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Old 04-25-2010, 12:08 PM   #1
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Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

We've been towing our 23' boat behind out SMB for a while now and are dealing with a few shortcomings, not the least of which is brake fade and just general weak braking power with our 10k lb rig and 6k+ lb boat, which has surge brakes and electric trailer brakes. The boat seems to manhandle our van a bit over bumps, etc., too.

We are thinking of ways to upgrade our SMB for towing because we want to take the boat pretty far into Baja (San Quintin, LA Bay, Loreto, Mag Bay). That's never an easy proposition even with the perfect setup. We were thinking of putting in an exhaust brake and a dual rear end on top of the sway bar we already put on. Any thoughts on these? Should we add a tranny cooler to it, too?

I've read that dually technically doesn't change the GCWR but I still imagine it's got to have multiple advantages.

I really want to stick to the SMB as our towing vehicle as I think the Duramax, even de-tuned as it is in our van, is an ok towing platform. And I don't want to buy a truck just for towing and then not have the ability to camp, etc.

We're relatively new to the game and most if not all of you are a lot more technically savvy than me, so if any of you have any thoughts, please fire away.
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Old 04-25-2010, 08:09 PM   #2
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Re: Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

What type of hitch and sway control are you using Webbmac?

We tow a 6K lb travel trailer with our diesel Quigley van conversion (weighs 8k lbs) using the factory tow receiver and an Equalizer load distributing/sway control hitch. It tows like a dream (no tail wagging the dog, oncoming semi's aren't a problem, and I could drive with 1-2 fingers on the wheel on the freeway if I were so inclined). We towed the same trailer with a 1/2 ton 2WD Chevy Express 5.3l gasser van and it did fine too (but felt a bit maxed out).

Sounds like you don't have the trailer setup right. Have you adjusted the trailer brakes and made sure the surge brake is working? Maybe you need to get a brake controller and use regular electric brakes. I wonder if you don't have enough tongue weight on that boat trailer - that can cause big problems.

Vans are great platforms to tow from. You shouldn't be having these kind of problems towing only a bit more than half of the allowable trailer weight. I'd spend some time fixing the trailer issues before diving into expensive upgrades to the van that shouldn't be necessary for towing that kind of weight.
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Old 04-26-2010, 03:36 PM   #3
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Re: Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

Switchfoot, thanks a lot for your thoughts. Attached is a photo of the setup:



I am using a factory class V hitch and a Hellwig sway bar. Dana 70HD rear axle, 3.73 with Gov-Lok diff. Plenty strong, especially behind a DMax, so I'd hate for my brakes to be my rate limiting factor.

I know the surge works on the trailer and pretty sure the electric brakes work, I have checked the solenoid for them and I will test the system further, thanks for pointing that out. In general, I am pretty conservative in going over GVWR and GCWR especially with factory brakes on bigger tires. With that boat and nothing else in it, I am at ~GCWR (16k in a Chevy), so I start to get a little worried.

The combination is fine for CA but if I want to go down Mex 1 I am a bit less enthusiastic what with the 10' wide lanes and only two of them. Realistically I will probably only take the boat to San Quintin but I still want to be as bulletproof (pardon the pun) as possible.

I hear you, the platform I have should be pretty solid but the SMB is already so heavy by itself that I get concerned. I don't see dually or exhaust brake as a huge expense (~2k with me installing them) if it means me not having to have a dedicated tow vehicle, but I also don't want to waste the $$ on low value added items.

Anyone with a dually have any thoughts? Worth it? Overkill? Thanks a lot for your help.

Best-
Steve
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Old 04-27-2010, 07:35 AM   #4
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Re: Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

Nice center console Webbmac! Based on your description of the issues, my guess is your trailer brakes aren't working properly. Surge brakes are hydraulic and not electric. Here's some web sites to help you out:

http://www.redtrailers.com/ShowArticle.asp?id=2
http://www.centrevilletrailer.com/ne...ootingtips.htm

Get the brakes working right and I'll bet you'll be pleasantly surprised. Heck even dual rear wheels and an exhaust brake won't help all that much if you have a 6K load with bad or ineffective brakes pushing you around.

Your photo doesn't show the hitch area, so can't tell if you have a sway control device. This can be easily added and can make a big difference. Carringb on this forum has a van with dual rear wheels and tows a monster trailer and would be a good resource for that upgrade.

Towing a big trailer in Baja can be challenging on the skinny, pot-holed roads. We towed ours to San Felipe without incident, but thankfully we didn't encounter too many semis. Seems like there are more on the Pacific side roads.

Good luck with the fix.

Bob
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Old 04-28-2010, 11:46 AM   #5
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Re: Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

Switchfoot, thanks again. I really appreciate your insights. I will delve further into the trailer brakes. I agree that the SMB should tow that boat adequately, although it sounds like I have ~2k extra pounds in my van than yours. I don't have a weight distributing hitch, just a standard class 5, so that might be my next investment, too.
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Old 04-28-2010, 11:51 AM   #6
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Re: Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

And, later if you still want more brakes, look into an exhaust brake.

Having driven a truck with a working exhaust brake I find you need to use less than half the friction brakes. And much less often.

Mike
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Old 04-29-2010, 12:04 PM   #7
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Re: Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

Mike-

Thanks for the wisdom. I will likely go in the direction of exhaust brakes eventually if only to save my brakes. Will post the progress.

Best-
Steve
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Old 04-29-2010, 01:40 PM   #8
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Re: Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

I wonder if all exhaust brakes are the same.
We have some class A vehicles with Engine brakes
that don't do much for stopping. Certainly not like a Jake brake.
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Old 04-29-2010, 01:45 PM   #9
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Re: Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

A Jake Brake IS an engine brake, isn't it?
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Old 04-29-2010, 08:25 PM   #10
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Re: Towing Help - exhaust brake and/or dually?

Yes they are, but there must be different styles of brakes because many don't sound like this:


Our larger trucks have the real McCoy, but our smaller vehicles (which are really not that small)
don't have nearly the stopping power of the typical "big rig" jake brake. The smaller vehicles
won't wake the dead and you can hardly hear them.
I wonder if it's an engine displacement thing?

So the question remains, are ther different engine brakes? I'd hate to spend good cash for
something that doesn't work well...but I aint no mechanic, just a driver. IMO, on a downhill
grade anything is better than nothing but correct gearing might be something to look into as well.
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