How to Use Tow/Haul Mode

How to Use Tow/Haul ModeYou may have purchased a new vehicle with a button labeled Tow/Haul and are wondering about how to use this option.  Most often you can put the vehicle in tow/haul mode simply by pushing a button. It’s an electronic setting found on the dash, generally the steering column, which can be changed ‘on the fly’. This option is used to change the shift points used by the vehicle’s transmission.  We have researched this topic as there are some other considerations you may be interested in.

Most vehicles come with the Tow/Haul option and it is used when towing a trailer or hauling a heavy load.  It is especially useful in hilly or mountainous terrain. When the driver engages the button, it will electronically alter the gear ratio change point of the transmission to a lower setting.

Of course, you will want to read your owner’s manual for the particular vehicle you own to get the manufacturers’ recommendations on the use of Tow/Haul, but here are some considerations you may take into account.

What Does Tow/Haul Do?

Consider you are towing a camper trailer in a hilly environment and your transmission is always changing gears.  This puts extra wear and tear on the transmission. By using the tow/haul mode it will switch to a gear ratio change point that is better suited for the terrain.

You simply push the labeled button and it will automatically change into a lower gear ratio, stopping the constant gear changes. It also will slow your vehicle down when going downhill so you are not engaging the brakes as often to keep everything under control.  Using this option will provide power over speed and help prevent overheating.

How Do I know Tow/haul is Turned On?

Most vehicles will have a dash light that indicates where or not this is engaged.  Refer to the owner’s manual to see where it is located.

Will Tow/Haul save me gas?

Using the tow/haul option increases the RPMs of the engine, so it results in a higher usage of fuel.  However, replacing a transmission because you didn’t use it would be much more expensive then the extra gas you may use while in this mode.

How Does Tow/Haul Mode Help Reduce Gear Hunting?

Higher gears used in highway driving are not a good option in hilly areas.  Using the tow/haul option reduces the gear ratio to a point it is acceptable for the terrain you are in. If driving in a hilly area and you happen to be on a ½ mile of flat surface it will not automatically switch to a higher gear and then right back down when going up or down again.  Instead it will tend to stay in a single gear much longer and avoid the up and down switching of gears.

Using Tow/Haul on the Highway

Towing on the highway

On the flat open highway there is no real reason to use tow/haul unless maybe fighting a strong headwind. You will use extra gas and be constantly running at a higher rpm. So, unless you are driving in hilly or mountainous terrain it will not help.  However, if you do hear the gears changing often by all means engage it.

Turning Tow/Haul Off

Turning tow/haul off is as simple as it was turning it on, which is by pushing the button labeled tow/haul.  This makes it easy for you if driving through an area of hills to simply push the button and turn it off as soon as you are on flat and even ground.

Should I or Should I Not Use Tow/Haul?

There are some car mechanics that debate whether tow/haul is useful at all and claim that it really doesn’t matter much to use it. This may be true for the casual driver with a light load, but when your carried weight limit hits a certain point which can be found in the owner’s manual it does indeed save on transmission wear and tear.

It is not the answer to any towing problem though, you still must use some additional common practices such as what equipment is being used to tow, weight of the object being hauled and how it’s loaded. Over time you will sense the time to engage it. Common sense is still required when pulling or hauling large objects to keep the vehicle in control.

Tow/Haul Review

Tow mode

Tow/Haul has been added over time as fewer and fewer cars are made with manual transmission, it provides a simple way to save your automatic transmission while driving in hills or mountains.  It’s easy to engage and disengage using it properly will lengthen the life of your transmission saving you more money then the fuel costs to use it.

You will find the vehicle has much more power when using it to climb and helps to keep it under better control when going down the incline.  Most of the time you will drive with it turned off. Some drivers prefer to control the gear shifting themselves using +/- controls on their transmission if the vehicle is so equipped, which is perfectly acceptable, the Tow/Haul simply automates this for you. Refer to your owner’s manual to find out specifically how to engage and when to use for the best results.


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One comment

  1. Good information, u haul trucks have this come on by default every time, so it needed to be disabled each time it’s started.
    It runs in a lower gear in the highway, and even with it off, the truck got below 8.7 mpg instead of the 10mpg stated on their website description. Probably would have been even lower running on tow haul mode-

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