How to Tow an Automatic 4x4: 5 Essential Tips (2023)

Towing an automatic 4x4 can be a tricky procedure, and sometimes the slightest mistake can cost you a lot of headaches (and dollars) down the road. When preparing for your next overland adventure, damage to your vehicle is the last thing on your mind.

So how do you tow an automatic 4×4?Here are 5 tips to keep in mind:

  • Know your options
  • Protect your stream
  • Know what you're getting yourself into
  • obey the law
  • Appreciate your vehicle
How to Tow an Automatic 4x4: 5 Essential Tips (1)

First to calm down...


  • Can you pull an automatic 4×4?
  • Know your options
    • Can you use a tow truck in a 4×4?
  • Protect your stream
    • Dollies - disconnecting the driveshaft
    • gearbox and trailer hitch
  • Know what you're getting yourself into
  • obey the law
  • Appreciate your vehicle

Can you pull an automatic 4×4?

Sim.An automatic 4×4 can be towed like any other vehicle. But which method you should use depends on many factors, such as: B. Your budget, the make and year of your vehicle, the time you are willing to invest in new skills, and more.Consider the following tips to help you decide how to proceed.


Know your options

The easiest way to tow your vehicle is to use ita platform truck🇧🇷 With this method, the vehicle is completely off the ground and essentially stationary, so the risk of damage is practically zero. That's why almost any car you can buy can be towed on a flatbed truck. Other options are:

  • a trailer hitch🇧🇷 This is a sturdy metal frame, usually A-shaped, used to securely attach one vehicle to another for towing. They're much lighter and cheaper than flatbeds, plus they're easier to store. They also make connecting and disconnecting easier.
  • a tow truckIt's almost like a table cut in half. It hooks into the back of the bus vehicle and keeps both wheels of the towed vehicle off the ground. These carts are best used with front wheel drive vehicles as the rear wheels are not connected to the driveshaft.

Can you use a tow truck in a 4×4?

Technically, you can tow a 4×4 with a tow truck, but that's far from ideal. If only two of the four drive wheels are on the ground, you risk serious damage to various components of your vehicle - more on that below.

How to Tow an Automatic 4x4: 5 Essential Tips (2)

Protect your stream

If you're new to towing, be warned: towing an automatic vehicle with one of its drive wheels on the ground can damage the transmission beyond repair.

While hitches and tow dollies are generally useful on manual transmission vehicles, using them with an automatic 4×4 can be difficult. Some vehicles may not be towed with their wheels on the ground. Check your owner's manual to see if your vehicle falls into this category.

Dollies - disconnecting the driveshaft

As mentioned above, using a trailer truck with a 4×4 will cause two of the four drive wheels to spin while the other two remain stationary. You can do this harmlessly, but only if you take a very important precaution.

The safest way to tow an automatic 4×4 with a tow truck is to temporarily remove the driveshaft.Because the wheels are no longer connected to the engine, they can roll down the freeway without damaging the car's innards. For towing, it essentially becomes a front-wheel drive vehicle.

(Video) When To Use 2WD, AUTO 4WD, 4 HIGH or 4 LOW : A Beginner's Guide

Tired of having your trusty 4×4 stripped down like this? Well, that's one of the many reasons why a tow truck isn't ideal for this type of vehicle. We will discuss some other reasons in Tip #3.

gearbox and trailer hitch

A tow bar keeps all four wheels of the towed vehicle on the ground. This means that your 4×4 wheels will spin during your ride while the engine is off. In vehicles with a manual transmission, this is not a big problem. But your 4×4 is automatic, so you have to be a lot more careful how you proceed.

Even when an automatic vehicle is idling, wheel spin can cause components in the transmission to spin., Also. But automatic transmissions are only lubricated when the vehicle's engine is running.

No matter how green you might feel when it comes to car interiors, you probably know that unoiled machines can be bad news. Friction between unlubricated components can cause so much damage that the transmission fails completely.

Some vehicles have systems that allow you to disconnect the wheels from the transmission to avoid this problem. Check your owner's manual again to make sure you know your vehicle's capabilities.

lubrication pumps

You can also use a grease pump like those sold by Remco. These pumps draw power from the bus vehicle's battery and can thus actively lubricate the transmission of the towed vehicle even when the engine is switched off.

If the gearbox is well lubricated, the wheels can turn the components without damaging them. Therefore, in most cases with a grease pump, you can safely use a towbar with your automatic 4×4.

(Video) 5 Things You Should Never Do In A 4X4 Vehicle

Remember that you must choose your grease pump carefully to ensure it fits the make, model and year of your 4×4. If you're not sure, there are online tools to help you find that match.

Know what you're getting yourself into

So you know your options and you know some of the risks to avoid. But which towing method is best for your situation?

As previously mentioned, bodies eliminate almost all towing problems, at least when it comes to the towed vehicle itself. But the simplicity of this solution comes at a price.

For one, you need to make sure your bus vehicle is properly outfitted to handle the combined weight of the pickup and 4WD. The road vehicle may also be subject to more than normal wear and tear. Your engine and brakes have to work harder than usual to handle all that weight.

  • Security.Towing a trailer can also be tricky and dangerous if you're not careful. Even if you do everything right, riding with a body behind you can take more finesse than you might think. If you've ever seen a jackknife tow truck, you have some idea of ​​the dangers that can come with this method of towing.
  • Cost.Add to that the cost of buying or renting the trailer. Leasing can mean that your vehicle is loaded with many others and transported to a predetermined location. But it will cost thousands of dollars to buy, not to mention storage space and running costs.

Other options

Tow bars and tow trucks are far more affordable and easier to store than a bulky platform. But you still need to keep them - both in storage and at home when not in use. You have to think about how much space you have to work with.

And while the devices themselves are relatively inexpensive, the precautions you need to take can really add up. A grease pump for use with the hitch can cost upwards of $2000, and unless you're removing a drive shaft yourself, you're paying good money for the procedure. And then you have to put the driveshaft back in just to use your 4×4.

(Video) Towing Tips with Uncle Mike and 4WD 24/7

Many people find that using a towbar is the best balance of cost and effort. You'll need to weigh your options (and again refer to your user guide) to decide what's right for you.

obey the law

Picture this: you've considered your options, done all the hard work and now you have your trailer set up for the open road. time to go right? Not so fast. To protect yourself and everyone else, you must familiarize yourself with the laws that govern towing.

For example, most states require you to verify that you have visible and working taillights on your bus or towed vehicle. You must also ensure that your number plates are clearly visible. There are some other common towing laws as well, but the ones you need to follow really depend on where you live.

Take some time to familiarize yourself with your state's towing laws and the laws of any state you will be traveling through. You'll be ready to go in no time.

Appreciate your vehicle

You may have heard from your overland friends that a 4×4 manual transmission is the way to go. Do not let it get you. Both manual and automatic have pros and cons, and there is no clear winner. It may seem like towing your automatic 4x4 is going to be a big, expensive hassle, but don't worry - you're an overlander!

The journey is what matters, and with a little research and patience, you'll be on your way to your next adventure in no time.


How do you tow an automatic 4x4? ›

You must tow your vehicle with all four wheels off the ground, such as when using a car-hauling trailer. You can only tow a four-wheel drive vehicle with all wheels on the ground by placing the transfer case in its neutral position and engaging the four-wheel-down towing feature.

How do you tow an automatic? ›

Cars with an automatic transmission should be towed with care to avoid damage to the transmission system. If it is a must, the drive wheels should be on the ground. At the same time, the car should not be towed for more than 25 Kilometres and the speed should not exceed 40Km/hr.

What gear should my truck be in when towing? ›

If your vehicle is a front-wheel drive, and manual:

If the vehicle is on a dolly, put the vehicle in first gear and tow. If all four wheels are on the ground, put the vehicle in neutral and tow. Vehicles with manual transmissions can typically be towed without the car running, with no risk of transmission damage.

Do I put car in neutral when towing? ›

Leave the transmission in neutral (N) and turn the ignition as far as it will go toward the off position (it will not turn fully off when the transmission is in neutral). If your vehicle has an ignition key, you must leave the key in the ignition while towing.

Can I tow my 4x4 in neutral? ›

You must tow your vehicle with all four wheels off the ground, such as when using a car-hauling trailer. You can only tow a four-wheel drive vehicle with all wheels on the ground by placing the transfer case in its neutral position and engaging the four-wheel-down towing feature.

Can you safely tow an automatic car? ›

You can tow an automatic car, but you must lift the driven axle (or axles) off the road. That is, you can't pull an automatic behind your buddy's truck, attached by a tow rope. If your car is front-wheel-drive, the driven axle is at the front. If it's a rear-wheel-drive, it's at the back.

How do you protect your transmission when towing? ›

If your towing vehicle has an automatic transmission, you will need to install a towing package. Another option for automatic transmission towing is to install a transmission fluid temperature warning that will inform you if your transmission or coolant gets too hot.

How do you flat tow an automatic transmission? ›

Most automatic cars that can be flat towed are designed to be towed in neutral and with the steering wheel unlocked. However, before dinghy towing any vehicle, the owner's manual or vehicle manufacturer should be consulted for proper settings and procedures.

Should you tow a trailer in 4x4 high or low? ›

Your best approach is to use 4 wheel drive low and your trailer brake while driving at very slow speeds. Make sure that you keep an emergency kit on board, drive slow, and plan ahead when it comes to navigating rough terrain or inclement weather.

Why can't you tow a 4x4? ›

Most 4WD vehicles with a manual transmission, manual transfer case and manual lock out hubs can be towed on all four wheels safely with no problems. If your 4WD has no manual lockout hubs and/or no manual transfer case, then you will need a coupling device on the rear drive shaft to tow it safely.

How do I make my truck not squat when towing? ›

Towing Leaf Springs

If your truck squats when towing a trailer, leaf springs are the most cost-effective method of reducing your truck's squatting and boosting its carrying capacity. Vehicles have been using leaf springs to increase shock absorption for almost a century.

What is the 80/20 towing rule? ›

The 80/20 towing rule is a safety measure many RVers follow. Basically, the rule states that you shouldn't tow above 80% of your max towing capacity. This gives room for human error in calculations. It also protects the life of your vehicle by not pushing it to the max every time you tow your trailer.

Do you tow in 4H or 4L? ›

4H is more commonly used than 4L, and this setting is beneficial because it allows you to drive up to 55 mph while transferring torque to all four wheels. This setting comes in handy when you need additional traction. Find Your Next Vehicle on Our Lot!

Is it OK to use cruise control when pulling a trailer? ›

Fortunately, you can use cruise control while towing. There's nothing to stop you from engaging your truck's cruise control while you're in tow/haul mode. This won't necessarily do any damage to your vehicle.

Will it hurt to tow an automatic? ›

Mechanical Issues and Transmission Damage

If you tow a vehicle with an automatic transmission while all the wheels are on the ground, it could result in a lot of damage. Similarly, all-wheel-drive vehicles require special precautions.

Why shouldn't you tow an automatic car? ›

Is it still true that you can't tow an automatic vehicle. Conventional automatics tend to have speed and distance restrictions that would preclude towing of this type while modern automated manual transmissions can generally be flat-towed – though you would have to check the vehicle handbook to be certain.

How far can you tow a car with an automatic transmission? ›

See Automatic Transmission. Maximum speed is 31 mph (50 km/h). Maximum distance is 50 mi (80 km).

Can I tow a 4x4 truck on a tow dolly? ›

When using a tow dolly, the rear wheels of the towed vehicle are left on the ground to help take part of the load off your own vehicle. Four-wheel drive and rear-wheel drives can be used on a tow dolly as well, but the driveshaft must be disconnected.

What is neutral gear for in 4x4? ›

On some four-wheel drive vehicles, when the transfer case is in the N (Neutral) position, the engine and transmission are disconnected from the rest of the driveline. Therefore, the vehicle is free to roll even if the automatic transmission is in P (Park) or the manual transmission is in gear.

What happens if you put car in neutral while in 4WD? ›

Is it safe? This will cause your vehicle to do something called Freewheeling, this is unknown as coasting and is quite dangerous as it reduces your control of the vehicle. It reduces natural braking power from the engines activities, and you can overheat your brakes.

What should you not do in an automatic? ›

5 Things to Avoid When Driving Automatic
  1. Avoid Using the Neutral Gear while sliding the vehicle down a slope. ...
  2. Avoid Using Neutral while the car is at a stop light/traffic. ...
  3. Avoid changing gears while the car is moving. ...
  4. Avoid Coasting in Neutral. ...
  5. Avoid doing Launches.

Can you move an automatic car in neutral? ›

Neutral is the same as knocking a manual gearbox out of gear. It shouldn't be selected when moving - this is known as coasting - but can be used (along with the handbrake) if you're stopped for a short period of time. Drive will select gears automatically and allow the car to move forwards.

What should you not do with an automatic transmission? ›

Auto Advisory: 4 things you should never do in an automatic transmission vehicle
  • Never coast down a hill while in neutral. ...
  • Stop the vehicle completely before changing the gear. ...
  • Don't launch your vehicle. ...
  • Never put your car in neutral at a signal.
Jun 13, 2017

What should you not do when towing? ›

Top 8 Mistakes People Make While Towing
  1. Overworking Your Engine. The number one mistake people make, by far, is overworking their tow vehicle. ...
  2. Wrong Weight Distribution Bars. ...
  3. Not Checking or Maintaining Brakes. ...
  4. Poorly Loaded Vehicles. ...
  5. Wrong Ball/Ball Mount. ...
  6. 6. “ ...
  7. Low-Pressure Tires. ...
  8. Not Lubing Your Components.

What kills a transmission? ›

Overheat your vehicle as often as possible.

Most automatic transmissions are designed to operate at a maximum temperature of 200 degrees. For every 20 degrees you go above this limit, you risk cutting the expected lifespan of the transmission by a factor of two.

What can you put in a transmission to keep it from slipping? ›

Lucas Transmission Fix is a non-solvent formula that stops slip, hesitation and rough shifting in worn transmissions and completely eliminates most seal leaks.

Should you use low gear when towing a trailer? ›

Towing: If you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission, low gear can help when you are towing heavy cargo. When you tow items like a trailer or boat you'll benefit from extra added engine power. For added peace of mind when hauling bulky items, remember to use low gear.

Do you have to lock steering wheel when flat towing? ›

Expert Reply: You would not lock out the steering on the vehicle being flat towed. Doing so would cause the wheels to scrub (drag sideways) when turning. The steering needs to be unlocked and the wheels will turn accordingly and straightened back out when needed.

Should I tow 2H or 4H? ›

You use 2H for normal road driving. In 4H (four-wheel drive, high range) all four wheels are driving your vehicle. You use 4H for surfaces on which you may need greater traction than you would for bitumen; think firm sand, dirt roads, gravel tracks and the like.

When pulling a trailer where do you want the weight? ›

Where should the weight be on a trailer? More weight should be placed in front of the trailer axle and less weight behind. The ideal distribution of weight is 60% in front of the axle and 40% behind the axle.

When pulling a trailer down a long steep hill you should? ›

Navigating Steep Hills: Always use a lower gear when going up or down steep hills. This reduces stress on your towing vehicle's engine. When ascending a long uphill grade, keep your speed at 45 mph or less. The slower speed will help prevent overheating of your towing vehicle's motor.

Is it better to tow in 4WD or 2wd? ›

Four-wheel-drive pickups typically have slightly lower towing capacities than their 2-wheel-drive counterparts due to the extra weight of the 4-wheel-drive components. They're also typically less fuel efficient than 2-wheel-drive trucks, but having a 4×4 can be very handy, especially for pulling a trailer.

When should you not use 4x4? ›

Do not use 4WD on flat, smooth and dry roads, as it can damage your vehicle, according to Consumer Reports. Family Handyman adds that 4WD uses up more fuel to get the gears and drive shaft going. Turn it off when you don't need it to save on gas.

How do I beef up my truck for towing? ›

How to Improve a Truck's Towing Capacity
  1. Upgrade the Axles. With upgraded axles, you can manage heavy-duty components with greater ease. ...
  2. Increase Suspension. ...
  3. Upgrade the Brakes. ...
  4. Programmer. ...
  5. Install an up-to Task Hitch. ...
  6. Get a Bigger Radiator. ...
  7. Frame and Chassis. ...
  8. Replace Your Intake and Exhaust.
Sep 3, 2021

How can I improve my towing stability? ›

How to Increase Towing Capacity
  1. Get the Right Hitch. First and foremost, you will need to invest in the right type of hitch. ...
  2. Use a Programmer. ...
  3. Replace Axles. ...
  4. Upgrade the Braking System. ...
  5. Install a Bigger Radiator. ...
  6. Upgrade Suspension. ...
  7. Enhance Your Intake and Exhaust. ...
  8. Upgrade Your Truck.
Sep 20, 2020

Should you increase tire pressure when towing? ›

Roger Marble of RV Tire Safety recommends additional 10% PSI for Class A vehicles and other tow vehicles. Look for item "A" (Total Front Axle Weight) on your Weight Safety Report.

Can you drive faster than 45 mph while towing a trailer? ›

Manufactured, modular, or mobile homes must not be transported at a speed in excess of 10 miles below the maximum posted speed limit when the maximum posted speed limit is in excess of 45 mph, and never in excess of 55 mph. A person driving a vehicle towing a house trailer must not drive faster than 45 mph.

What is the max speed you can drive with a trailer? ›

Towing speed limit in New South Wales (NSW)

Along motorways and highways, this is 100 kilometres per hour. However, the tow vehicle should have a gross vehicle mass (GVM) that does not exceed 4,500 kilograms or 4.5 tonnes. If your CVM is greater than 4.5 tonnes, the speed limit is capped at 100 kilometres per hour.

What is the max speed when towing a trailer? ›

First, we recommend maintaining a speed limit of 55 miles per hour or less. Driving too fast can contribute to issues like trailer sway and combination disturbance, which can be dangerous not only for you but also other drivers and passengers on the road.

Can you tow a 4x4 automatic? ›

Towing a car in park is possible, but not with all four wheels on the ground. Automatic cars have a mechanical lock in P-Mode, which can get broken if the wheels are forced to move. It's safer to put it in neutral while you tow it to avoid any damage.

How do you tow a 4 wheel drive vehicle? ›

You must tow your vehicle with all four wheels off the ground, such as when using a car-hauling trailer. You can only tow a four-wheel drive vehicle with all wheels on the ground by placing the transfer case in its neutral position and engaging the four-wheel-down towing feature.

Can you switch from 2H to 4H while driving? ›

You can move the control from 2H to 4A or 4H at a stop or while driving.

Do you use overdrive when towing? ›

Typically, you should disengage overdrive when towing a trailer. This is due to the heat that can be created with overdrive on – both from the vehicle trying to hunt back and forth between gears and from the engine RPMs not being high enough to cool the transmission.

What rule do you use when towing a trailer? ›

Slow down earlier as you come up to intersections. You'll need more space between you and other vehicles, so you have more time to stop when you need to. Use the 4-second rule. Because it takes longer to speed up, you'll also need bigger gaps when pulling out into traffic.

What systems do you need to check before pulling a trailer? ›

With a partner to visually confirm, check that the trailer's running lights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights are all working in correlation with the tow vehicle.

Can an automatic transmission car be towed? ›

If done so, the transmission could be damaged. It recommends that the vehicle be placed on a flatbed truck to transport it.

Is it OK to drive in auto 4WD on the highway? ›

Although not always optimal for efficiency and wear of your vehicle 4wd driveline, AUTOMATIC 4 HI can be used on any road condition without risk of damaging your vehicle.

Should 4WD be in neutral or 2H? ›

The 4-1-1 on Four-Wheel Drive

Four-wheel drive vehicles generally have three settings: 2H, 4L, and 4H. 2H is ideal for normal, everyday driving. Use 2H for dry, flat, paved roads. 4L is best suited for a time when you need maximum traction and power.

Can I drive in 4WD auto all the time? ›

Car and Driver notes that 4WD is not meant to be used all the time. It's only for certain road types, including rugged terrain and off-roading, as well as slippery conditions, like snow or mud. Otherwise, 4WD vehicles should be driven in two-wheel drive, according to Car and Driver.

Why automatic cars cant be towed? ›

Is it still true that you can't tow an automatic vehicle. Conventional automatics tend to have speed and distance restrictions that would preclude towing of this type while modern automated manual transmissions can generally be flat-towed – though you would have to check the vehicle handbook to be certain.

Should you use cruise control when towing a trailer? ›

As long as you're within the towing parameters of your vehicle, using cruise control should be ok. Similar to everyday driving with cruise control, there are instances where road conditions, terrain, and traffic make it unsafe to use cruise control while towing.


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