Towing-Vehicle Tech That Assists Boaters

Built-in advancements in trailering technology make towing a boat easier.
Ford truck towing a boat
New tow tech ensures convenience and safety when trailering a boat. Courtesy Ford

If it’s been a while since you bought new tow vehicle, you might be surprised by the many built-in advancements in trailering technology. New tow tech ranges from integrated weight scales and adaptive suspensions to systems that automatically back up your truck to hitch up your trailer. Here are a few examples to look for.

Ford onboard scale
Ford’s onboard scale measures trailer tongue weight. Courtesy Ford

Onboard Scale

There’s no more guessing about the tongue weight of your boat trailer with an onboard scale. The system available in the 2023 Ford F-150 pickup, for example, can estimate your tongue weight on a conventional hitch and show the number through the dash ­display or a code in the smart taillights. It will advise if the tongue weight is too high or too low.

Ford Pro Trailer Assist
Ford’s Pro Trailer Hitch Assist uses AI to hook up your trailer. Courtesy Ford

Hitch Up With AI

Ford’s Pro Trailer Hitch Assist available for the Ford F-Series pickup uses artificial intelligence, including computer vision and machine learning, to automatically back up and align a truck’s hitch ball to a trailer coupler with the push of a button. It automatically controls the truck’s speed, steering and braking to make hitching up an easy, single-handed task.

Backup Assistance

Features such as Ram Truck’s Trailer Reverse Steering Control with a knob (instead of the wheel) on the dash let you steer in reverse while viewing the trailer in the center-console display (instead of the mirrors). Then there’s Ford’s optional Pro Backup ­Assist. Rotate a knob to indicate how much the system should turn the trailer, then it automatically steers the truck and trailer the desired amount.

What a View!

Camera ­systems significantly improve situational awareness for trailer boaters. The 2023 Chevy Silverado pickup, for example, is available with eight cameras that offer 15 different views around your rig to keep an eye on both your tow vehicle and trailer boat while hitching up, on the highway, at the launch ramp, or just backing into your driveway.

Trailer Light Diagnostics

Remember when you had to walk around your boat trailer to check the lights while ­someone in the truck activated the brakes, turn signals and running lights? That’s a thing of the past with systems such as Ford’s Smart Trailer Tow Connector, which informs you if any of the running or brake/turn-indicator lights are malfunctioning, telling you exactly which one needs ­attention.

Tow/Haul Mode

When the Tow/Haul mode is combined with today’s 6- to 10-speed ­automatic transmissions, it maximizes towing power and efficiency. The Toyota Tundra’s Tow/Haul mode, for instance, can hold lower gears longer when accelerating, decelerating, and on long grades while trailering. Tow/Haul mode will also pick the best gear to keep the engine revving in its power band and lock out overdrive gears. It also adds engine braking to help in slowing your rig while towing.

Ram Truck Air Suspension system
Ram Truck’s Active-Level Four-Corner Air Suspension system automatically levels the vehicle when it senses the load of a trailer. Courtesy Ram Trucks

Adaptive Suspension Systems

Some of today’s trucks feature systems that compensate for the weight of a ­trailer to prevent the rear suspension from sagging. For instance, the Ram’s Active-Level ­Four-Corner Air Suspension uses air pressure to automatically level the truck to its natural ride height when the system detects the load of a trailer on the hitch. In another example, Ford’s available Adaptive Suspension monitors loading, vehicle speed, road conditions, and steering to adjust shock absorber stiffness and damping for enhanced vehicle control when towing.