Braking with a 2004 Dodge Durango

The Gears on an automatic 2004 Dodge Durango is D, 2 & 1. Here in Idaho where we have many 7.5% grades or very steep hills. In in order to drive anywhere I have to gear down … however in a Durango that means traveling about 35 miles an hour in a 55 mpr zone Or continually pump my brakes and wear out my break pads.

My father, who is almost 80 and spoke to an old time trucker, said that rather than “pumping” his brakes down the hill, he lightly pressed his brakes the entire way down the hill without taking his foot off the break - just gently increasing or decreasing pressure based on grade and speed… and his brakes did not over heat.

What is your opinion about this. Is this “old wives tale” (or “old truckers” tale) true? What is the best way to get down a steep grade in a Durango without compromising my speed or brakes?

however in a Durango that means traveling about 35 miles an hour in a 55 mpr zone

Use whatever gear that will keep it just over the speed you want to be at and make up the difference with the brake. Should not need to “pump”.

Riding the brake pedal in a big rig or family car is not a good habit as this heats up the brakes and causes premature wear.
SOME circumstances will allow light steady braking though.

When I drove rigs (Three years with my own) whenever coming to the top of a down-grade I simply dropped one or more gears, depending on the grade/traffic/load/road and weather conditions.

When braking to prevent over-revving I just apply the brakes firmly (do not hit them hard to slow down) and release. Apply and release.
Use as sparingly as possible (but often enough) to control the engine rpms and road speed.

The length and steepness of the grade will help you decide which method to use.

Thank you for your answer. The problem with Durango’s is that they only have three gears… and the Drive is more like a Drive/Overdrive so when I drop it into second it really increases the RPM’s on my engine. Is that good to do? Someone recommended I use the tow/haul button on the steering column. Sometimes this helps but I mostly feel like I am up for a fast ride down.

No, they have 4 gears. Here is text from your '04 Durango’s owner’s manual that I downloaded from

To reduce the frequency of the downshifts and to im-
prove vehicle performance, it is advisable to lock out
overdrive by pressing the ?TOW/HAUL? button located
at the end of the gear shifter.

There you go, lock it out of OD rather than shifting to 2nd, and practice good braking tactics. In your Durango, which has brakes decidedly smaller than those of a semi, the pumping technique is probably the way to go. Pick an average speed that you want to travel and try to hit that with your braking technique.

There you go. Once more, an example of the value of reading that little book that apparently sits, unused, in most people’s glove compartment.

You are so funny… I did read it, and I do lock it out of OD, it just doesn’t seem as effective as an OD or 5 4, 3, 2, 1 gear ratio. There are STEEP hills here in Idaho and Pullman WA where I have to drive. I was mostly curious about the “braking method” my dad suggested.

Thank you Mr. Josh for research. For all your information I have driven two ton trucks on my dads farm with a full load. I used the methods Roadrunner talked about. I guess I just want more gears.