Towing...what gear/RPM is best? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-27-2014, 01:40 PM   #1
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Towing...what gear/RPM is best?

Towing a 16' Scamp with a '96 2.7 liter (bigger 4 cyl) manual Tacoma...I have never been able to figure out the best gear/RPM for towing. At 55 in 4th, 2500...in 5th, 2000. At 60.. 2650 in 4th, 2175 in 5th.... The truck doesn't seem to care (on flat interstate), but 2000 and 2175 seem too low. Which is actually better? (I am under my tongue and trailer weight...not by much, but it tows well). Any suggestions?
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:22 PM   #2
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With our 3.5V6 car we tow at 60MPH in 4th at 2,700RPM. Feels right, car is now 12 years old with 235,000klm's on it and all is well.
With your small engine I'm thinking that with the higher RPM you will be better off.
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:29 PM   #3
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Do you have an owner's manual and if so, have you consulted it?

I ask because I tow with a similar size/age combo ('97 4-cyl manual tranny Kia). My owner's manual says NOT to use fifth gear while towing.

Couldn't find an online manual for your Tacoma 1996 model year, but the manual for the 2000 model uses similar prohibitive language, here quoting from page 100 from the pdf available for download at this link
Quote:
When towing a trailer, in order to maintain engine braking efficiency, do not use the fifth gear.
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:31 PM   #4
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You don't think there would be an issue at the higher rpm while towing? I know little engines like mine are fine at higher rpm. It just a matter of doing so while towing that might cause some damage? I get good mileage already so that isn't so much of the concern...its a matter of not stressing the engine as best I can...
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:32 PM   #5
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Oddly my manual says nothing about the gear while towing...of course. Lots about 4wd... but not so much about towing.
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:35 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by rtgebm View Post
You don't think there would be an issue at the higher rpm while towing? I know little engines like mine are fine at higher rpm. It just a matter of doing so while towing that might cause some damage? I get good mileage already so that isn't so much of the concern...its a matter of not stressing the engine as best I can...
The opposite is true. Running at a higher RPM (within reason) is easier on the engine and transmission especially when towing and with a small engine.
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:43 PM   #7
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That makes sense...much appreciated on the advice!
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:45 PM   #8
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Checking engine at RPM

An auto vacuum gauge will tell you what the engine thinks regarding load and rpm. Most are marked with a green area which indicates the best operating condition for the engine. Most vehicles run close to 2000 when running on a level road. 5th gear is usually an actual overdrive and is not recommended for towing.
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Old 04-27-2014, 03:15 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by rtgebm View Post
Towing a 16' Scamp with a '96 2.7 liter (bigger 4 cyl) manual Tacoma...I have never been able to figure out the best gear/RPM for towing. At 55 in 4th, 2500...in 5th, 2000. At 60.. 2650 in 4th, 2175 in 5th.... The truck doesn't seem to care (on flat interstate), but 2000 and 2175 seem too low. Which is actually better? (I am under my tongue and trailer weight...not by much, but it tows well). Any suggestions?
I think the key statement here is, "The truck doesn't seem to care." Therefore no need to shift down from 5th gear. If you were in 5th and the truck could not maintain the desired speed of 55 or 60, you would shift to 4th gear where the engine could apply more leverage and maintain speed. If it's keeping up speed, it's not straining excessively IMO.

The other thing to note is that you have a manual transmission, which means you will not be generating excess heat from a slipping torque converter. If you had an automatic, I'd say (and the manual would probably say, as it does for my HL) to leave it in 4th.
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Old 04-27-2014, 03:47 PM   #10
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On flat road it can keep up...almost as well as without the scamp...in 5th. I certainly don't want to put the engine under any load that doesn't need to be there. It is so hard to tell because the truck performs well in 4th or 5th. It seems the answer is "officially leave it in 4th, but really if the truck doesn't lag...5th". I had a smaller 4cyl Tacoma that I pulled the scamp with just short haul and it wouldn't keep up in 5th. This one will. Other people have told me "Its a manual - just drive it. If it sucks, downshift." There doesn't seem to be a firm answer, but I would guess if riding at 2600 or so won't hurt the engine, maybe 4th really is the answer?
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Old 04-27-2014, 04:13 PM   #11
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but I would guess if riding at 2600 or so won't hurt the engine, maybe 4th really is the answer?
Our former TV was a Nissan Quest Mini Van with a 3.0V6 (150HP) (4 speed auto). It had a tow mode button that when pushed it prevented the vehicle from going into 4th gear ever. At 60MPH in 3rd gear it ran at 3,200RPM. We towed trailers all over North America X2 and never a drive train problem in 465,000klm's (over 300,000 miles) The last trailer we towed was 4,500lbs so it got a real work out.
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Old 04-27-2014, 05:58 PM   #12
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What is your redline?

I'm with the listen to your engine camp. If it is truly a flat interstate and the engine does not seem like it is under load, keep her in 5th.

Headwinds and slight hills might make a difference. Test drive her off the highway under varying conditions. Become one with your truck.

If you've been driving a standard for some time, it becomes instinctual to know when to upshift or downshift.
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Old 04-27-2014, 07:32 PM   #13
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As a suggestion, take a trip in on direction and never use 5th gear, check your MPG's. Then make the return trip and use 5th as much as possible, then check MPG.

My bet, your mileage will be better not using 5th as the engine won't lug, something hard on both economy and the engine.
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Old 04-27-2014, 08:53 PM   #14
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Staying in 4th gear won't hurt it at all. Nor would 3rd, for that matter. Staying in 5th should not hurt it either, until you have to just about floor the pedal to keep up speed; then you'd want to downshift for sure.

I think lugging happens when you give the engine a load that it can't handle with increased throttle. (Example: when my uncle blew my dad's Model A engine by trying to climb Pike's Peak in top (3rd) gear.) That's why I say you are fine until the engine can no longer comfortably maintain speed in a given gear, then you must shift. But if you decide you'd rather keep it in a lower gear all the time, as long as you are below redline rpm you aren't hurting the engine.
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