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Towing with a Toyota Corolla (1999)


I have a 1999 Toyota Corolla with about 174,000 miles on it. It’s going strong but I need to move soon and am considerig towing a small trailer with it. I believe the owner’s manual says that it is rated for 1500 pounds, but I am getting mixed messages about how hard it may be on the transmission.

So far, I have contacted U-Haul and a Toyota advisor at a dealership and they both say a small trailer should be fine.

My mechanic stepfather thinks differently. He thinks it will ruin the transmission to two with my car. He is very adament about this. I have also read some discussion boards online that say DON’T DO IT!

Taking advice.

Thanks for your thoughts.


P. S. I will be towing in August from Colorado to Arizona (through New Mexico and at least one steep-grade mountain pass…about 900 miles). I’m thinking heat and mountainous terrian may play a factor as well…although other than the one major pass at Raton, the rest of the trip is pretty flat.

P. P. S. It’s a four-cylinder automatic.

This could be very rough on your car’s tranny. I wouldn’t.

Get a rental truck and a dolly. Tow your car with the truck.

Small engine + automatic + high mileage + front wheel drive + steep grades = no no no no no!

I agree with your stepfather and with the previous responses.

This car is now at least 12 years old with many, many miles on the odometer.
The engine’s power was marginal for this type of towing when the car was new.
After 12 years/174k miles–trust me–the engine did not get more powerful, and is likely to be fairly anemic at this point.

This type of towing would have been a strain on the transmission when the car was new. After all this time and mileage, this type of towing is likely to be the death knell for the transmission.

As long as you don’t mind the high probability of being stranded in a remote location as a result of a breakdown, then you might want to attempt it.
As long as you don’t mind the prospect of having to replace the car after this misadventure, then you might want to attempt it.
Personally, I would not do it on a bet, but you may not be as risk averse as I am.

I recently drove from Arizona to Denver in a 2005 Corolla and I would never consider towing any trailer on such grades. The ascents will be more than the car’s power can handle and the descents more than the transmission and brakes can handle. If a small trailer will handle the load a full size pickup should also handle it and the Corolla on a dolly as recommended above.

Cool. Got it. My plan has been to rent a truck and tow my car with a dolly but since I had gotten some conflicting advice from some trusted sources, I just wanted to double-check. I didn’t tell you of my plans because I didn’t want to lead the witnesses…or whatever.

Anyway. Thanks a lot for your responses. I am pretty clear on my plan then. I appreciate the help.

Good plan of action, Julie!

Have a safe trip.

I think you’re making a very wise decision. Towing is hard on engines and transmissions anytime, but considering mountainous driving you may have just ended up having to put your car to rest. Good luck with the move. I just moved 500 miles last year, I rented a 24’ moving van, including insurance on the truck and the fuel for the truck I think it cost about $1000. Professional movers wanted $3000-$4000.

going down steep grades I’d be more worried about over heating the brakes than the transmission.