The Ram 1500 might sit as the entry-level offering in the lineup, but it’s one swiss-army knife of a truck. It’s small enough to function well as a daily driver, but when it comes to doing some heavy-duty work, like towing, it’ll still meet the challenge. If you’re looking at towing with your Ram 1500, read on for our Ultimate Guide To Towing for your Ram 1500.
Before we begin, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. What is towing and why would you want to do it? It’s simple. You tow because you want to move weight or cargo that can’t fit in your truck’s bed. From towing other cars and boats to moving trailers and construction equipment, you’re only limited by your truck’s specs (and the law).
If you want to tow regularly you’ll want to consider a few things first. If you’re buying a new Ram 1500, check with the dealer and spend some time researching which trim fits your requirements well. For instance, the Dodge Ram 1500 in its latest version can be specced to pull up to 12,750 pounds (the Quad-cab, 6’4 box Tradesman 4x2 trim) but the lowest capacity is 11,240 pounds (all 4x4 trims in the Crew cab, 6’4 box option).
- Basic Terminology
- Other Specs that Affect Towing
- How Much Can Your Ram 1500 Tow?
- How to Hook Up A Trailer
- Other Towing Accessories
- Final Towing Checklist Before Driving
- Towing Safety
While you’re researching, here are a few keywords that you should keep in mind. (We bet you’ve heard the guy at the dealership mention these words.) And to make it easy, we’re going to simplify the concepts. The terms mentioned below in bold letters are used both in the specs of new trucks as well as in their marketing material.
Payload, Towing Capacity, and Gross Combined Weight Rating
The payload is the certified amount of weight your truck can carry. This is the cargo you put into the truck’s bed and drive around. On the other hand, the Towing Capacity is the maximum permitted weight your truck can tow. So if it’s pulling a trailer, the towing capacity defines the maximum weight that trailer can be. A lot of first-time buyers tend to miss that payload and towing capacity are related. Let’s explain. You see, due to its capacity (both from the engine and the chassis), every truck is constrained by a pre-specified weight rating called the Gross Combined Weight Rating. This combines the payload, weight of the vehicle, fuel, and occupants (collectively known as Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) with the weight of the trailer and whatever’s on top of it (also called Gross Trailer Weight Rating).
GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) =
GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) + GTWR (Gross Trailer Weight Rating)
To put it simply: GCWR = payload + all the weight on the truck + the weight of the trailer and everything that’s on top of it
If you increase the payload and are close to the GCWR, then you’ll need to lighten the trailer or vice versa. So, as a rule of thumb, if you’re looking at lugging around a lot of weight (both in the truck and hitched to the trailer), keep the formula in mind. And remember if you’re planning to put ‘x’ pounds in the truck (including the passengers’ and the truck’s weight) and the tow weight is going to be ‘y’, you’d still need to consider that the x+y doesn’t exceed the GCWR. If the total weight of everything you’re carrying and pulling exceeds the GCWR, it’ll be illegal and unsafe — and beyond the normal capacity of the truck.
Let’s take a look at the respective capacities of the 2020 Ram 1500. According to the company data, the 2020 Ram 1500, in its most-towing-oriented spec, can tow up to 12,750 pounds whereas the GCWR is rated at 18,350 pounds. This is for the Tradesman Quad Cab pickup with a 6’4” box and 3.6L V6 24V VVT eTorque Engine. But what if you want a smaller bed or more passenger space? The towing capacity of the truck gets affected as well.
The Ram 1500 is available in two cab sizes: Quad Cab and Crew Cab. Both these come with four doors and offer seating for up to six people. So between the cab sizes, there’s not much difference in the towing capacity, although the Crew Cab version focuses more on passenger comfort. On other Ram models (earlier than 2019/2020 model year Ram 1500 trucks), the cab size can have a larger effect on the overall ability to carry and tow. While the Mega Cab can seat six comfortably (a little more than the other two variants), if you pick the Regular Cab, you’ll have a distinct weight advantage. It can only seat three, so you can tow or carry more.
But there are other factors that influence how much a truck can tow safely. Among the important ones is the axle ratio. Axle ratio is the number of revolutions of the driveshafts to make the axle finish one turn (360 degrees). The general rule is the numerically higher your truck’s axle ratio, the better it’s going to be at towing. On the flip side, the smaller the number, the better fuel economy your truck’s going to have. So you’ll need to make a call, especially if the truck will be your daily driver as well. For the 2020 Dodge Ram 1500 truck, the axle ratio varies between 3.21 to 3.92.
Other Specs that Affect Towing
Another thing that can affect the towing capabilities of the truck is the transmission type. Since towing demands a little more control than driving an empty truck, there’s a need to choose a gearbox that lets you have that extra bit of control. A manual gearbox might seem like a good choice, but with most trucks being offered with gearboxes with some form of towing mode, there’s little to hold you back from getting an automatic.
With a manual gearbox, you can choose to be in the gear you want and accordingly modulate the power. In the case of an incline or change in road conditions, depress the clutch and you can always smoothly go down a gear. While that does give you more control, it means you have to concentrate on one more thing all the time — to be in the correct gear. That tends to take a mental toll if you’re driving long distances. Automatic gearboxes handle that well, and while you don’t have complete control (since there’s no clutch pedal to control the power), modern-day automatic gearboxes are programmed to handle towing well.
For instance, the 2020 Ram 1500 truck’s gearbox gets Electronic Range Select. With the help of this, both performance and engine braking can be controlled by the ERS, thus making driving while towing easier. Another argument working in favor of automatic gearboxes is that the driver has fewer things to deal with, in the case of an emergency, and that might turn out to be crucial. If you’ve got the experience and a manual gearbox rocks your boat, it’s still a great way to go —it’s just not for everyone.
2WD vs 4WD
One more point that experts like to point out when you’re about to make a purchase is the drive — whether your truck requires a 4WD system or not. The answer to that also isn’t straight forward. While a 2WD truck is lighter, which can help you carry a bit more on the trailer, the overall benefits of a 4WD system are hard to ignore. The system isn’t just about off-roading, it also gives your truck better stability on the road. And when towing extra weight, you wouldn’t want to miss out on a system that can help you drive without any worries, even in difficult scenarios — or at the time of panic/sudden direction changes. Because you always know that a 4WD system will have enough grip to help you maneuver difficulties. If the Ram 1500 pickup is going to be your daily driver, and you’re likely to face off-road scenarios or difficult weather (rain, snow) regularly, we’d stick to a 4x4.
The Trailer Hitch Receiver
With the basics covered, what’s next? There’s one small thing that needs to be in place before you can start towing — the trailer hitch receiver. The trailer hitch receiver connects your Ram 1500 to the trailer, and this part can make or break your towing dreams. Trailer hitch receivers are segregated in different classes depending on a few things like the size of the receiver and the trailer weight.
For the Ram 1500, you can get a 4 or 7-pin connector, and Class III or IV depending on the model. A Class III hitch allows for a towing weight of up to 8000 pounds and an 800-pound tongue weight. The Class IV hitch, on the other hand, allows for more, with the max towing weight of 10000 pounds and a permitted tongue weight of 1000 pounds. Both have a 2-inch receiver.
If you have a larger trailer, you should opt for a weight-distribution hitch. That won’t just ensure that the weight is optimally distributed between the truck itself and the trailer, but will also help in controlling the heavy trailer. Another positive will be reduced wear and tear of parts because there will be no overexertion.
Types of Hitch Receivers
But how do you know which hitch to get? To make it easy for you, we’ve listed the popular and relevant heavy-duty ones here.
How Much Can Your Ram 1500 Tow?
|Quad Cab Pickup||Crew Cab Pickup|
|6″4″ Box||5″7″ Box||6″4″ Box|
|3.6L Pentastar V6 eTorque/8-Speed Auto||3.21||11,900||6720||6460||6620||6410||6580||6390|
|3.0L Ecodiesel V6/8-Speed Auto||3.21||13,900||8370||8160||8210||8010||8250||7850|
|5.7L Hemi V8/8-Speed Auto||3.21||13,900||8520||8310||8440||8190||8390||8200|
|5.7L Hemi V8 eTorque/8-Speed Auto||3.21||13,900||8440||8220||8300||8120||8300||7990|
If you’re in the market to buy a brand-new, 2020 Ram 1500, here’s some very useful information for you, courtesy of RamTrucks.com. The table gives you the maximum capacity of the trucks depending on the engine, transmission, and body style you choose.
As you can see, the least capable in terms of the trailer weight is the 3.6 Pentastar Ram 1500 4x4 (available on trims like Tradesman, HFE, Lone Star, Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited) with a Crew Cab configuration and a 6’ 4” box at 6,390 pounds. The most capable is the 5.7 Hemi eTorque Ram 1500 4x2 (available in all trims as an option except HFE — so you’d need to check with the dealer) in the Quad Cab configuration and a 6’ 4” box at 12,750 pounds. These two models are also the bookends when it comes to the GCWR: the Pentastar 4x4 Crew Cab 6’4” has a rating of 11,900 pounds whereas the other model has a rating of 18,350 pounds.
And let’s not forget about the tongue weight. You can take a look at the video to understand tongue weight but to quickly summarize, it’s essentially the maximum weight the trailer exerts on the truck. For a conventional trailer, that should be around 10 percent of the weight of the trailer and its cargo.
How to Hook Up A Trailer
While certain types of trailers are made for larger, more powerful trucks, the Ram 1500 can easily tow a conventional trailer. To keep it simple, we’re discussing only the conventional kind of trailers for now. Connecting the trailer to the truck is a fairly straight-forward exercise.
- Make sure the trailer doesn’t move by putting wheel chocks.
- Jack up the receiver so that the truck can be reversed to have the hitch ball right under the coupler.
- You reverse align the truck in a way that the hitch ball and the coupler are lined up. You’ll need some help unless your truck comes equipped with a reverse parking/tow camera with a zoom feature. Another feature that you could add to the truck is air suspension. If present, it can help you lower the truck while reversing and then increase its height to connect the trailer.
- Once you’ve aligned your truck, operate and close the safety latch, and insert a pin to ensure that it doesn’t open.
- For added peace of mind — and to make sure that if the trailer was to get disconnected, it doesn’t fall straight to the ground — install safety chains in a cross pattern.
- Attach the breakaway cable to the hitch of the truck. What this does is in case the trailer gets disconnected, it automatically applies brakes, to prevent it from hitting your truck — or anything else.
- The final step before checking and setting off is to connect the 4-/7-pin cable to the receiver in the truck. This essentially allows you to operate the trailer’s features — brakes, lights, etc. Depending on the type of trailers, the connector will vary. You can pick up a connector converter if there’s a need to upgrade/downgrade.
Other Towing Accessories
Of course, connector converters are not the only accessory you can pick up for the Ram 1500. There are the usual ball kit, ball mount adapter, hitch adapter, hitch balls (of various sizes, made to suit a variety of trailers), hitch plugs (to cover and protect the hitch’s opening from the elements), electronic trailer brake controller (more on this below), and outside trailer tow mirrors, among other things. These are some of the official Mopar and aftermarket accessories made for the Ram 1500.
The Trailer Brake Controller lets you activate the brakes of the trailer, independent of the truck’s brakes. This can be very helpful on downhill roads, when you need to control the speed but without having to unsettle the truck. These work with trailers that are equipped with electronic brakes — a necessity, in our opinion.
The outside trailer tow mirrors are equally important, if not more. With a trailer connected to the Ram 1500, the field of view of the truck’s side view mirror will be obstructed. These tow mirrors are wider than regular mirrors and are engineered to ensure that blind spots are taken into consideration as well. For that reason, the mirror also comes with a convex spotter glass. Other novelties include power control (like your standard powered mirrors), defrost, and even puddle lamps (it’s just as it sounds -- lights that shine on the ground to let you know if you’re about to step into a puddle coming out of the truck).
The electrically operated, plug-and-play mirror for Dodge/Ram trucks comes as a pair and is backed by a 1-year warranty. Weatherproof and 100 percent shake-free, the mirror can be folded or flipped (to get a vertical view). It has an inbuilt turn signal and can also be heated (across the full-mirror length) to ensure fog and cold weather doesn’t have an effect on your rear vision. It also gets puddle lamps ensuring you don’t blindly step out of the cabin into a snake pit.
As we’ve already mentioned, to tow a trailer, you need a hitch. This is where the hitch ball is connected. The Ram 1500 accepts both Class 3 and Class 4 hitches, depending on the model. The CURT Trailer Hitch is a Class 4 product that allows for a 2-inch x 2-inch receiver size — ready to tow up to 10,000 pounds of weight. This is mounted on the truck and is made and tested to work on compatible trucks without any issues whatsoever. The hitch itself is backed by a limited lifetime warranty, is easy to install, and is most importantly rust-, chip-, and UV-resistant.
With the ability to drop by up to 6 inches, the Weigh Safe Hitch and Ball Mount is a dream come true for those who like to tow a variety of trailers. And not just that, it’s also got two hitch balls: you can use the 2-inch (to tow up to 8,000 pounds) or a 2.5-inch one to tow up to 10,000 pounds. It’s got a 2-inch shaft and is therefore compatible with most class 4 hitches. The corrosion-resistant stainless steel ball is complemented by the aircraft-grade aluminum-made hitch.
With an air spring kit, you can help level your Ram 1500 when towing, help keep it stable by achieving the current height, and also align the vehicle correctly to mount the trailer. The model mentioned here is made for the Dodge Ram 1500/Ram 1500 trucks with the model years 2009 -- 2018. The air spring kit is easy to install and is backed by a lifetime warranty.
Final Towing Checklist Before Driving
- Check all connections
- Check all lights
- Check the chains -- the chains must have enough slack to allow tight turns but ensure that they don’t drag.
- Review tire pressure (for all tires including the ones on the trailer)
- Make sure the weight is secure on the trailer and is properly distributed (refer to the manual for correct distribution)
- Don’t forget to level the truck with the trailer if you’re on air springs (or have an inbuilt system on the truck).
- It’s suggested that after you’ve driven for a little while, you should stop and check all the connections. This will also help you assess if the load distribution is all right.
- If you have brake control for the trailer, check that on an empty street, before heading out on your trip.
With the trailer, you’re carrying more weight (and thus momentum), so stopping will require more power. In this case, being slow and steady will always win. Keep a good distance from other vehicles, avoid sudden direction changes, and essentially don’t forget that you’re a lot bigger and heavier on the road now.
Because of the weight, the dynamics/feeling will also differ, so you should get used to how your truck behaves with the trailer before driving out on public roads. Engine braking becomes essential because that’s one way of not setting the brakes on fire. Engine braking is a process of downshifting and slowing the truck down without applying brakes. It can be achieved by operating the gears manually, both in a manual and automatic gearbox, if the automatic gearbox lets you change the gears manually. Some trucks come equipped with a turbo/exhaust brake, which essentially helps regulate the vehicle’s speeds but without needing to resort to the use of brakes.
At low speeds, the turns will require a bit more effort than usual — and a lot more space. Out on the highway, it’s easy to unsettle a trailer, so keep a check on your driving enthusiasm and the trailer weight. Eventually, driving with a trailer will become second nature.
But if you feel that there’s a need for a slightly different power map, you can invest in a tuner, since some of those do come with towing-oriented custom engine maps.
Important trailer safety videos you must watch
Overall Towing Safety Tips and Tech:
Safely Parking a Trailer:
Preventing Trailer Sway: