66000336 m 1024x683 1 Overdrive On or Off When Towing (ANSWERED!)

Overdrive can be beneficial when used properly but harmful when misused. To avoid damage and maximize the benefits that overdrive can offer, it is important to learn about it so you know what to do.

It is best for overdrive to be off when towing. This principle applies to all types of roads except for flat ground. Overdrive is not suggested for most roads because it puts the vehicle into a high gear which makes it have less torque, so for up or downhill roads, it will be more difficult to tow.

Some things that are helpful to learn about overdrive include what it is, when and when not to use it, and what the benefits and downsides are. This information can add to your knowledge and ultimately your safety, all of which you can learn below.

What it is

Overdrive is typically in a vehicle like a truck or RV, and is usually designed as a button on the shifter. Pressing this button causes the automobile to shift to the highest gear possible in order for the engine to use less torque and power. It kind of acts as a cruise control but only for higher speeds.

When to Use it

You can use an overdrive while towing when the ground is level and you are traveling at a higher speed with low torque demand. From several sources, it is recommended to only use overdrive if you are driving on something like a highway, where the road is flat and the speed limit is high. Flat ground requires a low amount of torque to be used because there is no need for a lot of powerful movements and rotations that come with traveling up or down roads.

An example of this is imagining that you are traveling uphill, you reach the plateau, and then you drive down the hill. That whole process requires a forceful rotating movement within the mechanics of your vehicle in order for it to accommodate the uneven terrain to still have a smooth ride, all while also continuing to accelerate.

Because the flat ground is not an uneven terrain that your vehicle has to constantly adapt its torque to, it is completely but also only safe to use overdrive on flat roads. Overdrive on the level ground won’t wear down your transmission or engine because it is flat and that doesn’t require a lot of torque or power. These are the two things that overdrive provides, so they mix together well for a smooth and efficient ride.

When it Shouldn’t be Used

Roads that are up and/or downhill require varying levels of torque and power. This is why it is not very recommended to use overdrive on these roads because you can’t change the gears and power when in overdrive. For these roads, you’ll need the strength and power of the lower gears in order to tow your cargo.

You also shouldn’t use overdrive when driving at slower speeds. You should take your vehicle out of overdrive to allow the engine and transmission to take control. This is because they can move to lower gears more efficiently and provide the varying amount of torque needed to pull the cargo.

Although the internet sources I could find did not mention anything of this aspect. When I talked to 3 different people they all mentioned that you shouldn’t really use overdrive if you are towing a really heavy load. The lack of torque and horsepower that comes from being in overdrive means that the vehicle doesn’t have a lot of power. If it doesn’t have a lot of power and it is also pulling a heavy load, there is a risk that you won’t be able to pull it.

However, because overdrive puts the vehicle into high gear, if you have a heavy load and are in a high gear it’s like they are fighting each other. The heavy load is weighing down the automobile but it’s in very high gear. You can read about the effects of this in the section below.

Misuse Effects

Using overdrive when you shouldn’t have effects ranging from minorly bogging down your engine to as bad as damaging your transmission or killing your vehicle’s engine.

One way you’ll know if you are misusing the overdrive is if you’re traveling up an incline and you hear the engine making a knocking sound while the vehicle simultaneously slows down. This can happen while using overdrive on an incline or decline because the vehicle needs to use lower gears but can’t because it’s forced in overdrive. This causes stress on the engine which becomes that knocking sound you hear, if you’re not careful this can and will kill your engine.

If you use overdrive while traveling on steep roads, your transmission can overheat. This is because overdrive causes your transmission to be stuck in a higher gear. So if it needs to be in low gear but is stuck on overdrive, the conflict of interest basically fights its way to ruining or overheating your transmission.

When towing a heavy load, if you use overdrive it can lead to frame, power train, and/or suspension damage, as well as transmission and engine damage. This is because the high gear basically fights against the load that’s weighing it down which can definitely damage a lot. There is also a risk of damaging what you are towing because the low power of overdrive can cause you to not have enough force to pull the cargo.

Benefits of Proper Use

When you are using overdrive properly while towing something, it can actually provide benefits. The biggest one is that you will increase the gas mileage of the vehicle.

Another benefit of using overdrive is that it can extend your transmission’s ‘lifespan’ because it causes less wear and tear to occur by taking over part of its job. However, it is important to know that this only applies if overdrive is used correctly.

The last benefit of overdrive that I could find is that it also takes some stress off of the engine. Although wear and tear are bound to happen, it can extend the life of your engine at least by a little bit. This can not only lower maintenance and repair costs but it can reduce how often both maintenance and repair are needed.


As you can imagine from what you’ve learned so far, there are some downsides to using overdrive in towing something. The first and worst downside is all of the damage you can cause to your vehicle if you use overdrive improperly. Another disadvantage of overdrive is that you can’t use it on any roads that aren’t flat which can really limit a person’s ability to use it depending on the drive.

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