Modern tow rigs are the best that they have ever been. With tow ratings now breaking into the 30,000-pound range, it's safe to say that the pickup producers are still actively trading blows in the high-stakes (and profitable) ¾- and 1-ton truck market. Given that late-model ½-ton trucks are now capable of achieving early-model ¾- and 1-ton towing figures, those in the market for a new set of wheels to tow have plenty of options.
For those who've already secured their tow rig of choice, we have comprised a list of some of our favorite and most affordable installer-friendly upgrades. This core selection of parts covers the practical to the performance related. We even worked within the 2012 average tax return figure of $2,899 to come up with our pick of dollar-smart add-ons. If you have a basic set of tools and a little know-how, all of the items here can easily be installed in your driveway.
Price Range: $90 to $200
Company Info: WeatherTech, 800/441-6287, www.weathertech.com
The area on any given truck that sees the most foot traffic (literally) is the floor. From spilled drinks and oily rags to mud-soaked boots and gear, the inside of your tow rig will often take a beating. While there is nothing wrong with using your truck as its intended, taking care of your valued investment will pay off in the long run. Floor mats can help, but for those looking for more protection, WeatherTech offers Digital Fit Floor Liner kits.
Price Range: $84 to $299
Company Info: Tekonsha (Cequent Performance Products), 800/632-3290, www.tekonsha.com
An electronic brake controller is a must-have for controlling electronic trailer brakes. While many late model trucks come with built-in controllers, there are still plenty of pickups without one. The Proportional series of electronic brake controllers from Tekonsha are easy to install and use. The Proportional controllers, such as the Prodigy P2, can control up to four trailer axles and is designed to automatically adjust for speed and brake sensitivity. Using an internal sensor, the controller is engineered to work with the physical deceleration of your tow rig. Not only is a brake controller an inexpensive and safe way to save your trucks brakes, but a sound failsafe that will keep your trailer in check.
Price Range: $339 to $355
Company Info: Superchips, 888/227-2447, www.superchips.com
Aftermarket programmers have changed the way we look at performance upgrades. Chasing high horsepower numbers used to mean getting your hands dirty, but with plug-in programmers from companies such as Superchips, you don't even have to pop the hood. While diesel vehicles tend to see the most performance and fuel economy gains from programmers, there are plenty of power and tuning benefits for gas powered rigs as well. The Superchips FlashPaq module allows you to pick multiple power settings, which controls not only your engines power, but crafts new shift points to work with the appropriate settings. It's not uncommon to have power gains of well over 100hp, just by downloading a preset tune.
When you tow, your rigs rear differential is working hard to keep your rig in motion. This hard work translates to heat, which can break down fluid and cause damage to your diff. An easy way to add cooling, along with extra fluid capacity, is to install an aftermarket aluminum cover such as those offered by Mag-Hytech.
Price Range: $45 and up
Company Info: Auto Meter, www.autometer.com
Monitoring your powertrains temperatures is an excellent way to avoid overheating and prevent expensive repairs. If having a host of gauges on your dash and A-pillar isn't your thing, then we suggest at least installing a transmission temperature gauge in an easy-to-view location. Single gauges, and gauge kits from companies like Auto Meter are easy to read and install. And with Auto Meters massive gauge selection, you can outfit your rig with OE- or space-aged-style digital gauges. For those with a turbocharged diesel under the hood, an EGT (exhaust gas temperature) gauge is also a great investment that will let you know when things are getting a little too hot.
Price Range: $201 to $307
Company Info: Bestop, 800/845-3567, www.bestop.com
Towing often equates to significant travel, which can mean more gear to carry. An affordable way to keep your goods out of site and protected from the elements is a tonneau cover such as those from Bestop. The tonneau covers from Bestop include the EZ-Fold, EZ-Roll, and Zip Rail covers. Each cover is a no-drill upgrade and some don't require any tools to install or remove. The combination of the leather-grain textured vinyl and aluminum frames make them easy to take on and off, and they don't add the bulk or weight of a fiberglass cover.