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Hi everyone,

We just got the bug to buy a travel trailer (Coachmen FE 23SE, about 5000 lbs. dry), and sure enough, I figured out that I could buy it in my hometown, halfway across the country in St. Clairsville, OH, for $4000 less than anywhere in Colorado or nearby. So we needed a truck!

I picked up an '04 CC LE with 124k mikes, good running shape, basically I had a good feeling about the guy I was buying it from, it seemed to be well cared for. The front axle was replaced with one from a newer Titan, which I know is not a cheap item. I've driven older Titans that just felt like the driveline wasn't healthy, but this one drove and shifted smooth and strong. We got it about a month ago.

We own (5) NV1500/2500 vans for our business, and those have been trouble free, so you could say I'm becoming a Nissan guy. Admittedly though, all of my work vans would probably be Toyota if they sold work vans. But I am a happy customer. I'm very interested in the XD, but that's another subject for another time, ha.

This is my first experience with a travel trailer. I've pulled an enclosed cargo trailer before, but never for a distance like this. 1600 miles from eastern Ohio to northern Colorado.

Driving impressions: I like to take it easy on my vehicles, so I avoid any jerky driving. The drive was very easy, I could pass when I needed to. We got a weight distributing hitch with sway control, which kept things in line. It was very windy in Kansas, but only one time do I remember feeling even a little nervous, and that happened while passing a semi. I would not say that I forgot the trailer was back there, even for a moment, at any point. But I was generally nervous about the drive at the beginning, and by the end of it, I'd say I felt pretty comfortable.

MPG: We averaged 8-9 mpg from Columbus, OH to St. Louis, MO, with a high mark of 10.5 on one tank. Going about 60 mph the whole time. In MO, there are a lot of hills, and I spent more time in 3rd because of that... but also while trying to keep the transmission cool (more on that in a moment). We got 7-8 mpg in MO. Kansas was absolutely terrible. We had about a 20 mph head wind, plus the speed limit is a little higher, I tried to keep it closer to 65 mph during this stretch. We got 5-7 mpg in Kansas, with one tank getting a crazy low 4.3 mpg. (I thought I would try 70-75 mph for a stretch, but I gave up on that when I had 40 miles on the trip and half of that tank was gone. The time saved going faster was spent at the gas pump, so I have no idea why anyone would want to go that fast while towing. I knew better, but I wanted to see for myself.) In CO we got 8 mpg. I don't really have a question about how to get better MPG, it's pretty clear to me that driving slower helps. And hills and wind do not help.

Transmission temp gauge: I have spent some time reading up on this. This gauge caused me a lot of anxiety during the trek. There are obviously a lot of mods that can be done, many of which are easy. It seems crazy to me that they would rate this thing to tow 9300 lbs, but not equip it with the ability to keep the transmission cool under AT LEAST that load. (Let alone 65% of that limit) It was very unsettling to watch the temp gauge jump to the "high normal" mark by the time I reached the top of the first big hill in Ohio. Why does "high normal" have to be so close to the actual mark for an overheated transmission? Part of my issue with this is the calibration of the gauge itself. You are not looking at an accurate view of a temperature increase. (which is why folks seem to be recommending a separate temp gauge) It looks to me like a slight increase forces the gauge to read that you are at the limit of what the transmission can handle, forcing you to slow down or downshift if you want to see it drop- which I really question is even necessary. During the parts of the trip where my mpg suffered, I spent more time in 3rd, making sure that gauge stayed below the high normal mark. My real question here is: do you actually NEED to drop into 3rd to keep the trans cool, or is it OK to let it run at the high normal mark for a while?

Of course, I want to acknowledge that I was impressed that a 13 year old example like this one could make the long journey without any drama, besides the trans temp gauge. I'm just curious to get everyone else's thoughts on it.
 

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The High Normal mark is 220° that's a ok temp for short bursts. If you put another cooler on the gauge won't move in those types of situations.
 

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A friend of mine drive's an '07 Armada and pulls a travel trailer that is likely heavier than yours. He pulls it into the mountains and over passes. He routinely is hitting the same mark your transmission gauge is. I've driven behind him and I swear I smell burning transmission fluid. But he has around 150,000 miles and the transmission doesn't show any signs of cratering yet. He recently put in an additional transmission cooler, but he hasn't towed with it yet. So the jury is still out on that mod.

When I drive up Berthoud pass pulling my 1,400 lb ATV (plus a few hundred pounds of camping gear) I have zero transmission temperature issues if I keep in 3rd gear and below 45 MPH. That's fine for a mountain pass but sticking to 45 MPH on the flats is going to get old real fast. I don't have any temperature problems on the flats, but I'm not pulling as heavy as you are.

By using 3rd gear the engine RPM's are increased and that seems to work to get the transmission fluid flowing better, which means it stays cool.

No matter what, the extra transmission cooler is something you need to do.
 

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I have pulled my 6,000 lb travel trailer up the Coquihalla highway (BC Canada), and I have had to shift down to second as I approached the summit. I was crawling along at 35 KMH, but it kept the temp gauge in the normal range. Hey, I'm on vacation, I'm in no big rush!
 

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I'm trying towing for first time this weekend, with my 07 CC LE and tow package. A 24' holiday trailer 6140lb GVW. This thread was helpful in letting me know what to expect and to keep it smooth and slower than usual. I'm sure there will be other learnings, knock on wood.]
 

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Keep your trailer tires inflated to 65psi and keep the speed at 60mph max. Trailer tires are only rated to 65mph! If it's a used trailer, make sure the tires are up to spec...like not 5 years old and match with ST class ratings. New or Used: Check the trailer lug nuts at each stop for the first two or three, preferably with a torque wrench until you're certain all is good. Nothing ruins a getaway like wheel/tire problems, whether you're a rookie or a veteran.
 

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my first TT towing experience went pretty well. No incidents and the truck pulled it well. Used 4th gear and tow mode. On flat sections the truck would hold 60-65 mph at 2000-2200rpm easily even into a strong headwind. Our issues over the weekend were all related to the cold, wet weather and not having a generator.
 
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