5/5/12 4:15 p.m.

Hi. Let me first say I don't know much about cars. A couple Previa-related threads from here popped up on a Google search and got some knowledgeable answers, so I thought I would tap the knowledge base here myself. The only sport I do with my Previa is seeing how fast I can get up hills (it's a miracle if I reach 60), so I hope you'll be nice to a complete car newbie!

I inherited the Previa as my first car. It's a '92 RWD with about 290,000 miles. No real idea because the odometer stopped working a couple years ago at 274ish. It's had small electrical problems ever since my family bought it in '95 from it's original owner, but other than regular maintenance and wear-and-tear its never had any mechanical issues, and mechanics are never concerned about anything major when it goes in for oil changes. I live in WA, and am moving to FL this August. I plan to have a complete inspection beforehand, but I need an idea of things I should ask about. I don't know what can and can't be checked or if some things don't show problems before they fail, etc etc. I will probably be towing a U-haul 5' by 8' trailer behind it, with a weight once loaded of about 2000 lbs, which is under the max tow rating for the Previa. Should I be concerned towing behind a car this old? Is there anything towing-specific I should mention to the mechanic? Are there things the mechanic will only check if he knows I will be towing? Also, does anyone have idea of how much that weight will affect my gas mileage? The previa gets about 17/20. Thank you very much!

wlkelley3 Dork
5/5/12 6:53 p.m.

Make sure the cooling system is up to par. Towing will put that to the test.

Vigo SuperDork
5/6/12 12:18 p.m.

Shouldnt affect your gas mileage too badly. I think you'll get around 17 on level ground.

As mentioned, the cooling system. If its not a major PITA id just change the thermostat as preventative maintenance. The tech can do a visual + touchy feely inspection on all the coolant hoses. You can check for cool spots (i.e. restricted flow areas) in the radiator with an IR pyrometer. If the coolant is at all ugly id flush it, and if there's any doubt about the radiator id backflush it (ive had pretty good luck doing that). You can also feel the water pump bearings (and the others too) if the belt is off for any reason.

If that thing doesnt have an external trans cooler id definitely add one. Those trannies like whats in there are friggin great for autos, but as far as im concerned EVERY trans that does towing needs an external cooler. If the fluids dirty id flush it, or just drain and fill, those have a drain plug iirc. Id leave that decision to your techs advice and your budget.

Check for bolt tightness on the hitch install.

Thats the only towing specific stuff i can think of, the rest of anything i might say falls under 'thorough checkup' anyway and your tech should probably know it.

OtterKin New Reader
5/6/12 4:07 p.m.

Thank you! I will attempt to regurgitate that to the tech. It was helpful!

mmosbey Reader
5/6/12 4:20 p.m.

I'd also suggest reading the fine manual. The RTFM might yield some hints, such as a suggestion that you lock out overdrive with the "Overdrive" or "O/D" button on the automatic gear selector when towing. Not sure how many hilly spots you may come across, but the manual should also tell you how the instrument panel will indicate an overheated transmission (if at all) or a brake system fault.

Vigo SuperDork
5/7/12 7:19 a.m.

As a former trans rebuilder, i can tell you most trannies that werent just worn out came in from towing failures.

BUT, most of them were behind powerful engines.

The only thing that can hurt the trans is the power you put through it. Luckily, you have very little. The 'no towing in 4th gear' thing is oversimplified imo.

It just depends on how much throttle you need to use. If you have to use enough throttle that it downshifts to 3rd, put it in 3rd yourself. Avoid letting it hunt between 3rd and fourth. Repeated shifts under power are where the slippage/damage occurs, so just know when the van needs to shift before it does, take your foot off the gas, and do it yourself with the shifter (both upshift and downshift) before getting back on the gas. Like i said, you have a very durable trans as evidenced by your mileage, and i dont think you'll have problems towing such a small weight with it, but definitely get a cooler, fresh fluid, and be aware of what it's doing. If it starts hunting or you feel it slip in gear, you'll have to take over and micromanage it to avoid it burning itself up completely in the middle of nowhere.

OtterKin New Reader
5/14/12 1:16 a.m.

This is going to sound very stupid, but how I do shift it myself with an automatic transmission? I understand what you're saying, just don't know how to put it into practice if I need to. It appears to have trouble sometimes shifting into whatever gear it needs to be in at 60 mph. It will make that straining sound for a couple minutes before finally shifting. This is most noticeable at a particular on-ramp, so it might just be the length or grade of the ramp (random guess), but it doesn't appear to me to be a particularly odd ramp.

Trans_Maro SuperDork
5/14/12 1:32 a.m.


The *** are the other gears in the transmission. If you leave it in D, the transmission has full control.

Manually selecting the other gears will give you (some) control of the shift points.

alfadriver UberDork
5/14/12 7:29 a.m.
Trans_Maro wrote: PRND*** The *** are the other gears in the transmission. If you leave it in D, the transmission has full control. Manually selecting the other gears will give you (some) control of the shift points.

There should be an overdrive cancel switch. Which is normally the first line of "defense"- wether to manually prevent hunting, or to generate a little bit of engine braking.

+another for a full cooling system overhaul. Flush that radiator out, and make sure it comes out clean. Be prepared to drive up a mountain and turn off the A/C if you need to (and even run the heater full blast). Shouldn't need to do either, to be honest- but just be prepared.

Virtually ALL tow ratings are limited by the cooling system.

(not that it matters to your 'yota, but the tow rating just got standardized from manufacturer to manufacturer- same test, same conditions, same percentage of max rated load- mainly a steep, long hill in Arizona- brutal place)

MrJoshua PowerDork
5/14/12 7:58 a.m.

another +1 on the cooling system. Previa's usually die by head gasket failure so having that cooling system as happy as possible is a good idea.

simplecat New Reader
5/14/12 10:21 a.m.

I'd put some higher heat brake pads in the front, I'm assuming that since you're taking a trailer, that's cause the van is already packed full. Its pretty easy to fit 1000 lbs in a previa with the seats out. That with a trailer that weighs 2k is alot more momentum that had to get turned into heat to slow you down. Careful driving will help, but I paid ~40$ for ceramic duralast gold pads. You wont mistake the braking for Ferrari carbon/carbon stuff, but its clearly better. Cheap insurance if nothing else.

OtterKin New Reader
5/14/12 11:31 p.m.

Thanks again everyone. Simplecat, the van will actually be fairly empty to prevent having to deal with a ton of stuff if it dies for some reason. Ok, looked around, yes I can turn the overdrive off. At this point in the move, I think we have decided to reduce the stuff we're taking, and put the trailer behind the other car that's going, a 04 Subaru Forester. The previa will be the back-up towing car, but it just seemed more practical to play it safe and not put additional wear and tear on the previa from towing. I'm still going to have it's cooling system checked though, because we will be climbing a couple mountain ranges and driving cross country in the middle of summer. Oh, what fun.