Re: Towing in Overdrive........

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Staci Matheis

Well-Known Member
Oct 13, 2000
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OK, I've got my flack jacket on again.......

In the "Transmission Cooler" post below, towing in overdrive is mentioned.........

It is perfectly OK to tow in overdrive EXCEPT in those instances when your transmission starts shifting in and out on a rapid and continuing basis - like going up and down a series of small hills.

It is the constant shifting that may eventually harm your transmission. In normal towing situations you may actually be better off in overdrive because there is a "lock up" feature that prevents internal slippage and allows the transmission to run much cooler.

Also saves gas....... And if there's more gas available in this country - then the prices will go down........ And if the prices go down - Doug and Barb get their Pontoon Parties!

I'm with you on this, Scott.

Most owner's manuals these days state pretty much what you just wrote. Ford's "Guide to Towing" publication says the same thing (excellent publication, by the way, available for free at any Ford dealer).

Well, Scott and Rich

What do you guys think about transmission coolers and did you guys have one on your trucks?
Mike, my Sport Trac has a factory installed cooler.

Cliff, I can't argue with your credentials, but your example kinda supports what Scott and I just stated. Your tow vehicle went six years on a tranny that was used in overdrive. Just how long due you expect a tranny to last in a heavy duty application? :)

Now you've got my attention Rich, Scott and Cliff. My '99 Honda Odyessy has the transmission cooler as part up of the tow package and is rated to 3500lbs for towing (figure my rig is around 1500lbs with a full tank and gear). But, just drove home the replacement to my '92 Saturn last night - '96 Merc Sable Wagon (i've always been a wagon lover and this is my first one). It's got the Duratec 200 hp V-6 and is rated to tow (in the wagon) 1600 lbs with 2 passengers. This will be my backup tow vehicle when I need to sneak away and Beka/kids are already out of the house.

The car only has 45,000 miles on it (Beka ran Carfax for $15.00 to check the title search and the miles are true). I only drive about 2-3000 miles a year on the car, and we have relatively flat roads between me and Allatoona/Lanier. My question is two fold - 1) when I tow in either van/wagon should I use Overdrive and 2) how "necessary" is the transmission cooler on the wagon for occational short trips, do NOT plan to take the wagon any farther distance than Lanier (30 miles).

Thanks - TrepMan
Hey Cliff

Well I didn't see what you think about the coolers. Should someone tow in drive (Not overdrive) and have a cooler?
Thanks Cliff for all the good informaiton, I will start working on a the points you talked about. My truck is 1998 Chev. 5.7 v-8 with 33,000 miles on her. So I want to keep her going along with my boat 2000 882. Keeping on Fishing
OK, Cliff...... I've got to admit that you've got more impressive credentials there than I do........ I only worked on cars and motorcycles as a hobby; and represented parts manufacturers.

But then why do mechanics suggest tune-ups so often? I HAD to tune up my old Cherokee at 40,000 miles because a spark plug had somehow or other fouled....... Then NEVER touched it again for the next 200,000! Started first time everytime! Always got the same gas mileage; 19 highway / 15 city / 12 towing. Never missed a beat!

If it ain't broke - DON'T fix it! ESPECIALLY with today's computer controlled high energy ignitions and electronic fuel injection.

Change tranny fluid every 25,000? Balderdash! Not once in 237,000! Still shifted smoothly and quickly! (DON'T try this at home, kids! I did check the fluid on a regular basis and I DID get pretty Lucky!)

And, if the transmission is in the "locked" position - does it really need to have fluid pumped at pressure? Do Chevies have the lock-up feature? (I really don't know - I've never been inside an automatic transmission.)

Having spent 20 of my 30 years in business in the automotive aftermarket....... I can tell you that Owners of Automotive Dealerships very seldom know anything about the mechanicals in the cars they sell - they know how to market their vehicles and businesses. AND I have NEVER had a pleasant experience with a transmission shop - but several bad ones including once filing a complain with the Attorney General's Office and a small claims action. (I won. It was an AAMCO Franchisee.)

I do go back to one thing that I know inside and out - Marketing. Keep it in people's minds that they MUST spend hundreds of dollars every few thousand miles in order to keep their cars running and they will....... And someone is gonna make LOTS of money from it. It's the American Way!

Finally...... A transmission cooler IS GOOD, CHEAP INSURANCE! Don't ever think twice about installing one!

Cliff, it is my understanding that the pump in the transmission is gear driven from the internal drive shafts so that it always puts out ENOUGH PRESSURE for the transmission to function properly at the speed the shafts are turning. Internal parts will fail simply because of normal wear, tear and age. Could it be that the pump itself failed - thereby causing the tranny to fail?

Quit being sissies! Real men use a clutch!!!LOL!

Rich D
I agree with Cliff on the transmission issue. The manual for my 99 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab LWB says to never tow in overdrive. Since Dodge has a crappy reputation for its auto transmissions, I do not tow in overdrive or at any speed below 50mph. Here is the maintenance schedule that I follow. It may be a little overkill, but I had to pay the piper on my last truck.

Engine oil and filter - every 3000 miles

Transmission filter and filter - every 12000 miles

Transfer case fluid - every 12000 miles

Front and rear differential fluid - every 36000 miles

Bob G.

Cliff is right on this one, I too am a ASE Master Truck Tech., the enginge is turning less RPM'S in overdrive there for the pump is not pumping as much and not moving as much fluid thru the cooler.
I don't know about Dodge and Ford, but GM uses a lock-up torque converter in overdrive. As far as I can tell from the design, with the converter locked, the pump is pumping more than enough fluid to keep the unit cool. In fact, since the converter doesn't lock-up in 3rd gear, cooling would almost HAVE to be better in OD than in Drive.

I always come back to one simple thing. Let's assume for the sake of argument, that automobile manufacturers do not want to have to do warranty work on their vehicles. Now, with that assumption, let's also assume that under no circumstances would they suggest a particular operation of that vehicle that would cause more warranty repairs. If we accept those two assumptions, then why can't we accept the manufacturer's recommendation, right in the owner's manual, that normal towing should be done in overdrive?

What always amazes me is that guys who would spend $25 dollars a gallon for a particular oil or gas for their outboard if the manufacturer said so, find it impossible to just read and follow their automobile manufacturer's recommendations. And yet, we get on here and ask for opinions from people we don't know from Adam.

Who are you going to believe, me or the manufacturer? I know who I go with.


Cliff -

I think I may owe you an apology....... My last post came on a bit strong and may have been taken as a personal attack. You are really "Good People" and I would never want to do that.......


P.S. I work for Arrow Truck Sales - we're owned by Volvo!
Wow that was quite the pi$$in match I think. I'm with Rich D on this, get a standard and forget it. Just be ready to put in new U joints every 10 miles LOL, I do! But with Cliff, I also change my differential fluid on a regular basis, not only from wear, but backing the boat in so far, water can find it's way into anything eventually. Haven't had it yet, but better safe than sorry.

Just remember, Folks.......

Every day, transmissions go out on cars that have never even thought of adding a hitch to their bumper........

Maybe..... Just maybe....... Some of the trannies above would have gone out anyway - even if they hadn't been used to tow a boat........

Folks here is another too agree with Cliff, I just had the tranny go in my 97 Z71 Sliverado and it was not even towing at the time. Good thing for extended warranties $3000.00 too fix so the out of town dealer said. anyway did some research and yes Chevy's are notorius for the O/D towing problem. I did tow in O/D on flat roads and used 3 on hills, GM rep stated to ONLY use O/D in non towing situations over 55 mph or i could have problems again.

I have since purchased a Dodge 1500 Ram with all the goodies and wish i would have done the same with the Chevy.

Spend the $150.00 at U-haul and put in a cooler. Remember all brands are different.

My $3.00 bucks worth..Mark
I agree with that too Mini, most of you know,..I work for GM full time. I also lease my vehicles every 2-3years and I have ALWAYS been told to pull my boats in "3rd" gear vs. OD....I've NEVER had a problem by doing that and just yesterday i pulled my boat home 250 miles at 75MPH up and down hills and it performed beautifully, the way, new Blazer has 7000 miles on it and it also has the trailering pkg (incl. trans cooler) on it, and I still will not pull a trailer with it in overdrive!! Why chance a a major problem??...Put it in 3 and hit the road!! Just my 2cents,.......good fishin!!

Well, Mac 'n Mini...... There is another solution........ Get you guys outta those Chev-Vees and into Jeeps!