Towing and Hauling with the 68RFE Transmission: Tips for Optimal Performance


When it comes to heavy-duty tasks like towing and hauling, having the right transmission can make all the difference. The 68RFE transmission has gained popularity among truck enthusiasts for its robust capabilities. In this article, we'll delve into the world of towing and hauling with the 68RFE transmission, providing you with valuable tips to ensure optimal performance and longevity. If you need a built 68RFE transmission for towing heavy, contact Tier One or call 602-399-5484!

Understanding the 68RFE Transmission

A Brief Overview

The 68RFE transmission is a six-speed automatic transmission designed for heavy-duty trucks. It's commonly found in vehicles like the Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500. This transmission is known for its durability and ability to handle high torque loads, making it a popular choice for towing and hauling.

Key Features

  1. Torque Management: The 68RFE is equipped with advanced torque management systems that allow it to handle heavy loads without compromising performance.
  2. Gear Ratios: With six forward gears, this transmission offers a wide range of gear ratios suitable for various driving conditions, including towing and hauling.
  3. Tow/Haul Mode: Many vehicles with the 68RFE transmission have a tow/haul mode that adjusts shift points and behavior for improved performance when towing or hauling.

Preparing for Towing and Hauling

Assessing Your Load

Before you hit the road, it's crucial to determine the weight of your load. Knowing the weight will help you select the appropriate trailer and ensure you stay within your vehicle's towing capacity.

Proper Hitch Setup

Invest in a high-quality towing hitch and ensure it's properly installed. A well-installed hitch distributes the weight evenly between the truck and the trailer, enhancing stability.

Tire Maintenance

Check your truck's tires and ensure they are properly inflated. Underinflated tires can lead to decreased stability and fuel efficiency when towing.

Distributing Weight

Properly distribute the weight within your trailer to maintain balance and prevent swaying during travel.

Driving Techniques for Towing and Hauling

Smooth Acceleration and Deceleration

When towing, avoid sudden acceleration and braking. Gradual and smooth changes in speed help reduce stress on the transmission and other components.

Use Tow/Haul Mode

Engage the tow/haul mode offered by the 68RFE transmission. This mode adjusts shift points and helps keep the transmission in the appropriate gear for towing, preventing unnecessary shifting.

Mindful Climbing and Descending

When ascending hills, maintain a steady speed and avoid overloading the engine. On descents, use engine braking and downshift as needed to control your speed and reduce strain on the brakes.

Maintaining Safe Following Distances

Allow for more distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Towing increases stopping distance, and having a safe buffer can prevent accidents.

Maintenance and Care

Taking care of your 68RFE transmission is essential to ensure its longevity and optimal performance while towing. Regular maintenance practices can prevent costly repairs and keep your transmission operating smoothly.

Regular Fluid Checks and Changes

Checking the transmission fluid regularly is one of the most critical maintenance tasks. Transmission fluid serves as both a lubricant and a coolant, and its quality directly impacts the transmission's performance. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for fluid type and change intervals. When towing frequently, consider changing the fluid more often, typically every 30,000 to 40,000 miles. If you're engaging in heavy-duty towing or hauling, more frequent changes might be necessary to maintain fluid integrity.

Cooling Systems

Towing generates heat, and excess heat can stress the transmission. Installing an auxiliary transmission cooler can be a wise investment. These coolers work in conjunction with the vehicle's stock cooling system to dissipate heat effectively. They help maintain a stable temperature range, preventing overheating and protecting the transmission from damage. Make sure the cooler is properly sized for your towing needs.

Brake Maintenance

Towing adds extra strain to your vehicle's braking system. Regularly inspect your brakes and ensure they're in good condition. If you notice any signs of brake wear or reduced braking efficiency, address the issue promptly. Adequate braking power is crucial for maintaining control and safety while towing heavy loads. Also, consider upgrading your brake components if you frequently tow substantial weights.

Filter Replacement

The transmission filter prevents contaminants from circulating through the transmission fluid. Over time, the filter can become clogged, affecting fluid flow and transmission performance. Replace the filter according to the manufacturer's recommendations, usually during fluid changes. Regular filter replacement ensures that clean, debris-free fluid flows through the transmission, reducing wear and preventing potential issues.

Seal and Gasket Inspections

Check the transmission for any signs of fluid leaks around seals and gaskets. Leaks can lead to low fluid levels and decreased transmission performance. Address any leaks promptly by replacing damaged seals or gaskets. Regular inspections can prevent small leaks from turning into larger, more costly problems.

Computer Diagnostics

Modern vehicles are equipped with advanced computer systems that monitor various aspects of the transmission's performance. If you notice warning lights or experience shifting irregularities, use a diagnostic tool to retrieve error codes. These codes can provide valuable insights into the nature of the problem, helping you pinpoint issues and seek appropriate solutions.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting


If you notice the transmission temperature rising significantly during towing, it's crucial to take immediate action. Overheating can lead to accelerated wear and potential damage to internal components. Common causes of transmission overheating include:

  • Insufficient Fluid: Low transmission fluid levels or degraded fluid can lead to inadequate cooling and lubrication, resulting in overheating.
  • Heavy Loads: Towing loads beyond your vehicle's capacity can strain the transmission, causing it to overheat.
  • Inadequate Cooling System: If the transmission cooler is blocked, damaged, or not functioning correctly, it can cause overheating.
  • Faulty Radiator: In some cases, a failing radiator can contribute to transmission overheating by mixing transmission fluid and coolant.

Shift Flares and Erratic Shifting

Experiencing shift flares or erratic shifting while towing can indicate issues within the transmission's control systems. This can manifest as:

  • Delayed Engagement: Delayed or hesitant gear engagement can be caused by worn clutch plates, damaged solenoids, or hydraulic problems.
  • Harsh Shifting: Sudden, jarring shifts can result from electronic control unit (ECU) malfunctions, transmission fluid issues, or worn valve body components.
  • Inconsistent Gearing: If the transmission struggles to maintain the appropriate gear, it could point to sensor problems or a malfunctioning torque converter.

Unusual Noises

Strange noises coming from the transmission while towing can indicate underlying issues:

  • Whining or Humming: A high-pitched whining or humming noise might suggest a worn pump, damaged planetary gears, or a malfunctioning torque converter.
  • Clunking or Thumping: Loud clunking or thumping sounds during shifts might be caused by worn U-joints, loose transmission mounts, or damaged drivetrain components.
  • Rattling: If you hear rattling noises that change with engine speed, it could be due to loose bolts, a failing flywheel, or other mechanical problems.

Transmission Fluid Leaks

Fluid leaks can lead to a drop in transmission fluid levels, causing poor lubrication and potential damage. Leaks can originate from:

  • Pan Gasket: The transmission pan gasket can deteriorate over time, leading to fluid leaks. This is a common issue that's relatively easy to fix.
  • Seals and O-Rings: Worn seals and O-rings around transmission components can allow fluid to leak.
  • Cooler Lines: Damaged cooler lines or connections can result in fluid leaks, affecting the overall transmission performance.

Warning Lights and Error Codes

Modern vehicles equipped with advanced onboard diagnostics might display warning lights or error codes related to transmission issues:

  • Check Engine Light: A lit check engine light could indicate various problems, including transmission issues. It's essential to have the vehicle's diagnostics scanned to identify the specific issue.
  • Transmission Warning Light: Some vehicles have a dedicated transmission warning light that might illuminate if the system detects abnormalities.
  • Error Codes: Scanning the vehicle's ECU for error codes can provide valuable insights into the nature of the transmission problem.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1: What is the towing capacity of a truck with a 68RFE transmission?

The towing capacity varies depending on the make and model of the truck. It's essential to consult your vehicle's owner's manual for accurate towing capacity information.

Q2: Can I tow a fifth-wheel trailer with the 68RFE transmission?

Yes, the 68RFE transmission is capable of towing fifth-wheel trailers. However, it's crucial to ensure that the combined weight of the trailer and its contents falls within your truck's towing capacity.

Q3: How often should I change the transmission fluid when towing frequently?

For vehicles used for towing, it's recommended to change the transmission fluid more frequently, typically around every 30,000 to 40,000 miles. Refer to your vehicle's manual for specific recommendations.

Q4: Is engine braking recommended when towing with the 68RFE transmission?

Yes, using engine braking when descending steep grades is recommended. It helps reduce the strain on the brakes and maintains control over your vehicle and trailer.

Q5: Can I install an aftermarket chip to enhance the 68RFE transmission's performance for towing?

While some aftermarket chips claim to enhance performance, it's essential to choose reputable brands and consult professionals before making modifications. Modifying your transmission can impact its warranty and long-term reliability.

Q6: Can I use aftermarket additives to improve my 68RFE transmission's performance?

While there are various additives on the market claiming to enhance transmission performance, it's essential to exercise caution. The 68RFE transmission is designed to operate optimally with the manufacturer-recommended fluids. Using additives without proper research can potentially harm the transmission and void warranties.

Q7: What's the significance of the transmission cooler when towing with the 68RFE?

The transmission cooler plays a vital role in maintaining safe operating temperatures while towing. Towing increases the transmission's workload, generating additional heat. The cooler dissipates this heat to prevent overheating and prolong the transmission's lifespan. It's advisable to ensure your cooler is in good condition and possibly consider upgrading to a larger cooler for heavy towing.

Q8: Can I install an aftermarket transmission temperature gauge?

Yes, installing an aftermarket transmission temperature gauge can provide real-time temperature readings, allowing you to monitor the transmission's health while towing. Keeping an eye on the temperature can help you take timely measures to prevent overheating and potential damage.

Q9: Is it advisable to downshift manually when towing downhill?

Yes, downshifting manually can be beneficial when descending steep grades while towing. It helps control your speed without excessive brake usage, reducing the strain on both your brakes and the transmission. Utilize the engine's braking power to your advantage, but make sure not to over-rev the engine.

Q10: How do I choose the right gear when towing with the 68RFE transmission?

Choosing the right gear for towing depends on factors like the weight of the load, the terrain, and your vehicle's speed. In general, use lower gears (toward the higher number) for uphill climbs and descending steep slopes. On level ground, opt for the gear that allows the engine to operate efficiently without straining. Utilize the tow/haul mode to let the transmission assist in gear selection.

Tier One's Built 68RFE Transmissions:

-2007.5-2018 Ram 2500 & 3500 68RFE Tow-All Transmission
-2019-2024 Ram 2500 & 3500 68RFE Tow-All Transmission
-2007.5-2018 Ram 2500 & 3500 600HP Stage 1 68RFE Transmission
-2019-2024 Ram 2500 & 3500 600HP Stage 1 68RFE Transmission
-2007.5-2018 Ram 2500 & 3500 750HP Stage 2 68RFE Transmission
-2019-2024 Ram 2500 & 3500 750HP Stage 2 68RFE Transmission
-2007.5-2018 Ram 2500 & 3500 900HP Stage 3 68RFE Transmission
-2019-2024 Ram 2500 & 3500 900HP Stage 3 68RFE Transmission
-2007.5-2018 Ram 2500 & 3500 +1000HP Competition 68RFE Transmission
-2019-2024 Ram 2500 & 3500 +1000HP Competition 68RFE Transmission

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