Can towing an automatic car damage the transmission

Can Towing an Automatic Car Damage the Transmission?

Towing an automatic car can be a necessary task, but it’s crucial to do it correctly to avoid causing any damage to the transmission. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you understand the risks and precautions involved in towing an automatic car:

Understanding the Risks

# Internal Transmission Damage

When an automatic car is towed, the transmission is not engaged with the engine. This means that the oil pump is not circulating fluid through the transmission, which can lead to overheating and damage to the internal components.

# Overheating

Towing a car without engaging the transmission can cause the transmission fluid to overheat. This is because the fluid is not being circulated, which means that it can’t absorb and dissipate the heat generated by the moving parts.

# Fluid Loss

If the towing process is not done correctly, it can cause the transmission fluid to leak out. This can lead to a loss of fluid pressure, which can further damage the transmission.

Precautions to Take

# Dolly or Flatbed Towing

The safest way to tow an automatic car is to use a dolly or a flatbed tow truck. This will keep the wheels off the ground and prevent the transmission from rotating.

# Neutral Position

Before towing, put the automatic car in neutral. This will disengage the transmission from the engine and allow the wheels to turn freely.

# Short Distances

If possible, only tow the automatic car short distances. Long tows can increase the risk of transmission damage.

# Fluid Level Check

Before towing, check the transmission fluid level. If the fluid is low, add more until it reaches the recommended level.

# Additional Lubrication

For added protection, you can add a transmission lubricant additive to the fluid. This additive will help to reduce wear and tear on the transmission components.

When Not to Tow

In some cases, it’s not advisable to tow an automatic car. These include situations where:

# Major Transmission Problems

If the automatic car has major transmission problems, it should not be towed. Attempting to tow can cause further damage.

# AWD or 4WD Vehicles

All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles have more complex drivetrains that require special towing procedures. Towing these vehicles without following the proper procedures can damage the drivetrain.

# Steep Inclines

Towing an automatic car up or down steep inclines can put excessive strain on the transmission. It’s best to avoid towing on these types of surfaces.


Towing an automatic car requires proper precautions to avoid transmission damage. By following the guidelines outlined above, you can safely tow your automatic car when necessary. Remember, if you’re not comfortable towing an automatic car or if the car has major transmission problems, it’s best to call a professional towing service.

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