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Retrofitting truck for towing

From: Brian

Dear Jessica, I have a question about retro-fitting my truck for towing. My wife wants to buy a new one-ton truck with a factory installed hitch and towing package to pull our horses around. We do need a good towing vehicle because we're doing a lot more riding on trails these days and we're getting up into the mountains a lot. My truck is a three-quarter-ton and I've offered to have a big hitch installed on it, but my wife insists that this won't work as well as a factory installed one. I think she's wrong but I don't think it's worth getting in a huge fight about it, she's the horse expert, not me, and I guess I can see the point of getting a one-ton for the mountains. But it doesn't seem right to me that it would make any difference when the hitch is installed as long as it's the same hitch, same truck, and same installation method. Can you clear this up for me? Also, if you have some input about the truck size, I'd like to have that too. Thanks, we always rely on you for the best information.


Hi Brian! You're right about the hitch - as long as it's the same hitch installed in the same way, it shouldn't make any difference at all whether it's factory-installed or installed later.

What DOES make a big difference is the rest of the towing package. There's more to this than just having a hitch and wiring and brake controller added to your truck. When you get a factory-installed towing package on a big truck, you're paying more, but in most cases, here's what you're getting:

Some of these can be retrofitted - you can install heavier shocks and springs, and you can add a sort of extension to your existing transmission cooler. I don't think you can change out the radiator for a larger one, though, and that's one of the key elements of a serious towing package.

If you're going to be pulling a trailer and two horses up and down mountains, I think you'd be safer with the one-ton truck and a big towing package. It's a good investment in your safety.

Not everyone can afford to do this, but it sounds as though you're seriously considering this option, so I'm going to agree with your wife and encourage you to purchase a serious towing vehicle with a top-of-the-line, factory-installed towing package instead of trying to retrofit your current truck. Many people who live in flat areas can do very well hauling with a three-quarter-ton truck because there aren't many demands placed on the system. The real question with any truck and trailer is not "Can the truck put the trailer into motion and keep it moving?" but "Can the truck STOP itself AND the trailer?" In the mountains, I would definitely want something that I knew I could stop, not just on the flat but also going downhill - even on a wet road.


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