Moses Ludel’s 4WD Mechanix Magazine – Ultimate Tow Package: Cummins Powered Dodge Ram
Soaring fuel costs and low miles per gallon, stiff suspension, the risks of trail damage and breaking your 4×4—these are just a few of the reasons to tow your Jeep 4×4 over long distances. It is far less costly and easier on our Jeep trail rigs to tote them—and it’s also more comfortable! Of all the trailer pullers we’ve owned, the Dodge Ram 4WD Quad-Cab with Cummins diesel power has proven the most dynamic and best overall!
By the late 1950s, with highway speeds increasing and Jeep CJs still stiffled by low horsepower L- and F-head four cylinder engines, towing a Jeep to the desert, mountains or hunting camps became popular. Tow bars were a popular accessory, and when I restored my 1950 CJ-3A in the late ‘sixties, a tow bar was part of the plan. A highway speed trip to the desert involved carrying a grease gun and lubing the vintage CJ’s outer rear axle shaft bearings—each 100 miles!
In the Jeep Owner’s Bible and my other Jeep and truck books, I talk about trailering versus towing a trail 4×4. “Flat-towing” a Jeep with a tow bar can be a mixed proposition. Immediately clear, the flat-towed Jeep cannot be backed up easily—for more than a short, straight shot. Years ago, hydraulic brake link kits could tie the tow vehicle’s brake system to the towed Jeep, but these setups are not compatible with contemporary ABS. Even for non-ABS Jeep models, this approach comes with the risk of hydraulic brake failure at both vehicles! Without brakes on the flat-towed Jeep, stopping 4,000-4,500 pounds of 4×4 places an extreme load on the tow vehicle’s chassis and brakes.
I began trailering our recreational 4x4s in the early 1990s. My tow vehicles were always long wheelbase, 3/4-ton and larger capacity chassis designs. Despite their 12-14 mpg (on a good day!) and 8-10 mpg when towing, our two 4WD Suburbans (a 1986 and an ’87) were very stable with their longer 131-inch wheelbases. They were quite comfortable and offered all the options and amenities of a luxury passenger car. Ride quality was satisfying, too, as Suburbans are highway cruisers. When fuel costs spiraled upward, however, these gasoline-powered behemoths were no longer viable.
A truck fleet and heavy equipment mechanic by training, I have always valued diesel power. In the mid-’90s, I did a long-term Suburban test with a 3/4-ton 4WD chassis and 6.5L V-8 diesel. The fuel mileage was clearly improved: 17 mpg unloaded, dropping to 11-12 mpg when loaded. Objectively, this would have been even better had I not specified 4.10 gearing and ordered the vehicle instead with 3.73 axle ratios.
I knew diesel was the way to go and started paying attention to the light truck offerings. In the late ’80s, I had tested a Dodge 3/4-ton 4×4 with the early 5.9L, 12-valve inline six. Perhaps primitive by today’s standards, loud, smoky and limited by a three-speed automatic, that truck delivered 20 mpg. By the new milennium, the improved 5.9L engines with 24-valves and electronic fuel injection were sweeping past Ford and G.M. diesels for fuel efficiency, raw torque and useful power. A traditional, proven medium duty truck design, the 5.9L draws on the strengths of commercial diesel designs. Lower speed, with a quick torque rise, these engines run circles around larger V-8, higher speed light truck diesels.
In model year 2005, I took the big step. We purchased our first new Cummins-powered Dodge 4WD. I chose the 3500 Ram one-ton with single drive rear wheels. A 5.9L diesel, beefier brakes with a bigger rear axle, plus the 48RE automatic with overdrive, would readily meet our needs. (A dually is less maneuverable and not as practical for reaching remote campgrounds with a trailer in tow.) Trailering is only part of our truck use. Hauling is equally important. A Quad-Cab with the nice ‘ST’ trim and cloth upholstery, plus other upgrade amenities like a stellar Chrysler sound system, make this an exceptional package!
Never mind the sticker shock cost, this truck is more than paying for itself! In this section of the magazine, I will share how my driving technique has yielded up to 23.9 mpg unloaded at interstate speeds and 18-plus mpg while towing the XJ Cherokee on a car hauler at interstate speeds to Moab. Power is superb in fully stock form, and the strategy with this truck is to simply maintain an inherently reliable, quality engineered vehicle.
Other than mandatory recalls and warranty issues, I perform all of the preventive care and service work myself. In this section, you will find details on towing safely with the Dodge Ram. I share maintenance and upgrade tips plus how to properly outfit your Jeep hauling trailer. Learn ways to get maximum performance, fuel efficiency and a long service life from a Ram truck.
If you intend to cover a lot of territory, tow your Jeep 4WD, plus enjoy getting to your destination without fatigue, a heavy duty Ram is the only way to go. Join the ranks of modern Ram Cummins turbo-diesel trailer pullers!