1st Travel Trailer for my Ram 2500

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HEMIMANN

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After 27 years of motorhomes, we downsized to a 7,000 pound GTWR Travel Trailer.

I bought my Ram 2500 in 2018 for hauling my contractor utility trailer of the same weight class, so this fits right in.
Tows well with load stabilizer bars, I run the 6.4 Hemi in tow program, limited to 4th gear (no overdrive 5th and 6th gears).
Gets 9-10 mpg on 89 octane and 10% ethanol. My last motorhome with GM 8.1L big block got 7-8 mpg on 87 octane 10% ethanol.

Trans oil remained cool ~ 145 F with thermostat removed and Red Line C+ATF. Engine oil went up from 220 F to 228 F no doubt due to higher rpm with load. Still very reasonable. Red Line 5W-30 engine oil.
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2003F350

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With a 6.4 and that light of a trailer, just put it in tow/haul and let the trans figure itself out. I don't really see a reason to lock it out of overdrive, it will keep itself out of those gears if it decides it needs to.

I put hundreds of miles on my old 'wagon with a similar weight camper behind it, only thing I ever did was put it in tow/haul. On the expressway it would even get into 6th gear from time to time. Never saw higher engine or trans temps, and ran that truck to 102k before trading it in.
 

2003F350

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This is a 66RFE trans with known undersize clutches and overdrive drum. RFE's need pampering to live.

I never changed fluid in mine, never did the thermostat bypass, pulled that camper or a loaded flatbed fairly often, and pulled trees out of the woods/lake with it. Never once had an issue with the trans, and it shifted as strong when I traded it as when I bought it. This was a Power Wagon, so 6.4 and 66RFE. I didn't abuse it but I certainly wasn't gentle on it and it treated me just fine.

If you've taken care of it thus far, then a 7k camper won't be an issue.
 
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HEMIMANN

HEMIMANN

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I never changed fluid in mine, never did the thermostat bypass, pulled that camper or a loaded flatbed fairly often, and pulled trees out of the woods/lake with it. Never once had an issue with the trans, and it shifted as strong when I traded it as when I bought it. This was a Power Wagon, so 6.4 and 66RFE. I didn't abuse it but I certainly wasn't gentle on it and it treated me just fine.

If you've taken care of it thus far, then a 7k camper won't be an issue.

Your experience does not match that of others who have experienced failures. These have been documented. Failures are statistical in nature, and the known weak design of the RFE series transmissions in rigorous applications points to prudent use. Your experience is as much luck of the draw as any.
 

62Blazer

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Your experience does not match that of others who have experienced failures. These have been documented. Failures are statistical in nature, and the known weak design of the RFE series transmissions in rigorous applications points to prudent use. Your experience is as much luck of the draw as any.
I chuckled a little bit when reading that reply considering all of the "documentation" is coming from internet forums. There is absolutely nothing statistical when basing opinions on what you read on forums or the book of faces. There are millions of Rams with the 66RFE on the road and you have a handful of people who claim they have had a failure. The biggest thing is sorting out the people and replies where they actually have first hand experience with a failure, versus all of the replies that are people simply saying they read a post somewhere that said the 66RFE was junk. You get one person making a post that states their transmission failed on a forum and that multiplies into a 100 hundred random people, who have never had a failure or don't even own one, replying to every post stating how the trans is a piece of junk. You also rarely ever hear "the rest of the story" from these people who actually have a failed trans. How many of those people never serviced the transmission, spent 100k miles towing overloaded through the mountains, or had some other known issue.
I'm not saying the 66RFE is the best trans ever and there haven't been premature failures, but also not stating it's the worst one either....because I simply don't know for sure without seeing the true data set. I can also say from experience if you get on a forum or group chat for almost any make or model of vehicle you will find the same posts saying how that model trans (or insert any major part) is junk and blows up every other day.
 

crash68

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There is absolutely nothing statistical when basing opinions on what you read on forums or the book of faces. There are millions of Rams with the 66RFE on the road and you have a handful of people who claim they have had a failure.
^^^ truth
There's about 147K members on this forum (not all of them active) in comparison to the approximate 500K vehicles Ram sells every year.
 
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HEMIMANN

HEMIMANN

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Best of luck to those who consider luck their friend.

I'm not one of them.
 

ramffml

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One can argue about this all day, but I too have seen the reports that the 6 speed is a weak spot. You don't see those types of comments ("weak transmission") when it comes to the zf 8hp70/8hp75 (for example), so yes the internet does amplify but there is some truth there. Why risk it? I doubt he'd see any fuel savings beyond 5% or so (even if that).

I know these modern transmissions are built different, but I just can't get used to towing big loads in overdrive. I tow in 6th (direct drive) with the 8 speed, it will sit at 2200 RPMs and just dig in and cruise. It has lots of power at those RPMs, and if I let it upshift to 7th it will tow there for a bit but it's not happy (very eager to downshift) and has no power in reserve. I like the 6th gear because of that, you can still build more speed if needed without an additional downshift so it feels strong and happy in 6th.
 
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HEMIMANN

HEMIMANN

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One can argue about this all day, but I too have seen the reports that the 6 speed is a weak spot. You don't see those types of comments ("weak transmission") when it comes to the zf 8hp70/8hp75 (for example), so yes the internet does amplify but there is some truth there. Why risk it? I doubt he'd see any fuel savings beyond 5% or so (even if that).

I know these modern transmissions are built different, but I just can't get used to towing big loads in overdrive. I tow in 6th (direct drive) with the 8 speed, it will sit at 2200 RPMs and just dig in and cruise. It has lots of power at those RPMs, and if I let it upshift to 7th it will tow there for a bit but it's not happy (very eager to downshift) and has no power in reserve. I like the 6th gear because of that, you can still build more speed if needed without an additional downshift so it feels strong and happy in 6th.

Exactly. OEM's hide issues these days. They also calculate the risk of warranty payout vs. cost-reducing designs.

How do I know? I worked at them for 33 years and was a part of these (forced by executives) decisions. Forums is all we've got, so I don't dismiss them outright. Why be here at all if you do?

At least we didn't get pushed so far as to killing planeloads of people for bonuses like W. James McNerney did at Boeing with the 737 MAX. A Jack Welch disciple.
 

2003F350

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I know these modern transmissions are built different, but I just can't get used to towing big loads in overdrive. I tow in 6th (direct drive) with the 8 speed, it will sit at 2200 RPMs and just dig in and cruise. It has lots of power at those RPMs, and if I let it upshift to 7th it will tow there for a bit but it's not happy (very eager to downshift) and has no power in reserve. I like the 6th gear because of that, you can still build more speed if needed without an additional downshift so it feels strong and happy in 6th.

Been towing with overdrive gears since I was able to drive, and let the automatics do their thing. Never once had an issue regardless of what I was driving, just make sure it's in tow/haul if it has it.

FWIW, my dad has had dually trucks with at least one overdrive gear since 1994, and has pulled every camper they've owned since then in overdrive at 65 mph with no issues. He's probably logged 100k miles pulling trailers.

It's more about paying attention to what you're pulling and how the truck is behaving, and respecting/maintaining it properly.
 

JerryETX

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With a 6.4 and that light of a trailer, just put it in tow/haul and let the trans figure itself out. I don't really see a reason to lock it out of overdrive, it will keep itself out of those gears if it decides it needs to.

I put hundreds of miles on my old 'wagon with a similar weight camper behind it, only thing I ever did was put it in tow/haul. On the expressway it would even get into 6th gear from time to time. Never saw higher engine or trans temps, and ran that truck to 102k before trading it in.
I’ll respectfully disagree. You’ll wear out the transmission a lot faster by allowing it to shift in and out of 5th. Most transmission shops will tell you to manually lock it in one gear avoid the constant shifting especially when towing. I also pull mine down in 4th and my transmission runs considerably cooler than leaving it in tow haul mode.
 

danielmid

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Good looking trailer! Now you just need to bring a few grown trees with you :)
 

62Blazer

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Been towing with overdrive gears since I was able to drive, and let the automatics do their thing. Never once had an issue regardless of what I was driving, just make sure it's in tow/haul if it has it.

FWIW, my dad has had dually trucks with at least one overdrive gear since 1994, and has pulled every camper they've owned since then in overdrive at 65 mph with no issues. He's probably logged 100k miles pulling trailers.

It's more about paying attention to what you're pulling and how the truck is behaving, and respecting/maintaining it properly.
Agree. Previous truck was a Chevy 2500HD and pulled a 9k-10k trailer for thousands and thousands of miles with no issues. Used tow/haul mode but that did NOT lock out overdrive, and always just let it do it's own thing shifting into OD on flat roads and downshifting as needed on hills. Manufactures do extensive testing of trucks while towing to determine what gears work best (I did automotive testing and engineering for years). Truck had 150k miles on it when I traded it in with zero transmission issues.
Overdrive physically stresses the transmission more than direct. Earlier transmissions with T/H used to automatically lock out OD. That's where we're coming from.
There is a little more to. The design of an OD gear is not as direct or efficient as direct drive, so that just means you have to design the OD components appropriately. When they first started adding OD gears to transmissions back in the 1980's era there were known concerns with the OD components being the "weak link". However just about any transmission designed in the last 30 years can use OD for towing. If there is a concern the manufacturer would clearly state that in the owner's manual or completely lock out OD with the tow/haul mode.
I’ll respectfully disagree. You’ll wear out the transmission a lot faster by allowing it to shift in and out of 5th. Most transmission shops will tell you to manually lock it in one gear avoid the constant shifting especially when towing. I also pull mine down in 4th and my transmission runs considerably cooler than leaving it in tow haul mode.
I do agree that a transmission constantly shifting between gears (gear hunting) is a big concern. The biggest issue with this not the wear and tear but rather the heat build-up caused by all the shifting. When I say constantly I mean if the trans is shifting back and forth every few seconds when climbing a hill. I'm not talking about the trans downshifting once while climbing a hill and then shifting back into OD at the top every 15 miles. Gear huntin was common back in the early days of OD transmissions because they didn't have electronic controls and the mechanical shifting calibrations weren't that great. Even in those days most manufacturers recommended locking out OD only if gear hunting, and not simply because of the load. The gear hunting was caused by the engine not having enough power to pull the load in the higher gear. Modern vehicles have algorithms written in the transmission calibration to prevent gear hunting. I drove trucks from the 1980's-1990's in the early age of OD that would gear hunt quite frequently when towing, but nothing I have driven made in the last 20 years seems to have that issue. When pulling a grade it will downshift and stay there.
 

ramffml

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If there is a concern the manufacturer would clearly state that in the owner's manual or completely lock out OD with the tow/haul mode.

I don't disagree much with the rest of what you wrote, but the quoted stuff here; you only need to look at Ram's view on the "lifetime" fluid vs ZF's actual statements to know that that isn't true. You can't ask the manufacturer to hold your hand, physics says a direct gear is going to be less strain than an overdrive.

And again, in my case the truck very clearly doesn't like 7th. It will sit there for some time, but has 0 power left in reserve. Most people won't care but some of us go the extra mile to care for our trucks; mods for better cooling, better oil, more frequent changes, I'm not going to do all that and then let my truck lug away in OD.
 

62Blazer

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I don't disagree much with the rest of what you wrote, but the quoted stuff here; you only need to look at Ram's view on the "lifetime" fluid vs ZF's actual statements to know that that isn't true. You can't ask the manufacturer to hold your hand, physics says a direct gear is going to be less strain than an overdrive.

And again, in my case the truck very clearly doesn't like 7th. It will sit there for some time, but has 0 power left in reserve. Most people won't care but some of us go the extra mile to care for our trucks; mods for better cooling, better oil, more frequent changes, I'm not going to do all that and then let my truck lug away in OD.
I really don't have any issues with these comments. Will talk a little about the ZF versus Ram's view on the trans fluid. Completely understand where you are coming from, but will also say that Ram just didn't randomly decide to change the service requirements on their own. Guarantee they worked directly with ZF on that statement and did extensive testing to verify that it was reasonable to do so. I said "reasonable" and not necessarily the "best". There are always extreme cases on how people use vehicles. I worked in automotive testing and engineering for years and typically both the vehicle manufacturer (in this case Ram) and the transmission supplier (in this case ZF) both did their own independent testing running the same drive cycles. Regardless of what Ram states the service interval should be in the owner's manual, ZF is still on the hook to some extent for how the transmission holds up.
 

ramffml

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I really don't have any issues with these comments. Will talk a little about the ZF versus Ram's view on the trans fluid. Completely understand where you are coming from, but will also say that Ram just didn't randomly decide to change the service requirements on their own. Guarantee they worked directly with ZF on that statement and did extensive testing to verify that it was reasonable to do so. I said "reasonable" and not necessarily the "best". There are always extreme cases on how people use vehicles. I worked in automotive testing and engineering for years and typically both the vehicle manufacturer (in this case Ram) and the transmission supplier (in this case ZF) both did their own independent testing running the same drive cycles. Regardless of what Ram states the service interval should be in the owner's manual, ZF is still on the hook to some extent for how the transmission holds up.

What's going to be better for the transmission: servicing it every 80k or never servicing it?
What's going to be better for the transmission: towing in 6th (direct) or towing in 7th (overdrive)?

That's basically the argument as I see it.

I realize that not everybody is as "worried" about this stuff as others, and who knows, maybe if all you do is pick up groceries or drive your family around you can get away with never servicing your transmission. But hemimann and myself and others go through a lot of trouble to give our trucks the best shot at lasting and giving us a reliable experience, so that way our choices here (gear while towing and servicing the fluid) are consistent with other choices/mods we've made to the truck.
 

62Blazer

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What's going to be better for the transmission: servicing it every 80k or never servicing it?
What's going to be better for the transmission: towing in 6th (direct) or towing in 7th (overdrive)?

That's basically the argument as I see it.

I realize that not everybody is as "worried" about this stuff as others, and who knows, maybe if all you do is pick up groceries or drive your family around you can get away with never servicing your transmission. But hemimann and myself and others go through a lot of trouble to give our trucks the best shot at lasting and giving us a reliable experience, so that way our choices here (gear while towing and servicing the fluid) are consistent with other choices/mods we've made to the truck.
I definitely think it is "better" to service the transmission. Not arguing but just making some comments. The question is exactly what does "better" mean in this situation. Does it mean the transmission will last twice as long if you service it, or only last an extra 10k? I don't know the answer but again guarantee those numbers were considered prior to Ram writing that in the owner's manual. The basic concept is called ROI (return on investment). In my business there are tons of things that you could do to make the process "better", but if being "better" means spending $1,000,000 on new equipment that will save you $10,000 per year it doesn't make financial sense to do so. Not saying that Ram, or any other manufacturer, always makes the best choice but those things are considered. Part of the whole "lifetime" fluid idea is driven by the people who buy the trucks and like that you shouldn't have to service it (let's get real, what percentage of people actually change the trans fluid, coolant, brake fluid, etc... as recommended in the owner's manual!). For ROI, Ram is making a decision if offering "lifetime fluid" will attract more buyers to the truck, along with making sure they have "reasonable" lifespan in the trans by doing so. Also, on average how long do a lot of people own a new truck before trading it in?

Regarding towing in 6th (direct) vs. 7th (OD). Again, is it truly "better" one way or another? If it is better, how much better is it? Nobody on this forum, or any other place on the internet, has any actual data to prove one way or another so it comes down to personal opinion. My opinion is it doesn't matter or make any significant difference in the lifespan of the trans. Other people will adamantly disagree and say the trans will blow up and kill a bus full of nuns if you tow in OD. Neither side has any data to prove one way or another. However I will say I personally was involved in automotive testing around this topic that was performed based on owner's manual recommendations, which rarely ever said anything but recommending using tow/haul mode which typically allowed shifting into OD.
 
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