Towing vehicle cooling system

Anita Pavey — 11 September 2017

You’ve got to feel sorry for the average towing vehicle. If it’s a 4WD, chances are it’s encumbered by a whole lot of heavy accessories like a bull bar, winch, roof rack, long range tank, or storage system. All these items add weight affecting how your vehicle handles, goes, stops and, importantly, its ability to keep cool.


Air flow is a key consideration for any vehicle. Spotlights can interrupt the air flow to your radiator as can a bull bar, although most reputable big-name companies will have spent considerable dollars testing their equipment to ensure it doesn’t. So it’s more about those small modifications we do as owners that may have unforeseen consequences. 

Insect blinds are a perfect example. Many vehicles, particularly around country towns, have fly mesh or shade cloth over their radiators, to protect them from grasshoppers and other insects. Under normal driving conditions without an RV in tow, this interruption is unlikely to raise a sweat, but bundle on an extra two to three tonne of RV on the back and the impact is considerable. 

If you ever wanted to quantify the impact, try this simple test. Stand in front of a fan with a piece of shade cloth or insect mesh in front of your face. And then without. It’s a massive difference! A modification like this will only hinder your vehicle, making it work harder than it needs to, increasing wear and tear.


Monitoring your vehicle’s vital signs is your first challenge. To avoid panic in the average driver, original equipment temperature gauges generally require a big temperature change to cause any movement in the needle. The second challenge, is noticing the change when it happens, as when it hits the red zone of the temperature gauge, the damage may already be done! 

Picture this. You’re out on the highway, a couple of hours into your trip. You have Pavarotti’s Favourite Hits pumping through the stereo, only interrupted by your own bursts into the chorus. The scenery is engaging. Your vehicle’s cooling system is the furthest thing from your mind.


Simply, be sympathetic to the plight of your vehicle’s cooling system. Heading up a mountain range? Make sure you’re not in overdrive as this generates a lot of heat. Many newer cars have sensors in the transmission to sense the incline, speed, and position of the throttle, and other variables to minimise heat and change gears as required. Monitor the temperature gauge. Most of the time it will sit in the middle of the range. If you see it climb higher, back off, as in most cases it will be on the way up. You can also fit an aftermarket accessory such as the EngineSafe temperature alarm, which can help monitor coolant temperature.

Do you have any good strategies for helping your vehicle’s coolant system breathe? We’d love to share them, so go ahead and pop them on the Caravan World Facebook page.

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #566. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!


Tow vehicle cooling system DIY product