Towing Without Removing Drive Shaft: The Hidden Dangers

Towing without removing the drive shaft can be disastrous. You won’t notice what’s wrong right away, but this seemingly minor detail can cost you dearly. 

Towing without proper drive shaft disconnection could expose your vehicle to dangers such as transmission overheating, U-joint strain, and even transfer case damage. 

Ignoring this step isn’t just a small oversight – it’s a risky move that might end up damaging your vehicle’s vital components and putting your safety on the line.

So, why not take the time to save yourself some big costs later down the road? 

I’ve got all the info you need. Keep reading to learn more.

Why Do You Remove Driveshaft When Towing?

Disconnecting the drive shaft before towing prevents unnecessary spinning of parts like the transmission and drivetrain. 

This stopgap makes sure these vital parts don’t wear out during the tow, which keeps them working well over time.

Dangers Of Towing Without Removing Drive Shaft

Towing without removing the drive shaft can put your vehicle in danger in a lot of ways:

  • Hot Transmission: The transmission gets its cooling from the engine running. When towing without disconnecting the drive shaft, the transmission can overheat, causing serious harm.
  • Drivetrain & Transmission Damage: When the engine isn’t on, parts like the transmission and drivetrain don’t get their needed lubrication. This leads to extra friction, wearing things down and possibly causing breaks.
  • U-Joint Stress: Towing without disconnecting the drive shaft can strain the U-joints. These parts handle engine power, and too much stress can make them fail, leading to a disconnected driveline.
  • Shaky Driveline: Not towing properly can make the driveline shake, affecting how stable the vehicle is. This could be uncomfortable for you and could also cause extra damage to the driveline parts.
  • Transfer Case Trouble: In four-wheel-drive vehicles, not disconnecting the drive shaft can cause damage to the transfer case. This is a really important part of 4WD systems.
  • Stability Issues: Parts like the drive shaft keep spinning when being towed. This spinning creates torque that can mess with the towing vehicle’s stability, making it harder to control.
  • Uneven Tire Wear: Not disconnecting the drive shaft can make tires wear out unevenly since they’re dragged along without rotating freely.
  • Higher Repair Costs: Not doing towing right can lead to big damage to many driveline parts. Fixing all of these can be expensive.

How To Disconnect Drive Shaft For Towing

Here are the steps on how you can disconnect the drive shaft properly for towing, along with a couple of extra steps you can follow to make the process smoother:

  1. Mark Drive Shaft and U-Joints: Place markings on the drive shaft and U-joints for proper reassembly later.
  2. Park and Secure: Park your vehicle on a level surface, engage the parking brake, and use blocks to prevent rolling.
  3. Activate 4WD Lock (if applicable): For four-wheel-drive vehicles, activate the 4WD lock as instructed to disengage the transfer case.
  4. Unscrew Flange Bolts: Use a wrench or socket set to remove the bolts securing the drive shaft to the differential or transfer case.
  5. Carefully Remove Drive Shaft: Gently pull out the drive shaft from the differential or transfer case, taking care not to damage the shaft connection.

What To Keep In Mind While Towing Without Removing Driveshaft

Although disconnecting the drive shaft is best, if you can’t do it, follow these tips to lower the chances of damage:

  • Go Slow and Short: Keep your towing speed and distance as low as possible to not stress the drivetrain and transmission too much.
  • Pick Smooth Roads: Choose roads that are in good shape to reduce bumpy rides that can hurt the transmission and other parts.
  • Check Temperatures: Keep an eye on temperature gauges to catch any overheating. If you see it, stop and let things cool down.
  • Look for Damage: After towing, look at the drive shaft, U-joints, and transmission for any issues or leaks.
  • Use Flatbed Trailers: Whenever feasible, opt for flat towing using a tow dolly or a tow bar that lifts your vehicle entirely off the ground, preventing any transmission rotation.


Do you have to disconnect drive shaft when towing on dolly?

Absolutely, especially if the car has rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive. Just putting the car in neutral isn’t enough to protect the transmission from potential damage.

Can you tow a car by the axle?

It’s not really recommended. Towing a car by the axle could mess up the axle, suspension, and tires. It’s safer to use a tow dolly or a flatbed trailer for a smooth and secure tow.

Is it bad to tow in 4 wheel drive?

Yeah, that’s a big no-no. Towing in 4-wheel drive can seriously mess up the drivetrain and transmission of the car. To do it right, either disconnect the driveshaft or play it safe with a flatbed trailer.

Can you tow an AWD car without a flatbed?

You can. However, before you tow an AWD car, make sure to disconnect and secure the driveshaft. That’s the key to towing without causing any major issues.

Final Thoughts

So, to sum it all up – towing isn’t a casual job. Remembering to disconnect the drive shaft when needed and picking the right towing method really matters. 

Taking these steps can save you a lot of trouble down the road and keep your rides hassle-free. 

So, whether you’re using a tow dolly or not, just take a bit of extra care, and you’ll be good to go. I wish you safe and happy 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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