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towing an auto with engine running?
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Affable South African
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 8:33 am    Post subject: towing an auto with engine running? Reply with quote

Great day everyone!
I want to tow an '87 camper 60 miles behind my Sprinter as a run around and extra sleeper for the kids. Any experience with doing this with engine running to avoid tranny damage. Will the lack of wind cooling behind the sprinter cause the engine to overheat? I have towed a '78 auto bus from Chattanoga to Daytona with a '78 Porsche 924 and apart from never getting out of 3rd gear and almost losing it on the first on-ramp due to my ingenuity of putting the tow rope inside a sewer pipe to fool the cops (The rope stretches incredibly under strain and breaking then is a convoluted problem) it was a livable strain.
The things us mortals do to save money!
So any ideas? Don't want to repeat unbolting the outer half-shafts as in the epic aforementioned trip each time I go away for a weekend.
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Wildthings
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not really sure what might get damaged on an autobox when you tow it, as the auto section is pretty full of oil and the final drive section probably couldn't care less. Like everyone else I have heard dire warnings not to tow autos long distances and at high speeds but haven't ever tried to experiment with doing it myself. I would guess that leaving the engine running would work fine, but really don't know.
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pioneer1
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 10:33 am    Post subject: tow Reply with quote

When a 50' motor home tows their car behind do you think they run their engine? Put it in neutral and tow.
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Affable South African
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I forgot to add I am going to attach a rigid tow bar to the front of the Westy but I know you are not supposed to turn the tranny without lubricating it which the governor does when driven by the engine rotation. But I am not a Tanny rebuilder and can't visualise the problems. But yes. Dire warnings always as to not going over 30mph and more than 30 miles
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Randy in Maine
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why not just remove the half shafts?
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Affable South African
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not an issue if doing it once only and in a jam. But to do this R&R twice each weekend is a pain I want to avoid. I am older, and not enthralled with getting greasy when supposed to be enjoying myself and relaxing while camping. They don't make disconnects for VW halfshafts. Checked! So back to the point of just idling the engine will keep the tranny lubricated enough to tow. But will it overheat as the radiator is in front unlike my 78 air cooled.
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vwlovr
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if your fan works, i doubt you'll have problems with overheating. maybe in like really hot weather, but with fall temps and some air movement i wouldn't worry too much about overheating. you could always pull over at 30 min intervals to check until you feel confident. you could rent a tow dolly and tow it backwards (just lock the steering so it's straight)? or rent a flatbed?
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IdahoDoug
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I-phone on "face time" taped to the van's steering wheel facing the temp guage, other one in the RV so you can watch for a few miles? I think you'll be OK as the van's engine is just idling and not creating heat.

Comment on the 50 motor homes is unfounded. RVers know which models can be flat towed without damage and there aren't many. It is DEFINITELY not just a matter of putting it in N and driving off. I personally know someone who ruined an expensive tranny because he did not know that (before we met). $6500 mistake.

Spinning the bearings in an auto without the auto's tranny fluid circulating pump on means serious heat buildup and $$$.

DougM
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Wildthings
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could check with the RV crowd and see what they say. The auto section is the same or nearly so for many VW and Audi products of that era so there may be data out there.
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Captain Pike
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Too risky. I say no. Owners manuel expressly forbids distance over 30 miles and speed not to exceed 30mph.
Rear end off the ground w/ locked steering wheel.
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DAIZEE
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

towing 60 miles behind your Sprinter may be a bit tricky for traffic passing or crossing. I would definitely suggest a shorter tow Laughing Laughing Why not just take the Van or a pop tent or a dolly.

Danfromsyracuse once towed a Vanagon with a Vanagon for 1000 miles. As him how he did it but may not be relative to your quest.
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Affable South African
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cause I want to use the Westy to utilize picking up the kayaks at the end of the run. Need two vehicles! And kids much prefer sleeping in the roof as opposed to tracking dirt all over the place with a tent.
Think IdahoDoug has the most insight with his I-phone, which off course I do not have but the thought is in the right direction. My survellnce system muight work if I ran it on 110Vac of a inverter. Thinking ooOO00
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DAIZEE
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I laughed at it anyway! Cool
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BillWYellowstone
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did a lot of research before buying my manula tranny Westy. I have a motorhome and will be towing. Couple things. Go to Remco.com, great resource for towing 4-dawn. Another, there are no 50' motorhomes. 45' is longest, but it doesn't sound as good.

I added a hitch amd usa a Blue Ox system, also have braking in the van. Mine is called Brake Buddy.

Remco make a tranny lube pump that many folks with automatics use, it keeps the fluid moving while towning. Leaving it running would take care of that issue, but if you are planning n making this a habit, get the proper gear.

FWIW, a company I worked for would tow a Dodge Caravan that would have the battery go dead if towed, so they towed with the engine running. No iff effects.
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Affable South African
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Magic reply. But I called Remco and they have nothing for a VW. Dead end there. I am cautious about towing cause the Sprinter (dodge-Mercedes) has such a huge wind buffet and I only just bought the Vanagon and suspect it has multiple problems, half of them electric. But the temperature gauge is flashing and so suspect issues there. May have frozen the radiator in Winter. Will investigate. But thanks for the thoughts. So no isuues with that one hey?
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PDXWesty
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's one I saw being towed down the highway. No idea if it was an auto or manual though so it's probably not much help. Towing with the engine running seems like a screwy idea though.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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pioneer1
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:05 pm    Post subject: towing Reply with quote

Sorry for the misinformation regarding the tow. To make it up to you I googled the question and found this information. It was on the internet so it must be true. Embarassed
"There might be a better solution for flat towing. JC Whitney has free wheel devices. You remove the wheel/tire and bolt this device between the rotor/drum and the original wheel/tire. This thing has bearings that allow the tire/wheel to turn without turning the drive line. The disadvantage is, obviously, each time that you want to drive the towed vehicle you must do the equivalent of changing two tires"
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vwlovr
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you're going to make a regular habit of it, sell the auto van and buy a manual Wink

if it's for one trip, get a tow dolly from uhaul and haul it backwards, it's the easiest and safest solution. if you don't already own a tow bar it's probably cheaper as well. if you don't want to rent, used tow dollies are on the used market and are $500 or less. my brother-in-law bought a used one for cross country trip with his rv then sold it at the end of the trip for the same price he paid.

i don't mean to be an ass, but if it's only 60 miles, why not just drive both vehicles? if you're worried about spending money on gas, just have the vw draft the sprinter the whole way Smile
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Randy in Maine
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2011 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another option would be a car hauler trailer with electric brakes if you are going to do a lot of it.

http://www.alumaklm.com/tandem-axle-utilities/item/27-8200-tandem-utility-trailers.html
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GeeZ12
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have some personal experience repairing Vanagon automatic transmissions where the owner had flat towed for fewer than 1000 miles. The problem usually manifests itself, of all places, in the governor. The governor shaft is lubricated by ATF when the pump is running but driven by the differential. The small lip seal makes sure the ATF and gear lube don't mix. The transmission case will get hot, expand, and seize the small diameter shaft since no ATF is flowing to lubricate. The differential doesn't care and just keeps going so it shears off the geared end to the governor shaft. When the owner restarts their Vanagon to drive it off it won't shift out of 1st gear without the governor. Believe it or not - the governor is still available from the dealer for almost $500.

It makes perfect sense to me to run the engine in neutral so that ATF will cool and lubricate the transmission and prevent it from becoming a heat sink. You may be able to get by by just starting every 100 miles or so to cool the transmission down.

Just my 2

Gary
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