Front wheel drive towing capacity


#1

I have a 2000 volvo v70 manual transmission. I’m thinking of buying as small trailerable sail boat (less than 2500#). A few years back, I managed to kill a FWD Windstar auto tranny pulling an empty trailer over the Grapevine. Is it just that FWD isnt heavy-duty enough to haul, or is it the auto trans?


#2

The manual transmission is far stronger and very unlikely to break towing a trailer. The problem is the clutch and how good you are at launching this boat and not slipping the clutch.


#3

The transmission may be strong enough, but the clutch might not be. Virtually every vehicle you can buy has better towing capacity with an automatic. From personal expericence I wouldn’t try to two more than 1500 pounds with a V70. My stepfather has one with the 5 speed auto. It’s a total dog and can barely get out of it’s own way. I imagine towing anythng will overtax the engine and yield even worse performance.


#4

The manual transmission is far stronger and very unlikely to break towing a trailer.

Sorry…but just the opposite. The tranny isn’t the weak link…it’s the clutch. That’s why you’ll see the towing capacity of vehicles that offer both a standard and auto…the auto usually has a higher towing capacity. My 98 Pathfinder has a towing capacity of 3500lbs with a manual tranny…with the automatic…it’s 5000lbs.

The other limiting factor is towing with a fwd vehicle. It’s far better to tow with a rwd vehicle. If the trailer starts to sway it’ll move the back of a fwd vehicle around with no easy way of getting it under control. RWD is far better at controlling the rear end of a vehicle then fwd. I think 2500lbs is way too much for ANY fwd vehicle.


#5

I think you’ll find that, by and large, most RWD vehicles are built more robustly than FWD and therefore have higher tow ratings. As for the Windstar, those weren’t exactly the most reliable, robust transmisions to begin with.

Many people tow with FWD vehicles and whether or not you can get away with it depends greatly on the circumstances. For example, is the route more or less flat, what speeds will you be towing, what are the boat ramps like where you launch/load, how often do you plan to do this, how good are you at using the clutch under loads and inclines etc.


#6

Not to sure RWD is built any more robust then FWD. The main reason for towing with RWD is CONTROL. You have a lot more control of the rear-end (where the trailer is connected to) then you with with a FWD car. The other factor is that as you add a trailer to the FWD vehicle it’ll take away weight from the front wheels (DRIVE WHEELS). Friend of mine has a Caravan which has a towing capacity of 3500lbs (same as my 98 pathfinder). But the tongue weight limit is 250lbs…while on the Pathfinder it’s 500lbs.


#7

What kills most automatic transmissions while towing is the overdrive shifting itself to death. Turn off the overdrive or don’t shift to that selection when towing and your trans will last longer. . .Also, add a trans cooler if the vehicle is not equiped with the “towing” package from it’s manufacturer.


#8

Generally, rear wheel drive vehicles have a higher towing capacity than FWD vehicles, but there are FWD minivans that can tow 3,500 pounds (Odyssey and Sienna). In either case, towing will accelerate the decline of an already declining vehicle. Your Windstar was probably on its last leg already.

What does your owner’s manual say about your vehicle’s towing capacity? If it says nothing, assume your towing capacity is zero. Weight distribution trailer hitches make it easier to tow with FWD because they distribute some of the weight from the back to the front wheels.


#9

RWD is a simpler design. The power does not have to go through a CV joint. There is more room for robust parts.

You make good points about the other advantages as well.


#10

Generally, rear wheel drive vehicles have a higher towing capacity than FWD vehicles, but there are FWD minivans that can tow 3,500 pounds (Odyssey and Sienna).

But a comparable SUV with the same engine and weighs almost the same…the SUV can tow 5000lbs (Class III). I’ve yet to see the FWD Minivan that can tow 5000lbs.


#11

I’ve yet to see the FWD Minivan that can tow 5000lbs.

Same here. I guess it is a good thing the OP only wants to tow 2,500 pounds. 5,000 pounds of towing capacity would be overkill.

Those SUVs are probably built on truck platforms. A truck frame (as opposed to a minivan frame) would explain the difference in towing capacity. It isn’t necessarily based on which axle gets the power.


#12

But he doesn’t want to tow it with a Minivan…He wants to tow it with a Volvo…Which I don’t think can handle it.

One other point…In many states you can actually get a ticket for towing something beyond the tow rating of your vehicle. I seriously doubt a Volvo FWD can tow 2500lbs.


#13

not to mention torque multiplication by the torque converter. That is an often overlooked advantage of the auto trans.


#14

In any state, you can probably go to jail if you tow something beyond the tow rating for your vehicle and the package gets away from you resulting in injury or death to someone else.


#15

WOW!!! A LOT of information here. I hadn’t considered the control factor. VERY salient points. I’d probably just be towing a couple of miles from storage to the ramp so that may not be much of a factor.
I’ll probably be replacing the clutch soon anyway, and since $900 of the job is labor, I’ll put in a HD clutch kit. Considering it all, May just be easier to buy a beater pickup and use that. As for the windstar, Whitey is right. it was headed downhill (even when going UP the Grapevine) from the day I bought it. Had a “tow package”, hitch wire harness and all! Expensive $2600 move from LA to SF!


#16

An old beater truck would work, but with only 2,500 pounds you could also look at old Odysseys and Siennas. An old V6 Tacoma or other small V6 truck would probably be the best vehicles for a job like this. I would look at vehicles with 3,500 pounds of towing capacity, which you probably won’t find in a 4 cylinder car, truck, or minivan.


#17

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