'07 Entourage loses power towing downhill

Hello Car Talk Community!

First time poster here. Used to listen to Click and Clack every weekend, miss those guys.

We have had an issue with our minivan. I’m worried about it and my husband keeps telling me that I’m making something out of nothing. He struts around like he’s got a V-8 when really he’s a 3-cylinder kind of guy, so I’m not taking his word for it here!!

Our van is a 2007 Hyundai Entourage. We bought it with 100,000 miles. It now has 130,000 miles. We put a U-Haul hitch on it and used the van to pull a small (1,500 pounds laden) pop-up camper. During our time with the van, we have had three incidents. They all happened when towing the PUP.

Episode 1

We were heading out of a hilly campground and descending a long, straight road with a moderate grade. When we got to the bottom of the hill and were back at slow speeds, there was a hollow, metallic, echoey sound. The van remained on, engine running, but there was no power to move forward. Husband coasted to a stop, killed the engine, and restarted it. Everything was fine.

Husband cannot remember if he was gear braking – see below.

Episode 2

We were driving on a freeway through a mountainous area. We’d put in about three hours of driving so far that day. We were descending a long, steep pass. As the grade leveled out and Husband tried to accelerate, he found that he could not. He said it was like having the car in neutral but without the revving noises. We pulled over, killed the engine, and restarted. Everything was fine.

Husband was definitely gear braking (engine braking) during the descent. The van has an automatic transmission, but when in D (drive) you can push the gear selector into a channel with a (+) and a (–) sign. Husband gear brakes on descents when we are towing because he says that he wants to “save our brakes” in case he needs them in an emergency.

Episode 3

We were driving on a highway through a mountainous area. We’d put in 3+ hours of driving and had gone up and down many passes. We were descending a long, steep grade. Same as Episode 2, although power was not restored immediately after turning off the engine. Husband turned off the engine a second time and let it sit for about 2 minutes, then turned it back on and drove on.

I told him that we were getting a new car and he said that he had the problem “handled.” :crazy_face:

Other Notes

[1] During Episodes 2 and 3, there would have been enough noise inside the car (radio, etc.) that we would not have heard an echoey noise if there had been one.

[2] When Husband gear brakes, he tends to tug constantly on the gear selector. When the selector is in that special channel, it defaults into a middle position between (+) and (–). Husband says that if he just pushes the selector toward the (–) and then releases, nothing happens. So he tugs the selector into the (–) slot repeatedly until the engine stops shifting down, and then he just holds it there.

[3] We recently learned that the person who sold us the van had disabled the Check Engine light. We fixed this and cleared the codes, and the Check Engine light generally stays off. On long drives, when we have done 3+ hours of driving over hills (with or without towing), the Check Engine light tends to come on. I think the OBD code is P0174 (system too lean), but I’m not certain. I have it written down somewhere. One time Husband sprayed the MAFS sensor with a cleaning spray and the Check Engine light went off. Now he just ignores it.

Sooooo, does this seem like a problem? Is our transmission failing? Is Husband ruining our van with his gear braking? I would be grateful for any of your knowledge!!!

When was the last time the transmission fluid was serviced?



I think your husband is about to find out that replacing brakes is cheaper than replacing transmissions.

According to 2007 Entourage specs you are at least 500 pounds over the towing wieght for this 14 year old vehicle. You need to find a vehicle that can tow at least 2000 pounds .

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You drive 3 hours thru mountains to camp? And then reverse route to go home? What did you use prior to this vehicle to do this? Did that vehicle perform well?

Without the factory trailer towing package, your van is rated for 1000 pounds max. What is the exact make and model of your camper? It may very well be somewhat heavier than you think. If your van does not have the factory trailer towing package, then you’re exceeding the limit by at at least 50%, and driving in hilly/mountainous areas on to top of that.

Seeing how it’s happened 3 times so far, yes it’s a problem. I also can’t help but wonder if this vehicle has other problems as well, seeing how the previous owner disabled the CEL on purpose.

That’s what it sounds like, though it might not be only problem at play here.

We had a full flush at about 105,000.

Is gear braking like this a bad idea generally? I don’t think it was to save money, but to save the functionality of the brakes in case something went sideways while descending.

The previous owner wouldn’t have disabled the CEL if this was a problem-free vehicle.

Thanks for this reply. When we were choosing a vehicle we looked at specs. You find different ratings. Google will spit out 1,000 pounds. eTrailer says 3,500. Some websites say “not rated.”

What is the definitive source for these specs?

Doesn’t the Owner’s Manual list the towing capacity?

1000 pounds = no factory trailer towing package.
3500 pounds = factory trailer towing package ( which includes such items as a transmission cooler).

What kind of brakes does your trailer have? That is, how are they activated? Or is “none” the answer?

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It also appears that someone does not understand how the paddle shifting works.

It can be bad if you don’t know what gear you are down shifting into and just keep hitting “-” until it won’t downshift further.

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Have you ever tried to rev the engine in neutral before shutting it off? If it is still sluggish you probably don’t have a transmission issue. I am not sure if your vehicle has a transmission temperature sensor, however if it does you can buy a Bluetooth obd code reader and monitor your transmission temperature when you drive. I would also not ignore the existing code, a bad O2 sensor can cause significant performance issues.

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Just to add my two cents worth, it sounds like it is the engine not revving after a long descent, not the transmission not responding, but that would be the first thing to determine. Normally if you shut the car off and re-start it again, that re-boots the computer. So if that is the case, it would seem to be a computer/sensor issue of some type. Possibly heat related and getting worse. Finding it would be another issue.

I never had brakes on my 2000# camper and normally not required for that size. I service transmissions at 30,000 normally without pulling trailers through mountains so might be time again.

You are describing a throttle control malfunction. Engine braking isn’t going to harm the engine, it can however reveal a failing component. There may be correlation problem between the throttle position, mass air flow value and manifold absolute pressure value detected by the computer. This can cause the computer to stop control of the accelerator until you restart the engine.

This will need to be diagnosed with a computer scan tool.

I think we have a winner. So to the shop you go.