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Towing Report 2013- 1991 Chevy Suburban and Jayco Eagle 328RLS

Discussion in 'Towing & Trailer Tech' started by Crawdaddy, Jan 1, 2014.

  1. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Thread Killer Extraordinaire Staff Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts Platinum Contributor

    I just got done with my 2nd annual Christmas camping trip. I towed my Jayco Eagle 328RLS camper behind my 1991 Chevy Suburban 1500-turned 2500. At this point, the upgrades that pertain to towing are 1-ton rear axle, 3/4 ton front axle, 1-ton brakes all the way around, Firestone air bags, TCI ATF external cooler and filter, TCI deep transmission pan, and Draw-tite 12,000 pound reciever hitch. I'm using a Reese Strait-Line 1,500 pound weight distributing hitch with sway control. The brake controller is unfortunately still the el-cheapo time-based controller I had last year.

    Overall, the trip was a success, but was not without its issues. Christmas Eve was spent installing and setting up my brand new Reese Strait-Line hitch. It's good for 1500 pounds of tongue weight and a gross trailer weight of 15,000 pounds. I put 40 psi in the airbags to effectively bring the rear spring capacity to the 5600 pound springs that the 3/4 ton Suburbans have. The manufacturers stress that the airbags don't increase weight capacity, but they do. Setup of the hitch itself was pretty straightforward and I was surprised that I had to use the shank in a drop configuration instead of a raised configuration. To install the cam bars that make up the sway control portion of the hitch involved drilling holes in the frame which I was apprehensive about since the instructions stressed the need to be precise in locating the bolt that the cam bar pivots from. I then set the hitch up and seemed to get a good even squat that the manual calls for. One really cool thing is the shank on this new hitch is longer than the hitch I used last year, so I can now open the rear barn doors with the trailer hooked up! Last year I had all that space wasted since I couldn't get to it.

    Fast forward to the 27th. The suburban was hooked up, all the tire pressures checked, lug torques verified, that all the utilities were disconnected and prepped for travel, and I was off. I didn't even get to the end of the driveway before my first issue occurred. Just before turning onto the highway I noticed my water temperature gauge was pegged out. Having changed the water pump a couple days earlier, I was afraid something bad happened. I stopped the truck and inspected the situation. I did forget to bleed the cooling system, so I pulled the hot radiator cap and started bleeding the system. However, something still didn't seem right. Even after the truck cooled off, the gauge was still pegged. I used an infrared thermometer and couldn't find any spot that was over 210 degrees and basic troubleshooting seemed to indicate the gauge failed. With this knowledge and knowing I needed to get on the road, I decided to roll without a temp gauge. In addition, both my aftermarket tach and trans temp gauges are broken, so I had very little data about what's going on with the truck.

    Towing went quite well. Acceleration off the line is slow as expected, but it got up to 53 no problem. The horrible shaking and sway I had last year were non-existent. I was able to run 60 without sway. But, I still get blown around when 53 foot van/box trailers fly by on the interstate. That's to be expected and the only way to solve that is a lot more weight in the tow vehicle. While wasn't able to fully relax because I always had to keep an eye on the rear view mirror, it was certainly less stressful than last year. I set the brake controller pretty aggressive and used the trailer brakes 90% of the time to stop. I should probably back it off a little, but feeling the trailer brakes grab positively made me feel batter.

    My week at camp went well. Plenty enjoyable and restful. I spent 4 days trying to get the satellite dish aimed and got it midday on the 4th day when I was leaving midday on the 5th day. Oh well, now I know where to put it next year. Sadly I forgot to take any pictures the whole time I had the truck hooked to the trailer, but here's last year's picture. It was exactly the same except the dish was on the other side of the trailer.

    IMG_0564 cropped.jpg

    The trip home was mostly uneventful except for the brake controller randomly deciding to not engage. Thankfully it always worked when I really needed it. I did my yearly pass across the CAT scales and when I shut the truck down to go get the scale ticket, it wouldn't start or even click. Turns out I had a dirty battery terminal that decided to manifest itself right then. I didn't shut the truck down for my remaining pass across the scales or until I got home. And with that, it's time to end the narrative and get down to the numbers and analysis...

    [TABLE="class: grid, align: center"]
    [TR]
    [TD]Setup
    [/TD]
    [TD]Steer Axle[/TD]
    [TD]Drive Axle[/TD]
    [TD]Trailer Axle[/TD]
    [TD]Gross Weight[/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Truck Only[/TD]
    [TD]2660
    [/TD]
    [TD]3380
    [/TD]
    [TD]0[/TD]
    [TD]6040
    [/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Trailer w/weight bars unhooked[/TD]
    [TD]2100
    [/TD]
    [TD]5200
    [/TD]
    [TD]8140
    [/TD]
    [TD]15440
    [/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Trailer w/weight bars hooked[/TD]
    [TD]2480
    [/TD]
    [TD]4660
    [/TD]
    [TD]8280
    [/TD]
    [TD]15420
    [/TD]
    [/TR]
    [TR]
    [TD]Factory Truck GAWR
    [/TD]
    [TD]3250
    [/TD]
    [TD]3968
    [/TD]
    [TD]-
    [/TD]
    [TD]6800
    [/TD]
    [/TR]
    [/TABLE]



    So, I did much better in getting the weight transferred back to the trailer and to the steer axle where it belongs. I do need to adjust the hitch a little bit to transfer another 200 pounds to the steer which will also transfer more back to the trailer axle. That should put me within the stock factory limits, ignoring the heavier-duty parts I put on the truck. Gross Combination Vehicle Weight(GCVWR) is still in the range of a 7.4L gasser with 4.10 gears, but I feel that's not an issue. Fuel mileage was about 7.4MPG, but that tank of fuel involved nearly 2 hours of idle time and 60 miles of unloaded highway driving. I don't have a current and accurate unloaded MPG rating since I rebuilt the TBI. I'd say the fuel mileage isn't bad considering the weight and lack of aerodynamics, but it's not great either.

    Pros: The new weight distributing hitch made a huge difference in the weight distribution and sway. The hitch I used last year only had 1000 pound bars and no sway control. I've since learned my tongue is between 1100-1200 pounds and the bars are typically best when a few hundred pounds less than max. I also picked up a set of towing mirrors to help see around the trailer though they didn't get used this trip due to needing modifications to fit.

    Cons: I'm still running that piece of junk time-based controller. It does the job, but makes setting the gain properly nearly impossible so the trailer brakes are either leading a ton, or they're non-existent. I wanted a MaxBrake but it appears that company no longer exists. Instead, I will most likely get a Tekonsha Prodigy P3. They're the gold standard of brake controllers. The other major issue was all the gauges not working, but that would have been the case had I not been towing anything at all. Gauges are really important when towing though, so it would have been great for them to work. I'll work on both of these issues in the near future.


    So, I had a fun time and look forward to next Christmas and maybe having even less troubles. Any comments/questions, I'm glad to answer them or learn from you.
  2. Enkeiavalanche

    Enkeiavalanche Rockstar 4 Years ROTM Winner 5000 Posts

    Great write up...:great: By the way where did you go?
  3. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Thread Killer Extraordinaire Staff Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts Platinum Contributor

    I went to the local Boy Scout camp where I frequently volunteer.

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