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Old 04-19-2010, 01:31 AM   #1 (permalink)
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JeepNmpg2's Avatar
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2600 mile road trip in loaded minivan and trailer

Ok folks, I'm about to undertake the dreaded "family road trip" LOL. I have to drive from somewhere in eastern TX up to Tacoma, WA with my wife, 3 kids, road luggage, and approximately 2500lbs behind it in a uhaul trailer. I made this trip a year ago and averaged 13.8 mpg for the whole trip, but 75 to 85 MPH the whole way with the same setup will do that to you, but I was in a hurry. The following are the rules for this year:

1. Planning to take an extra day and a half to drive the same distance.

2. Oscilate the A/C whenever possible (this is the deep south of the US and damn it's muggy and hot there)

3. Wife will berade me if I get within three car lengths of anything, especially semi's so no partial drafting (I'll still try semi-hopping/slingshotting though).

4. Still pulling 5x10 single axle Uhaul trailer.

All sidewall pressures will be maxed, the non eco-footed wife will not be driving at all, and we won't be using drive thru's (which you have to leave the car running in just to keep the heat from stiffling you).

However, the biggest change to this years trip is that I will be using the scangauge to make on the fly adjustments to the "nut" (me) and finding the most oportune speed range/gear to pull the trailer with previously stated load. My goal is to come out of the trip with the extra day on the road costs in food and hotel stay being smaller than the net savings from improved FE by driving differently. Any additional ideas are welcome! I'm really trying to figure out a way to nonperminantly mod the back of the trailer box to get better FE. Magnetically attached boattail anyone?

Last edited by JeepNmpg2; 04-19-2010 at 01:36 AM..
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Old 04-19-2010, 02:10 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I think you can do it. My daughter and I drove from Montgomery, AL to Biloxi, MS last December in her Dodge Grand Caravan. She drove down at 80 mph and got 21.45 mpg, using over 12 gal. to drive ~250 miles. I drove back at 62 mph and got 26 mpg, using a little over 9 gal. It worked out to her wasting 31% more gas to save 1 hour out of every 4.

If I were you, I'd drive the first full tank of your trip at 62 mph. I'd run the AC on recycle, max cool, and max fan, alternating with the AC off and max fan. Try to run the AC on downhills and level while coasting, never on uphills or under load. If you can raise your mpg from 13.8 to 20, you can save $175 in gas, enough for the extra day's lodging and meals.

I'd adjust my driving on the next tank to accommodate my goals. If you only get 17 or 18 mpg, then you might have to drop to 55 mph. If you only get 15 or 16 mpg, then you might want to go back to 75 mph and save the extra day's lodging and food. If you only need $150 in gas savings, you might want to speed up to 65 mph.

If you're like me, and always want to go for max mpg, a long road trip is the perfect time to experiment with high speed P&G, NICE-on coasting down hills, 55 mph max speed, etc.

Good luck, and let us know how you do. 13.8 mpg is pretty poor, but you were hauling a load, and going way too fast. You'll easily beat that, but the question is by how much?

Boycotting Exxon since 1989, BP since 2010
Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? George Carlin
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49.5 mpg avg over 53,000 miles. 176% of '08 EPA
Best flat drive 94.5 mpg for 10.1 mi
Longest tank 1033 km (642 mi) on 10.56 gal = 60.8 mpg

Last edited by SentraSE-R; 04-19-2010 at 02:51 AM..
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Old 04-19-2010, 05:26 AM   #3 (permalink)
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: maine
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oldscoob - '87 subaru wagon gl/dr
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eastern texas to tacoma straightlined is 1700 miles...

find a straighter route?

central maine to los angeles is 2600 miles...damn roads. I am just gonnaput ther little sube boxer in an ultralight. save fuel
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Old 04-19-2010, 05:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I made this trip a year ago and averaged 13.8 mpg for the whole trip, but 75 to 85 MPH the whole way with the same setup will do that to you, but I was in a hurry.

Number One, your wifes' brother ought to take you fishing. And drown you. He can find her another "provider". That rig has NO business being above 60 mph from any standpoint of handling or braking. The difference in time between 60 and 70 mph over that distance is ridiculously small. What's between your ears?

Now, seriously,

Do your homework, and "trip plan" each day: departure time, fuel/rest stops (2-hours max between each); no driving outside of daylight (leaving a margin for problems that arise); etc. 400-600 miles day is pushing it in terms of being rested and alert. NO ONE is any good behind the wheel starting at about the sixth hour. See GAISMA for local dawn/dusk times. Start, maybe, a little before dawn but DO NOT drive into the night. Get off the road a minimum of one hour for lunch. Clean the glass, inspect the rig (tighten lug nuts), and check wiring (signals) for proper operation at every lunch/fuel stop. Check the hubs and tires for temperature. Know your stops IN ADVANCE. Plan the trip, every day, so that you know where you are, and how far to go until the next stop.

If trip planning is onerous, pretend you have a limited amount of fuel and desperation drives you. 8-10 hours planning would not be unusual if you add in what is outside the windows for your kids education.

Using the Scan Gauge ought to be fun. But, if a gasser, add a vacuum gauge and learn to downshift as VACUUM readings drop on an upgrade NOT rpms. Otherwise, cruise control is your friend. On your vehicle, where in the rpm range do the HP and TQ curve cross? This may be the ideal rpm at which to set CC. I have mine on before the end of the entrance ramp (where conditions allow). Same with the downslope: descend in the same gear you ascended, watching the vac gauge AND tach to help you. Avoid using brakes, because those trailer surge brakes will jerk you around.

As a side note, big truck drivers on an upslope turn on their four-ways when they are down to 35-mph. I wouldn't drop in behind the slowest one when several are present, but I would behind the lighter, more powerful before they crest. I especially don't want to be AHEAD of them on the downslope, and, hopefully, I'm far enough ahead of the really slow ones as they crawl across the top. And, it won't hurt you to pull off before the downslope to be sure the connections are good. Safe versus sorry.

Number Two, as U-Haul is notorious for not doing a good checkover of the following, demand:

Lug nuts tightened to spec -- as you watch -- with a torque wrench. In three upward steps, backed down to ZERO to begin. Tires inflated to U-Haul specs, ONLY. Breakaway switch PROPERLY hooked up and operating. All clearance lights working. Under trailer inspection of tires/axles/brake wiring (yes, you with flashlight, fingers on wiring!!!). Safety chains UNTWISTED and properly draped under hitch, crossways.

And, as those U-Haul trailers have AT BEST nothing but surge brakes, you'd better test them, hard, before final loading. Start by inspecting fluid and seals, demand service of same if fluid looks/smells nasty. (Have the number of the district manager at hand. The number of "sealed" court agreements against U-Haul is impressive . . the settlements to the "survivors" are said to be decent).

If you want to be persnickety about U-Haul equipment, look for uneven tire wear, and, have someone follow you out of the lot and moving around to see if trailer/TV track well; that trailer is not obviously pulling to one side or another (not always obvious from drivers seat/mirrors). Also test brakes by having them SEE which side locks first (if you can find some gravel); do it again on hardtop. Etc.

Number Three: Prior to loading make a stop at the local CAT Scale (google search for that or public scale) and get a proper before & after set of weight readings. Load the trailer to U-Haul spec. Get a reading of the tongue weight.

Tongue Weight

Now read your owners manual to see what MTW (maximum tongue weight) is allowed. Your second reading is to find out if you are over maximums (I'll bet you are). Re-distribute the load so that NO MORE THAN 15% of the trailer weight (from scale reading) shows up on Tongue Weight reading. Re-distribute that load to have U-Haul 70% or 60% respected AND get TW of 12-15%. And, secure that load against movement in ANY direction (get some Load Locks if need be).

CAT Scale Search

1] Steer Axle (Solo & Loaded)
2] Drive Axle (same)
3] Tongue Weight
4] Single or Tandem Trailer Axle Weight[s] (same as 1&2; empty and loaded)

Travel Trailer Weight Calculator

(ignore "safety margin" shown; it is incorrect)

If, once you are loaded -- everybody and everything on board (the night before) AND you need to re-adjust your headlights, you are probably overloaded, one, on the rear axle and, two, have dangerously lightened your front axle. Re-think what you are carrying (and where) and consider buying a Weight-Distributing Hitch (with a pole adaptor) for your trip. You can re-sell it later. (400# TW deserves a REESE "Dual Cam" setup. Maybe it can't be done on their bent tongue trailers, but I'd sure study on it).

When you are done -- and fully loaded, passengers and all -- both vehicles should be level or, preferably, just b-a-r-e-l-y nose down. At the least get a wrench adjustable MASTERLOCK ball hitch to get the trailer correct.

Number Four: Maximum sidewall tire pressure is one of the really dumb things promulgated around here. Download the tire manufacturer Load & Pressure Table for your tires. USE THEM. You want all the handling and braking you can get.

With nearly 60,000 crashes involving passenger vehicles towing trailers reported each year, there is a definite cause for concern especially when both human safety and driver liability are at risk. Approximately 27 percent of towing accidents across the country result in injuries, and 72 percent cause property damage. Improper hitching was the root cause of a significant number of these reported accidents.

Trailer towing DOUBLES the risk of a loss-of-control accident under every circumstance. The only time a vehicle, a tow rig, should depart from being lane-centered is due to driver input, NOT external inputs.

The "source" of many towing accidents is overcorrection.

Avoidance of other traffic (and worse, objects in the roadway; tripping hazards), slippery conditions, mechanical failures, etc are all problematic.

In 2004 alone, accidents of vehicles with a trailing unit resulted in 422 deaths, 27,232 injuries and 46,737 instances of property damage only.

The tail wags the dog in trailer towing. Size of tow vehicle and trailer are almost irrelevant, statistics show, their relation-of-predictability is not linear.

I've been towing trailers of all sorts for almost 40 years, and have a helluva lot of miles in a big truck. Safe = slower. Safe = being prepared. Safe = minimization of risk.

Funny that fuel economy runs the same decision tree in nearly all instances.

The last time I rented a U-Haul trailer the rig grossed near 13,000-lbs. Over a 350-mile trip (including stop-and-go through one of the largest cities in North America) I still averaged just a click under 19 mpg.

Number Five: Now, as to routing, were I running Tyler, TX to Tacoma, WA I'd hit I-40 from US-287 out of Ft Worth, and run it to past Albuquerque, NM. Use Google Maps and modify their usual dumb routing to reflect that you want to hit Albu. It'll show a route from Gallup on 491 north to Salt Lake City and beyond. It'll do; that's the ride you want. You only have Dallas, Denver and Salt Lake in the way from east Texas. Major metro areas are ALWAYS 150-miles wide as to traffic. Leave it to GOOGLE and others to route you through all of them.

Fuel economy is about steady state driving. And that can't be done in range of major metro areas.

If you can slip past D/FW between 0900 and 1100 on I-20 (cut north to 114 by using 360 through Arlington/Grand Prairie to avoid downtown Ft. Worth) you'll be miles ahead.

THe one thing most mappers are okay at is time estimation: 2200-miles = 38-hours at 58 mph. Trip plan for 50 mph; or, call it five days/four nights on the road. 58 mph is for solo cars with solo drivers at the speed limit (which no longer applies to you . . in the old days when cops were cops they'd ticket RV'ers and trucks for "Speeding: Under the Limit" a recognized statistical hazard). And, this route avoids the worst of mountains; not to be taken lightly.

Use Roadfood.com - The most memorable local eateries along the highways and back roads of America to find good lunch spots.

Good luck. Sincerely.


Last edited by slowmover; 04-19-2010 at 06:55 PM..
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