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I want to explore North America in a slide-in truck camper. The only truck with the performance and payload to accomplish my aim with any degree of economy is the Ford F-150; specifically, a post-2015 Supercab 4x4 with 3.5 litres ecoboost and standard 3.31 axle ratio. The maximum payload is 2,150 pounds (975.2 kg). I’ve identified a pop-up camper with a dry weight of 850 lbs. With one passenger, water and supplies, I figure I will hit the road at 1920 lbs (870.8 kg). Ford insists that a slide-in camper requires the Heavy-Duty Payload package, which raises the axle ratio to 3.73, which will hurt fuel economy. Shouldn’t the standard 3.31 axle ratio be able to handle max payload, while at the same time delivering decent mileage? – Ian H

The standard gear ratio of any pickup truck is in essence, the as-advertised ratio; meaning it’s the only one that meets the promoted fuel-economy ratings. Your desired payload is within allowable tolerances and will work. However, travelling across the country, carrying that load all the time will tax the vehicle, especially when you factor in wind resistance. The lower roofline of a pop-up style camper will minimize it, but it will still be there, likely causing the transmission to downshift for even the smallest of hills, hurting your fuel economy. As indicated by your Ford dealer, I think you should be looking at a slightly heavier-duty F150, which means the 3.31 axle ratio will likely be unavailable. If you were just making short-distance camping trips, the standard ratio pickup would be fine. Given your needs, though, I’d be looking for something in-between, perhaps with a ratio in the 3.55 range.


I bought a Subaru Outback 2 years ago. Recently while driving, the front subframe snapped. The car is nine years old and has 180,000 kilometres. The dealership estimates that it may take $3,000 to fix it, and after going back and forth to the dealership and Subaru Canada, they indicated to me that they can only give me 15 per cent off the parts price. In my mind, I thought the subframe should last longer. I really need a car. What options do I have? – Regards, Louis K

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Most automotive technicians get somewhat cranky when they have to work on, or underneath a vehicle that is heavily coated with rustproofing and undercoating. But despite their objections, we rarely see those vehicles saddled with an expensive rust related repair. That being said, a nine-year-old car should not be a disposable car and a major structural piece like a subframe should last longer than yours did. Since you have already gone the proper route by contacting Subaru Canada, your options are now limited. I believe you need to get on the phone and get some quotes from independent repair shops. I’m sure you can find a place to replace the subframe for a much more agreeable price. Keep your receipts in case Subaru ever has a recall on this item.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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