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Old 08-22-2012, 12:11 PM   #1
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Towing 26BH with 03' Chevy Tahoe

I thought I would let you guys know about my experience towing a 2012 26BH using my 2003 Chevy Tahoe Z71 5.3 liter with 3.73 gears.

I had read this forum and forums for my Tahoe for months to see how it would be towing the trailer with my Tahoe. After doing the research, looking at other posts and talking to friends with trailers, I decided to take the plunge.

I just got the 26BH last month. I have had a month to load it up with all the essential gear for taking a trip (full propane, battery, tools, chairs, dump equipment, leveling blocks, grill, bedding, you get the picture... This does not include food, clothing, and the little kids. I also filled the fresh water tank with about 10 gallons for pit stop and so forth.

I have a 2003 Chevy Tahoe Z71 4x4 that I have had since new. It is bone stock with 100K miles. It has a tow package with transmission oil cooler. I got an Equalizer hitch with 10K bars and a Prodigy P3 brake controller. I also bought a Scan Gauge II so that I can monitor my transmission temperature. These Tahoes and Suburbans never came with a transmission temperature gauge even though they are already wired for it.

Here is a baseline for my Tahoe while not towing.

Trans temp between 165 and 195
Engine coolant temp 190
Mileage 14mpg on average
The Tahoe is very well taken care with service and runs like new

My first stop was a CAT scale to see what the weight was. It gave me the front axle weight, rear axle weight and trailer axle weight. All were several hundred pounds under the maximum allowable weight. The GCWR for the Tahoe is 13000lbs. The GCWR with the trailer was 11620.

With that information, I wanted to test it out on one of the biggest hills in my area that I would have to go over. I live in Southern California and there are two big hills. The "Grapevine" also known as the Tejon Pass which is about 4200 feet in elavation. Then there is the Cajon Summit which is about the same.

I decided to take it up the Cajon Summit. It is off of Interstate 15 and is the route that most people in Southern California would need to take to get to Las Vegas. It is a 12 mile 6 percent grade.

It was about a 30 mile drive for me to get to the base of the hill. I towed with the tow/haul on, but also left it in 3rd gear. This prevented it from searching for the overdrive gear and going back and forth. The rpms were a steady 2200.

I started up the hill in 3rd, but it quickly dropped to 2nd with the rpms staying steady at 4000. You can definitely tell the motor was working, but it was not struggling. I maintained a minimum of 50mph up the entire hill. It went back and forth between 3rd and 2nd but it was not searching. I would have gone slower if I felt that I was pushing the motor, but that was not the case. I never went over 4000 rpms.

The entire time I was going up the hill, I was monitoring both coolant and tranmission temps. It was about 90 degrees outside and I was running the A/C.

Here are the numbers while climbing near the summit.

Trans temp maxed out at 215. I would have stopped if it hit 230.
Engine coolant temp maxed out at 205.
Mileage per the trip computer was 9.9mpg for about a 100 mile round trip. The acual mileage was probably 9 to 9.5.

Going down the hill was fine with the trailer and the brake controller.

During the short road trip, the Equalizer worked fine I think. I didnt feel any sway next to semis and didnt really have any porposing unless I hit a larger dip in the road.

In all, I am very happy with the Tahoes performance pulling up the hill. The ride was as good as can be for a short wheelbase SUV with 100K on it. You can definitely tell the trailer was behind you.

I dont have the means to upgrade to a 3/4 ton deisel, but that is definitely something I will look into. As for now I will watch how much weight I will pack and make sure to plan my trip with a few grades as possible.

I do want to take the 395 up towards Mammoth Mountain and the Eastern Sierras, but the elevation up there reaches 8000 feet so im not quite sure I want to push it. If anyone has done this with a 1/2 ton towing a 6000lb trailer, please tell me about it.
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Old 08-22-2012, 01:08 PM   #2
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I had the same truck as you have (2003 Tahoe 5.3L 4X4 Z71) and a 24' Jayco BH. I owned my truck since it was new and it was all stock. I had simular experiences as you are having. On the steep grades, the truck would shift into 2nd at about 4,000rpm and work its way up the hill. The one thing I loved about the truck is that it NEVER had probelems with overheating! They sure designed the cooling system very well on the truck.

I live in the SF bay area and last year we took a trip to Zion, Bryce and Great Basin national Parks. We took Hwy 50 from Great Basin back to the Bay Area. I am not sure if you are familiar with that stretch, but it consists of a straight freeway that goes down into a valley and back up the other side to the top of the next pass...then back down the next valley...you get the idea. Some passes were up to 10,000 feet in elevation, the grades were up to 10% and the outside temperature was over 100 degrees. Although we made it back home safely, when we were going up the steep grades, I had to shift the truck into 1st and would keep the speed at 15-20mph max. It was all it could handle. I even left the water tank empty to reduce the weight as much as I could. The truck could not pull in 2nd gear in these conditions. On the way down, I would leave it in 2nd and keep my speed slow just like I had to on the way up. Using the engine as a brake, I didn't have to use the brakes too much and never had a problem with them heating up. Once again, I will mention that the truck never had any problems with overheating.

I will admit that the trip did make me nervous. I was not sure if we were going to make it over some of those passes. Ever since then, I wanted a 3/4 ton Diesel. Well, we just got one 3 weeks ago and are looking forward to our maiden trailer trip to Mt. Shasta!

In conclusion...I think the truck will do okay for you but I understand your wanting a diesel. just take it slow and easy over the hills and you will make it. make sure to go down hills at the same speed that you go up them. This will make sure you don't overheat your brakes. Have fun!

Dave
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Old 08-22-2012, 01:32 PM   #3
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We towed our 26BH with a 2011 Yukon XL 5.3L, and it did ok. We have mountain passes in WA and I was always struggling. I also used the prodigy P3 and liked it. The 26BH is about as much trailer as my yukon could tow though, and there were times when I really wanted more power.

I upgraded to a 1 ton diesel and it's obviously a whole different experience. I feel a lot more confident, not just going up grades, but going down as well. The yukon was nice, but I'm glad I have the silverado now.
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Old 08-22-2012, 03:02 PM   #4
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We also have 2012 26BH and towed it with both our 04 Tahoe LT 4X4 5.3L 3:73 and a 04 Silverado 1500 LS 4X4 5.3L 3:73. Although we felt the Silverado was up to the task a little more than the Tahoe, the seating and cargo area of the Tahoe made it much easier to haul our kids and dogs. We certainly preferred the Tahoe and used it nearly every trip.

I agree with your assessment that the Tahoe can be a adequate TV for this TT. We experienced nearly identical performance to what you describe. However there was one weakness in my opinion that ultimately lead to trading in the Tahoe early than expected.

For us when towing in the Sierra's twisting and hilly 2 lane mountain roads, not interstates like the Grapevine on I5 and grade on I15, we just couldn't keep the RPMs and speed up to a point that the Tahoe could perform. While on these roads I kept the Tahoe in 2nd but whenever we needed to power out of a turn or accelerated up a hill the engine would surge to 4K RPMs and the transmission would drop to 1st then constantly search between 1st and 2nd until we let off the accelerator into a turn or down a hill. It took everything to keep that combination maintain 20-25MPH in these conditions -- not that they were real steep but curvy enough to go slow. Both the engine and transmission temps would spike, 230 wasn't uncommon. It never felt good driving like this, however it seemed it always only the last 10-15 miles of the trip so we dealt with it.

In late June 2012 we were on a trip to Camp Edison at Shaver Lake, the last 10-15 miles is the exact type of 2 lane mountain highway what I described above. On this trip, just a few miles from the campground, the Tahoe suddenly felt gutless and the check engine light came on. Since I was so close I slowed it to a crawl but just kept going. The temps where OK, ~210-215, but I had no power and the RPMs where screaming. Once we got to the campsite I used my ScanGuage II to check the codes. It appeared I had a experience a couple of misfires and the engine was running real lean. I decided to simply reset the light and see if it would repeat while driving and not towing during the trip. The light didn't reoccur, the power seemed to come back, and we enjoyed the rest of the vacation and towed home with no incidents.

I lost faith in Tahoe after this trip and my previous experience with these driving conditions. We bought Tahoe new and it had >150K miles when this happened. The Tahoe had severed us well but we had already planned to replace it after this season. Well, we decided why wait and bought a used 2007.5 Silverado 2500 4x4 CC Duramax. Immediately it became clear why people rave about 3/4 tons and diesels...the towing experience is night and day. Having all that torque at low RPMs make mountain driving a non-issue. Our dogs are the only ones who disagree, since they back in truck bed in their crates and not in the Air Conditioned confines of the Tahoe.

We are fortunate that the Tahoe and now the Duramax are 3rd vehicles for us and used basically just for towing. I realize everyone isn't able to have an extra TV, but if you can or if you don't mind driving a 3/4 ton truck as a daily driver I would strongly consider anyone to look at a diesel. This is my first diesel. We have taken the TT on 3 trips and I am amazed at its performance.

All that said, I still agree with your assessment that a Tahoe will perform -- in the right circumstances and right environment, or course. We never had issue on interstates either flat valley driving or through the mountains...80 to Truckee/Reno or 5 to SoCal where never an issue. Even highway 168 (the "4-lane") to Shaver & Wishon area wasn't an issue...it’s the slow mountain roads that caused us to replace the Tahoe ahead of schedule.
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Old 09-27-2014, 09:56 PM   #5
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Thank you everyone who posted here. I have an '03 Tahoe 5.3 2wd and just bought a Jayco 26BH. I couldn't ask for a better thread than this! I live in Houston and our children are fairly young so we plan to keep our drives in the 3 hour range (and there aren't too many hills within 3 hours of Houston). I won't get the trailer until November so I won't be able to try out the Tahoe until then. We will be trying to pack light.

I still haven't made up my mind on the weight distribution/sway control system. I'm leaning towards the Reese dual cam. Anyway, thanks!
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Old 09-28-2014, 07:01 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Tao of Funk View Post
I still haven't made up my mind on the weight distribution/sway control system. I'm leaning towards the Reese dual cam. Anyway, thanks!
I would look at the Equalizer E4 hitch. Far superior hitch as sales numbers show
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Old 09-28-2014, 09:43 AM   #7
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The Equalizer is the other weight distribution hitch I am considering. Sales numbers may be indicative of superiority. I realize there are other issues involving comparisons between these hitches. The worst attribute of the Reese (for me) is having to drill holes in the trailer's frame.

I regret mentioning it in this thread because my intention was to commend the other posters for providing such great information.

P.S. No hard feelings please, I appreciate your input.
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Old 09-28-2014, 10:30 AM   #8
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I would look at the Equalizer E4 hitch. Far superior hitch as sales numbers show
While I agree with your assessment of the hitch I don't agree that sales numbers show anything other than marketing prowess.

If sales numbers indicate a superior product, then McDonalds is a four star restaurant...
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Old 09-28-2014, 10:33 AM   #9
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While I agree with your assessment of the hitch I don't agree that sales numbers show anything other than marketing prowess.

If sales numbers indicate a superior product, then McDonalds is a four star restaurant...

In their category they obviously are
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Old 09-28-2014, 10:49 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by popo719 View Post
I thought I would let you guys know about my experience towing a 2012 26BH using my 2003 Chevy Tahoe Z71 5.3 liter with 3.73 gears.......snip
Popo719,

Excellant overview of your towing experience with your Tahoe/26BH combination, and your awareness on the effect of cargo weight

I'm sure others will chime in on there similar experiences with a 1/2 ton towing a 6000lb trailer.

Bob
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