Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

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Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby JenniferandPups » Sat Jul 25, 2015 9:28 pm

Long story short, it's been 5 years since I've been here! :D. (Huge house remodel plus two kids on the meantime didn't leave any time for TTT talk. :( )

Anyway, I have a question about towing without brakes. Another long story short, we are finding ourselves in possession of a campsite in the mountains in a week. It was supposed to be a trip with the inlaw, sharing their 30' airstream, and we would take the car. But, they pulled out. Trip will be up La Vita pass in colorado, a 6% grade pass.

We have travelled about 100 hours with our 1500# 13' canned ham, some into the mountains but always with a previous tv (v8 Dakota or a Subaru legacy wagon). Haven't gone over any passes with it, but have taken it up and down some fairly steep mountain roads (albeit slow roads).

We have had a Sienna with the tow package for the last 4 years, but only taken the TTT out to Nebraska and back, so are unsure of how it handles in he mountains. The sienna has a transmission cooler and is rated to tow 3500#, and legally we can tow in colorado without brakes at this weight. (Weight includes propane tanks, dishes, and pots/pans, but no gear or water).

BUT...how smart is that? Would we be ok giving everything a rest at the bottom and then a rest at the top, and just gearing down? Worst case, if it's not at all smart, we will take the tent and sleep on the ground. :'(

Thanks!
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby JenniferandPups » Sat Jul 25, 2015 9:29 pm

I should say we are experienced mountain drivers....we've usually just gone out with the inlaws and shared the big trailer in the mountains post kids.
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby DrewsBrews » Sat Jul 25, 2015 10:04 pm

Unfortunately I don't have experience towing in mountains. Though, I figure a van like that is designed to be loaded up with people and luggage anyway. Looks like the curb weight of the sienna is just over 4300lb and GVWR is just under 6000lb. So if you think about it the vehicle is rated to handle roughly 1700lb load without any braking help (many times suspension is the real limiting factor in gvwr). However you still need to factor in all passenger and luggage/gear weight which will likely go over that number. If you take packing light to heart you'd be close and could probably make due by taking note of potential problem areas on your way there to be ready for them when you are coming back down. Maybe stop and let the brakes cool off a bit before long downhill stretches.
Last edited by DrewsBrews on Sat Jul 25, 2015 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby JenniferandPups » Sat Jul 25, 2015 10:17 pm

Thanks! We are very lightweight travelers (took a trip for our family of 4 to California in one carry on suitcase, and don't expect to take more than that up), and will not have the rear seats installed...(saves a good 50-75lbs), plus the two littles total 45# right now plus 350# of adults. Plan on not filling more than 5-10 gallons of water...

The pass isn't the *worst* pass we could encounter...just our first with a trailer (somehow, even though we've had this trailer for 6-7 years!), and we are cautious by nature. :D
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby JenniferandPups » Sat Jul 25, 2015 10:20 pm

And, we have to go up and over and back down the pass to get to where we are going...but it's suppose to be *worse* downhill on the way back, so that's a good idea to note what it's doing.
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby MtnDon » Sun Jul 26, 2015 9:39 am

Making proper use of the vehicle's gears when descending is a big key to safety on mountain roads. That preserves the brakes for the unexpected.

And as mentioned watch the overall combination weight as well as the weight limit for the trailer.
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby capnTelescope » Sun Jul 26, 2015 9:44 am

Like MtnDon said.

I recently crossed Colorado with unbraked TD in tow on I-70 going east. Vail summit was 10600 feet as I recall. Anyway, it was on the job training.

Uphill: Surprise! I didn't need brakes much. Gear down and don't whip your horse so hard. Don't try to keep up with all the non-towing traffic. No problem.

Downhill: Your goal is to use the throttle, not the brakes, to control your top downhill speed. If it's steep, gear down and slow down. If you're braking often, or you're picking up speed with no throttle, you're going too fast, so slow down and gear down some more. Leave plenty of emergency stopping distance.

Almost any automatic transmission will NOT provide engine braking in the "D" position. If you have a switch/button to turn off the overdrive, use that first. Foot off the gas, if you're still picking up speed down hill then gear down some more. Don't worry that you'll hurt the transmission. It's smarter than that. If you're mostly using the throttle to control your speed, you won't be overheating your brakes and they will be ready when you need them.

It's all about control. Get into an unhurried frame of mind.

My $0.02. "Happy motoring!" Enjoy that trip!
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby MtnDon » Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:41 pm

capnTelescope wrote:Downhill: Your goal is to use the throttle, not the brakes, to control your top downhill speed. If it's steep, gear down and slow down. If you're braking often, or you're picking up speed with no throttle, you're going too fast, so slow down and gear down some more.


Very well put. I much prefer needing to apply a little throttle on downgrades instead of applying the brakes to any degree. If I do have to use brake I give rest periods between applications rather than a long continuous application. We've been up and down western mountain passes towing everything from 1500 lbs to 4000 lbs with our '06 Tacoma (factory tow package... Toyota does them right with engine oil coolers included). I've used 2nd gear (5 speed auto transmission) on many a steep downgrade.

5th (OD) is a gear I seldom use in hilly / mountainous terrain.


Side note: Pike's Peak in CO has a road all the way to the 14,114 summit. On the descent there is a brake temperature check at about 11,500 feet. The ranger uses an IR thermometer. Anything over 300 F gets you an instructional talk and a mandatory cool off period. That's the only place I have ever seen that done. probably very informative for many folks. We were at 105 F. (We were not towing but still used the transmission for most of the braking.)
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby capnTelescope » Sun Jul 26, 2015 7:15 pm

MtnDon wrote:Very well put.

Thank you, Don.

MtnDon wrote:5th (OD) is a gear I seldom use in hilly / mountainous terrain.

My '01 Taco will downshift out of overdrive on a typical flatland freeway overpass if I'm going more than about 65. 3+OD tranny and smaller 3.4L DOHC V6 engine than yours. Takes out the fun of cruise control. :fb
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby MtnDon » Sun Jul 26, 2015 7:31 pm

capnTelescope wrote:Takes out the fun of cruise control. :fb


That's an indicator right there! Frequent downshifts or the converter unlocking is a sure sign to the operator to quit OD.

In fact I wish cruise controllers could be programmed to allow a certain amount of speed drop as around here the computer frequently causes the tranny to drop down a couple gears when a sudden, albeit short, increase in gradient is encountered. More noticeable with a load than when empty. I don't use CC much of the time because of that. That is one advantage to a big V8 or a diesel with oodles of torque.
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: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby tony.latham » Sun Jul 26, 2015 7:49 pm

I don't see any big deal. I pull my 1300 pound no-brake 'drop with my Tacoma over a similar 6.5% pass a lot (sure it's a truck, but no trailer brakes). When you're headed down –and you probaly know this– drop your tranny below the Drive setting and let the compression slow you down so you aren't heating up your brakes.

On the way up, just drop your speed down, and plop it below your Drive tranny setting to keep your RPMs up (but not redlining) to keep your engine coolant racing through your block so you don't have an overheating issue.

Enjoy your trip.

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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby JenniferandPups » Sun Jul 26, 2015 8:59 pm

Thanks all! It's really reassuring that we aren't be in stupid considering it. :D. Great descriptions, too. We have the Toyota tow package, also, with factory transmission cooler!

I'm from Montana and my husband is from Colorado, so we know all about gearing down...good thing! And our owners manual tells us to never use overdrive while towing, so we don't...The whole automatic thing is newish to us, but well be sure to gear down to the low 1 and 2 as needed.
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby JenniferandPups » Sun Jul 26, 2015 9:00 pm

But really! Thanks for the reassurance and advice!!!
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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby bdosborn » Sun Jul 26, 2015 9:25 pm

Colorado requires trailer brakes on any trailer 1500# and heavier. Be careful, your insurance might cancel you if you get in an accident and they find out you don't have brakes.

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Re: Question on Brakes, Mountain Passes, and TTT.

Postby JenniferandPups » Sun Jul 26, 2015 9:29 pm

bdosborn wrote:Colorado requires trailer brakes on any trailer 1500# and heavier. Be careful, your insurance might cancel you if you get in an accident and they find out you don't have brakes.

Bruce


Oh?!?! This is interesting...I swear I looked it up (8 years ago) when we were researching and buying a trailer and it was 2000# or 2500# or something. BUT....I definitely need to know that...as you can tell by me even asking the original question, we are risk aversive.
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