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Is A Manual Transmission Better For Towing?

Is A Manual Transmission Better For Towing?

When you are towing a vehicle, boat, trailer, or anything else big and heavy, you may not think it matters as to the type of transmission your vehicle possesses. 

However, there may be major differences in towing with an automatic transmission versus a manual transmission

If so, is a manual transmission better for towing than a vehicle with an automatic transmission? Here’s what you need to know.

Automatic transmissions can tow a larger cargo load than manuals. The excessive gear shifting required to haul large loads in a manual puts extra stress on the gears and clutch, causing excessive wear and tear. If you plan on towing heavy loads, an automatic vehicle is a better option than a manual.

When you start looking at different vehicles, such as pickup trucks that are used for towing, you will notice the auto manufacturer will have a much larger allowable cargo load for automatic transmission vehicles. 

Thus, if you expect to be doing any towing with your vehicle, we suggest you have an automatic transmission.

Is a Manual Good for Towing?

In most instances, a manual transmission vehicle is not good for towing. 

Although there is nothing to stop you from using a manual transmission vehicle for towing, doing so puts your transmission at risk of being damaged.

When you try to tow a large cargo load with a manual transmission, this puts far more pressure on the transmission than it does on a vehicle with an automatic transmission.

In even the easiest of towing situations, your vehicle and its cargo will be going up and down hills, increasing and decreasing in speed, and encountering other situations when out on the road. 

By doing so, you will be constantly shifting gears with your manual transmission, as well as pushing the clutch in and out.

In fact, chances are you will wind up riding your clutch during the tow, even if you normally don’t do so under normal driving conditions. 

Eventually, the combination of a large cargo load, changing gears, and riding the clutch will result in not only the clutch being damaged but possibly the transmission itself. 

Is it Hard to Tow with a Manual Transmission?

Generally, you will find it is harder to town when your vehicle has a manual transmission. 

Not only will you be shifting gears and compressing the clutch so much that your arm and leg will get worn out, but you will also be limited in how big your cargo load will be when using a manual transmission.

Since you will have extra weight behind your vehicle, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right gear needed in certain situations. 

Also, some drivers who tow with manual transmissions report they have stripped their gearbox in some situations, resulting in costly repair jobs.

If there is one advantage of using a manual transmission for towing, it is that you may feel as if you have better control over your load. 

Since you can downshift quickly to decrease speed, this can allow you to ease your way through a tow with perhaps a little more peace of mind when behind the wheel.

Disadvantages to Towing with a Manual Transmission

When you are trying to tow with a manual transmission, you will often find this comes with plenty of disadvantages when compared to towing using an automatic transmission.

For starters, you probably won’t be able to tow a cargo load that is substantial in size and weight. 

Since manual transmission vehicles are noted for experiencing problems with their gears and clutch when towing large loads, most auto manufacturers have placed strict limits on the amount of cargo load that can be towed with a manual transmission vehicle.

Also, if you don’t like the prospect of always changing gears and pushing the clutch in and out at seemingly every turn, you won’t like using a manual transmission vehicle for towing. 

Depending on what you are towing and the terrain you will encounter, you can also expect to have a hard time determining which gear you should be in at various times. 

Ultimately, all of this will likely add up to your vehicle experiencing problems with its clutch and gearbox, meaning that once you’re done towing, your vehicle may be in need of some repairs that may be more expensive than you prefer.

Tips for Towing with a Manual Transmission

If you do need to tow with a manual transmission, there are some tips you can keep in mind to make the process easier on you and your vehicle.

First, if you are towing uphill, you will always need to shift into a lower gear. 

Though this will mean your tow vehicle will go much slower, shifting into the lower gear will help prevent overheating of your engine. 

By trying to use lower gears as much as possible when towing, you will also improve your vehicle’s gas mileage, even if you are going at a much slower pace than you would like. 

When you use lower gears when towing with a manual transmission, this also puts less pressure on your vehicle’s brakes, since you are using downshifting to slow down. 

Even though the RPMs on your engine will increase when you downshift, the engine will act in the role of a compressor to reduce your speed. 

How Can I Protect a Manual Transmission While Towing?

To make sure your manual transmission does not experience problems with its clutch and gears while towing, there are some things you can do to protect your transmission.

If you plan on using your vehicle to tow large cargo loads on a frequent basis, you may want to make sure your vehicle is equipped with a transmission cooler

Should your vehicle have already come equipped with a towing package, chances are it already has a transmission cooler under the hood. If it doesn’t, you can get one installed at a transmission shop. 

A job that is reasonably priced by most standards, the cooler will help prevent the transmission from overheating.

Watching your vehicle’s RPMs is also another good way to protect your manual transmission while towing.

If you become impatient while towing and constantly rev up your engine, this may result in engine and transmission overheating. In these situations, patience will definitely be a virtue!

Though it may take a little trial and error, you should be able to find the best rhythm for shifting up and down that will get you to your destination without experiencing any transmission or engine issues.

Though you will have to be much more careful when towing with a manual transmission, you’ve probably realized by now that it can be done with few if any problems when done correctly. 

From downshifting to control your speed to being willing to go at a slower pace to avoid problems with your engine and transmission, using common sense will go a long way in these situations. 

By sticking to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended cargo loads, you should be able to tow your load wherever it needs to go.

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!