how to increase towing capacity

How to Increase Towing Capacity on a Vehicle

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Increasing tow capacity may seem like a far-fetched dream at first glance. However, with a few modifications, your vehicle might become more of a towing beast than it was before.

Essentially, cars are made from parts being put together in a very confusing way, but a few manual twists here and there can up your vehicle’s performance to some degree. With that said, let us see how to increase towing capacity on a vehicle.

What is Towing Capacity?

The answer to this question is the single most important thing to know before you even think of making upgrades. The towing capacity is the total weight amount a vehicle can tow when it is pulling a trailer. One thing to keep in mind is that every vehicle is designed to tow a specific amount of weight, the figure of which has been listed carefully on your tow vehicle.

However, if you are willing to try and squeeze out some more torque from an old model that isn’t tow-ready, or maybe your tow rating is a few pounds short from being able to tow your newly bought trailer, then these methods might be able to help.

Some models need complete remodeling to accommodate a larger trailer, so hope for the best and don’t be too surprised if it wouldn’t work out. Consult professional mechanics if you can to make your money well spent.

Read more: Diesel vs Gas Trucks For Towing

How to Increase Towing Capacity?

First thing you would want to do is to determine the desired amount you want your vehicle to tow. Exceeding manufacturer recommended amounts is rather risky, so you really don’t want to increase the towing capacity too significantly. Exceeding those numbers by, for example 1-2 thousand pounds, might result in damaged parts inside your tow vehicle.

It is really important that you know what you’re dealing with, so try and put a finger on the difference between producer suggested figures for tow capacity and the weight of your own camper. If it exceeds maybe a thousand pounds, you should consider hiring a truck or borrowing your friends’ to tow your fifth wheel for your own safety.

Heighten your vehicle’s performance

To get better towing capabilities, the straightforward thing for you to do is to revamp and renew some components that are directly related to power and performance.

For example, you can have your tow vehicle run on dual exhausts or replace the existing filter on your exhausts with a newer one. This is one of the ways to boost your engine capacity, but there are always other ways to do it, such as using cold air intake (CAI). There is another article of ours dedicated to this topic of boosting engine capacity, so be sure to check it out. Leveraging your engine capacity is guaranteed to provide higher towing capabilities as well.

A very nice item you can have to make things easier is a power programmer. A power programmer is effective in that it can make adjustments to your tow vehicle’s onboard settings. This way there is room for modifications to the amount of torque and horsepower that your vehicle will be utilizing.

This component absolutely comes in handy when you need to exceed the tow capacity by a few hundred pounds. Transmission for shifting and handling is also enhanced by the electronic control module via the power programmer so that your truck can run smoothly. There might be a power programmer for your specific truck, so be sure to check it out.

Most of the time, enhancing performance is the answer you need to the question of how to increase towing capacity.

Also, it is important to consult the local laws if you are going to make any modifications to your truck, since sometimes it might be illegal to do so.

Increase radiator size

The radiator is centrally crucial to keeping the vehicle cool and therefore, functioning properly. You don’t want to overheat your engine. Increasing the combined weight inevitably prompts you to buy a bigger radiator to keep your vehicle’s engine from breaking down from overworking.

The cooling system generally consists of two radiators: one for the engine and another for the transmission, you should give both an upgrade.  

Make changes to the braking system

Another largely unnoticed component that is affected by a change in tow weight (if you’ve managed to increase your towing capacity) is the braking system. There are many braking systems, but the more common type for today’s vehicles is the hydraulic braking system.

In short, this type of braking is very efficient in stopping vehicles, with the motion transferring from brake pedal to brake pads almost in an instant. However, a heavy payload means putting more strain to the system, so an upgrade to brake pads and rotors is also justified. You may want to check out the best brake pads for towing recommended by RVing Trends experts here.

You might also want a trailer brake controller. Installing this will ensure that you have full control over the fifth wheel’s brakes.

increasing towing capacity
Photo: Truick Trend Staff

Customize the suspension system

The suspension system is another crucial safety feature of the tow vehicle. It maximizes the contact between the tires and the road, thus providing great steering and maneuvering capabilities. Also, it will ensure that the weight is distributed evenly and ensure that passengers enjoy a comfortable ride by dampening some impacts.

Replacing or amping up your suspension system is very costly, typically ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. By price alone, this upgrade is probably up there as the most expensive.

With more pressure being put on the towing department, and therefore the GVWR, a suspension is an essential upgrade since you will need more stability and maneuverability. Heavy duty springs are actually worthwhile investments if you think about it. Also, if you want even more stability when you’re towing, air suspension is a great choice of modification. After all, safety is key when towing. Think of this as merely an investment for your own safety and wellbeing on the road.

Replace the hitch

You might have guessed this one, but we are going to discuss its importance in detail. Almost everything on your truck is designed to accommodate the specific tow capacity that the manufacturer recommends, and of course, that includes the tow ball. As sturdy as it may seem, your old tow ball might not be up to the challenge when more weight is involved.

Especially when you are dealing with a more robust enhancement, replacing a tow ball is the decision for the ages. If your tow ball allows for around 5,000 lbs, then consider purchasing a replacement with a 10,000 lbs limit.

Getting a more capable hitch will also increase your towing performance and facilitates better, safer towing experience.

Related: Best Shocks for Towing A Travel Trailer

Get a fifth wheel hitch

Whenever you want to do heavy duty towing of any kind, consider getting a fifth wheel hitch. The fifth wheel hitch system is designed to tow larger campers and semi-trailers comfortably for recreational purposes. From what I’ve seen, fifth wheel hitches are generally used on trucks.

Upgrade the axles

This is definitely one of the most expensive upgrades you can make on this list. Upgrading the axles will make sure that your vehicle holds up despite the change in GVWR. The price for replacing the axle shaft can be anywhere from $880 to $959, so make sure that your budget is ready.  

The axle shaft is used to rotate the wheels. To be more precise, the axle shaft is responsible for transferring the transmission’s rotational force to the wheels, and also plays a role in helping the truck tow trailers more easily. The axle supports the weight of the vehicle as well, so you can imagine its importance in carrying extra weight and towing trailers.

Keep in mind that you should have professionals carry out the replacement. After you’re done, you will find that handling heavy duty loads like large trailers won’t be a problem anymore (provided the above modifications have already worked).

Also, the differentials are to be replaced as well while you’re at it. The mechanics should tell you this anyways, since new axles need compatible differentials to function properly.

Final Words

There are quite a few things you can do if you ever wish to tow a bigger trailer. Increasing tow capacity has never been quite a hard task, you just have to find out which parts you want to replace or repair and leave the rest to the professionals. However, you have to remember not to get your hopes up too much.

Keep your adjustments to a minimum so that everything remains legal and manageable and unwanted mechanical failures are prevented. If the trailer is too heavy, don’t go pushing your luck with an ill-equipped truck or tow vehicle. 

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