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How to Increase Tow Capacity

Tow Capacity

If you find yourself needing to haul larger trailers or heavier loads, knowing how to increase safely tow capacity in your truck or SUV is essential. Several factors determine tow capacity, and there are both simple and more involved upgrades you can make to boost your vehicle’s ability to pull.

What is Tow Capacity?

Tow capacity is the maximum weight your vehicle can safely pull. Several factors determine this number, including:

  • Engine Power: Horsepower and torque are crucial for towing power.
  • Transmission: The transmission must handle the stress of pulling heavy loads.
  • Brakes: You’ll need enough stopping power to manage the additional weight.
  • Suspension: A strong suspension supports the trailer and improves handling.
  • Frame: The vehicle’s frame must be robust enough to withstand the forces involved in towing.

How Do I Determine My Vehicle’s Tow Capacity?

Your vehicle’s owner’s manual is the best place to find your specific tow capacity. You can also usually find it on a sticker inside the driver’s side door. For further information, search online with your vehicle’s year, make, and model.

How to Increase Towing Capacity

Here are ways to enhance your vehicle’s towing capacity and pulling capacity:

  • Upgrade the Hitch: A higher-rated hitch, like a weight-distributing hitch, spreads the load more evenly, maximizing your towing power.
  • Upgrade the Suspension: Stiffer springs, shocks, and airbags can improve handling and stability while towing, translating to effectively boosting your tow capacity.
  • Upgrade the Brakes: Heavy-duty brakes or an electric trailer brake controller improve stopping power, which is essential when towing over capacity (within legal limits).
  • Engine Modifications: Engine tuning, air intake/exhaust upgrades, and transmission coolers can increase horsepower and torque for serious towing capability.
  • Axle Ratio: Changing your axle ratio (not always possible) can provide more mechanical advantage for heavier loads but may negatively impact fuel efficiency.
  • Increase GVWR: In some specialty applications, professional companies can upgrade various components for a higher GVWR. However, this is costly and may only slightly increase your effective tow capacity due to GCWR limitations.

Can You Increase Towing Capacity Legally?

Yes, you can legally increase towing capacity, but with some important caveats:

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): This is the absolute maximum weight your vehicle can handle, including passengers, cargo, and trailer weight. You cannot legally exceed your GVWR.
  • · Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): The maximum allowable weight of your vehicle and trailer combined. Exceeding this is also not legally permitted.

What Happens if You Exceed Your Tow Capacity?

Towing over capacity puts extreme stress on your vehicle and is dangerous. Expect:

  • Overheating: Engines and transmissions may overheat, leading to breakdowns.
  • Brake Failure: Inadequate brakes may overheat and fail, significantly increasing the risk of an accident.
  • Structural Damage: Your vehicle’s frame, suspension, or axles might bend or break under the added stress.
  • Reduced Control: It will be harder to steer and maneuver, increasing instability.

Calculating Your Required Tow Capacity

To know how much towing capacity you need, follow these steps:

  1. Find the weight of your trailer.
  2. Add cargo weight: Account for gear and passengers.
  3. Factor in a safety margin: Aim for a towing capacity at least 15-20% higher than the combined weight.


While you can boost your towing capacity, safety is always the top priority. Understand your vehicle’s limitations, and remember that no modification will turn your sedan into a heavy-duty truck. If your towing needs regularly exceed what’s possible, consider upgrading to a vehicle designed to handle the load.