meet my towing vehicle...

 

Using the Toyota Tundra to tow: an owner's honest feedback page, including gas mileage data.

Making a website for my trailer Houdini without dedicating a page to Blacky, the faithful towing truck, would be quite unfair.

After all without Blacky, Houdini would be going NOWHERE. No towing vehicle, no travels, no adventures, no fun. And that's the bottom line. While many have a truck and THEN buy a trailer, I sorta went about it the odd way, purchasing the trailer first and then setting out to find the per-fect match in a tow vehicle. 

 

            
    Seeking the per-fect towing vehicle...  :)

 

So one might ask: What does constitutes a perfect tow truck? I know I did. I had never owned a trailer and never owned a tow vehicle in my life.  See, I'm a sports car kinda girl. Well, I was. So when it came to trucks and towing I basically knew deedlee squat :). 


now that's a wheel base!

So the first thing I did was my HOMEWORK. I surfed the net, went to forums, posted a zillion questions, asked others, picked the brains of anyone who appeared to know a thing or two about towing. A few weeks later I had narrowed down things to a few vital attributes: The perfect tow vehicle would have to:
















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have a longer wheel base for increased stability and steadiness. A MUST! A shorter wheelbase means more chances of having a bad accident. So as much as like the Jeep wrangler or Jeep Liberty I had to kiss them goodbye :(.

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have a V8 for better towing power especially when hitting hills. Goodbye compact SUVS and trucks.

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not be too much of a gas guzzler so I stayed away from LARGER engines.

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have at least 30% more towing capacity then my trailer weight, when loaded. Passengers, dirt bikes, gear and climbing up the grapevine all must be taken into consideration. If your trailer is say 3000 lbs dry, you may very well end up with about 4000 to tow when you leave. If your SUV is rated to tow 3500 you are basically SOL. If it is rated 4000 you are struggling and can fry the transmission! You would need about 5000 towing capacity minimum to be on the safe side.

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have an open, long bed so I can haul my dirt bike with me :). Long bed and longer wheel base go hand in hand anyways ;). So as tempting as it was to get a nice Jeep or SUV, I soon tossed that idea out the window :).

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not be raised so to be less likely to roll or sway and so to be more stable.

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come with a tow package factory installed (a must!). What the dealer won't tell you is that if you add an after market tow package, and damage your transmission, your manufacturer warranty will be voided! As in NULL, even if your truck is still BRAND NEW!!! What they also don't want you to know is that while they will kindly offer to add a hitch to a truck they want to sell you, the tow package factory installed comes with a special tranny cooling system that the dealer CANNOT add. And that cooling system is what stands between you and a fried tranny! So don't be stupid and demand that your tow truck COME with tow package FACTORY INSTALLED. Period. Or walk away.

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have at least a class 3 hitch , but class 4 would be even better... Many SUV I found had only class 2. I laughed in their faces! Just because I am a woman does not make me stupid ;). In fact, I knew more about towing than all of them put together. And I made sure they found out quick! LOL. My Tundra has a class 4 hitch and can haul a small building LOL hehe. It rocks!

In short the per-fect towing vehicle (aka T.V) needed to perform for me and it needed to be able to grow with me, in case I ever wanted to buy a bigger trailer down the road, or tow a larger boat etc... 

 

I sway, you sway, he or she sways, we sway, you sway, they sway 

Initially when I first bought Houdini I intended to avoid having to spend money on a TV by borrowing my fiance's truck. He has a classic Ford Bronco 4X4, raised. Seemed it would be perfect to tow a small 1600 lbs trailer! Yes? 

NO.

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the bronco/trailer tandem...
doomed from the start?

My first 3 trips towing Houdini with the Bronco were pure nightmare. Although the Bronco had plenty of towing power (class 4 hitch, 5.8 liter V8 engine etc...) it juts didn't get along with Houdini AT ALL. The problem was SEVERE sway as soon as I hit 45 mph ! At 60 mph I almost crashed! The Bronco seemed to be unable to maintain a straight course, necessitating my constant readjustment via the steering wheel every 10 seconds. Houdini seemed to be in a constant state of anxiety, and would spook any chance he had, swaying side to side as soon as I picked up any decent speed. Driving the California freeways at 40 mph is no picnic. It is very dangerous. I was sweating bullets and taking FOREVER to get to my destinations... GRRRR... I finally had to come to the realization that either my trailer had some serious issues (let me reassure you right away, it was NOT the trailer), or the Bronco did. And that I needed to get my own, newer, tow truck. Which brings us back to the topic at hand, the TUNDRA hehe.

After my bad experience, I asked around to find out what may be causing the deadly sway. I narrowed it down to a few vital points:

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my trailer is small, hence light, but it is high. If things are not done right, it may tend to sway more than larger, heavier units. 

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my trailer has a light hitch weight (only 150 lbs). Granted it is about 10% of trailer weight which is acceptable. However, adding some weight to the front dinette seemed to help with the Bronco sway problem. I started traveling with my water tank filled (they are located in the front). That helped some, too.

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most importantly, the Bronco is a 4X4 and has a lift kit, so it is higher than normal. Results? The trailer may have been nose up ever so slightly, despite a drop down hitch. I really could not notice it when looking at it, but the sway was so severe it kept pointing the finger in that direction! A raised truck does not react the same way as a regular one and seems to 'wander' more, meaning does not drive in a straight line very well.

I learned a lot from the above misadventure. So when came time to purchase a truck I knew what to look for and what to stay AWAY from!

Introducing Blacky, the kick ass Toyota TUNDRA towing vehicle


Without further due let me introduce.... (drum roll)   

BLA-CKY (echo) the totally rad, kick ass, dream towing vehicle. My travel buddy, my partner in crime, my big bad black truck.  

Blacky is a 2002 TOYOTA TUNDRA SR5 i force V8 truck  with extended cab (4 doors) and off road package. Yop. That's what he is. That puppy can tow up to 8000 lbs (meaning it could tow 4 Houdinis at the same time!). I found that it rarely downshifted when towing my trailer, even when going uphill. It has a factory installed tow package, with tranny cooling.

He has all the qualities I was looking for, and then more. In all honesty I could not be more delighted. I think I truly am in love with my truck.


My first outing with the Blacky/Houdini tandem was a long 500 miles round trip that would include heavy traffic, 10% grades, lots of hills, and some night driving. All of which Blacky did without even batting an eye lash LOL. A BREEEEEZE. Pulling the trailer was so effortless I soon forgot Houdini was tagging along LOL. Towing Houdini up a 10% grade at the speed limit of 55 mph was fun! hehehe... And not a single sway the whole trip!


I suppose that for Houdini and Blacky it was Love at first sight and that they are a great match because a trailer that once swayed like HELL at 45 mph now does NOT sway EVER, even at 75 mph! Go figure. But hey, I'm not complaining, far from it LOL. 

 

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I suppose that for Houdini and Blacky it was Love at first sight and that they are a great match because a trailer that once swayed like HELL at 45 mph now does NOT sway EVER, even at 75 mph! Go figure. But hey, I'm not complaining, far from it LOL. 

Not only did the Tundra turn out to be a GREAT towing vehicle but it also turned out to be a rad every day vehicle. So much so that I found myself never wanting to drive my sports car any more. Cause face it, once you go Blacky, you don't go backy! At the wheel of my Tundra, I feel safe. People get out of my way. They actually back down and let me change lanes on the freeway (wow!). I can see above cars. I can sit back in my captain's chair and relax even in the heaviest most stressful of Los Angeles traffic. And I can get to my destination in one piece ;). I can drive in snow, I can drive in dirt, I can even do mild offroading. I can haul my dirt bikes or move a couch :)... AND I can tow a trailer or a boat!!! 

In short: I'm selling my car and keeping the truck! hehe...

 

What I love about my Toyota Tundra

NOTE: click on any photo below  to view the full version...

DSC00934.JPG (153237 bytes)Here are some of the things I really like about the Tundra: It combines the ruggedness and safety of a utility truck with the comfort of a luxury sedan. When you drive the Tundra, it does not bounce around, it does not shake. It is smooooooth. You don't feel the road, yet you feel connected to it. I drive over speed bumps without noticing them LOL. The longer wheel base gives you incredible stability. The truck drives straight as an arrow, never getting off its set course. Even at high speeds. When you press on the gas pedal you get 2 Gs and you feel the power moving right through you. When I start it the engine purrs like only a V8 can. Climbing up and down is not hard. Sure, it can become a bit entertaining when wearing a mini skirt ;)...  The tundra is very quiet inside. You don't hear the engine or traffic. The captains seatsDSC01168.JPG (160510 bytes) are very comfortable.  The interior is so roomy. I have quite a bit of cargo space inside, and more in the back area, where two to three passengers can be seated. The back seats are not as uncomfortable as other extended cab trucks I have test drove. The back doors have outside handles :). Oh and there are BACK DOORS! When you open both back and front doors, the truck is entirely wide open. Pretty cool to maneuver big stuff inside. Back seats fold up in seconds and a 120 pound rottwheiler can fit in the back :). or large suitcases... Then there is the bed. Two dirt bikes or a quad can fit with the tail gate UP. 

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And the tundra also looks good. How good? Pretty darn good for a truck ;). And it looks even better now that I have added some top quality chrome step bars to it. 

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Whether at 12000 feet elevation, in snow, or in floods, the Tundra will be there for you...

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One of course might wonder if there is anything I don't like about it. Well, of course there is ! On rare occasions, after you park the truck, it is hard to shift it back into Drive. The solution to this is simple: When parked and Before putting the gear in DRIVE, make sure to press the regular brakes hard and to keep it pressed while shifting to DRIVE. Apparently pressing the brake pedal hard allows the gear to shift out of PARK and into DRIVE. 

Sometimes something inside starts rattling (a light cover, a clock cover) for a few miles and then it stops. (???). Weird. Mr. 181, my Significant Other, who knows a LOT about trucks said they all do that. Ironically the problem seems to correct itself on its own and the next time you drive the truck the rattling is gone (for good). So far it has only done it twice (I have had the truck 3 months now). 

Other petty details: The longer wheel base makes it hard to maneuver in small spaces. You will need more room to make a U turn for example. But it's not too bad and a more than acceptable trade off to get towing stability. talking about stability, careful on wet sharp turns, or you may end up with your tail getting away from you :). If you have a cup in the upper tray/cup holder you may not be able to read the clock. If you have a passenger sitting behind you and both of you decide to close your doors you will need to be careful! Back door must close FIRST and THEN the front door. Doing it in any other order will result in possible damage to your front door! If you are parked real close to another car, you may be able to open the passenger front door, but not the back one. Also, with such a long truck, parking in a compact car parking space may no longer be an option LOL. Parallel parking is a BITCH and will also take some getting used to. Note that I am VERY good at parallel parking with my coupe car. But the truck is much longer and it is high so you cannot see the car behind you. It is easy to hit it. Gas mileage (see below) is not nearly as good as a small sedan but for a V8 that has TOWING POWER, I think it is actually quite good! I am racking my brains to try to come up with any more complaints, but I have run dry :). Sorry, I do love my truck. If anything else pops up later I'll add it to this list :). Note: If you are planning to tow with your Tundra, don't let the nice salesman talk you into buying the V6 Tundra! You will not save on gas that much and you will lose a LOT of power :(.

 


Gas mileage (cause I know that's worrying you ;)   )...

One of the greatest fear I had when shopping for a V8 was gas mileage. I was not able to find detailed record of gas mileage for the Tundra. Manufacturer's specs stated 14 to 19 mpg driving city or freeway (and not towing). Compared to my 4 cylinder Sports car who can do about 32 mpg, this was quite a step up in gas budget! YIKES! I heard rumors of people getting only 12 mpg with the Tundra and hating it because of it. Then I found some that said about 17 mpg. That's quite a big discrepancy! No two people seemed to agree on their gas mileage LOL. ! Who to believe? Since towing was the #1 priority, I decided to take the plunge anyway and bought my truck. I then kept very detailed record of my gas mileage and want to share the results with you here:

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driving bumper to bumper L.A traffic I am getting around 16 mpg

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driving normal freeway at 65 mph I am getting around 17 to 19 mpg

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driving freeways at high speed around 75 to 85 mph I am getting less, about 14 to 17 mpg

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driving with a heavy foot on the gas pedal (quick acceleration) I am getting about 15 mpg

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driving easy around 2000 rpm on mountain road I once got 21.5 mpg (?) !

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TOWING my trailer with the Tundra, I am getting semi lousy gas mileage LOL. About 12.5 to 14 mpg.

On average I expect to get about 16 to 17 mpg. My fiance's Bronco only gets about 10 mpg, so I feel fortunate... Kinda... :)

TIP: If you want to get the better gas mileage (like I do) you will have to avoid driving over 65 mph on freeways AND avoid having a heavy foot when it comes to the gas pedal, especially while driving city streets. This is a heavy truck and a powerful one. A driver is tempted to hit the gas pedal hard cause it is fun and the truck leaps forward, but that costs a LOT in gas! That's why so many men are only getting 12 mpg with their Tundra haha! Keep your foot light, relax and don't be in such a great hurry LOL and you'll save a bundle in gas!  :).

In closing I would like to recommend the Tundra as a great truck and AWESOME towing vehicle.

Blacky, I love you, will you marry me? :)

 

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