Is Towing Hard On A Transmission? Learn About The Risks

Did you know that towing can be a bit of a tightrope for your transmission? It’s all about balance.  

I don’t want you to learn the hard way. 

Get ready for a crash course on the potential transmission pitfalls of towing and some must-know strategies to keep it in tip-top shape.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

Is Towing Hard On A Transmission?

Yes, towing is hard on your vehicle’s transmission. When you tow, your transmission is under extra stress. The added weight from towing puts more demand on it, potentially leading to overheating, wear, and damage.

Why Does Towing Destroy Transmission?

Yes – it can even go that far. It’s not just a momentary annoyance. Let me explain.

As I said, towing places extra demands on your transmission, making it work harder. 

The transmission fluid, which helps with lubrication and cooling, can heat up due to the added strain. This can lead to fluid breakdown and decreased performance. 

Does Towing Shorten The Life Of A Vehicle? 

No doubt, towing without care can knock off some miles from your car’s lifespan. 

It’s not just the transmission – brakes, suspension, and other parts can feel the pressure. 

Constant strain from towing accelerates wear and tear, leading to bigger issues down the road, giving you more headaches and draining your wallet. 

How To Protect Transmission While Towing

So, how do you keep your transmission safe while still micromanaging everything you need to while towing? 

You just need to make sure you’ve followed these steps.

  1. Choose a vehicle that can handle the load. Manual transmissions are better suited for towing due to their control over engine speed.
  2. Ensure your vehicle is equipped with suitable towing gear, especially when towing an automatic with all wheels down. This prevents transmission damage.
  3. Consider installing a separate transmission oil cooler for heavier loads towed with an automatic. This helps maintain proper fluid temperature and performance.
  4. For an automatic transition, opt for ‘Drive’ mode (D) during towing. This supports smooth gear shifts and minimizes transmission strain.
  5. Avoid excessive engine revving to prevent overheating and excessive wear.

Towing Mistakes That Damage Your Vehicle’s Transmission

There are a couple of small mistakes you can make that might cost you big time in the long run. 

I’ll walk you through them real quick:

  1. Pushing the Limit: Hauling more than your car can handle strains the transmission. Stick to the limits to avoid transmission trouble.
  2. Ignoring Cooling: Not giving your transmission a cool-down with a cooler when towing heavy stuff can heat things up and mess with performance.
  3. Brake Blunders: Slamming the brakes while towing isn’t kind to your transmission. Use gentle braking to keep it happy.
  4. Shifty Moves: Shifting gears like a rookie when towing messes with your transmission’s mood. Learn smooth shifting to treat it right.
  5. Bad Speed Management: Zipping up and down with your speed while towing isn’t friendly to the transmission, either. Keep a steady pace.

What Transmission Is Best For Towing?

When it comes to towing, you might wonder – automatic or manual? 

Let’s clear the air and find out which one suits you better.

Automatic Transmission

Automatic transmissions bring convenience to the table by:

  • Providing Seamless Performance: Towing with an automatic is smooth sailing. It handles gear shifts, allowing you to keep your focus on the road and providing a comfortable ride with no unexpected jolts.
  • Adapting on the Go: Be it uphill challenges or smooth cruising, automatics adjust seamlessly, making them a great choice for different terrains and loads, offering less strain.

Manual Transmission

Here’s the thing – convenience is good and all, but when towing, you need to be in absolute control, so you can make use of all the towing knowledge you have. 

No use in leaving things to chance when you’re not just worrying about your own vehicle, but what you’re towing as well.

Manual transmissions might seem old-school, but they definitely have their perks for towing:

  • Offering More Control: Manuals provide finer control over gear changes, which can be particularly helpful when navigating steep inclines, tight corners, or tricky conditions.
  • Reducing Heat Buildup: Manuals generally generate less heat compared to automatics, making them a solid choice for towing on challenging routes.
  • Simplicity and Durability: Manuals tend to have simpler designs, potentially leading to fewer maintenance headaches and longer-term durability.
So, the big question – automatic or manual? The ball’s in your court. 
Personally, I prefer manuals for towing. Why?
The added control, heat management, and toughness of manuals make them my pick for towing. 


Can towing a car in park damage it?

Towing a parked car in park isn’t a great idea. It can mess with the transmission. Stick to neutral or follow what the car’s manual says to play it safe.

Is towing a car in neutral bad for the transmission?

No, towing in neutral actually gives your transmission a breather. It’s a safe bet to prevent extra wear and tear.

How to check the towing capacity of your vehicle?

 Look in your car’s manual or ask the manufacturer about the highest weight it can tow. But the most precise number is the one on your Vehicle Identification Number Plate (VIN Plate). You’ll usually spot it under the hood or on a door pillar. Your owner’s handbook will tell you exactly where to find it.

How does flat towing damage transmission?

Flat towing in neutral spins a bunch of parts in the transmission’s output section. Many of them need lubrication. Since the internal pump isn’t on, towing like this for a long time can mess things up for good. Just make sure you’re using the right gear and techniques to keep your transmission happy.

Final Thoughts

Alright, there you have it – the lowdown on towing and transmissions. 

Remember, towing isn’t a walk in the park for your transmission, but with these insights, you’re armed to tow smartly. 

Treat your transmission well– take care of it, and it’ll take care of you. 

So whether you’re going on a short adventure or a long haul, keep these tips in mind, and hit the road with confidence.

Good luck with a smooth and safe towing!

Ricardo Vaughn
Ricardo Vaughn

Vaughn is a seasoned off-roading expert and professional winch specialist. When he's not out on the trails, he shares his knowledge and experiences through his writing as a blog author in the off-roading and outdoor lifestyle space.

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