Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby jonw » Tue Apr 12, 2016 9:49 am

Don't some factory tow packages include heavier or adjustable rear shocks?
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby Padilen » Tue Apr 12, 2016 10:14 am

jonw wrote:Don't some factory tow packages include heavier or adjustable rear shocks?

Mine claims to have heavy duty shocks. But shocks don't increase load capacity. Some newer Rams have air bags to level with a load. I don't know about other makes and models.
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby flboy » Tue Apr 12, 2016 4:37 pm

jonw wrote:Don't some factory tow packages include heavier or adjustable rear shocks?



Many will have heavy duty shocks... You can add airbags on the springs. I did that when my hitch weight was more than desirable and it caused some sagging and bouncing. I may have been able to add a load leveling hitch... but the bags did the trick. They make a huge difference for the ride and handling and are adjustable with air for whatever load. The problem with getting super heavy duty shocks is that when you are not towing or hauling something, they are stiff and the truck does not absorb bumps well.
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby MtnDon » Tue Apr 12, 2016 7:29 pm

FWIW, if I was buying a new vehicle to tow with I would get the factory package. If I was buying used I would try to find a used vehicle with the factory package. But if that failed there is a lot of aftermarket equipment available. If the trailer was light it probably does not matter much, if at all about the gearing. If the desire was to tow heavy trailers I would want the factory package for the gearing is probably changed to better suit the potential loads. I live in the mountains and the gearing for heavy hauling is more important to me than if I lived and traveled in the flatlands.
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby Gettin Started » Tue Apr 12, 2016 10:37 pm

flboy wrote:
jonw wrote:Don't some factory tow packages include heavier or adjustable rear shocks?



Many will have heavy duty shocks... You can add airbags on the springs. I did that when my hitch weight was more than desirable and it caused some sagging and bouncing. I may have been able to add a load leveling hitch... but the bags did the trick. They make a huge difference for the ride and handling and are adjustable with air for whatever load. The problem with getting super heavy duty shocks is that when you are not towing or hauling something, they are stiff and the truck does not absorb bumps well.


Just added airbags to my odyssey today. About $100 and a few hours work. Excited to see the difference I believe it will make in the bouncing when pulling my trailer over uneven (bumpy) roads.

Agree with others who said that if buying a new vehicle you should order it with a tow package. Would definitely save time. But it really isn't much work to add using after-market parts if you're mechanically inclined...and I enjoy this stuff.
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby flboy » Wed Apr 13, 2016 10:01 am

Absolutely true. If buying a vehicle and you can, get it with the tow package. I did that with my new truck. However, if you already have a vehicle and the gear ratio is acceptable, you can install the remainder and it will perform just as good. I think that was what the question was in any case. Best of luck. :-)

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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby JaggedEdges » Tue Apr 19, 2016 12:26 pm

One thing that factory tow packages may have that's very difficult to replicate is different transmission programming for electronic controlled automatics, which is also related to ECU programming. Latterly all electronics have been VIN tied so you can't even swap a module from teh wreckers without getting the dealers "help", which may or may not be available or affordable. Practically you'd have to get a written off donor and do a complete heart and lung transplant, I mean wiring and electronics, so all parts coded the same and all options and wiring harness right. Or accept that you'll be swapping in transmissions every few years. This should really only be an issue though if you want to get to 100% of tow package limit.

However you should be really careful towing with something that only has 9.5 inch disk brakes on front only, 150-180HP, stopping distance of 220ft from 60mph empty and a load capacity of only 1000lb before you put any passengers in it, am I describing a minivan? No a mid 90s half ton truck that might have been rated to tow 10,000lb yikes, typical figures for a modern minivan would be 11inch disks front, 10" rear, 220HP, 170ft at 60mph stop, 1500lb load capacity. They have somewhere in the region of a ~3000lb rear axle which is what the basic spec, no-HD half ton will have. Anyway just saying minivans should be fine for towing moderate loads, and anybody who says they are not, should be saying most half tons shouldn't tow anything either. Really the only weak point is transmissions, so baby them, and try not to fall into the redneck mentality of thinking that lower engine speed is better, it really is not, make it kick down, buzz up that hill at 3000 rpm, less strain on everything, sure hold it at 5000 rpm for long periods and your bores are getting ovalled, but in the middle there is your torque peak which is your engines best efficiency, meaning it is putting maybe 35% of fuel consumed into turning the wheels instead of 20%, have a think, is 65% in waste heat or 80% in waste heat better for your motor, oil, transmission and cooling system?
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby Pixie Susan » Mon May 02, 2016 7:29 am

jonw wrote:Don't some factory tow packages include heavier or adjustable rear shocks?


I just put air bags on my rear springs last night. I only towed for about 15 miles afterward but I'm thrilled with the $100 investment so far. Went ahead and added a tranny cooler too.
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby Shadow Catcher » Mon May 02, 2016 9:38 am

Maybe maybe not! The Subaru hitch is wimpy and limits what you can attach (most accessories require a 2" receiver. The wiring harness is present on all Subaru's so no real point in going with a dealer installed hitch.
I have had to install rally springs in the rear (too much tongue weight), which give me a 2" lift and I have also installed a transmission cooler and used synthetic oil and a 60/40 antifreeze mix for a higher boiling point I also have an Ultraguage which tells me what the engine temp is really.
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby JaggedEdges » Mon May 02, 2016 10:30 am

Yeah, if the dealer is just going to bolt stuff on, forget it, you're probably overpaying for middling equipment, however, if it's FACTORY ordered with a tow prep package, that shows up in the VIN number, that's when you get the extra goodies like different programming and possibly special springs/shocks. Some don't seem that different, load rating wise, but might be variable rate to be stiffer up top. A complication with springs is that some are never available aftermarket or as replacements, maybe even impossible to find a part number for. You can only get hold of one by finding them in a wreckers, if you can ID them. Often the replacement is a one size fits all models. An example off the top of my head is earlier Dodge Caravans before they were monoleaf, the heavy duty rear spring has an extra leaf in it, but there never seemed to be a Chrysler part number for them, or 3rd party replacement, being a leaf though, you could get them rebuilt.

Current TV, the Town and Country, has Nivomat self levelling shocks on that came with the factory tow package. Those are gettable at a price, not sure if they're matched with a different rate or weight of spring though that is undocumented. (Easy to tell different number of leafs, hard to tell if one monoleaf is different from another, unless dimensions vary greatly)

Leaf springs in general though, you can get them made custom if you really want. Coil springs... you can mix and match somewhat, find some off another vehicle, match specs for coil diameter, compression range. Those hard rubber "spring assisters" aren't terrible, the kind that post in between coils and hold one loop apart... they give you a higher, cushioned "bottom" as it were and raise ride height a tad, meaning there is some "reserve" when you hit a bump fully loaded other than the distortion of the metal in the top of the shock tower.
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby jstrubberg » Wed May 11, 2016 8:22 am

The short version is that unless you are pushing the tow rating for the vehicle, there's no difference between factory and aftermarket. Towing a 1000 lb trailer behind a vehicle raters for 3500 pounds is not going to give you any trouble with an aftermarket setup. If you live in a very hilly area, a trans cooler is a good investment.

Now if you wanted to pull a 3000 lb trailer, we would be having a different discussion. Then you need to think about brakes, frame attachment points, shocks, tires, alignment geometry and components...
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Re: Is a factory "tow package" better than retrofitting?

Postby JaggedEdges » Thu May 12, 2016 1:58 pm

Tires is a good point to mention..

Now, you might go "What the heck, my car is rated to tow 3000lb in Europe!" .. yah but did it come delivered with light duty eco tires here? Recent compacts have been getting barely enough tire for 5 passengers load rating wise here. Getting them another mpg or so on the CAFE or EPA scores, but leaving them a bit light in the hauling department. So before you go anywhere near a uhaul depot or other hitch fitter, make sure you've got a decent amount of excess load rating on your tires.

Also, look in your glovebox manual, you might be surprised by tire pressure advice in there. In a Dodge Neon manual for instance, I found a recommendation to use maximum sidewall PSI for high loads or sustained highway speeds. Now most people will rant and rage that the door pillar pressure is the only possible correct pressure for your tires. I've said for years you only get full tire load and speed rating at full pressure, but it's hard convincing anyone. The door pillar pressure to me is the manufacturer compromise between road noise, comfort and okay load handling in normal driving.

BAck to Euro vs US tow ratings, another difference is speeds, in most of Europe towed vehicles and thus the one doing the towing, are speed restricted, this means less strain on transmissions due to aero loads, less chance of sway, in fact most euro trailers are loaded to almost balance over the axle, very light hitch weight and would fishtail something awful at 70mph. So your Euro 3000lb trailer, might be only putting 150 down on the hitch whereas 300lb would be considered prudent here. Also practically everything apart from tiny utilities comes with surge brakes there.

Personally, I look to Australian ratings as having more comparable conditions for "what can I really tow?" since they have higher speeds, very hot weather, but again make sure that vehicles are identically equipped when you compare.

However, a factor I recently discovered in low or no tow ratings is that North American safety and crash testing of light vehicles, mostly cars, has to take into account the effect of a factory supplied hitch when the car is rear ended. Basically, a Honda Civic isn't allowed to kill anyone running into the back of it, but an F-250 is. So it's not they can't GET a good solid hitch on there, it's that they can't get a good solid hitch that falls apart without spending millions engineering it, and they're not going to do that for a market that they've programmed to think that cars can't tow, you need a more profitable truck.
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