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Why a 2017 Ram 2500 owner is worried about towing

The new owner of a 2017 Ram 2500 is concerned that his truck isn't towing as well as it should. Members of the Ram Truck forum have some recommendations for him.

The owner of a brand new 2017 Ram 2500, from Wisconsin, got a 6.4 engine to handle towing his race car and trailer around. On his first outing, he noticed problems. He is taking it back to the dealer to have it checked out but is concerned with its poor performance. “The truck kept shifting out of overdrive and just plain did not seem to have enough power to pull the trailer comfortably, always felt on the highway i kept having to get more and more in the throttle to keep going a even pace.”

One of the more senior members on the forum answered right away! “You should not have been in overdrive while towing. Did you put the truck in tow/haul? Makes a big difference.”

The Wisconsin driver who goes by Elit, says he had driven a Chevy Duramax before and was disappointed that the new 2017 Ram 2500 isn’t performing better. Another owner replied. “A gas engine will never pull the same as a diesel. You gotta get those rpm's up where the torque and horseppower is. My wife has a 6.4 hemi and i think it pulls nice but also not in overdrive.”

The owner of a 2016 Ram says “You should keep it out of overdrive. Tow haul just changes shift points and shouldn't make any difference on the hwy. I drove a 6.4 before I got this 1500. It did not impress me at all. I had a 03 Cummins 5.9 and that was impressive. You coming from a duramax ,i think you will keep feeling disappointed.”

A 2017 Ram 3500 owner adds, “Also, it's been reported that around the 10k mark on the odo, the engine really wakes up. It is unknown if this is just the engine braking in or whether the computer allows the power after a certain number of miles...give it a chance.”

While some of the members suggest that Elit get a special engine tune to boost performance, others warn that if he does change the engine tune, it will void his warranty.

Another senior forum member named Thunderhorse says, “I always lock out my top overdrive when towing, and usually I lock out both of my overdrive gears. This is an oversimplification, but engines are basically air pumps, the more air they pump the more power they make. They can pack more air into a smaller pump (forced induction), pump air faster (high RPM), or pump more air due to being larger in size (large displacement) to increase power.”

A forum member named Gantman quoted the owner’s manual on towing. “Page 580 of owners manual:
• Do not tow a trailer at all during the first 500 miles (805 km) the new vehicle is driven. The engine, axle or other parts could be damaged.
• Then, during the first 500 miles (805 km) that a trailer is towed, do not drive over 50 mph (80 km/h) and do not make starts at full throttle. This helps the engine and other parts of the vehicle wear in at the heavier loads.

Page 590 of owners manual:

Automatic Transmission
The “DRIVE” range can be selected when towing. The transmission controls include a drive strategy to avoid frequent shifting when towing. However, if frequent shifting does occur while in DRIVE, select “TOW/ HAUL” mode or select a lower gear range (using the Electronic Range Select (ERS) switches).

NOTE: Using “TOW/HAUL” mode or selecting a lower gear range (using the ERS switches) while operating the vehicle under heavy loading conditions will improve performance and extend transmission life by reducing excessive shifting and heat build up. This action will also provide better engine braking.”

Elit had just started this thread, and hasn’t responded, so it is too early to know if there is anything wrong with his vehicle or if he pushed it too hard during the break-in period. It is wise to check about putting too much stress on a new engine. But you may want to also consider using a weight distribution hitch, to improve your pulling capacity. Here Care Your Cars has some 5 pics and reviews if anyone is interested.

Also RAM has a full towing guide on its page here, which you may want to take a look as well.


Mark Kirkpatrick (not verified)    February 7, 2017 - 8:43AM

I have a 01 Ram 1500 and added a Procharger Supercharger. Towed a Travel Trailer so much better but I then got a 06 Ram 3500 with a 5.9 Cummins. TOW / HAUL Only when towing. The transmission also helps slow the truck down in this mode. Having OD on can cause repeated excessive upshifting and downshifting which creates more heat on the transmission which isn't good because it destroys all drivetrain parts when they're exposed to too much heat. For such a heavy load has a car and trailer specialty trailer you're too fine also depending upon your final drive ratio but diesel is the way to go. You'll also see that a Cummins with less moving parts going to be a diesel will make you happy in the long run. 348,000 and still going many many original parts on the Cummins Inline 6.

Matt (not verified)    February 7, 2017 - 8:28PM

I've got 503000 on my 03 5.9 still pulls like new 26mpg I tow 24' enclosed trailer with 7000 lbs on average and still have no concerns to pull out and pass the less fortunate folks driving the newer trucks with all the def and emission crap thank god for 03 no cat no def no issuses

Nick (not verified)    February 7, 2017 - 10:14PM

I have one it really wakes up after about 10k miles
This is the second one I've had for some reason both were sluggish until 10k on the odo it will pull anything you want

Nicholas (not verified)    February 8, 2017 - 6:01AM

You don't tow in overdrive, even with a diesel, overdrive is to carry empty truck. If your smart you read up on how to use something before you burn it up, especially if your going to keep it a long time. Way to go, just go plug your iPhone into the exhaust pipe to charge it smarty pants...

e. ware (not verified)    December 24, 2018 - 12:09AM

I am pulling a 16ft trailer w/tandun axle to fla thru rocky mountain. I have a ram 1500
5.7 eng 4x4 crew cab. It has the tow package..I am worried about the trans over heating., give me some imfo on over drive and toe haul. thanks n advance.

Harry (not verified)    January 25, 2019 - 9:24AM

my 2017; heavy duty; 4x4; 2500; 6.4 Hemi; shifts retarded when under load of a 12,000 lb trailer, in tow/haul. When Climbing a hill the engine dies all the way to maybe 700 rpm, then goes to 3500/4000 rpm, rather than down shifting one gear at a time ... when taken out of tow/haul ... almost shifts correctly, how can this be corrected? a RAM dealer just told me $125 to research this because out of warranty with 39k miles. Help...

Jim Franklin (not verified)    August 10, 2020 - 5:51PM

You got me. I've a 7000# toy hauler that went to Jackson Hole last week; 10% grade. 4500 RPM, 35 mph, 2nd gear. Tried to shift to 3rd, bogs down to idle & just about dies. Repeatedly. Tow/haul engaged. Dealer says nothing's wrong, 'the computer' says it's fine. Go figure

JERRY McBurnett (not verified)    June 25, 2021 - 4:31PM

My 2017 Ram 6.4 with 6 speed auto keeps wanting to run in 2nd gear at 5000 rpms going up the slightest hill at 60 mph. It does things like this even worse in tow/haul mode. Forget about using cruise as its trying to blow the engine up. Reading this forum sounds like there is some problems with RAM auto trans. does any body else have same problems as me?

Jim Franklin (not verified)    June 26, 2021 - 8:23AM

Sorry about that. I believe it’s the nature of the beast. One thing I never kept in mind when I got my Power Wagon was the weight of the truck. Next door to GVWR right off the bat. Reality is that the Power Wagon is a billy goat, not a diesel wannabe.