When to Use Tow/Haul Mode, What It’s For, & How It Works

If you’re not sure when to use tow/haul mode, you’re not alone. Many drivers don’t know when it’s the best time to use this feature.

In this article, we’ll explain how and when to use tow/haul mode, explain what it is, and provide some easy tips for getting the most out of this function.

What Is Tow/Haul Mode?

tacoma tow haul button

Tow/haul mode is a feature on some trucks and SUVs that adjusts the shift patterns to reduce the number of shift cycles when towing heavy loads.

The idea is that reducing the shift cycles will protect the transmission by making some adjustments that prevent overheating and reduce wear and tear on your powertrain.

These adjustments include putting the transmission in a lower gear and offering more torque.

It’s important to note that tow/haul mode is only available on vehicles with automatic transmissions.

When To Use Tow/Haul Mode

Now that you know what tow/haul mode is, when should you use it?

There are a few situations when using tow/haul mode makes sense, and we’ll cover each of them below.

Driving In Hilly Areas

steep hill sign

Using tow/haul mode when towing on inclines will help your vehicle perform better and reduce wear and tear on your engine and transmission.

Activating it on steep declines will allow your transmission to downshift sooner than usual, slowing down your vehicle and protects your brakes from wear and overuse.

Towing Heavy Loads

truck towing heavy load with tow haul mode on

You probably won’t need to use tow/haul mode if you’re towing a jetski trailer or empty utility trailer.

If you’re towing a travel trailer or heavy camper, you’ll definitely notice a boost in performance by kicking this mode on.

If Your Transmission Is Shifting Frequently

transmission light

If you’re noticing the transmission shifting more than usual, it’s likely due to extra stress on hills and if there is any heavy load in your vehicle or being pulled behind it.

Now is a good time to activate tow/haul mode to reduce the amount of shifting your transmission is doing.

You should also pay attention to your speed limit while towing.

If You’re Carrying Heavy Gear

truck with heavy load

It’s a good idea to engage tow/haul mode if you are nearing your vehicle’s payload capacity.

Your vehicle will need the extra boost while carrying lots of heavy gear in the cab or bed.

Off Road Towing

off road towing

Your vehicle will need the extra torque provided from tow/haul mode when tackling uneven terrain, especially if you’re towing something or have lots of heavy gear inside the vehicle or in the truck bed.


ram with snow plow

Even though you’re not “towing” something when plowing, your vehicle still needs the extra horsepower and torque to meet the demands of pushing loads of heavy snow.

How To Use Tow/Haul Mode

Using tow/haul mode is as simple as pressing a tow/haul button that is located on your vehicle’s dash.

Some vehicles will have an indicator light that shows when tow/haul mode is ready for use, while other vehicles always have it constantly available.

For extra power when accelerating from a complete stop, you can use your vehicle’s traction control which will prevent your vehicle from transferring power to your other wheels if one slips, giving you a bit more push.

Tow/Haul Mode Frequently Asked Questions

Should you always use tow haul mode?

Most vehicle manufacturers recommend to only use tow haul mode when towing anything, although that’s not entirely necessary.

It is not recommended to use tow/haul mode unless you are hauling or towing something with your vehicle.

Can you engage tow haul mode while driving?

Yes, you can turn on tow/haul mode while driving by pressing the tow/haul button.

There is no need to be parked or stopped to turn this mode on.

Does tow haul mode save gas?

No, tow/haul mode does not save gas.

In fact, your vehicle’s fuel consumption will increase while using tow/haul mode, which is why you should only use it when necessary.

Can you drive in tow haul mode all the time?

While you could drive in tow/haul mode all the time if you wanted to, there is no good reason for it.

Tow/haul mode is specifically used for when your vehicle is pulling or hauling heavy loads and uses more fuel, so it doesn’t make sense to use it all the time.

Is it OK to drive in tow haul mode?

Yes, it is OK to drive your vehicle in tow/haul mode.

You should try to only use this mode when you are towing something or hauling a lot of weight in your vehicle.

Should you use tow haul mode with an empty trailer?

It depends on the weight of the empty trailer and how your vehicle is acting.

If your vehicle is shifting more than usual or is having trouble pulling the empty trailer up hills, it is a good idea to engage tow/haul mode.

Should I use tow haul mode on the highway?

There is no real benefit to using tow/haul mode on the highway.

This will only use more fuel.

Does tow haul mode help in snow?

Tow/haul mode can be helpful while driving in snow, especially when using a snow plow.

This mode will allow you to use less brakes and rely more on your accelerator for controlling your vehicle’s speed while driving in snow.

Do you get better gas mileage with tow haul mode?

No, you get worse mileage driving with tow/haul mode.

You should only use it when necessary for this reason.

Can you use cruise control in tow haul mode?

Yes, you can use cruise control in tow haul mode, but it wouldn’t make any sense to do so.

If you’re using cruise control then you are maintaining constant speeds on the highway, and using tow/haul mode for highway driving uses more fuel and provides no benefits.

Additionally, most trailer manufacturers advise against using cruise control while towing.

Does tow haul turn off MDS?

It depends on the vehicle.

Some vehicles will disable MDS when using tow/haul mode, while others can only turn off MDS by using the ERS button.

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