bad locale travel" scenario), and insists on divesting ourselves of some vehicles prior to getting another. I disagree. Except for added insurance costs, the existing cars are serving their functions as I had acquired them to do. Market value for each would not justify their sale, nor finance an entirely new mid-size replacement (which, in this day of down-sized, unibody vehicles, may not tow as well as the trucks, nor be as handy as commuter cars). She doesn't want to lose her truck (185k miles GMC), or her Cobalt (45k miles), which she loves; instead, she wants me to sell my 2500HD Chevy (129k), and the HHR (134k), of course. Not mentioned are her Olds Quad4 or Fiero (which she won't let go, though each needs major rebuilding), nor my BBC Chevelle race car (I don't know if I can sell it!- my baby!). But, that's exactly what I'm going to do. Junk her two, and sell mine, preferably intact, but as parts if I have to. My second dilemma-Charbydis:now get this twist> 90% happy with her car and truck, and not wanting to finance a new vehicle herself (remember, I'm very near to quitting work), she's invoking the one for me-one for you rule (I got the last new vehicle, the '09 HHR, and she got the '08 Cobalt). Therefore, I can't get anything newer than her car. My reverse-logic deflection: I'm going to purchase something '08 or older ('07.5 ??), preferably as low mileage as possible, something I can work on, under $15k, or lower (to eventually rebuild with a new crate engine!). Four door (bad knees, people-mover), 4WD (never had one, always wanted one, and able to go camping-boondocking-bad locale travelling). Been researching for months: as soon as I locate a possibility, either she leaves town for awhile, or I work ungodly hours, and I can't get there to look at it before it disappears. So, I guess I'm going to have to do what I did before, while searching for a muscle-car to rebuild and race (in 1994): I carried a pocketful of cash with me, in case I spotted a prospect. For 6 months. This time, no cash, but I'm setting aside some money (she doesn't know about) for quick access (she handles everything else, and monitors daily). Surprise, dear!!! My proposed targets of acquisition: 4 door, 4WD, automatic (bad knees), '08 or older, something I have had experience working on or at least some exposure to (familiarity doesn't always breed contempt!): Jeep products (I've admired from afar), Chevy S-10/GMC Sonoma (I loved my underpowered '86 S-10 Extended cab, may it rest in peace), and a Dodge (I had two, in the 60's, loved them both).
semi offroad jeep picks b.jpg
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non-jeep choices.jpg
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I have pictured vehicles with small lift packages, and larger tires, since I just can't leave a project stock, the larger tires will enable travel over worse conditions, and will somewhat improve highway mpg. Not for trailblazing or rock climbing, but soft-roading at best. I'm not intimidated by undertaking a major vehicle project: I did most of the work on my Chevelle (a basket-case to start), and major engine/transmission transplants on two Chevy pickups since '97. This time, I'll be undertaking new challenges, as the models I've targeted are all OBD-II vehicles, not the stuff I know well (carbureted w/ no sensors), but I am learning the new tech, slowly. In the last 2 decades, I have worked on '80-90's S-10s, engine and suspension, on Jeeps, same thing. Did a little engine work on my '67 Dodge Monaco 500, but that's about 47 years ago.... Besides, I have the rest of my life to tinker with the trailer, and the Tow Vehicle Project. ADDED NOTE: forgive me for the classical allusions; though Grecian references abound, I hope some will peruse this post, find the humor/irony of the situation, and comment on it. And understand the 360 degree turn I've made, from automotive fixation- to TnTTT fever-to automotive again. Back to my comfort zone, after a foray into trailer building...easy for some to master, "but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me"....
2013 HHRv a "squareback/squaredrop" 4x8 TTT,
semi-offroad?, at barely under 2000 lbs travel weight
  • 3500 lb Dexter EZ-Lube axle, w/brakes
  • 27x8.5-14LT all-terrain tires (x 3)
  • LED lighting, triple fans. Pioneer stereo
  • A/C & heat, Optima AGM, inverter & charger(s)
  • extended-run, on-board, 2500w generator
  • Coleman dual-fuel stove & lantern, Ikea grill
  • zinc/stainless steel front racks
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby aggie79 » Mon Aug 25, 2014 9:00 am

:shock:

Whoa! I'm not sure I can map the decision tree in my brain. I haven't ever owned one, but you may want to add the Ford Explorer Sport Trac to your list. This is the US version of the Ford Ranger double-cab sold overseas.

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Tom
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby jstrubberg » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:14 am

It's your money, but there's nothing economical about adding a third vehicle. You can do a huge amount of maintenance and buy an entire underground tank of extra fuel for what you are proposing to spend on another vehicle. It would be much cheaper in the long run to simply spend the extra money on maintaining the truck.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby working on it » Mon Aug 25, 2014 11:17 am

Tom- the concept "Ford" never crosses my mind. I had a very trying experience with my one example, in the early 80's. Jstruberg- I'm not contemplating replacing the two daily driver/commuter cars, nor either the 1/2 ton Gmc (souped-up w/ beefed up tranny, & extra spring leaves), or my 2500HD Chevy (also beefed up tranny, & overload shocks). Of all the cars listed above, my HHR, @133k miles, needs the most immediate maintenance, but nothing imperative right now. The point of my thread is more apparent, if I had remembered to tell that my wife had agreed to a mid-sized replacement vehicle two years ago, anticipating the decline in one of the trucks condition, but I've actually improved their health. And as their age/mileage piles on, their useful value to me outweighs the little trade in value they would bring. Therefore, the weird decision matrix was my response to her reneging on the prior agreement. The sacrifice of my Chevelle will prove my commitment to the project (I always do what I promise, and finish what I start). Plus, by getting an older 4WD to restore/modify, I'll be able to do my old thing (cars...), use it for doing my new thing (camping, possibly offroad), and still have the working vehicles in place. Best of all worlds....
2013 HHRv a "squareback/squaredrop" 4x8 TTT,
semi-offroad?, at barely under 2000 lbs travel weight
  • 3500 lb Dexter EZ-Lube axle, w/brakes
  • 27x8.5-14LT all-terrain tires (x 3)
  • LED lighting, triple fans. Pioneer stereo
  • A/C & heat, Optima AGM, inverter & charger(s)
  • extended-run, on-board, 2500w generator
  • Coleman dual-fuel stove & lantern, Ikea grill
  • zinc/stainless steel front racks
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby rbishopp » Mon Aug 25, 2014 4:33 pm

Wow that was a lot to read. I have a regular cab tacoma and would buy another in a heartbeat. Maybe you can find a double cab long bed. The tacoma is a very capable truck for daily driving and weekend warriors. I would keep one vehicle with heavy towing capacity and dump the rest. Then buy the tacoma. I'd bet money you'd want to live in it. I love mine. I haven't hit a limitation with it yet but I'm in a minimalist mind set. Having said that I'll load it up with fire wood and never have issues.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby LWW » Wed Aug 27, 2014 5:46 am

One thing you'll need to take in to consideration if you're considering a slightly lifted jeep etc with oversize tires is gearing and the weight of your camper. I had an 03 Wrangler with 31 x 10.50 and stock gears, 3.08. It struggled with the weight of my 1150 lb weekender. It would have been fine with the stock tires but I never went back to smaller tires, just kept it on the level ground. Since then I've pulled it with my wifes GMC Envoy and my 58 GMC with small block power. I'd like to pull it with my 97 Subaru but I don't think the little 4 cylinder and tranny will handle it. So keep in mind the weight of your camper. Larry
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby S. Heisley » Wed Aug 27, 2014 7:34 am

1) Your trailer is presently at 1775 lbs.

2) I have a Jeep; and, because of the short wheel spacing, many of them are only rated to tow and brake 2000 lbs...mighty close to your trailer weight. So, you might want to check that.

3) I've had a Tacoma and, although they are/were set up to tow 3500 lbs, the older models are simply too light weight to brake more than the listed 1200 lbs, unless the trailer has brakes. (I think the newer models may be able to tow/brake more; but, you said you wanted older, not newer.) You might want to check that as well.

For the above reasons, I would think you would do best with a more standard double cab truck to replace one of your existing single cab trucks. I think this would make both you and your wife happy....a newer one in, and an older, less serviceable one out. Save the other vehicles for now and sell one of those if you get in a bind down the road, ie. you mentioned that you could get laid off at some time. But, again, check both the towing and braking capability, which, I have no doubt you would do. All of this is simply to give you a heads up on your research and decision making.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby MtnDon » Wed Aug 27, 2014 8:43 am

working on it wrote:the larger tires will enable travel over worse conditions, and will somewhat improve highway mpg.


My on the road experience disagrees with that idea. Vehicles made in the last 20 years or maybe more, have generally be optimized by the factory engineers with gearing, tire sizes, etc for good fuel mileage. I have been through the off road upgrade several times; bigger tires, lift and re-gearing. The first two times I lifted and installed larger tires, left the gearing stock. Big mistake. Mileage plummeted. The gearing was changed later and the mileage went back up. Better but not as good as the factory setup. Perhaps on totally flat ground mileage would improve, but I don't live where ground is very flat. Larger tires and stock gears had the tranny downshifting a lot more for the slightest incline. Performance as in acceleration and hill climbing sucked with stock gears and larger tires. The third vehicle had all the work done; lift, tires, gears, before being put back on the road. It was a much happier drive from the get go. But even though the overall gearing was brought back to factory equivalent rpm's per mile traveled the fuel mileage never reached what had been realized with the stock vehicle. Extra drag from larger tires and the increased underside air turbulence from the lift created more drag and lessened fuel mileage.

And the way I see it an extra vehicle costs more, no matter how one's attempts at logic attempt to justify.

A current series Tacoma with the factory tow package is rated to 6500 lbs tow capacity. And that is under the new rules for rating. We love ours. No, it is not an economy commuter but we do get 20 - 22 mpg without effort when not towing a trailer.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby working on it » Wed Aug 27, 2014 10:42 pm

Thanks for all your advice and sharing your real-world experience with me. My intent of having a 4WD (lifted 3" only to fit slightly larger tires, w/added ground clearance) is not to become a cross-country trekker, but only to be able to traverse rutted dirt roads, etc., while still able to tow at highway speeds, with not worse mpg than my 2500HD gets (14 highway sometimes). The trailer was at 1775 lbs, now 1640lbs (added another mattress), and most likely not to get heavier. Any vehicle I will consider must have room in the rear for the gear I've moved out of the trailer, and be rated to tow 2k minimum, up to 5k (my preference). Part of the plan is to add under vehicle armor, which will also serve to somewhat reduce undercar air-drag, and the tires increased diameter will reduce rpms at highway speed. I've changed out multiple gears, rears, and varied my tire diameter to achieve results in both drag-racing and towing situations. I changed one trucks rear gear from 3.07 to 3.73 to get towing efficiency, but lost mpg when not towing, in city traffic. I compromised on my next truck, with a 3.42 gear, which wasn't ideal in either circumstance, but would suffice. My present TVs have 3.73 (GMC), and 4.10 (Chevy), but both have overdrive trannys, and get better mileage in both towing and stop-and-go traffic. The Jeep (or other) I'm looking for, will ideally have a 3.73-4.27 drive ratio to start, then when I add 32"-33" tires (increased from stock 28"-30"tires), the effective gearing will still be in the "sweet spot" near stock specs. 35" or taller tire is not on my agenda. This whole idea is really a stop-gap measure: to get an all-purpose camping/business travel vehicle, as cheaply as I can equip it (a new engine is a possibility), created to fill a need in my car stable, until either I retire (commuting ends, daily driving ceases) or the "boss" decides to honor her promise for the new vehicle. As usual, my hidden motive is unspoken (to her): I want to build another vehicle! At this point in time, I wish I could directly convert my 640rwhp Chevelle to my purposes, but that is not a possibility!
2013 HHRv a "squareback/squaredrop" 4x8 TTT,
semi-offroad?, at barely under 2000 lbs travel weight
  • 3500 lb Dexter EZ-Lube axle, w/brakes
  • 27x8.5-14LT all-terrain tires (x 3)
  • LED lighting, triple fans. Pioneer stereo
  • A/C & heat, Optima AGM, inverter & charger(s)
  • extended-run, on-board, 2500w generator
  • Coleman dual-fuel stove & lantern, Ikea grill
  • zinc/stainless steel front racks
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby jstrubberg » Thu Aug 28, 2014 8:51 am

MtnDon wrote:
working on it wrote:the larger tires will enable travel over worse conditions, and will somewhat improve highway mpg.


The larger tires and lift will cost you a large portion of your MPG. Highway mpg will most definitely not go up. On my wrangler, I dropped from an average 16 mpg to 13.5 when I went to a 3 inch lift and a 35 inch tire.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby MtnDon » Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:33 am

Part of the plan is to add under vehicle armor, which will also serve to somewhat reduce undercar air-drag,


Maybe. The last Jeep I built up, a '99 XJ, (4" lift, 32's) was fitted with steel skid plates from the front all the way back to the tail of the transfer case, a couple of access plates covering holes for oil drains, etc. I think any air flow benefit was over run by the added weight and the fact that air is still flowing and tumbling around under the vehicle. Cars benefit from being low to the ground and having air dams that deflect the air before it gets underneath.

I'll trying to point out that any hopes, dreams for increasing fuel mileage while lifting and installing wider tires (taller tires are almost always wider) are very likely to be never realized. There are many benefits from lifting & bigger tires; increased fuel mileage is not one of them, from my past 40+ years of owning and modifying 4x4's. I've had a few (7) and the only one that got better fuel mileage after being "built", was the Suzuki SJ410 that was fitted with a VW diesel.

Just saying...
Our 6x12 deep vee nose cargo trailer camper conversion... viewtopic.php?f=42&t=58336

We have a small off grid cabin we built ourselves in the NM mountains; small PV solar system; 624 watts PV, Outback CC & inverter/charger ... http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=2335.0
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby Mojave Bob » Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:47 am

Car companies are under a lot of pressure to get fuel mileage up. If they could accomplish it as easily as putting on a lift kit and larger tires, they would be all over it.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby tony.latham » Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:18 am

Mojave Bob wrote:Car companies are under a lot of pressure to get fuel mileage up. If they could accomplish it as easily as putting on a lift kit and larger tires, they would be all over it.


Yep. Can't agree more. Automotive companies tweak and tweak to get the EPA mileage ratings as low as possible. If Toyota or Ford or whomever could increase the rated MPG by increasing tire size, it'd be the norm. I know Tacoma owners that have dropped their MPG from the stock 22 down to 14 MPG with lift kits and larger tires. Mine? It's stock other than ten-plys.

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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby working on it » Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:30 pm

Ok. I see that l have left my area of expertise, and realize that I will not get good mpg with a lift/oversized tires. Never been around 4WD or offroaders. Guess I'll scale it down to stock tires to start, & learn as I go. Just like drag racing. UPDATE 8/30/14 Wow, this may take a long time to get started..... I 've been researching 4WD vehicles (mostly Jeep websites; a foreign land for a GM junkie), to find out what problems I'll be faced with, while getting started on this new project. Previously, my vehicle experiences have been to upgrade components for load/power/speed/durability. All at the same time, but usually not possible; no big deal-breaker- I usually achieved what I needed most at that time. Now this venture into getting an off-road capable (softroad) vehicle must entail five (bifurcated) factors simultaneously: a 4WD with 4-doors/ground clearance, power/reasonable gas mileage, load-tow capacity/seating room, durability/repairability, and cost to acquire/repair. As stated before, I'm not likely to buy a brand new vehicle, nor nearly new. My anticipated range for targeted vehicles must be around $10k inclusive, purchase price/tax/licensing & initial upgrade/repair costs. Not much to work with. If I could sell my idled race car, then more. (But I have no idea how to sell it for near what it's worth, or even half...I'd trade it straight up to an off-roader, but I've never known drag racers to mix with them...different disciplines, different goals, I suppose). I must assume that I'll have to repair a lot of aged systems on even the best used vehicle, up to and including engine replacement. Negotiated price + projected repair costs must be within my $10k. I don't want to buy an uncommon/one-off vehicle either. If away from home, and a breakdown occurs, repair parts must be readily available. If the vehicle goes off-road, then repairs become more likely needed, especially if the vehicle doesn't have enough ground clearance or underside component protection, so that's a must-have. This will not be just a frivolous, just for fun, vehicle. As well as being used as a camping/adventure vehicle, it will also serve as a business travel vehicle for the wife (goes into disaster areas), and load capacity must be adequate for camping or business. We would also use it for local, low-mileage trips, with passengers, as we need a 4-door (we don't have one) for such excursions. And as to power versus gas mileage: as long as it isn't less than my large 2500HD pickup's 14mpg towing (11 when in stop-and-go traffic), and can still tow the 1600+ lbs of the small TTT with no difficulty, then any 5-6-8 cylinder/190-280hp/16-21mpg vehicle would manage to fit. And then there's the problem of where to put the "new" vehicle, at least to work on it, when upfitting. My three-bay garage is full: wood, tools, parts for the trailer and the trailer itself, in the "trailer bay"; generators, mowers, yard and garden tools, more wood, Cobalt, Chevelle, car parts, engines, jacks, cherry-picker, ramps, more tools, table saw, etc, in the two "car bays". Three more outbuildings full of parts and materials, scrap-wood piles, two "waiting to be reborn" cars, my car trailer piled with scrap-wood and metal, three garden plots, my HHR, Chevy 2500hd, GMC 1500, Puma TT, barbeque grills, smokers, pet cemetery all fill up the rear 20% of our property (behind the house and dog-yard). It's been suggested that I start scaling-down my "collecting" of spares/parts/projects. Maybe I should start with that, first.
2013 HHRv a "squareback/squaredrop" 4x8 TTT,
semi-offroad?, at barely under 2000 lbs travel weight
  • 3500 lb Dexter EZ-Lube axle, w/brakes
  • 27x8.5-14LT all-terrain tires (x 3)
  • LED lighting, triple fans. Pioneer stereo
  • A/C & heat, Optima AGM, inverter & charger(s)
  • extended-run, on-board, 2500w generator
  • Coleman dual-fuel stove & lantern, Ikea grill
  • zinc/stainless steel front racks
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby Corwin C » Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:11 am

I have done quite a bit of off roading and have friends who spend huge $ and time and effort to gain very little over a stock 4WD. Our group has Chevys, Fords, Dodges, Jeeps (modern and flat-fender), Toyotas, and so on. I have had excellent results without resorting to modifications except for changing tires (tread patterns and heavier sidewalls, NOT size) and adjusting air pressure. I also took off the running boards of one vehicle (they kept dragging.) No lifts, no tire size changes, no gear ratios, and I've been able to go to virtually all the same places as everyone else in the group.

If you want to make the mods, by all means go ahead, but in my experience, unless you are really getting extreme, the tradeoffs just aren't worth it. Especially if it isn't a vehicle that is dedicated to off-road.

BTW - I will never buy a modified vehicle because the mods almost always cause excessive wear on many drivetrain parts.
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