Towing with Highlander Hybrid -- Need to add transmission cooling system? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-30-2019, 01:53 PM   #1
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Name: Lisle
Trailer: 2018 Casita Spirit Deiuxe
Massachusetts
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Towing with Highlander Hybrid -- Need to add transmission cooling system?

It was suggested to me that the best way to protect my Highlander Hybrid while towing would be to add a transmission fluid cooling system. Checking with my Toyota dealer, he thought it was a good idea, no Toyota parts exist, off market parts and labor would be $500-600. My local mechanic asked around and was advised by another Toyota mechanic that the HH's transmission doesn't heat up and I don't need to add anything. Further research suggests that, although you can't order an HH with a towing package, since 2009 all HH Limited cars come with wiring for towing and with a transmission that is built for towing as well as a transmission fluid cooling system. Having trouble confirming this. I know some of you are towing with an HH and wonder what your experience has been? Rather not spend the money if it isn't going to make a good difference. Thanks for your experience on this!
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Old 08-30-2019, 04:55 PM   #2
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Name: Lynn
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I suppose towing experience would vary with trailer weight. The loaded weight of our Scamp 16 is just under 2400 lbs. We've towed with two different HHs for the past 10 years with no problems. The temperature guage never goes above normal. You're probably aware that the HH transmission is nothing like a normal automatic. Here's a link to how it works, and it does work well, towing or not.
Toyota Prius - Power Split Device
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Old 08-30-2019, 05:28 PM   #3
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Name: Lisle
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Thanks, Lynne. Fascinating! Haven't had a chance to weigh my Casita 16' yet, but suspect it is a little heavier because of some features on it. Plan to strictly keep the loaded weight below 3000, which should be OK with the tow rating on the HH being 3500. I'll be on the east coast for awhile, and can watch the temperature gauge. Suspect the real challenge will be when I get to driving over the Rockies.
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Old 08-30-2019, 08:11 PM   #4
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Name: Gordon
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Toyota bases their tow ratings on the way the vehicle is built. People who say you need an additional transmission cooler are often ignoring that simple fact.

However as far as a "tow package," please understand that the term means wildly different things depending on who you ask.

But you will need some added equipment, such as trailer brake controller. Dont expect Toyota to be any help unless they make one.. see my post here..
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Old 08-31-2019, 09:49 AM   #5
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Try to speak with your local Toyota factory representative.
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Old 08-31-2019, 10:17 AM   #6
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Name: Dave
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Dealer Prep

My Toyota dealer was very accommodating in working up our 2018 Highlander before we picked it up. They had on the shelf a P-3 controller, circuit breakers, heavy charge line wire,. He had a booklet they had put together with the parts needed so our Highlander could be used to pull our Escape
21. When I buy a vehicle, I make the deal to be road ready before I sign on the line. Toyota does need to up their game and make the brake controller an easy plug and play. But they did do an excellent job setting ours up. YMMV
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Old 08-31-2019, 10:23 AM   #7
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When I buy a vehicle, I make the deal to be road ready before I sign on the line.
Sage advice. I have friends that bought a used F150 from a local Ford dealer, solely to tow their new trailer. I was surprised they didn't leverage their purchase to get the Ford integrated brake controller thrown in. Missed opportunity and two weeks later they were back to that same dealer, paying full retail for a brake controller and install.
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Old 08-31-2019, 10:33 AM   #8
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My point was about the need for a transmission cooler. Either Toyota was built with a larger cooling system or it wasn’t. The Toyota rep can give you a definitive answer. Good luck!
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Old 08-31-2019, 10:35 AM   #9
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Name: Wayne & Barbara
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We had a 2007 HH, it pulled our Scamp 16DLX with no problems.
I believe that all cars with automatic transmissions have a trans. oil cooler coil inside the bottom tank of the radiator. as such, if the transmission/torque converter gets hot, so will the engine coolant temperature.
Your job is to drive in a way that keeps the T/C from slipping too much, by downshifting on hills and slowing down.
Now the hybrid system may not use a T/C. In any case don't sweat it.
just make sure the trailer is balanced right.
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Old 08-31-2019, 10:58 AM   #10
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Name: Nancy
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I have a 2006 HH with 245,000 miles and a Happier Camper that I have pulled for about 20,000 miles so far. Add to that, that I live in Leadville, CO which is at 10,200 feet in the heart of the Rockies. I mention this to let you know that I have been pulling my trailer up and down steep grades in summer and winter weather. Originally Toyota stated that the extra cooling system would have to be added but after contacting Toyota directly online I was told it was not necessary. I have had the same experience Lynn had in that the temperature gage has never gone up. I slow down on the hills just to take it easy on my aging HH which is still running strong.
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Old 09-11-2019, 01:48 PM   #11
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Name: Michael
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Lynn Eberhardt and Nancy C.- please note that the question was about the need for a transmission cooler. While it's great that your temperature gauge shows in the normal range when towing, that gauge is measuring the engine coolant temp, not the transmission fluid temp. While many autos use the radiator to assist in transmission fluid cooling, monitoring the transmission fluid temp while towing is the only way to know for certain if it's operating in a normal range. With some auto makes, transmission temps can be monitored using readers that access the car's OBD-II diagnostic port. My understanding is that Toyotas don't routinely make trans temp data available through OBD-II.
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Old 09-11-2019, 02:19 PM   #12
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Pedalmike thank you so much for your post which actually helps me figure something out that happened last time I towed my trailer. We drove up to Yellowstone a couple weeks ago to meet my daughter. It was hot and a long drive. When we stopped at a rest area I heard a faint hissing sound. Weird sounds always bother me as they frequently portend some expensive problem cropping up. I raised the hood and be darned if the transmission fluid was literally bubbling (boiling?). Freaked me out as I was on a back road in the middle of nowhere Wyoming with no cell phone reception of course. You are right that the thermostat didn't register the car as hot. My HH is too old and with too many miles to contemplate the expensive fitting of a transmission fan to keep it cooler. Guess I'll just have to make sure to take more frequent and longer breaks to allow the transmission to cool down if necessary.
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Old 09-11-2019, 02:35 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by pedalmike View Post
My understanding is that Toyotas don't routinely make trans temp data available through OBD-II.
Transmission temps are available for many Toyota vehicles from OBD. I use a Scanguage II on a 2013 Highlander and it shows my transmission temperature (I also used the same device on my old 2006 Highlander).

My Highlander is the V6, non-Hybrid version. As mentioned above, Toyota's Synergy Drive hybrid system doesn't use a traditional transmission, there is no clutch pack that wears out and no torque converter that creates heat. It is simply electric motors and a gas engine on a constantly meshed planetary gearset (very simple in principle, and although pretty complicated in design, Toyota's system has been proven VERY reliable). The only heat would be from the tiny amount of friction of the gears carrying their loads (like in a manual transmission) and the heat coming from the motors, which I assume the cooling system is able to dissipate. I don't know if the gear oil temperature can be read from OBD, but there are a LOT of data that can be monitored with a Scangauge on Toyota's hybrid vehicles for those who like that stuff.

I would think there is no need for an aux cooler and probably even no way to add one on a HH.
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Old 09-11-2019, 03:49 PM   #14
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Name: Mike
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Nancy C., I hope this isnít a stupid question, but ...how could you tell that the transmission fluid was boiling? Itís in the transmission ...thereís no visible reservoir in any vehicle Iíve ever had, though Iíve never had a HH....
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