Towing tips: The best way to tow in ECO mode

Oct 31, 2017 | Towbars, Towing

Most cars these days come with a variety of modes and dashboard buttons that many people don’t utilise or understand. When you use your car and getting from A to B is your only concern, it can be easy to overlook and not take advantage of extra settings. One of these options which comes in the vast majority of cars these days is an ‘ECO’ or ‘ECON’ mode. This month, we’ll explain a bit about this handy setting and how to use it when towing too.

What is ECO mode?

First things first, ECO mode is short for economy mode and, as the name suggests, is a setting which is designed to improve the fuel economy of your drive. Whilst a big draw of ECO mode is clearly to improve your mileage, this also has the welcome benefit of being more environmentally friendly. Reduced fuel consumption and less severe driving styles create a more environmentally sensitive vehicle.

How does ECO mode work?

The precise modifications to your system that ECO mode makes will depend on the make and model of your car. What’s more, ECO mode has a much more significant role when you drive an automatic than a manual.

Generally, ECO mode’s main function is that it electronically alters the point at which your transmission (a.k.a. your gearbox) will switch up a gear. Being in a higher gear puts less strain on your engine and will, therefore, use less fuel. In an automatic, this gear change will of course happen automatically, meaning that when driving you will cycle up the gears quicker. In a manual, since you decide yourself when to change gear, ECO mode will merely prompt you to change gear earlier than perhaps you naturally would, usually in the form of a dashboard light.

As well as the effect on your transmission, ECO mode can create a few other alterations, usually in the way of limiting actions. For example, it can reduce throttle, interpreting your pressure on the acceleration pedal as less than it is, limiting sharp acceleration to a more gradual response. The mode can also limit your vehicle’s alternator and air conditioning power.

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Towing and ECO mode

The extra weight of a caravan will always negatively impact upon your fuel economy and MPG. It is perhaps, therefore, of particular interest to caravanners whether ECO mode can help them squeeze some more miles from a tank of petrol.

When starting off, or if you are towing on inclined roads, it is likely best to keep ECO mode turned off. With the extra weight of your caravan hooked up, you will want to ensure you are comfortably getting enough acceleration and power. Slightly worse MPG is a reasonable price to pay rather than risk failing a hill start with a caravan on your back! Particularly when towing with an automatic vehicle, ECO mode is best used on flat, open stretches of road.

For those whose ECO mode affects the alternator, you will want to make sure that this reduced electrical output doesn’t affect the connection to your caravan’s electrics. A towbar with vehicle specific wiring should help ensure that your car mode accounts for your towed load properly. However, it can be a good idea to simply turn on your headlights when towing in ECO mode as this will have a knock on effect of increasing the charge voltage supplied to your caravan. This will ensure the caravan receives sufficient power whilst also maintaining the fuel saving effects of ECO mode.

Towbar fitting

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