To be Idling or Not to be Idling?

I went out to work on the Airstream in storage the other week. I typically pull the batteries during winter storage, but I didn’t this time because we were gonna take a quick winter trip (that didn’t pan out).  Actually, to be completely honest, I didn’t bother pulling the batts because I don’t get any more longevity out of them whether I go thru the hassle of storing them on a Guest 3-stage charger, or not.  To the Battery Guru’s who may be reading this: flame away.

I digress. So, the batts have been sitting, no maintenance charge, for about 2 months. I decided to back the E-350 up, plug in the 7-way umbilical, and let her idle to charge the batteries while I worked.

It idled for about 2 hours. All gauges were normal.  I’ve seen this van put as much as 15 amps back to the batteries- pretty good for tow vehicle trailer wiring.

Fast forward to my next fill up. The van is our daily driver, typically get between 16-18 MPG. Well, the “idling for 2 hours tank” came back with 13 MPG.  I was really surprised.

I know “idling” and “efficiency” when talking MPG is sort of an oxymoron, but I guess what I mean is I thought it wouldn’t burn as much fuel.  Stoichiometrics of diesel engines, and all…

After a little research that included a discussion with an actual diesel mechanic responsible for a fleet of 200 vehicles ranging from bulldozers to Class 8 trucks; it appears idling is not recommended.  “Wet stacking” being the primary reason.  This is a condition in the cylinders where due to lower combustion temps and incomplete burn, the fuel washes down cylinder walls and adds to fuel in the oil which in turn causes accelerated wear on all oil lubricated components.

So, for charging the batteries, it looks like a dedicated generator is best.  Besides, a Yamaha EF2400IS is much, much quieter than my E-350.

See you Down the Road!

UPDATE. Towing With an E-350 PSD

Since posting “Towing With an E-350 Powerstroke Diesel”, I repaired a serious fuel delivery problem (see post HERE).  There’s an immediate improvement in performance.  Most notably at highway speed.  I’m anxious to get back out there with the Silver LuvSub in tow, and I’m confident towing performance will be MUCH improved.  I’ll have an update for y’all when I do…
Not too impressed with the mileage on the Econosaurus©

Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 7.06.50 PM

Recap on the rig:  2003 Ford E-350 7.3L Turbo Diesel pulling a 2008 Airstream 30′ Classic S/O

2008 Airstream S/O Classic and 2003 Ford E-350 PSD
2008 Airstream S/O Classic and 2003 Ford E-350 PSD


Max weight distribution using 1400lb bars
Max weight distribution using 1400lb bars
As a daily driver, city MPG is around 14, which is great compared to our previous DD (a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 8.1L) at 8 MPG.

But highway towing was a real let-down.  Power-wise and mileage-wise.

I’m used to the 496ci Suburban, 4L80E trans and 3.73 rear, where when I matted the accelerator, it jumped.  Passing on a two lane freeway was childs-play.  When I needed to beat a train at a crossing, I knew the acceleration was there to get my family safely across the tracks out front of the oncoming Amtrack.  Whereas, with the E-350, I’d describe it as ‘pokey’, at best.  Yeah, I know, it’s not NASCAR but, it should at least be able to get out of it’s own way.  I used that ‘Superburb’ to pull this trailer out west over Big Horn and Monarch.  With the Econoline currently configured, I wouldn’t even consider doing that.

The 8MPG tanks were running with ‘overdrive’ off (per diesel owners manual), the jump to 10MPG was two-lane freeways at 55-60 mph… on relatively flat terrain.

I followed that with towing in ‘overdrive’, and manually turning it off for steep grades.  I still wasn’t keeping up with traffic at around 67MPH.  This got us 9.6MPG.

Still not good.  So, for the tow vehicles maiden voyage, on the plus side we’ve got: lots of space, smooth ride.  On the negative side we’ve got: loud, slow, and thirsty.

The good thing is, the draw-backs can be reasonably dealt with.

Let’s start with noise.  There may be wind noise but, what I’m getting lots of is the diesel clickety-clack.  Some good, strategically placed sound proofing should help.   Starting with the interior engine cowl, I found this high-temp product Aerogel, and for the floor and doors there’s Dynamat.

As far as slow with lousy gas mileage, everything is a compromise, and I think the factor that’s affecting both is the rear end ratio: a ridiculously fuel efficient 3.55.  Nice for idling down the freeway, not good for towing.  I’m thinking 4.10 might be a little too over the top.  I bet 3.73 would hit the sweet spot.  Now, to find a competent rear-end shop, who charges reasonable rates…

See You Down the Road!


“Gas Buddy” Challenge

Back from another successful, delightful vacation to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and St. George Island State Park.  (See my earlier SGI post here)

‘Gas Buddy’ is a great website (and iPhone app) that gives you best pricing on fuel along your route, based on your range (and minimum gas tank level preference).

Screen shot 2014-04-28 at 7.35.50 AM
“Gas Buddy” estimate

GB promised a $950.79 fuel bill, if we used the best priced stations along the route… this might actually be possible to do, if we weren’t traveling with a four month old.

The key to traveling with an infant is staying underway when the baby lets you stay underway (i.e. when the baby’s sleeping).

So, without any bargain hunting our actual expense came in at $1,136.61.  Hey, I’m not saying $186 is nothing.. but, if you were to try and put a value on happy travelers and peace of mind- it’d be a damn sight more than that.

Screen shot 2014-04-28 at 7.36.11 AM
Check out the “carbon footprint”! But, don’t worry; I bought some “carbon off-set credits” from an online Nigerian prince representing Algore.
Screen shot 2014-04-28 at 7.54.24 AM
GB can track your fillups, mileage, and MPG. The old girl did pretty decent at 7.9 MPG. Not bad for a 17,000+ pound rig.