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Fuel Efficient Tow Vehicle

Old 02-29-08, 03:01 PM
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Fuel Efficient Tow Vehicle

I figured Race Car Tech would be the most appropriate place to put this,, since most serious racers have their own tow vehicles.

I'm looking for a Tow Vehicle that will meet the following criteria, so far my search hasn't left me with much:

The Tow Vehicle must:

1. be able to tow at least 4000 pounds (Weight of Car and Tow Dolly)
2. be as fuel efficient as possible.
3. have a manual transmission

Given the current economic climate and gas prices being the way they are, I'm trying to find the ideal tow vehicle that can be used as a daily commuter. My original plans for having a Honda Insight as a tow vehcile didn't exactly pan out. From what I have gathered from my limited research:

Hybrids suck as tow vehicles. Low power, high fuel economy just don't mix.

It would be nice to enjoy the stick shift as well.
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Old 02-29-08, 03:07 PM
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Old 02-29-08, 03:18 PM
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Like what was stated above, you can have a good tow vehicle or a fuel efficient one. I have always used as big of a truck as I can have as the heavier the truck the less it notices the car on the back. Right now I am using an F250 with a 460 gas engine. It tows my car, spares and trailer and it makes no difference to the fuel economy, 9 mpg loaded or unloaded, LOL. I don't use it as a daily driver.

But for a tow vehicle that is safe and gets "decent" gas mileage, I have a friend that swears by late '90's to early 2000's Nissan Pathfinders. He gets close to 30 mpg on the highway and can easily pull an 18ft enclosed trailer, however when towing he is under 20 mpg.

Look at the mid size SUV's. They tow light loads well and get okay mileage.

Eric Nummelin
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Old 02-29-08, 03:20 PM
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Your only hope is a diesel, start looking into them. Even then you will get only 15-16 mpg with that amount of weight and keeping it below 70mph. On the bright side you can make your own fuel for about $1 a gal.
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Old 02-29-08, 03:32 PM
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The mileage when towing a car isn't really the factor, I'd like to use the tow vehicle as a daily driver.

I like the F250 for everything except the gas mileage.

Too bad Pathfinders don't come manual.

EDIT: Apparently they do!
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Old 02-29-08, 03:32 PM
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My girlfriends brother has a late 90s 3/4 ton Dodge Ram with the 5.9L Cummins.
It has a lower rear end option and he manages to get 21 or 22 on the interstate (no load though).
If youre looking for fuel economy, definately go diesel.
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Old 02-29-08, 03:39 PM
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Saw the Pathfinder, 3500 pounds as it's rating.

Let's say I have a car that weighs about 2900 lbs wet.

I need a tow dolly that is capable of supporting all 4 wheels, basically to make sure that the car is stationary on a platform while moving. As I understand it, I can't really get any that are under 1000 lbs. Is there a possible solution to this that I'm not aware of?

I really don't want to use an automatic as a daily driver.

EDIT: I think the key is to find a torquey, yet fuel-efficient V6 motor. Though, I guess that's like finding the Holy Grail.

Last edited by Roen; 02-29-08 at 03:49 PM.
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Old 02-29-08, 04:01 PM
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I got over 20mpg towing with a 5-speed 4wd B4000i (basically: pushrod 4-liter extended cab Ranger).

I don't know how much the trailer weighed, but here's a pic of the trailer with the vehicle in question, and a little of the truck in question:



Keep it over 65 and 5th gear is usable even up mild grades. Slow down and you have to start rowing.
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Old 02-29-08, 04:11 PM
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How's it when you're not towing in terms of fuel efficiency?
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Old 02-29-08, 04:23 PM
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Man, I forgot about the B4000. I used one (a 4x4) for a season as a tow vehicle only. It towed my trailer very well (with load leveling bars) and power/ stability was never an issue. I remember once pulling a car to Shannonville. It easily cruised at 70 mph with no sway/braking or tugging issues at all. One thing to keep in mind with smaller tow vehicles is the effects of air wave caused sway off the front of big rigs. If the rig passes you from behind and the truck/ trailer combo is wrong, it is white knuckle time. Towing a 20 ft enclosed trailer with my old 1999 Explorer was always, always, ALWAYS way more dangerous than anything I did on track.

If I recall correctly the mileage on the highway was close to 17 mpg towing and the mid-20's empty.

Roen, really look into getting an auto truck. They are way easier to tow with and far more available. As well trucks just aren't sporty enough to do a stick justice and be good towing vehicles.

Eric
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Old 02-29-08, 04:46 PM
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I wonder how a 20B REPU would do as a tow vehicle? There goes fuel efficiency.
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Old 02-29-08, 04:59 PM
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Do you actually race or are you towing to a HPDE event?
Are you sure that a dolly is going to work on your car? Most dollies I see set the rear of the car dangerously close to the ground.
How many events are you towing to per year?
How far are those events?

Personally, I would get a good, safe tow vehicle for towing and a fuel efficient fun car for DD. There are no good white basketball players. Driving a truck is no fun IMO and gas prices are not going down any time soon. Split your budget in half and buy a good F250 or GMC 2500 or van E250 or Suburban 2500 or Yukon 2500. Those tow well. Then get a decent fun car like a 323 or Protege with a manual that is fun and good on gas. I don't think I'd want a manual tow vehicle or manual anything that is that large.

The forum on grassroots motorsports and improvedtouring.com have a bunch of good threads on tow vehicles. I suggest you go on over there and take a look.

Grassroots Motorsports magazine had a few good articles on towing with the newer Pathfinder and Honda Ridgeline.
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Old 02-29-08, 05:18 PM
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If I was going to split, I'd probably split between a F250 and an Insight.

1. This would be the first season what I would actually race, when I get my tow vehicle. Right now, I race, but only in small regional non-classed events.
2. Maybe I'm thinking of something else, I'm guessing I mean a trailer, now that I think of it. As long as the car has all 4 wheels stationary and the car is safe, that's what I'm looking for.
3. Events would probably be between 10-12
4. Some would be quite far away (a couple of states)
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Old 02-29-08, 06:28 PM
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My Dodge w/cummins gets well over 20 on the highway with no trailer. It gets about 16-17 in the city. I have a hard time with mileage in the city because of all the hotrod stuff on the truck. (Edge Comp box, 4" exhaust,CAI) But all that stuff helps mileage on the road. And it will drag an SUV and a trailer sideways across a parking lot, something like a 10,000lb tow capacity.
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Old 02-29-08, 06:47 PM
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If you want fuel efficient under load, get a diesel.

If you want affordable at purchase, get a gasser and pay for it at the pump.

We have a 95 F-150 with 5.8l and when towing an *empty* trailer from NH to PA last saturday we might have managed 10mpg. On a good day with no load it might manage 15mpg.

Personally I wouldn't like having a truck like that as my only daily driver. It takes several miles for a diesel to warm up and operate with any efficiency, and most daily driving is about that length. The 15+mpg will not happen with short trips.

All that said, 4000# is not very heavy. You won't need a 1-ton truck with diesel engine to tow that acceptably. Depending on how much you tow and over what terrain, a 1/2 ton w/5l gasser may be a good all-around compromise.
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Old 02-29-08, 07:11 PM
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One thing to consider is that the smaller the tow vehicle, the smaller the brakes. That's one huge advantage to the bigger trucks, especially if you have to tow over hilly or mountainous roads. It'll be a lot scarier towing in something small. I saw a reccomendation somewhere to look for used shuttle vans, apparently it makes for a great tow vehicle, with dry, safe, enclosed storage, and maybe a place to sleep if you want.

Riding shotgun to the track in a ~2004 GMC 2500 with the diesel and allison transmission with a camper in the back towing something like a 6000lb 20' enclosed trailer over moutainous roads seemed like no sweat at all. He hated the truck at first, untill he towed to his first race, now he loves it (well for towing anyway).
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Old 02-29-08, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Roen View Post
How's it when you're not towing in terms of fuel efficiency?
No idea, it was a borrowed truck and trailer.

He uses it all the time to tow his FD to HPDEs and his Golf to rallycrosses.

He was kinda pissed when I told him that I did the 210 miles from my place to his (loaded with my soon to be ex-car, fig.1) on a hair over 10 gallons of fuel. He says he's lucky if he gets that kind of economy driving without anything, and about 17mpg towing.

But then I have also gone from his house to mine on 6.7 gallons of fuel in a carbureted 12A spinning through 4.78's, so maybe it's part driver (Don't do the math, you will get sick! SICK!)
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Old 02-29-08, 07:48 PM
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why not go with any kind of 3.0 litre v6 and and small 2 wheel trailer ?

http://www.metrotrailers.com/cardolly.html

those go for around $ 700 new at the local shops with barebone models and afew hundred more for the good models.
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Old 03-01-08, 01:37 AM
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Becuase he doesn't want to do a 2 wheel trailer
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Old 03-01-08, 05:37 PM
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Old 03-01-08, 06:10 PM
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rx7 with v8



.....just kidding :S
astrovan?
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Old 03-01-08, 06:29 PM
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It all comes down to budget I guess.


As already said above, get a good F250 use as get a nice trailer and on the side get a decent nice 5 speed DD .


Now if parking spots etc it tight the option I suggested above is not bad. specially if you dont tooo much track days etc.

A v6 pathfinder with a car dollie



Attached Thumbnails Fuel Efficient Tow Vehicle-000_0933.jpg   Fuel Efficient Tow Vehicle-000_0935.jpg  
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Old 03-01-08, 06:51 PM
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Go with a diesel, thats the only way you will get good mileage in a big truck, towing or not. They also run forever.
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Old 03-01-08, 11:48 PM
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flat or dolly towing isnt the longer term answer, so many things will render you DATT(dead at the track) when its time to go home........ look to setting yourself up with a trailer before too long, non DD diesel tow is my vote, keep in mind the heavier end steers, if the trailer/car is even2/3 of the tow vehicle weight...the trailer is steering.......
there isnt a cheap solution to racing......
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Old 03-02-08, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Black91n/a View Post
I saw a reccomendation somewhere to look for used shuttle vans, apparently it makes for a great tow vehicle, with dry, safe, enclosed storage, and maybe a place to sleep if you want.
This is exactly what I use. I have a 1995 Dodge Ram 2500 Van with a 5.9L V8. It used to be a half-conversion van and I stripped the interior out (seats, etc). Tows great and being able to store everything in there overnight is great. It also shares the brakes of the 2500/3500 trucks so they are pretty substantial. You will need some load levelling air shocks (or similar) in the rear though.

Gas mileage sucks but at least it has a 35 gallon tank!
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