Helpful Accessories & Mods To Consider For A Safer, Better & More Comfortable Experience While Towing With Your Toyota 4Runner
The Toyota 4Runner isn’t necessarily a vehicle that comes to mind when you think about a vehicle built for towing. Most 4Runner owners don’t necessarily purchase one for it’s towing capabilities. The 4Runner was definitely designed to be reliable and capable under its own weight but not nearly as much with pulling something behind it. Thankfully, the aftermarket support is plentiful and there are several towing mods to better equip your 5th Gen 4Runner for towing.
Initially, it can be a daunting task to determine what’s actually needed and what isn’t. We’ve compiled a list of popular mods that aid the 4Runner for more comfortable, safer towing. First, however, let’s look at why the 5th Gen 4Runner isn’t a towing champion.
How Towing Mods Can Help
In its stock form, the 5th Gen 4Runner has a curb weight of 4,750 lbs and a max-rated towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. As you can imagine, towing any weight near that number can quickly start to feel sketchy. Add in elements like rain over windy overpasses, and you quickly start to understand why there may be a better way to tow. You may be able to partially address these problems with better tires or adding weight to your rig, but they aren’t a cure-all.
Tongue weight is the weight that’s attached to your rear hitch. Essentially, it’s whatever weight that is physically outside and behind your 4Runner.
The 4Runner’s stock rear coils are fairly soft and light-duty. While they provide comfort over bumps, it doesn’t take much to make the rear end squat. Not only does this look goofy, but taking adding large amounts of weight in the rear can greatly decrease handling and traction.
Have you ever had to slam on the brakes and wondered if it takes the 4Runner too long to come to a complete stop? Extreme nose dive aside, this problem only becomes amplified with the weight of a trailer behind you. Not only is the braking distance a concern, but so is the physical durability of the factory brakes. Brakes that are too small for your overall weight can overheat and fail over time.
The towing mods listed below should help with the two big areas of concern described above. If there are any others that we missed, please leave them in the comments!
1. Coil Airbags
Coil airbags are conceptionally similar to the Coil SumoSprings in that they support your rear coils. Airbags sit inside the coils and can be pumped with air to prevent the coils from compressing too much. They are a popular, inexpensive option compared to fully upgrading to heavier-duty coils.
The main downside to airbags is that they are susceptible to puncture damage, especially underneath the vehicle. You also need to consider the extra moving parts. While this modification is nothing new, something like the SumoSprings has similar function – but is more reliable due to the simplicity. Don’t forget, you will also need other parts here, like an on board compressor.
Find It Online:
- Firestone Coil-Rite Air Helper Bags: Check Price
2. Trailer Brake Controller (REDARC)
If your trailer is equipped with its own electronically controlled brakes, then you’ll need a reliable brake controller. This controller will monitor your vehicle’s brakes and mimic that action on the trailer’s brakes. That takes a lot of braking load off of your 4Runner’s brakes.
The REDARC brake controllers are plug-and-play, self-calibrating, and compatible with both electric and electric-over-hydraulic brake systems. They are an excellent option if you aren’t too familiar with how a brake controller is supposed to work, and instead, just need it to work when you need it.
Find It Online:
- REDARC Tow-Pro Range: Check Price
3. Weigh Distribution Hitch (Sway Control)
Weight distribution is important for your vehicle’s handling while towing. If you think about towing a trailer, your 4Runner’s trailer hitch is basically a massive pivot point. If the weight on this (referred to as tongue weight) is too much, it can make your trailer more prone to fishtailing.
With a weight distribution hitch, the tongue weight is more evenly distributed rather than on a single pivot point. This gives added stability to both your vehicle and the trailer.
Find It Online:
- Equal-i-zer Weight Distribution System: Check Price
4. Heavier-Duty Coils
Heavier duty coils are a straightforward mod that helps the 4Runner’s towing abilities by being less susceptible to sagging under excess weight. With heavier rate coils, you likely won’t need coil aids like airbags. However, heavy-duty coils are much stiffer than the stock ones and can make for a pretty harsh ride if you frequently drive around with no added weight.
I would only recommend heavier-duty coils if your rig has at least several hundred pounds of constant, added weight. Anything less and your rear passengers will spite you forever. I am running a set from Dobinsons.
Find It Online:
- Dobinsons Rear Coils (C59-329): Check Price
5. Upgraded Brakes
Arguably, being able to adequately stop is pretty important while towing. The 4Runner’s stock brakes are okay for their stock weight and probably even the minor added weight of heavier wheels and tires. You could upgrade the pads and rotors, but you are still limited by the factory design. And Toyota’s brakes are known for being pretty good (for stock vehicles).
However, if you take a moderately built-out rig that weighs, say, 500+ lbs. over stock and pair that with a 2,500 lb. trailer, you’re going to want upgraded brakes. Powerbrake makes some of the most dependable aftermarket brake upgrades in the game. Their big brake kit is total overkill for a relatively lightweight build but if you’re carrying some serious weight, or if you consistently tow, this isn’t an area that you want to skimp on. A kit like this can really make a night and day difference in driving experience.
Find It Online:
- Powerbrake Big Brake Kit: Check Price
6. SSI SumoSprings Bump Stops & Coil SumoSprings
SSI Sumo Springs Bump Stops and Coil SumoSprings are excellent, simple towing aids for a couple of reasons. They’re also likely to be the best starting point – where you get the most function and practicality for your buck.
The former will make bottom-outs from large bumps much more comfortable and controlled, and thus, safer. The factory bump stops are basically hockey pucks and when you hit them, it’s harsh and feels like you broke something. SumoSprings bump stops are made of micro-cellular urethane that is super durable, maintenance-free, and allow you to ease into bottom-outs rather than a hard stop.
Coil SumoSprings are super simple in nature. They’re basically inserts that sit inside your coils. Made out of the same micro-cellular urethane, they are durable and help give your coils a little extra weight capacity. Best of all, they won’t affect your ride height and can be easily removed if you don’t need them.
Find It Online:
- SSI SumoSprings Bump Stops: Check Price
- SSI Coil SumoSprings: Check Price
You don’t necessarily need every single one of these towing mods to tow with your 4Runner. However, they will make a much easier and safer towing experience (especially if you’re new to it).
If I had to only pick a couple of mods from the list above, they would have to be the SumoSprings products and upgraded brakes. For the SumoSprings, they’re inobtrusive mods where that won’t negatively affect your ride quality while not under load and can be left in place. They’re a set-it-and-forget option that will be there to support you (pun intended) only when needed.
The brakes would be a close second pick because, well, you want to be able to safely stop with a trailer in tow. Also helps to support my rig, which only seems to get heavier. The 4Runner has adequate brakes for its stock weight but when you consider basic mods that add a couple of hundred pounds to your rig and a trailer weighing several thousand more, your braking distance grows substantially. Hope this all helps!
I would add a transmission cooler to the mix. I’m looking at a B&M Supercool or a Mishimoto with fan. My rig weighs 5500 lbs and pull a 2200lb trailer
Just Remember, Bumpstops like the SSI’s limit the designed travel of your suspension and decrease the 4runners overall capabilities. Coil inserts do nothing for towing.
This is borderline dangerous information. Upgraded brakes and heavy duty coils are the only logical option for increased safety and ride comfort while towing.
The SSI bump stops don’t actually limit uptravel since they compress upon impact. I would say when fully compressed, they allow just as much uptravel considering the factory bump stops are very hard solid pieces of rubber.
The coil inserts aren’t meant to replace heavier-duty coils but if you’re in that grey area between needing to fully upgrade them and your current setup, it’s more cost-effective for many.
I’m not quite sure how this information is borderline dangerous, things like brake controllers and weight distributors are widely used.
Thanks Ryan, I’ve often wondered if Sumo Bump Stops actually limit suspension travel, hence me not buying them yet. Has anyone actually taken suspension travel measurements pre-post installation? Would be great to know.
Brenan did a video review of these, and it looks like the Sump bump stops are able to nearly fully compress. In that state, it’s no larger than the factory bump stops that don’t compress at all. I would venture to guess that there is no noticeable limit in up travel.
Have been towing a 4k lbs camper trailer at least once a month with a 2016. E rated tires, Air Lift springs, adjustable Rancho shocks, and CRF heavy duty radiator. When towing I increase rear tires 10 PSI, air bags to 35 PSI, and firm up shocks. The thing pulls quite well. Air springs have been on for 3 years with zero issues, just make sure you keep the minimum 5 PSI in when empty and they hold their shape and will not damage.
Hi Cabo, I am getting ready to tow with my 2017 4runner and I was told flat out by our local transmission shop to plan on needing AAA roadside with my trailer. I thought at 3500lb dry weight my trailer wouldn’t be too much after a conservative amount of gear loaded in but they flat out said expect my transmission to fail. any tips for saving my transmission when I am driving over passes?
Hey, I have been towing that trailer for 4 years and 4 months with about 50,000 miles and still feels pretty smooth and good. I recommend the CRF heavy duty radiator. Full aluminum and twice the cooling capacity with extra cooling for the transmission line too. Peace of mind for long runs and the inclines. Not hard to install. 100% use the manual mode for the hills. Keeps a nice steady pull and isn’t wandering for a gear. I use the gears very lightly too for down hill to just barely help supplement the brakes to keep the heat down on them. Full flush at Toyota for the transmission fluid every 35-40k. The air bags are the best upgrade for towing, highly recommend. Straight up failing seems a little dramatic. Did they provide a time frame they believe that would happen in?
You sir, know how it’s done! Thanks for the expert tips!