Are you willing to risk your life for your load? We’ve all been there, towing a heavy trailer that has to get to a job site before 5 am.
But after a couple of trips, it’s time to invest in better rear shocks that can increase your vehicle’s safety and handling when towing a heavy load. All it takes is one stray animal running out in front of you before you realize how much life-changing good control can be.
We already discussed good truck shocks for everyday driving, heavy loads, and off-road use.
In this article, I’m narrowing that focus to shocks that you can purchase to increase your handling when towing. Because Ford F150 and Chevy Silverado make up the most trucks sold in the US, this list will tilt heavily towards those two brands.
Safety Note: Nothing here is meant to construe that you should exceed vehicle GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). Good shocks do not increase payload!
I was reading through a competing blog before publishing this article. I noticed that they had quite a few shocks mentioned as “for towing,” but the shock they were suggesting was actually designed for passenger vehicles (like El Caminos and Cadillacs). Be sure to make sure that the shock you purchase is compatible with your vehicle! Just search the “shock name make model” to double-check.
Best Heavy Duty Shocks For Towing
Roadmaster Active Suspension
Instead of replacing the shocks on your vehicle, you can look at this active suspension system to leaf spring trucks. It is designed to mitigate the problems that most of you hope to solve by installing better shocks.
This is designed to reduce sagging at the back of the vehicle and add an anti-sway component to your heavy loads handling.
Installation is pretty simple. Raise the back of the truck up and add this bracket to one side of the leaf springs. It simply bolts in place over your springs. After you install it, you can preload the spring by tightening the nut. It only takes about 1 hour to install it.
Two discs are included for measuring how tightly the spring is tightened. The manufacturer suggests that with the white (thinner) disc, an added 20% carrying capacity can be added. The black (thicker) disc is supposed to give you 40% more carrying capacity.
I’m sure your truck’s manufacturer would argue these claims, but there is no disputing that this kit seems to deliver the results you want. It improves your control and reduces side-to-side sway.
Whether you have a heavy contractor’s trailer or want more control when towing your RV trailer, this is an excellent, easy-to-install kit.
Roadmaster’s active suspension comes with a 2-year warranty and a satisfaction guarantee. The link above takes you to the F-150. If you need a different model search “Roadmaster Active Suspension Model”.
AirLift LoadLifter 5000
Airbags are a little bit of a pain to install as you need a source of air, but they create a much softer and a 100% customizable ride.
They will require drilling, you’ll want a friend to help you, and they are overall a bigger product. (Or, buy your airbags cheaply online and then pay someone local for labor to install it).
That said, you can slap these on your truck in about 4 hours on a Saturday, even if you aren’t the most mechanical. Just go slow and read the instructions.
For the air source, you can just use your shop air compressor and top it off before hooking up to a heavy load.
However, I prefer the onboard compressor system and recommend going with AirLift’s automatic compressor kit. It’s one of the easiest to install and will work to power both their products, as well as most of the competitor’s lifts.
This adjustable shock gives you the ultimate customizability in your ride quality. When unloaded, you can reduce the air pressure and enjoy a more comfortable ride. When the load is heavy, you can crank the shocks up to carry up to 5,000 pounds (2.5 tons).
When you activate the air shocks and balance your load, it changes the angle your rear wheels touch the road at. This improves your traction and lengthens tire life.
Designed mostly for use in 3/4 ton and 1-ton vehicles, these will be the overkill you are looking for. With the onboard compressor, you can hook up and then level your load. Long trips become buttery smooth.
Rancho RS999269 RS9000X
This Rancho RS9000X shocks offer a lot of the adjustability that you want in an air-ride system in an easy-to-install shock system.
The first thing to note is that it is designed to slip into your existing shock’s location. This means that you can upgrade worn-out shocks with new shocks and improve your ride quality while also improving your vehicle’s towing performance.
A 9-click dampening system lets you turn these shocks “stiffer” and “softer.” Most users report that a “3” on the rear setting is softer than existing shocks and create a more comfortable ride.
Then, before you hook up to a heavy load, you can turn them up to a “5” or an “8” to increase the shock’s rigidity and decrease sag.
While the leveling is not as aggressive as with an air-ride shock, the performance improvement is noticeable.
This shock has some high-end features such as the oversized, 18mm piston rod and the nitrogen-filled chamber to reduce bubbles in the hydraulic fluid. This system also uses Graphite Fluon for lower friction with a longer lifespan.
Outside of the off-road circles, Rancho is not as well-known. However, they are a well-proven shock company with a hardened design. They also have a well-loved warranty program.
Bilstein 5100 Series Shock Kit
Bilstein has always featured heavily in our reviews, and I haven’t been able to install them on enough of my vehicles.
The Bilstein brand is especially handy for vehicles that have aftermarket lift kits and for off-roading use. In both cases, they perform well, especially when an external cooler is run for off-road use.
This 5100 series is adjustable, allowing you to accommodate existing lift kits installed on your truck. This kit includes front shocks as well, so you can get that “like new” ride experience.
With this series, you aren’t necessarily compensating for a heavy load. Unlike the airbag systems, the Bilstein shocks are not designed to level your truck under a heavy load. They help, yes, but they aren’t as dramatic as the other options.
With the Bilstein shock absorbers, you are going to love driving around with and without a full load. The ride quality on these is top-notch, and they come with a lifetime warranty.
These use a monotube design that allows for a better hydraulic fluid flow, helping the shock run more cooly and extending its lifespan.
However, I’m sliding them a little lower onto this list since most of my readers are needing shocks that will help them compensate for an oversized load, and while these improve towing under a load, they aren’t specific to this task.
Monroe Load Adjust Shock Absorber
This spring/shock combination is designed to improve towing performance without hurting the budget. The spring provides up to 1,100 pounds of lift (per pair), without adding a lot of costs.
The Monroe’s shock is full displaced valving, which gives you that super smooth ride and quick response time when going over rough terrain.
As with the Rancho model, this one is also running the Graphite Fluon, which seems to provide excellent all-weather performance.
These are plug-and-play. You get a matched pair of shocks for one price, and they slip in nicely where the old ones were. There are no adjustments needed. When you tow, you will notice the difference.
The lack of adjustability makes this ideal for the consumer who wants better performance when hauling their RV or for those weekend projects. If you are a contractor who needs to push their truck to the maximum regularly, I would choose one of the options above.
Bilstein 24-185981 Heavy-Duty Gas Shock Absorber
This Heavy Duty Bilstein Gas Shock Absorber uses a beefed-up monotube design. This helps to ensure that you get the best hydraulic flow and cool performance.
With this model, you get increased dampening performance over the 5100 series. This is a more dedicated shock that is designed for heavy-duty off-road use under heavy load.
The difference between these shocks is a subtle one. You’ll notice less bounce and less roll with better control. But it isn’t an in-your-face ride difference. Some folks feel that these are simply good-quality replacements for worn-out OEM shocks.
Once again, these aren’t going to eliminate all sag, but they will improve your vehicle’s performance.
Monroe MA829 Max-Air Adjust Shock Absorber
Monroe is one of those brands that should be mentioned in every shock roundup article.
This MaxAir adjustable shock absorber gives you the granular control that you’ve long admired out of air shocks, along with the durability and design quality that comes from the Monroe brand.
Monroe makes these shocks for just about any vehicle on the market. A lot of folks buy them to replace the failed shocks on their old Buick Lebaron. So make sure to get the correct shock for your vehicle type.
However, Monroe does not make them for a four-wheel-drive configuration.
The upside of this is that you can always find a shock that will fit your make and model of vehicle.
With the Max Air design, you are always looking at a 1/2-inch piston that is supported by full-valve displacement for better movement under all conditions.
You can then inflate them from 20 PSI up to 150 PSI to level your load.
One of their design advantages is that the smaller piston makes it faster to inflate with a lower volume of air. Whether working off of an onboard tank, or an external one, you can inflate these in seconds. Just a few puffs to get them dialed.
Weight Distribution Vs. Air Bags For Leveling Your Load
When you add air to an airbag system, it helps to level your truck. This redistributes some of the weight back to the trailer. However, this system struggles to push weight up to the front axle, so you don’t increase your vehicle’s steering control. Additionally, the rear axle retains a good portion of the weight, which may make that rear axle overloaded.
A weight distribution hitch (generally built into your anti-sway bar), you have better luck with solving the sag and sending weight to the front tires.
I’ve used the Equal-i-zer bar quite a bit and can attest to the increased control it offers when towing with a smaller vehicle in windy conditions.
Will These Shocks Improve My Towing Capacity?
Your vehicle’s towing capacity is set based on a number of calculations that the manufacturer has made. These calculations consider many variables, including engine size, transmission configuration, frame construction, braking ability, and suspension system.
This payload rating is provided to ensure safety when hauling a heavy load.
Adding better shocks and using a weight distribution system can improve your road handling, even when the vehicle is overloaded. However, it will not change the official payload capacity of your vehicle.
How Long Should New Shocks Last?
As with anything, the type of driving you perform will affect how quickly your shocks wear out. If you are riding on many gravel roads with a washboard surface, the shocks can wear more quickly.
Load your truck or SUV down to maximum and then go over that same washboard surface, and they can wear even more rapidly.