Choosing a truck to pull a trailer is a critical decision for RVers, because getting there, and particularly getting there safely, is the first and most important part of enjoying the RV lifestyle! Towing specs and towing guidelines always give the outer limits of what a truck can safely tow. Too often, in towing situations, the trailer is a little too big for the truck, or the truck is a little too small for the trailer, pushing the truck right to its outer safety limits or beyond.
The truck-trailer combo may be just a little out of spec on paper, so it may seem okay, like you can get away with it, but it is a really unwise decision. Not only is it absolutely no fun to drive a truck that is screaming its little heart out to tow the load its tied to, but if you have an accident and it is determined your truck was towing a load that is beyond its safety limits, you will be liable.
Heaven forbid that there is a fatality in the accident — either yours or someone else’s. There are lots of horror stories out there of people’s lives that were transformed because someone decided not to get a truck that could tow their trailer safely.
Of course, truck and trailer salesmen don’t help. We have heard time and again, “That truck is fine for this trailer,” or “This trailer will be no problem for that truck.” Don’t listen to them! Trust your instincts and your gut feelings. If you are studying the specs and are nervous that your truck *might* be too small because your trailer puts it on the hairy edge of its specs, then you need a bigger truck or a smaller trailer.
Sizing a Truck and Trailer for Safe Towing
This article covers all the specifications we studied and were concerned about when we placed the order for our 2016 Ram 3500 truck to tow our 14,100 lb. 5th wheel trailer. You can navigate to the various sections with these links:
- The Trade-in: ’07 Dodge Ram 3500
- Weight Ratings Demystified
- Diesel Trucks on the Market
- Long Bed vs. Short Bed, Single vs. Dual Rear Wheel
- Test Drives – Choosing a Truck Brand
- Horsepower, Torque, Towing & Payload Capacities
- AISIN Transmission
- Rear Axle Gear Ratio
- Four Wheel Drive
- Puck System Hitch Mounts and Other Features
- The Option List for Our 2016 Ram 3500 Dually Truck
The Trade-In – 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Single Rear Wheel Long Bed diesel truck with 6.7 liter Cummins engine
When we bought our 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Single Rear Wheel long bed diesel truck with the 6.7 liter Cummins engine, its purpose was to tow a 7,000 lb. (fully loaded) 2007 Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer. Our 2004 Toyota Tundra (4.7 liter engine) had been okay to tow that trailer on paper, but when we took it on its first mountain excursion up and over Tioga Pass on the eastern side of Yosemite in California, it could not go faster than 28 mph with the gas pedal all the way to the floor. What a scary, white knuckle drive that was. Who needs that?
We replaced the Toyota Tundra with a 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 which was rated to tow much bigger trailers than the little Lynx travel trailer, so all was good with that small travel trailer. However, within a year, we upgraded our trailer from the lightweight Fleetwood Lynx to a full-time quality, four season, 36′ NuWa Hitchhiker LS II fifth wheel trailer that the scales told us was 14,100 lbs. fully loaded. Suddenly, our big beefy diesel truck was at its outer limits!
We drove our ’07 Dodge Ram 3500 and 36′ fifth wheel combo for seven years without a mishap, but it was not an ideal situation. The truck would strain in the mountains and would wander in strong cross winds on the highway. We installed a K&N Cold Air Intake Filter and an Edge Evolution Diesel tuner which helped the engine breathe better and increased its power (see our Edge Evolution Tuner Review), and we installed a Timbren Suspension Enhancement System to keep the truck from sagging when hitched to the trailer. But the frame of the truck and the transmission were still stressed by the heavy load on steep inclines.
We wanted a truck that was well within its towing limits and that could tow our trailer effortlessly.
TRUCK and TRAILER WEIGHT RATINGS
The weight ratings for trucks and trailers are an alphabet soup of confusion that takes a little imagination to grasp. Here’s a synopsis:
|UVW||Unloaded Vehicle Weight||The weight of the vehicle without fuel, people and stuff|
|GVWR||Gross Vehicle Weight Rating||The heaviest weight the vehicle can safely be when it is loaded up with fuel, people and stuff|
|GCWR||Gross Combined Weight Rating||The most a truck-and-trailer combo can safely weigh when hitched together and loaded up with people, fuel, food, etc|
|Payload||The GVWR less the UVW||The amount of weight the truck can safely carry. Compare to the trailer’s Pin Weight|
|PW||Pin Weight||The actual weight on the truck’s rear axle when a trailer is hitched up. Compare to the Payload|
The Pin Weight is most easily visualized by first imagining yourself standing on a bathroom scale and making a note of your weight. Then your teenage kid walks up and puts his arms around your neck and hangs on your shoulder. The weight on the scale goes up a little bit, but not a huge amount, because your kid is still standing on the floor on his own two feet. The more he leans on you, the more weight the scale shows.
The difference between the weight the scale shows when your kid is hanging on your shoulder and the weight it shows when you’re by yourself is the “pin weight.” In the case of you and your kid, the “pin weight” might be 30 lbs.
The following chart shows the factory safety weight ratings given by Chrysler and NuWa and the actual weights for our ’07 Dodge Ram 3500 truck and ’07 36′ NuWa Hitchhiker 5th Wheel trailer. We had our rig weighed by the Escapees Smart Weigh program at their North Ranch RV Park in Wickenburg, Arizona. This is a detailed, wheel by wheel, RV specific method of weighing.
Our truck, when loaded, carries fuel, 24 gallons of water, a generator and BBQ, the fifth wheel hitch, several leveling boards, two huge bins of “stuff” and ourselves, as well as the pin weight of the trailer. So, even though the pin weight itself was within tolerance on our ’07 Dodge 3500, all that other stuff made the truck way overweight. Moving those things to the trailer would clog our fifth wheel basement and would just make the trailer way overweight instead.
2007 Dodge Ram 3500 SRW (Single Rear Wheel) Truck
* LOADED with passengers, fuel and cargo but not towing
2007 NuWa Hitchhiker 34.5 RLTG Fifth Wheel Trailer
We improved our trailer’s cargo carrying capacity by upgrading from E rated tires to G rated tires and by revamping the suspension completely (I have not yet written about that project). So, even though some elements of the trailer frame are still at the spec limit, we have some leeway with our trailer in those places where the rubber meets the road.
The truck, however, was over its limit for both GVWR and GCWR, and it was pushed nearly to its max when towing.
The 2007 Ram 3500 towing guide is here: 2007 Dodge Ram Trucks Towing Guide. Our truck is on p. 20, on the 2nd to last line. Search for this text: “D1 8H42 (SRW)” (you can copy and paste it from here).
DIESEL TRUCKS ON THE MARKET
There are three brands of big diesel pickup trucks on the market: Chevy/GMC, Ford and Dodge. People have lots of brand loyalty when it comes to diesel trucks, and the bottom line is it’s pointless to get into a religious war over truck manufacturers. That said, the following are our personal opinions and there is no offense intended to anyone who loves a particular brand.
GMC makes the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra which both have the Chevy Duramax 6.6 liter engine and the Allison transmission. The Allison transmission is widely used throughout the commercial trucking industry and is considered to be the best.
FORD makes the Super Duty series of trucks which have Ford built engines and transmissions. Ford has modified its Power Stroke engine several times since the early 2000’s. The current engine is a 6.7 liter engine and it has performed well. Earlier models, the 6.0 liter engine and 6.4 liter engine, both had significant problems and were less reliable.
CHRYSLER makes the Ram series of trucks which have the Cummins 6.7 liter engine and Aisin transmission. The Cummins engine is widely used throughout the commercial trucking industry and is considered to be the best.
With the late model Ram trucks there are two models of 6 speed automatic transmissions to choose from. The 68RFE transmission was the only one available for our ’07 Dodge, and we found it developed problems over time (before our installation of the K&N Cold Air Intake and Edge tuner). It stuttered on climbs and didn’t always shift smoothly. The new (in 2013) Aisin AS69RC transmission is much more rugged and reliable and is now available as an option in the Ram Trucks lineup.
PICKUP TRUCK SIZES
All trucks are categorized into eight weight classes, from Class 1 (lightest) to Class 8 (heaviest) according to their GVWR. Pickup trucks fall into the smallest (lowest) three classes:
|Class 1||0 – 6,000 lbs|
|Class 2||6,001 – 10,000 lbs|
|Class 3||10,001 – 14,000 lbs|
All three classes of pickups are referred to as “light duty” trucks, as compared to dump trucks and semi tractor-trailers in the higher “medium duty” and “heavy duty” classes. Within the pickup truck market, however, they are referred to as “Pickups” (Class 1), “Full Size Pickups” (Class 2) and “Heavy Duty Pickups” (Class 3). So, even though a large diesel pickup is marketed as “heavy duty,” it is not technically a heavy duty truck. It’s just a heavy duty pickup. This may be obvious to many, but sure had me confused at first glance.
When we were first time truck buyers shopping for a truck to pull our popup tent trailer, the advertising made the ’04 Toyota Tundra look like it was a heavy duty towing monster that could pull a mountain right across a valley. But it is not so! Pickups come in all sizes.
Pickup truck sizes are referred to as “half-ton” “three-quarter ton” and “one ton,” and they are numbered accordingly:
Ford also mass markets 450, 550 and larger pickups. Some people make custom Chevy and Dodge trucks in those sizes too, but they don’t come from the factories that way.
For reference, a ton is 2,000 lbs. The truck naming convention comes from the original payloads these trucks could carry when they were first introduced decades ago. Back in those days, a half-ton truck could carry 1,000 lbs. (half a ton) in the bed of the truck. A three-quarter ton could carry 1,500 lbs and a big one ton truck could carry 2,000 lbs.
In 1918 Chevy had a very cute half-ton pickup that was basically a car with sturdy rear springs. By the mid-1930’s pickups came with factory installed box style beds, and a 1937 Chevy half-ton truck went on a 10,245 mile drive around the US with a 1,060 lb. load in the bed. It got 20.74 miles to the gallon!
As the payload capacities increased, the manufacturers assigned model numbers that corresponded to the weights the trucks could carry. But technology advances never quit!
Since those early times, truck and engine designs have improved dramatically, and the payloads modern trucks can carry now is significantly higher. For instance, the payload of a 2016 Toyota Tundra, a half-ton truck, is 1,430 to 2,060 lbs., depending on the options, making it essentially a “one ton” truck. The payload of a 2016 Dodge Ram diesel can be as high as 6,170 lbs. (and even higher for the gas HEMI version), making the 3500 model more of a “three ton” truck than a one ton.
In the modern trucks, the major difference between a three quarter ton 250/2500 truck and a one ton 350/3500 truck is the beefiness in the rear end suspension for supporting a heavy payload, that is, the number of leaf springs on the rear axle. In our opinion, if you are going to spend the money to buy a three quarter ton truck for towing purposes, you might as well spend the tiny incremental extra few bucks to buy a one ton.
LONG BED vs. SHORT BED PICKUPS
Pickups come with more than one bed size. A “short bed” truck has a box that is a little over 6′ long and a “long bed” truck has a box that is around 8′ long. When a fifth wheel hitch is installed in the bed of a pickup, it is placed so the king pin of the fifth wheel will be over the rear axle. In a short bed truck this leaves less distance between the hitch and the back of the pickup cab than in a long bed truck.
The advantage of a short bed truck is that the two axles are closer together, so the truck can make tighter turns. This is really handy in parking lots and when making u-turns. The truck also takes up less space when it’s parked, again, a big advantage in parking lots.
However, when towing a fifth wheel trailer, there is a risk that the front of the fifth wheel cap will hit the back of the pickup cab when making a tight turn. For this reason, there are special sliding fifth wheel hitches, and some 5th wheel manufacturers make the fifth wheel cap very pointy and even concave on the sides so there’s room enough to ensure the pickup cab doesn’t touch the fifth wheel cap on tight turns.
The advantage of a long bed truck is that not only can it carry more and bigger things in the bed of the truck, but when it is hitched to a fifth wheel trailer, doing a tight turn will not risk the front of the fifth wheel hitting the back of the truck cab.
Also, you can open and close the tailgate when the fifth wheel trailer is hitched up. We can actually walk from one side of our trailer to the other through the gap that’s between the open tailgate and the front of the trailer, even when the truck is cocked in a tight turn.
For folks that use their pickup primarily in non-towing situations and take their fiver out for just a few weekends a year (and stay close to home), a short bed truck is fine. However, in our opinion, if you are going to tow a large fifth wheel frequently, and especially if you are a seasonal or full-time RVer traveling longer distances, a long bed truck is the way to go.
We bought a long bed as our first diesel truck for our little travel trailer, knowing we might eventually get a fifth wheel, even though it takes much more real estate to back a travel trailer into a parking spot with a long bed truck that it does with a short bed truck (because the pivot point on a travel trailer is behind the bumper rather than over the truck axle, forcing the front end to swing exceedingly wide to make a turn).
When we use our truck as a daily driver, even though we always have to park away from the crowd and walk a little further, and we sometimes struggle making u-turns and maneuvering in tight spaces (it takes nearly four lanes to do a U-turn in a long bed pickup without the trailer attached), we have never once regretted having a long bed truck.
SINGLE REAR WHEEL vs. DUAL REAR WHEEL (DUALLY)
In the one ton class of trucks (Ford 350, Chevy/Dodge 3500), there is an additional consideration: single wheels on the rear axle of the truck (“single rear wheel”) or two pairs (“dual rear wheel” or “dually”).
The advantages of a single rear wheel truck are:
- Only 4 tires to maintain instead of 6
- Changing a flat will never involve accessing an inner tire under the truck
- No wide rear fender to worry about at toll booths and drive-through bank windows and fast food windows
- Easy to jump in and out of the bed of the truck from the side using the rear wheel as a foothold
- Can handle rough two track roads better because the rear wheels fit neatly into the ruts
- Gets traction on slick ice, snow and muddy roads better than a dually
The advantages of a dual rear wheel truck (“dually”) are:
- Wider stance supporting the weight of the king pin (or bumper hitch)
- Can carry a heavier payload — heavier trailer pin weight and/or bigger slide-in truck camper
- Much safer if there’s a blowout on one of the rear wheels, and you can still drive (for a while)
Why do you need to get in and out of the truck bed from the side? Climbing in on the tailgate is great, and there is a very handy foothold at the license plate mount on the 2016 model that is low enough for a short person to reach easily. However, when the truck is hitched to the fifth wheel, it’s not possible to climb in from the tailgate, and sometimes we need to get into the bed of the truck when the fiver is attached!
For instance, we keep 22 gallons of spare water in the bed of the truck in 5.5-gallon jerry jugs. I’m the one who holds the hose in the jugs while Mark goes to the other end of the hose and turns the water on or off at the spigot. We could switch roles, but I like that job!
When we’re hitched up, I have to get into the bed of the truck from the side to get to the water jugs. I plant one foot on the rear tire, and I hoist myself up and over the side. Getting over that fat fender is not so easy with the dually!
When hitching/unhitching, Mark also reaches over the side of the truck to loop the emergency break-away brake cable from the trailer onto the hitch in the truck bed. That way, if the trailer comes unhitched as we’re driving, the quick yank on the small cable (as the trailer breaks free) will engage the trailer’s own brakes as we wave it goodbye behind us.
Obviously, for both of these maneuvers, the width of the dually fender makes reaching into the bed of the truck a whole lot harder. Doing these things on a single rear wheel truck is trifling by comparison!
RESEARCHING SINGLE REAR WHEEL vs DUALLY TRUCKS
Our biggest debate was whether or not we should simply buy a new single rear wheel truck that had the latest engine and drive-train and chassis improvements or if we should take the plunge and get a dually. We do occasional research online, but our preferred method of learning about things in the RV world is to talk to experienced people in person, especially since we are out and about all day long and we enjoy meeting new people.
So, we interviewed every single dually truck owner that we ever saw. For two years! Whenever we saw a dually parked somewhere, we’d look around to see if the owner was anywhere nearby. If so, we’d walk up and ask him about his truck.
Did he like it? What did he tow with it? How long had he had it? Was it his first dually? Did he have trouble maneuvering in tight quarters? Had he towed that same trailer with a single rear wheel truck? How did they compare?
To our astonishment, although we searched for two years for a person who had towed the same large fifth wheel trailer with both a dually and a single rear wheel truck, and we talked to dozens of dually truck owners who had towed all kinds of trailers, we found only one who had towed the same fifth wheel trailer with both styles of truck.
This guy was a rancher with several big cattle and horse trailers as well as a 40′ toy hauler fifth wheel. He’d been towing comparable trailers with single rear wheel long bed trucks for over twenty years. Three years ago he’d switched to a dually, and he said the difference for his toy hauler was night and day. He’d never go back.
Another fellow told us the ranch he worked on had both single rear wheel and dually trucks and that the duallies were used exclusively for the big trailers because they were better tow vehicles.
This was very convincing, but an interesting side tid-bit we learned is that many folks go either dually or single rear wheel when they buy their first diesel truck for a big trailer, and they stick with that type of truck when they replace it. Guys love their trucks, so we heard few complaints, but when folks raved about how their single rear wheel or dually was the ultimate towing machine and that they’d never switch, when pressed for details, we found they didn’t have first-hand experience using the two different types of trucks to tow the same large trailer.
For those looking to conduct their own research, in addition to talking with ranchers and horse owners, one of the best sources of information we found was the trailer transport drivers who drive their own personal trucks to tow both large RV and horse trailers from the manufacturers to the dealerships where they are sold..
TEST DRIVES and CHOOSING A TRUCK BRAND
Our questions would have all been answered in a heartbeat if we could have hitched our trailer onto a dually sitting in a truck dealership lot and towed it up a mountain and on a few back roads. However, that wasn’t possible.
Perhaps in the future, because of the fantastic new hitch puck systems that can be factory installed in pickups these days, dealerships will decide to keep one of the nifty B&W OEM fifth wheel hitches on hand for prospective customers to do just that (if they can sort out the liability and insurance issues).
Ultimately, we held out on the dually versus single rear wheel decision until the very end, but we knew inside that if we did buy a new truck it would probably be a dually. So every test drive we did was with a dually truck.
We took all three brands of pickups out on over 200 miles of test drives at 25 or so dealerships.
Dealing with Slick Salesmen
A reader wrote me recently to say he was intimidated by the sales tactics at car dealerships, so he was reluctant to do many test drives or much dealership research. That is a real shame, because the only way to learn about trucks is to spend time with them, test drive them, sit in them, crawl underneath, study what’s under the hood, read the marketing literature, and hound the salesmen with questions.
After all, the salesmen are there to teach you what you need to know about the product, and if they don’t sell you a truck today, they are helping another salesman (or themselves) sell you a truck tomorrow. What goes around comes around, and any good salesman understands that. You can easily deflect the high pressure sales tactics by saying, “We are starting our search and just want to do a test drive today. We won’t be ready to buy for a few months.”
Where to Do a Test Drive? Where to Buy?
The best places to find knowledgeable diesel truck salesmen and buy big diesel trucks, especially duallies, is in cattle ranching country. As we scoured dealerships from San Diego to Maine and from Sarasota to the Tetons, we found urban areas generally have few big trucks on the lot and the salesmen know very little about diesel trucks. Cattle ranchers, horse owners and big commercial farmers know their trucks, and so do the salesmen they work with.
Our first test drives were focused on the turning radius and maneuverability of a dually truck as compared to the single rear wheel truck we knew so well. It was hard to tell, but the turning radius seemed to be the same or better (and we now feel the 2016 Ram dually definitely turns tighter) than our old 2007 single rear wheel Ram.
As for general maneuverability, Mark didn’t notice a whole lot of difference driving a dually versus our single wheel truck. Frankly, owning a long bed diesel truck period means you have to park in the back 40 and walk long distances anyway, so we soon realized that dealing with a dually in parking lots would be no different.
We did one round of comparative test drives on the uphill entrance ramp to an interstate in Baker City, Oregon. We visited each truck dealership in town, and when we did our test drives, we floored each dually truck on the incline to see how powerful it felt. The 2015 Chevy won by a long shot, against the Ford and Dodge 2015 models, but did not feel as powerful as our single rear wheel ’07 Dodge Ram (at that point our truck had the K&N Cold Air Intake and Timbrens but did not have the Edge Evolution Diesel tuner).
Deciding Factor – The Cummins Engine
In the end, the deciding factor for us for choosing a brand was the Cummins engine. This was true when we were researching our ’07 single rear wheel truck and again when researching the 2013-2016 duallies. Lots of people wish they could buy a pickup with both the Cummins engine and an Allison transmission in one brand of truck, a combo that is on many commercial trucks. But that’s not possible.
For us, the simplicity of the inline 6 cylinder Cummins engine (as compared to the more complex V8 engines in the Chevy and Ford) along with the longer stroke (inherently higher torque) makes a lot of sense. Inline engines are used commercially in big rigs and tractors, and the 6.7 liter Cummins engine has a long and solid track record, not just in Ram trucks but in many commercial applications as well. The Cummins quality control and manufacturing seem to be top notch.
Here is a fantastic video showing a Cummins engine being built:
HORSEPOWER, TORQUE, TOWING and PAYLOAD CAPACITY OF THE 2016 DODGE RAM DUALLY
Amazingly, with each passing year, the payload and towing capacity of each brand of truck jumps higher. From the time we started test driving duallies in 2013 until we placed our order for our new 2016 Ram 3500, the horsepower and torque across all three brands increased, and the towing and payload capacities climbed too.
Built with the right options, the 2016 Ram 3500 diesel truck has an eye-popping, 385 horsepower and 900 ft-lbs. of torque with a GCWR of 39,100 lbs. It can tow a trailer weighing 31,210 lbs. and has a max payload of 6,720 lbs.
This is absolutely astonishing, and neither the Chevy nor the Ford trucks match that torque right now.
Accurate comparisons between brands are challenging within the same model classes, however, because there are different standards for making measurements. Ram Trucks uses the SAE J2807 standards, while other manufacturers don’t. Also, we were able to locate Ford’s towing and payload capacity charts online (see the links at the bottom of the page), but did not locate a similar chart for GM.
Some of the head-to-head tests between the brands that are posted online are also a little misleading, because, for instance, a Ram 3500 is pitted against a Ford F450. Even though both of those models are Class 3 trucks (10,001 to 14,000 lbs GVWR), one would expect the Ram 3500 to compete head to head with the Ford F350, not the Ford F450.
Here are the towing and payload capacities of the many models of Dodge Ram trucks:
2016 Towing and Payload Capacities of Ram Trucks
The one we ordered is on the last line of the second section on the fifth page. Search for this text: “CREW CAB LONG BOX, 4X4, DRW“
As mentioned above, the Ram trucks are sold with two options for the transmission. After our troubles with the old 68RFE automatic transmission in our ’07 Dodge Ram 3500, we wanted the new and better one, the AISIN AS69RC automatic transmission. In the Ram Trucks marketing literature, the 6.7 liter Cummins engine is paired with the AISIN AS69RC transmission to make their “High Output Engine” because it delivers max torque at the low end for heavy towing situations. This combo became available in 2013.
REAR AXLE GEAR RATIO
The rear axle gearing on a pickup determines the GCWR for the truck (the maximum safe weight of truck and trailer hitched together and fully loaded) and the maximum weight trailer that the truck can tow safely. It also makes a huge difference in how the truck drives, both while towing and not towing.
Rear axle gear ratios are given as a ratio, for example “4.10” which means 4.10:1 or “3.73” which means 3.73:1. The ratio refers to the number of teeth on the axle ring gear as compared to the number of teeth on the driveshaft’s pinion gear. With a 4.10 rear end, the driveshaft has to turn 4.1 times in order to rotate the rear wheels one revolution. With a 3.73 rear end, the driveshaft must turn 3.73 times to rotate the rear wheels one revolution. So, with a 4.10 rear axle ratio the driveshaft’s pinion gear is spinning more quickly at a given speed than with a 3.73 rear axle ratio.
“Easier” Gears vs. “Harder” Gears
If you think of riding a bike, when you have the bike in a “hard” gear, it takes a lot of leg strength to turn the wheels, but one pedal stroke will cover a lot of distance. For example, going uphill in a “hard” gear would be especially hard. Your legs are turning really slowly and straining and you’re wishing you could put it in an “easier” gear! But when you descend in that same gear, you can hit high speeds easily. Back to trucks, this is like having the driveshaft turn a little to make the wheels turn a lot as it does with the 3.42 or 3.73 rear axle gear ratios found on Dodge Rams.
However, when the bike is in an “easy” gear, just a small amount of leg strength will turn the wheels, but one pedal stroke doesn’t get you very far. For example, going uphill isn’t so bad — you can inch up slowly — but once you began descending you’re spun out because your legs can’t pedal fast enough to hit super fast top speeds. In the truck world, this is like having the driveshaft turn a lot to make the wheels turn a little as it does with the 4.10 rear axle gear ratio.
Towing Heavy Loads vs. Driving Fast on the Highway
So, on a truck, the higher ratio (4.10) is ideal for towing heavy loads. It takes more turns of the driveshaft to rotate the rear wheels of the truck, so the engine revs higher, putting it in the power band for RPMs, and the heavy load gets moved. But the top end speed and fuel economy get sacrificed a bit.
With a lower gear ratio (3.73 or 3.42) it takes fewer turns of the driveshaft to rotate the rear wheels of the truck. When the truck is zipping along at highway speeds, the gears are turning a little more slowly (lower RPMs) than they would with a 4.10 rear end, which saves on fuel efficiency and makes the fastest attainable speed a little higher.
The highest tow ratings are achieved with a 4.10 rear end, so the heaviest trailers will be best if towed by a truck with a 4.10 rear axle gear ratio. However, if most of your towing is with lighter weight trailers, and your driving will be primarily on interstates, and your personal preference is to drive fast, a 3.73 or 3.42 rear axle gear ratio may make more sense.
Our ’07 Dodge had a 3.73 rear end. The problem was that at the speeds we tended to drive — 55-65 — the engine would lug. Mark manually changed gears a lot to try to keep the RPMs up, but he found it fatiguing to have to monitor the gears so closely and to change gears all the time.
We also don’t drive on interstates very often, and when we do, we’re the grannies of the road, moseying along in the right lane.
4.10 vs. 3.73 – RPMs at Different Speeds
We wanted a 4.10 rear end on our new truck, but we wanted to be 100% sure this would truly make the kind of difference we expected. So, on one Ram dually test drive we drove a stretch of highway in our ’07 Dodge at various speeds between 45 and 65 mph, noting the RPMs in a notebook, and then we took a 2015 Ram 3500 dually with a 4.10 rear end out on the same road at the same speeds. The salesman raised an eyebrow in surprise when we marched into the dealership and announced we wanted to do a test drive at various speeds to note the engine RPMs, but he went along with the idea!
On that test drive we found the 4.10 rear end shifts out of lower gears sooner than the 3.73 rear end, and generally keeps the engine RPMs about 100-200 RPMs higher at each speed. Our new truck bears out those findings.
So, how can you tell if a truck on the dealer lot has a 4.10 rear end without peering at the window sticker? Check underneath the back end of the truck. The differential is the big round casing that hangs between the rear wheels. On trucks with a 4.10 rear end, the differential has a series of vertical cooling fins on it. These help keep it cool since the gears spin faster and it is designed for heavier towing loads, both of which make it heat up.
BEEFED UP FRAME
Besides the more powerful engine tuning and transmission, Ram has improved the truck frame on the dually considerable. Every aspect of the frame is more sturdy than it used to be, making the truck not only powerful enough to pull heavier loads but strong enough to withstand the multitude of forces as it hauls the load up a mountain.
FOUR WHEEL DRIVE (4×4)
We learned with our ’04 Toyota Tundra truck towing our 7,000 lb. 27′ travel trailer that four wheel drive is a necessity for us in our RV lifestyle. In our first weeks of full-timing, a small, wet grassy incline prohibited us from camping in a campground in Texas, because our truck kept slipping and couldn’t tow the trailer up over the short rise! From that moment on, we’ve felt that a four wheel drive is mandatory if you are going to tow a big trailer.
Also, while descending a really gnarly, skinny, twisty, single lane road on a mountain in Utah, with grades of 10% or more in places, we discovered that the safest way to drive DOWN a very steep descent is to put the truck in four wheel drive LOW gear, and creep down the mountain at 5-10 mph using the exhaust brake. This tactic was a lifesaver for us on that mountain with our ’07 Dodge truck and fifth wheel trailer. Without it, we would still be living at the summit of that mountain!
The following link has more tips for driving a big RV in the mountains
PUCK SYSTEM FOR MOUNTING A FIFTH WHEEL OR GOOSENECK HITCH
The new Dodge Ram and Ford Super Duty trucks have a really fantastic option for a factory installed puck system in the bed of the truck where you can mount either a fifth wheel or gooseneck hitch. During our truck search, GM did not have that option on their trucks. However, GM trucks now have the puck system as well.
B&W Trailer Hitches makes a fifth wheel hitch specifically for each truck brand’s puck system. We installed one and you can read about it at this link: B&W OEM Companion Fifth Wheel Hitch DIY Installation. The three hitches are shown below, Ram, Ford & GM:
This option has five holes in the bed of the pickup, one in the center for a gooseneck hitch and four outer ones to hold a fifth wheel hitch. The idea behind this mounting system is that rather than drilling holes in your brand new truck bed to install hitch rails to support a fifth wheel hitch — the method that was always used until this new system was devised — you can buy a hitch designed for these puck mounts and simply drop it in.
If you want to use the bed of your truck for hauling, and you won’t be towing your fifth wheel, you can easily remove the fifth wheel hitch temporarily and have the entire bed of the truck available to you. Not only is it a snap to remove the hitch, but the bed of the truck will be flat and obstacle free because there won’t be any hitch rails installed in it.
Another huge benefit is that installing the hitch is an easy do-it-yourself job. We have a detailed pictorial step-by-step guide showing how to install a B&W Companion OEM Fifth Wheel Hitch here (it took just one hour from start to finish!):
Installation Guide for B&W Companion OEM 5th Wheel Hitch – Step-by-Step Pictorial
To see the specs, pricing and details about this hitch, visit these links:
Our 2007 Dodge Ram came with an exhaust brake built into the turbo. Mark LOVED this brake and used it all the time, both towing and not towing. The only thing that bugged him about it was that coming down mountains with our trailer hitched on, he often had to shift gears manually and feather the gas pedal to keep the truck going the speed he wanted.
The 2016 Ram trucks have an improved exhaust brake that has two modes: max braking power and constant speed braking. We definitely wanted that option!
Dodge Ram trucks have two backup cameras, one that aims at the bed of the truck (for hitching and unhitching) and one that aims behind the truck (for backing up). Beginning in 2016, both of these cameras could be set to display their image on the main touch screen display (in the 2015 model, one camera would display in the rear view mirror while the other would display on the touch screen display).
An option on the 2016 Ram trucks is to have four leaf springs with computer controlled air bags to provide for auto-leveling of the rear suspension. This is instead of the standard six leaf springs without air bags that have a fixed height suspension.
Without the air bags — the standard configuration — the “rake” of the truck’s rear end is four inches, meaning that the rear end of the truck is raised four inches higher than the front to compensate for the weight of the trailer which will push it down when it’s hitched up. For a shorter person, this is quite high, and I was astonished how much higher the tailgate of a 2016 Ram truck sits than our old ’07 truck did.
With the air bags, the rear end is raked only one inch, making the whole back end of the truck much easier to access for those of us who aren’t that tall. In addition, there is an “Alt Ride Height” button that can be used to lower the back of the truck one more inch. Hurray for short people!
When the trailer is hitched onto the truck, pushing the truck down, the on-board compressor kicks on and pumps air into the air bags, raising the back end of the truck until it achieves its normal one inch rake. If you prefer to drive with the truck level, the “Alt Ride Height” button can be pressed to lower the back end one inch.
When we did our test drives, we found that the duallies with the auto-level suspension had a slightly smoother ride when not towing than the ordinary leaf spring only models did. This has proven true with our new truck too.
VENTED and HEATED LEATHER SEATS and STEERING WHEEL plus OTHER GOODIES
As we test drove different trim levels of trucks, we decided that if we were going to buy a new truck, we’d go all out and get the many little conveniences and options that are a “splurge” but that make using the truck a pleasure.
Heated and vented leather seats with power seat adjustments and lumbar support, a side step to make it easier to get in and out of the truck, independent climate control for driver and passenger, a CD player, OWL on/off-rad tires, the fancy electronics console with the big touch screen display and GPS nav system and power adjustable pedals were all on our list.
Most of these options are bundled into the Laramie model of the Ram 3500 trucks.
THE OPTIONS LIST FOR OUR 2016 DODGE RAM 3500 TRUCK:
- Ram Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 3500 Long Bed
- Dual Rear Wheels
- AISIN AS69RC Automatic Transmission
- 4.10 Rear Axle Ratio
- 5th Wheel / Gooseneck Towing Prep
- Auto-level rear suspension
- Diesel Exhaust Brake
- Cargo and Backup Cameras
- LT235/80R17E OWL On/Off-Road Tires
- Tubular side steps
- Power adjustable pedals
- CD player
- Top level Nav/GPS Display with voice activation and climate control
- Tan colored Heated/Vented Leather Seats and Steering Wheel
The Tow and Payload Ratings for the 2016 Ram 3500 dually with the above options as compared to our 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel are the following:
|Rating||2016 Dually||2007 SRW||Trailer|
|Max Trailer Weight||30,200||13,700||14,100|
Even though the make and model of these two trucks is the same, separated by just nine years, these numbers show that they are two radically different trucks!
After doing so many test drives, studying all the material and thinking about this truck for two years, there was no way we would give up any of the options we wanted, especially the ones that made the tow ratings and payload rating so high. But we never found a dealership that ordered this exact truck for their lot. Time and again, Mark would find a truck that was close, but there would be some things missing and other things we didn’t want.
So we decided to order the exact truck we wanted and wait 8 weeks for it to be built.
We had a ball ordering this truck through Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale, Arizona, where a marketing connection with Alice Cooper made one of Mark’s lifelong dreams come true. See our really fun blog post:
Alice Cooper Sells Us a New Truck!
Once the truck arrived, we installed our very cool new hitch in less than an hour:
Installation Guide for B&W Companion OEM 5th Wheel Hitch – Step-by-Step Pictorial
A significant difference between our 2007 Dodge Ram truck and our new 2016 Ram dually is that the new truck requires occasional refilling of the DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluide) tank. Here are some tips we’ve discovered about DEF since we purchased our new truck:
How to Put DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) in a Truck and Which Brand is Cheapest!
How to Change the Inner Rear Tire on a Dually Truck
Trailer Life Magazine also asked us to write about what into our choice of our new dually truck. You can read more here:
One Ton Towing Machines – Our dually truck feature article in Trailer Life Magazine
We installed an Edge Juice with Attitude CTS2 Programmer on this truck and Mark loves it. We haven’t yet written a review, but we did review the Edge Evolution CS Programmer we installed on our 2007 Dodge Ram HERE.
Never miss a post — it’s free!
Late model Dodge Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 trucks have been recalled (beginning 6/23/17) for side airbag problems in a rollover accident. See this article for details: Dodge Ram Side Airbag Recall
More info about Pickup Trucks, Ram Trucks, Tow Ratings, etc.:
- 2016 Ram Trucks Towing Guide – Ours is on p. 5, 2nd section, last line. Search for: “CREW CAB LONG BOX, 4X4, DRW”
- Current Ram Trucks Model Specific Weight Ratings – Choose Heavy Duty / Crew / 8′ Box / 6.7 Liter Cummins / Auto / 4×4 / Premium Axle Ratio. The truck like ours is the first Laramie in the list. If you know a VIN number, click the red button “Look Up My Vehicle” to get the specs for that truck.
- Past Dodge Ram Truck Towing Guides – Downloadable PDF Files for all models since 2015
- Cummins horsepower/torque info – “Aisin Auto” is the Aisin AS69RC transmission
- Cummins tow ratings – RPMs for peak horsepower and torque
- Cummins horsepower torque specs for all model years 6.7 liter – Quite a progression
- Video – How A Cummins 6.7 Liter Engine Is Made
- Video – Backing up a trailer – A spoof for a laugh
- History and explanation of truck model numbers, weights and payloads – How far we’ve come.
- Escapees Smart Weigh Program for RVs – If you have an RV, do it!
- Ram Trucks tips for How to Tow a Trailer – An excellent illustrated guide
Here is more info about the trucks and trailers we have owned
Note (July 2018): Folks have asked us if we like our truck now that we’ve driven it for two and a half years. We LOVE our truck. It now has about 40,000 miles on it, about half of that towing, and we couldn’t be happier with it.
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- B&W Fifth Wheel Hitch - Why we chose this hitch for our fiver plus an easy 5th Wheel Hitch Installation Guide.
- How to change a dually truck's inner rear tire - Tips for changing the inner rear tire on a dually truck.
- Wet Cell vs. AGM Batteries - Which is better, why we upgraded, PLUS wiring tips to optimize battery life
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- RV Extended Warranties - Is an RV warranty a good investment or a waste of money? Our personal case history.
- Working and Living on the Road - How do you make money on the road and who lives this nomadic lifestyle?
- Sell or Lease the House? - Is it better to SELL or LEASE your house when you start a life on the road?
- Mexican Dentists - Are the Dentists in Mexico any good? Just how cheap are they? Here are our PERSONAL experiences.
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- Still Smiling After 3 Days at the RV Repair Shop - Why? Our RV Warranty put us $2,000 ahead of the game!
- 5th Wheel Suspension Replacement - When our trailer's suspension failed, we $aved $$$ Thousands getting it replaced.
- RV Toilet Replacement - Our RV toilet quit flushing (ugh!) but our RV warranty saved us again. Now we're $6,700 ahead!
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Well folks, you nailed it again! I’ve had all three makes of trucks, and overall, have liked the Dodge better than the others. But each to their own…..
The equipment you list is pretty much my choice, with some of your nice additions, particularly the axle ratios, which make a big difference. Now if you can figure out how to reduce the scratch marks, you’ll be in good shape! Had to throw that in because you told us about your activities in a big, long rig; looking for good camping spots. We do the same, also, so the first scratch is soooooo bad, but then, onward……
You folks did a huge amount of work in your research, which we understand and really appreciate. Glen sez it will save him an inordinate amount of time!
Hope you didn’t take a chunk of time out of your Sedona hiking/camping activity, but we certainly appreciate your work, and dedication….see ya down the trail.
Thank you for all the compliments and kind words, Glen. This was a lot of work to put together, but it answers all the questions we had when we first got curious about diesel trucks 9 years ago, and I am hoping it helps out other RVers that are puzzled about these topics too. Gear axle ratios and truck/trailer weight ratings can be particularly confusing, so with any luck I’ve made it easy to understand here.
That first scratch on our big beautiful new truck will definitely hurt — it was so nice to say goodbye to all those “love dents” on our old truck when we traded it in — but each nick is proof positive that we are out on the road using and enjoying our truck.
Long rigs are a real challenge when it comes to finding good camping spots away from the fray. But the pin stripes we get along the sides of our truck and trailer from all the trees and bushes we scrape are just part of the package if you want to see the most beautiful places well off the beaten track.
Thank you for reading and for all your encouragement.
Thank you for this article. I was mainly interested in seeing the actual Payload numbers for the truck “As Equipped”. Wifey and I have decided to purchase a Truck Camper where payload is extremely important.
Options can definitely change the payload.
The Cummins powered Ram 3500 Dually is my choice also.
I have one comment about your article. You state that you are using 4 wheel drive to descend skinny, twisty, single lane roads. I do not believe that you should be using this type of 4 wheel drive system on twisty paved roads. This can cause significant damage to the drive train. When you place your truck into 4 wheel drive, you are locking the front and rear drive shafts together forcing them to rotate at the same speed. In a turn, the front and rear tires will travel different paths and need to be able to rotate at different speeds. With the drive shafts locked together this puts tremendous strain on all of the drive train components and will break something in the drive line. The 4 wheel drive system in this truck should only be used in situations where the tires can slip (dirt, mud, ice or snow) or if traveling in a straight line. Definitely not on the pavement in the twisties
You are correct: 4 wheel drive is not to be used on a regular basis on paved roads!
I included the anecdote about our one-time descent on a frighteningly steep (10% grade) single lane road in the Rocky Mountains because traveling at 5 mph in 4 wheel drive low gear was the only way we could get off that particular mountain with our 14k lb. trailer. Any other gear and our trailer would have pushed us down the mountain and off the road as it picked up speed during the descent. We learned that trick from other owners of big trailers who were camping at the top of that mountain, and I included it here to let other folks know about it.
Enjoy your truck camper and your wonderful Ram 3500 dually. They are great trucks.
I have almost the same exact truck as you, except mine is a 2015. I, too, wanted the HO Cummins TD with 4.10 gears and almost every option Ram offered. After doing many nationwide online searches, I found ONE truck in the whole country that had everything I wanted, but it was 900 miles away! After negotiating with the dealer over the phone during the course of a few hours, we settled on a price and I flew to Davenport, IA to pick it up. Two days later I was back in Fort Worth with our new truck. We’ve since retired and hit the road full time, pulling our 21,000 lb. DRV 5th wheel with it. What a truck, as you well know! It will be interesting to follow your adventures and see how well your truck continues to perform as you travel around the country.
Isn’t it amazing, David, that even though there are a zillion dealerships, it is nearly impossible to find a truck that has all the options that maximize the towing power and also give you all the little luxuries. You’re lucky you found your truck online. We found two that were close and were willing to drive a big detour to get to the dealerships, but in the end we decided that “close” wasn’t good enough when it comes to such a huge purchase. Have fun in your beautiful DRV 5th wheel — what a home! — and thanks for following our travels. I’ll be posting more about our truck’s performance, especially once we’ve towed our trailer through the Rockies!
What amazed me was all of Ram’s advertising about it’s ability to tow 30,000 lbs., yet so few trucks were equipped to do so. I could find what I wanted across town and all across the country that had everything I wanted EXCEPT they all had 3.73 rear end gears. I guess dealers think that small difference in fuel mileage is going to be a deal breaker. Not when you’re pulling 10 1/2 tons!
I agree. Hopefully dealers will start carrying trucks decked out for heavy towing. I suspect there are folks out there who don’t study the details and who assume they are buying a 30,000 lb. towing machine when they are actually buying a truck that is rated to tow a lot less…
Really enjoying reading your posts. We sold our HHII last year and it will be another couple of years before we are ready to replace it. One question I have is your opinion of the nav system in your new truck. I’ve been leery of having a built in system that is probably much more expensive to replace if anything goes wrong with it, but like the less cluttered dash area of one.
There are two electronic displays on this truck, one on the dash that the passenger can see and control and that the driver can control from the steering column and another in front of the driver that s/he can control and see (very hard for the passenger to see the small numbers there).
I use paper maps and Google Maps on my laptop to do all our navigation from the passenger seat. I like it, I understand it, I can sneak peeks at my email while Mark isn’t looking, and it works for us as long as I pay enough attention and don’t get engrossed in my email (LOL).
I tried the dashboard Nav system once on our truck and it was useless for getting from here to there. I can’t figure out the zooming so you can see the names of the roads at all the different sizes. Also, you have to know the street address to go anywhere.
The only time it came in handy was when I was hopelessly confused about where we were and I got the GPS coordinates off of it and plugged them into Google Maps on my laptop. If you have a nav system on your smartphone, I suspect it will do a better job for you (we don’t have a smartphone).
However, the other controls on the display — climate, radio, phone connection that goes directly to a friendly person at Dodge who knows us by name when we call (by our VIN number, I imagine) — is very nice. It is a big complicated system that could easily go bad eventually, but we’re happy with it and it came with the trim level we chose (Laramie).
I really love your blog. Such useful information and great photography, too.
I’ve finally decided to trade in my 2011 Ram 1500 for either a 2500 or 3500. I have an older heavy TT that has a tongue weight of 1,050 lbs. When loaded, we have about 7,500 to 8,000 lbs. The TT has a GVWR of 10,000 and its UVW is 6,600.
We really like the TT but it’s been a white knuckle ride pulling it with the 1/2 ton truck. The trucks payload is only 1354 and I’m afraid of breaking something on the truck if I continue pulling this load. With my wife, myself, two dogs, and all my junk in the back, I’v already gobbled up 800 lbs. of the payload before dropping the trailer on the hitch.
Anyway, The 2500 has the same type of coil spring rear suspension as my current truck and I’m nervous about dropping 1,000 lbs on the back. The 3500 has leaf springs on the rear and it’s much stiffer. The thing is with both trucks set up the same, the cost difference is only 300 bucks. Logic tells me to go with the 3500 but I’m wondering if I’m overlooking something about the two trucks that I should know before placing an order? I’ve heard a lot of people on truck blogs state the 3500 rides too stiff.
I’m going with a Laramie crew cab (not the dually) 4×4 and the long bed with a 6.4 HEMI and 4.10 axel ratio regardless of the truck I decide to go with. Can’t afford the added cost of a diesel or the maintenance costs. Had no problem with power using the 5.7 HEMI in my 1500.
Any thoughts on this would be helpful. I’d like to place an order for my new truck in the next couple of days.
I’m so glad you’re enjoying our blog, Lew. Thanks for saying so! As for your truck dilemma, the best way to determine how the ride is for the 2500 vs. 3500 is to go on a bunch of test drives, testing them one right after the other on the same roads. Hit up different dealerships if you need to, but get some miles under your belt with both trucks. Then you’ll know for yourself and you won’t have to rely on the opinions of other people. Ride quality aside, our gut feeling is that you should go with the 3500. It never hurts to go “bigger” especially with such a small difference in price. You could also get the air suspension with the 3500 (if it’s available with the Hemi…not sure). That has only 4 leaf springs instead of six, so it has a smoother ride when unloaded. I hope that helps!!
Thought I’d give you an update. We took the plunge and ordered a new 2016 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 3500 with the 8′ box! Very excited . . . sold the 1500 today so now we just have to wait the six to eight weeks. We didn’t get the dually model but did pop for the 5th Wheel / Gooseneck Towing Prep. Not sure we will go to a 5th wheel but felt it wouldn’t hurt to have it ready to go just in case.
Wanted to ask you about your Edge Engine Tuner. Are you using it on your new rig? Didn’t see a mention of it in this article.
How exciting for you, Lew!! That’s a HUGE upgrade and I know you’re going to love your new truck. We installed an Edge Juice with Attitude tuner a few weeks ago and have seen improvements in fuel economy and power while towing. This is a higher end tuner than we installed before, and one of the advantages is that you can change between “towing” and “stock” tunes on the fly. I will be writing a blog post about it soon!
Well its been two weeks waiting but no truck yet. I don’t know how I’m going to last another six to eight weeks. I was wondering if you’ve had any issues with the truck since you picked it up.
When I purchased my Ram 1500 I purchased Lifetime Maximum Care Plus service contract as a precaution. Only had to use it once to replace a failed door lock mechanism after driving on some washboard roads. Did you consider extended service contracts with your purchase? Was wondering your feelings about them.
Looking forward to your review on the Edge Juice with Attitude. You guys are a great resource of a diesel newbe like myself. Keep up the great work.
We haven’t had any issues with our truck, Lew. I know how hard it is to wait. We went crazy! We did not get an extended warranty, although it may be a good idea. We have been so happy we had an RV warranty on our trailer, but our trailer is 8 years old, so things are starting to break and trailers are not mass-produced items. Even though it is more expensive to get a warranty when the truck is no longer new, we figured we’d go with the manufacturer’s warranty for the short run and reassess later.
You’re totally right; finding the truck that’s right for you and your missions is really important. It’s certainly a process that requires deep consideration and time, but it is always worth it when you’re happy with your purchase! Nice work! Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome. Thanks for reading!
Hi Guys, love your Canadian posts. Inspired me so much that I finally got my passport. Would love to follow in your footsteps next Fall or Spring.
Want to ask you a question on tire pressure while you are pulling your rig. I finally picked up our new Ram 3500 diesel from a dealer in Idaho. It only took six weeks of wait time! Just love this truck. The door sticker states 80 pounds of pressure for the rear tires (single wheels in rear) and only 60 pounds in the front tires. I’m sure this is fore unloaded weight but I’m used to putting max pressure as listed on all the tires when towing. My new truck has the long bed like yours but I’m towing only about 8,250 lbs of TT. How do you guys handle tire pressure on your rig?
Thanks again for all your help,
Hi Lew – How great that you finally got your beautiful new truck and that you love it too!! As long as we have the stock tires that were installed on the truck, we go with the tire pressures on the door jam. For our dually it’s 80 lbs. in the front and 65 in the back. When we replace the tires we’ll go with the max rating on the new tires in the front with about 20% less pressure in the rear. The owner’s manual should specify if the tire pressure in the door sticker is for towing or not. Our trailer tires are rated at 100 lbs. max, but we keep them at 90-95 to soften the ride a little bit.
I’m tickled that we inspired you to check out the Canadian Rockies. Have a blast there next summer!!
We are looking at getting a Ram 3500 dually as well to pull a 20k TH. Can you tell me how well the stopping power is, I have not found many reviews regarding this. Safe travels.
With the exhaust brake on and in Tow Haul mode and with our hydraulic disc brakes on our trailer (review here), it stops on a dime.
The Dodge Ram 3500 dually has huge rotors on its brakes. However, when towing a heavy trailer, the braking system on the trailer is more important than the braking system on the truck. The standard electric brakes that are factory installed on most big fifth wheels and toy haulers are okay when new, but as they get older their stopping power gets weaker. This places undue stress on the truck’s brakes as it tries to slow the whole thing down.
If you are concerned about stopping power with your 20k toy hauler, I would recommend you look into doing an electric over hydraulic disc brake conversion as described in the blog post mentioned above. In addition to massively increased stopping power, what Mark loves about the upgraded trailer brakes is that they modulate extremely well. With the standard electric trailer brakes he found they were either on or off, which made the motion of the whole rig very jerky at times.
Have been enjoying your website. Regarding DRW vs SRW: In your travels (while not towing the rig) have you found that the extra width with the DRW limited you in what roads you could travel on?
No. The dually is just like the single rear wheel, though perhaps a little more fussy on heavily rutted dirt roads (we don’t drive those much). It’s the long bed that makes it difficult to maneuver in parking lots, etc. Both of our trucks were long beds, and we would get a long bed again for easier towing and more storage space in the truck bed.
I am so HAPPY I came across this article you have written. It is so difficult to find a genuine review that is not biased in any manner. My Ford King Ranch 6.0 has taken me to the brink of sanity on a weekly basis. I’ve convinced myself that if I buy the best parts it will be a great truck. $48,000 in parts alone! I cannot win, and I cannot take it anymore. I was already convinced that he RAM is what I wanted but after reading your genuine real experience I am beyond convinced! I have only been wrestling back and forth between the 3.73 and the 4.10. I have a 36ft Voltage Toy Hauler, and I would say the truck would be used aprox 30% of the time towing that (loaded at about 18k). I am leaning towards the 3.73. Living on the East coast (Reading PA) the mountains here are nothing compared to what you experience,although we did take it through the Eisenhower tunnel on our trip to Burning Man with our 6.0. I was so upset with my truck that day that I was trying to explode that motor so I held that pedal down to the floor (going east to west) and It maintained 75MPH the whole time climbing it held together just fine, go figure (EGTs where 1650 degrees plus!), I can’t believe it held together! It was a beyond stupid move but boy I had had it! But I don’t want to talk about that truck anymore as I have been looking to replace it with the 2016 RAM 3500 Longhorn. I test drove my first RAM on Saturday. What a truck! The salesman was unknowledgeable to say the least. I am more knowledgeable about diesels than the average bear. ( I rebuilt my 6.0 once and replaced the motor once single handedly) Every question I had his response was “I think…….or “Probably……..I felt like he didn’t care that I was going to spend 65kof money that isn’t easy to come by. I told him I would call him back today on a final answer. This truck had all that I wanted AISIN with 3.73. So he told me. But I ran the VIN and it had a 4.10. I understand that you went with the 4.10 because you wanted MAX capacity. Do you know what the real world difference is in fuel economy with the AISIN, on the Highway comparing 3.73 and 4.10? This small little detail of not knowing the difference between the two (economy wise) is preventing me from making my purchase already. I Thank You SO much in spending all the time you and Mark did, people like you are far and few.
I’m glad you found this article, Matt, and I hope you love your Ram as much as we do. I would go with the 4.10 because you have a heavy trailer, and 30% of the time spent towing is a lot of time! The difference in fuel economy doesn’t seem that terrible to us. We have not felt our truck is a gas guzzler at all and its towing capacity is absolutely phenomenal. We do get very slightly less mpg with the new truck than our old one (4.10 vs. 3.73), but the ability to tow easily far outweighs the few dollars difference in fuel costs. We can easily go 75 or higher on the highway while towing and the truck doesn’t even flinch. We towed up and over the Million Dollar Highway in Colorao (10% grades at 10k-11k feet elevation) and forgot to turn off the air conditioning. The truck didn’t even break a sweat. If the truck you saw at the dealership has the 4.10 and the Aisin AS69RC tranny, then go for it!
On page 5 of 33, you show a picture of the truck bed loaded w/spare tire,spare water, and two large plastic (?) storage boxes. Do these boxes last long with the UV exposure, how are they secured, and where can I purchase similar large and heavy-duty storage boxes?
And there’s a very good probability that I’ll be going to Scottsdale AirPark to purchase a virtually identical truck. Can you recommend a salesperson?
Bill – We carry four 5.5-gallon water jugs that are slightly more rugged than the ones in that photo (check them out here) that are still going strong after two years. When we had the less rugged 6-gallon jugs, like the photo (check them out here), we had to replace them every 2 years. As for the totes (something like these), again, we started with less rugged bins (like these) and replaced them after 2 years. We’ve got 2 years on the more rugged totes and they are holding up well. We’ve also replaced the bungees holding them down at about the same interval.
Our salesman at Airpark Dodge was was Ed Kulas. You can email him here. He’s a terrific guy with a lot of experience. The general manager of the dealership is Coye Pointer, and you can email him here. They can look up our order and get you exactly the same truck — buy you’ll benefit from the small improvements made between the 2016 and 2017 models!!
Thanks very much for the speedy reply. One more question: Your totes are secured with bungees, but held down (secured) to what?
The bungees are secured to the underside of the rim of the truck bed and the base of the hitch. We also have a 2×10 that spans the width of the truck to keep the water jugs in place, and we screwed two hooks into that as well. Not too fancy!
Great blog… I just read the whole blog. I am looking at the cummings motor and a ram 3500. Most of your posts and decisons are the same I would make… still wondering about the 3.73 vs 4.10 rear end. I have a year to decide.. but have decided long bed (8 feet) with the asian tranny.. I also want the vented seats… I am looking at a momentum TH that is 17K unloaded… with harley and stuff, I am around 20K pounds… I will keep watching the blog… thanks for the posts and the time investment for others!
Thank you for the compliments, Luke. I really appreciate your kind words about our blog! Have a close look at the cargo carrying capacity of any toy haulers you are considering, whether it’s the Momentum or another model that strikes your fancy between now and a year from now. Some toy haulers are built strong enough to carry a heavy toy like a Harley and live in them full-time, but not all. The payload of full-time living essentials we carry is nearly 4,000 lbs., and some of our shelves are empty. I’ve got a blog post about it HERE. You can estimate the weight of your holding tanks, if you travel with anything in them, propane, food in pantry and fridge, kitchen supplies, books, tools, spare parts, clothing, shoes, bedding, etc., and add that to the weight of your Harley to ensure your TH is rated for the payload. Have a great time in your travels. Traveling with a Harley would be a blast!!
Thank you so much for your detailed info on your vehicle choice. I am a big cummins fan and sold my 2005 2500 about 3 months ago and have been searching for a 1 ton dully and having a hard time finding one with all the options that I wanted. Main things I wanted were the aisin trany and 3.73 gears but after searching for 3 months I am finding it is a hard combo to find. But after reading your story I think I am going to go with the 4.10 which are more common to have the aisin. Our long term plan is to purchase a 5th wheel rv around 18,000lbs sell the house and hit the road. So thank you very much for sharing your story it has been a huge help.
You are welcome. Have fun with your new rig when you get it!
Thanks Emily and Mark!!!! OK I did it! I bought a NEW FLAME RED 2016 RAM 3500 dually Longhorn with the AISIN 4:10. This is quite a truck to say the least. I’ve put a little over 5,000 miles on it in the 2 months I’ve owned it and so far its pretty solid. I am upset with RAM for some of the things they chose to do. Its almost as if the people who design them don’t really own them or use them for “Truck Things” I wrote them a letter I hope they take some of my suggestions and put them into production. I mean like simple stuff, like why doesn’t the bed lighting come on when I open the tail gate but it comes on when I open the door and it dosent stay on long enough, Why are the garage door opener buttons illuminated (like this thing really fits in my garage HA) but not the moonroof or mirror control buttons including the fold away option? Why does truck shut off after 15min using remote start and then the remote start is disabled until you actually start the truck? I also suggested them adding some FACTORY fold out steps (nothing to big just big enough) like an RV has so I can at least reach into the Truck bed from the side without scratching the paint, its a dually so its a far reach. And The biggest issue I have with the interior is the Heated seats, although they heat up fast, why dosent the heater element go to the edge front of the seat, it stops 8 inches before the edge of the front seat (both driver and passenger). In the winter, using them it makes me have to pee (its like the old trick everyones played on their brother or sister, putting one hand in hot water the other in cold switcheroo and then you pee haha), the back rest is heated evenly and its nice but not having half of my thigh in that warm heat is disappointing. The only thing I’ve heard back so far is “We noticed you didn’t get the extended warranty would you care to purchase it now?” I’m like are you serious? I just bought the truck dosen’t it have 100,000mile warranty? Do they know something I don’t? LOL. My biggest disappointment is the fuel economy I am averaging 14.8-15MPG (always on cruise control) not towing and speed has no effect, 50, 55, 60, 65,70 its pretty much 15MPG. That’s pretty good for a 4X4 dually this size, but comparing it to my Ford 6.0 (3:73) Its in the mid 20’s MPG. But I had made many, many, modifications to it to get it there. I’m sure I can get this RAM to at least 20MPG with some tuning. But Ultimately I wanted RELIABILITY and I believe I finally have it. The package I chose puts me at 390HP and 900LB torque, Holy Cow ! Those numbers are really impressive from a 6 cylinder but it sure dosen’t seem like 390HP. Towing, this truck hardly blinks, but without a load it seems like its lacking a lot of power. I wonder if it dosent give 390HP unless it knows you have a load and you need it. Have you noticed the same with yours? It seems that all the manufacturers just keep trying to crank out more and more HP. I would love to see less HP and more MPG. I can’t imagine that even 350HP is not enough for any job especially with this AISIN and 4:10 gears. But I suppose that the big 3 are all at war with each other and they believe people only care about HP when it comes to a truck.This RAM is 2,000LBs less than my Ford (took both to the scales) and they although very similar trucks they are so different. The RAM as a daily driver isn’t all that good (turning radius fuel econ), but towing IT IS KING. My Ford is a great daily driver but not so when towing. But you can’t really compare Trucks that are 10 years apart. I use a goose neck hitch to tow my fifthwheel I love how small it is, and RAMs Gooseneck system is pretty nice, the Ball pops out like a quick release socket and stores perfectly it the compartment under the rear floor mat. I like this truck a lot, again I am very happy with this RAM and it was ultimately your article that sold me. I wish I could have given the sales commission to you and Mark. Thank you for your countless hours and dedication, BRAVO ZULU!!!!
I’m glad you like your truck, especially its towing ability. Who knows what the design engineers were thinking with certain small things, but as you say, the truck is a towing king and we love ours too. You’ll get the best mileage if you keep the RPM’s around 1600-1800. Also, we installed an Edge Juice with Attitude CTS Programmer last year and recently when we were towing up a 6% grade at 5,000 feet elevation we were getting instantaneous 12 mpg reported on the dashboard display.
My wife and I just purchased the same truck and we will be getting a fifth wheel this week. What kind of fuel mileage do you get towing? I enjoyed your post. Very useful information. Thanks, Mike
Congrats on great purchases, Mike. The mileage all depends on speed, wind, hills, types of roads and whether or not cruise control is on. It is mostly based on RPMs. The truck doesn’t like to lug — keep it at 1600-1800. Average towing is 10-11 but can be as low as 9 and as high as 15. Average not towing on highways is 18-20. We have an Edge Tuner and keep it in Level 2 when we tow and Level 1 when not towing.
Great blog!! I too live in Az. I have a 5th wheel with a gvw of 14000#. I am interested in buying the same setup you have but noticed that with this set up the truck has a gvw also of 14000#. According to ADOT, A Class A CDL is required to operate a combination vehicle (truck and trailer) if the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) is 26,001 or more pounds when the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the trailer, which is added to the GVWR of the power unit (the truck), is 10,001 pounds or more. The link is here:https://www.azdot.gov/mvd/faq/commercial-driver-license. Just curious if there is a catch to this or if you have researched this at all? Thanks again and love the blog
On the truck scales we found the GCW (actual Gross Combined Weight) of our new truck and old trailer combo is now 24,580 lbs, so that law doesn’t apply to our rig. I think you are confusing the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of the truck, which is 14,000 lbs., meaning it has the capacity to be loaded down to weigh as much as 14,000 lbs., with the GVW (actual Gross Vehicle Weight) of the truck, which will likely be less than that. Depending on how much stuff you put in the bed of your truck, the GCWR of your truck-and-trailer combo will probably be less than 26,000 lbs. Thanks for the kind words. -Emily
I’m so glad I found this article! We will be buying a 5th wheel and truck in 3 years when our youngest graduates high school. This made so much sense and explained things in a way as to make them easy to understand. I have book marked it to refer back. Thank you so much, Heather
Thanks for stopping by and bookmarking, Heather. Three years will go by quickly!!
Just wanted to praise & thank you for giving such lovely detailed photos & information on the finer points of fulltime RVing.
You certainly bought the right 3500 crewcab dually. The only reason I’m looking at used 450’s/4500’s now is for their game- changing turning radius & when I’m done hauling a 5th wheel, a 450/4500 has more (unofficial) CCC to carry a heavy truck camper like a HOST or Eagle Cap. Ideally I hope to be able to switch between the two when I know where to store the fiver!
I’m glad you two are enjoying your new toy hauler 5th wheel – just wish I was there when you needed to take your lovely 2007 5th wheel off your hands! My ideal 5th wheel is one with a full bedroom closet, pantry, & credenza desk/diner that’s closer to 30 ft than 35! Please let me know if you’ve seen anything close to that in your travels!
Thanks again for your wonderful blog.
When we were hunting for an open box toy hauler in early 2022, we saw at least a dozen beautiful older fifth wheels that were for sale for dirt cheap on Craigslist. Prior to all the changes in the RV industry, post-2012 or so, most full-time fivers were a lot smaller than they are now, so if you’re willing to get an older fiver you might have quite a bit of selection… Thanks for reading our blog and appreciating our various goodies!!
Thank you very much, Michelle! You’re right, the turning radius of the Dodge Ram long bed trucks is terrible. It is about the same radius on our Ram dually as it was on our Ram long bed single rear wheel. The Ford and Chevy trucks seem to turn a little tighter. And you’ll definitely want the extra CCC for a Host or Eagle Cap. I’m not sure if you’ve read our posts about our Arctic Fox truck camper, but there may be a tidbit or two in there that will help you in your search for a truck camper (see here). Friends of ours switched between a fifth wheel and a truck camper for decades and they were very happy with that arrangement!