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Old 10-05-2014, 12:59 PM   #1
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Overdrive. Should I use it?

I guess this is an overall gears question...

Our tow vehicle is a 2003 toyota sequioa. It has an overdrive button. Should I use this? I do see there is a factory installed transmission cooler under the hood.

also, looks like our first trip will have a few steep grades near the mountains at times. Do I use a lower gear when in the mountains?

How do you guys use your gears?
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Old 10-05-2014, 01:22 PM   #2
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Look in your owner's manual.

The manual for our Chevy Silverado says that it is OK to use overdrive when towing. We do so, and have had no problem towing well over 100K miles.
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Old 10-05-2014, 01:52 PM   #3
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I had a 2005 4Runner that towed a 3500lb Casita fiberglass trailer. My 4.7L V8 had a 5 speed auto transmission. I kept it in D so it could shift up on flat roads. I was able to achieve up to 14 mpg this way. In 4th the mileage suffered. I usually shifted manually when I came to a hill rather than hit the accelerator to cause a shift down. Most of the time manufacturers will tell you when towing to not to use overdrive but if the terrain is flat you should be fine. Never had an overheating issue with my 4Runner. It also depends on how heavy your AS is too.

I now have a Tundra 5.7L pulling a heavy 6500lb Classic 25fb. The Tundra has a 6 speed transmission with a tow haul mode. I've found on undulating terrain I keep it in 5th gear and the mileage doesn't seem to suffer because I can let off the accelerator in 5th. I still manally shift when I approach a hill. I only do this to help mileage but it keeps the rpms on the power curve better I think.

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Old 10-05-2014, 02:00 PM   #4
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Yes, use overdrive, i.e. the highest gear; I do 95% of the time using cruise control, but there are several basics from my point of view:

  • Don’t let the transmission “hunt”, i.e. constantly shift to maintain speed. It builds up heat in the transmission fluid and clutches. Ideally you want a transmission which allows you to shift in “manual” mode, i.e. be able to hold the transmission in the gear of your choosing even if you take the engine to red line. If your transmission doesn’t have a “manual” mode it will be difficult controlling it.
  • Try to keep the transmission in “direct drive”, i.e. “lock-up” the torque converter. An “un-locked” torque converter multiplies engine torque but creates fluid friction which = heat. Once speed has been attained you can tell when the torque converter has “locked-up” as the tachometer will drop and not fluctuate with varying throttle.
  • Keep engine at ~2,000+ rpm when under load, i.e. on grades and level roads. Use engine braking on declines but don’t exceed engine red line. On the downhill use the lower gears; NEVER "drag" the brakes as they will heat and fade; use the brakes to keep the engine within red line; if engine approaches redline vigorously brake the assembly so that you can go to a lower gear where the brakes are not needed.
  • Never use full throttle from a total stop; pull away slowly and after achieving ~10 mph than “Katy bar the door”.
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Old 10-05-2014, 02:02 PM   #5
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We had a 2006 Tundra with 4.7 V8. You won't have enough power to maintain speed with overdrive, it will constantly be shifting down and up which is real bad for the transmission and most probably uses more fuel. Never use it towing. We also shifted down to a gear to keep engine rpm a little over 2000 rpm for normal, flat towing for the same reason. Does your Sequoia have a Tow/Haul button, if so using that will keep it out of overdrive I believe.

And you will need to shift down when climbing and descending hills. Use the transmission, that's what its for. You will need to shift to even lower gears when climbing steeper grades, be sure to leave it/shift down to even the lowest gear as needed to use engine compression to keep speeds down when descending. On steep grades descending, you probably will also use the brakes to help the transmission hold your speed down.

This is our experience pulling 20' and 25' late model Airstreams, not sure what you tow.
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Old 10-05-2014, 03:03 PM   #6
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The Sequoia was always well-maintained but I can't recall the last time the transmission fluid was changed. I probably should have it flushed with the fluid changed as well. Would you agree?
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Old 10-05-2014, 03:28 PM   #7
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Hi,
I have a 2002 Sequoia. I have towed around 20,000 miles with it over the last four years. The owner's manual states to turn OD off when towing.
Here is a good thread on Toyota transmissions.
Extending Automatic Transmission Life
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Old 10-05-2014, 03:52 PM   #8
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I find my Chevy Trailblazer tows better with OD off. It is a 6 cylinder and I was advised to run it in 3rd , I do and gas mileage is actually better.
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Old 10-05-2014, 05:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gomotomoto View Post
The Sequoia was always well-maintained but I can't recall the last time the transmission fluid was changed. I probably should have it flushed with the fluid changed as well. Would you agree?

I usually get my transmission serviced every 30k miles when I'm towing.
Probably wouldn't hurt.
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Old 10-06-2014, 07:59 AM   #10
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I recommend SEAFOAM Trans treatment. My trans was sluggish in shifting until I added a half can of this stuff. A whole can added just before a trans service works well.
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Old 10-06-2014, 08:36 AM   #11
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I use direct drive when towing. I despise the constant shifting into and out of overdrive that can be initiated on even minor inclines.

This in and out crap is even worse when cruise is used, and it drives me stark raving mad.

What makes this worse is that most of these shifts are not required, but the computer thinks they are.

In my tests, my towing fuel economy is no better in OD than direct drive, but in fact in my truck it seems worse.
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Old 10-06-2014, 08:20 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Top View Post
Hi,
I have a 2002 Sequoia. I have towed around 20,000 miles with it over the last four years. The owner's manual states to turn OD off when towing.
Here is a good thread on Toyota transmissions.
Extending Automatic Transmission Life


Nice! What do you tow with your sequioa?
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Old 10-06-2014, 08:22 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
We had a 2006 Tundra with 4.7 V8. You won't have enough power to maintain speed with overdrive, it will constantly be shifting down and up which is real bad for the transmission and most probably uses more fuel. Never use it towing. We also shifted down to a gear to keep engine rpm a little over 2000 rpm for normal, flat towing for the same reason. Does your Sequoia have a Tow/Haul button, if so using that will keep it out of overdrive I believe.

And you will need to shift down when climbing and descending hills. Use the transmission, that's what its for. You will need to shift to even lower gears when climbing steeper grades, be sure to leave it/shift down to even the lowest gear as needed to use engine compression to keep speeds down when descending. On steep grades descending, you probably will also use the brakes to help the transmission hold your speed down.

This is our experience pulling 20' and 25' late model Airstreams, not sure what you tow.


Thanks for this. Super helpful info that I wasn't really aware of/thinking about. Much appreciated.
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Old 10-07-2014, 06:40 AM   #14
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Nice! What do you tow with your sequioa?
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