Pulling a camper at distance


Mar 29, 2007
I figure many of you pull your cars so you may have some input for me on pulling. I have a 2015 GM express passenger van. 3500 with 6.0l. I also have a 2015 Keystone travel trailer that is about 7,000lbs fully loaded. I’ve been pulling this setup for three years and feel very comfortable doing so. I do use a weight transfer hitch. Most of our camping is 3-4 hour drives with some at 6-7. However I’m looking at doing a 13 hour one way trip late this summer. I will have some elevation to deal with. One thing about the van as opposed to the truck is the vans only have the option of 3.42 gearing as most the trucks I’ve seen are 4.10. So I’m under powered compared to the trucks of the same set up. I had the transmission fluid and filter changed at 50,000 miles. It was darker than I would have guessed not terrible but I could see the discoloration. Pulling the camper on this trip is going to save me about $200/day for a 14 day trip. However if I burn up my transmission then all is lost and then some. Am I just being over concerned or should I rethink this? I’m well under the pulling capacity of the vehicle. Thanks in advance. Chad
X2 on an additional cooler. I think if you take it easy through the hills and don't over heat the trans you should be fine. Does it have a gauge?
Add an additional trans cooler and be prepared to manually run a lower gear if you don’t have tow/ haul mode to keep the trans from down shifting and up shifting all the time.

Our 2013 Explorer XLT (now a GT. Lol) 3.5NA was not optioned with the towing package (max towing 5000 lbs W/ weight distributing hitch).
I added a 20” x 11” x 3/4” fin and tube cooler in conjunction with the trans cooler in the radiator to pull a 21 ft. bunkhouse travel trailer (gross trailer weight 4200 lbs.)

We hauled it from North Central Iowa to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee and
North Carolina last summer.
I kept an eye on the coolant temp gauge and I couldn’t tell any change in coolant temp, so it seemed ok.

I changed the trans fluid before the trip and after with no change either. I manually run lower gears to prevent the trans from shifting a lot since there is no tow/ haul mode.

This year we’re heading to Southern Utah. Well see how it goes.

I have a remote transmission filter with temperature gauge sensor mounted inline with a B&M trans cooler. The cooler has its own thermostatically controlled fan. I believe Trans-Dapt made the filter mount. Uses a spin-on canister style oil filter. Easy way to add a temperature gauge & an additional quart of ATF capacity. .3.jpg
I also run a cast aluminum finned deep sump pan.

Whale oil was a key ATF additive that allowed auto trans to survive. No more whale oil in ATF. Try to keep your trans at 160 degrees if possible. Extra cooling & extra capacity .