What Is a Tow Package, and Do You Need One?

what is a tow package

Your truck’s bed space might not be big enough to accommodate all your cargo and equipment. That can make the idea of getting a tow package extremely appealing.

Towing Package Explained

A towing package is a set of parts that you install to a truck or SUV to enhance the vehicle’s safety when towing large objects, such as other vehicles, boats, trailers, and construction materials.

Tow Package Essentials

The contents of a towing package vary, depending on the manufacturer and the type of towing package you’re looking into.

A typical towing package has the following components:

  • Tow hitch
  • Electrical connections or wiring harnesses
  • Additional driver-assistance systems

The Need for an Upgraded Towing Experience

High-end towing packages usually have these upgrades:

  • Suspension and brakes
  • Cooling system/s
  • Battery and alternator

Additional braking systems help reduce stress from the vehicle when decelerating. Top-of-the-line tow packages usually come with brake parts like larger drums or discs for better stopping power.

Some tow packages also come with suspension upgrades, which include parts like shocks and springs to improve handling quality.

Modifications for a tow vehicle’s gear setup might be necessary, especially when it often tows heavy trailer loads. Under these circumstances, it might be best to get a tow package that has a drivetrain upgrade that can help deliver more torque to the drive wheels.

A cooling system is also another upgrade that you might find in some tow packages. Heat exchangers and other radiator parts can help cool down the transmission while towing heavy loads.

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Tow Package Installation Options

There are generally two types of tow packages you can choose from: factory and aftermarket.

Factory Tow Package

A factory tow package includes components from the vehicle’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM). These parts are make-model specific, which means they’re a guaranteed fit for your vehicle.

In most cases, a factory tow package includes a tow hitch and several mechanical and electrical upgrades.

Buying a factory tow package ensures that all parts are made from heavy-duty materials because they came from the same place you bought your vehicle from.

Aftermarket Tow Package

An aftermarket tow package comes from a third-party manufacturer that’s not affiliated with the automaker.

Most aftermarket tow packages are basic, which means they only come with a tow hitch and electrical wiring for trailer lights.

On the upside, there are many aftermarket tow packages that are better than their counterparts. They’re more affordable too.

Pros and Cons of Installing a Towing Package

Installing a tow package offers a lot of benefits, like a higher towing capacity, improved handling and safety, and reduced wear on certain parts.

Unfortunately, there are also downsides to having extra towing parts. Here are some of the pros and cons you might encounter when your kit has the following components:

Weight Distribution Hitches

These hitches ensure that the weight of the load is evenly distributed throughout the vehicle. But as convenient as they are, they can be quite difficult and expensive to install.

Sway Control Devices

Sway control devices prevent the trailer from moving too much, keeping your vehicle stable as you drive. Unfortunately, they can be a bit pricey. You might also deal with a few compatibility issues because they’re not made for every trailer type.

Tow Hitch vs. Tow Package: What’s the Difference?

A tow hitch is a seven or four-pin connector that serves as a coupling point for hooking up a trailer or another vehicle.

Meanwhile, a tow package is a complete set of towing parts that can also include a tow hitch.

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Where to Get a Towing Package Installed

An authorized dealership or repair shop is always the best option when installing something on your vehicle. With something as complex as a towing package, it’s a good idea to leave the job to the pros.

But if you’re a skilled DIYer who’s had a fair share of dealing with complicated installments, you can always do the task in your own garage. Like any automotive-related DIY task, you should always have the right tools, manual, and repair information before proceeding.

Keep in mind that improper installation can result in damaged components or even an accident, so make sure that you have enough know-how and the right skills when working on tasks like a towing package installation.

How Much Will a Towing Package Cost?

The price to install a tow package depends on its inclusions. If you’re looking to get a simple receiver hitch mounted to your truck or SUV, you’ll probably spend less than $100.

Meanwhile, a tow package that requires complex modifications can cost around $1,200.

Preparing Your Truck or SUV for Towing

Towing is a serious workout for trucks and SUVs. The good news is that a lot of them come with a tow/haul mode, making the job a lot easier.

The tow/haul mode is only available for trucks and SUVs that have an automatic transmission. Activating this feature modifies the upshift and downshift times to keep the engine in its power band.

When traversing downhill, the tow/haul mode makes the transmission use a lower gear for better braking power.

An activated tow/haul mode also prevents the gearbox from shifting like it normally would, which helps keep the transmission’s temperature at an optimum level.

Tow/haul mode can also be used when driving in hilly terrain, but it shouldn’t be activated when icy or slippery conditions are present.

The Verdict: Do You Need a Towing Package?

A towing package is intended for trucks and SUVs that frequently tow heavy cargo, trailers, boats, and other items that are too big for the truck bed or trunk.

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Installing package components like hitches, shocks, and cooling systems can improve your vehicle’s handling and overall safety while towing heavy cargo.

When shopping for a tow package, the only question you need to ask yourself is whether you’re getting a factory or aftermarket package. Both have their respective pros and cons, but they ultimately serve the same purpose.

FAQs

Q: How much does a towing package cost?
A: The cost of a towing package depends on its inclusions, with simple receiver hitches costing less than $100, and packages requiring complex modifications costing around $1,200.

Q: Can I install a towing package myself?
A: While it’s recommended to have an authorized dealership or repair shop handle the installation, skilled DIYers can install a towing package in their own garages. However, it’s important to have the right tools, manual, and repair information and ensure proper installation to avoid damage or accidents.

Q: What’s the difference between a tow hitch and a tow package?
A: A tow hitch is a connector for hooking up a trailer or another vehicle, while a tow package is a complete set of towing parts that may include a tow hitch.

Conclusion

If you frequently tow heavy cargo, trailers, boats, or other large items, a towing package can greatly enhance your vehicle’s safety and performance. Whether you choose a factory or aftermarket package, installing components like hitches, shocks, and cooling systems can improve your vehicle’s handling and overall towing experience.

Remember to consider the pros and cons of each component and choose the package that best suits your needs. Ensure proper installation by seeking professional help or following detailed instructions if you decide to tackle the installation yourself.

So, do you need a towing package? The answer depends on your towing needs and preferences. But with the right package installed, you’ll be ready to tackle any towing challenge with confidence.