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Understanding Axle Ratios

Bruce Smith April 21, 2013


Choosing an optional axle ratio when buying a new pickup/SUV is a benefit, not a liability


By Bruce W. Smith / ©2008 Editorial Services 

Whenever I wander through car dealership checking out the new pickups and SUVs I never fail to hear other tire kickers ask about the fuel economy of a tow vehicle they are potentially interested in buying.

Fuel economy is a very important topic, and in some instances is the deal-maker or breaker between one vehicle and another.

Ironically, after the purchase, the subject of fuel economy takes a back seat to overall performance and is seldom mentioned unless it’s to brag that your truck is better than the one whomever you are talking to drives.

One of the most important questions a new truck buyer should be asking is, “What axle ratio is in this truck?”

Fuel economy is an important issue when buying a new tow vehicle. But it doesn’t have the performance impact of having your pickup or SUV equipped with the right axle ratio.

Axle ratios play a huge role in a pickup or SUV’s overall performance—and the optional ratios offered by just about every manufacturer don’t have as much of an adverse effect on fuel economy as one might expect.

All too often a buyer of a new pickup or SUV will not even think about what axle ratio is in the vehicle.

2100 F350 Dually Big Trailer
The larger the trailer or load, the higher (numerically) the optimum axle ratio. Pickups towing big 5th wheel trailers do well equipped with 4.10:1 axle ratios.

The thinking behind the decision to stick with the base axle ratio, which is typically 3.08:1 or 3.42:1, is the ratio comes standard, so that’s what the vehicle manufacturer feels is the best setup.

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