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New owner needs advice regarding suspension and towing

Suspension Towing Weight Boat Fleet shell Tacoma Firestone

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 04:37 PM

Hi all,

Great forum,

I am picking up a new bare Fleet shell hopefully in mid July 2020 if all goes well. COVID delays. 
Stay well my friends.  :)

Driving from Spokane to Bozeman and back, 1200 miles RT, to get it. 

I have a 2004 4x4 Toyota Tacoma TRD extra cab, 3.4-liter, towing package included and all stock suspension (Bilstein shocks). 

I have Firestone air bags and just installed the Air Lift Wireless-one 2nd Generation On-Board Air Compressor System w/ EZ Mount - Single Path. 
My tires are 16" Alloy Wheels with P265/70R16 Toyos all the way around.

The towing capacity is 5000, tongue weight is 500 lb. and the truck has a transmission cooler. With P265/70R16 tires the GVWR is 5100, GAWR Frt. 2650LB and RR. is 2800LB. 


The camper will not be on the truck full time but, I have a 21' Chaparral Ski/Fish boat that I will need to tow along with the camper maybe a few times a year.


Just an FYI,

I have been towing this boat for 3 years now and it tows wonderfully by itself with gear. Little slow on hills but I always take my time. 

Dry weight of boat is 2660 and tongue weight is about 250. 

Let's say no more than 500 lbs. of gear in camper.

Generally only two people in the truck.


I am a bit concerned it might be too much for the truck to handle in weight and towing? The distance to Roosevelt lake, at the most, is roughly 65 miles one way. 


My question is will this suffice? 

I believe that for just the camper it will be fine? 
Should I get E rated tires? 


Thank you,




Pronounced Beemuss  :) 


Beam Me Up Scotty



Thank you to all for the great advice, tips, ideas, pics. etc.....well, everything on this forum.

Can't wait to use mine and hopefully share, too.

Edited by Bmusbob, 10 April 2020 - 04:38 PM.

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#2 Jon&Sue_DeArman


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Posted 10 April 2020 - 04:49 PM

The Last Little Toyota.  The rear springs are weak on this model truck and I would ditch the tires and get something else if you plan to go off road ever. Remember, air bags do not replace springs so get some strength in the rear.

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#3 BillTheHiker


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Posted 10 April 2020 - 05:10 PM

You might check this article:



I have a similar rig, 2008 Tacoma 4x4 off road with towing package and a 2016 Fleet shell. I have weighed it fully loaded at a truck scale and am 100 lbs over GVWR. using the above referenced article I have a negative towing capacity.

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#4 Jon&Sue_DeArman


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Posted 10 April 2020 - 05:30 PM

A 2004 & 2008 are not similar rigs. The 2004 was the last little Tacoma. 

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#5 rando


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Posted 10 April 2020 - 06:03 PM

I have a 2016 Tacoma with a fleet flatbed that is most definitely over the GVWR, so I am far from the weight police, but this situation still doesn't seem to be a great idea.   


In order to carry the weight of the camper alone you really need to work on the suspension, with the tongue weight of the trailer and increased dynamic loads, these is even more important.   It is going to be tough to dial in solution that works with the large loads you are planning as well as unloaded.   And while airbags can help, they are not the full solution.


For reference I previously had a 2004 Tacoma with a Wildernest (~300lb) camper on the back, and I ended up upgrading the rear springs and shocks, even for that.   The 1st gen Tacomas are great vehicles, but they are smaller and more lightly built than the later generations, making the additional weight even more noticeable. 

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2016 Fleet Flatbed

2016 Toyota Tacoma




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Posted 10 April 2020 - 07:23 PM

Thank you,

I do not plan on going off road. One site is a short 1 mile smooth dirt road drive down to the site and without the boat.
Any other camping is paved access. 

After posting this I called the local dealer. 

The very knowledgeable gentleman in the parts department mentioned the same thing as John and Sue. He stated that this 2004 TRD Taco was a rare breed and it came with the tow package, strong suspension and included the trans cooler. He stated that not many of these were made out of the factory like this.  

He asked if it was a rough ride. Yes, I stated. His comment, "It was built tough".  

I will upgrade the tires to E and definitely inquire about springs, too.

May have to re-think towing the boat.


Bill, Thanks for the link. It definitely helped educate me.



Thanks again and any and all advice is gratefully welcomed.

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#7 JHanson


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Posted 10 April 2020 - 07:49 PM



Generally the TRD package came with a softer suspension setup than normal, especially the Bilsteins. I've never heard of a TRD with a towing package and heavier springs, but I'm not familiar with every permutation. 


You'll definitely want LT (truck) tires on it, at the minimum D rated but given your combination probably E. I strongly suspect you'll want firmer shocks as well if your Bilsteins have the standard TRD valving. You'll get a feel for it when you bring back the camper. Given that it won't be on all the time, your choice of air bags was a good one, so you can adjust for load. We had a 2000 Tacoma 3.4/auto with a FWC on it and certainly never had any issues, but even with a tranny cooler I'd keep a close eye on temps while towing.

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#8 ntsqd


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Posted 11 April 2020 - 04:22 PM

Change the tires for sure. Those whose size starts with a "P" are passenger car tires and do not have enough load rating for what you want to do. They may carry the load looking fine, but they're not rated for that weight and some hot day will become a roadside problem. At the very best you can expect a shorter life-span from them.


Shocks damp the movement of the suspension relative to the chassis, not the other way around as is commonly assumed. Used correctly they are not a spring and do not carry any weight.  If you change the spring rate via different springs or air springs and the current shocks were exceptionally well matched to the previous springs (doubtful) then a change in damper valving may be required.


If the ride quality with the old dampers and the new springs is good, but you have increased body lean then look into stiffer sway-bars, NOT different shocks. Be careful about simply adding one to the rear without increasing the diameter of the one in front. The axle stiffest in roll (sway) has the least cornering traction. Vehicles sold in the US are set up by the OEM be the stiffest up front. The idea is that most drivers can safely handle an emergency loss of steering, but a lot fewer can safely handle the rear passing you around the outside. The driver Drivers here are all saying to themselves as they read that last sentence "but, but, but that's the MOST fun" and I agree but even I don't want a truck that tries to bite me at every opportunity.


Above all, keep in mind that the suspension is a system. Changes in one spot will cause others to change how they behave in response. Must keep an overall view in mind and think through how each proposed change will affect the rest of the system. For example I recently went thru a tuning exercise where the undesirable action seemed to be at the front axle, but the actual cause was part of the rear suspension.

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Where does that road go?

#9 PJorgen


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Posted 11 April 2020 - 06:09 PM

Some trucks list a GCWR in the manual, gross combined weight rating. That will tell you the total allowable weight of truck and trailer combined. You definitely don’t want to exceed that. 

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2014 Hawk, Silver Spur exterior on a 2012 GMC 2500HD 4x4.

#10 BMUS



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Posted 11 April 2020 - 06:28 PM

All advice here is valued and greatly appreciated.

I will be reaching out to a local pro regarding my current situation and move forward in determining the correct path for the suspension. Again, the camper will not be on the truck 24/7. Unfortunately, I will maybe get 5 or 6 uses out of the camper per year and will load and unload it each time. 

I travel with the boat maybe 19ish times per season and when towing just the boat, my truck handles great.
I have been towing boats with this truck for 15+ years and fortunately have had 0 issues. I can't even tell the boat is back there.
Have to look in the mirror just to make sure.

Thank you all again

Very sound advice for a long time listener and a new camper owner.  :)

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