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Old 07-28-2016, 01:20 AM   #1 (permalink)
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95 F150 and Uhaul trailer drive across USA

I didn't think this should go in Aerodynamics, but here we go:

In the fairly near future I have the task of driving a 1995 Ford F150 supercab (not crew cab) 2wd with a 302 across the country from Dallas Texas to Central Oregon. In tow I will have a Uhaul 6x12 trailer. Both truck bed and trailer will be full of not particularly heavy but bulky household items (furniture, freezer, antique rocking chairs, secretariat, etc.) as aging parents will be entering a retirement community. The drive is estimated at a shade over 2000 miles taking the flattest and time efficient route (Dallas TX- Salinas KS- Denver CO- Cheyenne WY- SLC UT- Boise ID- Bend OR); heading across NM and AZ and up through CA is an additional 200 miles.

With the drive and vehicle in mind, I estimate that on flat ground at highway speeds the truck will achieve 17mpg, with the aforementioned trailer it should achieve 12-13. Any faster than 60-65 tops and fuel economy will fall off a cliff further.

I will be arriving at DFW pre-dawn on a Wednesday, and have an appoitment that morning to have a hitch installed and trailer picked up, and then leaving early on a Friday morning for the estimated 3.5 day drive. In this window I will have to go through a 3900 sq ft house and 2200 sq ft shop and place everything we are taking in one place on Wednesday and spend a portion of the day loading Thursday. This does not leave much time for my idea which I am finally getting to:

Dad has a working woodworking shop which has not been touched in 3-4 years. In my recollection from briefly walking through it this summer there is enough wood and plywood to make a temporary canopy (only has to survive the drive to Oregon) to extend from the cab of the truck beyond the tailgate towards the square trailer, which will hopefully allow 1 or 2 mpg back from towing.

In order to pull this of I will have to complete measurements, cut wood, secure framework to vehicle (complicated by drop-in bed liner and tubular bed rails (u-bolts to created wooden frame?)), and then measure plywood and secure to frame, as well as gorilla tape gaps. I will have to pull this off without dad's direct assistance due to alzheimers and power tools not mixing.

So I ask, what would be an effective way to accomplish this in 4 or 5 hours? Would it be better to just lay plywood over the top of the truck bed rails and secure it, and hope for the best with the trailer aero? I do not wish to hunt down and purchase an overpriced used canopy/bed topper on craigslist in Dallas with limited time and tight budget. I will not have coroplast available for scavenging, only wood-related materials.

Your thoughts? Taping gaps on the truck seems fairly obvious as are airing up tires. Thank you.

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Old 07-28-2016, 06:04 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Get a Masterlock adjustable hitch ball so that the trailer rides dead level (or barest forward). Lug nut torque, tire pressure and brake fluid need to be checked at UHaul. It's usually NOT right. Good trailer choice. My 24-mpg one ton still did 18-19 with this trailer (same route covered many times; same speed, etc).

I'd go with plywood over bed. How to fasten it down is the trick. Needs to be strong.

On the road, plan your stops in advance of the day's drive. About two hours apart (and combine meal with fuel stop). The farther past 350-miles per day you run, the more tired you'll be. I recommend starts of around 0430 to get the most miles out of the way. I'm usually up by 0300 to accomplish this (truck driver). Th more fire one is, the faster the deterioration of fine motor skills. And the the prevalence of white line fever.

In main, no lane changes. Constant use of cruise control. The gravest distance maintained from other vehicles. Slow to let others pass more quickly, etc. plan ahead by watching mirrors. What is behind me is my future.
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Old 07-28-2016, 10:27 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowmover View Post
Get a Masterlock adjustable hitch ball so that the trailer rides dead level (or barest forward). Lug nut torque, tire pressure and brake fluid need to be checked at UHaul. It's usually NOT right. Good trailer choice. My 24-mpg one ton still did 18-19 with this trailer (same route covered many times; same speed, etc).
The load will be level or just slightly tilted forward; I have thought this part through with hitch's drop which will be going in the receiver. The load in the bed may also help with the angle as it is only a half-ton truck.

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I'd go with plywood over bed. How to fasten it down is the trick. Needs to be strong.
This may be the easiest and most cost effective method. Perhaps cutting various V-grooves in the sides of a 4x8 plywood for rope threading with foam or shop rags at the peak of the grooves to deter fraying? Also a redundant stretch of rope or paracord tying the board to the truck in case the main lashings fail? The board would hang over the tailgate a little and I do not have a problem with that.

Now that I think about it, it may be a huge sheet of chip board instead of plywood that I have access to.

At any rate, safety first on this.
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Old 07-28-2016, 10:46 AM   #4 (permalink)
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You could bang together a quick-and-dirty cap that rose gently to meet the height of the Uhaul's roof, and sides that flared out to meet the width of its walls. Take those as far aft as you dare, bearing in mind that you'll spend the majority of your time on Interstates with gentle turns. The closer you get to making them meet, the less turning tightness you have left, obviously.

If it were me, I wouldn't do more in the time frame you have mentioned. I wouldn't waste a lot of time and effort on a one-and-done like this.
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Old 07-28-2016, 11:20 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
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You could bang together a quick-and-dirty cap that rose gently to meet the height of the Uhaul's roof, and sides that flared out to meet the width of its walls. Take those as far aft as you dare, bearing in mind that you'll spend the majority of your time on Interstates with gentle turns. The closer you get to making them meet, the less turning tightness you have left, obviously.

If it were me, I wouldn't do more in the time frame you have mentioned. I wouldn't waste a lot of time and effort on a one-and-done like this.
Agreed on the interstates; however, there are still hotel parking lots and driving in towns, interchanges, and the twisties on Hwy 20 between Ontario and Burns in OR to deal with. Realistically it most likely won't extend much past the hitch a foot or two behind the truck but every bit will help.

Maybe a gurney flap on the trailing edge of the board, or would that be counter-productive?
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:00 PM   #6 (permalink)
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If a simple plywood tonneau will work, that's the best, simplest answer. If you need more space then a plywood cap isn't that much more work: a fast and dirty box frame like this guy's chicken tractor. U bolts or exhaust clamps can hold it on, sheath it with plywood and let at least the top panel extend as far aft as you dare.

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Old 07-28-2016, 01:04 PM   #7 (permalink)
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That cap in the background... it's already made. Often there are plenty of them to be found on Craigslist free.

It's big, thirsty, and un-aero. Best thing if you can find the mental discipline is to plod along slowly.
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Old 07-28-2016, 02:26 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Best thing if you can find the mental discipline is to plod along slowly.
I once drove from Southern California to Wisconsin at 50 MPH. A 1955 Ford half ton, worn out six cylinder, and an overloaded U-Haul trailer. Worn king pins made over 50 MPH impossible even when it had enough power to go faster. But I got there. In following years I drove that truck out to Wyoming and up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, still at 50 MPH.

Slow WILL get you there, and the gas mileage will be better than you could get with aero improvements at higher speeds. Use the five hours to go slower.
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Old 07-28-2016, 02:35 PM   #9 (permalink)
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The wood frame in the foreground, Frank.

Yes, caps are un-aero, but not as bad as a bed full of furniture. Any kind of a shroud will help. Even driving "slowly" is on a highway, and any help you can get is a bonus.
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Old 07-28-2016, 06:48 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'd prefer to fly down, then rent a diesel moving truck to load everything, and drive that back. Or, is there something special about the truck that it needs to go too?

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