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Thread: Tow tune for the 5.4 F-150 ?

  1. #1
    PHP Member

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    Default Tow tune for the 5.4 F-150 ?

    We'll have my first travel trailer next month which we will hook up to the F-150
    F-150 has 110k km, built 2006', 5.4l, tow package, 7200# GVWR package, 3.55 Limited Slip Axle, 275/65Rx18 tires
    Trailer is a 17ft, 3.880 dry axle weight, GVWR 7.000. We are used to travel along "less is more, so the trailer will not be heavily loaded.
    However, some folks told me getting a Gryphon with a decent tow tune is a must.
    If so I would aim for less HP but more TQ and improved transmission shifting, makes a total difference when pulling any trailer.
    Also I want to take into account lower fuel quality which I experienced now and then.

    So I thought about maybe four tunes

    87 octane - for towing (my expected default for towing)
    87 octane - fuel economy
    91 octane - for towing
    91 octane - fuel economy

    Does this make sense? What is your recommendation?

    Charles

  2. #2
    JackandJanet's Avatar

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    Default Re: Tow tune for the 5.4 F-150 ?

    Hi, Charles, and welcome!

    You have ALMOST my old setup. I had a 2005 King Ranch SCrew 4x4 but with the 3.73 LS axle, and, I tow a 3500# 17ft trailer.

    I had PHP towing and economy tunes on a Gryphon and I calculated that I got better gas mileage with both and improved shift control. Much better passing performance with the tunes! Mine were all 87 octane tunes and I never put higher octane gas in the truck. Since the engine is designed for 87 octane, I don't really see the point in using anything more expensive. 91 octane is NOT "better" gas, it just resists pre-ignition better and has a slower burn rate.

    So, I would not bother with 91 octane tunes. The Gryphon can only store 3 tunes above "stock", so you won't be able to have 4 anyway.

    Now, about your trailer's potential weight: Your truck can certainly "pull" the trailer if it is loaded to its 7000 GVWR, but it would almost certainly overload your truck's axles due to the increased tongue weight. If you check the axle ratings on your truck, you'll find they are in the neighborhood of 3600-3800# each. Your trailer's tongue weight is ideally between 10-15% of the trailer's weight, so it's between 388-582#. You will need a Weight Distributing Hitch (WDH) with that trailer, and it will weigh at least 70#. If you tow the trailer "empty", your WDH should handle a tongue weight of at least 600#. So the combined load increase on your truck's axles is between 458-652#. I found, by weighing everything on a CAT scale, that I was only about 500# below my axle's GAWR, without any passengers or equipment in the truck bed. You should weigh your setup to find out where you are.

    As you add cargo to your trailer, your tongue weight increases, up to 700-1050#! This requires a heavier WDH too, which adds to the weight on your axles. You clearly cannot go this high and I applaud your saying you will travel "light". Even with an empty trailer, you will be well above the recommended load on your truck's axles (which is 80% of the GAWR).

    One thing I did to make things safer was to install Load Range E Michelin tires on my truck. They were excellent riding and I was very pleased with their performance. (My tires were the same size as yours btw). As I recall, Load Range E on that tire was rated to 2500# load per tire.

    I've probably given you much more advice than you wanted, but you said this was your "first" trailer. I discovered trailer towing was a learning experience. I'm hoping what I've said makes sense and helps.

    Happy camping!

    - Jack
    2014 F150 Platinum 4x4 SCrew 3.5L Ecoboost


  3. #3
    PHP Member

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    Default Re: Tow tune for the 5.4 F-150 ?

    Hi Jack,

    thanks for the welcome and your feedback. I Think I will go the same route then. 87/Regular fuel and a tow plus eco tune.
    So far I understood the Gryphon comes with some "canned tunes". But to get full benefits I should go with custom tunes for which I have to read the hex code of my specific truck first.
    What exactly is behind this hex code in relation to a custom tune?
    I thought to be able to program a custom tune I should record vehicle data for a while which then would be the baseline for a custom tune.
    Maybe you can enlighten me a bit here ;o)
    As I live quite abroad an next town is 100 miles away, I need to be very sure what I am doing and the risk of failure should be very low (of course ) )

    So far I have planned to get my trailer first, pull it home (900 miles) and then add the Gryphon with whatever tune I can have by then.
    Or would it be better to get the Gryphon first and run the canned tune. To maybe record data (if I am not wrong with this idea) and get this sent to you folks at the end of my 1.800 miles trip?
    Any advice appreciated.

    W.r.t. the weights and trailer... Your statements reflect what my RV dealer told me. He will be very careful in setting up the WD hitch and we'll get the weights right away to see where we are.
    I just bought a set of brand new Duratrac Wranglers, their load index states 2.600# so I should be good there.

    Regards
    Charles

  4. #4
    JackandJanet's Avatar

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    Default Re: Tow tune for the 5.4 F-150 ?

    Hi Charles - Yup, the Duratracs sound fine. When I got my Load Range E tires, I called Michelin regarding the inflation pressure. I was told to stay with the door sticker figure (40 psi) I think for everyday driving. I set it at 45psi, because my truck was heavier than the "dry" weight. When I was towing, I increased the pressure to 55 psi. My tires had a maximum pressure rating of 80 psi, so I had a lot of room to play. I think, with the load I had on the tires, 55 psi when towing seemed about right.

    You WILL need to get the Gryphon BEFORE you can get custom tunes for it. You will use it to read your "hex" code. This code is the specific "name" for the program that is in your truck's PCM. It serves as a baseline, or the foundation for custom tunes. Changes are made to that stock tune to get your custom tune rather than actually writing a completely new program. So, if your hex code ever gets changed, because the dealership flashes your PCM, your custom tunes have to be rewritten.

    You can, of course install the Gryphon in your truck and drive it using any of the canned tunes while you're waiting for custom tunes. DO NOT use the 91 octane tune though, unless you have filled your tank completely with 91 octane gas or higher! I used the Level 2 "towing" tune as my daily driving tune while I was waiting for custom tunes. It's really a good, all-around tune and as I recall, it improved my gas mileage by about 2 mpg (ymmv of course). Custom tuning added another 1/2 mpg to that.

    Yes there ARE other ways to perform tuning. The best way, probably, is with your truck on a dyno. And, tunes can be tweaked through data logging once you have a tune installed. The data logging would be mostly used to correct some problem that shows up after tuning.

    One of the most important things I can tell you is do NOT try to install a tune unless your battery is strong! This will be especially true for you up in the frozen North. The programmer converts battery voltage to 18V to tell the PCM to accept the tune. If this voltage drops off, the tuning can be aborted and I think it is possible to get it in a corrupted state. I always keep a "Battery Minder" on my truck since I drive it infrequently. This keeps the battery at a full charge state. I don't even disconnect the Battery Minder when installing a tune. If you have such a device, or even a battery charger that has a 2 Amp charge rate, I would have that on the battery during ANY tune change.

    The other thing, is - I would not be too eager to change the tune when away from home. When I was towing the trailer, I, of course, used the towing tune. At camping spots, I simply left the tow tune installed, even if we were driving a lot without the trailer. I did not change back to the economy tune until I got home.

    Once a tune is installed, the Gryphon simply becomes a "monitor". It does NOT have any effect on the engine or transmission. And, if you disconnect your battery, your tune stays installed in the PCM. It has to be actively removed with the Gryphon or a dealer flash if a change to it is desired. I monitored my Transmission Temperature, my Cylinder Head Temperature, the Alternator Voltage and the Commanded Gear/Torque Converter Lock status with my Gryphon. In Ford trucks, there's no Coolant Temperature sensor, it is inferred from the Cylinder Head Temp, so I never bothered with Coolant Temp. If you are worried about theft of the Gryphon, you can simply remove it from the truck once a tune is installed. Again, unless you are actively installing a tune, the Gryphon is just an extra set of gauges.

    I THINK I've answered your questions and probably told you more than you wanted to hear. If anything is confusing, please ask me to clarify. And, just so you'll know, I'm not really "part" of the tuning operation at PHP. I just happen to be friends with Bill, Angela and Jay and I help with this forum. They are in Georgia and I'm in Arizona.

    - Jack

  5. #5
    PHP Member

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    Default Re: Tow tune for the 5.4 F-150 ?

    Thanks Jack,
    lots of valuable information making things clear for me now
    Very much appreciated
    Charles

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