If you’re going to be frequently towing, one of the most important components is your suspension. Since the rear of your truck or SUV is going to do most of the hard work, springs and shocks can wear out quickly. Upgrading your suspension is critical when you’re going to pull heavy loads and want to do it safely. While shocks are only a part of the entire setup, replacing them in due time will improve your vehicle’s handling and towing.
Will new shocks help with towing?
New shocks improve a vehicle’s handling while adding comfort and preventing damage to other components, making towing safer, but they will not increase your vehicle’s towing capability. Because the truck’s rear works the hardest when pulling, it’s normal and expected that these suspension elements wear out faster than those in the front, so replacing the rear shocks might happen more frequently.
When rear suspension components are damaged, you can have problems like bottoming out over bumps, unstable handling, and restrictive driving. Replacing your shocks will improve these aspects, but you should also review the rest of your suspension elements and whether you are correctly towing or not, as you might be exceeding your truck’s hauling capabilities.
First, let’s see how shocks play a vital role in towing. Your rear suspension, the one that works the hardest when pulling, is made up of springs and shock absorbers (and other components). The springs absorb road feedback and most of the load.
The shocks help dampen the up and motion, regulate the spring rebound, and control movement in the rear.
If your suspension is too soft, the truck’s rear end will drop when towing, making it unsafe. So, for heavy-duty trucks and SUVs that will see plenty of towing, the rear suspension has more robust components. This configuration translates to a stiffer ride when you’re not hauling anything.
Plus, in some cases, the rear shocks are designed to work under load, so the truck might look elevated when it’s not towing any cargo.
As you can see, shocks are one of the vital components for towing. They can wear out faster than other parts (especially when compared to front suspension deterioration), and replacing them will improve your truck’s handling. But, factory components might not be the best in the market so, if you’re going to replace your shocks and other suspension parts, you can consider aftermarket components.
Amongst those aftermarket parts, you can find self-leveling and air-regulated shocks that help maintain your vehicle stable. It’s important to remember that while upgrading your shocks will improve handling, doing this will not increase your vehicle’s towing capacity.
To increase towing capacity, some manufacturers have towing packages, and you can read our article on what they are and how they work.
Plus, as we’ve said before, the springs will bear most of the load. So, they are also a vital component.
Springs are essential for towing, too.
This article has explained how the shocks help dampen the bounce and handling of a truck or SUV, but springs bear most of the load when towing. So, if you’re going to improve your shocks, you should also improve on your springs.
Some signs that indicate your suspension is too soft can include the back of the truck dropping too much (some people might even let the bumper scrape the ground. Don’t do this!) or, worse, that the back sags even without a load.
Springs, and not shocks, will increase your ride height in the back. Suppose you want to improve on your suspension. In that case, you can consider variable-rate coil springs, which have different radiuses all along the spring, usually narrower at the top and broader at the bottom. This configuration helps in a smoother ride when unloaded while still able to pull heavy loads.
A topic we haven’t covered is rear leaf springs. Leaf springs are the predecessor of springs, and they’re usually exclusive for utility trucks and SUVs, so most modern-day vehicles don’t have them. While the mechanical principle is the same, leaf springs are more robust but provide a harsher ride. One interesting upside to the leaf spring is that specialty shops can reform and give them new life.
If you have replaced these components and your vehicle is still sagging, you need to consider one vital aspect. Perhaps, you’re exceeding your vehicle’s capacity.
Do not exceed your towing capacity.
The first and most important reason for not exceeding your towing capacity is safety. There can be a lot of legal implications if you do so and end up in an accident. Read our article on exceeding towing capacity and the possible legal ramifications.
You might be within the law and still exceed your truck or hitch’s towing capacity. But, before we talk about the details of pulling and weight distribution, we must specify some terms that are basic for understanding how to tow safely.
- 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.
- Tongue Weight (TW): usually expressed in pounds. This is the maximum weight that can be exerted onto the back of the vehicle. It concerns the hitching point between the trailer and the truck. It’s an essential value for stability.
One of the critical aspects of towing is the Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR), indicating the maximum weight your vehicle can tow. How you distribute that weight is also key, and that’s where the Tongue Weight (TW).
Why is the Tongue Weight important? Since it’s the hitching point between the vehicle and the trailer, it plays a critical part in the dynamics of towing. If your tongue weight is too much, it can cause the truck’s rear end to drop. When this happens, the front of the vehicle raises, reducing steering and handling.
When the tongue weight is too light, and most of the trailer’s weight is in the back, the truck’s end will rise, putting unnecessary pressure on the front and reducing traction, as the rear wheels have less grip.
Many sources on the web say that your tongue weight must not exceed 10% of the trailer’s weight. This estimation isn’t necessarily accurate, as it might be too light in many situations. The recommended interval is that your weight stays within 10% to 15% of the total trailer weight.
There are other alternatives to make towing safer.
As you’ve seen, replacing your shocks for new models or better aftermarket versions will improve your truck’s handling and make towing safer. But, other components also make towing safer.
One of the best ways to make towing safer is by adding a weight distribution system. This system not only allows you to pull at your hitch’s maximum weight but shifts the load adequately so that there are no imbalances.
Also, a weight distribution system helps prevent your trailer from swaying side to side, a phenomenon that can be deadly at highway speeds. As with any other towing component, it’s best to consider this option as part of the system and not see it as the solution for all your towing needs.
This article aimed to answer whether new shocks would help with towing. Their job is to dampen the bounce and provide stability for the rear end, so we explained that new shocks will improve a vehicle’s handling and suspension. Whenever you improve on these aspects, you’re making your truck more stable and better for towing.
Putting new or aftermarket shocks will not increase your towing capacity, as your vehicle’s specifications define the maximum weight you can pull. So, if you see offers promising to increase the pounds you can tow just by changing the shocks, it’s best to avoid these, as it’s simply not true.
In addition to the shocks, you must also consider your springs. They play a vital role in towing, as they bear much of the load and, actually, are the components in charge of keeping the truck in place.
One way to increase stability for towing is by adding stiffer suspension components like springs and shocks, but this will sacrifice comfort, as the truck will feel more rigid.
Finally, we spoke about the tongue weight. This is an essential yet controversial variable of towing. Many sites on the web state that you shouldn’t exceed 10% of your trailer’s total weight and, while this applies to some cases, it’s not the same for all. Usually, the recommended tongue weight is 10% to 15% of the trailer’s total weight. The best way to ensure that you’re towing safely is by following the manufacturer’s guidelines for the vehicle, the trailer, and the hitch.
If you’re looking to add more stability, you can consider a weight distribution system, which also improves handling and safety when towing. This is a great tool that adds security and will not magically improve towing by itself like all the others we’ve covered.
As you can see, there are many variables to towing. Fortunately, as technology advances, both trucks and trailers are now safer. So, with the right tools, you can pull as much as you want.