Tow Vehicle Towing Packages

When shopping for a tow vehicle keep in mind that appearances can be deceiving. For example two pickups sitting side by side on a dealer’s lot may seem to be identical, except perhaps for color, but one of the trucks may have a substantially high tow rating.

Most light truck & SUV manufacturers offer specially designed towing packages that define the equipment necessary to tow different types of trailers depending on their fully loaded weight and size. A towing package may include a heavy-duty radiator, battery, flasher system, alternator, suspension, and brakes, as well as an engine-oil cooler, transmission-oil cooler, wiring harness, specific axle ratio, and special wheels and tires. Newer pickups may even include a trailer brake controller specially fitted into the instrument panel.

Towing packages also may include the trailer hitch receiver, which is mounted to the tow vehicle, but towing packages rarely include the draw bar, or ball mount, and hitch ball.

A manufacturer may offer different towing packages to safely tow various sizes and types of trailers. Towing packages indicate both equipment that must be installed on your tow vehicle and equipment that is optional or recommended. For example, not all trailers require the tow vehicle to be equipped with extended side-view mirrors. But if you plan to tow a trailer wider than your tow vehicle, you will need extended side-view mirrors to see rear- and side-approaching traffic.

If you already have a tow vehicle, look up its tow rating—size, maximum loaded weight, and maximum tongue weight of a trailer that the tow vehicle is capable of towing. The vehicle owner’s manual contains these specifications.

Most automotive manufacturers and dealerships have towing specification guides with tow ratings and detailed information if extra equipment is needed to tow a trailer. Always insist on seeing the printed specification. Never rely on a salesman. service manager or mechanic for proper information.

While your vehicle may have certain tow ratings, remember you must have a matching hitch system that can handle the same specifications. To ensure safety, you may have to install extra towing equipment.
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