Myth: Manual transmissions are better for towing.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1989 Toyota 4-Runner with V6 engine and 5-speed manual transmission. It has been running perfectly in both summer and winter. Recently, I purchased a boat and installed a hitch on the car. The problem comes when I pull the trailer (both with and without the boat) out of the water. Every single time I do it, I smell something burning coming from my car. I've noticed that it doesn't happen to other people when they pull their trailers out of the water--even if they have bigger boats. What is the problem?

TOM: You know what that smell is, Phil? It's $400 burning up in your wallet!

RAY: It's your clutch burning up, Phil. If you peer into the windows of those other cars that don't smell when they pull boats, you'll notice that they all have automatic transmissions.

TOM: A lot of people think that manual transmissions are better for pulling trailers, but that's not true. When a manual transmission's clutch slips, it's wearing out. But automatic transmissions are designed to "slip," so they're better able to take the punishment of pulling extra weight.

RAY: I'd get a pair of nose plugs, Phil. And when the clutch burns out, replace it and then trade this baby in for an automatic.

TOM: And by the way, congratulations on being able to afford a new boat. What kind of automotive repair shop to you own, anyway?

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One