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F150 Towing Upgrade Guide: Hitches & Towing Explained

Written By: Zach Wright

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The F150 platform has pushed the limits and expectations of what a truck can pull off when called into to action.To help get the most of your trucks potential it is important to have equipment that is up to the task. Keep your towing equipment up to date to keep your truck and your haul safe and sound on the road.

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The Ford F150 was designed to be a workhorse and to be used as another tool in your shed. The F150 has always offered towing capabilities and payloads that have served as a benchmark for the rest of the competition. No matter if you’re hauling your work trailer or a camper for the weekend, your F150 can take it all and this guide will go over how you maximize your towing performance with the right mods.

How Much Can My 1997-2017 F150 Tow? 

Your F150 can tow anywhere from 4,000 lbs to 10,500 lbs, depending on what year it is and what engine and transmission it is equipped with. To find out specifically how much your F150 can tow you can either search the VIN number online or locate the towing capacity in the door jam. 

The towing capacity will be listed on a sticker placed on the inner lip of your driver’s side door, only visible when the door is open.

How Can I Improve My F150’s Towing Capacity? 

Unfortunately, you cannot improve the overall towing capacity of your F150. The towing capacity of your truck is determined by the gross vehicle weight rating, also known as the GVWR for short. GVWR is based on your how many passengers you can carry and how much you can haul and all of your parts such as the wheels, axles, driveshaft, transmission, steering rack and more are all built around that rating. 

To be able to tow more weight, you’d essentially need to build a whole new truck from the chassis out. This is why manufacturers like Ford offer different packages in a model line, such as the F-250, F-350, F-450, and on up; those vehicles are all built to be able to haul/carry more weight.

How Can I Make My F150 Tow More Efficiently/Easier?

Although you may not be able to increase the amount of weight you can tow, you can improve the way you tow things with your F150, giving you an easier experience overall. You can upgrade your F150’s:

  • Hitch
  • Hitch Receiver
  • Hitch Connector
  • Suspension
  • Mirrors

F150 Hitches & Hitch Receivers Explained

The hitch is the mounting bracket that attaches to your truck, where you would put the hitch receiver so that it could properly hook up to a trailer of some sort. While the majority of F150s leaving the factory already have some sort of hitch already in place, not all of them do. Not to mention, you may need to replace the factory one in the event of a failure from an accident or rusting out (if you live in a state that sees snow).

Regardless, most aftermarket F150 hitches are easy to install and bolt right onto your frame. Unless it is a custom setup, you will rarely ever need to cut or weld any aftermarket hitches into place. You should not encounter any clearance problems with the hitch and your F150’s bumper, aftermarket or not.

F150 Hitch Receivers Explained

The hitch receiver is the part that looks like a slightly deformed tetris block that slides into your hitch allowing you to connect your truck to a trailer. The hitch receiver is the connecting link between your pickup and whatever you are hauling, so you want to avoid on cheaping out when buying one. 

Hitch receivers can come in both adjustable and non-adjustable styles. Hitch receivers are held in place with either a thick bolt or pin, that can either be locking or non-locking (for theft, not for safety). There are some aftermarket F150 hitch receivers that also double as a winch pad, using a split over-under design with an elevated winch pad. These are incredibly utilitarian and great for people need to pull or tow something, coming in handy for some of your standard outdoor home projects like stump removal or rope towing; if you take your F150 off-roading, a winch/hitch receiver hybrid is the ultimate recovery tool on the trail, in the mud, or in the snow.

Trailer Hitch

F150 Hitch Connectors Explained

Hitch connectors are more of a necessary supporting function for your F150’s towing duties. Often viewed as a maintenance or repair item, hitch connectors link up the lighting and electrical functionality of the trailer to your truck’s power supply. Mounted right next to the hitch/hitch receiver, hitch connectors are a simple plug and play feature of a trailer. The main reasons for replacing a hitch connector are:

  • Replacing a broken one
  • Adding an extension

F150 Load Assists & Suspension Upgrades Explained 

When you use your F150 to tow heavy loads, it puts a strain on the stock suspension that can cause it to sag. While ultimately it is not a huge deal and normal across all trucks of this class, it can cause your ride quality to feel diminished while giving it a rear sloping rake. 

You can correct this sag by replacing your F150’s bump stops or by adding a set of helper air springs. Both air springs and aftermarket bump stops will prevent your F150 from bottoming out with a heavy load, while also providing a consistent and leveled ride height. 

As a reminder, adding bump stops or air springs is not going to increase your towing capacity. You still must remain within your truck’s factory designated towing capacity or else risk failure to your drivetrain or engine. 

Aftermarket Suspension Support

Improving Your F150’s Rear Visibility When Towing With Mirrors

If you are hauling a large trailer that blocks or reduces your rear visibility, you will want to invest in a set of aftermarket mirrors for your F150. The stock mirrors were designed to provide your F150 with a field of vision as sold, meaning without anything in the bed or hooked onto the hitch. 

If you are hauling anything from a small 6’x6’ trailer to a horse or car trailer, you will need a set of mirrors that stick out further than the stock ones, allowing you to see more of what’s alongside of and behind you on the road. Some mirror options will be adjustable, allowing you to slide them out further at your will, but overwhelmingly, most options are fixed with predetermined lengths and larger mirrors.

F150 w/Towing Mirrors

Can I Still Tow A Trailer If My F150 Has A Lift Kit? 

Regardless if you have a 5” lift or a 1” leveling kit on your F150, you can still tow a trailer. You can either elect to go with a fixed hitch receiver height that will adjust for your truck’s ride height or you can go with an adjustable hitch receiver that slides up and down on a pole mounted system, with measured out holes every inch. 

If you have a stock suspension setup on your F150, an adjustable hitch receiver is your best option, as it will work with any ride height, which will save you from having to buy another trailer hitch should you decide to lift your F150 in the future. Adjustable trailer hitch receivers also come in handy when you are a hauling a trailer that has a lower hitch to begin with, making it hard for a fixed height receiver to connect with it. 

5 Inch Lift Kit

How To Fix F150 Bumper & Hitch Clearance Issues

Should you have a custom or aftermarket bumper on your F150 that either prevents or limits you towing a trailer due to clearance issues, you can add a hitch receiver extension. Hitch receiver extensions can add anywhere from 6” to 12” of length straight off the back of your truck. They mount into place just as your hitch receiver would, using a simple pin or bolt setup to lock into place. 

Fitment includes: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, XL, XLT, Lariat, Lightning, KingRanch, HarleyDavidson, STX, FX2, FX4, Limited, SVTRaptor, Platinum, FXTremor