Towing an Off Road / Overland FMTV

langstonhs

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We bought our 2003 LMTV in the early summer, and it's been on the side of the road twice since then. I know some bugs always have to be worked out, but these failures have made us think about the use of this truck going forward. We used to take our M35A2 into the forest to get firewood, and never had any problems with it. We probably should have considered more what would happen if we had mechanical failure while we were out, but we didn't. With this truck, it is ever on our minds. The local tow companies don't seem to be able to help due to the size of the LMTV and the locations we are discussing (forest roads). Many of their trucks are similar weight and are not 4x4s. I am wondering, for those of you that use your FMTV (or any big truck for that matter) for off-road or overland use, what is your game plan for getting out of the wild in the event of mechanical failure? It seems a bit overkill to buy a 5-ton wrecker just to pull my 2.5 ton out if ever it is needed. Or is that what you guys do? We don't currently have any friends that own one. Thanks.
 

langstonhs

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What were the two reasons your truck stopped working?

Blair
On the way home from buying it, an engine sensor failed. We were out of state at the time, and had no way to troubleshoot it on the side of the freeway, and so had to have it towed to the nearest CAT service center. Tow cost $500 for about 11 miles, and the repair was another $500. The second time a bearing in the transfer case failed and the C6 clutch pack came apart. We were local then, and able to limp home. We just recently got the transmission put back together, and the truck is now working fine. I am wholly confident in the transmission, having seen every part myself. However, the rest of the truck could have more problems, and I am wondering what I would do if I was way off-road. I know other people take RVs boondocking and whatnot, and some people overland in FMTVs. Makes me wonder what they do if their truck doesn't go. Makes me wonder what we would do.
 

Blairg

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I think what a lot of people will say is that the more time you spend on the front end going through all the systems the less chance of a failure. Adding a smart supply of backup supplies to get you to a proper mechanic is prudent as well. Having said that, failures of computers and sensors will always be the weak point of newer trucks in my opinion. My experience with old vs new comes from fire trucks. DT466 vs DT530. The DT466 could be limped home the majority of the time if needed without worrying about codes and sensors. The DT530 had computers and sensors that could be diagnosed through the steering wheel and cleared if need be. The key was knowing you could do that. Also interpreting the codes was important so that you could contact a mechanic and make a plan. The sad part was that the majority of our drivers have no clue on how to do it. So I guess my point is knowledge is king.
With the newer trucks I would invest in a code reader. Allows you to get codes and clear codes. Plus having all the the code information. Do the 3126 trucks have the ability of reading codes off the motor without a reader?

Blair
 

mkcoen

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This is one of the reasons I sold my M1078. I spent 30 minutes trying to get out of line for a parade because one of the rear brake canisters blew a seal and kept dumping the air and locking the brakes up. That was after the fan clutch exploded on me going down I-10 at 55mph 150 miles from home ($800 tow bill plus the repairs) a month or so before. There are so many little rubber parts spread out throughout these trucks that'd take years to replace alone that can side line it. Do you want that happening on some logging trail that a wrecker would just laugh at you for (or figure he'd pay off his kid's college bill)? Or any number of electrical components that can have some corrosion from 10 years ago just waiting to pop up at the wrong moment and kill the whole system.

These are great trucks for a weekend toy close to home but I decided I didn't want to trust my life (or my family's lives) to one in the middle of nowhere.
 

langstonhs

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I think what a lot of people will say is that the more time you spend on the front end going through all the systems the less chance of a failure. Adding a smart supply of backup supplies to get you to a proper mechanic is prudent as well. Having said that, failures of computers and sensors will always be the weak point of newer trucks in my opinion. My experience with old vs new comes from fire trucks. DT466 vs DT530. The DT466 could be limped home the majority of the time if needed without worrying about codes and sensors. The DT530 had computers and sensors that could be diagnosed through the steering wheel and cleared if need be. The key was knowing you could do that. Also interpreting the codes was important so that you could contact a mechanic and make a plan. The sad part was that the majority of our drivers have no clue on how to do it. So I guess my point is knowledge is king.
With the newer trucks I would invest in a code reader. Allows you to get codes and clear codes. Plus having all the the code information. Do the 3126 trucks have the ability of reading codes off the motor without a reader?

Blair
From what I have read and understand so far, a code reader is necessary to retrieve engine codes on the 3126 (I'd be delighted to learn that I'm wrong). I read a technical manual for the 3126 that was discussing buses, but what it described for buses was the same on our truck. The manual said that codes can be read out on a 3126 if the vehicle is equipped with cruise control. I do not think LMTVs have cruise control. If they do, mine seems to be missing. :) Thanks for your insight. I will look into getting a code reader.
 

langstonhs

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This is one of the reasons I sold my M1078. I spent 30 minutes trying to get out of line for a parade because one of the rear brake canisters blew a seal and kept dumping the air and locking the brakes up. That was after the fan clutch exploded on me going down I-10 at 55mph 150 miles from home ($800 tow bill plus the repairs) a month or so before. There are so many little rubber parts spread out throughout these trucks that'd take years to replace alone that can side line it. Do you want that happening on some logging trail that a wrecker would just laugh at you for (or figure he'd pay off his kid's college bill)? Or any number of electrical components that can have some corrosion from 10 years ago just waiting to pop up at the wrong moment and kill the whole system.

These are great trucks for a weekend toy close to home but I decided I didn't want to trust my life (or my family's lives) to one in the middle of nowhere.
We are beginning to think this way as well. Even if we could read codes and do the repair in the forest, we would still have to leave the truck unattended to get tools and parts, and who knows what might be broken or missing by the time we got back.
 

Awesomeness

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There are a handful of things going on here.
  1. The FMTV is the most reliable truck the military has ever had, and by a huge margin.
    ultrareliability_chart (1).png
  2. The FMTV is a more complicated truck than older predecessors. It has some sensors, electronics, and contraptions older trucks didn't have. These designs are vastly more reliable, in every measurable way.
  3. In order to get the improved capability/efficiency in newer designs, they operate closer to the performance limits of components. When things do fail, they fail less gracefully, and with less warning.
  4. These trucks generally sat around A LOT, and were not treated very well by their drivers or mechanics. The trucks picked to be sold are the worst in the motor pool.
  5. These trucks are 20+ years old, and plastic and rubber don't last that long. The military knows this, and is getting rid of them before they have to fix all that.
So this should tell you an FMTV can be very reliable, but probably not in the state the government auctioned it off in. Don't expect a $150, 000 truck you got for $10,000 to be awesome without putting some money and elbow grease into it.
 

langstonhs

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There are a handful of things going on here.
  1. The FMTV is the most reliable truck the military has ever had, and by a huge margin.
    View attachment 823287
  2. The FMTV is a more complicated truck than older predecessors. It has some sensors, electronics, and contraptions older trucks didn't have. These designs are vastly more reliable, in every measurable way.
  3. In order to get the improved capability/efficiency in newer designs, they operate closer to the performance limits of components. When things do fail, they fail less gracefully, and with less warning.
  4. These trucks generally sat around A LOT, and were not treated very well by their drivers or mechanics. The trucks picked to be sold are the worst in the motor pool.
  5. These trucks are 20+ years old, and plastic and rubber don't last that long. The military knows this, and is getting rid of them before they have to fix all that.
So this should tell you an FMTV can be very reliable, but probably not in the state the government auctioned it off in. Don't expect a $150, 000 truck you got for $10,000 to be awesome without putting some money and elbow grease into it.
I can agree with all of that. I guess it just comes down to how much you love the hobby, and how much time and money you have. I think the trucks are a fine thing for the military, which has the infrastructure to deal with whatever problems come up. We, however, do not. It is not the failures we have had so far that really bother us, but rather the trend. We just won't use it as much or have as much fun with it if we are always worried about it breaking down.
 

langstonhs

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I guess I should add that even our truck wouldn't bother me as much if I hadn't intended to take it off-road, into the forest. Not being able to find someone to pull you out if needed adds a whole another layer of complexity.
 

simp5782

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I can agree with all of that. I guess it just comes down to how much you love the hobby, and how much time and money you have. I think the trucks are a fine thing for the military, which has the infrastructure to deal with whatever problems come up. We, however, do not. It is not the failures we have had so far that really bother us, but rather the trend. We just won't use it as much or have as much fun with it if we are always worried about it breaking down.
The problem with the FMTV is that it was not based off a commercial chassis that was already in place. S & S went from building aircraft tugs in 1992 to these trucks. If you saw the specs on their aircraft tugs, that use parts from every other thing with a different engine all the time, you would be thankful they had a contract that required them to use the same parts on every truck.

Therefore them making up their own drivetrain setup makes parts hard to come by if they aren't dwindled down thru surplus. Unlike older trucks that were based on a mack. These trucks were used for 50 years as a platform design with improvements along the way [automatic transmissions, ctis, etc but the basic chassis and critical parts didn't change.]

You have to be confident in the vehicle you are using and be confident you can fix it if the need arose. I have been hundreds of thousands of miles in military vehicles. Only ever been towed due to a breakdown 2 times. One being a transmission case failure. The 2nd being a driveline failure from a shaft not being welded correctly. This includes breaking wheel faces off of an LMTV wheel. And it didn't need to be towed.

As far as carrying tools. It should all fit in these 3 bags below. Minus an impact or in my case several.

I carry a few small boxes of critical parts, bearings, seals, studs, solenoids, filters/belts. Mostly just 1 set of Everything. If you have 2 fail its just a bad day. It is just about being confident in your truck and what you are capable of doing. Not everyone is mechanically knowledgeable or like muguyver.

My most recent addition to add to a truck Is a Getec hydraulic welder and generator. 10kw generator 400amp 70% duty cycle.
 

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Floridianson

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A wise man once told me do not buy a boat make friends with someone that has a nice boat. Same thing with an air plane make new friends or talk you old friend into buying one. You got a MV for off road make sure you have a friend with a bigger one. Rule of the three F's also applies here. Guess anything you take far off road and have to leave it to find help you have to leave someone behind or not leave stuff in it that could get stolen. Yea even with nothing to steal guess it could be trashed if left in a bad area. Then as said if a big wrecker is needed I do not think it will be easy to find a 500k plus price tag wrecker that will go off the pavement. I liked the older 809 series for get you there and back again over the FMTV's or even a Deuce.
 
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Awesomeness

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We just won't use it as much or have as much fun with it if we are always worried about it breaking down.
This would be true of any 20+ year old truck that hasn't had much replaced (e.g. hoses, seals, belts, etc.). If you bought a '90s Chevy pickup with 30k miles on it you wouldn't expect to drive it around the country without it needing repairs. If you break a 20+ year old transmission cooling line, brake line, etc. on any vehicle, you're stuck until you can repair it or find a workaround.

Driving it regularly and working on it will build your confidence in it. (And that's hard to accomplish when most peoples' plan is to buy the truck, and let it sit somewhere for years while they build it into an expedition camper.)
 

98G

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There are a handful of things going on here.
  1. The FMTV is the most reliable truck the military has ever had, and by a huge margin.
    View attachment 823287
  2. The FMTV is a more complicated truck than older predecessors. It has some sensors, electronics, and contraptions older trucks didn't have. These designs are vastly more reliable, in every measurable way.
  3. In order to get the improved capability/efficiency in newer designs, they operate closer to the performance limits of components. When things do fail, they fail less gracefully, and with less warning.
  4. These trucks generally sat around A LOT, and were not treated very well by their drivers or mechanics. The trucks picked to be sold are the worst in the motor pool.
  5. These trucks are 20+ years old, and plastic and rubber don't last that long. The military knows this, and is getting rid of them before they have to fix all that.
So this should tell you an FMTV can be very reliable, but probably not in the state the government auctioned it off in. Don't expect a $150, 000 truck you got for $10,000 to be awesome without putting some money and elbow grease into it.
Comparison is "reliable when fairly new" compared to "reliable when fairly new".

I'd like to see a comparison of "reliability at 30+ years old" to "reliability at 30+ years old".

I speculate that the older cruder platforms start off less reliable, but retain a higher level of reliability over time. (And that's all it is- speculation)

When offroading, it is advisable to have someone with you with an equally capable truck, or a viable way to go get one or summon one.
 

Awesomeness

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Comparison is "reliable when fairly new" compared to "reliable when fairly new".

I'd like to see a comparison of "reliability at 30+ years old" to "reliability at 30+ years old".

I speculate that the older cruder platforms start off less reliable, but retain a higher level of reliability over time. (And that's all it is- speculation)

When offroading, it is advisable to have someone with you with an equally capable truck, or a viable way to go get one or summon one.
More complexity, more points of failure, so it's more important to keep it maintained.

The major contributor is plastic/rubber parts, followed by computers/sensors, since it's not like anything happens to a 30 year old steel axle shaft to make it prone to failure. So two trucks side by side, one has 10 rubber hoses and the other has 20 rubber hoses and an automatic transmission... which one fails first due to age? You have over 2x the chance of failure with the latter.

But if you replace all those hoses, things look a lot different. If the difference between the two trucks is also 20-30 years of engineering improvements, you're going to have a lot of benefits from the newer truck. That's where those documented major gains in "new truck" reliability come from. The LMTV does with 4x4 what the M35 needed 6x6 to do, has more HP, is faster, etc. More modern materials, bearings, metallurgy, design experience, etc. are beneficial.
 

mkcoen

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The LMTV does with 4x4 what the M35 needed 6x6 to do, has more HP, is faster, etc. More modern materials, bearings, metallurgy, design experience, etc. are beneficial.
I'm not trying to be argumentative but my 1970 M35A2 required minimal maintenance to stay roadworthy and reliable. My 1998 LMTV took constant maintenance and wasn't reliable for more than 50 miles without something ELSE going wrong with it. It wasn't that it was in poor condition to begin with it was just that there is so MUCH to go wrong with it. You fix one air leak and that causes stress downstream that causes ANOTHER air leak and so on and so on.

I didn't have $100k to pile into the truck to replace every plastic and rubber part that could go wrong. And as I said, they're great trucks to have as a toy around town. If you're planning on overlanding you can buy a very nice new, commercially made pickup and add a camper or trailer for far less than it would take to make a FMTV as reliable and not worry about stranding your family somewhere no one will take a tow vehicle into. Could it break down? Sure but you can get the pickup recovered for less than it's cost. Not so much with a FMTV.
 

Awesomeness

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I'm not trying to be argumentative but my 1970 M35A2 required minimal maintenance to stay roadworthy and reliable. My 1998 LMTV took constant maintenance and wasn't reliable for more than 50 miles without something ELSE going wrong with it. It wasn't that it was in poor condition to begin with it was just that there is so MUCH to go wrong with it. You fix one air leak and that causes stress downstream that causes ANOTHER air leak and so on and so on.

I didn't have $100k to pile into the truck to replace every plastic and rubber part that could go wrong. And as I said, they're great trucks to have as a toy around town. If you're planning on overlanding you can buy a very nice new, commercially made pickup and add a camper or trailer for far less than it would take to make a FMTV as reliable and not worry about stranding your family somewhere no one will take a tow vehicle into. Could it break down? Sure but you can get the pickup recovered for less than it's cost. Not so much with a FMTV.
If you installed them yourself, there probably aren't more than $5000 in air lines, and maybe $5000 more if you replaced all the check valves, and other valves/fittings/brake cans/etc. You could get a long way with like $10k of rebuilding/replacing stuff. It doesn't seem like most people even try, or maybe they just don't understand why it's a good idea because they are accustomed to that "old M35 way of thinking".

There is a big capabilities difference between an LMTV and an M35 or pickup. So that's more of a comparison between trade-offs, rather than peers.

I haven't replaced all that stuff in my truck in one shot, either. I'm fine with fixing it over time, or as problems occur, because I'm not trying to take it on long-term overland travel. If I was, I would do more (or at least carry more spares).
 

NY Tom

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I don't know much about the new LMTV beyond what I read here in the forums and online.

What are the big capability improvements they have over an M35A2?
I am guessing it starts with:
- equal carrying capacity
- power steering
- better turning radius
- goes faster on the road
- maybe better fuel mileage
- Fewer tires = less ongoing expense
- More comfortable to drive
- Better or at least redundant braking system

If it has diff lockers I could see it being more capable in some off road conditions. Recently read that 4 x 4 Eland armored car was way less capable off road than 6 x 6 Ratel. Not exactly apples to apples here but is more tires actually better? Lower ground pressure?

If anyone knows of a thread where this is already discussed please point me there I would like to know more. I often find myself questioning what makes our new designs so much better when to me they just look bigger and more complex.
 
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