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You want to tow your truck and you want to conserve fuel, so you have to tow in overdrive. But you are worried about the damage this might cause to your vehicle, especially when your insurance may not cover it. Now your question is, ‘can you tow in overdrive?’ and the possible effects of this.
Yes, it is very possible to tow while using overdrive. However, you should do this only on flat highways or flat roads as it would require less energy than using overdrive on a bumpy road.
An overdrive is the highest level of gear that you can operate your engine to, especially in automatic transmission vehicles. Nowadays, almost all vehicles feature overdrive gears with their transmission.
The overdrive gear can be automatically selected in most cases while in other cases, manual selection is needed via a button or a setting.
In older cars, a physical overdrive button is provided or the lever must be manually activated after which the engine of the vehicle will start to operate at low (RPM) Revolutions Per Minute.
This activation helps the engine to make low noises while you drive at a constant speed on a highway. It also helps your engine consume less fuel which is more economical.
Also, it is advisable to only use your overdrive when towing a light load. If you notice that your vehicle is having a hard time pulling the load which you are trying to tow, you should turn your overdrive off as it could be very bad for the engine.
When Should I Not Tow In Overdrive?
You should not tow in overdrive when driving on roads that rise and fall or bumpy roads. The reason for this is that more gears and power are needed for hills and gas mileage will likely reduce.
Also, you should not tow in overdrive on steep roads as this can overheat your transmission. Leaving your overdrive while going downhill gives you less control on your braking which is very unsafe. It puts more stress on the brakes while giving you less control and going at a higher speed.
Is Towing In Overdrive Safe?
Although overdrive gives the driver the option to tow at a higher gear and on increased gas mileage, it may not be the best when towing.
A lot of trucks have the option for overdrive gears on their shifters but you should be very careful and stay away from using overdrive when towing large things like campers or other cargo, especially on a hilly terrain.
Misuse of overdrive can have a damaging effect on your engine or bog it down at the very least. The transmission could overheat and cause damage. However, taking the necessary precautions can help you prevent these negative effects.
What Should You Know Before Using An Overdrive.
- Overdrive Indicator Blinking
When your Overdrive Indicator starts to blink, it shows that there are some problems with the transmission. So it is advisable for you to consult the mechanic so you can check and get it repaired.
A lot of things may cause the overdrive Indicator to blink, some include;
- Automatic fuel leakage
- Clogging of the hydraulic path
- Failure of the control solenoid valve
It is only advisable to drive such a vehicle only after the mechanic has checked it out and confirmed its fitness for use again.
- Driving without using high gear
When you approach bumpy or hilly roads, you should turn off your overdrive gear. Also, since it is not useful at frequent corners, you can turn it off too when you approach intersections.
Slowing down can be done by releasing your foot from the accelerator. After this, the vehicle will decelerate and transmission will go to lower gears. This is the level where the engine becomes more effective.
- Hanging To A Lower Gear
The overdrive gear can also be used when overtaking. Also, it can be used when climbing a hill and for effective braking.
It should be noted that both manual and automatic cars use the overdrive function.
The reason is that overdrive is just gear with a low ratio so it can operate in both transmissions. However, there is a difference in how it operates in both systems.
Overdrive In Manual And Automatic Transmission
When using an overdrive, the gearing of the vehicle operates so that the input shaft is rotating at a slower rate than the output shaft and the car starts to overdrive beyond its highest powerpoint.
For the manual transmission, when driving a manual car, the vehicle is put into overdrive (i.e top gear) by using a clutch and a stick shifter.
However, In an automatic transmission, the car automatically shifts itself into overdrive without using anything.
General Advantages Of Using An Overdrive
An overdrive is a great feature that brings a lot of benefits and advantages to the driver who uses it. Some of these are :
- Lower fuel consumption; overdrive makes the vehicle consume approximately one-third less fuel than it normally should.
- It increases the vehicle’s engine life by using fewer revolutions to achieve the same results.
- It helps the vehicle cause less pollution.
- It reduces the vehicle’s cabin noise.
- It prolongs the vehicle’s accessory life e.g the alternator and the pump.
General Disadvantages Of Using An Overdrive
The disadvantages are as listed below:
- Overdrive-oriented cars are expensive.
- When they break down, overdrive-oriented cars are costly to repair.
Can Towing Generally Hurt Your Vehicle?
Yes, towing causes your vehicle and engine and brakes a lot of strain. So continuous use of your vehicle for towing is bound to wear on your engine with time.
However, apart from the normal wear and tear caused by continuous use, some things are more likely to cause substantial damage to your engine while towing more than others. They include:
Towing with an Underpowered Car
Even though your car is a machine, it has its physical limits like everything else. So when towing something heavy like a trailer, make sure it’s something your car can handle with ease.
Towing with an underpowered vehicle is like overworking a person’s body, as it would have adverse effects on the person, it can also lead to major engine problems.
In order to avoid overworking your vehicle, make sure to check the car’s towing capacity in your owner’s manual before towing.
Pulling an Unbalanced Trailer
While towing, keeping the trailer or vehicle being towed balanced at the center behind your vehicle does a lot of good. It also prevents it from being dragged to one side thereby putting a lot of pressure on one side only.
A load that leans to one side causes a lot of strain on the vehicle and easily sways while towing which increases the chance of accidents.
Your vehicle’s brakes may be sufficient for your vehicle, but they may not be enough for your vehicle, and the trailer due to the added weight.
Trying to brake with a trailer with brakes that are not strong enough can lead to significant problems. You may not be able to stop on time and cause an accident or you may destroy your brakes from overuse.
When you are towing, make sure your brakes and engine can handle the job because if they can’t, the towing will definitely hurt your vehicle at some point.
How To Prevent Towing From Damaging A Vehicle’s Transmission
Here are 3 easy ways to reduce the chance of your Transmission being damaged from Towing:
Invest in a Transmission Cooler
Oftentimes, trucks and vans that come factory-prepared with a towing package already have transmission coolers for their transmission.
A transmission cooler is almost like an additional radiator for your transmission fluid, to help it cope with the extra strain of the towing process.
If you upgraded a passenger car to a towing car, you should definitely try to get one installed because high temperatures in the transmission can cause it to get damaged before the normal time.
So a transmission cooler will help you use more of your transmission without overheating it. Any Transmission Rebuilder can do this with ease.
Watch Your RPMs
When towing up a hill, trying to force or strain your vehicle does not do it any good. It is more advisable to do it slowly and in a lower and more powerful gear instead of trying to revv up or maintain the same speed limit.
Being patient on hilly or bumpy roads does your transmission more good than harm. It helps you find the rhythm or gear that’s more comfortable for your vehicle while handling such a heavy load.
Don’t Use Cruise Control
The extra strain that towing causes to your vehicle can cause confusion to the cruise control system which causes it to drop in and out of the overdrive gear at the wrong speed and time.
The most favorable way of towing is to take matters control of matters into your hands and operate the accelerator according to what the real condition of the road is, which the cruise control can only guess and usually guesses wrongly due to the stress on the engine as a whole.
Conclusion- Can you tow in Overdrive?
Yes, but its side effects largely depend on the qualities of your vehicle. However, before towing with your vehicle at all, it is advisable and important to take it to the mechanic’s for an all-around check to make sure it is in good condition. Especially if you plan to tow in overdrive at any point.