2018 Ford F-150: Monthly Update for August 2019
by Travis Langness, Reviews Editor
Where Did We Drive It?
Our long-term 2018 Ford F-150 did some serious truck duty this month. It hauled loads of rotten lumber to the dump and pulled a boat for several hundred miles. We’ll cover more of the everyday impressions in next month’s update, but this month we’re going to dedicate to Dan’s lake trip and his extensive towing impressions — enjoy.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Only a few editors here at Edmunds drove the F-150 during the month of August, and the lion’s share of the miles were added to the odometer by Dan Frio and me. Dan towed a boat to Lake Powell and I spent two solid weeks working on my house in the mountains, going to and from a local trash dump. Surprisingly though, with all the extensive fuel economy data we’ve acquired over the F-150’s time in our fleet, the average lifetime fuel economy stayed the same at 17.2 mpg.
Average lifetime mpg: 17.2
EPA mpg rating: 21 combined (19 city/24 highway)
Best fill mpg: 21.7
Best range: 664.5 miles
Current odometer: 36,239 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
“I towed a ski boat loaded with gear and toys (but no fuel; well, some fuel on the way back) 1,100 miles round trip with the F-150. Too long; don’t wanna read? It went great. Read on for further insights into its greatness.
“This was a repeat of a trip I made two years ago. Same passengers (my brother, mother, daughter and dog), same destination (Lake Powell, southern Utah), different truck. Last time we had the electric-banana yellow Nissan Titan XD, Nissan’s tweener truck, part half-ton, part heavy-duty. That was fortunate, as we’d also been tasked with getting most of our SoCal crew’s gear and dry goods to the lake since most of them were traveling in passenger-loaded SUVs and minivans.
“My brother used plywood sides in the Titan’s long bed so that we could stack-and-strap the gear high and wide. We were well under towing and payload capacities and the diesel-powered Titan shrugged it off without issue.
“This time, we expected issues. I spent time with our mad scientist-in-chief Dan Edmunds looking over the F-150’s towing, payload and tongue weight specs. With our 2.7-liter V6 and 3.73 axle ratio, our long-term Lariat is capable of towing 8,000 pounds, with a max payload of 2,470 pounds.
“But our F-150’s GCWR — gross combined weight rating — of 13,300 pounds is what’s important here. We estimated the boat and trailer to weigh, conservatively, about 6,000 pounds. The F-150’s gross vehicle weight rating is 6,600 pounds. We weighed it at the track one day at 5,336 pounds with a full tank of fuel. Add another 600 pounds’ worth of passengers and dog and we were looking at about 6,000 pounds for the truck as well.
“Dan factored in about another 500 pounds of tongue weight, leaving us with about 800 pounds of margin for cargo to stay under the GCWR. One thing was clear: The Ford’s shorter bed and reduced capacity wouldn’t accommodate all the gear like last time. We’d still take some heavy tools, firewood and dry goods (like sodas, which later proved ill-advised), but whatever other random gear wouldn’t fit in the ski boat would be left for our boatmates to figure out for themselves.
“My brother dutifully weighed everything in milk crates and we came up with weight to spare (part of our overall weight-savings strategy was for one of our minivans to load up at a Costco in St. George, Utah, rather than shop ahead of time in SoCal and truck everything out like last time). So now, how would it tow?
“One of the older guys in our crew, who drives an old but in-shape Toyota Sequoia, didn’t believe us when we told him we were towing with a 2.7-liter V6. Straight-up chuckled and waited for the punchline. But no joke — the F-150 did great. The small turbo-six had plenty of sauce, even on the multiple grades of Interstate 15 and the rural highway east through Arizona out to the Powell marina.
“Tow/Haul mode didn’t do much. It kept the transmission in lower gears longer, but I didn’t find it offered any benefit over my own manual thumb-switch shifting. Maybe I lost some mpgs, but I preferred controlling when to shift up into a cruising gear and when to stay low for quick surges of torque. That said, we never got past eighth gear with the boat behind us. Ninth and 10th gear were too sluggish and unresponsive at those highway speeds.” — Dan Frio, reviews editor
“You learn something new all the time. Or rather, science has a way of reminding you of things that you should realistically, at some point in adulthood, know already, even intuitively. On my recent trip to Lake Powell for a week of water sports and houseboating, my crew agreed to haul the ski boat, water toys, firewood, some dry goods, and most of the cans and bottles.
“Several hours into our long drive, somewhere around St. George, Utah, we all heard a dull pop from the back. My brother and I exchanged worried glances, fearing something had gone amiss inside the boat or, worse, with one of the trailer’s tires. My passengers kept an eye out of the rear window, and my brother stuck his head out the window, but no one saw anything of note. The truck and trailer continued handling as normal.
“Several minutes later, another pop, then my daughter saw one of Coke cans exploding its contents all over the truck bed. Turns out sugary carbonated beverages aren’t meant to sit under a full, blazing sun in 100-degree ambient temperatures while being subjected to the bumps and shakes of interstate highway travel.
“For the next few hours, we heard can after can expire in the heat. We brought as many as we could inside the cab, but only had so much room. In the end, we lost about a case of Coke and ginger ale. Oddly, every canned beer made the trip fine.
“I was glad we’d got the spray-in bedliner for the F-150. Once we got to our destination and unloaded the truck and boat, I drove the truck and trailer about 20 minutes into Page, Arizona, the nearest town, found a pay-and-spray car wash and went to work. The bed was covered in drying lakes of corn syrup and I couldn’t let the truck sit outside like that for a week in desert temps.
“Would’ve been just as easy with an unlined steel bed, maybe even easier, but with high-pressure wash and a few good rounds of hard scrubbing, the bedliner came out looking like it did before the soda tragedy.
“The guitar in the picture also made it fine. Blazing sun and triple-digit temps aren’t great for guitars either, but the old beater inside that case only needed a quick tune-up to sing again. That bed light is also wildly handy for loading gear in the dawn hours.” — Dan Frio
“We were hoping that the alignment performed by the dealer at the F-150’s last service visit would alleviate some of the general funkiness we’d been experiencing in the F-150’s steering. Carlos and Jonathan both picked up on small moments of uncertainty in the wheel, an inconsistent willingness to return to center, and small micro-movements just off-center that undermined our confidence in what was happening between the tires and road. I’d noticed it myself but couldn’t quite put a name to it (to me it just felt like a general pulling to one side).
“I think it worked, for the most part. Today the steering feels more normal, but I’m not sure that’s saying much. That’s to say, there’s not a lot of weight or feel when the wheel’s at center, at least at highway speeds, so you have this fairly broad dead area where the wheel can move, but without much reaction. You really need to rotate it to change the direction of travel. This feels like the truck’s default mode, but also feels like something’s still not quite right.
“I’ll add that while pulling a trailered ski boat behind the F-150, the numb steering feel at highway speeds was my biggest complaint with the truck. While the F-150 did many other things right, the somewhat liquid steering while pulling a heavy load did not inspire confidence. You basically just need to have faith that what’s happening at the contact patches is indeed what’s going down.” — Dan Frio
“The F-150 has two features that make trailer loading less stressful to the inexperienced, especially on a launch ramp: the backup camera (and the backup camera’s guidelines) and the power-sliding rear center window. The backup cam does what it does anytime you’re in reverse, but while backing up to dunk our trailer in the water before loading our ski boat, the guidelines helped me center up my approach to the vessel bobbing in the water.
“As I slowly backed into the water, it was also handy to have the sliding rear window open to communicate with the boat’s driver, who was able to guide me into the correct depth of water before gliding the boat up onto the trailer’s carpeted rails. Given the trailer’s depth and boat driver’s skill (more credit to the latter), we were able to get the boat right up to the front pylons and easily winch it into place.
“Our F-150 does have Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which if I’d used it could’ve potentially made this job even less work. PTBA only requires you to rotate a knob on the center stack in the direction you want the trailer to turn and the truck does the rest. I missed an opportunity to test it out, but had my reasons.
“For one, my boat driver was sitting out in the water under blistering sun in triple-digit temps. And two, the launch ramp was massive. I was able to pull a full U-turn without getting in anyone’s way, then back it down the ramp using just the rearview camera and looking over my shoulder.
“Had it been a smaller launch area, or more crowded on the ramp, or even in a situation later on that required some serious backup moves, I probably would’ve called on PTBA for the assist.” — Dan Frio