Truck wars: Chevy, Ford, Ram push towing capacity max

James Raia

Truck wars are nothing new. But with lightweight trucks sales growing at an increasingly fast rate, competition has become more intense. The latest battle involves increased towing capacities for the top-three sellers, Chevrolet, Ford and Ram.

Chevrolet recently announced an increase of 500 pounds for the 2021 Chevrolet 2500/3500, pushing the maximum to 36,000 pounds. The boost occurred after engineers made changes to the suspension and available wheel packages.

Truck wars: Chevy, Ford and Ram have all increasing their top-end towing capacities.
Truck wars: Chevy, Ford and Ram have all increasing their top-end towing capacities.

The improvement to the Chevy places it 1,000 pounds less than the Ford Super Duty (37,000) and 900 pounds more than the Ram HD (35,100).

Chevy’s 36,000-pound maximum is available only on the regular-cab Silverado 3500 Work Truck with dual rear wheels and rear-wheel drive. The 445-horsepower, 6.6-liter Duramax diesel making 910 pounds-feet of torque, the 10-speed Allison transmission and Max Tow Package.

Truck wars: Chevy, Ford, Ram

Besides its new towing capacity, the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado HD also has a dashboard of new features, including jack-knife alert. It warns the driver if the angle between the truck and trailer indicates a jack-knife situation could occur.

Cargo bed view and rear side view improvement make it easier to either hook up a gooseneck trailer or use a split-view monitor to properly position your cargo.

Rear trailer view and trailer-angle indicator help back up a trailer and judge the angle between it and the truck are also improvements. Additionally, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking can be added to the Work Truck and Custom trims. They’re part of the Safety Confidence Package.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections are available on the LT trim and standard on the upmarket LTZ and High Country.

Production of the new and Chevrolet Silverado HD lineup began in September, with the vehicle in late fall 2020 and early in 2021.

Editor’s note:

(A different version of this article was originally posted on RVTravel.com. Reader Norm Worthington of Auburn, California, emailed the following comment:)

I read an article with your name on it about the new Chevy 3500s towing capabilities. 36,000 pounds? The people at GM must want a death wish for their customers. I have both a 2007 and 2017 Chevy K3500. The 2007 needs new everything (brakes) at each 100,000 miles. The rotors are all heat cracked, brake pads are around 25 percent and calipers need replacing.

I tow a 17,000-pound fifth wheel with disc brakes. If it weren’t for the trailer having disc brakes there’s no way I could have stopped my rig in under half a mile.

I have had trailer brake fails (with my current trailer, bad hydraulic hose). Using two feet standing on the brake pedal i could only slow down even while slamming the Allison 6sp transmission into first gear. Obviously nobody at GM, Ford and Dodge have ever towed a heavy trailer.

My 2017 3500 does a bit better slowing down my rig if I lose trailer brakes, but it feels like the rotors are red hot and warping all at the same time making the truck shake.

Another problem I’ve experienced with the 2017, the ABS appears to tie the trailer brake system into it as well. Twice, (due to panic braking) I’ve had to replace the bed hitch as well as the pin box because the truck and trailer brakes are fighting each other and while nearly ripping the hitch out of the bed of the truck. Cost was $2,300 each time.

But really? 36,000 pounds. I can’t even imagine what a person would do without good trailer brakes. Besides that, my 2017 Chevy doesn’t have the horsepower to really pull my trailer up I-80 or I-5 summits (slows down to 40 mph wide open throttle and gets 4.5mpg).

My 2007 did a much better job (55mph and down to 7.2mpg same summits, same trailer) but the trailer pin weight had the rear axle overloaded. That’s why the 2017 with 445 horsepower. I’m still looking for it and doubt I’ll ever find it. My 2007 has 360 horsepower and blows 2017 away.

Scary thought about trying to pull let alone trying to stop a 36,000-pound trailer.


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Article Last Updated: October 20, 2020.

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