When to Use Tow Haul Mode

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A hand reaches to turn on Tow Haul mode from a dashboard button in the truck.

Truck manufacturers want to make the most robust and capable trucks for consumers. Tow haul mode is a feature that manufacturers are adding on newer trucks designed for towing.

However, knowing when to use it and when you shouldn’t may not be as easy as you’d think. If you’re using these features incorrectly, it may not be the best driving experience. Let’s take a look at this feature and how it can make towing much more enjoyable. 

What Is Tow Haul Mode?

If your truck has a tow haul button, it can help your vehicle handle hauling heavy loads. With the press of a button, you change your truck’s shift patterns to reduce the number of shifting cycles.

This prevents your truck’s transmission from overworking, especially while hauling heavier loads like RVs and other large trailers.

Pro Tip: If you’re towing a fifth wheel you’ll want to know about the top 5 trucks for towing a fiver.

What Does Tow Haul Mode Do?

Tow haul mode changes the settings and parameters of your truck’s transmission system to handle towing better. These adjustments help create ideal conditions for towing heavier loads.

This feature typically results in the truck shifting into a lower gear or even shifting earlier to provide maximum torque.

As long as you’re towing within your truck’s towing capacity, this feature offers a little bit of a boost to get the job done.

White Ford Expedition tows an Airstream travel trailer up a mountainside covered in pines.

When to Use Tow Haul Mode

Some truck owners will activate this mode every time they’re towing. It doesn’t matter whether they’re towing a bass boat, a small cargo trailer, or a massive RV.

Other drivers may only use it while going up steep inclines or declines. What works for another driver might not work for you.

You should consult your vehicle’s documentation to learn when your truck’s manufacturer recommends using this feature. It may be on an as-needed basis or any time you tow.

Knowing how to use the features of your truck is essential for optimizing the longevity of your truck.

Pro Tip: If you plan to tow something extra heavy, check out these 5 truck upgrades for towing.

The Benefits of Using Tow Haul Mode

By changing the transmission’s shift points, tow haul mode allows your truck to provide more torque when towing. This helps protect the transmission and important drive-train components from premature wear and tear.

Some modes also enable exhaust brakes or engine brakes to assist with braking while going downhill.

This helps avoid overheating your vehicle’s brake pads, which can lead to them failing. The last place you want to experience a brake failure is when going down a long decline while towing a trailer.

Road sign warns of a steep downhill grade upcoming.

The Disadvantages of Using Tow Haul Mode

While this feature can be helpful, it can also be dangerous. You should never use it during icy or slippery road conditions.

When using tow haul mode, you increase the amount of engine braking taking place, which can cause your rear axle wheels to slide.

When this happens, the vehicle will swing around. This could cause an accident.

Does Tow Haul Mode Increase Towing Capacity?

No, it doesn’t magically increase your towing capacity. It can help your drive train while towing heavier loads but doesn’t increase the ability to tow more weight. 

Driver of a Ford vehicle uses one of any features for towing via the dashboard.

Does Tow Haul Mode Save Gas?

No, you won’t save any gas; it will do quite the opposite. Your truck’s engine will increase in RPMs. When an engine’s RPMs are high, it increases fuel consumption.

However, where the feature does help is in limiting the wear and tear on your transmission. Replacing your transmission is much more expensive than the small downgrade in gas mileage.

This is a great feature on many newer trucks. It protects the key systems in your truck and helps you avoid a massive bill from your mechanic. Consult your owner’s manual for information regarding your specific vehicle and when you should or shouldn’t use tow haul mode. When do you use it with your truck?

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4 comments
  1. We tow a heavy Teton 5th wheel with a Ford F450 and only use the tow haul mode when going up or down fairly steep grades or some sharp curves. It has really helped with not having to use our brakes as much on the downhills! We are very glad it came on our truck!

  2. I took 2 trips, one using it only for up and down hills, the other left on the whole time, 15.7 vs 12.7 full time! Will probably go with when needed!

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