Towing a loaded utility trailer

Car: 2005 Escape, 3.0 L, 6 cyl.

Mileage: 52,000

I have a landscaping co. and recently upgraded our trailer (5’x10’ with a tounge weight of 70 lbs.). I use 5w20 synthetic oil through Jiffy Lube and change the oil every 3 -5,000 miles. I changed the auto transmission fluid at 51,000, because I knew I would be doing more towing. Most of the time we tow less than a ton but can max. out the volume of the trailer at about 2100 pounds. Max. towing capacity for the Escape is 4300 pounds.

Concern: I burned up a quart of oil in 1,000 miles this past month and a half. I have been towing loads of mulch, compost, and soil 4 or 5 days a week (short distances, less than 5 - 10 miles). The transmission will down shift on hills and stay in the lower gear until it tops the hill or I let up on the gas (it doesn’t seem to be straining).

Q: Am I towing too much weight with this car?

Q: Is the burning of the oil related to the towing?

Q: Should I switch to a different SUV/truck? If so, what? (My wife hates trucks, so I’m looking more for a heavier SUV.)

Thanks for any help.

What is the towing capacity that your owner’s manual recommends?

The oil is way too thin for towing. I recommend 10W30 or heavier if you are going to do work with the thing. The owner’s manual will recommend which gear to put the transmission in. I’m almost certain that it will say to put it in 2. That’s a hint that it isn’t built for towing, if you have to go that far with the shifter. Inflate those trailer tires.

If you can find a brand new 87 Mazda with 5 speed manual trans… There are no suitable tow vehicles these days that are smaller than an F-150, which is kind of big. One way is to drive some mini trucks. If you can use fourth gear while driving through town, buy that one. If you can’t use fourth in town for slow driving, don’t get that one because you will need a new clutch four times a year, unless you feel lucky.

Check/change your engine oil and transmission(every 15k-30k) fluid often and go easy and it will be fine.

Towing capacity for the 2005 maxes out at 3500 pounds provided the vehicle is equipped with the factory towing package. As seen here:

Also 5w20 is the recommended oil for the vehicle. You’ll get some people saying that it’s too thin, but I have yet to see any engine adversely affected by using 5w-20 oil.

With that said, if you’re towing regularly, I would look into an Explorer or Ranger. The Escape is a glorified economy car, it’s a unibody and it’s FWD for the most part, neither is good for towing.

Two things.

First stay away from Jiffy Lube. Too many problems with them. Their business model is set up for FAST FAST FAST service…Not necessarily the BEST service. They usually hire high-school drop-outs who have a hard time holding a job any other place.

The only thing I’d recommend with this vehicle…is if you don’t already have a separate transmission cooler…then get one.

Stick with the oil that is recommended for this vehicle. I’ve yet to see any manufacturer recommend a different oil if you tow.

It recommends 3500 lb. according to a www.SUV.pdf. The owner’s manual says 4300 lb.

10-30 for sure…

5-20 is “recommended” because it was used when they certified the vehicles mileage rating…Trailer towing DOUBLES the load on the engine (and brakes) so I would give the poor engine a fighting chance and put a LITTLE more cushion in those bearings…And yes, a tranny oil cooler would be a wise investment…

What this guy really needs is a dedicated work truck. His wife can drive whatever she wants…The truck becomes a 100% tax write-off, assuming our OP pays taxes…

I hear what you’re saying and I understand your logic. The only point I’m trying to make is that if the manufacturers thought it was important to use a thicker oil when towing I think they would have stated that. And I’ve yet to see any manufacturer recommend a different/thicker oil if you tow.

If the mean time before failure (MTBF) is 150,000 miles using 5w-20 oil and 200,000 miles when using 10w-30 oil, but the vehicle gets 1.2 miles per gallon better mileage when using 5w-20 oil, guess what weight oil the owners manual recommends…

The owner (consumer) and manufacturer have different viewpoints and concerns…You are assuming the manufacturer wants the engine to last as long as POSSIBLE. But that is seldom the case…

It should also be pointed out that a lighter weight oil will get to moving engine parts more quickly upon start up than a thicker oil would, this is also where the majority of engine wear occurs. I have yet to see or hear about an engine failure from use of a 5W-20 oil. The guy down the street tows a gooseneck travel trailer every other weekend with his V10 F-350. The truck has 169k on it (it’s also his daily driver) He uses 5W-20 semi-synthetic religiously. The fact is that 5W-20 protects just as well as 10W-30 and has the added benefit of flowing easier at low temperatures. This has been an ongoing debate on BTOG for years, and there has been no evidence that suggests that it’s beneficial to use 10W-30 in applications where 5W-20 is spec’d.

The problem you MAY run in with using a thicker oil is it doesn’t flow as well as a thinner oil does. This may be part of the decision why the manufacturer recommended a thinner oil. I know that on SOME vehicles a thicker oil could DESTROY an engine. The problem here is we just don’t know. The manufacturers just isn’t giving us enough information. So the SAFE bet is to stick with the recommended oil.