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The 7 Best Ways To Increase Towing Capacity

The best ways to increase towing capacity include improving the exhaust system, axles, horsepower, torque, radiator, braking system, hitch, and suspension. With these changes, you can tow heavier weights in a controlled and safe way. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll provide a closer, more detailed look at how you can increase towing capacity. I’ll also answer other towing capacity inquiries, including how it is measured, what influences your towing capacity, and what happens if you exceed this limit. 

Car towing a small camper on a highway

Here are the 7 best ways to increase towing capacity: 

1. Install a Better Exhaust System

When towing a heavy load, your engine works harder than normal. To reduce the wear on your engine and increase your overall towing capacity, you can improve your vehicle’s exhaust system. A better exhaust system allows your engine to breathe easier and operate more smoothly. 

The best improvement you can make is investing in a cat-back exhaust system. This system includes everything from the tip of the exhaust to the back catalytic part of the system. Cat-back systems have mufflers with larger diameters, allowing for more airflow. This improved airflow reduces the load and stress on the engine, which helps reduce damage and allows the engine to take on a heavier load. 

A popular alternative to getting a cat-back exhaust system is the axle-back system. This system is similar to the cat-back, but the exhaust pipe isn’t replaced. As a result, an axle-back system doesn’t increase the towing capacity much, but it is a more affordable option. 

The right exhaust system for you depends on your budget and the type of vehicle you have. I recommend this cat-back exhaust system from Amazon because it features multi-core technology that boosts horsepower and improves fuel economy. I also like that the system is built with high-quality stainless steel, making it a durable system that will last you for years.

2. Get Heavy-Duty Axles

Your vehicle’s axles are the part of your car that must take on the extra weight, so if they aren’t up to the task, your towing capacity will be low. Therefore, an extremely effective way to increase your towing capacity is to get heavy-duty axles that can take on the extra weight. 

A car suspension

RV axles are designed specifically to carry heavier loads. So, in some cases, you might be able to use RV axles in place of regular truck axles. 

3. Increase Your Horsepower and Torque

If you want to tow heavy loads, your vehicle needs good horsepower and torque. When you purchase a vehicle, though, the manufacturers often have them programmed so you get the best fuel efficiency and not so you can carry the heaviest load. 

You can bring your vehicle to a programmer to have them adjust the settings and increase your horsepower and torque. Their changes may reduce your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, but they can adjust your vehicle’s computer settings to increase your towing capacity.    

4. Improve Your Radiator

The harder your vehicle works, the more heat it will generate. A radiator’s job is to cool everything down under the hood, so if you’re trying to increase your towing capacity, you’ll need to ensure that your radiator is up to the task. 

A vehicle radiator isolated on a white background

You’ll need to get a heavy-duty radiator with a high cooling capacity. This way, when you put more strain on the engine by towing heavier loads, the engine will be able to cool down enough that it won’t cause any damage. 

In addition to upgrading your engine radiator, you should also consider getting a transmission radiator. A transmission radiator will decrease the risk of transmission damage and wear. 

5. Improve Your Braking System

One of the biggest problems when towing heavy loads is decreasing your braking capacity. Not being able to brake quickly or completely is dangerous, but unfortunately, when you add weight to your vehicle, you may exceed your braking components’ ability. 

To increase your towing capacity, you’ll also need to increase your stopping power. This process includes all or some of the following: 

  • Upgrading your brake pads.
  • Upgrading your brake shoes.
  • Installing slotted or cross-drilled rotors.
  • Upsizing your rotors.
  • Installing multi-piston calipers.
  • Upgrading to dual-diaphragm brake boosters. 
  • Upgrading to disc brakes. 
  • Getting braided brake lines. 
  • Improving your brake fluid. 

Brake fluid is an undervalued part of the braking system. The fluid activates the brakes and puts pressure on the wheel, so your vehicle won’t stop properly without the right fluid, especially if you’re towing a large weight. 

You should consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine which kind of fluid you need. I recommend Castrol React SRF Racing Brake Fluid (available on Amazon.com) because it has an extremely high boiling point and anti-vapor lock characteristics. It also exceeds DOT3 and DOT4 specifications. Finally, it is designed to brake during arduous conditions, including towing heavy loads. 

6. Purchase a High-Quality Hitch

If you’ve made all the upgrades you can to your vehicle, another way to increase your towing capacity is to improve your hitch. However, remember that hitches are vehicle-specific, so you’ll have to select one that works with the year, make, and model of your vehicle. 

Then, you’ll need to determine which class hitch is appropriate for you. The following table outlines the five hitch classes and the gross trailer weight and type of vehicles each class is compatible with: 

Hitch Class Gross Trailer Weight  Type of Vehicle 
10-2,000 pounds (0-907 kg)Subcompact cars, compact cars, full-size cars, sedans, and crossovers  
22,000-3,500 pounds (907 to 1,588 kg)Full-size cars, sedans, crossovers, minivans, and SUVs  
33,500-12,000 pounds (1,588 to 5,443 kg)Crossovers, minivans, SUVs, ¼-ton trucks, ½-ton trucks, ¾-ton trucks, and 1-ton trucks 
48,000-14,000 pounds (3,629 to 6,350 kg)SUVs, ½-ton trucks, ¾-ton trucks, and 1-ton trucks 
516,000-20,000 pounds (7,257 to 9,072 kg)SUVs, ½-ton trucks, ¾-ton trucks, and 1-ton trucks 

High-quality and higher-class hitches can handle heavier loads. These hitches can be extremely expensive, but you should consider them a worthwhile investment if you’re trying to increase your towing capacity.

Once you have a hitch, you’ll also need a ball mount, hitch lock, and a wiring harness. If you have a Class 3 or Class 4 hitch, I recommend getting the Rhino USA Trailer Hitch Lock from Amazon. I like this hitch lock because it has a patent-pending waterproof design that protects the lock from dirt and debris, and the solid-forged steel helps prevent theft. I also like that this lock is compatible with most Class 3 and 4 hitches.      

7. Improve Your Suspension

If you’re following step 6 and getting a new hitch, I recommend getting a weight distribution hitch because it helps ease the stress on your vehicle’s suspension. However, this isn’t the only way to upgrade your vehicle’s suspension. 

The stock parts in your vehicle can get the job done, but if you want to increase your towing capacity, I recommend upgrading these parts for a more heavy-duty system that can distribute the weight more effectively. 

There are many ways you can improve your vehicle’s suspension, including the following: 

  • Adding anti-roll bars or sway bars. 
  • Installing strut tower braces. 
  • Upgrading your coilovers, or adding coilovers if you don’t have any. 

If you improve your distribution, you improve the weight distribution of your load, making it possible to tow more.  

Is Towing Capacity the Same As Gross Vehicle Weight Rating? 

Towing capacity and the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) are different. Towing capacity is the maximum weight a vehicle can tow, whereas the GVWR is the maximum weight capacity of a vehicle without any attachment, such as a trailer. 

The towing capacity of a vehicle considers the GVWR, as well as the weight of the trailer. The following table outlines some other measurements you should be aware of: 

Measurement Description 
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating The maximum loaded weight of a vehicle
Gross Combined Weight Rating The maximum weight a vehicle can tow 
Gross Trailer Weight The weight of a trailer by itself
Curb Weight The weight of the vehicle when it is empty 
Payload The weight of cargo and passengers 
Gross Axle Weight Rating The maximum weight that one axle can handle 
Tongue Weight The force of the weight on the trailer hitch 

These measurements are all related and influenced by each other, but they are distinct. Your vehicle owner’s manual should tell you this information.

If you follow all of these above tips, you can increase your towing capacity. However, keep in mind that every vehicle has its limit, and you should never try to push your vehicle too far, as this can result in damage and injury.  

What Happens if You Exceed Towing Capacity? 

If you exceed the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle, you can cause serious damage. These damages can cause complete vehicle failure and result in costly fixes or serious injury to yourself or others.  

There’s only so much that your vehicle can handle, which is why manufacturers go to the trouble of providing a towing capacity. If you exceed this capacity, you risk your vehicle, yourself, and others. 

One potential problem with exceeding your towing capacity is that stopping will be more difficult. The brakes on your vehicle aren’t designed to be able to stop any load over the towing capacity, so they might not have the stopping power to bring the vehicle to a halt if you have an overweight load. 

The potential dangers of being unable to stop immediately are too many to count. If, for example, a pedestrian or a child steps into your path, you might not be able to stop in time. If you can bring the vehicle to a stop, you likely cause damage and strain on your brakes in doing so. 

In addition to causing your brakes strain, towing more than the towing capacity also causes transmission problems. The transmission of your vehicle is designed to power the vehicle and any load included in the towing capacity, but trying to make it carry more than the capacity causes overheating. This overheating can cause serious damage to your transmission, especially if the transmission isn’t properly lubricated.  

Operating a vehicle that is towing more than its maximum capacity is extremely difficult. At the minimum, U-turns become more challenging, and acceleration is greatly reduced. 

If the above reasons weren’t enough to avoid exceeding your towing capacity, doing so can result in a nullified warranty and fines. In most jurisdictions, it is illegal to have a heavier load than your official towing capacity, and if you’re caught, you could have to pay a steep fine for your mistake.  

Overall, exceeding the towing capacity makes the vehicle more unstable and difficult to control. It is extremely unsafe and can cause lasting damage to your vehicle and put others at risk. 

How To Tow Safely 

Towing a heavy weight can be a challenge, but as with anything else, your ability to do so will improve with practice. Here are some tips to help you gain confidence in your towing ability: 

  • Ensure everything you’re towing is loaded properly. When packing a trailer, you should consider how the weight is distributed. Just over half of the overall weight should always be in the front of the trailer, making operating the vehicle and towing the load easier. 
  • Make wider turns. You should always give a wider berth than you usually would when you have a trailer attached to your vehicle. 
  • Give yourself more time to stop. It will take longer for your brakes to stop a vehicle carrying a heavier load, so give yourself that extra time. To do this, you’ll need to pay more attention to what’s in front of you and be prepared to start braking sooner than normal if the vehicle in front of you comes to a stop. 
  • Keep to the right on the highway. The highway’s right shoulder gives you more space to stop if necessary. 
  • Practice. Before you hit the road, try driving in an area you know and are comfortable with the attached trailer. This practice will help you get used to the feeling of the attached weight and ensure that everything is working properly. 

By following these tips and ensuring you’re not carrying more than your towing capacity, you can safely operate a vehicle while towing a heavy load.

For more, check out How Does Pulling a Camper Affect Gas Mileage | 5 Key Factors.