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Can You Increase Towing Capacity and Performance?

In the US, trailer hitches are available for most makes and models. However, there’s a limit to the trailer weight you can pull behind any vehicle safely, and it’s specified in the owner’s manual. But sometimes, that’s not enough for the trailer you want to pull.

It’s possible to add more trailer towing capacity to some vehicles with certain upgrades. Here’s what you should know about how to increase towing capacity, what factors into how much a vehicle can pull, and the mods you can do.

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What Impacts Towing Capacity and Performance

Towing capacity is an important factor to consider when you purchase a vehicle, as it can determine the trailer size and weight you can safely tow. Many vehicles have limited towing capacity due to their design and size, while others may be able to pull greater loads with the right upgrades. Here are some factors that can impact a vehicle’s towing capacity.

Vehicle Weight

Vehicle weight plays a major role in determining maximum towing capacity as it affects the vehicle’s ability to carry extra weight. The heavier the car, truck, or SUV, the less it will be able to tow. But also, it needs enough weight to handle the trailer’s momentum. it’s important to take into account the difference between the curb weight and the gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVWR) of any vehicle you’re considering for towing purposes.

Frame and Hitch

The frame underpins all of the components that affect towing. It needs to be strong enough to bear the weight of the trailer it’s pulling, and the trailer hitch needs to be rated for the trailer’s weight limits. Particularly as it applies to trailer tongue weight and hitch mounting, the frame is one area that can’t be reliably modified and is pivotal in how manufacturers set the max towing limits.

Suspension

The suspension system is responsible for carrying both its load and any additional load from a trailer. A good suspension system should be able to absorb the additional stress from extra weight without impacting performance or stability, making it an important consideration when selecting a vehicle for towing purposes.

Engine Size and Torque Output

The engine should also be taken into account when determining its maximum towing capacity, as it affects how much power is needed for pulling a heavy load effectively. In general, larger engines with higher torque outputs mean better overall performance and increased capacity for pulling heavy trailers.

Braking

Once you have the trailer in motion, you’ll need to bring it to a stop. Hauling more than your vehicle is rated for can create extreme heat that causes brake fade or warping, plus it can boil the fluid in the brake lines.

Modifications and Upgrades for Increasing Towing Capacity and Performance

If your vehicle doesn’t have enough power to tow a trailer safely or you need to improve its handling with a trailer on the hitch, several modifications or upgrades can be done to increase its towing capacity. 

  • Upgrade the Suspension System. Upgrading the suspension system is one of the most effective ways to increase the towing capacity of your vehicle. Installing heavier-duty shocks, struts, and springs will help support additional weight from a trailer while also providing additional stability.
  • Install High-Performance Brakes. Improvements to the brake system can help reduce stopping distances when hauling heavy trailers. This should include larger calipers, stainless steel lines and performance pads as they will provide more efficient braking when loaded up.
  • Modify the Powertrain. If you want increased power for pulling heavier loads, you might need power add-ons or performance upgrades. This could include installing a programmer or tuner, as well as upgrading the exhaust system for improved airflow. Doing so will result in improved performance and greater tow capacity for heavier loads.
  • Add a Transmission Cooler. The transmission fluid gets hot under heavy loads, and a manufacturer’s “max towing capacity” might require adding a transmission cooler to achieve it.
  • Install a Higher Capacity Hitch. If your hitch is a Class 1 or 2 with a limit of 3,500 pounds and your truck is capable of pulling up to 10,000 pounds, switching the hitch to a Class 3 hitch can instantly get you more capacity. A weight-distributing hitch also tends to increase your limit.
  • Install an Electric Trailer Brake Controller. This accessory lets you apply the electric brakes on heavier trailers (if they’re equipped) so your truck’s brakes aren’t responsible for all the stopping power.

Other modifications are possible to add more towing capacity and performance such as installing a turbo or supercharger, changing differential gear ratios, installing a larger radiator, or increasing your fuel injector size. However, these modifications will likely impact your vehicle’s warranty, and they’re complex mods to make.

Choosing the Right Modifications for Your Vehicle

If you’re choosing the right mods to make to increase towing capacity on your vehicle, here are some suggestions:

  • Choose plug-and-play options. Any modifications you can do that don’t need extensive installation such as a power programmer and trailer brake controller are an excellent choice.
  • Stick with direct replacement parts. If you’re changing suspension or brake components, for example, pick parts that are designed for your vehicle but are intended to improve performance.
  • Install the highest capacity hitch, receiver, and ball. Having access to the highest trailer towing capacity requires that all of your hitch components are rated for at least the maximum trailering weight rating for your vehicle.

Remember, a well-maintained vehicle is key to unlocking the best towing potential too, so make sure the air filter, fuel filter, spark plugs, and other tune-up components are in good shape.

For your towing accessories, vehicle upgrades, and tune-up parts, choose AutoZone. Get everything you need to achieve your towing potential here, with Trustworthy Advice from our associates.

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FAQ/People Also Ask

What are the factors that impact towing capacity and performance?

Your vehicle’s frame, brakes, engine, drivetrain, weight, and suspension all factor into how well your vehicle performs while towing and its capacity.

What modifications and upgrades can I make to increase my vehicle’s towing capacity and performance?

It’s possible to increase towing capacity and performance with powertrain modifications. You can also upgrade your brakes, install an electric brake controller and transmission cooler, upgrade your suspension, and bolt on a higher-capacity hitch.

How do I choose the right modifications for my vehicle?

It’s always best to make modifications that are reversible and won’t affect your vehicle warranty.

Can I increase my vehicle’s towing capacity and performance myself or should I hire a professional?

It’s possible to perform your own upgrades to performance and towing, yes. If you’re unsure, it’s wise to consult or hire a professional to do the work for you.

What is the average cost of increasing towing capacity and performance?

It depends on what you want to achieve. You can make small upgrades that cost less than $100 while others can cost thousands.

Are there any legal or safety concerns to consider when increasing towing capacity and performance?

Never exceed your vehicle’s maximum towing capacity. Not only could you be cited if you’re pulled over or inspected, but it could be extremely unsafe to increase towing capacity beyond the manufacturer’s specifications.

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