Towing An Automatic Car: A Guide To Car Towing Transmission

Each type of car gearbox has different advantages and disadvantages. And if you fancy towing an automatic car but are still wondering about efficiency and safety, let’s find out through the article below with Car From Japan.


It can be said that one of the most important factors that a driver needs to consider when choosing a tow vehicle is the type of transmission. Provided you have the right car and caravan, and decide whether a petrol, diesel, or hybrid engine best suits your needs, choosing between a manual and automatic transmission is probably next. on your to-do list.

Your car’s transmission choice can change the curb weight, the vehicle’s legal towing limit, and the nose limit. Fuel economy will also suffer, as will the ease with which you can start a vehicle on a hill. In some cases, your choice of the gearbox may mean checking with your dealer whether additional cooling is needed while towing to prevent overheating.

Towing An Automatic Car: Yes Or No

Today, most of us drive automatic transmission cars. The convenience of automatic transmissions has made them so popular that many car manufacturers don’t even produce some of their models in manual transmission. Inevitably, due to a breakdown or improper parking, you may need to tow your automatic vehicle. But is it safe to tow a vehicle with an automatic transmission?

In general, you should not tow or even push a car with an automatic transmission even in neutral while the drive wheels are on the ground. The automatic machine uses a motor-driven pump for lubrication. Pulling or pushing the automatic transmission when the engine is off will cause the gears to run without lubrication, which can damage the engine. You’ll probably also find similar information in your owner’s manual that says if you own a car with an automatic transmission, don’t try to tow it.

However, towing an automatic transmission car will be possible if you lift the driven axle (or axles) out of the way. That is, you can’t tow an automated vehicle behind your friend’s truck, which is attached to a regular towbar.

towing a car with an automatic transmission
Towing an automatic car will be possible if you lift the driven axle out of the way. (Photo: Dreamtime)

Why Can’t You Town A Car With Automatic Transmission In A Typical Way?

In most manual transmission cars, since their gearboxes are fully lubricated with oil in the internal system, there will be a lot of lubrication throughout the gears and components. This oil coating persists regardless of whether the gears rotate or not. This means that the system is always lubricated when the vehicle is pulled or pushed. But all is not so simple when we take into account the inner workings of automatic transmission cars.

If an automatic is being towed, with the drive wheels grounded and spinning, the axles inside the vehicle as well as other parts of the transmission will rotate. But due to the design of the system, there won’t be any lubricant in the gearbox when this happens.

Apart from any residual oil from the last drive, the vehicle will continue to operate, the internal systems will dry out, and will not be able to prevent any wear and damage from the movement of the wheels without this lubrication.

What Will Happen When Towing An Automatic Car?

Inside the internals of a car’s automatic transmission, something called ATF, or automatic transmission fluid, is present. The ATF is used to lubricate the gears and prevent the system from being damaged by friction and heating up when the gears are in motion.

The liquid inside undergoes heat transfer, and to handle this process, the radiator plus the pump work in sync with the fan, to prevent the system from overheating inside. If the fan and pump are not operating properly, the increased temperature and (in parallel) decrease in the viscosity of the lubricant will begin to affect the seals and gears inside this machinery.

Towing an automatic car in neutral can cause significant damage and will eventually disrupt the car’s function if the limits mentioned in the owner’s manual are exceeded.

Are There Any Exceptions When Towing An Automatic Car?

As we mentioned above, you can still tow a car with an automatic transmission in the back as long as all four of its wheels don’t touch the ground. With some vehicles with specially designed automatic transmissions, you can also perform this action, but with very little percentage. Or in an emergency that requires towing your vehicle, you can go through the instructions in the manual to learn how to handle the situation effectively.

In the event that you need to tow your vehicle in an emergency, you must not exceed 30 mph in a vehicle with a rear automatic transmission. Check your owner’s manual for advice. If your owner’s manual tells you there’s a tow option, it’s probably safe to do. If a stranger on the Internet tells you it’s fine, it’s not true.

Not only that, but some automatic transmission cars can also be used to tow caravans, but that depends quite a bit on the make and model of the vehicle used. It is even claimed that they can be more profitable than manual transmission cars. One of the reasons is that the automatic transmission is heavier than the manual transmission.

When towing a caravan, there is a ratio considered to assess stability, which compares the weight of the car and then the weight of the caravan. For automatic transmission cars, due to the higher weight of the transmission, we will have a higher gear ratio and therefore greater stability.

Another reason is that automatic transmission cars have many speeds, even exceeding 7 or 8, allowing the car’s computer to choose the optimal gear to pull, thereby finding a good balance. This is also useful because compared to manual transmission cars, automatic transmission cars do not require constant clutch use (lower wear) and have better movement.

towing an automatic transmission car
Some automatic cars can also be used to tow caravans, but that depends quite a bit on the make and model of the vehicle. (Photo: Caravan FAQs)

Finally, you also consume less fuel due to the computer-controlled consumption pattern used by automatic transmission cars.

>> See more: Best Used Cars To Tow Behind Motorhome

How Do You Flat-Tow An Automatic Car?

If you ask any towing expert, or any towing company, what is the safest and possibly most efficient way when towing a car with an automatic transmission and you will likely hear them recommend using a flatbed trailer.

This is a truck that comes with a system that doesn’t allow the wheels of the vehicle to spin when it’s being towed, they’ll be restrained, so whether it’s manual or automatic – the transmission won’t fail. . broken. However, if the towing company doesn’t have this type of truck and just tries to hook it up and the rudder to the ground, the transmission could be damaged.

As we all know, cars using automatic transmissions only oil the transmission when the engine is running. If the engine is off or the car isn’t running, the hydraulic pressure needed to lubricate the system isn’t available. The movement of the car’s drive wheels, axles, and axles can cause the car to stall.

So what should one do when one doesn’t have the luxury of a sleeper trailer and just wants to tow a flatbed trailer with an automatic transmission? You have to keep all four wheels on the ground. Moreover, you have to make sure that the car can disconnect the transmission. Then you won’t have to worry about your transmission being damaged by normal towing.

If your automatic transmission is lubricated through the transmission’s output shaft it can pull flat with no problem. But if the car is lubricated by the transmission’s input shaft, there may be a problem. You will have to use an auxiliary method to solve this conundrum, which is a lubricating pump that can keep the coolant in your transmission flowing while towing an automatic car.