Towing: Manual vs. Automatic Transmission


Most truck manufacturers today recommend an automatic transmission over a manual to obtain better towing results on a pickup. Rear axle ratio, engine size and cargo box size also play a part in towing capacities.


  • Today's automatics are "smarter" than manuals because the automatic relies on technology to gauge actual towing weight while the manual relies on the driver, according to

Warranty Issues

  • Manufacturers more likely will equip their pickups with automatics because inattentive drivers are prone to abuse a transmission during towing.

Which Gear?

  • If towing with a five- or six-speed automatic or manual, drivers are recommended to use fourth gear for appropriate pulling power and third gear with four-speed autos or manuals.

Lower Gears

  • Lower gears, whether manual or auto, decrease the stress on the engine while hauling a load at the same time increasing torque.


  • Automatic transmissions automatically upshift or downshift depending on load weight and whether on flat or hilly surfaces, while the manual relies on the driver's judgment for shifting.

Ford Ranger

  • The compact 4-liter V-6 Ford Ranger 4X4 equipped with an automatic can tow 5,580 lbs. and the manual version of the same truck can haul 3,100 lbs.

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  • Photo Credit "Tailgating for electronics guys" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: oskay (Windell Oskay) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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