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Manual vs automatic

Why does a 1998 Ford Super cab Ranger 3.0 Liter automatic tow more, 3680 LBS, than a manual transmission, 2220 LBS? We own a manual transmission and want to buy a travel trailer. Can you tow in a lower gear, 4th, and be safe a few hundred LBS over the weight limit? It is difficult to find a travel trailer that does not go slightly over our weight limitations.

Does it make more sense to find a Supercab with an automatic?

The torque converter greatly increases the load that can be pulled away from a full stop and greatly reduces the stress on the entire drive train in all driving conditions. The manual transmissions on the light pick-ups are very light duty and geared for good gas mileage with minimum loads. And towing a large, heavy load is difficult and demanding and much safer with an automatic.

Rod is correct, the TC is as good as an extra gear. You are really going to burn out your clutch with a big load. How much towing are you going to do? If it is just a couple of hundred miles a year or less it is very different than adopting a mobile lifestyle in retirement.

“Can you tow in a lower gear, 4th, and be safe a few hundred pounds over the weight limit?”


You can’t go over the weight limit, regardless of transmission type. The difference in weight limits is because the clutch can’t take the extra load. You’ll fry your clutch if you try to tow a trailer that exceeds the weight limit.

For what you want to do, you need a bigger truck. The 3.0 Ranger is a good truck, but it can’t tow much. You can’t change that. If you want to tow a camper, trade your Ranger for an F150.

Yes, trade for an F150. The added weight and braking are necessary to safely handle the load. Also, you might consider a 5th wheel setup. They are much more stable.

Thanks for the replies, they are very helpful. Looking at my owners guide for the 98 Ford Ranger, the difference is significant between our 3.0L 4X4 with a manual transmission and a GCWR of 6000 LBS of and a 3.0L RWD with an automatic transmission and a GCWR 7500 LBS, both with a rear axle ratio of 3.73.
I’ve looked at used F-150s, even those you have to be careful because it appears that the small V-6 with a manual transmission are not a significant upgrade for towing capacity from our Ranger. Is there a web guide for towing capacity on different vehicles?
We will mainly use the trailer for local traveling and camping in small Forest Service campsites, though we may make a long road trip. So for two of us, we would like to keep the size small, but do want the amenities of a bathroom and a kitchen. We live in Montana, so we’ll be climbing on some mountain roads. Thanks

There is almost no difference in gas mileage between the 6-cyl and 8-cyl F-150s. Get the 8 with auto if you buy an F-150.

Ford’s web site will have tow capacity info. YOu can download manuals at or

I would sooner scrimp on towing capacity on the flat land. In the mountains, you want to have some reserve capacity.

Agree that 1st gear is too high to start a heavy load moving. Real truck transmissions have an extra low 1st gear that may red line at 5 MPH. So low that you would normally start in 2nd. These days “truck” transmissions are geared similarly to car transmissions. I disagree that the transmission itself is light duty.

It’s not the transmissions being light duty for the most part. But in the case of the Ranger and F-150, the Mazda built M5OD is decidely light duty. It has more to do with the clutch. The clutches in the Ranger and F-150 are quite fragile and don’t stand up to much abuse. The F-250/350’s got a much more robust ZF tranny and and a far more durable clutch.

I think the OP needs either to compromise on his trailer selection or get a truck more suited for the job.

There is almost no difference in gas mileage between the 6-cyl and 8-cyl F-150s.

The same difference in the 4runner with the V6 compared to the V8…HOWEVER…It’s doesn’t equate to reality. Those EPA ratings are for just cruising down the highway. What I’ve observed is people who have that extra power tend to use it. If V6 does the job…then I see no reason getting a V8. I tow with my V6 4-=runner. It has no problem meeting my torque or Hp needs.