How can I safely flat-tow a manual transmission 4WD?
I want to flat-tow my 1998 Toyota 4Runner (five speed, four-wheel drive) for about 2,000 miles. But I can't seem to get the same answer from any two people on how
best to do it. Through the magic of the Internet, I've been able to ask so-called experts in various parts of the country. A guy in North Carolina said to just put the
transfer case in Neutral and take off. In Florida, a guy told me to put the transmission in the highest gear. This apparently is not the way it's done in Arizona, where a
mechanic told me you have to put the transmission in Neutral and the transfer case in 2H. And a guy in Georgia told me to disconnect the rear driveshaft entirely. Are
any of these guys right? Thanks. -- Gary
RAY: Wow. What a range of opinion, Gary. It serves as a good warning about the limits of the Internet. The great thing about the Internet is that you can have instant
access to millions of experts all over the world.
TOM: The bad thing about the Internet is that they could all be 12-year-old girls at a slumber party who got tired of the AOL chat rooms that evening. The point is,
anybody could pretend to be an expert on the Internet (even my brother).
RAY: When you're flat-towing (towing on all four wheels) a manual-transmission, four-wheel-drive car, the key thing is to make sure that the wheels are not connected
to the engine. You don't want the engine turning for 2,000 miles as you drag the car along. And you avoid that by putting the transmission AND the transfer case in
TOM: The transmission transfers power to the rear wheels and the transfer case. The transfer case, when it's engaged, transmits power to the front wheels, which makes
the vehicle "four-wheel drive."
RAY: So you prevent the wheels from turning the engine by having the transmission in Neutral.
TOM: And to be safe, you put the transfer case in Neutral, too. Because if the transfer case is engaged, the front wheels will be turning the gears in the transfer case
while you're moving. And while that won't cause any terrible overheating or anything, it will put unnecessary wear on those gears.
RAY: But if you were a customer of mine, I'd actually recommend that you take the extra step of removing both drive shafts (this truck has one in front and one in
back). That makes it absolutely impossible for the wheels to turn anything, and guarantees that the truck will be "freewheeling."
TOM: Right. That way, if your significant other reaches into the 4Runner to grab her camera bag at a rest stop and accidentally knocks the shifter into first gear, your
engine won't be turning at 16,000 rpm through the Great Plains.
RAY: A mechanic can remove (and reinstall) the drive shafts for you quickly and easily. The only risk you take is losing the bolts that hold the drive shafts on and not
being able to put them back in when you get to your destination! So store them carefully.