The Great American Summer: Where dreams were born on the open roads leading to clear blue skies, promised golden sunrises and sunsets over clear Michigan waters. It is picturesque weekends away in the north camping or boating, trailers in-tow for your escape, and the start to travel traditions inspired by a simple slogan of the past, “See the USA in your Chevrolet.”
And if you’re one of the thousands on the road to your getaway towing your weekend activities or home behind your vehicle, it’s imperative to keep up on a few extra maintenance items, to ensure you make it without fail or a potentially dangerous situation while headed on that quintessential summer vacation.
Be Prepared: Towing Maintenance 101
You’re an avid tower and have no qualms or reservations about your towing capacities, capabilities or needs. Maybe you are the beginner tower. Regardless, if you’re adding extra weight to the back of your vehicle, you’re putting more stress on several components and systems that require a little more attention. What should you have looked at and how often?
Drive Line Fluid, Differentials, Transfer Case
These three components work together to keep your vehicle moving, especially in tough terrain. The easiest one to explain is the drive line fluid, which keeps the intricate parts of the differentials and transfer case lubricated.
The transfer case actually lets on a bit to what its designed purpose is: helping to use power from the transmission and transfer it to the front and rear axles by means of the drive shaft.
Differentials (or the “diff” around the shop) come into play as they control how that power is output to your tires in trickier situations, allowing your tires to rotate at different speeds.
Think if you were stuck in the mud and had one wheel on pavement, but the other was sunk, it could change the rotational speed of both to help use the one tire to get some momentum to eventually rescue the other tire from its sunken fate.
In AWD (All-Wheel Drive) or four-wheel drive vehicles, this is what makes it easy to get around things like snow and ice compared to FWD (Front-Wheel Drive) and RWD (Rear-Wheel Drive) counterparts.
Transmission fluid is exactly that: a fluid for your transmission utilized to keep the intricate gears and other parts needed to align and shift your vehicle for continual forward momentum (for example, if you have a 7-speed or 9-speed automatic transmission, there are 7 or 9 different gears interacting to move your vehicle in the most efficient way possible).
Now, the transmission is designed to handle differing weights, grades (hills) and speeds of daily driving.Your transmission will adjust (or you’ll manually adjust it depending on the system or age of the vehicle), to compensate for the additional load. However, with constant shifts and adjustments it requires more transmission fluid to run consistently through the system to cool down components and take heat away from the transmission.
Vehicles equipped with a tow package (see dealership for vehicle options and availability) most likely have a trans cooler, whose purpose is to cool down the now hot transmission fluid. But as the fluid is used more, it becomes less effective, more quickly, taking the required 45,000 mile intervals for changing the transmission fluid to 30,000 mile intervals for a transmission fluid flush and inspection.
And while it’s not something you can check on your own easily, know that the more time between services can make keeping your components properly cooled and lubricated difficult, leading to more expensive issues down the road.
The front brakes take the brunt of the wear when it comes to stopping a vehicle, especially the larger and heavier ones like Silverados, Suburbans and Tahoes. Although driving habits and how you stop have a huge effect on your brake wear, so does adding a couple- to several-thousand pounds from the rear of your vehicle that now additionally needs to halt.
More weight requires more friction to stop, meaning further (and more quick) wearing of your brakes, with shorter intervals between needed brakes and inspections. In all honesty, having your vehicle looked over prior to summer travels is a good idea, and luckily a brake inspection is relatively inexpensive.
Other items you should look over and make sure they are in working condition prior to towing are tire pressures (both vehicle and trailer), tire condition, hitch (attachments, wires, etc.), safety chains and lights on both vehicle and trailer.
Trailering and braking systems operational and responding
Many of our towing vehicles are equipped with a multitude of helpful trailering features as well as braking, of which we don’t need to tell you how important it is to make sure those are in good working condition. However, outside of that, you could potentially have these additional features on your vehicle:
Hitch Guidance with Hitch View: uses the equipped Rear Vision Camera to zoom onto the hitch and more easily connect your trailer to your truck.
Trailer Theft Alert: (available on Silverados) If the harness on your trailer is disconnected, lights will flash and the horn will sound. You can also set up Theft Alarm Notifications preferences and be notified of theft via phone, text or email.
Trailer Tire Pressure Monitoring System (Silverado): installing sensors on the trailer tires and learned to your vehicle, they can be monitored from the cab to check inflation and temperatures.
Electric Parking Brake Hookup Assist (Silverado): when equipped, the parking brake hookup will automatically engage the parking brake when you shift into Park.
Other Chevrolet features and accessories for towing include: Trailer Sway Control (available on Silverado, Suburban and Tahoe); Hill Start Assist (available on Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, Traverse, Blazer and Equinox); Stabilitrak Electronic Stability Control; Integrated Trailer Brake Controller (option on Silverado, Colorado, Suburban and Tahoe); Trailering Camera Package (available on Silverado); Tow/Haul Mode (on Express, Silverado, Silverado HD, Suburban, Tahoe; available on Colorado, Traverse, Blazer and Equinox); Auto Grade Braking (standard on Equinox, Silverado, Suburban and Tahoe); Cruise Grade Braking (Silverado); Exhaust Brake System (diesel brake system with Allison transmission Silverado HD); Automatic Locking Rear Differential (available on Colorado, Express, Silverado, Silverado HD, Tahoe and Suburban); Extendable Trailering Mirrors and Max Trailering Package (available on Silverado 1500, Tahoe, Suburban).
You can read more about trailering for your 2019 Chevrolet vehicle in their Trailering Guide, or consult your owner’s manual to get more information regarding your particular vehicle’s towing capabilities.
“For the Miles Ahead” blog is a weekly series dedicated to demystifying automotive maintenance and service needs for the friends, family and customers of DeNooyer Chevrolet. If you have a question about service maintenance or car-related troubles, write to Motor Maven at MotorMaven@DeNooyer.com, and it could be included in the next publishing of “Ask Motor Maven.”