Keep Your Truck Cool When Towing: Towing Packages Explained

Those towing heavy loads will benefit from a truck designed for doing just that. We break down exactly what to look for in a towing package.

What is a Towing Package?

2023 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD -
2023 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD -

A towing package (also known as a trailer package) is an important feature that can make the experience of hauling a trailer dramatically better for your truck or SUV. Today, we’re going to walk you through what a towing package is at its core, what extra features some have, and when you need one vs when you don’t.

Why Do You Need a Towing Package?

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 -
2023 GMC Sierra 1500 -

At its heart, a towing package is a group of components intended to make towing safer both for you and your passengers but also for the drivetrain of the vehicle in question. It’s worth noting that every automaker decides for itself what equipment to include to exclude from its own towing package.

With that in mind, be sure to examine the list of features included before buying to ensure that you get everything that you think you might need. With that in mind, let’s dive into the details. First, let’s talk about what it usually adds in terms of basic safety for occupants.

Towing Package Components

2023 Ford F-150 Tow Mirrors -
2023 Ford F-150 Tow Mirrors -

Towing adds weight to the equation and so many trailering or towing packages will include bigger brakes and stronger suspension components that can handle that extra weight. In addition, many trailer packages will include trailer wing mirrors.

These mirrors are easily spotted as they’ll extend further away from the vehicle in question to provide a better view of the trailer from the driver’s seat. In addition, a trailering package almost always includes suitable wiring harnesses to send all appropriate lighting signals to the trailer lights.

Automakers also want to strengthen the drivetrain components of a vehicle with a towing package to ensure that it can handle the extra stress inherent with towing heavy loads. To that end, most towing packages feature additional drivetrain cooling components like a transmission cooler, additional engine radiators, or even fans and ducts especially designed for this purpose.

2023 Ford F-150 Towing Mode -
2023 Ford F-150 Towing Mode -

In addition, a heavy-duty trailer hitch itself is typically included. At times, automakers will also include a bigger alternator, different rear-axle gearing, and a trailer brake controller. Many tow packages will include a drive mode specifically for towing.

All of these features can combine to make towing a trailer safer, easier, and more enjoyable. At the same time, they’ll require regular maintenance to ensure that they’re fully functional when it’s time to tow.

Advanced Towing Features

Chevrolet Rear Top -Down View Camera -
Chevrolet Rear Top -Down View Camera -

As technology has improved over the last few decades it has made a bigger impact on the towing industry and on towing packages too. Today, it’s not uncommon to see incredibly sophisticated features enabled through digital technology.

One example is a reversing technology found in both Ford and Dodge trucks that will allow the driver to steer the trailer without moving the wheel themselves. That’s only the tip of the iceberg though.

Cameras have completely changed the way that most people tow. Chevrolet and GMC both have camera systems that will show a top-down view of the ball and hitch so that hooking up is no longer a guessing game. In addition, cameras can show the driver both sides of the trailer and some technologies exist that let the driver see through the trailer virtually which enables them to observe traffic behind them.

2023 RAM 1500 60/40 Split Tailgate -
2023 RAM 1500 60/40 Split Tailgate -

Less talked about features can be hugely convenient too. RAM sells a split 60/40 tailgate that allows for easy access to the bed while a trailer is still hooked up. Some manufacturers will include features that are associated with towing like additional onboard power outlets in the bed, trailer tire pressure, and temperature monitoring systems add an additional layer of safety and convenience.

The same can be said of driver safety aids like blind-spot monitoring that takes into account trailer length. And sometimes included larger fuel tanks allow for longer driving stints between fuel stops.

When Should You Get a Towing Package?

2023 Toyota Tundra -
2023 Toyota Tundra -

Contrary to popular belief, trucks can’t tow just about anything regardless of trim or features. To that end, it’s important to consider a few factors when deciding whether or not to get a towing package:

First, consider much does the thing that you want to tow weigh? That figure, known as Gross Trailer Weight (GTV) , takes into account both the weight of the trailer itself and whatever is inside of it. That number should be compared to the maximum towing capacity of the vehicle in question.

Since most vehicles don’t weigh exactly the same, it’s important to consider the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR or GCWR) which is a combination of the weight of your vehicle with everything that’ll be riding in it along with the total weight of the trailer and everything in it. Then subtract the vehicle’s curb weight (how much it weighs on its own when empty) to get your actual towing capacity. The trailer you pull should be below that figure.

2023 Ford Super Duty -
2023 Ford Super Duty -

The answer to whether or not you need a tow package or not comes down to the answers you get once this math is completed. If your trailer is still below your actual towing capacity then you’re in good shape as it is.

If the figure is above your actual towing capacity then you’ll likely need to add additional components to your tow vehicle, like more power, better cooling, a heavy duty towing hitch, or more to accomplish your goals. It’s possible that the vehicle in question simply isn’t capable of towing the load in question.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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