Ford F-350 Super Duty Takes on a Semi

No one’s debating it. The Ford Power Stroke is an impressive heavy duty diesel truck. But when attached by tow cables to the back of a semi tractor trailer powered by a Caterpillar engine?!

Who would have guessed what happened next? When you put this much horsepower back-to-back and let them punch it out, it’s as entertaining as it gets. When you look at this matchup, there’s plenty of people wondering if the outcome would have been similar on pavement as it would be on grass.

Is it really that clear cut? Well, when we look at the composition and weight distribution of a semi tractor trailer, most of the weight is up front by the engine and front cabin. The back-end is disproportionately light. Makes sense – you want to load a trailer onto the back, no?

This works against the tractor trailer and proves to ultimately be the Ford Power Stroke’s claim to fame. With a conventional towing capacity of 19,000 lbs, the Ford F-350 Super Duty equipped with a 6.7L Power Stroke® V8 is more than enough to pull the weight of the semi tractor trailer. So ultimately, the key to its success was taking advantage of that light back end.

Would the difference in surface amount to much? Actually, perhaps. The tractor trailer is designed as a predominantly on-road vehicle. It’s wheels are designed for traction control across slick road surfaces but grass and soil are much lighter on the tires than slick hydroplaned highway. Whereas the F-350 was likely equipped with standard on-road/off-road tires, capable of doing light mud and soil conditions, that was more than enough of a lead in simply the traction control to begin to get the upper hand.

Continuing from the previous point, the key to getting the tractor trailer to get towed backwards is to have a lower center of gravity. With a tow cables attached firmly to the reinforced steel chassis of the F-350 Super Duty and thusly connected to the rear chassis of the lower semi tractor trailer, the forward momentum of the F-350 was enough to lift some of the back of the semi off the ground. Bereft of any traction in the grass, the semi tractor trailer was essentially at the whim of the F-350’s tow capacity and engine torque.

And how much engine torque does a Ford F-350 Super Duty have? Well, if it’s equipped with the optional 6.7L Power Stroke® V8 Diesel, it’s just warming up at 860 lb ft of torque at a sleepy 1600 rpm. However, switching down to the unleaded 6.2L V8, that torque is more than halved to 405 lb ft. The difference is astounding.

Ultimately, Ford’s Power Stroke® diesel engine proved to be the war horse necessary to uproot that tractor trailer onto, essentially, two wheels. If you notice the Ford makes steady progress in a shaky pull rhythm because it’s strong enough to pull the semi off its center of gravity for moments at a time. This, matched with decent standard on-road/off-road tires and a nice center of gravity all prove to be the pivotal advantages necessary to take a much more powerful engine and rig in a tug of war contest.

So, next time you see a Ford F-350 Super Duty hauling a horse trailer through the back woods, do think twice before offering to take it on with any standard unleaded fuel pick-up… Or at least make sure the F-350 is packing the 6.2L V8 and you have something like a Chevy Duramax or Dodge 3500 on standby.