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Can you tow an automatic car with the engine running

Can You Tow An Automatic Car With The Engine Running? Check Here

Yes, you can flat tow an automatic car with the engine running. Towing a vehicle with the use of a flatbed tow truck is the safest method so far. Such tow trucks do not allow the wheels of the towed car to turn whole in transit.

Along this line, all vehicles with automatic transmissions can only lubricate the transmission when the engine is running. One of the commonest means of damage to towed cars is inexperienced operators, particularly when it comes to automatic transmission cars, which are best towed on flatbed trucks.

In this situation, should the operator tow the car with its drive wheels on the ground, that’s when the damage will happen.

Whenever a car is towed using a flatbed truck, it does not allow the wheels of the car to turn while it is being towed.

Conversely, if the towing truck hooks the vehicle up with its drive wheels on the ground, significant dame can occur, since whenever the drive wheels turn, the driveshaft or drive axles will turn too, which in turn can cause the rotation of components inside the transmission as well.

Read Also: Does Towing Affect Alignment?

The engine of cars with automatic transmission only lubricates the transmission when the engine is running, which in turn provides the hydraulic pressure that pumps fluid throughout the transmission system for effective lubrication.

Conversely, if the engine is not running, and still the wheels turn either the drive shaft or drive axles, the transmission can suffer damage for that reason. So, yes, you can tow a car with automatic transmission even while the engine is running.

Is it safe to tow an automatic car with the engine running?

Yes, it is safe to tow an automatic car while its engine is still running. As a matter of fact, if you don’t do that, and the tires of the towed automatic car are still on the ground, you risk damaging your vehicle’s transmission system.

When an automatic car is towed while the engine is not running, and the wheels are turning the driveshaft and the drive axles, the transmission system can suffer serious damage. Therefore, it is safe for you to tow automatic transmission cars.

As a matter of fact, it is the most recommended way of going about towing a car with an automatic transmission system.

Read Also: Can A Car Be Towed With The Wheels Turned?

How can I tow an automatic transmission with the engine running?

You are supposed to tow any vehicle with automatic transmission best by using a flatbed tow truck. This arrangement does not allow the wheels of the towed truck to turn while it is being towed.

Despite this, should the tow truck hook the vehicle up with its drive wheels on the road, severe damage may occur to the transmission system itself.

In addition, even though you can tow an automatic transmission car in the Park position if you are careful enough, but it is better to tow it in Neutral. 

Additionally, it is good that you don’t over speed for more than about 35 

km/h when towing a car behind you. Also, do not attempt to tow any vehicle that is heavier than the towing vehicle, which may damage the towing vehicle very seriously.

Finally, you should tow vehicles on roads you have carefully chosen to minimize any effect on the vehicles.  As a matter of fact, this is how you can tow most vehicles and not just automatic transmission cars.

Will my engine be damaged from towing while it is running?

No, your engine will not be damaged from towing even when its engine is running. It is a lot better for your engine if you are towing while it is still running. In this way, you have effectively reduced the chances of damage to its transmission 

Can I tow an automatic car in neutral?

Yes, you can tow an automatic car in both Park or Neutral, although the Neutral position is better. However, towing a car in the Park position can lead to damage to its transmission, if some important precautions are not taken beforehand.

Any automatic transmission car in the Park position can have its mechanical lock completely broken if towed with its wheels on the ground. Before you undertake to tow a car, you should ascertain that it is preferably in the Neutral position of the gear lever. 

Read Also: Can You Tow A Car With Handbrake On?

Should you attempt to tow an automatic transmission car, it is most likely going to develop a lot of faults if you tow it incorrectly, and again, the car can still be damaged even if you tow it in the Neutral mode.

To tow a car with automatic transmission, perform the following steps:

Step 1.

You should ascertain whether your vehicle is indeed having an automatic transmission. This is because each type of vehicle requires a different approach when it comes to towing. As a result, you are advised to look at your user manual if you are not sure.

Step 2.

You should always tow a rear-drive vehicle with a tow bar and hitch. You ought to drop the driveshaft by removing its universal joint at the differential or its rear end.

To do this, you must remove the two bolts that hold two of the four arms of the universal joints in position. Bring this lower end of the drive shaft carefully to the ground and promptly replace the bolts and yoke it back into place so as to prevent them from getting lost, or you should store them too.

Next, pull carefully on the driveshaft and the front end with the front universal joint which drives the transmission. However, you should not attempt to allow it to slam to the ground. Finally, you should also store the drive shaft in the car so as to take it along for any subsequent use.

Step 3.

Ensure that all safety equipment is properly installed and is also fully functional too. Next, you raise the tongue of the tow bar before lowering it onto the ball and fix any safety chains from the tow bar to the towing vehicle.

Step 4.

You should always use a tow dolly for all front wheel and 4-wheel drive cars. Attach the dolly to the tow vehicle much like you would a tow bar. It will sit on the hitch and be tightened to the ball. Thereafter, fasten all the safety chains.

Additionally, connect the light plug to a socket attached to the tow vehicle to activate the brake lights, and turn on the signals. Should there be no socket, you will have to alternatively get a kit from any parts starts to provide power to the lights of the trailer.  You should install it on the car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Step 5.

Now, you should drive the car onto the tow dolly, in which case the rear tires will roll freely on the car. Afterward, utilize the chains to secure the car to the tow dolly. Remember to remove the driveshaft from the 4-wheel drive vehicle.

It is a procedure done in much the same way as a rear-drive car. Now, your vehicle should be ready to tow easily without any fear of damage to its transmission system.

Step 6.

You should use a lighting kit purchased from a parts store to ensure that all the lights are working properly before you start any towing of the car.

Alternatively, you can even use a trailer instead of a tow bar or a car dolly to tow any make of vehicle without the need to worry about the effects on the transmission. 

In the end, you should tow the car for about ¼ to ½ mile and also stop to inspect all the hookups. You should ascertain that all the lights are working properly.

Afterward, inspect the safety chains and the hitch to make sure of a secure fit. Should there be no problem, then, continue with your towing. For long trips, check everything each time that you have any reason to stop.

How far can you tow an automatic car with the engine running?

If you are talking about automatic transaxle, your car can be towed if certain conditions or criteria are met. First, its gear selector should as a matter of fact be in a Neutral position.

All the same, even after compliance with this recommendation, the maximum distance across which you can tow it is about 15 miles or 25 kilometers, while the towing speed must not exceed about 25 mph or 40 km/h, even when it’s the engine is running.

Frequently asked questions(FAQ).

Can automatic cars tow one another?

No, most automatic transmission cars cannot really be either towed or pushed with drive wheels on the road, even in situations where the transmission is in neutral.

This is mainly because automatic cars depend on an engine-driven pump that supplies lubrication to the transmission so as to avoid any damage to the clutch packs and all seals,  as well as other components too.

Can you tow an automatic car behind a motor home?

Yes, you can tow an automatic car behind a motorhome, but before you do that, you should activate the transmission park release. Doing this will ensure that the transmission system does not become engaged whenever you begin to tow, which can lead to needless damage.

If you set the vehicle on Neutral mode before you switch off its engine, the vehicle’s transmission system will automatically switch back to the Park position mode after about 10 minutes.


Automatic transmission cars can be towed much like manual cars, but in their case, certain precautions have to be taken in order to avoid any damage to the transmission system. Furthermore, always tow automatics in the Neutral position of the gear lever, which is the safest.

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