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Old 03-31-2017, 07:42 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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How to get an AT545 down wolf creek pass CO...?

Hello all, I'm looking for some advice on a situation I've gotten myself into.
I converted my bus in Michigan but am now getting ready to make the first and last voyage out to my property in Pagosa Springs Colorado. What concerns me is going down the westbound side of Wolf Creek pass, into Pagosa. The signage says all heavier vehicles are limited to 25mph, it's a serious downhill but I forget the grade at the moment.
I've got the DT466E with the aforementioned Allison AT545. After some more research I learned the lack of lock up torque converter basically removes any engine braking, doh. (I've only really driven manual transmissions my entire life and never gave a second thought to the ability to engine brake with an automatic).
Bus also has a 26" roof raise. It's a 1997 with 161,000 miles and the transmission was already replaced once so it' is on a newer tranny. Just changed the tranny fluid/filter and it was a darker red but didn't smell burnt. It worked flawlessly on the relatively flat 200 recovery drive home.

The upside is that the bus only has this one major pass to tackle and will be permanently parked on my property for the rest of its life.


Here are the options I've come up with but would love other ideas:
1. Pray and Don't go over 10mph down, pulling over very frequently to let brakes cool. My problem with this is that since the 545 doesn't have "park" I can't take the brakes off to let them cool properly. Guess I could get out and put chocks in front of the tires then let off the brakes to let them cool?

2. Drive further south down I25, through Santa Fe and come up through Chromo. I test drive throw route in my truck. It has lots of smaller passes but no huge lurking downhills with sharp curves at the bottom. Just how much can an ole 545 take with the added wind resistance of the roof raise near then we of a 1500 mile journey?? This route adds half a day of driving and a couple hundred $ in extra fuel costs for my bus and truck convoy.

3. Call a towing company ahead of time to "tow" me down? Not sure if this is an actual option but I figure someone would might be willing to take my money for some braking help??


Since I only have his one trip to make I've pretty much ruled out putting in lock up torque converter, should I reconsider? I assume it'd cost $1000s...

Since I'll have another vehicle with trailer following me I'm planning on loading it up with all the removable heavy items out of the bus to get it as light as possible before the trip. Oh yeah, the roof raise adds some wind resistance, right? ;)

Thanks for any help! Cheers
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Old 03-31-2017, 09:22 AM   #2
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I'd stick with your idea for taking it slow down the hill and stop every now and again to let the brakes cool. If you keep it slow the brakes won't heat up nearly as much. Be sure to use any of those run off lanes if needed.
Seems the easiest to me


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Old 03-31-2017, 09:39 AM   #3
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If there is any room to pull over to a complete stop, the brakes can cool while they are on. But if you have to keep moving, just take it as slow as you can. No Park, but doesn't your rig have an emergency brake?
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Old 03-31-2017, 09:46 AM   #4
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Is it possible to put a lock-up torque converter on a AT545 transmission? I have a 1974 chev bluebird with a 350cid and a at545. Driving home from where I bought the bus I had at least two 9% or 10% grades. I down shifted on the hills making sure I stayed in the speed range of the gear.

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Old 03-31-2017, 09:57 AM   #5
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I have taken my AT 545 down that very same pass X3 into Pagosa Springs, using the "up to 45 mph, then stab-it-down to 25 again" method of braking. So instead of riding the brakes all the way down, you allow the bus to pick up speed, until it starts getting scary, then apply hard, stabbing braking(think a hard press for 1-3 seconds) to get your speed down. Then pull over for a few minutes at a pull out half way down. Quite a few NICE pullouts in that pass, worthy of a few stops from what I remember. Your brakes should not be the thing to cool off, rather your drums - so just set your brakes, and go for a walk. Make sure you have plenty of brake pads(inspect) left for your journey and you will be fine.....or we will see you on TV soon
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Old 03-31-2017, 09:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bon Voyage View Post
I'd stick with your idea for taking it slow down the hill and stop every now and again to let the brakes cool. If you keep it slow the brakes won't heat up nearly as much. Be sure to use any of those run off lanes if needed.
Seems the easiest to me


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Glad to hear a vote of confidence for just taking it slow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tango View Post
If there is any room to pull over to a complete stop, the brakes can cool while they are on. But if you have to keep moving, just take it as slow as you can. No Park, but doesn't your rig have an emergency brake?
If it has an emergency brake, I can't find it??! Just has the push/pull parking brake on the dash. Just took a quick peak and didn't see signs of one, where would it be located?

Thanks for the replies
S
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Old 03-31-2017, 10:06 AM   #7
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Join Date: Oct 2015
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tootalltechie View Post
Is it possible to put a lock-up torque converter on a AT545 transmission? I have a 1974 chev bluebird with a 350cid and a at545. Driving home from where I bought the bus I had at least two 9% or 10% grades. I down shifted on the hills making sure I stayed in the speed range of the gear.

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I believe some people do this but would really prefer to avoid the cost and/or effort required to put one in But a 350 on propane, that's very interesting! I've read about "driving" down the mount at a certain rpm can add some engine braking. I was considering this till reading Dredmans' post of first hand experience!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dredman View Post
I have taken my AT 545 down that very same pass X3 into Pagosa Springs, using the "up to 45 mph, then stab-it-down to 25 again" method of braking. So instead of riding the brakes all the way down, you allow the bus to pick up speed, until it starts getting scary, then apply hard, stabbing braking(think a hard press for 1-3 seconds) to get your speed down. Then pull over for a few minutes at a pull out half way down. Quite a few NICE pullouts in that pass, worthy of a few stops from what I remember. Your brakes should not be the thing to cool off, rather your drums - so just set your brakes, and go for a walk. Make sure you have plenty of brake pads(inspect) left for your journey and you will be fine.....or we will see you on TV soon
Ahh, that's exactly what I was looking for! Thanks Dredman! If you're in that area and want a place to park with spectacular views just let me know!

Now to do a good brake inspection.

Haha, funny thing you actually can catch me on TV! Season 4 Episode 12 of Tiny House Big Living. Was/is on DIY network but will be on HGTV sometime in the near future. But definitely not hoping for any follow up appearances due to a spectacular skoolie crash...
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Old 03-31-2017, 10:15 AM   #8
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its only scary when it gets away from you. don't go fast. keep it under the posted truck limit. stab your brakes at the speedlimit and slow down 10mph slower than that.

if you get going too fast, you make way too much heat on the braking. if you keep under the speed limit, i wouldn't worry about stopping and letting them cool down.

put your flashers on, relax and let people pass. don't go any faster down than you did up!

both up and down are troublesome with an AT545. if you have a dt466, it's dialed down in power if its mated to a 545. on the uphill, you can smoke your transmission, on the downhill you can smoke your brakes.

personally, i'd worry more about the trans heat on the uphill. if you bog the trans down (going way slow for your rpms), pull over and it should cool down quickly.

if the truck signs say 25, just stay inline with them. ignore the rest of the traffic.

good luck
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Old 03-31-2017, 10:30 AM   #9
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What kind of property around pagosa? are there any zoning issues? are you going to hook up to septic and water?

just curious about how much land you need to do those things.

i would guess rural and not urban, but my county has rules about RV living. so please elaborate on your land hook up.

thanks
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Old 03-31-2017, 10:52 AM   #10
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I have done many passes here in CO with an AT545 (5.9L Cummins) in my 30ft. TC2000 (no other brake assist) The engine will give you some stopping power if you downshift (do so BEFORE you start down hill!)
It's a game of balancing the engine RPMS with brief stabbing breaking to keep your speed under control. I second the 'no faster down, than you went up' mantra. I usually down shift 1 gear lower than I used on the way up.

If you have a temp gun, stop halfway down, and shoot your drums to see where they are at, and if they are all relatively close to the same temp. This will give you a good test to see if your breaks are applying evenly all the way around. I just did Denver to Grand Jct. and back twice last year, and am trying to remember what I had for temps to give you a point of reference.......

I'll follow up if the 'buffering' circle stops spinning, and my brain finds it somewhere in there.......

Here's a good mountain driving video from one of the mountain school districts you may find helpful....


Check in when you get out here!
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