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Towing speed vs Economy

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Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby skipnchar on Fri Jul 18, 2008 5:34 pm

One of the things that keeps some folks home is the high fuel prices we're all experiencing this year. We just returned from a week long little "jaunt" caravaning with friends. Nothing long at all, just a couple of hundred miles each way to "Pom De Terre" reservoir located in South Western Missouri. I've always KNOWN that slowing down is the only proven fuel saving strategy and I've tried it with some limited successes in the past but I finally found a reliable way to make it work.

My friend is towing a 14,000 lb. Hitchhiker 5th wheel with a 1996 F-350 PSD and we discussed going slower on this trip, as a test to see how good we could do on fuel. I told Dave that I just couldn't make myself keep driving slow and within an hour or so I usually ended back up at 65 or 70 MPH (as usual) and that I usually get nothing much more than 7.5 to 8 MPG. Dave told me that he'd lead and he'd STAY at 55 MPH and I took him up on the offer.

After one way on the 200 mile tow his fuel mileage was 11.9 MPG with his diesel and I got 9.75 with my Gasser. I'd NEVER gotten more than 9.00 before and THAT was with a tail wind. On the way home I lead and just set my cruise at 55 in OD and even though we had some winds out of the southwest (slight head wind for half of the trip and slight tail wind the other half) I got 9.85 MPG for the return trip. Both directions were with my usual 9,000 lb. towing load.

This will be good information and a good incentive to keep it slow on our Yellowstone/Glacier/Sawtooth trip coming up in August. it'll be easier then because at least a large segment of THAT trip will be on the Interstate where going slow is easier than on the two lane back roads where other traffic can be effected.

Just thought I'd pass it along in case anyone wanted to save some gas (or diesel).
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby fla-gypsy on Fri Jul 18, 2008 6:41 pm

Agreed skip, keeping it between 55 and 60 gives me maximum mileage and very similar to yours. The 5.4 is pretty thirsty but it is moving 8k of trailer and the truck weighs in at almost 6k.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby cwit on Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:23 pm

I have also redused my speed to about 58 and have been adverageing 10.5mph on my Tundra towing about 7000 lbs.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby MCBOWERS on Sat Jul 19, 2008 6:24 am

Just what some of our dogooder legislators want to hear.I Hope everyone will enjoy going 55 MAX when not towing.Max tow speed has always been 55 in California so we are used to that.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby catmom on Sat Jul 19, 2008 3:48 pm

I'm just a whole lot more comfortable towing at 55-60, so that's what we do as well. Just got back from our long Yellowstone-SLC-Idaho trip (4350 miles, 26 days); most of the distance driving was on interstates 80 & 90, but of course in & around Yellowstone and much of our sightseeing in Idaho was on the 2-lanes (and not towing). We averaged about 11.5 mpg for the entire trip, and I guesstimate that towing average was about 9.5. Lots of wind across the plains, and we had headwinds, or quarter-headwinds most of the way out, with mostly tailwinds coming home. I figured out our average in Yellowstone itself, with the 45 mph speed limit, was 18.5mpg, with about 45 of the nearly 300 miles towing, the rest solo. Almost none of the driving was in OD; I tow in semi-automatic mode, tow-haul on and max gear is 5th (we have a 6-speed tranny). In the park, driving solo, I also used the semi-auto mode, tow-haul off, max gear ranging from 3rd to 5th, depending on terrain, curves, downhill grades (some of Dunraven Pass is about 8%), etc. I was really pleased with how the truck did. Our trailer weighs somewhere around 7000 lbs loaded for camping (didn't hit a CAT scale this trip).

I know there are a lot of strong opinions about the national 55 mph speed limit. I remember when we had it, back in the 70s. It seemed like we were driving through molasses at first, but I got used to it, and when speed limits went back up, it felt uncomfortable. Again, I got used to it, and it's a good point that newer, larger engines aren't happy traveling that slow (of course I'm referring to driving solo, not towing, here). I suspect our truck wouldn't be either. However, I can't believe that most vehicles wouldn't save gas by driving 65 instead of 75, for example. Just MHO. :)
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby cwit on Sat Jul 19, 2008 4:42 pm

Towing 70 -75 when your tires are rated for 65 is asking for trouble in my opinion. I tow for milage and my truck will tow and hold 70 but it's best milage is at 60 so that is were i tow at.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby jp rver on Sat Jul 19, 2008 7:23 pm

Getting ready for a little jaunt down to the lake tomorrow with the TT. I usually tow 60 to 65, but tomorrow I am going to keep it around 55 mph just to see if my fuel mileage improves. It's only a 80 mile trip one way, so it will only mean a few extra minutes of driving. Anything to help out the thirsty 360!! :lol:
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby Zinger on Sun Jul 20, 2008 9:33 pm

This info should be translated into our everyday driving technique. I personally think that the states should consider lowering all speed limits to 55 its safer and better mpg for all.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby skipnchar on Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:02 am

Zinger wrote:This info should be translated into our everyday driving technique. I personally think that the states should consider lowering all speed limits to 55 its safer and better mpg for all.

I'm with you on that one too. You can get gas prices low or high and it doesn't do a THING for conservation (other than pricing lots of folks out of the market). Regardless of our current availability of fuel, it IS a finite resource that is approaching it's useful end with no firm technology in place to replace it. Sure would be nice if something were left for my Grandchildren to enjoy in THEIR retirement.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby cwit on Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:01 am

I have been wondering were the 55mpr went to, I would of thought this would of went into effect when they found out that the gas prices arn't going back down. In my mind this proves people still think the price of gas is ok or they would be slowing down. When we are towing to a campsite they have a set time they will allow you to enter so you set your leaving time to match this time. :D
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby jemek on Tue Jul 22, 2008 11:42 pm

We also prefer to keep it between 55-60 when towing.
I agree that it would be nice to see the speed limits dropped. Here in WA the interstate speed in some areas is 70mph. Even with me just dropping my speed to 65. I get passed like I am sitting still.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby PrivatePilot on Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:44 pm

On our big trip (just over 6300 miles logged) we ran 55MPH almost exclusively on the way west (with the exception of one day where we had a 30MPH tailwind that allowed us the luxury of hauling ass!) and I saw 12MPG hand calculated quite often in the flats.

The fastest I saw on the entire trip was 63MPH, with our tail-wind day (above) excluded.

We averaged just over 11MPG overall for the entire trip, hand calculated - I don't even have a trip-computer.

Yep, slowing down works wonders.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby cwit on Fri Jul 25, 2008 5:58 pm

Going from 68 to 58 I save close to 3 mpg and don't worry about my tires so much. :D
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby jp rver on Sat Jul 26, 2008 10:54 am

jp rver wrote:Getting ready for a little jaunt down to the lake tomorrow with the TT. I usually tow 60 to 65, but tomorrow I am going to keep it around 55 mph just to see if my fuel mileage improves. It's only a 80 mile trip one way, so it will only mean a few extra minutes of driving. Anything to help out the thirsty 360!! :lol:


Well the results are in, and with a total trip mileage of 180 miles, and 22 gallons of fuel used, I still only got the same 8 mpg I usually get. :cry:

But we were facing a head wind both ways. See we were headed south into the wind on the way down, and while we were there, a cold front came through and we headed north into the wind coming home. I am sure that didn't help any.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby The Wood Tinker on Sat Aug 23, 2008 1:59 am

MCBOWERS wrote:Just what some of our dogooder legislators want to hear.I Hope everyone will enjoy going 55 MAX when not towing.Max tow speed has always been 55 in California so we are used to that.


I hear that MC! 8-)
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby Terry on Sat Aug 23, 2008 11:27 am

Will say that on our last trip. We ran 60 or lower the whole way. Got maybe 1 mpg better. buit on a 30 gal tank thjat is 30 miles farther. Will also say. The argument that todays vehicles run better at a higher speed. Was used in the 70s as well. Sitll get better mpg as slower speeds.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby skipnchar on Tue Aug 26, 2008 8:11 am

Terry wrote:Will say that on our last trip. We ran 60 or lower the whole way. Got maybe 1 mpg better. buit on a 30 gal tank thjat is 30 miles farther. Will also say. The argument that todays vehicles run better at a higher speed. Was used in the 70s as well. Sitll get better mpg as slower speeds.


Here's my actual result from our current trip. Driving under 60 MPH with my 8 foot tonneau cover propped in the open position my mileage improved from 8.5 (previous high for the entire trip) to over 11 MPG (includes climbing a 10,000 foot mountain pass and driving with desert head winds in Wyoming). That's serious enough results to convince me.
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby Frank Henn on Tue Aug 26, 2008 10:25 pm

On our last big trip, we took the Natchez Trace north to Tishamingo State Park 295 miles this road is regulated buy the feds at 50mph.. put the cruise on at 54 mph, hand calculated we got 14.5 mpg. Left there went into Alabama at 65 mpg mileage dropped to 13.95 mpg. Left Gadsden to Lake Lureen 65 to 70 got 13.5 coming home tail wind 65 to 70 back up to 13.9.. AT least my six cylinder stays all most the same..
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Re: Towing speed vs Economy

Unread postby 3ares on Wed Mar 15, 2017 3:46 pm

I’ve researched on the web and found that the best gas economy on any vehicle is the the fastest speed at the lowest RPM. Sometimes this speed is to slow to be safe so look at when the max torque is achieved, any additional throttle gives speed but cost in MPG. Remember that most ST tires are only rated to tow at 65MPH. Check out some of the trucking web sites they have all kinds of ideas to improve MPG and the research to back it up. Ever wonder why you don’t see dirt semi-trucks- clean trucks offer less wind resistance therefore more MPG.

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