An Inside Look At This Lean, Mean Towing Machine

My colleague Alvin Reyes wrote an excellent, in-depth article on the 2020 Silverado HD in the summer of 2019. At that time, the max towing capacity was 35,500 lbs. for the Silverado HD when properly equipped. This represented – believe it or not – a whopping 52 percent increase in max towing capacity versus a 2019 Silverado. Talk about a significant jump! 

Now, Chevy has tipped the scales again, even if ever so slightly this time around. As of this writing, the 2021 Chevy Silverado HD has a max towing capacity of 36,000 lbs. when properly equipped. For the sake of conversion, that’s 18 tons. So you can tow a bus with the 2021 Chevy Silverado HD. You know, just in case.

2021 Chevy Silverado HD: How It Tows So Much

It’s a three-tier system with the Silverado HD, the first tier being the truck’s architecture and structural components. The hydroformed high-tensile-strength steel, which serves as the fabric for the ladder-style frame, lends itself to a greater degree of torsional rigidity. This is done intentionally by the Silverado’s engineering team, and their marketing colleagues are keen to point out the advantages. In other words, unless it’s an ice cream cone, Chevy would prefer not to twist.

Having a more rigid platform that is twist-resistant, according to Chevy, is ideal for hauling heavy payloads, especially on uneven terrain. When properly configured, a 2021 Chevy Silverado HD will provide a GCWR in excess of 43,000 lbs.

The chassis of the 2020 Chevy Silverado HD on display Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 at General Motors Flint Assembly where the trucks are manufactured.
The chassis of the 2020 Chevy Silverado HD on display Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 at General Motors Flint Assembly where the trucks are manufactured. Photo: General Motors.

Second Tier: Duramax Turbo-Diesel

The Duramax (or the “Dirty Max” as it’s sometimes affectionately referred to) is the Silverado HD’s beating heart. The 6.6-liter diesel engine spits out 445 horsepower and 910 lb-ft. of torque and is complete with a cast-iron block, induction-hardened cylinder walls, five nodular iron main bearings, cross-bolted (four-bolt) main caps, and common-rail direct fuel injection. In 2017, significant upgrades were made to the rotating assembly and piston-cooling oil jets (the output spay was effectively doubled to lower engine temperatures). 

The spec sheet on the Duramax is impressive, but the allure here is probably the diesel engine’s resume as a whole. Loyal Chevy fans adore the Duramax for its long and uninterrupted history. Whereas Ford did a few diesel engine swaps over the last 15 years (6.0, 6.4, 6.7), the Duramax has been living under the hood of the Silverado HD for the better part of two decades.

Third Tier: Allison Transmission

Married to the Duramax is an Allison 10-speed automatic (10L1000) transmission with a 3.42 final drive ratio. The first gear ratio of the Allision 10-speed automatic is a numerically high 4.54, which helps get the Silverado HD moving from a stop with a heavy payload. Conversely, gear 10 is a modest 0.63 to help maximize fuel on the open road.

Like the Duramax, the Allison transmission also has an impressive resume. Chevy fans appreciate the “Oreos and milk” relationship here. When you see the Duramax badge on the side of a Silverado HD, the Allison Transmission logo is right there with it.

2021 Chevy Silverado HD towing on the open road.
2021 Chevy Silverado HD. Photo: Chevrolet.

New Towing & Safety Features

The 2021 Chevy Silverado (both 1500 and HD models) receive a new suite of advanced towing assist technologies. These items will help when hitching up a trailer and hauling it down the road. Here is what is available for the 2021 Silverado.


Eight cameras are available for a total of 15 different views around the truck. These will be beneficial while maneuvering in tighter areas, especially with a trailer.

Trailer Length Indicator

Displays a red overlay twice the trailer’s length in the center screen. The feature is designed to prevent a Silverado driver from striking another car while changing lanes with their trailer. The system engages automatically when the turn signal is activated.

Rear Side View Enhancement

Provides a split view of the left and right sides of the truck and trailer, based on the trailer’s angle. This view can be seen either driving forward or in reverse, which will help when maneuvering a trailer in closer quarters.

Jack-Knife Alert

Monitors the position of the trailer and displays an alert if the front of the trailer suddenly moves toward the bed of the truck. The Jack-Knife Alert system is a complement to other features like the built-in trailer brakes, diesel exhaust brake, and trailer sway control.

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