2016 RAM 1500 3.6L towing 21ft - my experience - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 11-06-2016, 11:01 PM   #1
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2016 RAM 1500 3.6L towing 21ft - my experience

Anyone thinking of implementing this tow vehicle/trailer combination? I just got almost real world experience to share. I say almost because unlike a fully loaded trailer, we took delivery of the 21ft classic trailer with no gear or fluids other than full LPG tanks. We towed 1350 miles through several passes in Oregon and the Tehachapi pass in southern California (3,800 ft elevation). If this combo interests you, read on.


The truck:
2016 RAM 3.6L V6 aspirated - Quad Cab - 8 speed - 305hp, 269ft-lb 3.55 axle ratio with SnugTop camper shell.

Elected the 3.6L (3.55 ratio) vs the 5.7L as today's V6s offer more power that most V8s years ago.
The 3.6L also uses regular gasoline while the 5.7L mid-grade. The 5.7L sounds wonderful and made this a tough decision.

My 3.6L after 2,000 miles of by the book break-in delivers 25 mpg on highway at 70 mph between Anaheim and Oakland California (800 miles round trip) going over the 3,800ft Tehachapi pass. Six north/south trips all averaged 25mpg on truck's console. At 70 mph I could see 1,800 RPM. I use Mobil One oil every 5,000 miles.

The 1,300 miles towing from Sumas to Anaheim averaging 60 mph (+/- 3mph) was pleasant. We arrived in Anaheim with average mpg console reading of 15.8 mpg. Truck mileage arriving Anaheim was 9,700 miles. Relatively new truck.

Every mountain pass dropped average mpg significantly but all recovered on way down. This is also true when not towing and getting 25mpg at 70mph


2016 RAM factory towing equiptment:
32 gal tank, integrated trailer braking system, hitch & connectors, flip up towing mirrors, rear view camera.

No weight distribution system installed at this time. Will wait for fully loaded trips later to determine if needed.

Brake controller setting to "Light Electric", gain of 5.0

For those going to take delivery of trailer, I strongly suggest you bring a well calibrated torque wrench and set to 95 ft-lbs. You will need to check/set torque every 100km three times per factory. Not sure if this is needed on steel wheels?

I also suggest you check your 7 pin hitch connector and see that all trailer lights connector pins work. Make sure the trailer brake controller is working. I used a 12vdc filament bulb to check my controller seeing the bulb's intensity rise and drop as dear wife manually moved the controller setting. Without a filament bulb there is not enough resistance for the controller, in my truck at least, to detect the "brakes".

Driveability:
NOTE: except for full propane tanks, trailer was empty.

Towing was smooth and well controlled, no fishtailing- none. Good acceleration from stop and going up steep 5-6% grades. Don't anticipate much additional mountain crossing degradation when trailer gets fully loaded as the 3.6L seemed quite willing.

Braking was excellent. It was smooth and could not tell I had a trailer assisting with the overall braking effort. I am impressed with the RAM controller as well as the four trailer brakes. It was teamwork at its best.

The RAM towing mirrors when flipped vertically are absolutely useful, I could see everything I needed for safety. All I need now is a WIRED trailer rear view camera for backing up, will be on order soon.

The simple ball hitch attachment is good enough but I could tell the trailer pounced on the truck while going through lumpy roadway sections at low speeds. I suspect it will get worst when trailer is fully loaded, will decide at that time. While a weight distribution system will solidify the connection, not sure that ride comfort benefit outweighs the simplicity of the simple ball hitch arrangement I now have. Maybe when the trailer is fully loaded and weight distributed properly ride will improve and I can continue keeping it simple ? While at highway speed, current setup is smooth and comfortable, its only the rough parts of the roadway that gets edgy. I am not a fan of adding what could be a hefty Moment to the truck or trailer frame due to weight distribution hitch. Decisions decisions.

The RAM 1500 is suspended on 4 coil springs giving it a car like ride. Handling sucks and you immediately know you are not driving a Porsche, I know. Perhaps due to the coils? I felt that high speed roadway dips made the front end feel too light perhaps due to the concentration of weight on the rear axle. This could be the best reason to install a weight distribution hitch.

In summary, I am glad I purchased the 3.6L (3.55 ratio) in this configuration to tow our beautiful brand new Escape 21 Classic. Likely the last one manufactured or close to it before the molds are retired to the old molds home.

Will decide on the weight distribution hitch after we take a few trips fully loaded which for us will not be much as we tend to be minimalists by nature.
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Old 11-07-2016, 02:17 AM   #2
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Good report. Thanks.



Some thoughts,


A cat back exhaust might get some growl in there for you.


Having some water in all the holding tanks helps smooth my trailer ride out. I think Norman says 1/2 to 3/4 is a guide.

Speaking of Jim, he has documented getting slightly better mileage with premium while towing. YMMV.


Personally I generally run a normal stinger, occasionally using the Andersen when the day calls for it.

Happy travels.
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Old 11-07-2016, 05:34 AM   #3
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Santiago,
Enjoyed your report since I have a similar Ram, but with the diesel. I continue to use my Andersen WDH, since I had it left over from towing with my 4Runner, but I have considered leaving the Andersen home. I'm looking forward to your future experiences towing as you are, but with a little more weight in the trailer.
At 62 mph we get 17.9 mpg (hand calculated over 8,000 miles) but that little extra mpg will never pay for the diesel upcharge-- I just like the engine. It's rated at 420 lb/ft and I see that the new F150 for 2017 (gas 3.5 Eco-Boost) is rated at 470 and will have a 10-speed. That would be a good choice, too, but you may have made the best choice, and I certainly enjoy our 8-speed, which shifts into 8th while towing at about 62. Anyone researching transmissions will find that this particular brand of transmission is being used in a lot of high end brands, so hopefully it will be reliable.
Please keep posting.
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Old 11-07-2016, 06:51 AM   #4
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Another Ram owner with the "Hemi" and 3:21 rear plus 8 speed. This transmission was the reason I upgraded from a 2009 Hemi which produced 12 mpg towing or not with 3:55 and 5 speed transmission.
I found with both trucks mileage will improve after about 20,000 miles. I had a cap on the 2009 but dropped it for a tonneau on the 2014. Carrying capacity is the weak point, around 1300 lbs so the heavy cap cuts into that. My 21 had tongue weight of 500# so you do the math.
On my recent 7500 mile trip out to get the new 19' Escape I was getting close to 21 mpg at 80 mph in the 2014 Ram. I do use premium/mid range. The truck bed was packed full of camping gear. On the return portion of the trip, I slowed down due to towing and my avg dropped from 21 to 14 mpg.
The v-6 pentastar motor is a great motor but over the long run I feel the larger hemi will work less to maintain the same speed, due to the torque difference. Been thru both the Stevens Pass, Tehachapi Pass, but the pass thru the Eisenhower Tunnels on I70 in Colorado is the monster. Regarding the more torque comment, never went over 4,000 rpm going up the passes. Remember Horsepower is what you read about, torque is what you feel. I have another vehicle to drive while not towing so my truck is a single purpose vehicle.
I have my brake controller set to "heavy" gain of 2,0, I did use an Andersen with my 21 but sold it with the trailer. With air bags in the rear I'm level towing. The use of a w/d hitch I feel will make the towing more enjoyable as it should eliminate the porpoising one feels on a lot of highways, I always feel a little timid opening the door after towing on those type of roads. Maybe in the future I'll get a w/d set up.
BTW, the Ram 7 pin plug is "live" all the time so you need to unplug when stopping and a little velcro strap around the 7 pin truck and trailer connection will keep you plugged in. With the 19 I do not need mirrors, so if anyone wants a free set, they snap on the stock power mirrors on the Ram.
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Old 11-07-2016, 07:19 AM   #5
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BTW, the Ram 7 pin plug is "live" all the time so you need to unplug when stopping... .
Huh, what? Do you mean Dodge wired it so that the trailer lights are on when the vehicle is shut off and lights out? That would make no sense at all.
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Old 11-07-2016, 07:29 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BCnomad View Post
Good report. Thanks.



Some thoughts,


A cat back exhaust might get some growl in there for you.


Having some water in all the holding tanks helps smooth my trailer ride out. I think Norman says 1/2 to 3/4 is a guide.

Speaking of Jim, he has documented getting slightly better mileage with premium while towing. YMMV.


Personally I generally run a normal stinger, occasionally using the Andersen when the day calls for it.

Happy travels.
Good advice on more weight helping with the dips. Aside from hill climbs and acceleration in general overall weight is not the mileage killer. Aerodynamics is the culprit due to resistance (drag). If the trailer weighs next to nothing I believe it would not affect the mileage much when towing on the flats. It would in stop and go and hill climbing. Thanks for the advice.
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Old 11-07-2016, 07:37 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bill and Earline View Post
Santiago,
Enjoyed your report since I have a similar Ram, but with the diesel. I continue to use my Andersen WDH, since I had it left over from towing with my 4Runner, but I have considered leaving the Andersen home. I'm looking forward to your future experiences towing as you are, but with a little more weight in the trailer.
At 62 mph we get 17.9 mpg (hand calculated over 8,000 miles) but that little extra mpg will never pay for the diesel upcharge-- I just like the engine. It's rated at 420 lb/ft and I see that the new F150 for 2017 (gas 3.5 Eco-Boost) is rated at 470 and will have a 10-speed. That would be a good choice, too, but you may have made the best choice, and I certainly enjoy our 8-speed, which shifts into 8th while towing at about 62. Anyone researching transmissions will find that this particular brand of transmission is being used in a lot of high end brands, so hopefully it will be reliable.
Please keep posting.
Bill
Thank you Bill. I struggled with the RAM diesel option as I am a long time diesel fan and was looking forward to having another when we decided to purchase the 1500. No substitute for torque and they definitively deliver, sigh! I miss having one but it was a calculated decision to go for a simpler, aspirated design known and proven all over North America with readily available parts. Economically I calculated it would not pay off. Up until recent years, as you know diesel was a lot cheaper than gasoline. Being higher now hurts the calcs in favor of regular, then there is the up charge. The RAM 2500 Cummings costs $7,000 more for that option!!! Th eco like $3,500 to $4,000 more. I can only dream of the eco's torque numbers. In the old days, the smell and diesel noise was music to my ears.
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Old 11-07-2016, 07:49 AM   #8
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Huh, what? Do you mean Dodge wired it so that the trailer lights are on when the vehicle is shut off and lights out? That would make no sense at all.
When I said live, I mean there is 12v going to the trailer while the ignition is off, lights are on a separate circuit.
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Old 11-07-2016, 08:46 AM   #9
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When I said live, I mean there is 12v going to the trailer while the ignition is off, lights are on a separate circuit.
Ok, but I'm still not following. You shouldn't have to unplug the trailer from the tow when you're parked.
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Old 11-07-2016, 08:52 AM   #10
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Hi Bill and Earline
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She's the Tennessee Ram Cannonball
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Old 11-07-2016, 08:55 AM   #11
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Thanks for posting this. I am considering the Ram with Pentastar V6 as our next truck and it's good to hear that it is up to the task. I keep thinking about the diesel option with the extra torque, but keep coming back to the V6 as a better choice for our uses.
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Old 11-07-2016, 09:02 AM   #12
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After towing our Escape 21 on a 5 week trip from Vancouver to New Mexico using an Andersen WDH, I made a short trip to ETI without it and was surprised at the difference. Porpoising was definitely noticeable and the truck's front end higher. (2005 Tundra)
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Old 11-07-2016, 09:10 AM   #13
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After towing our Escape 21 on a 5 week trip from Vancouver to New Mexico using an Andersen WDH, I made a short trip to ETI without it and was surprised at the difference. Porpoising was definitely noticeable and the truck's front end higher. (2005 Tundra)
Bob K


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Thank you for your experience. You hit the nail on the head. Porpoising is how I should have described it when taking smooth dips at speed. My theory was the RAM's softer suspension but I think you are correct and it looks like I will try using weight distribution as a means to control that undesirable effect. First will take a few trips loaded but feel I will end up using a WDH as much as I rather not.
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Old 11-07-2016, 09:21 AM   #14
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I have the Andersen hitch and it does reduce the porpoising or galloping as Reace called it. I have taken to leaving it off for short trips but use it for a longer drive. Whatever works. Loren
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Old 11-07-2016, 09:48 AM   #15
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Ok, but I'm still not following. You shouldn't have to unplug the trailer from the tow when you're parked.
If not the trailer can drain your car battery, 3 batteries hooked up with different voltages will try to equalize all 3 to same level. I do not want a dead car battery in the morning.
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Old 11-07-2016, 11:01 AM   #16
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Thank you for the great report. I have considered the Ram V6 for our next tug for our 19'. Our Jeep GC with the same V6 tows the 19' with no problem however because we would like to take 2 bikes on the back and 2 sea kayaks on the roof along, We may end up overloading the Jeep.
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Old 11-07-2016, 05:45 PM   #17
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Like Santiago, I was impressed with the fine towing manners of my 21 when I towed it home from Chilliwack. I towed it about 6000 miles without a wd hitch. But I decided to try a wd hitch after getting caught in some nasty crosswinds last spring and have now towed about 2000 miles with the Andersen and like it a lot.
My tow vehicle is a 2009 Ram 1500 with the 4.7 V8. When I trade it in I will get the 5.7 with 3.92 axle ratio. The 5.7 won't have to work as hard going up steep mountain grades and, maybe even more importantly, will provide more engine braking coming down steep grades.
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Old 11-07-2016, 06:40 PM   #18
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BTW, the Ram 7 pin plug is "live" all the time so you need to unplug when stopping...
Quote:
Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
When I said live, I mean there is 12v going to the trailer while the ignition is off, lights are on a separate circuit.
If this is how the factory wires the truck, it is shockingly poorly designed.
Is this factory, or was it incompetently done by an aftermarket shop?
A properly designed and installed trailer battery charge circuit is controlled by a relay (or "solenoid") which turns it off when the tow vehicle's charging system is not active. I did that on my homebrew installation, as most people do. Diode-based battery isolators can also be used, but they interfere with proper battery charging.

I had a look at the 2015 Ram 1500 manual, and while it provides pin-out diagrams for 4-pin and 7-pin connections, it provides no information about when the battery circuit is live. I would wonder if it is a "retained power" function, meaning it stays live after the engine is shut off, but only for a programmed period of time, dependent of factors such as when the last door is closed or the vehicle is locked. Jim, are you sure it stays on indefinitely?
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Old 11-07-2016, 06:58 PM   #19
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If this is how the factory wires the truck, it is shockingly poorly designed.
Is this factory, or was it incompetently done by an aftermarket shop?
A properly designed and installed trailer battery charge circuit is controlled by a relay (or "solenoid") which turns it off when the tow vehicle's charging system is not active. I did that on my homebrew installation, as most people do. Diode-based battery isolators can also be used, but they interfere with proper battery charging.

I had a look at the 2015 Ram 1500 manual, and while it provides pin-out diagrams for 4-pin and 7-pin connections, it provides no information about when the battery circuit is live. I would wonder if it is a "retained power" function, meaning it stays live after the engine is shut off, but only for a programmed period of time, dependent of factors such as when the last door is closed or the vehicle is locked. Jim, are you sure it stays on indefinitely?
Got a schematic at the Ram dealership for the 2015 factory trailer wiring and confirmed 7 pin connector wired to 12v direct with just a fuse and NO relay to switch it off. Going to install an inline relay to switch it when truck is off. Checked a friends Silverado and it was the same..live when off and no relay!
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Old 11-07-2016, 07:11 PM   #20
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This really surprises me. My F150 can sit for weeks connected to the trailer with zero effect on the batteries, because there's no power to the trailer with the tow vehicle shut off. I assumed that most manufacturers 7 pin plugs were set up the same way.

I mean, how much would it cost them to install a cheap relay inline?
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