What is a Tow Package?

If you’re scratching your head wondering what the heck a tow package even is, don’t worry, you’re not alone! In simple terms, a tow package is everything you need to safely and reliably tow something behind your vehicle, all bundled together.

But here’s the thing – tow packages can vary a lot in terms of what’s actually included.

What is a Tow Package?

What is a Tow Package

Types of Tow Packages

There are two main types to know about:

  1. Aftermarket tow packages: These are designed to upgrade your existing ride so it’s ready to tow. You pick and choose the parts you need.
  2. Factory tow packages: These come straight from the vehicle manufacturer. The tow vehicle itself is part of a complete setup that’s designed for towing from the get-go.

So which type of package do you need? Well, that depends on:

  • The vehicle you have (or plan to buy)
  • What you’re planning to tow

Matching Your Tow Package to Your Needs

  • For light loads like bike racks or small trailers carrying jet skis, you can probably get by with a basic aftermarket kit that has a hitch receiver and a few other essentials.
  • For heavy duty towing, you’ll want to look at more complete aftermarket kits with beefy receivers and weight distribution systems.
  • But keep in mind, your towing capacity is only as good as your vehicle’s rated capacity, even with a fancy tow package! If your truck maxes out at 2,000 lbs, that’s all you’ll be able to tow.
  • With a factory tow package, the vehicle itself is built for heavy towing from the ground up. The manufacturer makes sure the engine, transmission, suspension, cooling and frame can all handle the extra load. Plus, the hitch is ideally matched to the vehicle.

Key Takeaway: A Tow Package is More Than The Sum of its Parts!

Ideally, every component should work together to maximize your vehicle’s towing capabilities in a complete, unified system. Just because a vehicle has a hitch doesn’t mean it has a true tow package.

So What Exactly is in a Towing Package?

The specifics depend on your needs and what you plan to tow, but here are the key things to look for:

  1. The Tow Hitch – This is the core of the whole shebang. The hitch hardware determines your overall towing capacity and what kinds of trailer couplers you can use.
  • Receiver hitches are super versatile – they accept all kinds of mounts like tow balls, pintle hooks, weight distribution setups, you name it.
  1. Electrical Wiring – If you’re pulling a trailer, you need a way to link up its lights to your vehicle. Any decent tow package has the wiring and connectors you need, usually ending near the hitch. This powers your trailers:
  • Brake lights
  • Turn signals
  • Reverse lights
  • License plate lights
  1. Heavy Duty Trailer Brakes (In some high-end kits) – Trailer brakes take a lot of stress off your vehicle during stops.

Tow Vehicle Upgrades Commonly Included:

Good tow packages often include some upgrades to beef up your tow vehicle itself for handling the extra load:

  • Suspension upgrades like heavy duty shocks, springs, etc. This helps maintain stability and keeps the rig level.
  • Brake upgrades like bigger rotors, drums, and tougher materials give you more stopping power. This is key because a loaded setup is way heavier than the tow vehicle alone!
  • Drivetrain/Gearing upgrades to utilize engine power better under load. These mods deliver more torque to the wheels and reduce stress on the engine/transmission. The tradeoff is a small hit to fuel economy.
  • Transmission Cooling upgrades like bigger radiators. Towing is tough on transmissions, especially automatics. Extra cooling fights the added heat to prevent damage.

The Costs of Adding a Tow Package

It’s hard to give an exact price since installation costs vary quite a bit. But here are some rough estimates:

  • Basic hitch receiver installation starts around $50 for a ~1 hour job
  • Dealerships typically charge $1200+ for an OEM package with the hitch, wiring, transmission cooler, and labor.

Summary Table of Tow Package Costs:

Tow Package Type Typical Cost
Basic aftermarket hitch install $50+
Complete factory (OEM) package from dealer $1200+

How to Tell if Your Vehicle Has a Tow Package?

It’s pretty obvious if your vehicle has a hitch, but figuring out if it has a complete tow package can take some detective work, especially on a used vehicle. Here’s how to investigate:

  1. Research the specific tow package options for your vehicle model. Check the manufacturer’s website, brochures, dealer info, etc.
  • See what’s included in the different packages – Some only have a basic hitch and wiring while others have major upgrades for the vehicle itself.
  1. Carefully review the window sticker, invoice, and specs to see what’s included in your specific vehicle.
  2. Get the VIN and have a dealer look up the original build sheet if possible.
  3. Have a mechanic inspect the setup in person. They can spot any missing, added, or upgraded parts compared to the factory package. Remember, a previous owner may have added or changed things over time!

Don’t Have a Tow Package? Here Are Your Options

  1. Get a quote from the dealer to add the factory tow package. This ensures everything is designed to work with your specific model.
  2. Research and order the parts to assemble a custom package
  • Start with the hitch receiver and trailer wiring
  • Look into suspension upgrades, especially for the rear
  • Consider transmission and engine cooling upgrades
  • Get a complete list of everything you need before you start buying! Getting a quote for the factory package is a good way to make sure you don’t overlook any key components.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: Can any vehicle be equipped with a tow package?

A: Technically you can install a hitch on just about anything. However, not all vehicles are truly suitable for towing, especially heavy loads. Always check the tow ratings and get the right equipment for your specific vehicle.

  • Q: Is a transmission cooler really necessary?

A: It depends on the vehicle and what you’re towing, but in general it’s cheap insurance, especially for automatic transmissions. Overheating is the number one enemy of transmissions and towing is guaranteed to work them harder.

  • Q: I have a tow package. Does that mean I can tow anything?

A: Nope! Your max towing capacity ultimately depends on your vehicle’s ratings, even with a tow package. Always verify the “weakest link” in your setup and stay within those limits. Safety first!

  • Q: How do I know what class of hitch I need?

A: It depends on the weight of your trailer and cargo (known as the Gross Trailer Weight or GTW).

Here’s a quick guide:

Hitch Class GTW Rating
Class I up to 2,000 lbs
Class II up to 3,500 lbs
Class III up to 8,000 lbs
Class IV up to 10,000 lbs
Class V up to 17,000 lbs

Of course, your vehicle’s max tow rating overrides these if it’s lower. Always use the lowest rating involved.

Bringing it All Together

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, so let’s recap the key points about tow packages:

  • A tow package provides everything you need to safely tow your vehicle.
  • The contents can vary a lot! Some only include the bare minimum while others extensively upgrade the vehicle itself.
  • Your towing needs (and budget!) dictate what kind of package you should get
  • Tow ratings and specs are key – your vehicle’s rated capacity is the ultimate limit, even with a good tow package
  • If you’re looking at a used vehicle, do your homework to see what’s included in its tow package
  • You can add a tow package to a vehicle that doesn’t have one, either through the dealer or by piecing it together yourself

Towing can be a tricky subject with lots of numbers, ratings, and equipment to keep straight. But now you know the key things to look for and consider when it comes to tow packages.

Armed with this knowledge, you’re well on your way to choosing the ideal setup for your specific needs. Happy towing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *