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Old 08-09-2019, 03:40 PM  
Winnebago Watcher
 
Join Date: Aug 2019
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Downshifting on mountain grades?

I recently purchased a 2016 Trend with the Ram ProMaster Chassis
280 hp 3.6L 6 speed automatic 62TE transmission.

We are planning a trip out west and was wondering about driving on some
of the steeper mountain roads. Is it recommended to downshift to a lower
gear when descending the steeper grades?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 08-09-2019, 03:43 PM  
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Yes highly recommended will save on brakes and you also will not burn them up. I always down shift on grades.
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Old 08-09-2019, 03:58 PM  
Winnie-Wise
 
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Definite need to control the speed in some way other than brakes as the brakes go pretty quick. what works best depends on what features may be built into the new rig. Older units may require you to actually shift to a lower gear and that is pretty hard to actually anticipate what gear for each hill unless you can see far enough or know the road that well. Some will do the engine braking by using the speed controller and I use it for running downhill in my Ford Probe but it gets kind of iffy when I want to run slow, set the control but still find it is too fast for some corners which only come around every few miles on long grades. I may get to a 15 mile corner at 30 and have to use the brakes, which automatically turns off the speed control, so that leaves me in a bind when I get through that corner and want to rest for 30!
Best operation I've found/used is on the 2014 Winn vista which has a button on the gearshift to press to turn on towing/ downhill setting. It downshifts to control the speed but if I arrive at a corner and use the brakes, it doesn't rest or if I brake hard enough, it actually downshifts one more gear.
Many people sweat having enough engine to get up the hill but the truly scary for me is whether I can control it coming DOWN! Those runaway truck ramps are not there for giggles and I don't want to find out what it feels like to go into the "mush" to stop a runaway.
The only time I have truly lost all the brakes, I overheated them but got lucky as I did not find they were too hot to work until pulling into a casino halfway down and there was enough room to let it coast around the lot until it stopped! That was only a van and not towing. It scared the H out of us as well as cost a set of rotors.
Read up on it and stay off the brakes!
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Old 08-09-2019, 04:18 PM  
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Lots of variables to consider when deciding to downshift or not. Degree of grade, ambient temperatures, road conditions, condition of brake drums/rotors/pads, traffic around you, and the list goes on.

Most folks use the transmission to some degree to assist the brakes in controlling your descent. You'll have to try it for yourself in different downhill situations, to see what works for you.

Definitely don't ride the brakes on long downhills over 6% or so, or you'll cook them pretty quick. Use the "stabbing" method of applying brief hard braking to reduce your speed to a safe speed, and then let off the brakes completely, and let the transmission slow your acceleration, and then repeat, until you hit the flats. Check your mirrors before the first "stab" at the brakes, or you might get rear ended. If you're maintaining a slower rate of speed that the rest of the traffic around you, keep right and use your hazard flashers to indicate it.
One more thing, if the vehicle begins to shudder when you apply the brakes, you might be in the early stages of overheating them, so you might want to downshift and/or pull over as soon as possible, if safe to do so, to let them cool down a bit.
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Old 08-09-2019, 05:20 PM  
Winnie-Wise
 
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When new to mountain grades, I always recommend doing it the safest way posilbe until you get a real feel for what it may need. It will change with each unti and each trip as you go to different locations. We tend to get into thinking we know what to do because we have done some of what we are looking at and it makes us feel like we can handle it. But just because a person has driven through some of the mountains in the East like I-64 does nothing to teach us about driving some "REAL" mountains like w might find out West. No way does a trip over interstate make us ready to face roads like over Monarch Pass or lots of places where it is not interstate. Interstate grades are limited to how steep they can be and still qualify and the relatively short length of the downgrades are much less prone to overheating the brakes than those which may be ten miles of extremely steep grades with extremely sharp corners along the way.
Downshifting may make you seem like an old coot driving but I would rather be thought of as that than thought of as a fool for killing the whole family! Overheating brakes may not give you any warning---just not be there when you want them.
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Old 08-10-2019, 06:14 PM  
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We have the Promaster on the Travato. Although you can use the manual mode, the Promaster Transmission will shift into a lower gear on its own going down a steep grade. The highest rpm I’ve seen when it did this is around 4,000 rpms. According to some on the Promaster forum, it’s designed to do this.
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Old 08-10-2019, 09:50 PM  
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I downshift and I tow a CRV so I stay on top of the speed.
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Old 08-13-2019, 01:46 PM  
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We have an Aspect 30J and tow. When traveling in the mountains downhill, my husband uses the tow/haul setting which automatically downshifts. Works great.
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:27 PM  
Dives2Little
 
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Downshifting is never a bad option going downhill. I always roll into a strange hill 10 MPH under the speed limit (the engine brake starts downshifting, but I like to ride herd on it). I can always speed up, but I can't always slow the beast down!
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Old 08-18-2019, 06:20 PM  
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Sure, no problem. Yes down shift is necessary on steep grades. May I suggest you join the Facebook group Winnebago viva/trend group. Tons of info and and great people.
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Old 08-18-2019, 09:39 PM  
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I travel in the Coast Range a lot and have been through the Rockies. My Super Duty has a tow haul mode and I don’t use it much. On 6 or 8 percent grades it is too aggressive and slows me down too much. I’m better off maintaining speed in normal mode with only occasional braking. The brakes on my truck have more than enough capacity to control my trailer. I would much rather apply my brakes for short duration rather than run my engine at 4K to maintain speed. It just doesn’t make sense to me. The compression braking is adequate.
I am starting to use manual control for the transmission when climbing. It is easier to select the gear you want and it prevents the gear hunting. If you are in normal mode and you are in 4th uphill and you let up you go to 5th and then you need to push the throttle to get back to 4th. Just my experience. Yours may be different.
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Old 08-19-2019, 10:01 AM  
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Use same gear

An experienced RVer said to plan to go downhill in the same gear you used to go up. That may not always work, but you get the idea.
When not on interstate highways, some grades can get into the 12% area. I that case, you will probably need 1st gear to go down, especially with sharp curves. Don't be shy to use 2nd or 1st. The brakes will not last on long grades!
My solution: Diesel Journey with engine brake. Goes up and down like riding on a cloud.
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Old 08-19-2019, 11:31 AM  
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Morich above has it correct. For Me. I use the Tow/haul mode and brake to shift down on Winnie 2009 v10. The braking is excellent compared to my old 1989 Ford 460 E350. I lost the brakes on the 89 via of over heating and could never get it back to original braking effectiveness. Years ago I saw a MH at the bottom of a 10% steep grade in NW Bighorn Mtns. Terrible sight. Be for warned: What people don't realize is: If you use the brakes too much they overheat, the overheating causes the brake fluid to boil, Once the brake fluid boils that causes air in the line. Once air in the line in causes Rust and spongy brake and less braking power. If this happens you will need to bleed brakes. You can either go slow and take another 15 to 20 minutes or so to make it down the mnt. Or you can go fast and put your life at risk when the brakes fail now or later. For those who say they can't go fast enough using engine braking. Well they shouldn't be driving a MH IMHO.
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Old 08-19-2019, 11:53 AM  
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Downshifting combined with appropriate braking methodology to slow you down on steeper downhill roadways without overwhelming your braking system, is obviously a preferred best practice by almost everyone on this thread/topic.
The elephant in the room is being aware of what's behind you. While you're following your preferred and established safe braking procedures, there may be others following you who may not be doing the same.

Always keep an eye on the mirrors when headed up or downhill, in case someone behind you loses their brakes, or doesn't realize how slow you're going. I've been chased downhill by semi-rigs that don't seem to appreciate the fact that I'm trying to negotiate the longer steep downhill grades in a safe manner. I always use my 4-way flashers when doing long up or downhill grades when I'm below the posted speed limit, but even that doesn't seem to stop the big rigs from occasionally crowding/tailgating/pushing you if they're in a hurry, or simply just want you to get out of their way.
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