1200 mile tow soon. OverDrive question.


Old 11-26-03, 01:28 PM
Lugnut's Avatar
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Kansas City, Missouri.
Posts: 1,172
1200 mile tow soon. OverDrive question.

If I tow a trailer 1200 miles with my 95 Explorer, will my automatic transmission run as cool in Drive as in OverDrive?

My concern is gas mileage verses a long haul that could overheat and erode my transmission from overheating. I have always known that hauling is hardest on a transmission. But I am wondering what the stress difference is between Drive and OverDrive. Let's assume that the engine provides needed power without pinging, are there sound reasons to use one gear over the other? Now backing up a step, I wonder if the engine will be able to pull without pinging. (?)

If I do tow a trailer, it would be a single axle enclosed trailer, say 5x10 or 5x12. 5 ft wide so I would need special side view mirrors. My hitch is the OEM bumper ball, not a receiver style hitch. The bumper is rated for 3500 lbs, but it is stamped on the bumper that the vehicle model may state different weight capacities. I suspect that a fully loaded trailer would weight in at near the 3500 lb limit.

If anyone has any towing suggestions to avoid breakdowns, police tickets, or on-the-road theft, please join in.

I have brand new tires and brakes (front brakes). I plan to buy a new trailer in about 1 week. I don't know yet, but I don't think that size of trailer comes with brakes. If so, I hope I don't need them. The trailer cost about $2400 and up for extras.

I have driven everything from large box cargo trucks, farm equipment (monster liquid fertilizers), construction equipment (boom trucks, backhoes) and even a fire truck. I have owned small personal trailers for decades. Funny thing is this, I've never towed anything for 1200 miles before and I've never had to worry about gas mileage verse tranny damage.

If you are traveling from Kansas City to New Jersey, what tourist sites would you stop to see, assuming your trailer did not get robbed?
Sponsored Links
Old 11-26-03, 04:58 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a

1. tow in direct, not overdrive. overdrive lowers your engine and transmission rpms for fuel saving. Your cooling, lubrication will function more efficiently at higher rpms when towing in direct/3rd.

2. towing in overdrive may cause your transmission to hunt between direct and overdrive causing heat buildup and eventual premature failure.

3. make sure your vehicle has an auxilluary transmission cooler.

my $.02
Old 11-26-03, 06:18 PM
GregH's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 9,721

I agree with otter_ in not running in overdrive.
I have an '88 full size Chevy van with a 350 and overdrive tranny.
This truck is my service vehicle and what I find is the engine tends to lug when running in o/drive. When I step on the gas just a little bit it always drops down into third so I just don't bother with o/d and run in third.
Another thing I found is that after installing a transmission temp guage is on the hwy the temp doesn't run much over 160 deg F in the summertime in third. In o/d it runs no less than 225 deg F.
Also, I think because my vehicle is fairly loaded I also get better gas mileage in third than o/d.

A bit off topic but I happen to be looking for either a 95 or 96 Explorer or Jimmy 4wd.
How has the Explorer been?
Old 11-26-03, 06:21 PM
mike from nj
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
i also would keep it in Drive for a tow, i'd only use OD for a long LEVEL highway stretch, like with the cruise control on. any type of hill= 'D' your engine has to work harder to pull OD, especially with a trailer. i would think trans heat wouldn't be an issue once the torque converter locked up, as nothing else in the trans produces heat, just the converter.

when all else fails, read the owner's manual.

there is some weight limit somewhere, as per the DOT, that a trailer has to have trailer brakes. an electric brake module is pretty easy to hook up and use. it will also take a huge load off the vehicle's brakes.

i always use a padlock on my safety chains, not that anyone would steal what i'm towing, it just makes it a slightly bit harder to steal.

and, let me be the first to welcome you to the great "garden state" of nj! now turn around and go home. (kidding!)

my little dirt bike trailer is about 8 feet long, it is next to impossible to back up accurately, i need to pull up to gas pumps and parking spaces so i can pull forward unimpeded. it's axle is so close to my car's rear axle, that i can't compensate with the steering wheel fast enough for it to react accurately. a tractor trailer would be easier to back up.

keep that in mind if you find yourself with a short wheelbase one.

sight seeing in nj? no better place than new york city. park the trailer somewhere safe, and spend the day there. you'd never see 1/100th it has to offer in a day. it really depends what floats your boat (your interests) as to what to see.
Old 11-26-03, 10:23 PM
comtnman's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Colorado Springs,Colorado
Posts: 108
I will add my .02
Your ownerís manual should tell you the weight limit for OD use. Also look on the sun visor on the driverís side thatís where my F150 has the trailer info.
My 1/2 ton Suburban manual says anything over 2000lbs do not use OD or transmission damage will occur. My F150 says anything over 1000lbs don't use OD.
I also think 2000lb and above trailers are required to have brakes. I'll look around the net to see if I can find out for sure.
Save your self some headaches later get a transmission cooler installed, if you think the trailer is going to be close 3500lbs you should think about a receiver style hitch.
I use a padlock through the trailer connector where it locks on the ball.

Look at this site for trailer info from the NHTSA.


Another link for trailer brakes information:



Last edited by comtnman; 11-26-03 at 10:59 PM.
Old 11-27-03, 09:58 AM
billys68ss's Avatar
Join Date: May 2003
Location: USA
Posts: 1,459
Hey.... I learned something here too. Although I never really thought of it. I have towed little stuff with my Mazda B3000, but a few weeks ago I flat towed a Mazda RX7 about 70 miles and kept the cruise on and the tranny on OD. Not that that is alot of weight and all I was really doing was pulling it. I did notice a little strain when going up inclines on I-40 but nothing severe. I will have to remember this when and if I decide to tow anything else in the future.
Thanks Guys,
Old 11-27-03, 11:16 AM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Originally posted by mike from nj
i would think trans heat wouldn't be an issue once the torque converter locked up, as nothing else in the trans produces heat, just the converter.

True, the torque converter, when unlocked is the biggest source of heat within a transmission. However, any mechanical device where gears mesh, clutches engage and disengage will generate heat through movement/friction.
Old 11-27-03, 08:53 PM
mike from nj
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
i agree with you mr. otter, let me reclarify my statement: the (unlocked) torque converter will make 99% of the heat in a trans, the gears and all will make up the remaining 1%, which makes that aspect not an issue since the trans cooler can easily handle that.
Old 11-28-03, 07:34 AM
Lugnut's Avatar
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Kansas City, Missouri.
Posts: 1,172
Hi all, I hope everyone had a nice turkey day.

Sorry for not getting back here sooner, but for the past 2 weeks or so, my forum email auto notifications have not been working. Has anyone else had this problem?

Thanks for all the great replys. The concensus is to avoid OverDrive. Things for me worth considering: tranny cooler, aux brakes, receiver hitch. Comtnman, thanks for the links.

Grey H, you asked for feedback for a 95,96 Explorer etc. My foremost thought is that the 96 will use OBD II so go with that. The 95' has a OBD II dash connector, (transitioning to obd II), but it also has the OBD I connector in the engine which is what it uses for engine codes. My 95 uses R134 so that is not an issue. At 180,000 miles I replaced both cv joints. The headlamp assembly is badly yellowed. No other major repairs and no complaints, er except one. If you put 6 ply truck tires on it, it is one rough ride. The torsion bar bolt is a known problem. Park it on level ground and just eyeball it. You can easily tell if it is leaning. All in all, I would buy it again.

Mike from nj, it didn't occur to me where you live till now. Yu all bett'r make room for this hayseed from KC. Since it's a 3 day drive, I was worried about someone breaking inside the trailer for a little midnite shopping while I sleep at a cheap motel. Someone mentioned that some trailer doors are designed like 18 wheeler doors and are considered theif resistent. So I was just poking around to stir up any experiences along those lines.

And, as though I don't have enought on my mind already, just last night while the boys and I were drinking, they were bragging about how ,used, good, low priced trailers just fall out of the sky for them. The more they bragged, the bigger the trailers got and the lower the price. According to them I can get a $3000 trailer for $75,, in a New York minute, that is. Aside from this, they did point out that a twin axle trailer would be easier to haul without road swaying back and forth. I think they might be right, but that would mean a heavier trailer, sigh.

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes