Tundra Towing 101
Most people buy their trucks with a specific purpose in mind. Some people bought their Tundra with the intention of taking advantage of its off-road capabilities, either to hit the trails or maybe take a quiet camping trip into the wilderness. Others wanted to use the cargo bay to haul oversized items, toolboxes, or whatever their jobs might call upon them to do.
There is a third group of people who picked up a Toyota Tundra because they wanted to take advantage of its towing capacity. Pickup trucks usually make excellent tow vehicles due to their strong frames and long wheelbases – two very important aspects of safe towing. Since many of the trailers that are towed by pickup truck owners are quite large, such as boat and camping rigs, it is important to understand some of the basic theory behind proper towing technique in order to be as safe as possible out on the highway.
The first thing to consider is the towing capacity of your Tundra. Towing capacity is a number that represents the safe weight that can be pulled behind your pickup. This figure is determined as a function of the Gross Combined Weight Rating – the weight of the truck and the trailer, with a full load of cargo, together. Obviously, it can be dangerous to tow more than the GCWR of your truck.
It is also important to remember that there is not only one rated towing capacity that applies to your specific Toyota Tundra. Each engine configuration, body style, and drive setup has its own towing capacity. For example, a 2008 2 wheel drive Tundra with the 5.7 liter V8 engine has a towing capacity in 10,400 pounds. If you were to tow with a crew cab, which weighs more than our example, you would have to subtract that extra 100 lbs of weight from the towing capacity, as the extra weight becomes part of the overall GCWR. There can be other options, unrelated to weight which affect the towing capacity as well. According to Toyota, the Sport Appearance package lowers the towing capacity to a mere 8,900 lbs.
The next component in the towing equation is finding the proper hitch for your trailer. There are several classes of hitch, with trailer capacities ranging from 3,500 to 10,000 pounds. At the very bottom of the spectrum is the bumper-mounted ball hitch. While you might feel comfortable using it to tow a small trailer for your lawn tractor, anything much heavier needs its own specially-mounted hitch.
Your options range from under-the bumper Hidden Hitch style connectors which can be partially removed when not in use to full in-bed mounted fifth wheel style hitches for carrying very long or very heavy loads. These purpose-built hitches properly distribute the trailer’s weight along your truck’s rear axle and frame, ensuring that there is no excess stress to your drive train.
Here’s a short video showing what can happen when you tow too much.
There are a few more things you need to take care of before you can tow with complete peace of mind. Toyota offers a towing package on the Tundra that includes a special transmission mode designed for towing, extended side mirrors, and increased towing capacity. At the very least, your trailer should have it’s own taillights and brake lights. It’s not enough to rely on drivers being able to see the lights of your truck in front of the trailer. You can wire your trailer’s lighting system into that of your pickup so that they function in sync. If your load is particularly long or heavy, you should also purchase a trailer that has its own braking system. An after market braking controller can be installed in order to manage the amount of braking done by the trailer when you press down on the pedal inside your Tundra. It’s important not to have the trailer lock up the brakes too quickly or you could find yourself in a dangerous jack-knife or fishtail situation.
Common sense goes a long way when it comes to towing. Don’t try to bite off more than your truck can chew, as you will be putting both yourself and those around you on the highway in danger. A trailer that is too long can actually start steering your truck on long downhill grades, and a trailer that is too heavy can burn out your transmission during a protracted climb. Know the limits of your Tundra, outfit it with the necessary towing gear, and you can enjoy thousands of miles of trouble-free trailer action.
Filed Under: Tundra Towing