Towing a heavy load is challenging, requiring careful consideration of various factors to ensure your vehicle’s safety and longevity. One crucial aspect of towing that often raises questions is whether to use the vehicle’s overdrive function.
It’s generally recommended to turn off overdrive when towing heavy loads. The overdrive increases fuel efficiency by letting the engine run at lower RPMs, but it may overheat the transmission when towing.
In contrast, you can prevent overheating by disabling overdrive when towing uphill or in challenging conditions.
Throughout this article, we’ll discuss why turning off overdrive when towing can be beneficial and when it’s best to do so. Stay informed and make the right decision to ensure a safe and efficient towing experience.
Why Should You Turn Off Overdrive When Towing: 8 Reasons
When towing, it’s advisable to turn off overdrive to protect your transmission and prevent overheating. Here are more reasons for you to turn off overdrive when towing:
Transmission protection and overheating prevention
Enhanced control and safety on inclines
Improved braking performance
Maintaining engine performance
Fuel efficiency considerations
Minimized gear shifting and driver comfort
Towing uphill and load distribution
Preventing engine lugging
Here is a closer look at each of these reasons.
No 01: Transmission Protection and Overheating Prevention
When overdrive is engaged during towing, it can cause your transmission to constantly shift gears, a phenomenon known as ‘gear hunting.’ This continuous shifting generates excessive heat in the transmission, leading to overheating and accelerated wear and tear.
Over time, this can result in costly transmission damage and potential breakdowns. By turning off overdrive, your transmission is able to operate in a lower gear, which helps reduce the transmission strain and prevent overheating.
No 02: Enhanced Control and Safety on Inclines
According to commercial towing service specialists, you can maintain better vehicle control and enhance your incline safety by deactivating overdrive in hilly or mountainous terrain. With overdrive turned off, your engine will have more power and torque to tackle steep gradients.
This increased power allows you to climb hills more easily without straining your engine or experiencing reduced performance. You can confidently navigate challenging terrain with better control and safety on inclines.
No 03: Improved Braking Performance
When overdrive is left on while towing downhill, the engine provides less resistance, which means you rely more on your brakes to slow down. This can lead to brake overheating and reduced braking performance, compromising your safety.
Turning off overdrive allows the engine to work harder, providing the necessary resistance to control your speed effectively. You can also choose from different types of electrical connectors for towing, which reduces stress on your brakes.
By keeping your vehicle in a lower gear, you can also control your speed with engine braking, reducing the need for excessive brake use.
No 04: Maintaining Engine Performance
Towing with overdrive may cause your engine to struggle to deliver the necessary power and RPMs, resulting in reduced engine performance. This can manifest as sluggish acceleration and increased engine wear.
Switching off overdrive when towing, especially in demanding conditions, will optimize power delivery and ensure your engine operates at its best. Doing so can alleviate some of the strain on your engine and improve overall performance.
No 05: Fuel Efficiency Considerations
While overdrive is generally designed to improve fuel economy at high speeds on flat highways, it does not provide the same benefits when towing. The constant changing of gears and engine strain while towing with overdrive can decrease fuel efficiency.
Turning off overdrive when towing ensures your vehicle can manage the additional load efficiently and maintain better fuel economy in various conditions. In contrast, there are scenarios where overdrive can enhance fuel economy during towing, such as at higher speeds on level terrain.
It’s best to consider the specific towing conditions and adjust your use of overdrive accordingly to optimize fuel efficiency.
No 06: Minimized Gear Shifting and Driver Comfort
To minimize gear shifting and enhance your comfort while driving, it’s advisable to disengage overdrive when towing heavy loads.
When overdrive is engaged, the transmission shifts into higher gears at lower speeds to improve performance. But this constant shifting can be bothersome and disrupt the vehicle’s stability, especially when towing.
By turning off overdrive, you can eliminate the need for frequent gear shifts, resulting in a smoother and more comfortable ride. Due to this, both the engine and the driver will experience less strain when towing for extended periods.
No 07: Towing Uphill and Load Distribution
When towing uphill, the extra weight stresses your vehicle’s powertrain. Disabling overdrive allows your engine to stay in a lower gear, providing more power and torque to conquer the incline. This helps maintain a steady speed and prevents unnecessary shifting between gears, minimizing strain on the transmission.
Also, disabling the overdrive function can help with load distribution. When towing, the weight of your trailer can vary depending on what you’re hauling and how it’s secured.
You can see load distribution perfectly by using towing mirrors on both sides while towing. Disabling overdrive helps maintain a more consistent speed throughout the tow, allowing for better control of your vehicle and trailer.
No 08: Preventing Engine Lugging
Disabling overdrive while climbing steep hills or towing at low speeds prevents engine lugging and ensures optimal performance. When you leave overdrive on in these situations, the engine is forced to work at very low RPMs, resulting in power loss, reduced fuel efficiency, and increased engine wear.
Turning off overdrive allows the engine to operate at a more appropriate RPM range, preventing lugging. It ensures it can deliver the power needed for towing or climbing hills.
When should I turn off overdrive?
Generally, overdrive should be turned off when you don’t need to accelerate to save fuel and prevent unnecessary wear and tear on the transmission. When driving up or downhill, the overdrive function may lose effectiveness and cause the transmission to overheat.
To avoid this, turning off the overdrive function when shifting to a lower gear is recommended.
Suppose the vehicle is towing a heavy load or carrying a full load of passengers. In that case, it is also advisable to turn off the overdrive function to prevent damage to the transmission.
Turn Off Overdrive When Towing: Protect Transmissions and Drive Safely
Turning off overdrive when towing is an absolute must. Failing to do so could result in catastrophic consequences for your vehicle. By disabling overdrive, you can prevent unnecessary strain on the transmission and ensure a safer towing experience.
Keep in mind it’s better to be safe than sorry, so always turn off overdrive when hitching up that heavy load. And if you need more advice, don’t hesitate to consult your vehicle’s manual or a professional. Good luck.