CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

F-150 manual transmission towing capacity

I am considering purchasing a 1998 Ford F-150 with a manual transmission. I find the maximum towing capacity somewhat perplexing, as the truck is only rated to tow 2,100 pounds, but if it were equipped with an automatic transmission, it would be rated to tow 5,600 pounds. I was wondering if anyone knew what the deal is with the manual’s limitations. Was Ford just worried about people burning up the clutch under warranty because they don’t know how to tow with a stick? Is the transmission in this truck really weak? Is the clutch the weak link? I personally suspect the weak link would be the clutch or the driver. If I buy this truck, I would like to tow with it on occasion, and even if the clutch is the weak link, I would be okay with possibly having to replace it on occasion as replacing the clutch is easy on this truck, but I would rather not chance breaking the transmission itself. Anybody have personal experience or know if the manual transmission is flimsy junk in these trucks, or otherwise why Ford rates them to tow so little?

The transmission is the M5OD, it’s light duty transmission made by Mazda, with an exceptionally flimsy clutch compared to the HD ZF-built units that you would find in a manual F-250/350.

I actually just replaced the slave cylinder in this truck a week or two ago for the current owner of this truck and noticed the rather puny looking clutch, thinking to myself that this may well be the reason for the low towing capacity. Is this the same transmission and clutch installed in the Rangers? I ask because the four banger five speed Rangers are rated to tow more than the five speed F-150s, and because the clutch hardware and slave cylinder look identical to the last Ranger I did this work on.

I don’t think Ford even offers a stick shift in the F-150 any more…Problem solved!

I would guess that the rear end ratio and light clutch and transmission add up to a poor towing package. As best I can recall the trucks were geared for high mileage. It seems that some of the OD manuals with the 300 I-6 would cruise at 60+mph at 1,200 rpm. It’s been a few years but I owned more than one and drove several.

Back then, if you were serious about towing, you bought a Dodge Cummins Diesel and that was that…

The Clutch is the weak link here. It’s the same with pretty much all mid-size SUV’s and pickups. My 90 and 98 Pathfinders with the Manual tranny were rated as Class II towing…but with the same engine and automatic tranny they were rated Class III.

I’m amazed it is so low. My Pathfinders with the Manual trannies could to up to 3500lbs. The automatic…up to 5000lbs.

I suspected as much. Curb weight seems to be the determining factor with these trucks. The layout with the lowest towing capacity for this era of F-150 is the Super Cab 4X4 with the 4.6L V8 and manual transmission. It’s only rated to tow 1,700 pounds. The truck I’m looking at is a 2WD Super Cab XLT with a V6 and rated to tow 2,200 pounds. I will probably someday end up using this vehicle to tow (assuming I buy it), and, if I burn up the clutch, so be it. It’s not hard to change out the clutch in this truck. The transmission itself, it seems, is rated for up to 330 lb ft, so the V6 is not likely to strain that beyond its capabilities. A more capable truck is not much of an option for me since I can get this one for under a grand and don’t really want to pass on such a nice vehicle for the money.

I can’t say as I blame you for jumping on this one at that price. Most 1000 dollar trucks have been rode hard, put away wet, and show it too.

This one does need some work and has a couple hundred thousand miles on it. It also has some dents and scratches from being used for construction (but still looks really good from 20 feet away), but it runs great and just moved to IL from spending its whole life in the south, so there’s not a speck of rust on it. Even the rocker panels are rock solid and still have all their paint. Very unusual to find a 15 year old truck around here that is clean, let alone completely rust free.

With no rust, running good, and being a '98 model 20 footer it still sounds like a deal to me. Around here I could see that truck going for 2 to 3 grand.

If anybody is interested, I did end up buying the truck. I got it for $900 and have put another $350 or so into it: brakes, ball joints, tires, and a starter (the seller didn’t want to budge from a grand, but did over the starter since the truck had to be push started to drive). I’m happy with the deal overall. Here’s what she looks like all cleaned up:

What a gorgeous truck. Always was partial to redheads, myself. Happy, uneventful motoring!

Mark…good purchase. Just be aware that any rating on a new truck does not necessarily apply 15 years later. Tow very conservatively, well below it’s rating.

Looks terrific for a $1,300 truck. I like the smoother lines better than the “boxy” clunky look of the current PU’s.

Nice truck. My father in law is approaching 349k with his 5speed manual 1999 F150 w/ I6. Nothing extraordinary has failed along the way and the nice thing is it seems ANY mechanic who is competent can work on it and relatively cheaply.

btw he has towed past 2000 lbs with it and is still running around on original clutch.

@raj

If your father’s truck is a 1999, then it doesn’t have the inline 6, it has the 4.2L V6 , which is a stroked version of the Essex 3.8L. But 349k out of that engine is amazing, as they tended to have head gasket problems.