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Towing: Improving towing characteristics of 86 k5

Discussion in '1973-1991 K5 Blazer | Truck | Suburban' started by ta400, Jul 10, 2001.

  1. ta400

    ta400 Newbie

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    I use my 86 k5 with 350 to tow. My last long tow trip involved pulling my car trailer (1600 lbs) with 3800 lb car riding atop from VA to CA. I-80 was treacherous for my rig. Lots of cross winds, swaying, braking problems, especially down hill. I've owned the truck since new and have towed from Alaska to Florida and across the US several times. This was clearly the worst experience. Anything I can do to improve the towing characteristics of this short wheelbased k5? It is stock, has 192K on the odometer, 3.08 gearing, stock springs but a 350 engine not the 305. Can't afford to lay out for a new longer wb truck. Ideas please? Thanks!
     
  2. BlazerGuy

    BlazerGuy 3/4 ton status

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    Did the trailer have brakes? You may also want to look into a weight-distributing hitch, it will help reduce sway etc greatly.
    <A target="_blank" HREF=http://www.drawtite.com>http://www.drawtite.com</A> It won't let me put in a direct link, so click on "Products Catalog", then "Sway Control & Weight distribution hitches"

    Murphy's Laws on Life:
    "A bird in the hand is worth three Kleenex."
     
  3. Sparky87k5

    Sparky87k5 1/2 ton status

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    I regularly tow a 5000# travel trailer all over western Canada and the US. I use my 87K5 with a 383 stroker, 5 speed and 1 ton drivetrain. I highly suggest you convert rear axle to disc brakes and definitly consider a good weight distribution hitch setup. Also look into airbags for the rear axle. I have just installed a set to carry the tongue weight better and take some of the load off the rear springs. Have the trans serviced regularly, run a deeper trans pan if available and trans temp gauge. 3.08's are not the best choice for towing. Consider 3.55 or 3.73's if TH350 or 4.11's with the 700R4. Much better choice for the power needed to tow comfortablely. With 192k on the engine, might consider a good upgrade like a crate HO 350 or 383. Trans is going to need rebuilding soon. Consider a heavyduty version of yours. Lots of choices out there. Good quality shocks help a lot when towing, especially in hilly two lane country. You can generally rebuild a truck for much less than a new one costs. Otherwise, trade for the K5's big brother, the 3/4 ton Suburban.

    87 K5, D60 & 14FF, 5 sp & NP208 & 383 stroker. Build it Bulletproof and take it fishing!
     
  4. BlazerGuy

    BlazerGuy 3/4 ton status

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    P.S. If you have a 700, get the biggest cooler you can get for it, as it doesn't like towing that much anyway....

    Murphy's Laws on Life:
    "A bird in the hand is worth three Kleenex."
     
  5. tori89k5

    tori89k5 1/2 ton status

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    A weight distribution hitch will totally make difference! I had a similar experience with my 82 Blazer and an old travel trailer. Then i bought and used a weight distributing hitch. Made all the difference in the world!!!

    New '90 K5 sitting in my driveway !!! YIPPPIEE !!
     
  6. 90blzr

    90blzr 1/2 ton status

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    I am glad to here all of the positive response about the weight distribution kits, do you guys also have the sway control unit? I am looking into getting one after I had a trailer get REAL squirly one time on the freeway a while back. SCARY EXPERIENCE. A good bit of advice: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GOOD AMOUNT TONGUE WEIGHT!!
    Anyways I am looking into getting the kit made by Sure Pull, from Keith ('kpanza'). Do any of you guys have any problems using the system with a lifted blazer? I have seen them on stock vehicles but not sure how they would bolt up and work with a descent amount of lift on a truck. I am waiting on some info from Sure Pull to help me figure this out, I havent heard back so I'll try them again tomorrow.
     
  7. ta400

    ta400 Newbie

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    I bought the k5 in Fairbanks, Alaska. It has always had a weight distribution hitch on it...it came with it. Are you referring to something superior to the stock set up. I fully agree that the 3.08 gears are less than desireable for towing. Before the 350 went in, the 305 really struggled but still got the job done. The current power out of the 350 is less than desireable...I may have to beef it up. What weight distribution hitch set up is better than the one my k5 came with? What about shocks or beefier springs? Thanks, for the quick response...I appreciate it. TA400
     
  8. 90blzr

    90blzr 1/2 ton status

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    I didnt know blazers came with weight dist. hitches.I just have a Class III reciever on mine. The one I am talking about is like the one in the lind above by BlazerGuy. And on there you can also see the sway control.
     
  9. ta400

    ta400 Newbie

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    Dooh...just goes to show I don't know scratch about hitches and weight distributing systems. After looking at the Drawtite website, all my k5 has is a class III hitch, nothing more. Thanks for setting me straight. I can see how such a "system" would improve the handling. I'll check that out further. Another thing that interests me is converting the rear drum brakes to disc. Is there a specific company that makes it a bolt on to the existing axle? Better braking, now that would be good! :)
     
  10. tRustyK5

    tRustyK5 Big meanie Staff Member Super Moderator GMOTM Winner Author

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    The hard part of towing a car on a trailer is getting the weight distributed correctly. You should have roughly 10% of the loaded trailer weight on the tongue. So in your case roughly 550 lbs should have been on the tongue. If you have less than that the trailer will sway and handle very poorly!
    I would guess the car was a bit too far rearward on the car trailer...

    I tow a 21 foot travel trailer with my lifted Jimmy. It weighs about 5500 lbs loaded with our junk and about 600 lbs or so is directly on the hitch. I use a weight distributing hitch and i haven't had any issues when towing.

    Rene

    <font color=green>Dyslexics of the world...UNTIE!</font color=green>
     
  11. BlazerGuy

    BlazerGuy 3/4 ton status

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    Here's a good article on swapping in discs on a 12 bolt(same process as 10 bolt):
    <A target="_blank" HREF=http://www.off-road.com/chevy/reviews/stainsteel/diskbrakes.html>http://www.off-road.com/chevy/reviews/stainsteel/diskbrakes.html</A>

    Murphy's Laws on Life:
    "A bird in the hand is worth three Kleenex."
     
  12. 84_Chevy_K10

    84_Chevy_K10 Banned

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    A weight distributing setup can go on any class III hitch. The term "weight distributing hitch" is quite misleading. When you put the ball in the reciever and install the torsion bars on it, it's weight distributing. When you just use a straight bar with a ball on it and no bars, it's considered a weight carrying hitch. Both work on the same reciever, just depends on what you tow.

    To get rid of sway, if you've got electric brakes, all you need is a brake controller. Mine's on the left side of my dash, near the bottom. I just squeeze that and it'll kill any sway immediately. I also have the weight distributing setup with a friction-type sway control. The dual-cam sway control works better, but I only pull a 25' trailer so we couldn't justify it.

    If it's a car trailer, it probably has surge brakes. Unfortunately with surge brakes you can use neither a sway control or the torsion bars for the weight distributing hitch. Both would impede braking operation.

    I'd bet your trailer has really screwed up brakes or none at all and that's your main problem.

    You definitely need to get the biggest stacked-plate tranny cooler you can find too for an automatic. I've got B&M's 24,000 lb model on my 700R4, and it's been flushed and serviced with new fluid. Don't pull in overdrive and if you've got 3.08 gears, I wouldn't pull at all. You have got to gear your truck to pull. There's just no way around it. Get your RPM near 3,000 at 65 mph with your tires. The taller your tires are, the lower gears you need.

    I think I'm even going to put shorter tires on mine to pull my trailer. I have 35s and 4.10s, but I think I can get some 31s which will make my truck pull even harder.

    Tim
    '84 Chevy K10, lifted, loud, fast, and 3/4 ton axles
     
  13. 90blzr

    90blzr 1/2 ton status

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    Actually I just bought a car trailer a couple of weeks ago with brakes and I hooked up the controller you are talking about. What a difference it is towing with trailer brakes! I still want the distribution kit. How do the surge brakes work in comparison to the electric brakes? And I didnt have brakes on the trailer I was using when it got squirly. Rene got it right, not enough tongue weight. It was a burb with no front end, motor or tranny, and we put it on frontwards. Once we entered onto the freeway, the trailer started aswayin'!! We got off and put it on backwards and it was fine. Thats why I said to be sure you have good tongue weight! Definately getting a distribution kit.
    Hey Tim, do you have the weld on or bolt on sway control? Thanks for all the info guys!!
     
  14. WakeBoard&4X4er

    WakeBoard&4X4er 1/2 ton status

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    did you K5 come stock with a 5 speed? Just asking beacuse i would like to have one of mine was not an Auto with a 700r4
     
  15. BlazerGuy

    BlazerGuy 3/4 ton status

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    Surge brakes work when you put on the truck's brakes the coupler is pressed against the ball. This activates a sensor that applies the trailer brakes. But in reverse the sensor is disabled. Electric brakes work when you press a button on some models and some when the brake lights on the truck come on.

    WakeBoard&4x4er: K5's didn't come stock with 5 speeds....

    Murphy's Laws on Life:
    "A bird in the hand is worth three Kleenex."
     
  16. Sax Art

    Sax Art Registered Member

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    I tow a 7600 lb boat/trailer rig with my 1991 Burb. I've noticed that I get a lot of sway when going downhill. We've only got one large hill in the area, but I even saw another guy towing a large enclosed (construction?) trailer down that hill and almost lose it! His trailer tounge was twisted like a pretzel by the time he got that thing stopped. Moral of the story...
    ALWAY HAVE ONE HAND ON THE ELECTRIC BRAKE CONTROLLER WHEN TRAVELING AT HIGHWAY SPEEDS DOWN A LONG STEEP HILL...

    Can anybody confirm if an EQUILIZER will also minimize sway? I know they are designed to equilize the weight, but do they then help with sway as well?
     

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