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Old 05-08-2015, 10:00 PM   #1
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RWD, Manual trans that CAN'T be towed?

Typically, almost any RWD car with manual trans can be towed four-down. But a few will have warnings in the Owner's Manual that the vehicle cannot be towed four-down because "there is no provision for lubricating the transmission when the gears are not rotating." I've rebuilt dozens of RWD manual trannies in my life, and I've yet to see ANY that had provisions for lubricating the nose of the mainshaft where it plugs into the needle bearing in the clutch gear, if the cluster gear was not rotating and slinging oil, i.e. when being towed. But I see folks towing manual trans RWD cars all the time.

I've always assumed it would be a good idea to start the engine every few hundred miles just to sling some lube around inside the tranny, but no one I've talked to towing a RWD/manual has ever said they do that. Nor have I ever read about anyone having a tranny problem.

Is this just CYA on the part of the manufacturer? I noticed this warning in the Owner's Manual of a 2001 GMC Sonoma pickup (Chevy S-10).

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Old 05-08-2015, 10:55 PM   #2
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I'm with you on the CYA on the part of the manufacturers, can't thing of anywhere inside a RWD manual trans that wouldn't be awash in oil while the cluster gear is spinning.

99DSDP 3884, Freightliner, XC, CAT 3126B, 300 HP /ALLISON 3060
2000 Caravan toad, Remco & Blue Ox.
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Old 05-09-2015, 12:49 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Skip426 View Post
I'm with you on the CYA on the part of the manufacturers, can't thing of anywhere inside a RWD manual trans that wouldn't be awash in oil while the cluster gear is spinning.
Skip, thanks for your response. I'm disappointed I've not heard from others towing similar vehicles. Perhaps I'll post something vehicle-specific. But to your point about the cluster gear throwing oil everywhere, I think that is the reason the manufacturers hesitate to endorse towing the manual trans--unless the ENGINE is running and the clutch engaged, the cluster gear does not turn. I'm sure you already knew that, and just got it wrong--just as I did when I first thought about this.

And the CYA is certainly a possibility. Look at all the 5-speed Honda automatics that the manufacturer does NOT say are towable 4-down, but hundreds of folks are doing it with no issue, myself included (2002 Acura).

I've researched (hurriedly) this forum for folks towing a similar setup and have found two. Both said they had towed an S-10 Chevy without issue for quite a few miles. In the end, if I don't get contradictory input from someone with ACTUAL, PERSONAL experience, I guess I'll just fill the tranny with synthetic lube and try it.
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Old 05-10-2015, 09:38 AM   #4
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Calling it a CYA is, i think, somewhat misleading because it implies there is no possible problem. It seems to me that any unlubricated surface is subject to extra wear and heat stress. Just because it doesn't fail right away, or that dozens of people do it successfully, doesn't mean there is no problem ever. Too many variables to be sure, which is probably why the engineers caution against it. Longer or shorter distances, higher or lower ambient temperatures, maybe old or dirty or low lubricant, etc. They have no idea what the status is going to be for each and every towing situation, so don't want to be on the hook if something goes wrong. CYA or just common sense?

I think most of us tech types understand that you can abuse equipment for quite awhile and get away with it, but sooner or later it will bite you back. But if the bite doesn't come for 8-10 years and we only own/use the equipment for 5 years, maybe we don't care. Or at least not very much...
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Old 05-10-2015, 03:07 PM   #5
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My FIL tows a similar vintage S-10 with manual transmission. He intalled a driveshaft disconnect.

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