Most of us drive cars that drive themselves these days. Automatic transmissions are so popular because they are easy to use that many car companies don’t even make some of their models with manual transmissions.
Your automatic car will eventually need to be towed because it broke down or you didn’t park it right.
But is towing an automatic transmission safe? You might be surprised by the answer!
Cars with automatic transmissions shouldn’t be towed or even pushed while the drive wheels are on the ground, even if the car is in neutral. Lubrication is done by a pump that is powered by the engine. When you pull or push a car with an automatic transmission while the engine is off, the gears run without oil, which can hurt the engine.
You can also read the same thing in the owner’s manual, which says that you shouldn’t try to tow your car if it has an automatic gearbox.
If you were as surprised as I was to learn this, keep reading to find out everything you need to know to safely tow your automatic car.
Why Can’t Automatic Transmission Vehicles Be Towed?
Most cars with manual transmissions have a lot of lubrication on the gears and parts because the gearboxes are well oiled on the inside.
This coating of oil stays on the gears whether they are moving or not.
This means that when the car is being towed, pushed, etc., the system stays oiled.
But things aren’t so simple when we look at how an automatic transmission car works on the inside.
If an automatic car is being towed with the drive wheels on the ground and turning, the shafts and other parts of the gearbox will also turn.
But because of how the system is set up, there won’t be any oil in the gearbox when this happens.
Without this lubrication, the system inside the car would be dry and unable to stop wear and damage from the gears moving.
So, to avoid this problem, towing companies use a flat-bed hauler to make sure that the car’s drive wheels are up and the idler wheels are on the ground.
To solve this problem even more, some hook-type tow trucks have carriages that go under your car’s wheels. This way, none of your car’s wheels touch the ground.
What happens if you tow an automatic car?
There is something called “automatic transmission fluid,” or “ATF,” inside the gearbox of an automatic car. This fluid helps the gears move.
ATF is used to oil the gears, which keeps the system from breaking down from the friction and heat caused by the gears moving.
The fluid inside transfers heat, and a radiator, pump, and fan work together to handle this so that the temperature inside the system doesn’t get too high.
If the fans and pump don’t work right, the rising temperatures and (at the same time) the lubricant getting thinner will start to hurt the seals and gears inside this machine.
If you go over the limits listed in your owner’s manual, this can do a lot of damage to your car and stop it from working.
This is why mechanics and engineers recommend keeping the driving wheels off the ground when towing such vehicles. If these gears are not engaged, the automatic transmission will stay safe when being towed or pushed.
Are automatic cars OK for towing caravans?
Cars with automatic transmissions can pull caravans, but it depends a lot on the model and make of the car.
People have even said that they could be better than manual cars.
One reason for this is that a car with automatic transmission has a heavier gearbox than a car with manual transmission.
When figuring out how stable a caravan is when being towed, the ratio between the weight of the car and the weight of the caravan is used.
Because the gearbox adds more weight to an automatic car, the car will have a higher ratio, which will make it more stable.
Another reason is that automatic cars have more than 7 or 8 speeds, which lets the car’s computer choose the best gear shift for towing and find a good balance.
This also helps because, unlike a manual car, an automatic car’s clutch doesn’t need to be used all the time, so it wears out less and the movements are smoother.
You also end up using less gas because of how the computer-controlled fuel patterns work in an automatic car.
Experts say that because of all of this, not only can an automatic car pull a caravan, but it is also a more comfortable choice than a manual car.
How do you flat tow an automatic transmission?
If you ask a towing expert or a towing company what the safest and possibly most effective way to pull a car is, they will probably say to use a flat-bed tow truck.
This is a truck that has a system that stops a car’s wheels from turning when it is being pulled. They stay locked, so whether the transmission is manual or automatic, no damage will be done to it.
But if the towing company doesn’t have this kind of truck and just hooks the car up while the drive wheels are still on the ground, the gearbox could get damaged.
We already know that cars with automatic transmissions only lubricate the gearbox when the engine is running.
If the engine is off or the car isn’t moving, there isn’t enough hydraulic pressure to lubricate the system. If the driving wheels, shafts, and axles of the car move around, they can damage the car.
So, what should you do if you don’t have a flat-bed tow truck but want to flat-tow an automatic transmission car?
This means that all four wheels must stay on the ground.
First, you have to make sure that the transmission can be disconnected from the car.
If this is possible, you won’t have to worry about your transmission getting broken when you tow your car.
This is called “drive shaft disconnect,” and it is used to disconnect the transmission. However, most automatic cars don’t have this feature.
If your automatic car’s transmission is oiled through the output shaft, it can be flat-towed without a problem. If, on the other hand, the vehicle is oiled through the input shaft, there may be a problem.
To solve this problem, you would have to use an extra method, like putting in a lubrication pump that keeps the cooling fluids in your gearbox moving while the car is being towed.