If you’re using your "daily driver" car or truck for occasional towing duty, you are looking for that ideal sweet spot where the weekday commute is comfortable and quiet, and the weekend trailering feels solid and secure. In other words, you don't want to vehicle to feel too "stiff" during the week, nor do you want it to ride "soft" when pulling a trailer.
Many times, as the vehicle is filled up with family and cargo, and the loaded trailer is hooked to the receiver hitch, you've seen the back end of your ride drop from all the weight. Perhaps you've considered some kind of suspension upgrade, but have been unsure what to get.
Perhaps you have also wondered what if any increase in cargo and/or towing capacity you might gain from performance suspension components. The thing is, most performance-oriented replacement shocks and springs focus on handling and cornering ability, leaving you with a stiffer ride. While it’s true that coilovers and air ride systems that replace your factory shocks and springs allow adjustability for ride comfort and height, they can be pricey – and a bit more than you need for simple trailer towing.
In this article, we’ll select three typical tow vehicles (a car, pickup truck, and minivan) and review some basic, lower-cost options geared toward providing rear suspension “lift” while towing. Found in the Performance Helper Springs section of our website, these upgrades work alongside your factory springs and shocks instead of replacing them. This means your daily driver will retain its comfortable ride when you aren’t pulling a trailer. We’ll also discuss how these add-on components boost the amount of weight that can be carried inside your vehicle as well.
Regarding towing capacity: none of the suspension upgrades we recommend will change the vehicle's GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), GTW (Gross Trailer Weight), or TW (tongue weight). These specifications are determined by the vehicle manufacturer, and for safety's sake, you must adhere to them. For a helpful guide on understanding these and other towing-related weight ratings, see our article Everything You Want To Know About Trailer Hitches.
The manufacturers of your receiver hitch, ball mount, and trailer ball have assigned maximum tow ratings for each of those items regarding how much trailer weight they are designed to pull. Naturally, these ratings directly affect your maximum trailer weight capacity, and nothing you do to the suspension will change that. The primary benefit of the rear suspension boost is to keep the back of the vehicle level when you're towing. Failure to adhere to the manufacturer's published limits only creates a perilous situation for yourself and loved ones.
Vehicle #1: 2014 Ford Fusion
Ford's popular mid-sized car, the Fusion, was redesigned for the 2013 model year, with a sleek new body style. The upgrade was lauded by the automotive press, with several writers referring to it as one of the best-looking four-door sedans on the market.
Because of its popularity, many families who prefer a "car" over a "truck" still need a vehicle to do some light towing for them. Depending on drivetrain, the Ford Motor Company has rated the Fusion as capable of towing up to 2,000 lb. With room for 5, a decent-sized trunk, and a receiver hitch out back, the Fusion may need some help in the rear suspension department. Let's see what's available.
One of the most cost-effective suspension enhancements for this car is the Firestone brand Coil-Rite Air Helper Spring Kit. Designed specifically for the coil springs in the Fusion's rear, these air bladders fit inside of the factory springs. Air pressure in the bags can be adjusted for the comfort and support you want. Installation is no-drill easy.
Keep in mind that for air spring helpers, you’ll need to route an air hose to a location accessible to you for adding air. For those with older GM vehicles from the 1960s, ‘70s, or ‘80s that are used to pull a trailer, we’ve got Hotchkis Air Bag Kits fitted to sit inside factory springs.
If you want a similar set-up but with a vehicle-mounted compressor and control from the driver's seat, we’ve got Firestone's Air-Rite Compressor System. Within the Product Options section, you'll see choices for systems which inflate the air springs individually or in pairs, and systems with analog versus digital readouts.
By keeping your loaded vehicle level, you’ll also improve steering and braking, reduce unnecessary tire wear, and maintain proper headlight aim.
Vehicle #2: 2015 Chevy Silverado
Chevrolet's extremely popular Silverado pickup trucks were completely redesigned for 2015. While the exterior look was an evolutionary rather than revolutionary change, the drivetrain and user-connectivity features were significantly upgraded. Always popular as a tow vehicle because of its tremendous capacity, it's almost impossible to avoid the temptation to load up the bed along with the trailer. The aftermarket has responded in kind with a number of great choices to "boost" that back end.
For starters, we’ve got the Hellwig Load Pro Series Helper Springs specifically designed for leaf springs like those found on the Silverado. In this case, multiple versions are offered which add either 2,500 or 3,500 pounds of load support. In addition to increasing the amount of weight that can be carried in the bed, these helper springs reduce bounce at the truck's rear when a trailer is being pulled.
If your Silverado needs even more support, be sure to check out Firestone’s Ride-Rite Air Helper Spring Kit. Each of the two air springs included add up to 2,500 pounds of additional support. Hellwig also offers “Big Wig” air spring kits that typically provide 2,800 pounds of support per side. We feel it’s important to share the product note that Hellwig makes, because it’s applicable to any rear spring helpers:
"THIS UNIT IS DESIGNED TO INCREASE THE LEVEL LOAD CARRYING CAPACITY OF YOUR VEHICLE. NEVER LOAD THE VEHICLE THIS UNIT IS INSTALLED ON BEYOND THE MANUFACTURER'S MAXIMUM GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING."
You will find that the addition of air springs at the rear not only levels out your ride; it makes the ride more compliant under heavy loads, and allows greater wheel articulation. For heavier loads, you may also want to consider an optional rear sway bar if your vehicle is not so equipped.
Vehicle #3: 2011 Chrysler Town & Country
The Chrysler Corporation essentially invented the modern minivan with the 1984 introduction of their Voyager and Caravan models, and the rest of the auto industry has been trying to catch up ever since. While minivans tend to suffer the stigma of “soccer mom” cars, it hasn’t seemed to hurt sales. All things considered, they still are some of the most practical vehicles on the market. And with a trailering capacity that can approach two tons with beefier drivetrains, they end up doing their full share of towing duty.
Because modern minivans such as the Town & Country have so much room inside, it’s easy to overload the rear suspension when packing cargo. Plus, there’s the additional tongue weight of any trailer that’s to be hooked up. Fortunately, there are simple and affordable suspension upgrades which will improve things on minivans as well.
Monroe, one of the best-known names for vehicle springs and shocks, comes to the rescue for us with their Sensa-Trac Rear Load Adjusting Shock Absorbers. As its name implies, these shocks will help maintain normal ride height whenever there is additional weight in the rear. Since they are a direct replacement for original shocks, they might be worth considering if you’ve got a higher mileage vehicle that’s due for shock replacement anyway.
Need more? The Air Lift 1000 Air Helper Spring Kit includes two air bladders that work in conjunction with factory rear springs to support an additional 1,000 pounds of weight. If you're towing, ride height stays where it should while "bounce" that results from pulling a trailer is greatly reduced. This value-priced kit includes everything you need for a clean installation.
While the above kit requires you to manually add air from an external source, you have the option of an Air Lift QuickSHOT Air Suspension Compressor System for on-board air control. Keeping your van for a while? Go for it!
As you can see, just because your tow vehicle has a saggy rear doesn't mean you have to live with it. Whether it's a car, pickup, or minivan, you have choices if you're towing and need to jack that back a little bit. (We will remind you again that none of these suspension enhancements increase the carrying capacity or towing capacity of your tow vehicle.)
If your performance suspension interests extend to other areas, peruse all the neat choices in our Performance Suspension store. You will be pleasantly surprised at what's available for your ride!