Tips for Towing a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel with a Manual Transmission!


Newer automatic transmission vehicles capable of towing often have a tow/haul mode which helps significantly when towing a new recreational vehicle such as a travel trailer or 5th wheel.  This feature allows the vehicle’s transmission to find the right gear for towing based on the terrain you are on (i.e. flat, or climbing or descending a hill).  This gives you power when you need it by downshifting automatically to the right gear and keeps the vehicle from constantly shifting into unneeded gears.  This is a very helpful addition when towing a lot of weight behind your vehicle such as a camper.  The nice thing about this feature is that it finds the right gear for you automatically.  If your automatic transmission tow vehicle does not have the tow/haul mode, you can also take the overdrive off which will give you similar results.

When the tow vehicle is a manual transmission, it can make finding the right gear for the situation a bit trickier, especially when towing a camper.  As the name implies, on manual transmission vehicles, putting the vehicle in the right gear must manually be done by the driver.  This is not difficult when you are not towing, but when you add significant weight to your load, it can make things a bit more difficult.  Just remember that when you are on flat ground you likely can remain in a higher gear reducing the RPMs and stress on your tow vehicle’s engine.  However, when you are climbing a hill you may need to manually downshift to get the extra power needed in order not to limp up the hill.  The steepness of the hill and the weight of your camper will determine how low of a gear you need to downshift to.  Watch the RPMs of your vehicle to make sure you are not putting too much stress on the engine and to ensure you have not gone in too low of a gear.

After you become more experienced at towing with a manual transmission vehicle, you will become more comfortable in changing gears and subsequently more knowledgeable on what gear you should be in given the terrain.  However if you have no experience towing and are using a manual transmission vehicle to do your towing, I recommend downshifting by only one gear at a time until you find the preferred gear so as not to go into too low of a gear which could cause major damage to your engine.  When descending down a hill you can also downshift to a lower gear to help slow your vehicle and trailer down if needed.  Remember that the extra weight behind you will force you down a hill much quicker than if you were not towing a camper behind you.  Often, many drivers just use their brakes to slow down, but this can cause much unneeded wear and tear on the brakes and can sometimes cause sway in the trailer.  Downshifting to a lower gear can help slow your speed by using the force of the engine without adding this unnecessary wear and tear on the brakes (this is helpful even if your trailer has brakes).

What have been your experience been while shift and towing a travel trailer uphill?  Let the discussion begin below and stop by any convenient ExploreUSA RV Super Center today!

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