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#4542851 - 10/14/17 05:25 AM Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral?
Spetz Offline


Registered: 01/23/14
Posts: 382
Loc: Australia
Hi guys,

I tow a manual FWD car on a trailer when I go to the track.

I've been leaving it in 1st gear + handbrake on just so all 4 wheels are "braked".

I've heard leaving it in gear though might be harmful for the transmission, is that true?
Am I better off leaving in in neutral over in gear?
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#4542877 - 10/14/17 06:52 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
wag123 Offline


Registered: 06/14/11
Posts: 818
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: Spetz
Hi guys,

I tow a manual FWD car on a trailer when I go to the track.

I've been leaving it in 1st gear + handbrake on just so all 4 wheels are "braked".

I've heard leaving it in gear though might be harmful for the transmission, is that true?
Am I better off leaving in in neutral over in gear?

You heard right. Put it in neutral.

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#4542878 - 10/14/17 06:53 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
Alex_V Offline


Registered: 04/10/16
Posts: 1119
Loc: Campbellsville, KY
That is true. If it's strapped down as well as it should be I'd put it in neutral. With automatics and older stuff with beefier transmissions I put it in gear.
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#4542882 - 10/14/17 07:02 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
nyumski Offline


Registered: 05/14/15
Posts: 226
Loc: Indonesia
sometimes when you tow and cruising in little bumpy road, the car will slightly be shaken, so better using handbrake and strapped your towed car tight.

if the case in steep road or normal road, leaving it 1st gear is ok.

the problem is your towed car will be shaken coz of bumpy road or any obstacle and someday will harm the gear.
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#4542883 - 10/14/17 07:02 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
gathermewool Offline


Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 5893
Loc: New England
For those who are saying it will damage the transmission: how so?

I originally agreed when I read the above comments saying to leave it in neutral, but after some thought I'm not so sure I agree. There's no relative motion between wheels, and the oscillating motion shouldn't roll the axle or produce any shock, right? I'm asking to further the conversation - I don't know and haven't really ever thought about it.

With that said, I don't see any reason to have the vehicle in gear, so I'd leave the transmission in neutral and the hand-brake released.
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#4542895 - 10/14/17 07:27 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
eljefino Offline


Registered: 06/15/03
Posts: 32391
Loc: ME
I guess in theory the gears and bearings could be hammering back and forth. But what happens if you're just driving and kinda peel out? Not a solid peel but just a few chirps? That's gotta be hard too.

And if you're RACING the car, that's going to be hard on it too!

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#4542932 - 10/14/17 08:19 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
skyactiv Offline


Registered: 03/02/13
Posts: 4182
Loc: The Midwest
This is silly. Set the brake, put it in gear and quit worrying. Don't let the "hammer effect" worry you. The "shock" from letting out the clutch from a standing stop to accelerate is applying a lot more "stress" to the gears
than the leaving the car in gear on a trailer. If your transmission is that fragile, it's a piece of junk. Please do not confuse the car bobbing up and down to be stressful to the powertrain either.
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#4542940 - 10/14/17 08:22 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
itguy08 Offline


Registered: 09/15/11
Posts: 3161
Loc: Somewhere
Put it in gear and set the e-brake and strap it down. Do you think that when they ship the cars they leave them in Neutral or do any other "special precautions"? Heck no.

It will be fine.

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#4542947 - 10/14/17 08:29 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
ATex7239 Offline


Registered: 01/19/17
Posts: 325
Loc: Texas,USA
I've towed plenty of vehicles in gear and never had a problem. You're going to put more stress on the tranny at the track than you ever will in tow on a trailer. But, if you're worried, put it in neutral.
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#4542953 - 10/14/17 08:33 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: gathermewool]
Kuato Offline


Registered: 10/23/05
Posts: 7094
Loc: Colorado
Originally Posted By: gathermewool
For those who are saying it will damage the transmission: how so?

I originally agreed when I read the above comments saying to leave it in neutral, but after some thought I'm not so sure I agree. There's no relative motion between wheels, and the oscillating motion shouldn't roll the axle or produce any shock, right? I'm asking to further the conversation - I don't know and haven't really ever thought about it.

With that said, I don't see any reason to have the vehicle in gear, so I'd leave the transmission in neutral and the hand-brake released.


Agreed - if it's strapped down correctly the wheels aren't trying to turn.
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#4542975 - 10/14/17 08:53 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
SteveSRT8 Offline


Registered: 10/10/08
Posts: 18864
Loc: Sunny Florida
Completely true. The transmission is subject to huge loads from driving, no way is a little bump while trailering or even a big one going to be any worse than driving it on the street.

One day when that parking brake cable snaps you may like the fact that you left it in gear!


Edited by SteveSRT8 (10/14/17 08:54 AM)
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#4542990 - 10/14/17 09:13 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
spasm3 Offline


Registered: 05/30/10
Posts: 8448
Loc: North Carolina
I would leave it in gear, just in case. Accelerating and deacelerating while driving would have more load on the gears that this. The shock of clutch release under power would be more than rocking on a trailer.
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#4543035 - 10/14/17 10:13 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
PalmSpringsSCal Offline


Registered: 08/28/10
Posts: 68
Loc: SouthernCaliforniaDesert,USA
.Id leave the brake on and trans in neutral.
I'd prefer to not risk my trans with sudden unexpected higher g forces, from any number of varying directions you may encounter while towing somewhere.
You should also ratchet or bind the car down on all four corners to avoid side, fwd and rwd movement if you find you need to slam on your brakes while towing

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#4543053 - 10/14/17 10:44 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
OneEyeJack Offline


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 7410
Loc: S California
You should either put it in gear or in neutral. No other choice is acceptable.

Same with the parking brake. Either set it or don't set it. Anything else would be bad.

Instead of all this worry about getting it strapped down. Also, make sure the trailer wheels don't fall off.

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#4543082 - 10/14/17 11:03 AM Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz]
Nick1994 Offline


Registered: 02/19/13
Posts: 9845
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
You're strapping it down, right?

You can't just leave it in gear with the brake on on a trailer. If the towing vehicle got into an accident or had to abruptly maneuver the car on the trailer would be a projectile regardless of whether the parking brake is on or not.
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