Towing a caravan with an auto

Submitted: Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 19:29
ThreadID: 96270 Views:12091 Replies:7 FollowUps:6
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We are getting ready to start travelling towing a 17'6" caravan with a BT50 auto is there any tricks we should know as i have never towed with an auto before,also what is the rule with towing a van and cruise control
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Reply By: D200Dug- Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 19:41

Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 19:41
I am pretty new to vans and autos too

From my very limited experience there is no great problems or issues especially with modern auto boxes.

I also used cruise control on long highway stretches but found it was not as good on hilly sections as using a foot on the pedals.

Take it carefully, and have fun.
AnswerID: 488468

Reply By: Ron N - Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 19:46

Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 19:46
Carl - I would strongly recommend the fitting of a transmission oil cooler - and even a transmission temperature gauge - as being of prime importance when towing a van at highway speeds for lengthy periods in high ambient temperatures, with an automatic.

There is also a large capacity aftermarket, alloy oil pan available, which holds an additional 2.8L of oil. This oil pan is designed to improve transmission life via increased oil capacity, and increased cooling effect, via the cast alloy radiating heat.

Once you start towing heavy loads at speeds with automatics, additional heat buildup is a certainty - and keeping that increased heat generation under control, by increased heat dissipation, is the order of the day.

There has been a recent story on here, of a new Ford Ranger auto transmission failure at 6000kms, caused by towing a large van at highway speeds for extended periods.

Admittedly, towing a 17' 6" van, at first glance, is not reaching anywhere near the towing capacity of the Mazda - but you must be very aware, that any increase in weight (load) in the tow vehicle, reduces the towing capacity accordingly.

Cheers - Ron.
AnswerID: 488470

Follow Up By: Member - Peter R (QLD) - Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 20:25

Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 20:25
I have a 2007 Prado D4D ( 5 speed automatic).

Found that towing van (approx 2.3t) in 4th puts less strain on motor,

Tried the cruise control once but my scanguage showed how much juice I was using when not on level ground. Never used it since.

Have now done 35000kms with van and change the oil every 5000kms when towing 10000km other times.

Also found that for response when starting off ,it is better to gradually increase speed rather than put the foot down straight away. Cheaper that way too.

When approaching a hill keep your revs up .

You will find it very easy to handle.

FollowupID: 763636

Reply By: quincy - Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 20:56

Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 20:56
hi carl, towing with a auto is the best. firstly you got a cooler for the auto if it hasnt get one. i installed a steinburer power module to my jeep which makes it run through the gears smoother and doesnt get the big rev range that you might experience. but one thing to remember autos have come along way. stick it in drive and go. quincy
AnswerID: 488483

Follow Up By: Member - Wamuranman - Friday, Jun 15, 2012 at 07:02

Friday, Jun 15, 2012 at 07:02
Read your Users manual to see what it says about towing. For many modern vehicles it is better to tow in Sports mode - not Drive.
Check the optimal speed for your torque converter to lock up as this will keep the transmission cooler. I always tow in S4 or S5 as this is easiest on the vehicle's transmission. Very very rarely would I use S6 when towing except if its a very long down hill grade.
I NEVER use Drive when towing.

FollowupID: 763661

Follow Up By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Friday, Jun 15, 2012 at 07:45

Friday, Jun 15, 2012 at 07:45
My vehicle has a 5 speed transmission with no sports mode. I have been instructed, in writing, by my vehicle maker to always tow in D, particularly up hills. This allows the torque converter to lock and prevent overheating.
As has been said, check you manual. Every vehicle is different, there is no 'one size fits all'. If you don't follow the makers recommendations then the warranty may not be honoured if something goes wrong.
FollowupID: 763666

Reply By: Member - Netnut (VIC) - Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 21:58

Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 21:58
Hello Carl,
I towed my dual axle caravan - 18' Coromal Corvair - last weekend over 600 km and found the exercise a breeze. My new XTR Auto Dual Cab BT-50 had a substantial load on board as well as the van behind.

I used the sports mode exclusively and only ever went into 6th gear when going down a hill. When towing at highway speeds - 85 to 100 kph - I travelled easily in 5th gear at around 2000 - 2200 revs consuming around 14.2 l/100km over the distance. I made upshifts at just over 2000 rpm. Naturally, I used downshifting to help slow my progress, especially when coming to a stop.

The vehicle seemed to cope well with towing in 5th gear; it wasn't revving too high and it's fuel consumption was very acceptable. I could easily have overtaken slower vehicles if neccesary without needing to downshift.

When towing for short periods at 100kph in 5th gear, I found the noise of the motor increased to the point where it was quite noticeable, and so I backed off to around 90 - 95 kph as soon as possible.

For some of the trip, I used cruise control, but mostly when in 5th gear. I also found that using cruise control around town helped me to keep below the speed limit !

Be sure to do a shakedown trip. It needn't be long; just long enough to get the feel of the van behind and the auto's ability to tow and assist with slowing down.

The Mazda dealer assured me the BT-50 has a auto transmission cooler. I wouldn't have opted for one with an automatic transmission if it didn't!

Happy travels!
AnswerID: 488495

Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Jun 15, 2012 at 14:42

Friday, Jun 15, 2012 at 14:42
Netnut - Did you happen to weigh your fully-loaded BT-50 and van, to find out what your all-up weight actually was?

Cheers - Ron.
FollowupID: 763694

Follow Up By: Member - Netnut (VIC) - Friday, Jun 15, 2012 at 20:43

Friday, Jun 15, 2012 at 20:43
G'day, Ron,

No, I didn't weigh the vehicles for a GCM as I'm sure I was within the allowable weight limits. I bought the Mazda as it has been rated highly for its carrying/ towing ability.

By my educated guess, I was carrying 500 kg in the car - includes two adults, a tank of fuel and extraneous goods - and towing a van weighing around 1800 kg.

Some statistics for the BT-50: the kerb weight is 2100kg, the payload is 1100 kg, the GVM is 3200 kg and GCM is nearly 6000kg. The ball weight of the van is around 110 kg.

Hope this helps answer your query, Ron
FollowupID: 763736

Follow Up By: Ron N - Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 11:56

Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 11:56
Netnut - Yes, your weights info is interesting & helpful. I must say I'm somewhat stunned at the figure of nearly 6000kg for the manufacturers GCM rating for the Mazda.
That's a huge amount of weight to try and handle, and bring to a stop, for what is essentially a modest-sized ute.
I've got a 3 1/2 tonne Bedford truck that is only rated for 10800kg GCM, and the truck has a 3 1/2 tonnes tare, and is built with a vastly increased size in drivetrain and chassis construction, and braking ability, over a Mazda ute.

As regards the transmission oil cooler, it appears I should have made my recommendation a little clearer.
All automatic vehicles have a transmission oil cooler as standard. This comprises an oil tank situated in the bottom tank of the radiator (or side tank, if it's a crossflow radiator).
This oil tank is in contact with the engine coolant, and the design ensures that hot transmission oil being pumped through the tank, that is over the engine coolant temperature, receives some cooling effect.

However, in every case involving heavy towing with an automatic, it is highly advisable to fit an ADDITIONAL transmission oil cooling method.
There are usually aftermarket transmission oil coolers available, that are effectively a small radiator in themselves.

These oil radiators are plumbed into the transmission oil lines and the air flowing through the fins reduces the transmission oil heat levels, at a considerably better rate, than the transmission oil coolers mounted in the radiator tank.

Cheers - Ron.
FollowupID: 763769

Reply By: Motherhen - Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 22:03

Thursday, Jun 14, 2012 at 22:03
Hi Carl

As others have said, auto is ideal for towing. My husband loves cruise control and i hate it, but it you need to knock it out before going up hills - you'll soon learn which ones. Ours drops down a couple of gears and revs are high if you leave cruise control on. Lock it out of overdrive which is not a towing gear - speaking of our vehicles here as i have no experience with a BT50.


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Reply By: LIFE MEMBER-snailbait - Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 21:11

Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 21:11
i have a Prado with 4 speed auto which i have towed around the block i now have a Ford RTV 4 speed auto tip tronic and i am going to tow my caravan 2300 KG ATM to Perth DLPG WITH 230 LTRS OF LPG
NO probs
Up hils i put it in sports mod and it goes great this is what the owners manual advise
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Reply By: Rockape - Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 21:52

Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 21:52
one of the greatest things you can do towing with an auto is keep the tranny cool. Cooked auto transmissions don't work real well. I saw many on the Moonbie ranges destroyed by overheating.

Make sure you have a very good transmission cooler on the auto. You can beat a cruise control any day with your right foot. Softly softly steady steady wins the race.

You will get a feel for the vehicle and discover her sweet spot.
AnswerID: 488674

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