Owner’s Log: 2011 Ford F-150 Lariat (10/2013 – 1/2014)

OwnersLog2At just over 24,000 miles, my 2011 F-150 is 27 months old.  Just one more quarter, and it will be the longest I’ve ever kept a single vehicle.  In the mean time, it’s made itself invaluable, and been a trusty companion for road trips and foul weather.  Continue reading for the breakdown of what’s been a pretty exciting three months with my F-150.

Stats:

Time Period: 10/19/2013 – 1/18/2014
Miles Driven: 2,909 / 24,014 (this update / total) (2,345 in last update)
Average MPG: 16.7 mpg (reported by on-board computer)
Avg MPG for Year: 16.7 (reported by on-board computer)

Costs:

Maintenance Costs: $0
Total Cost (non-fuel): $151.50

Services Performed:

  • none

Summary:

With the winter holiday season in full swing, the F-150 was our chariot, bringing us safely to parties and gatherings at various locations, as well as shopping for bigger items and dealing with what has been a rather slippery winter for the Washington, D.C. metro area, not to mention the roads in the greater Pittsburgh, PA area, where we spent quite a few days.

Our first road trip of the last quarter was to my in-laws, for Thanksgiving.  We drove through almost five hours of on-and-off snow showers, creating some near-whiteout conditions, but nothing too slick, and thankfully, nothing the stock Goodyear Wrangler tires couldn’t handle.  While we were there, it didn’t snow any more, but there was six inches of snow already on the ground, in which I got to play.

On a side note: while a lot of people spend hours spinning around in the snow for fun (and some on the street, on accident), I’m a big proponent of taking any vehicle you have to a nearby empty parking lot for some good practice.  Take it VERY easy getting to said practice area, and then test out the handling limits of your car, gradually adding in a few variables like higher speeds and more steering input.  This allows you to become much more intimately familiar with your vehicle and its handling limits, both in good weather and in bad.  It’s a good idea to repeat this when there’s a heavy rain, or even when dry out, so you can better know how to react when things go wrong on the road.

Back to my father-in-law’s field; it was snow-covered, and while he didn’t encourage outright donuts (it invites passers-by to join in, which would do too much damage to the field), we did spend some good laps in the 2-high, 4-high and 4-low modes of the F-150’s 4-wheel-drive system.  Since he’s a tinkerer, mechanic, and has a downright scary knowledge of the engineering of almost anything mechanical or electrical, I try to take the time to ask – and listen to the response of – why a certain thing is the way it is.

Take 4WD for instance: while we were climbing back up his gravel drive from the field to the front of his house, I left the F-150 in 2WD, and of course it got half-way up the steepish hill before the rear wheels lost all grip and started spinning.  Putting the truck in 4-hi only made all FOUR tires spin.  Before backing down the hill and taking another run at it, I put the truck in 4-lo, and lo-and-behold, the truck clawed its way right up the hill.  After we’d safely parked the truck and went inside to warm up, I asked him what the heck was happening, and this was (paraphrased) the answer I got:  In 4-hi, the 4WD system engages the front axle, driving the front wheels at the same speed as the rear wheels, whereas in 4-lo, the 4WD system engages the low gear in the transfer case, to drive the front wheels, while the rear wheels continue to spin at their normal speed.  With the front wheels making more usable torque, and carrying more weight, they try to pull the truck, while the rear wheels are spinning, still trying to push the truck.  Good to know, and explains why a truck in a turn in 4-lo will want to crab its way around.  I found it quite fascinating that this was the way things were engineered to work in my truck.

So, after driving in the first real amount of snow that my truck has ever seen, I was pretty pleased with myself.  Little did I know that in a month, I’d have to put that newfound knowledge to the test.  The D.C. area got about six inches of snow in January of 2014, and it was the most snow we’d seen since early 2010.  Thankfully, the F-150 handled it with aplomb, and while I saw a lot of front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive vehicles careening off the road, sliding around willy-nilly, and generally causing their drivers to panic (or was it the drivers causing their vehicles to panic?), the F-150 just carried right along as if nothing were wrong.  The only time I slid was when I was lightly braking to slow down while going downhill into a 30-degree left turn.  The truck started to slide to the right, and knowing that continued braking would only make it worse, surely ending in an accident, I released the brake and gave the truck a little bit of throttle, bringing it back into line, and  then tried again, this time also downshifting to slow down.  Success was had, and that was quite literally the only moment where the truck did anything but stay planted.  I reviewed the video of that moment on my GoPro, and it didn’t look too bad, but that’s perspective for you: every slide in a car feels worse in the moment.

Later that day, I drove my snow thrower up into the truck using a set of Harbor Freight aluminum tri-fold ramps, tied it down to the built-in tie-downs in the front of the bed of the F-150, and drove to a few houses to clear their snow for them.  The truck of course didn’t mind the 250lbs of snow thrower, nor did it mind being in 4WD for the evening, still returning close to 15mpg, not that I was all that concerned with fuel economy at the time.  I did find that the snow had frozen the side steps in place, but luckily I was doing all of my tying-down of the snow thrower while standing in the bed.

As an aside, this winter is the first where I’ve been able to see how different regions handle snow, namely the Washington, D.C. area, and the Pittsburgh, PA area.  I drove to PA on New Years Day, and it snowed the next day.  There, the plows seemed to come by at least every two to three hours, while spreading less salt and almost no brine, while in the D.C. area, we get hammered by salt trucks and brine, but the plows seem to take longer to make their way around.  Blame it on the traffic in the DC metro area, but the snow pack that everyone drove on for a few days in PA provided a surprising amount of traction, causing problems only to 2WD work trucks whose beds were empty of ballast.

On a final note, the replaced rear window continues to function properly, so it looks like Ford’s redesign of the rear window has worked out nicely.

Dated Notes:

  • none

General Observations:

  • Snow traction with the stock tires seems to be quite good, so long as steep hills aren’t involved.

  • Cold temperatures really decimate fuel economy.  I’ve had tanks as low as 12 MPG average.  Could it be time for a fuel system treatment?

by John Suit

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