Most full-size pickups occasionally tow trailers. 'With the Ford Super Duties, 90% of our customers tow and 80% of them haul,' says Phil O'Connor, Super Duty marketing manager, Ford.
Depending on how often and what you intend to tow, it is worth investigating features that enhance your pickup's towing capabilities. Adjustable towing mirrors, transmissions with tow/haul modes and high-torque diesel engines just begin to scratch the surface. Let's take a look at some of the offerings from General Motors, Ford and Dodge.
Powertrain For The Task
'The first thing to look at when buying a truck is what powertrain you need,' says Dan Tigges, marketing and product manager for full-size trucks in Fleet and Commercial Operations, General Motors. 'If you know what you need in a truck and the weight of what you are towing, your dealer can advise you on the best model and options to do the job.'
Engine torque and axle ratios are critical to optimum towing performance. 'Normally, the deeper axle ratios, the 410 and 373 gear ratios, will give you better off-the-line performance,' says Tigges. Coupling these low gear ratios with high engine torque allows you to get heavy loads rolling.
'Torque is the twisting power of the engine,' explains Tigges. 'It's really torque that gets you going and horsepower that keeps you going. If you are doing stop and go driving, torque is the performance aspect to look at to get your load moving. To keep your load moving down the road, that's your horsepower.'
This is why diesel engines are popular for towing. The torque curve begins at a much lower engine speed than with gas engines. 'So when you are launching the vehicle, you are getting the full torque power right away,' says Tigges. The Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra pickups equipped with Duramax diesel engines serve as a good example. 'Our Duramax diesel with the Allison transmission has 605 lb.-ft. of torque.'
Note that the transmission plays a critical role in the ability to transmit this torque reliably to the rear wheels. 'If you do not have enough transmission behind a high-torque engine, you will wind up tearing up your transmission,' Tigges points out. The Allison transmissions used in the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups trace their lineage to medium-duty truck applications.
The Allison transmission also features a tow/haul mode. 'Actually, all of our automatics have the tow/haul mode, even our half-ton pickups,' says Tigges. This feature changes the transmission shift points to keep the engine in the power band when towing. 'It avoids the transmission doing a lot of searching on hilly roads.' This also allows the transmission to run cooler.
When hauling heavy loads down long, steep grades, a grade-braking mechanism automatically downshifts to help slow the vehicle when the driver applies the brakes.
Quadrasteer Adds Sability
Stability when making lane changes and maneuverability in tight areas are also concerns when towing. The Quadrasteer option for Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 extended cab and 1500HD crew cab pickups allows the rear wheels to turn opposite the front wheels at speeds lower than 25 mph and turn the same direction as the front wheels at speeds over 45 mph.
This aids slow speed maneuverability. At higher speeds, the system reduces vehicle yaw, or rotational motion, for more control during lane changes and demanding conditions. 'The truck almost slides over from lane to lane,' says Tigges. 'The trailer and the truck tend to stay more in line together.'
These trucks also have slightly higher capacities. 'It has a higher GVW and heavier components than some of the standard-steer trucks,' Tigges explains.
Power For The Heaviest Loads
To address the needs of customers who pull extremely heavy loads with their pickups, Ford rolls out the TowBoss package as an option on its dual-rear-wheel F-350. This increases the fifth-wheel towing capability from the previous 17,000 lbs. to 19,200 lbs. 'With conventional towing, we are at 15,000 lbs.,' says O'Connor.