Towing a travel trailer means your truck needs a decent set of shock absorbers, most particularly in the rear. In this article, we’ll talk about the best shocks for towing a travel trailer along with a few helpful tips on how to prepare your truck or SUV for towing.
Now, towing a heavy load is not as simple as it seems. When talking about towing a travel trailer, the shock absorbers are only a small part of the equation. In truth, the springs are absorbing most of the load and the road feedback. This is the reason why it’s better to start assessing the springs before shifting your attention to the shock absorbers, and this holds true if you do a lot of heavy towing and cargo-carrying in your rig.
The Best Shocks for Towing a Travel Trailer
Fox Performance Series 2.0 IFP
Let’s start with the heavy hitters. The Fox Performance Series 2.0 IFP features the latest in shock technology. It has Fox’s race-proven damping control mechanism with a high-flow piston design. It has a large 2.0” anodized aluminum body that is guaranteed to never rust.
The Fox Performance Series 2.0 IFP is constructed with a monotube design and an internal floating piston. The result is a solid performance and reliable damping in the harshest driving conditions, specifically when towing or off-roading.
Koni Heavy Track
In our opinion, Koni shocks are not receiving the credit it deserves. For starters, Koni shocks are better known in European markets and are designed mostly for Euro SUVs. But this particular kit is great for GM K-Series trucks including the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra.
Koni Heavy Track shock absorbers are built for 4x4 off-roading. It’s also a great choice for towing and carrying heavy loads. But the one thing we like most about Koni shocks is the adjustability. And with the Koni Heavy Track, you can adjust the rebound characteristics of the damper to suit any type of job or terrain.
Gabriel Skyjacker Max
Gabriel offers an affordable set of heavy-duty shocks in the Skyjacker Max. Featuring an advanced form-cell technology that resists foaming under extreme working conditions, the twin-tube design and increased fluid capacity allows the shock to perform at its limits.
The unique foam-cell design also allows the shocks to be mounted in any direction. Gabriel Skyjacker Max shocks also have arc-welded mounts and vehicle-specific valving to ensure better grip, superior stability, and a comfortable ride.
KYB MonoMax Gas Shock
It’s hard to ignore KYB when talking about the best shocks for towing a travel trailer. KYB MonoMax shocks offer maximum performance and a comfy ride. With this shock absorber, you can expect up to 40% more damping force than the OEM shocks in your rig. This makes it the perfect solution for heavy towing without breaking your bank account.
Featuring a durable monotube design with a zinc-coated stainless steel piston ring, KYB MonoMax should be on top of your shopping list of the best shocks for trucks.
Bilstein B8 5100
You can’t argue with Bilstein shock absorbers in terms of quality, performance, and longevity. The Bilstein B8 5100 is designed and engineered from the ground up to improve the performance, towing capability, and off-road prowess of your rig.
Featuring a monotube design with Bilstein’s patented digressive valving technology, the B8 1500 is perfect for hardworking trucks equipped with larger wheels and tires. And with the Bilstein B8 5100, you always get a stable and comfy ride whether on or off-road.
Monroe Load Adjust Shock Absorber
This set of Monroe Load Adjust shocks are specifically intended for light trucks that carry a lot of weight – and we mean a lot. According to Monroe, the load-adjust shocks can maintain the ride height even if the rear is loaded up to 1,100 pounds of weight.
The Monroe Load Adjust Shock Absorber is equipped with a heavy-gauge calibrated spring to offer extra support when towing or carrying heavy loads. The springs are also responsible for giving your truck a comfier ride. When it comes to heavy-duty towing, you can count on Monroe dampers to offer better control and stability.
ACDelco Specialty Rear Air Lift Shock Absorber
Nothing beats a set of adjustable shocks when it comes to towing a heavy trailer. This ACDelco Specialty Rear Air Lift Shock is designed to maintain the ride height even when loaded up to 1,100 pounds. The adjustable air pressure allows you to custom-tune each shock for individual load weights.
Featuring a chromed piston rod, these ACDelco shocks are for heavy-duty work. You can adjust the air pressure from 25 psi to a maximum of 200 psi to offer superior versatility for all types of heavy-duty work including towing and off-roading. Best of all, ACDelco shocks offer a smooth ride despite the rugged construction.
Gabriel Load Carrier Shocks
Similar to the Monroe Load Adjust shocks, this Gabriel Load Carrier Shocks have a shock and spring technology. It has variable-rate rear coil springs to offer up to 500 pounds of load capacity per pair. This is an economical choice if you want a set of heavy-duty shocks for towing travel trailers.
The Gabriel Load Carrier Shocks are constructed with a chromed piston rod to resist rust and corrosion. It also has a leak-proof piston seal and a unique drawn-over-mandrel tubing to offer a longer service life.
Bilstein B8 5160
The Bilstein B8 5160 is one of the most expensive in this list of best shocks for towing, but you get a lot of features for the money. This shock is perfect for lifted trucks and SUVs, but it’s also great for towing and transporting heavier loads. If your truck is equipped with a mild lift kit and chunky all-terrain tires, the Bilstein B8 5160 will restore the factory ride setting while giving your truck stronger towing and off-road capabilities.
The Bilstein B8 5160 includes an added remote reservoir. It has a higher oil capacity to dissipate more heat. It still has a monotube design that allows you to install the shocks upside down or in any orientation. When it comes to the toughest towing and carrying jobs, the Bilstein B8 5160 won’t let you down.
The Rancho RS9000XL is a unique option in this list of best shocks for towing. It has a larger 70mm (2.75-inch) body diameter and an oversized 18mm nitro carb rod to offer reliable performance in heavy-duty towing. The Rancho RS9000XL is engineered to run cooler and dissipate more heat to offer reliable damping performance in the most demanding scenarios.
But what really makes the Rancho RS9000XL stand out is the standard adjustable damping feature. The 9-position adjustment knob offers user-specific tuning and up to a 400% change in response and vehicle control. And with a tri-tube mono-flow design, Rancho shocks offer exceptional durability and a smooth ride.
How do I choose springs for towing?
If your truck is an authentic workhorse, it’s best to install a nice set of helper springs, but there are drawbacks to this. Yes, your truck will ride better and remain more stable if helper springs are installed, but only if you’re constantly towing a travel trailer or carrying heavy cargo in the bed. Without any load, helper springs will give your vehicle a stiffer and firmer ride.
This is the reason why most enthusiasts go for expensive airbags, particularly a set with an onboard air compressor. With airbags, you can adjust the suspension firmness on the fly. You can have it stiffer when towing a trailer and choose a softer setting if the bed is empty. Airbags give you the best of both worlds, except for the price. Granted that helper springs are more affordable; airbags give you better features for a higher price.
How do I choose shocks for towing?
You need heavy-duty shocks when towing a travel trailer, and there’s a reason for that. Towing puts excessive loads on the chassis and suspension, most particularly in the rear of the truck. This exposes the rear shocks to more wear and tear than the front shocks. And while you’re towing, the rear shocks are essentially absorbing the trailer weight. And if you do it wrong – and by this we mean if you tow heavy trailers than exceed the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of the truck – you’ll end up with busted shocks and a poor-handling truck.
Towing is a numbers game
Before thinking about towing a boat, trailer, or mobile camper, you’ll need to consider the towing numbers of your vehicle. This includes the tow rating, gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combined weight rating (GCWR), the gross axle rating, and the curb weight of your truck.
Okay, after establishing the numbers, how will you know if you’re towing too much? There’s an easy way around this, and all it takes is a simple formula.
(GVWR + gross trailer weight + weight of bed cargo (if any) + weight of passengers) < GCWR
So, if you add the grow vehicle weight rating (GVWR) with the trailer weight, the cargo weight, and the weight of the passengers in the truck, the number should be less than the gross combined weight rating (GCWR). If you do this, you’re in the clear and it means it’s safe to tow your trailer.
But if you think that equation is a bit complicated, we have a simpler formula for you.
GVW + tongue weight of the trailer (9 to 15% of trailer weight) < GVWR
If you add the gross vehicle weight (GVW) with the tongue weight of the trailer (which is usually 9% to 15% of the trailer weight), the resulting number should always be less than the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). If you exceed the GVWR, this means the tongue weight is putting to much load or weight to the rear of your truck. This means the front of your rig will point upwards, which is a big no-no when pulling a travel trailer.
And if you always tow within the limits of the GVWR or GCWR, you won’t need to replace the springs and shocks in your truck – unless both are broken or worn out. But for heavy-duty jobs and/or modified off-road trucks with larger wheels and tires, installing a premium set of heavier-duty shock absorbers will yield noticeable results.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
In this section, we’ll be answering some important questions on the relationship between shock absorbers and towing performance.
Do shocks help with towing?
Yes. Having a sturdier set of rear shocks will help greatly when towing heavy loads. The problem with towing is weight and balance. Worn out shock absorbers (or towing excessively heavy trailers) will cause the rear of your truck to sag, which is not exactly a great predicament when towing. But with the right set of shock absorbers, you can minimize sagging to offer better stability and traction.
How do I get more towing power?
Replacing the shocks will improve stability and ride comfort when towing, but it will not add power to your truck. The easiest and most affordable way to add more horsepower and torque is to replace the stock air intakes. The factory airbox and air filter is great for standard driving, but not so much when off-roading or towing.
Upgrading to a non-restrictive air filter or cold air intake is a good start. This will improve the airflow inside the engine to unleash more power and torque. If you want more power without expensive mods, you can also purchase a tuner to modify the parameters in the ECU.
What happens if you exceed the towing capacity?
A lot of things can happen if you exceed the towing capacity of your truck. For starters, it adds tons of stress to the engine, transmission, and suspension. The result is faster wear and early breakdown. Next, you are also stressing the chassis of your vehicle which can result in cracks or damage to the frame. But most of all, exceeding the towing capacity will affect the stability and safety of your truck, resulting in erratic steering, braking, cornering, and acceleration.
How do you avoid sag when towing?
If you want to avoid sag when towing, it’s always a good idea to double-check the towing capacity of your vehicle. The primary reason for sagging is towing or carrying excessive weight. Always make sure you’re not exceeding the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) or gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) when towing a travel trailer. But if the truck continues to sag despite adhering to the maximum tow rating, it’s time to upgrade to a better and stronger set of shock absorbers to reduce sagging. This will also give your truck better handling and steadier traction when towing over longer distances.