2015 Ford F-150: Tailgate Myth Debunked

Thanks to the smoke wand in the wind tunnel, you can actually see the difference in our video.

Should you drive with your pickup truck's tailgate up or down? It's an age-old controversy that's divided drivers for decades. Traditionalists will swear you should leave the tailgate down. Makes sense, right? It would seem to let the air flow more cleanly over the body and through the bed. But there's also a school of thought that argues trucks are designed to look and operate in a specific manner, and modern design techniques can help channel the airflow properly. So don't mess with all of that: Leave the tailgate up.

Which is true?

To solve this tailgate debate, we went inside the wind tunnel at Ford to test the aerodynamics of the 2015 Ford F-150. The model's exterior design manager Brad Richards explained that the new truck was designed with purposeful edges and shapes that look imposing, yet still allow the F-150 to maintain strong aerodynamics. "We think this is the toughest F-150 by far, but also the most efficient," Richards said.

All of this matters, as loyal Ford truck buyers expect the F-150 to look a certain way, but the Blue Oval is also projecting fuel economy gains thanks to the new truck's use of lightweight aluminum. And no matter how light the truck is, fuel-economy gains could be wiped out with poor aerodynamics. With that in mind, Ford styled the truck to maintain its beefy look, but also beat its predecessor in the wind tunnel. Ford paid close attention to a new, lower air dam, mirrors that were redesigned "a dozen times" and a small lip on the rear tailgate. Acting as a spoiler, the lip allows air to cleanly detach from the body. Thanks to the smoke wand in the wind tunnel, you can actually see the difference tailgate up versus tailgate down in our video.

Ford remains tight-lipped about the F-150's fuel economy numbers, but it admits dropping the tailgate would increase drag by about eight percent – and sandbag fuel economy. Even for older models without the fancy spoiler, you're hurting efficiency and lowering your gas mileage when driving with the tailgate down, argues Richards.

So there's your verdict, straight from the wind tunnel: Leave the tailgate up.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 67 Comments
      DannyC
      • 3 Months Ago

      I have a 2003 F150 and with the bed filled with " stuff ",  we drove the freeway in a two hour downpour and when it stopped, we checked our load and it was completely dry. The wipers had been on fast mode most of the time.  Tailgate up and the aerodynamics do work.

      That Guy
      • 3 Months Ago *Edited*

      Mythbusters did this 8 years ago.

      Typical Ford, on the cutting edge of yesterday. 

        Dean Hammond
        • 3 Months Ago
        @That Guy

        Matt, this was at the request of AUTOBLOG and the Authors.....convieniently missed by yours truly....they went to ford with the question, not the other way around, nice spin though...AGAIN.

        bK
        • 3 Months Ago
        @That Guy
        Cutting edge of yesterday lol!
        BodyBlue
        • 3 Months Ago
        @That Guy

        Typical troll that cant spell.

          Billy Farmer
          • 3 Months Ago
          @BodyBlue

          Can't not cant

          That Guy
          • 3 Months Ago
          @BodyBlue

          Since when is telling the truth trolling?

          BB91103
          • 3 Months Ago
          @BodyBlue

          You said it. What is more annoying than people who come to the comment section and get excited when they see mispelling. Ouu ouu I get to show people how much better than them I am.

      Pedro
      • 3 Months Ago

      Apart from all the Mythbusters and efficiency discussion, there's also a safety issue if you are to drive with the gate open: it's that if a car rear-ends you, the open tailgate will be right in the measure to decapitate the driver of the car that hits from behind... Or so I guess. That's why the tailgate was made to be closed while driving...

        Robber420
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Pedro

        The rear end becomes weaker without the support of the tailgate which will keep the sides stronger in any length of driving wear or collisions.  I heard that over time, having no tailgate will actually compromise the sides to the point the tailgate wont fit back on right...

      John
      • 3 Months Ago

      this theory was already proven on a past episode of Mythbusters

      Andre Neves
      • 3 Months Ago

      Just install a hitch propeller.  15+MPG 

      thumerzs
      • 3 Months Ago

      Yes many of us knew this long ago - now we just have to use this video to convince all the hard-core rednecks who still try to tell us their 1979 F-350 gets 35 PLUS mpg with the tailgate down.

      Also, Ford - please start painting those trucks a proper red again. That orangey color just doesn't cut it.

        WindsWilling
        • 3 Months Ago
        @thumerzs

        They do paint them a nice red.  In fact, one of the nicest factory reds around in the red tinted metallic they call a different name every few years.  Regardless, it looks fantastic.  Plain flat reds are just that, flat, and plain.  Even the infamous red on ferraris sucks imho.  Go metallic, tinted clear, or candy or gtfo.

          thumerzs
          • 3 Months Ago
          @WindsWilling

          Yeah, I agree that's a great metallic color.

          Still, there's a lot to be said for a simple regular red on a sports car or pickup truck.

          VW and Kia still know how to get that color right.

      Nickpisp
      • 3 Months Ago

      Welcome to a long time ago!

      Timothy Tibbetts
      • 3 Months Ago

      Didn't watch but thought this "mystery" was solved? Tailgate down accomplishes nothing because by design the wind comes off the roof and clears the top of the tailgate.

      cpeng2008
      • 3 Months Ago

      Not to mention you are increasing rear end lift by running the tailgate down, and therefore lowering the stability of your truck.

      Avinash Machado
      • 3 Months Ago

      Nothing new.

      Jim Pease
      • 3 Months Ago

      I used to drive around in my company pickup with the tailgate down and told the boss it saved gas.  Actually, I just did it to hide the "How's my driving" sticker.

        Tinker King
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Jim Pease

        My 09 Ram tailgate with the built in spoiler hides the license plate pretty well with the tailgate down. Great for red light cameras. 

      Hajime1990 #follow
      • 3 Months Ago
      or design the front half of the truck to look like a prius.
        zepeda1
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Hajime1990 #follow

        or design the back half of a Prius with up a pickup bed.

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