Why is an oil cooler necessary for an automatic transmission?

I’m towing a tiny two-person camper behind my SUV on a camping trip in a few weeks. I was telling my friend about my plan, and he claims I “must” invest in an oil cooler. Why is an oil cooler necessary for an automatic transmission?

Matt Terzi · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
That sounds like it’s going to be a fun trip! As for the transmission cooler, your friend is mostly right. It’s a good idea to get an oil cooler for your automatic transmission, but it’s not an absolute necessity for every car, truck, or SUV.
Towing puts a lot of strain on your engine and your transmission. And whenever these mechanical parts are putting in that extra work, they tend to heat up.
The transmission is right next to the engine, too. And engines get hot even working under normal conditions—they’re powered by tiny explosions, after all. So your already-hot engine, extra-taxed by towing duties, is now transferring even more heat into the transmission casing.
Any modern vehicle that promotes its towing capacity is designed with some of this heat transference in mind. Your transmission fluid likely won’t reach extreme temperatures unless you’re reaching your maximum towing capacity or driving through a desert.
Still, these coolers reduce the temperature of your transmission fluid, which can prolong transmission life and keep your transmission healthier, longer.
So if you plan on doing any towing, or if you’re driving in hotter regions, installing an oil cooler for your automatic transmission is a good, if not a great, idea. We strongly recommend it.
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