Getting ready for three state trip, need to prepare car mechanically to maximize fuel efficiencey

I have a 280k mile 1991 explorer to get ready to tow a VW beetle 1400 miles. i need to know what would help getting better gas mileage

Increase your tire pressure to about 35 psi. The tire pressure recommendation on the placard for your vehicle is way too low and is the part of the cause of the high failure rate of tire on this vehicle. Make sure the towed vehicle’s tires have plenty of pressure too.

Will the Beetle be on a trailer? What’s the towing rating for your Explorer?

As for gas mileage, besides making sure your maintenance is up to date and your (good) tires are fully inflated when cold, the major thing is to keep the speed down.

What states/terrain will you be driving through?

The most important factor in gas milege is you DRIVING STYLE!! Gentle acceleration, and keeping your speed down will ensure best gas milege. Plan stops in advance so you don’t have to jump on the brakes.

Bring all the maintenance up to date, especially make sure the cooling system is serviced. Overheating is the biggest problem when towing. Ford normally does not specify coolant change before 100,000 miles, but do it anyway!

The transmission is the next thing to worry about. Your owner’s manual will recommend changing the fluid and filter every 20,000 miles or so when towing a trailer. Change the fluid and filter if you have not done so already in the last 10,000 miles. DO NOT HAVE THE FLUID FLUSHED!!! That will create more problems that it solves. Have the pan dropped and the fluid and filter changed by a reputable independent shop.

If your vehicle is already equipped for towing, you’re OK. If not (standard system) I would recommend installing an auxiliary transmission cooler. These are very reasonable. I have towed trailers for over 30 years, and have always had an auxiliary unit installed. In spite of all the posts we have on this site about transmission failures, I have only had one transmission repair since 1972 and that cost only $173 to fix.

As it stands, with 280,000 mile on the clock, if the transmission has not been serviced regularly in the past, it is a SAFE BET that you will burn it out towing the VW for 1400 miles. If this sounds scary, I’m just going by what we read here about transmission failures. DO not go to a transmission chain such as AAMCO; they will guaranteed recommend a rebuilt unit of dubious quality.

Unless a mechanic can check out the transmission, and service it properly, it’s best to have the VW shipped by one of those car carriers companies.

Again, your cooling system and the transmission are the critcal items.

If in doubt, use a car trailer. But I recall back in the day that a lot of these were towed around with a tow bar. You can just remove the axles before the trip though.

I don’t know if you can disconnect the axles on a '58, is the axle part of the (famously unstable) swing axle rear suspension.

If the Beetle has a manual transmission and a clutch (and isn’t a semi-automatic), you should be able to tow it in neutral with no problems. Just make sure the transmission has oil in it.

I am 99.999% sure any manual transmission FWD or RWD car can be safely towed on all four wheels. (If it’s 4WD, I don’t know.) It’s only when you have an automatic transmission that you have issues with the wheels turning while the engine is off and the transmission fluid isn’t being pumped through the transmission.

Personally, if I were towing a 1958 Beetle, I would opt for a full dolly that gets all four wheels off the ground, just to be safe. On a car that old, you can never be too careful.

That 0.001% will get you - not all manual tranny cars are approved for flat towing. Not saying it’ll be damaged, but the list of approved vehicles is a lot shorter than the list of all fwd and rwd vehicles with manual transmission.

You could check to see if there are special “low rolling resistance” tires made for your Explorer, but I doubt you’ll find them.

In any case, asking to get better fuel economy out of an Explorer is like trying to lose weight while eating nothing but desserts. You can cut back on your diet, but you’re not likely to see much effect.

You might consider plotting your route to go around mountains instead of over them. You might also consider setting your cruise control 5 MPH below the posted speed limit and staying in the right-hand lane.

Whoa! I just realized this is the same Explorer with the ‘rusty radiator water’ that has been sitting unused for 3 years! I REALLY would have second thoughts about using this as a tow vehicle!

@JSANBO - this is a good example of why you’re better off keeping your discussion in one question, not spread out over 3 questions, like it is now.

Make sure you bring your title in case the car dies along the way (which is a distinct possibility for a 22-year-old car with that mileage being asked to tow) and you decide to scrap the car instead of fixing it.

I have tow many of the VW Beetle’s on a tow dolly. It will not hurt it, but I have a few that have jump into gear while towing. One even started ( had left the keyon). For that far a trailer is the only way to go.

As I mentioned in the other discussion, this is that Explorer that’s been sitting unused 3 years.

I have to agree with Whitey and Oldbodyman on this. A full dolly is best. Besides, I wonder what that ol’ swing axle will do being towed down the highway.

58? How that has not rusted to pieces is amazing. Must be SW car?

You’d be amazed at the number of OLD Beetles still out there, the older the better. Happened to visit Fredericksburg TX the weekend of a statewide Beetle get-together. HUNDREDS of them…

You have my sympathy. I had a 59. The 58 is a rear wheel drive rear engine. No front drives or four wheel drives back then except for Jeeps and a few other weirdos. I suspect you can get by pulling it but a full trailer would certainly be better. Can’t believe the rental would be that bad and you’d eliminate all the problems of wheel bearings, tires, etc. giving you a problem.

You could tow it with the rear wheels on the dolly backwards, but only if the steering wheel locks. It wouldn’t work if the steering is allowed to move.

BTW, is this being towed with that '91 Explorer? You must be very brave to trust a 1400 mile tow on a 22 yo truck that sat unused for 3 years. Are you going to chronicle this trip with Facebook or a website? If you do this trip, I’d like to follow your journey and see if you make it. Via con Dios.

Iffen it were me, I’d go for a full trailer. Much safer, and you won’t have to worry about what the trip is doing to the transaxle.

Don’t get cheap now. You’ll regret it.

If you opt for the tow bar, DO NOT tie the steering wheel down.

Hi guys, your comments have been inspiring and thought provoking as well. thank you. To clarify; It is the 91 explorer you’ve seen discussed elsewhere, that by necessity, I need to use to get the VW back home. by policy, u-haul wont rent a full trailer for use with any explorer, old or new. So I am compelled to use the tow bar i own, or, rent a single axle-car dolly, of which I would put the rear transaxle on top of, leaving just the front axle on the pavement. one suggestion said not to tie the steering wheel, I will call a tow company on that confirmation to make sure. another said for me not to be cheap, that would be my brother ,we only just look alike. and the idea to chronical this attempt to bring this German relic my dad ordered new from the factory in the fifties sounds intriguing to me. I would definitely consider it, if there were enough of you out there, telling me u supported and wanted to see something like that to see and possibly what sort of highlites you might think would be good to have in a recorded or live broadcasting of a roadtrip such as this. your thoughts might just make this possible, thank you, Jsanbo