What is the normal transmission temperature when towing?

In this short guide, we will answer the following question: What is the normal transmission temperature when towing? We will explain why you need a transmission cooler when towing a trailer or motorhome. We will also give you a few essential tips for caring for your automatic transmission when towing. 

What is the normal transmission temperature when towing?

The normal transmission temperature when towing is approximately the same as the engine temperature, that is, approximately 195°F. The temperature inside the torque converter, while pulling a large load from a permanent start, could easily rise by above 350°F.

The key is to keep the ATF temperatures below the oxidation temperature for the given ATF. For high-performance vehicles or trailers, a large external radiator helps maintain a moderate temperature.

All transmissions work best on warm ATF, and some are more sensitive to cold than others. For this reason, most vehicles pump ATF through a tube at the bottom of the engine cooling radiator. It has two purposes, one to heat the ATF and the other to cool it. While 130F radiator fluid can hardly appear “cold” to a human, it is colder than hot ATF under severe service conditions.

The approximate life expectancy at various temperatures is as follows:

Transmission TemperatureMiles
175 ° F100,000 miles
195 ° F 50,000 miles
212 ° F25,000 miles
235 ° F 12,000 miles
255 ° F 6,250 miles
275 ° F3,000 miles
295 ° F 1,500 miles
315 ° F750 miles
335 ° F325 miles
355 ° F 160 miles
375 ° F 80 miles
390 ° F40 miles
415 ° F Less than 30 minutes

Note: Above 300°F, the metals inside the transmission will warp and distort in varying degrees depending on the severity of overheating. Because this damage occurs and fluid life is so seriously impaired, rocking out of snow, mud or sand should never exceed a very few minutes.

Do I need a transmission cooler when towing?

The transmission cooler helps protect your transmission as it heats up under strain by allowing it to better handle the excess heat caused by towing boats, trailers and other heavy loads.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of automatic transmissions fail due to overheating of the transmission oil. Indeed, today’s cars are designed with smaller engines and transmissions to help save fuel, but the demands continue to be equal or better. As a result, these now smaller and more efficient components have to work even harder.

Adding a transmission cooler is no longer just necessary for hauling heavy loads. Some manufacturers also recommend it for cars used to regularly transport additional passengers or larger loads (holiday luggage, carpooling), for driving in discontinuous traffic, for driving in very hot or very cold temperatures or even to climb steep slopes. All of this probably represents 90% of the clientele.

To get such an effort from a modern automatic transmission, the oil used must lubricate the moving parts, clean the interior surfaces, protect the parts from corrosion, carry the energy of the engine and, of course, cool the transmission.

When the transmission temperature exceeds 200 ° F (93 ° C), the transmission oil is strained. The excessive temperature causes the oil to break down, causing gaskets to crack, bump moving parts, and cause leaks. 

Mister Transmission’s aluminum coolers are among the best in the industry. They dissipate heat by ensuring constant agitation of the oil as it circulates through the components. Add to that our thermostatic flow controller and you get ideal temperature maintenance for long life and smooth gear changes.

A transmission cooler can be installed in various locations under the hood, but only one will allow the unit to be 100% efficient. For optimum performance, the chiller should be installed in front of all other heat exchangers (i.e. radiator, air conditioning system, condenser, etc.), in a well-ventilated area.

Every time the transmission oil cools by 20 ° F (7 ° C), the useful life of the oil and transmission parts is prolonged and, consequently, that of the vehicle. This is why it is so important not only to equip your car with a transmission cooler but also to have it professionally installed.

All vehicles should be equipped with transmission coolers, which reduce the risk of overheating and premature failure. To ensure proper installation and operation of your transmission cooler, we recommend that you call on the experts at Monsieur Transmission.

10 ways to take care of your transmission when towing

Depending on the type of vehicle you drive and its age, transmission repairs can be expensive. Sometimes it is impossible to prevent a transmission repair specialist from repairing your vehicle, especially if it is subject to a total collapse. Just bought a new car?

Avoid costly repairs to your transmission in the future by following a few simple tips: 

  1. Check Transmission Fluid Periodically. In many cars, trucks, and SUVs, checking the transmission fluid is as easy as checking the oil: With the engine idling, remove the dipstick, clean it, insert it again, wait, and then pull it out to get an accurate reading.

If the fluid level is very low, you may have a leak. Also, the fluid itself should be bright red, clear, and smell sweet. If it’s cloudy, dark in colour, or smells like rotten fish, take your car to a service shop to have the transmission checked.

  1. Use the correct type of transmission fluid. Always check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine what type of transmission fluid to use. If you’re still not sure after doing so, contact your manufacturer or ask a professional.
  1. Repair the engine cooling system. Your vehicle’s cooling system helps prevent the engine from overheating. But did you know that it also ensures that the transmission fluid that pumps through the gearbox is also cooled? For this reason, you must ensure that your cooling system is in optimal condition.
  1. Change the transmission fluid regularly. You’d better have the transmission fluid in your car changed by a professional. Check your owner’s manual to find out when to do this, but in general, it’s recommended to replace it at least once a year.

On the other hand, how long the transmission fluid will last in your car will depend on the operating temperature of the vehicle and the amount of driving you do.

  1. Don’t change gears while your car is in motion. Bring your vehicle to a complete stop before shifting gears from “drive” to “R-reverse” or vice versa. Otherwise, you are simply putting unnecessary pressure on your stream and could lead to a serious problem over time.

You will also be interested in: How to take care of your car if you will not drive it for a long time

  1.  Let your car warm up before driving. Who among us got into the driver’s seat, started the engine, started the car, and drove away? Surely many. However, it is recommended that you allow the engine to warm up for a few minutes before starting to drive, especially during the winter months.
  1.  Don’t drive with a spare tire for an extended period of time. Driving with a small spare tire or tires of different dimensions for a long period of time is a resounding NO. Not only will you damage other parts of your car, like the wheel alignment, but you will also wear out the transmission earlier than expected due to unnecessary pressure on it.
  1. Change the transmission filter regularly. That’s right – your car’s automatic transmission may have a filter and it needs to be changed regularly. Whether or not you drive a car that has a transmission filter depends entirely on the make and model. Most newer vehicles do not have a transmission filter. In case it applies to you, remember to wash the transmission with the same regularity.
  1.  Avoid using your vehicle for towing. Using your vehicle to tow heavy loads, particularly in high temperatures, can cause the transmission fluid to rust or burn, and in turn, do a lot of damage to the transmission.
  1.  Take your car for a review at least once a year. A certified transmission repair specialist is required to perform a diagnostic check on your transmission for leaks and other abnormalities at least once a year, as well as periodically check the transmission fluid level, colour, and odour. All of this is called a smart preventive maintenance plan.


Towing a vehicle is no small task and it is always best to call a professional first. Depending on the situation, sometimes there is even no alternative. Otherwise, using a tow bar can do the trick, as long as the drivers are well aware of the various rules to follow. 

Please do not hesitate to get in contact should you have any questions or comments on the content. 

FAQ on What is the normal transmission temperature when towing?

Can towing mess up transmission?

Yes, towing can mess up your car’s transmission.  Without the use of special equipment, you can cause catastrophic damage to the automatic transmission by towing. Because the torque converter (a vital and expensive component within the transmission) is constantly in the “pilot” position, no matter where the selector gear is, it can be damaged even with the shortest, slowest trailer. 

How to tow a car with power steering?

To tow a car with power steering, get in your car and switch on the ignition so that the steering does not lock up. You should also put the gear in neutral and remove the handbrake. Remember, the speed should not exceed 25 km / h and the tug should adopt a smooth ride to prevent any danger

How to move a broken down vehicle?

To move a broken down vehicle, always stop in the emergency lane, park your vehicle as far to the right as possible and signal your presence by activating your hazard lights. For added safety, if you have a warning triangle, place it about 30 meters behind the vehicle.