What is The Tow Haul Button Used For?

The tow haul button is a critical feature found in many modern pickup trucks, SUVs, and other vehicles designed for towing trailers or hauling heavy loads. When pressed, this button activates a special driving mode called “tow haul mode” which optimizes the transmission and engine performance to account for the increased weight demand.

Understanding the proper use of the tow haul mode button provides tremendous benefits for drivers regularly towing boats, campers, equipment, livestock trailers, or oversized cargo.

It allows the drivetrain to handle the elevated strain, while also giving the driver better control, response, and safety margins. Tow haul mode changes shift timing, and torque delivery, and uses engine compression to assist braking on grades.

While all vehicles implement it slightly differently, the goal is the same – enabling owners to confidently pull up to their vehicle’s capability limits. Drivers towing more than 2,000 lbs should strongly consider learning when to activate tow haul mode.

Correct timing of pressing the button reduces transmission wear, prevents overheating issues, and prevents “gear hunting”.

For heavy-duty applications, the tow haul button is mandatory for performance and safe operation.

What is The Tow Haul Button Used For?

What is The Tow Haul Button Used For

What Does the Tow/Haul Button Do?

  • When pressed, the tow/haul button activates tow/haul mode in vehicles equipped with this feature. An indicator light will illuminate on the button or elsewhere in the cabin.
  • It immediately changes the shifting characteristics of the transmission to account for the heavy load.
  • It causes the transmission to shift to a lower gear sooner than normal when accelerating. This provides more power and torque.
  • It keeps the transmission in lower gears longer before upshifting. This is useful when climbing hills and provides better engine braking downhill.
  • It raises the shift points to a higher RPM range to take advantage of the engine’s increased torque output.
  • It may disable overdrive gear depending on the vehicle. This reduces frequent shifting between gears.
  • In some vehicles, it activates engine braking assist to help slow the vehicle down.
  • It changes the timing of shifts so there is less “hunting” between gears. This reduces heat and wear in the transmission.

So in short, it optimizes transmission function to provide the best performance when towing and hauling. The increased torque and engine braking provide better control and safety.

How Does the Tow/Haul Button Work?

The tow/haul button taps into the vehicle’s computerized transmission controls.

It runs a program that alters the shift schedule and rules the transmission follows to change gears. Engineers can program the transmission to behave uniquely in tow/haul mode depending on the vehicle and expected loads.

For example, it may delay upshifting from 1st to 2nd gear until higher vehicle speed or engine RPM. It also commands earlier downshifts when decelerating or braking.

The computerized system then actuates transmission components like clutches and bands to implement the desired shift patterns in real-time. This provides improved performance without the driver needing to intervene or learn special techniques.

How Does the Tow/Haul Feature Work?

When activated via the button, here is what typically happens:

  • Shifts up to higher gears are delayed, keeping RPMs and torque higher
  • Shifts down to lower gears happen earlier, providing control and engine braking
  • The computer commands firm and decisive shifts, avoiding frequent gear changes
  • Overdrive may be locked out, keeping RPMs in optimal range

The result is you have much better control and responsiveness when operating near the vehicle’s capability limits.

It Helps on the Downhill Grades Too!

One of the biggest benefits is having increased engine braking with your increased load when traveling downhill.

Rather than using the brakes excessively and risking overheating, the tow/haul mode utilizes the engine to help slow the vehicle. Transmission downshifts happen earlier and torque is maximized to provide controlled deceleration.

When Should I Use the Tow/Haul Button?

There are no universal rules – you should reference your owner’s manual because recommendations vary by automaker and vehicle capability.

However, here are some general guidelines for when tow/haul mode is beneficial:

Use Tow/Haul Mode When:

  • Towing heavy trailers or loads near the vehicle’s limits
  • Towing with steep uphill or downhill grades
  • Hauling heavy cargo – especially unevenly distributed loads
  • Trailer weights exceed 2,000-4,000 lbs depending on the vehicle
  • Off-road towing such as boats, equipment, etc.
  • Experiencing frequent shifting or “gear hunting”
  • Overheating issues when towing
  • Increased engine braking would aid control

You May Not Need Tow/Haul Mode If:

  • Towing very light loads
  • Driving with properly distributed cargo
  • Towing primarily flat highways
  • Already operating in manual shift mode
  • When fuel economy is your priority

The increased transmission heat and engine workload may decrease MPGs. Weigh whether the control is worth the mileage tradeoff.

Pay attention to whether the transmission shifts seem excessively frequent or unstable. Using tow/haul may correct this – preventing potential long-term damage.

FAQs on What Is The Tow Haul Button Used For:

Below are answers to 10 common questions about the purpose and function of the tow/haul mode activated by the button:

  • 1. Do all vehicles have a tow/haul button?

No. It is generally only equipped standard or available as an option on truck, SUV, and crossover models rated for moderate to heavy towing capacity. Tow haul is much more common on vehicles with an automatic transmission designed to handle significant loads.

  • 2. Will tow/haul mode damage my transmission if not towing?

No, you cannot damage your transmission by using tow/haul when not loaded down. The computerized controls simply alter normal shift patterns which does not harm in lighter-duty situations. It may impact fuel economy slightly.

  • 3. Can tow/haul mode be dangerous if improperly used?

The only real danger would be over-relying on its increased power instead of adequately sizing your vehicles and trailer capabilities. Tow/haul gives you more torque and control – but there are still weight limits, stability factors, and stopping distances to consider.

  • 4. How do I know if the mode is activated properly?

Most vehicles display a lighted tow/haul icon or wording in the dashboard cluster when functioning. Your owner’s manual will indicate the location. You’ll also notice transmission behavior changes described in this article.

  • 5. Does tow/haul impact shifting smoothness?

It holds gears longer under acceleration and may downshift more assertively. This is by design, but some could perceive it as a firmer shifting feel and sound. It is still normal – just altered patterns.

  • 6. Can using manual mode offer similar benefits?

A manual shift option can allow for some optimized gear control as well. But unlike tow/haul mode, even skilled drivers cannot actively integrate engine braking assist, torque converter lockup, etc. in their shifting technique.

  • 7. I have an electric or hybrid vehicle – is there a need for tow haul mode?

Potentially yes, even on non-traditional powertrains. The computer may still modify torque output and gradualness of acceleration/deceleration ramping when activated. Check your model.

  • 8. If towing a 5th wheel/gooseneck, should the tow mode always be on?

Often yes – the 5th wheel and gooseneck trailers’ kingpin weight adds leverage increasing strain on driveline components. The altered shift scheduling helps offset this. But there can be exceptions when unloaded.

  • 9. Can I press tow/haul if already backing up with a trailer connected?

Be careful. On some models, activating it mid-operation causes abrupt changes in torque that could impact maneuvering trailers. Check manuals and use caution.

  • 10. Does the tow package or transmission cooler affect the need for tow mode?

No, upgrades like auxiliary coolers and hitch equipment help, but are independent of the logic controlling shift timing. Use tow/haul anytime your vehicle works hardest – regardless of its tow prep.

More Useful Guides:


The tow/haul transmission mode button is extremely beneficial for truck and SUV drivers dealing with heavy loads. Pressing it invokes computerized shift pattern changes to provide:

  • Increased torque and power when accelerating
  • Early downshifting and engine braking when decelerating
  • Smoother shifting feel and reduced hunting between gears
  • Potential to prevent overheating and long-term damage during extreme use

With an understanding of what the system is doing when the button is pressed, drivers can make informed decisions about using tow/haul mode whenever vehicle and payload challenges demand it.

Pay attention to the feel of shifts, temperature gauges, terrains, and the severity of the load.

Refer back to your owner’s manual for any specifics on your vehicle – but do become familiar with the operation of the tow haul mode early on.

Activating it at the right times leads to safer control, extended durability, and confidence in your truck or SUV’s maximum towing abilities.

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