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Can You Tow a Vehicle w/Auto Transmission?

myersedmyersed Posts: 102
edited June 2015 in General
A friend of mine stated that his father-inlaw was
needing to purchase a standard transmission Dakota
so that he could tow it directly behind his camper

I know the thinking of the past was that you could
not tow an Auto transmission without disconnecting
the driveshaft first. As I remember, that was
true because the transmissions of "old" actaully
had 2 pumps- 1 front and 1 rear. The rear pump is
what allowed you to push start the vehicle
providing you got it up to 25-30 MPH.

It is my understanding that the rear pump has not
existed in transmissions for 15 yrs or more.
So---- then , is it OK to tow the vehicle- or not?

Any experience or factual knowledge on this topic
is welcomed.

See Also: What Cars Can Be Flat-Towed Behind an RV?


  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Posts: 4,162
    Are Dakotas Front WD?

    Could always get a trailer to prop the fronts on.

    Four WD trucks have the neutral setting in the transfer case. It was always my understanding that was fine for towing.

    Good Luck

    - Tim
  • Sorry Tim, had to have more question marks than you.

    If you put the auto tranny in neutral then you can tow it. Effectively you are disconnecting the transmission in exactly the same way as you are by putting a standard in neutral (all be it that the mechanics are a little different).

    That said I would always use a trailer if I was towing any distance.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Posts: 4,162
    Is putting the tree shifter in N the same as putting a transfer case in N??

    I dunno?

    use a trailer

    - Tim
  • SOME autos can be pulled distance in netural, some cannot. Putting an auto that should not be towed in netrual and towing it will ruin it. (your okay towing up the driveway, but thats about it)

    If it is a dakota, he can get the 4 wheel drive model, and put the transfer case in neutral. I'm not sure if top of the line electronic tranfer cases have this netural.

    Even with a manual, some cars do not take well to towing.

    Best bet: Get the dealer to let you read the owners manual. Find the section that deals with towing, and see what it says about flat towing. Some cannot be towed this way, some can.

    Jeep Wranglers are the only vechical that I know of that often gets towed flat behind something else.
  • stevekstevek Posts: 362
    When you put an automatic tranny in N and tow it, the driveshaft still turns and therefore the tranny internaly will also turn, but since the car is not running the fluid is not fed thru the radiator and it heats/boils up and the tranny is ruined.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Posts: 4,162
    That's what I thought....didn't wanna say something I wasn't sure. If N is selected thru the transfer case...nothing will be turning?

    better idea

    Have someone drive behind you!..LOL!

    - Tim
  • Most autos with AT cannot be towed, even if in neutral. Your owner's manual will provide the instructions and most recommend against the practice.
    My Dad has used a tow trailer for years but finally switched over to a driveline disconnect. This was used on a Dodge Dakota, then the Ford van, and finally a GM Tahoe. These can be found for most vehicles so you can drive or tow what suits your needs best. The units however for the front wheel drive are more expensive than the rear wheel drive units.

    Good luck!
  • myersedmyersed Posts: 102
    Thanks- As I read the responses, it sounds like the truck should not be towed without trailer or some other means to disable the driveshaft to the transmission.

    If I understand what you describe, the diveline disconnect can be used in lieu of the trailer. What exactly is a Driveline disconnect?
    Approx cost? and
    What does it take to disconnect and rehookup?

    I believe he is only looking at a 2 wheel drive Dakota equipped with Automatic. (He has a bad left leg resulting from a stroke or such)
  • RichRich Posts: 128
    There might be a better solution for flat towing. JC Whitney has free wheel devices. You remove the wheel/tire and bolt this device between the rotor/drum and the original wheel/tire. This thing has bearings that allow the tire/wheel to turn without turning the drive line. The disadvantage is, obviously, each time that you want to drive the towed vehicle you must do the equivalent of changing two tires

  • You cannot tow automatics for very far or for very long and only then in the event of an emergency. They will burn up. I learned the hard way. Generally on a 4x4 the tranfer case is after the transmission but before the rear drive shaft. And of course the front driveshaft is connected to the front of the transfer case. If you have an automatic transmission (as with my TJ auto,) you can place the tranny in park as LONG AS THE TRANSFER CASE IN IN NEUTRAL, and nothing turns but the shafts to the transfercase which is non engaged. :) Good luck
  • My car is a front wheel drive. It was tow when
    two front wheel on ground. It is a standard
    transmission. Will that be a problem?
    It was towed for about 20 miles at 65 mph.
    I had no choice. Someone hit my new car and
    police forced me to be towed away.
  • The issue of which vehicles can be towed with all four wheels on the ground is very complex...

    I personally tow a Jeep Grand Cherokee behind my motorhome. With the GC you simply put the transfer case in neutral and the transmission in park. Jeep rates this vehicle as "unlimited" towing this way.

    The rules for other vehicles are all different! You should really check with the manufacturer. Some other automatics which can be towed are Saturn (popular with RVers), the Chevy Cavalier and Malibu, some Toyotas, and most Hondas. Some have very strict rules however, like the Honda you MUST shift from drive into neutral and not from reverse into neutral otherwise the tranny will be destroyed in short order.

    Not all manual transmissions can be towed in neutral. In fact, not all four wheel drives can be towed even if the transfer case has a neutral selection. Whether it can be towed is based on where in the tranny/transfer case the lubrication is driven from (usually either the input shaft or the output shaft). Trannies/Transfer cases in which the lube system is driven from the input (or engine) side cannot usually be safely towed because the gears will fail from lack of lubrication.

    There are companies which make add-ons to allow you to tow just about everything (Remco is the one that comes to mind). They make electric lube pumps which you can add to automatics and they make drive line and front wheel disconnects.

    I guess this was a little more than two cents worth! Just be sure to check with the manufacturer if there is a warranty involved!
  • Thanks for all advices. I have heard from
    several people saying that it is bad for
    four wheel drive car. I heard that towing
    backward very fast is not good too. I finally
    called my dealer service department and they
    said it was bad, but there is nothing I can do
    about it. I can only drive it after the car
    is fixed and see if there is anything wrong.
    Hopefully there is nothing wrong. Thanks for
    the advices. I think we all agree that flat-bed
    is best.
    Thanks again.
  • meredithmeredith Posts: 578
    As a result of 30 or more days of inactivity....

    this topic is being "frozen." It will be archived or deleted in the next 10 days or so.

    Front Porch Philosopher
    SUV, Pickups, & Aftermarket and Accessories Host
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