Let’s say you’re thinking about a bigger boat or a larger camper. You’ve had your truck for a while now. You’re familiar with its capabilities through and through, but sometimes, the question comes up. Could you increase its towing capacity? There are plenty of options, and even more opinions out there, about this question. So, let’s answer it.
Does a tow package increase your towing capacity?
Some tow packages increase capacity if they improve all the critical aspects of towing, such as transmission, drivetrain, brakes, and suspension, in addition to a hitch. These options improve the truck’s performance when facing heavy loads and frequent towing, but not all tow packages are the same. There’s a common misconception that only adding a hitch will increase the numbers, but this isn’t the case.
When you’re towing cargo, you’re putting additional strain on several of your truck’s vital components. The brakes have to deal with more weight when stopping, and this causes them to work harder.
Additionally, the transmission reaches higher temperatures when facing a heavier load, especially if it’s automatic since they traditionally generate more heat. Finally, elements like the chassis and suspension will get closer to their limits.
As you can see, we haven’t mentioned the hitch, and that’s because it’s only one of the components. Yes, it’s the connection between your cargo and truck, but improving it won’t do anything if you don’t consider other aspects. Besides the components we’ve mentioned before, your hauling needs are also essential.
How much you plan to tow is critical for choosing the ideal towing package. Your truck or vehicle might be able to fulfill your requirements from the factory, and you might not need to purchase a heavy-duty tow package. But, if you do need a towing package, here’s what you need to know about the ideal option.
What’s an ideal towing package?
The ideal towing package upgrades your entire truck, not only your hitch. Let’s explain how it should do so, point by point, starting by the component that suffers the most and users many ignore, the transmission:
- Improved transmission cooling: let’s say your truck has an automatic transmission, which already operates at a higher temperature than a manual. When you’re towing, the additional weight will make the gears work harder, generating more heat. Also, remember that automatic transmissions use the radiator for cooling. So, the ideal towing package will have a larger heat-exchanger or improved radiator to compensate for the extra strain. You can ask for this improvement from the factory instead of an aftermarket modification.
- Increased torque: this improvement can come in the form of a higher gear ratio, most commonly. Some manufacturers choose to modify the gears inside the transmission, but only for particular cases. With a higher gear ratio, the torque output increases, helping you haul more cargo, but you will see less mpg.
- Stronger suspension and brakes: the heavier the load, the more your suspension and brakes have to work. An ideal tow package includes bigger brakes, heavier springs, and stronger shocks, but remember that only improving these aspects will not increase your truck’s towing ability; they help in more stable driving and controlled braking.
- Towing hitch: the towing hitch can come in two forms, a ball or a receiver hitch, and the shape depends on how much you will haul. Manufacturers bolt them to the truck’s frame or other vital components, in the case of monocoque vehicles.
- Electrical connections: novice users often overlook these connections, and they can play a critical part in safe towing. First of all, a tow package should offer electrical connections to feed the trailer’s brake lights, but also its brakes. Heavy-duty trailers come with their brakes, which help ease the load off the truck.
When a towing package considers and improves all these aspects, it will increase the towing capacity. As we’ve written before, all manufacturers offer their specific towing options, such as the Ford Max Towing Package.
If your truck doesn’t come with the factory towing package, you can ask your dealership if they install the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) package once the vehicle has left the lot. Most do, and the cost can run anywhere from $1200 to $3000, depending on the option.
But, even before you buy your truck with a towing package, you should understand some towing terms. Here are some of the basics you should know.
Practical towing terms to know:
If you’re going to be frequently towing, you might get caught up in technical jargon. To avoid confusion and to pull safely, it’s best to understand some of the basic terms:
- Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): usually expressed in pounds or separated by class. It’s the vehicle’s maximum total weight.
- Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR): usually expressed in pounds or separated by class. It’s the recommended maximum loaded weight of your vehicle and your trailer.
- Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW): usually expressed in pounds. It’s your vehicle’s weight, alone, without the trailer, when fully loaded.
- Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR): usually expressed in pounds or separated by class. The maximum recommended weight for a fully loaded trailer. This number is the maximum towing capacity.
- Gross Axle Weight (GAW): usually expressed in pounds. It’s the actual weight that each axle carries.
- Curb Weight (CW): usually expressed in pounds. This is the vehicle’s weight when there are no passengers or cargo. But it does take into consideration fuel and the fluids necessary to operate.
- Dry Weight (DW): usually expressed in pounds. This is similar to the CW but removes the weight from fuel and the fluids necessary to operate.
- Tongue Weight (TW): usually expressed in pounds. This is the maximum weight at the hitching point between the trailer and the truck. It’s an essential value for stability.
Of all these variables, your maximum towing capacity depends on the GVWR, which is the maximum amount of cargo weight inside your truck and trailer weight. Without heavy reengineering of your vehicle, you cannot exceed this number; something manufacturers won’t do or cover under warranty. Keep in mind that, from the factory, a truck with towing package can have a higher GVWR than its regular counterpart.
We’ve written before about how important understanding your vehicle’s capacity is. If you get to know your truck in and out, you can exploit its abilities to pull loads of up to 35,500 lbs.
But, say that you want to tow something within your truck’s ability, but your hitch isn’t up to par. Can you change it? Let’s find out.
A stronger hitch is better, sometimes.
As we explained before, your truck’s towing abilities define how much you can pull. But, let’s say you’re facing the following situation: your trailer is 8,000 pounds, your vehicle can safely haul 10,000 pounds, but your hitch holds only 7,000 pounds.
The first thing you need to do is ask yourself, how did this happen? Sometimes, dealerships can fit trucks with basic equipment to lower costs and then sell the right hitch for upgrades. If you are going to upgrade, then there are some things you must consider.
Your future hitch should not exceed your truck’s towing capacity (in this case, 10,000 pounds). Your hitch might survive if you go over this number, but your vehicle could suffer costly damages. Options like a weight balancing joint do not increase the vehicle’s pulling capacity, but they offer improved handling and help distribute your load more safely.
Finally, your hitch should fit your desired use, joining your trailer adequately. Don’t settle for any hitch, even if the load is small, as a bad fit could end up jeopardizing your safety and others’ on the road.
We wanted to answer whether a tow package increases towing capacity. This article aims to explain that a right tow package can fulfill this goal if it upgrades all the necessary components to improve a truck or vehicle’s towing ability. While most people think that upgrading the hitch is all it takes to increase the pulling capabilities, a tow package includes much more than that.
Your truck’s components like suspension, transmission, drivetrain, and brakes need to be capable of handling heavier cargos, especially if you are going to tow frequently. Therefore, a right tow package can include bigger brakes, increased cooling for the transmission, firmer suspension, and a higher torque ratio.
Truck manufacturers offer OEM tow packages, sometimes known as heavy-duty options, that include all these improvements. The added benefit is that, since they come from the dealership, they have warranties. You can try to increase your truck’s towing capability with aftermarket components, but it usually means heavy reengineering and no manufacturer support.
Finally, some tow packages include basic changes like an improved hitch and suspensions. These are ideal for those users who want to tow something within their vehicle’s capabilities but want better handling and safer pulling.
Remember that towing can be dangerous, especially if you don’t take all the precautions necessary for the job. So, always check your owner’s manual for guidelines. Safe and happy towing!