F-150 vs F-250 (or F-350) off-road capability | OVERLAND BOUND COMMUNITY

F-150 vs F-250 (or F-350) off-road capability

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AdventurousWay

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Hi everyone! This isn't a build thread but I couldn't see a more logical place to put this and I would value this group's input.

Today we have a 2016 Ford F-150 Platinum SuperCrew 4x4 with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 and a 6.5ft bed. My partner and I have been full-time RVers traveling around the US for the past year on a quest to visit all 419 National Park Units. Our F-150 tows an Outdoors RV 21RBS travel trailer which has a GVWR of 7,500lbs. Our vehicle are both very close to maximum weight and there's little more we can downsize. In addition to being our tow vehicle, since the truck is our only vehicle it's also our daily driver and off-road vehicle. We don't do crazy off-road, but we do enjoy getting out into the wild and (responsibly) exploring. For context, we've done the Mojave Rd a couple times and have recently been playing in the forests around Salida, CO.

107496

I've been trying to keep our truck looking fairly stock, but we have done a number of upgrades to it, including:
  • Suspension: Fox 2.0 Front Coilovers and Bilstein 5160 Rear Shocks (+ extra leaf spring)
  • Brakes: Power Stop Z36 kit
  • Tires: BFGoodrich T/A KO2 (on factory 20" rims)
  • Lights: Rigid Industries off-road lights, fog lights and flush-mount rear lights
  • Skid Plates: RCI Metalworks full skid plate package
Overall I'm very happy with the truck's off-road performance.

But (and the reason for my post), as I mentioned our truck is running right at its GVWR when towing (due to the trailer's tongue weight). Recently, on the long, steep interstate climbs in Colorado we've found the engine and transmission get very hot - based on what I've read on the F-150 forums, this is a known issue due to the amount of heat put out by the truck's two turbos.

In the past, when we've hit limits on the truck we've upgraded the relevant parts - the ride was poor when towing so we upgraded the suspension and it improved. Similarly here we could upgrade the radiator, transmission cooler, etc and probably (hopefully?) solve the overheating issue. An alternative approach is to question whether we have the right truck.

I bought the truck 2 years before we bought the trailer, and it's probably not the best truck for towing - to be clear though, it tows comfortably, smoothly and with our weigh distribution hitch and sway control system, I've never felt that the trailer was "too much trailer" for the truck. But the truck only has 1,532lbs of payload capacity - 2 people and cargo eat into that pretty quickly! Ideally I'd like to add some more capability to the truck - specifically to make it into an overlanding rig for short (1-5 night) trips. I'm thinking a camper shell, roof top tent, fridge, etc. Given how we travel, this would unlock some new opportunities for us. But the F-150 clearly can't do that - I simply have no weight capacity left.

Which implies I need a larger truck - either a 3/4-ton or a 1-ton. To avoid this conversation digressing into brand-loyalty, for various reasons I'd be very unlikely to consider anything other than a new Ford truck. My truck is loaded with options I'd happily give up - massage seats, for example. I looked at a new F-250 Lariat 4x4 SuperCrew the other week and it only had 500lbs more payload than we have today - not a lot considering the weight of a camper shell, tent, etc.

My thinking is that for towing our trailer and given our lifestyle, an F-350 (SRW, not dually) Lariat SuperCrew with the 6.7 PowerStroke diesel, 6.75ft bed, 4x4 would work great. It has enough payload and space to add an auxiliary fuel tank, bed drawers, etc while still tow our trailer comfortably. The fuel economy would also be much better than our F-150 (we get ~21mpg normally, ~11mpg when towing @ 55mph, and ~5mpg when towing @ 75mph).

My big concern is how much off-road capability I'd lose by going to these (much) heavier trucks. Dimensionally, there's not too much difference between my F-150 and the F-250 / F-350 - they share the same cab so they're the same width, only ~6" longer and a few inches higher. But the weight increases significantly, especially with that diesel engine. Does anyone have experience with these larger trucks for off-road use, and how much capability can be regained by upgrading suspension, tires, etc?

Apologies for the long post, but I wanted to give enough context for some meaningful responses. Many thanks in advance! Here's a gratuitous photo of our truck and trailer for reference.

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Boostpowered

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If your getting hot from the turbos get turbo wraps from dei put a trans cooler if it dont have it and a bigger one if it already does. F250 or larger would be great for hauling but probably not the best offroad vehicle, you can lift em and modify them but then it probably wont be as good hauling and be more likey to break parts due to the weight and geometry of suspension. I can barely get through some of the tight jeep trails i go on in my colorado i couldnt imagine trying in a huge diesel f250. If you really want to dont let me discourage you this is just how i see it, it dont mean im right.
 
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AdventurousWay

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If your getting hot from the turbos get turbo wraps from dei put a trans cooler if it dont have it and a bigger one if it already does. F250 or larger would be great for hauling but probably not the best offroad vehicle, you can lift em and modify them but then it probably wont be as good hauling and be more likey to break parts due to the weight and geometry of suspension. I can barely get through some of the tight jeep trails i go on in my colorado i couldnt imagine trying in a huge diesel f250. If you really want to dont let me discourage you this is just how i see it, it dont mean im right.
That's exactly the kind of input I'm looking for, thank you. I don't really want to give up my F-150 - I've put lots of time, money and energy into it and really enjoy driving it. I just don't want to keep pouring time, money and energy into it if ultimately I'd be better off with a different base vehicle.

I've been looking at the new Mishimoto radiator and transmission cooler - mine has one already but the Mishimoto one claims significantly better performance than stock. But it's another $1,100 investment, which is what prompted me to post....
 
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Boostpowered

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If your heart is set on a larger truck go for it you will learn over time what you need or dont need to do to it if you go that route. If staying with the f150 and overheating due to the turbos definately get the covers for em it will throw all that heat down the exhaust pipe instead of heat soaking the block . Diesels like heat alot more and will definately give you the torque you want for hauling. Ive pulled a loaded semi out of a ditch alongside the highway with my little 2.8l duramax after a storm.
 

AdventurousWay

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If your heart is set on a larger truck go for it you will learn over time what you need or dont need to do to it if you go that route. If staying with the f150 and overheating due to the turbos definately get the covers for em it will throw all that heat down the exhaust pipe instead of heat soaking the block . Diesels like heat alot more and will definately give you the torque you want for hauling. Ive pulled a loaded semi out of a ditch alongside the highway with my little 2.8l duramax after a storm.
I've just been looking at the DEI turbo shields. Sounds like it keeps the turbos from heating up the rest of the engine compartment, but is there any adverse impact to keeping that heat in the turbos?
 
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Since the truck is not too different dimensionally aside from weight you will not lose a lot of capability if set up right. Carli suspension has kits for the 250s that make them very agile. What you do gain is stronger running gear, bigger brakes, more torque, and more power which will come in handy for towing your rig. IMO, the biggest advantage for someone RVing is more control when towing.

I stepped up from a Dodge 1500 to 2500 Cummins. My 1500 was a short bed regular cab so it performed better on tight trails but the overall offroad ability om my 2500 with the Carli Suspension is better.
 
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The new Ford transmissions have a thermostat. They're designed to run very hot. Much hotter than in the past.

Make sure you lock out your overdrive gears and let the engine sing in the hills. I towed completely across my state a week ago at 3000rpm with my 6.2. Only letting it up shift for perfectly flat grades.

The Super Duty is more capable off road. More flex. Locker ready front axle. Strong axles. The Dana60 front axle is so perfect'y suited for an autolocker, that it's offensive to me NOT to add a front locker ASAP. The SD's weak spot is it's weight in soft, slick, deep mud. You'll need Cooper STT tires on one, to keep up with an F150 on decent AT's. Expect to run 35" tires for the same under axle clearance as a 150 on 33's.

As you're aware, stock Ford shocks should be replaced before your first oil change. Par for normal GM, dodges, etc.etc.

35x12.5r18 on a 18x9 +18 wheel fit stock.

It'll have a rougher ride no matter what. But that's all in your head. Foam seats half a foot thick aren't exactly going to draw blood on a bumpy road or anything. BDS 4" suspension, and Accutune or Filthy Motorsports King or Fox 2.5 shocks helps a ton. 37" tires will fit a 4" lift easy. Any wheel bigger than 18" is going to noticeably degrade ride quality.

Also note that the new SD's are lowered thank to lame 5'er owners. They aren't as tall as '17-18 SD's.

The SD won't even know that trailer is there. Way more confidence in all road conditions than an F150. That trailer maxes out a 150, but is at the minimum of the SD's specs. The most it'll do to an SD, is smooth out the trucks ride.

If you can get another year out of the 150, consider the new 7.3l gas engine coming out. The 6.2l gas engine is overkill for your trailer. I'm afraid the diesel might be too much engine. The diesel is another 1000 pounds of weight, which hurts even more in soft mud. And the extra cost of the diesel, covers more than an entire longblock 6.2 engine dealer replacement ($8000). Major repairs can go north of $10 000 with the diesel easy. Make sure you need it, and make sure you do enough hwy miles to clean it out.

My 250 never commutes. It's a weekend warrior, that only gets pizza on weekdays. I live in the snow belt, where a diesel wouldn't even reach operating temp, more than once a moth in the winter. Basically, I'd ruin a diesel, and go broke keeping one running.

I'd consider an Xl, XLT, STX, with the Tremor package to get the front lsd. Instead of a Lariat. Avoid the adaptive steering, and moonroof. Avoid drive through car washes, and/or at least grease the ''plug of death''.
 
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Billiebob

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I looked at a new F-250 Lariat 4x4 SuperCrew the other week and it only had 500lbs more payload than we have today
There are a lot of ways to order an F250 from the factory to double or better that payload capacity. You need to talk to someone who can spec what you need, not Joe Sales guy whose job is to move what is on the lot. Engine options & rear end ratios are the 2 biggest factors. You are right, the only limiting factor on an F150 or any half ton is payload capacity. Good to see you watching what so few pay attention to.
 
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There are a lot of ways to order an F250 from the factory to double or better that payload capacity. You need to talk to someone who can spec what you need, not Joe Sales guy whose job is to move what is on the lot. Engine options & rear end ratios are the 2 biggest factors. You are right, the only limiting factor on an F150 or any half ton is payload capacity. Good to see you watching what so few pay attention to.
I found an F-250 specced the way I wanted on the lot and read the sticker on the door jam. It had the various upgraded GVWR, etc packages but its payload was only 2,500lbs. That’s why I started to think maybe I’d need an F-350.
 

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My gas CC, SB, FX4, 250 has 3100# cargo capacity. Most 250 diesels hovered around 2100#. Get a 350 if you go diesel.
 

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The new Ford transmissions have a thermostat. They're designed to run very hot. Much hotter than in the past.

Make sure you lock out your overdrive gears and let the engine sing in the hills. I towed completely across my state a week ago at 3000rpm with my 6.2. Only letting it up shift for perfectly flat grades.

The Super Duty is more capable off road. More flex. Locker ready front axle. Strong axles. The Dana60 front axle is so perfect'y suited for an autolocker, that it's offensive to me NOT to add a front locker ASAP. The SD's weak spot is it's weight in soft, slick, deep mud. You'll need Cooper STT tires on one, to keep up with an F150 on decent AT's. Expect to run 35" tires for the same under axle clearance as a 150 on 33's.

As you're aware, stock Ford shocks should be replaced before your first oil change. Par for normal GM, dodges, etc.etc.

35x12.5r18 on a 18x9 +18 wheel fit stock.

It'll have a rougher ride no matter what. But that's all in your head. Foam seats half a foot thick aren't exactly going to draw blood on a bumpy road or anything. BDS 4" suspension, and Accutune or Filthy Motorsports King or Fox 2.5 shocks helps a ton. 37" tires will fit a 4" lift easy. Any wheel bigger than 18" is going to noticeably degrade ride quality.

Also note that the new SD's are lowered thank to lame 5'er owners. They aren't as tall as '17-18 SD's.

The SD won't even know that trailer is there. Way more confidence in all road conditions than an F150. That trailer maxes out a 150, but is at the minimum of the SD's specs. The most it'll do to an SD, is smooth out the trucks ride.

If you can get another year out of the 150, consider the new 7.3l gas engine coming out. The 6.2l gas engine is overkill for your trailer. I'm afraid the diesel might be too much engine. The diesel is another 1000 pounds of weight, which hurts even more in soft mud. And the extra cost of the diesel, covers more than an entire longblock 6.2 engine dealer replacement ($8000). Major repairs can go north of $10 000 with the diesel easy. Make sure you need it, and make sure you do enough hwy miles to clean it out.

My 250 never commutes. It's a weekend warrior, that only gets pizza on weekdays. I live in the snow belt, where a diesel wouldn't even reach operating temp, more than once a moth in the winter. Basically, I'd ruin a diesel, and go broke keeping one running.

I'd consider an Xl, XLT, STX, with the Tremor package to get the front lsd. Instead of a Lariat. Avoid the adaptive steering, and moonroof. Avoid drive through car washes, and/or at least grease the ''plug of death''.
Thank you for the very detailed response - lots for me to think about there.

Just to touch on temperatures, I used the FORScan mod to show real temperatures. When we pulled over on the climb, ECT was at 248F and TCT has just reached 232F. The gauges were moving past the center point. That seems too hot to me.
 

AdventurousWay

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My gas CC, SB, FX4, 250 has 3100# cargo capacity. Most 250 diesels hovered around 2100#. Get a 350 if you go diesel.
That’s a good point - maybe I’ve been blind to the gassers. I’d hope the fuel economy is still better than in the F-150 when towing, and that’d save a lot of weight compared to the diesels.
 

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Nope. No way. 232 won't even reheat a cheese sandwich.

Wake me when you see 300 in the trans. Keep engine rpm's higher to help that coolant temp a bit.
 
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The 3/4 and 1 ton truck are heaver than the 1/2 ton, in the sand and mud I like lighter and and nimble, add a diesel motor and you are getting pretty heavy. The components on 3/4 ton and up are designed for heavier loads for longer times. I upgraded a 1/2 for my needs and had it for years. I was totaled and I picked up a 3/4 ton. I haven't found a place I couldn't get to in it but it is a much bigger/ heaver truck and handles like one. It's gas. It pulls like a dream.
It's all what you want, you get somethings, you lose others.
 
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I'm not worried about the coolant temp either. But just want to make sure the engine isn't lugging in the wrong gear. Seems the new trucks sometimes want to grab an overdrive gear way too often. If your trans fluid smells or looks like an overcooked cheese sandwich, dump the fluid. Does a 150 even have a trans dipstick?

311 is my guess at the trans fluid failure point. New ATF in a lab, tests at that for 300 hours. 275 will trigger your trans light.
 
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I have a 2016 F-250 and feel like it could go anywhere I’d ask it to off road. And I personally feel like the Tremor trim with its front axle designed for off-road will be even more capable.
 

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A lot of valid points made in the comments above. Once you get past the ride qualities of a 1500 vs 2500 vs3500 size vehicle, and based on what you posted in the OP, a full size 2500/3500 gas or diesel will be fine for your needs. Your not off roading in more extreme areas, and there are lots of videos where they off road just fine. The diesel vs gas for towing will show the biggest difference. I had a 2500 4x4 Chevy with the 6.0 gas engine. Running empty on the Interstate at 70 mph, I never got better than 11.5 mpg. Tires were 285x75x16, with the auto trans. Loved the truck, hated the fuel mileage. I do not know how the more modern gas engines in this class range do now when compared to the older models from Ford or Chevy when empty or when towing. You did not give a trailer weight for your RV, either empty or loaded out. The posted response about shocks.....yeah, OEM's are lacking in all respects to anything but on the pavement.

On the question of weight in off road situations, deep Mud would defiantly be more of a problem. To the question of being in sand, I would look to all the tow vehicles at Pismo beach area in California, that do fine along it. This is discounting the Yahoo's who tow their full size homes behind them, and more importantly.....FAIL TO LOWER THEIR TIRE PRESSURES when driving in sand. Most drivers do seem to do fine, within reason in it . The old adage....you have to know your limitations, comes to mind in this environment.

Try to stay with a 16,17, or 18 inch tire/rim combination. 20's are not good for off road, and should be reserved for pavement use. I realize that is becoming harder and harder to avoid from the OEM's, if buying new.

EDIT:
Get the Largest/Heaviest tow package you can, if the manufacturer has that option. This is especially true with Auto transmissions, radiator, trans cooler, and P/S cooler if possible. A/C trucks usually are upgraded, but some allow a more HD version as a option. After initial break-in, change your fluids to synthetic, as they are better fighting heat generation/thermal breakdown and slightly better for fuel consumption. Read up on OEM problems from all the manufacturers on their transmissions, as towing will quickly show the weak links first, ....then,.... any deficiencies in engine design. Do your due diligence before slapping down the cash. Here out West (desert), the service vehicles we used, started having transmission issues as early as 15,000 miles on non towing city trucks, and all the fleet by 27,000 miles (12). The variance was due to individual driving habits, as these were assigned by route.
 
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My '17 250 6.2l, on xl wheels and stock Michelin LTX AT's gets 15mpg@80mph, very consistently.

It'll touch 16-17 if traffic is light. There's a reason many work trucks have the skinny 245/75r17 tires.

Still haven't done much long country 55mph roads. But one of the short trips like that, that I've done, 16-18 actually happened for a bit, until stop and go traffic wrecked it.
 

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That’s a good point - maybe I’ve been blind to the gassers. I’d hope the fuel economy is still better than in the F-150 when towing, and that’d save a lot of weight compared to the diesels.
that is a myth.

I had a 1990 F350 with a 460. It got 15mpg empty, loaded, city, highway 50mph, 70mph. Never varied. 15mpg.
I almost bought a new F150 Eco thing for the 25mpg rating.
Then I learned that is what computers and 8 speed, triple OD trannies can do when empty.
Loaded, towing a trailer that F150 only gets 15mpg too.

my Jeep TJ towing a trailer gets 15mpg.
 
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