Towing a 4 wheel drive car

2009-01-20_222453_firsttowThere are different types of four wheel drive transmissions and the kind of preparations required before towing a $ wheel drive car are not an obvious thing. If you’ve been watching carefully on your local highways, you must have seen lots of different towing methods. Why do we have so many options? The most important thing is to consult your manufacturer’s guide or handbook for your 4 wheel drive car.

When the drive wheels of a towed vehicle are left on the ground it may result in severe transmission damage. While this may happen for all vehicles, a four wheel-drive vehicle usually has special challenges considering the fact that all the wheels are drive wheels. A 4 wheel drive vehicle usually has extra transmission components which are lubricated in different ways.

Towing on a Trailer

Towing your 4 wheel drive car on a trailer won’t have any consequences as far as its transmission is concerned. However, you must first ensure the towing car and the trailer are both road-worthy and the 4 wheel drive is securely tied on the trailer. You may as well use a wheeled “dolly” to provide support to the trailing wheels of the towed 4 wheel drive. This should, however, be done if the other end of the towed 4 wheel drive car is raised clear of the ground by the towing vehicle.

Towed on Own 4 Wheels

When towing a vehicle, realize that the gearbox input shaft is usually stationary because the engine is not running. This means it is the road wheels that are driving the transfer-case output shafts and some components of the transfer-case and gearbox are moving at a relatively high speed. It, therefore, means towing on own 4 wheels doesn’t apply to all four wheel drive cars since the moving components may not be lubricated well enough to be towed at high speed and for prolonged distances. This depends on the transmission design.

If you must tow your 4 wheel drive car this way, consider removing the rear and front propeller shafts so that the transmission hand-brake can be inoperative. Don’t forget to check with the manufacturer.

Towing Sicklerville with the Front end lifted

The front end can be lifted on a dolly or by a towing vehicle. Notice that it is only the rear output shaft and the rear wheels on the ground that rotate when this happens. Since the transfer-case front output and the front wheels are not rotating, a relative movement between the transfer-case components is formed.

If your car is a part-time 4 wheel drive, you may experience problems especially when there is no adequate lubrication on the output-shaft and related gears as well as the transfer-case input shaft and related gears. On the contrary, if you have a full-time 4 wheel drive car with a center diff’, there won’t be any problems as the diff’ would be forced to function well outside its design conditions.

A 4 wheel drive car with a manual transmission, manual lockout hubs, and a manual transfer case can be towed with all its four wheels down without sustaining any damage. Well, there is no option when it comes to referring to the manufacturer’s manual to learn and understand how the unlocking or disengaging should be properly done. You must make sure there is no component that will be damaged when towing the car.

However, remember to install a drive shaft coupling device on the vehicle’s rear drive shaft if there are no manual lockout hubs and a manual transfer case on your 4 wheel drive car. The coupling will make it possible to quickly switch between driving and towing modes while on the driver’s seat.

The best and most important advice anyone can provide you with on towing a 4 wheel drive car is to direct you to the owner’s manual for guidelines, instructions, and precautions. If you are concerned about the safety of your vehicle, review this information because the guidelines are set for a specific car model.


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