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


2003 Mitsubishi Diamante 6G74 3.5L. 5 Speed auto. 160,000 miles. Shell Helix Ultra 5W40 at 6k OCI
Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542877 10/14/17 06:52 AM
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wag123 Offline
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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.

Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542878 10/14/17 06:53 AM
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Alex_V Offline
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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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Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542882 10/14/17 07:02 AM
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nyumski Offline
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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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Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542883 10/14/17 07:02 AM
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gathermewool Offline
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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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Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542895 10/14/17 07:27 AM
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eljefino Offline
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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!

Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542932 10/14/17 08:19 AM
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skyactiv Offline
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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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Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542940 10/14/17 08:22 AM
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itguy08 Offline
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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.

Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542947 10/14/17 08:29 AM
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ATex7239 Offline
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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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Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: gathermewool] #4542953 10/14/17 08:33 AM
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Kuato Offline
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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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Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542975 10/14/17 08:53 AM
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SteveSRT8 Offline
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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!

Last edited by SteveSRT8; 10/14/17 08:54 AM.

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Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4542990 10/14/17 09:13 AM
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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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Re: Towing a car - Transmission in gear or neutral? [Re: Spetz] #4543035 10/14/17 10:13 AM
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PalmSpringsSCal Offline
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.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

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

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