How Lube Pumps for Towing Work

lube pump
Want the jeep along for the trip? You'll need to look into all the different options for towing it.

It's common for RVers to back into their new mode of vacationing -- they likely already have a truck or car sitting in the driveway when they decide to purchase a motor home and join the ranks of recreational vehicle vacationers. If this family makes the common decision to tow a vehicle behind their RV, to use for errands and sightseeing during their trip, they often hit a snag.

This is because using the most popular system of towing an extra vehicle -- a tow bar attached to the hitch on the RV -- means that many makes and models of towed vehicles will need extra modifications. Considering the fact that our aforementioned family just dropped a huge chunk of change on their new RV, chances are good they'll contemplate modifying the vehicle they already own rather than heading back down to the dealer. Luckily, towing modifications can often be achieved with the purchase of a few pieces of additional equipment.


If the vehicle is a four-, rear- or all-wheel-drive, this usually means disconnecting or disengaging the drive shaft so the transmission doesn't overheat. Also, in the case of many vehicles with automatic transmissions, whether two-wheel-drive or otherwise, you can't just put the car in neutral, release the parking brake and get going -- this, too, would damage the vehicle's transmission in a big way.

This is where lube pumps come in. Towing pumps protect automatic vehicles' transmissions while people are traveling. On the next page, we'll take a closer look at just how the lube pump manages the feat.



Purpose of Lube Pumps for Towing

lube pump
Find out what you need to tow your vehicle by researching the subject and checking with the manufacturer.

Lube pumps are needed to tow many automatics, with some exceptions. If you are planning on taking the old RV on a summer road trip, you can breathe a sigh of relief if you own a Honda, Acura or Saturn. A few newer Chevrolets are good to go, along with a handful of some of the newer Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles.

For the rest of you, a lube pump looms in your future if you plan on towing with all four of the towed vehicle's wheels on the ground. (Don't forget -- instead of a tow bar and lube pump, you can usually opt for a tow dolly or a trailer if you want to bypass the issue).


The type of vehicle you want to tow will determine which lube pump system you'll need to buy because different engines are set up, well, differently. But a pretty standard lube pump model, like Remco's LP-1, works on a variety of vehicles like many of those manufactured by General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and Mitsubishi.

The purpose of lube pumps for towing is to keep the towed vehicle's automatic transmission lubricated and cool. During operation, the radiator takes care of that job when the engine is running. However, when some vehicles are being towed, the engine is off but the transmission is still trying to keep up -- which can cause it to overheat. To fix this dilemma, the Remco LP-1 system works by drawing transmission fluid from the pan, shooting it through the radiator cooler and then back through the lubrication system. It gets its power from a cable running to the motor home's battery -- handy so you don't arrive at the campground to find the towed vehicle's battery completely drained.

Another cool feature of this lube pump is that it comes with an electronic monitor that's mounted near the driver. From here, the driver can keep an eye on the activity of the lube pump and make sure everything's operating properly.

Let's learn a little about how to safely install and use a lube pump on the next page.


Using Lube Pumps for Towing

lube pump
Properly installing a lube pump can be a challenge, so get a professional to hook everything up.

Installing and using lube pumps for towing involves a few complicated steps. Take the Remco LP-1 mentioned earlier: To make use of this towing component, you need to disconnect, reconnect and install the various hoses, mount the valve and the pump, drain and later refill the transmission fluid, remove the transmission fluid pan, drill a hole in it for one of the new hoses and finally, reinstall it with sealant.

Everything has to be placed carefully to avoid sharp edges, hot components under the hood and the potential for damage from road hazards. You can't bend hoses too sharply or the coolant might not flow properly. And that's not the end of it -- once you've got everything squared away in the vehicle you want to tow, you still must deal with the electrical system. For that, you'll be poring over electrical schematics to determine the proper wiring plan and circuitry for the lube pump, the monitor sensor and the taillights, then routing the wires up into the motor home.


If you don't install the lube pump properly, you will void the warranty on it; even worse, you might damage the very transmission you were trying to protect in the first place. So unless you have some serious knowledge about what's lurking under the hood of your vehicle, get a mechanic to take care of this for you. In the case of our Remco lube pump, a mechanic usually needs an assistant to complete the installation, which can take about six hours.

Once the towing pump system is hooked up and checked out, you can get ready to tow. For that you want to get the hitch, coupler, tow bar and safety chains all snug and secure, plug in the connector cable for all the electrical connections and put the car in neutral with the steering wheel loose for tracking. Wait for the little green light to pop up on the monitor under the dash, and then tow to your heart's content.

On the next page, you'll find more interesting towing and automotive links.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Benjamin, Scott. "How to Tow a Two-wheel-drive Vehicle." 10/2/2008. (10/14/2008)
  • "Frequently Asked Questions." (10/14/2008)
  • Martin, Joe. "Trailer Loading and Towing Guide." Sherline Products. (9/15/2008)
  • Penlerick, Mark. "Towing Physics 101. Blue Ox. (10/16/2008)
  • "Remco's Lube Pump." Remco Towing. (10/16/2008)
  • Remco's Lube Pump Instruction Manuals. Remco Towing. (10/16/2008)
  • Siuru, Bill. "Read Before You Tow a Car Behind Your Motorhome." (10/16/2008)
  • "Tow Bar FAQs." (10/15/2008)
  • "Towing Basics 101. Blue Ox. (10/16/2008) 
  • "Towing Glossary." U-Haul. (9/15/2008)
  • "Towing a Trailer." U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 4/2002. (10/13/2008)
  • "Towing Tips." Remco Towing. (10/14/2008)
  • Walczak, Jim. "Towing 4 Wheels Down." (10/14/2008)­