Rough Country News

  • Cruisin' the Coast delights participants and truck enthusiasts

    A love of off-roading or pickup trucks had to start somewhere, and for many drivers it's a passion that is rooted in their childhood memories. Whether your first car was a restored pickup or you learned how to tinker with automobiles thanks to a truck that needed some work, there's a good chance you have some sort of history with these classic vehicles. Because many of these automobiles have since left the roads, there are only a few opportunities to get a look at the models, but some of the shows and festivals that feature these old school trucks are definitely worthy of a visit. 

    Set along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Cruisin' the Coast has quickly transformed itself into a can't-miss event for auto lovers. The most recent edition, held in early October 2013, was certainly one for the record books - and it may even convince truck fans to plan a trip in the future. 

    A valued tradition
    Throughout its 17-year history, Cruisin' the Coast has become one of the most popular events for classic car lovers and truck enthusiasts in the U.S. When it began, the celebration featured about 300 vintage automobile, but that number swelled to nearly 7,100 classic pickups and hot rods in 2013. The vehicles cover a 30-mile routes that snakes through Mississippi, allowing thousands of spectators a chance to check out the cars and even get a feel for how some of them drive. 

    "Part of the attraction is we are a driving event so they get to drive their cars," registration director Lisa Burnett told The Sun Herald. "It's all along the beachfront and we get to see some beautiful scenery. One thing that keeps popping up is the friendliness of the people and the Southern hospitality they encounter here at the venues, restaurants and hotels."  

    Classic trucks steal the show
    Whether you're looking for a chance to get ideas for renovating your own truck or just want to see what types of truck mods are being done on these vintage vehicles, this event could be the perfect destination. According to PickupTrucks.com, the majority of the trucks date back to the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, with many of the models boasting special customizations and personal touches that make them unique. 

    Truck lovers who attended the most recent running of Cruisin' the Coast were in for a treat. Of the 7,100 vehicles that made up the 2013 event, many were revamped trucks. That provided a trip down memory lane for many visitors. 

    "I had one gentleman tell me it's like eight days of being 18 again," Burnett told The Sun Herald. 

    Car auctions, races, social gatherings and swap meets fill the rest of the days, providing plenty of options for auto lovers to get their fill of vintage rides. 

    The next event
    It's not too early to register for the 2014 edition of Cruisin' the Coast. Next year's event, which will be held Oct. 5 to 12, has already opened Early Bird Registration, allowing interested parties to sign up and reserve space for themselves and their cars in this stellar festival. 

    One thing is for sure: Newcomers will have to compete for space with returning drivers, many of whom find Cruisin' the Coast to be among the most enjoyable auto show experiences. 

    "This is our fifth year coming here," Dan Heard, a festival participant and classic truck owner, told PickupTrucks.com. "The friendliness at the venues, restaurants and hotels is great. Everyone we've encountered are just so nice and really makes us feel welcome here."

  • Could a Tesla pickup be on the horizon?

    Tesla made a lot of headlines in 2013, mostly for the stellar performance and safety ratings of its Model S. While the manufacturer is sticking with what it knows for now, there are rumors that the automaker could soon enter the world of pickup trucks. 

    An analyst at Seeking Alpha, an investment research website, recently brought up the idea of Tesla joining the pickup truck revolution. Trucks have already staked their claim as one of the most popular auto segments, and the segment is predicted to continue expanding in the future. 

    A Tesla chief designer did comment on the possibility of a pickup once in the past, claiming that the torque of an electric motor - such as the one Tesla produces - would be an excellent option for pickups, according to Seeking Alpha. Elon Musk, the free-speaking brand CEO, has also discussed a potential Tesla truck, saying that it would feature an impressive air suspension and torque, the news source reported. 

    If a Tesla pickup is anything like the Model S, drivers can expect big things. Not only does the electric vehicle boast a range of up to 265 miles with zero emissions, but it also offers superior safety features. An innovative aluminum design cuts down on weight while creating a rigid frame, and the lack of an engine makes it easy to optimize the vehicle for passenger protection. The Model S received top scores on almost all of its safety tests.

    With a strong exterior, wide range and premium features, an off-road vehicle from Tesla could change the industry. Of course, that is all speculation, but it is certainly something for fans of off-road driving to consider as they mull over the latest news from the sport. 

  • Auto industry could face parts shortage in 2014

    While most of the auto industry has big dreams for 2014, there is one section that is wary of what is to come: the suppliers. Many companies that make individual components for vehicles are facing extreme pressure to keep up with high demand, and as a result, they are not sure if they will be able to match automaker's expectations in the next year. 

    The outlook
    A recent survey from IRN, Inc. found that many manufacturers are concerned about a potential shortage of car parts in 2014. With demand for new cars on the rise, many suppliers are being forced to increase their output - a fact that few are prepared for. 

    "Capacity may finally be at the breaking point," the survey said, according to Automotive News. "If current projections ... are correct, expect this to be one of the top issues for the industry in 2014." 

    According to the survey, those suppliers who made electrical components were most concerned about a potential shortage. As many as 38 percent of survey respondents who made these devices were worried about not meeting capacity. Following those companies were suppliers of chassis and suspension components, of which approximately 30 percent were concerned, the news source reported. 

    "This suggests that the industry is maxed out," Melissa Anderson, IRN vice president, told Automotive News. "Among most suppliers, there is a fair amount of scrambling going on. It's not always pretty." 

    What you can do
    There is not much drivers can do to prepare for a potential parts shortage in 2014, especially because they have no way of knowing what type of auto repair they could need or even what vehicle they'll be driving in the future. If you have an off-road vehicle that you intend to keep throughout 2014, it may be a good idea to give the automobile a thorough inspection and make sure everything is functioning as it should. That way, if you find something that needs to be tinkered with or replaced, you have plenty of time to properly address the issue. This also provides you with some leeway in case a problem is bigger than you expect and requires a new investment. 

    Those who plan on doing some extreme off-roading in the next year will also want to take steps to ensure their automobiles are strong enough to handle whatever comes their way. Installing a lift kit to add more ground clearance can prevent any type of obstacle from interfering with the undercarriage. Similarly, installing Jeep armor or other protective plates may also guard exposed areas from harm. 

  • Esquire praises the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

    Esquire magazine recently handed out awards for its "SUV of the Year," and many off-roading enthusiasts will likely be happy with the automobile that took the top spot. The men's style publication rated the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT as the big winner in this year's Esquire Car Awards, awarding it the title of Sport Utility of the Year

    Multiple editors drove the new Jeep model, testing out its refreshments and updated amenities. While the 2014 version was not a complete redesign, it didn't need a total overhaul to compete. The few touches that were expertly applied to the edition enhanced the driving experience, and the vehicle itself is excellent for either day-to-day or off-road driving. 

    "The new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT combines impressive performance and luxury wrapped in a muscular and stylish exterior," said Ralph Gilles, the president of Chrysler's SRT Brand. "Winning Esquire's 'SUV of the Year' award continues to help set us apart from esteemed competitors by appealing to the passionate, performance-enthusiast consumers with its unique blend of value, technology, power and character." 

    Not only did Esquire select the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT as the best option for SUVs, but some of the individuals who provided input to the test said driving the vehicle was an excellent experience. It is an automobile that you'll want to drive, and just as important, an SUV that is fun to handle in any situation. 

    "The one sonic experience of the year that I will not forget is engaging the ignition on the SRT," David Granger, editor-in-chief of the magazine, wrote in his review. "This is the sweetest-sounding, most reasonably prices engine note of our time." 

    With a vehicle this great, some drivers may even be hesitant about making Jeep modifications. However, the extreme durability of the Grand Cherokee brand, combined with the reasonable costs, certainly make alterations a viable option. 

  • Motor oil not always up to standards

    Anyone who has taken a look under the hood of a car knows what an integral role motor oil plays in the functioning of a vehicle. The liquid is essential for auto engines, and it is incredibly important for drivers to make sure they are using the oil properly - especially if they plan on braving the elements in an off-road vehicle in the near future. 

    Motor oil falls short
    The American Petroleum Institute recently conducted a comprehensive study that looked at the quality of motor oil. Research found that 1 in 5 samples of bulk motor oil purchased within the past five years do not meet performance standards, which can have a drastic effect on the vehicles it is used in. 

    "API is concerned about the high levels of failure we are finding in our results," said Kevin Ferrick, manager of API's Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System. "API is sharing these audit findings with the public as part of its new 'Motor Oil Matters' program, which will help reduce the risk of consumers receiving oil that doesn't meet their cars' performance requirements." 

    The organization took samples from more than 1,800 motor oils, with almost 20 percent failing to meet quality standards. These standards are in place to protect consumers and their vehicles, so the fact that so many drivers are heading out on highways and off-road routes with less-than-stellar materials in their automobiles is concerning. 

    Importance of motor oil
    There's a reason why so many experts cite changing motor oil at regular intervals as one of the keys to preventative maintenance. It is an essential part of the vehicle's engine, and filling the system with the right oil can go a long way toward preventing harmful build up of dirt and sludge.

    Those who put off oil changes or use low-quality motor oil may have to replace an engine or undergo costly repairs sooner than expected. That kind of work is the last thing many fans of off-roading want, especially as the fall weather is ideal for recreational driving, so the only solution is to utilize the proper materials. 

    "The Motor Oil Matters program reminds consumers about the importance of using quality motor oils in their cars and trucks," Ferrick continued. "The Motor Oil Matters program also calls on certified oil change locations to go the extra step to verify the quality of the oil on invoices and receipts." 

  • Compromise reached in Utah off-roading case

    Most fans of off-road driving have a tremendous respect for the environment they use as a setting for their pastime. Drivers go above and beyond to make sure their truck mods are not harming the wilderness, preserving the open space for many other motorists to enjoy. However, there are occasions when the actions of off-roaders impact the environment, causing some issues in the sport. 

    Off-roading threatens wildlife
    Utah's Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is a popular spot for off-roading in the western U.S. The public lands are excellent for dune bashing and other adventurous forms of off-road driving, and as such they have become a major draw for recreational drivers. 

    However, drivers who frequent those lands faced some unwanted obstacles when the space was found to be the home of the tiger beetle. The species lives primarily in the sand dunes habitat and relies heavily on the land for survival, as it is not capable of thriving in other environments. Unfortunately, the prevalence of off-roading within the park has drastically affected the beetle's environment, threatening the species with possible extinction. 

    Organizations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Utah Department of Natural Resources teamed up to do something to save this species. At the same time, the surrounding community and off-roading groups from the area wanted to maintain the draw of the dunes for both financial and recreational purposes. 

    A compromise is found
    Luckily, all of the groups involved were able to reach a compromise that will protect the habitat of the tiger beetle while also preserving the land for off-road use. The final deal designates two-thirds of the park, or about 2,276 acres, as a critical habitat that is off limits to off-road vehicles, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. That accounts for about 88 percent of Coral Pink Sand Dunes, with the remaining space available for off-road use. 

    "We are committed to managing public lands to conserve the tiger beetle while supporting the recreation and outdoor activities that boost local economies in Southern Utah," Juan Palma, Utah state director for the Bureau of Land Management, told the news source. 

    Situations like these are rare but unavoidable. As more information comes out about the environmental effects of off-road driving, there could be several changes in the recreational driving landscape, but motorists who do their part could help lighten the impact of off-roading on the environment. 

  • Ford to introduce new redesigned pickups

    Ford pickup trucks are among the most sought-after vehicles on the market - and with good reason. The automobiles have struck an ideal balance between performance and appearance, and with so many truck mods readily available, it's easy for drivers to customize each machine to meet their needs. While many of the existing truck models rate highly, that hasn't stopped Ford from revamping upcoming editions to create a more comprehensive line of pickups. 

    New Ford models
    Although Ford has been at the forefront of pickup trucks in the U.S. for years, it is continuing to move forward with new models and redesigns. That includes eight new versions of the tremendously popular F-Series. One of the most anticipated new models is the F-150 Tremor half-ton sport truck.

    This vehicle, along with the standard 2015 F-150, will feature an aluminum body for the first time. With the move, Ford shifts away from steel bodies, which could have some far-ranging effects on both the auto industry and aluminum providers.

    Much remains to be seen about how the change in materials will impact the trucks, but there is a good chance a lighter weight and improved fuel economy are among the advancements. In fact, Bloomberg reported that the change could take as many as 750 pounds off of the weight of each truck in an effort to improve performance. 

    "We put so much importance on continuous improvement and making sure that we're delivering a better solution to our customer every year," Doug Scott, Ford's truck marketing manager, told Bloomberg. "It's one of the reasons we have such an aggressive product cadence, and it's what really differentiates us." 

    A positive outlook
    The manufacturer isn't willing to expound too much on the plans for its 2015 models, preferring to keep the focus on the 2014 editions that are currently entering the market. As buzz continues to build around the future vehicles, however, everyone from heavy-duty workers to fans of recreational off-road driving will likely be paying attention to Ford's plans. Of course, they prefer to focus on the 2013 and 2014 models first. 

    "It says that we've got a very competitive product," Scott told the news source of the publicity. "I don't think that there will be any problem once we're sold down completely on the '13s."

    News on the production of 2015 models and big reveals surrounding the automobiles are expected to become known in the coming months. 

  • Use your nose to find potential auto issues

    Normally, drivers let regular tune ups or hiccups in performance alert them as to problems going on with a vehicle. However, these are not the only resources car owners have when it comes to completing vehicle maintenance. In fact, one of the most effective tools may be right in front of them - the nose. Odd smells can let you know when things with an automobile are not functioning as they are meant to, and discerning the problem based on a particular scent may save you time, money and aggravation in the long run.

    "Unusual smells can be a sign of serious, and potentially costly, trouble for your vehicle. By acting quickly and making necessary repairs, you'll be able to breathe easy knowing there is no harmful damage to your car," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "... When you smell any peculiar odor, you should not ignore it. Instead, bring your vehicle to a professional service technician that you trust to get an informed opinion on the nature of the odor."

    Here are a few of the odors that may signal an issue with your off-road vehicle:

    Gasoline
    Smelling gasoline may be common for many, but it could be a sign of issues under the hood. If you start getting whiffs of fuel at odd moments - as in when you're not filling up the tank - you should examine the gas tank and fuel injector line. Any leaks in these areas could be both costly and dangerous, and it is essential to check it out before you end up in harm's way. Gas leaks are a fire hazard so be sure to find a safe space to place the vehicle, and keep open flames or sparks away from the automobile. 

    Rotten eggs
    The stench of rotten eggs is not limited to a kitchen. Drivers who sniff this odor may want to check in on their engine. It is possible that the catalytic converter is not working properly, which in turn means the motor is not functioning as it should. Another possibility is that there is a separate issue with the engine that in turn caused the converter to malfunction, resulting in a complete motor failure. None of these scenarios are things drivers want to deal with, so as soon as they begin smelling rotten eggs, they should get the engine checked.  

    Burning rubber
    Some may view burning rubber as a sign of gaining speed on pavement, but those who are driving on or off roads should be on high alert if they get a whiff of this odor. It could indicate that drive belts or hoses located under the hood have become dislodged and are not operating as they should. If friction occurs where it's not supposed to due to a movement of these belts, there may be unwanted heat, so be sure to allow time for the systems to cool down and practice safety when examining them. 

    Syrup
    A syrup-like odor may be a sign of a leak somewhere in the engine. This sweet stench could mean that coolant is seeping out from a place it shouldn't be, which is a threat to your personal safety and the life of your engine. If the cooling system is not working properly, your car is at risk of overheating - but don't get too eager when attempting to take a look at the happenings under the hood. Opening a radiator cap when it's hot could release steam and intense heat in a dangerous fashion. It's best to let all systems cool and then assess the situation. 

  • PickupTrucks.com conducts truck towing tests

    For many drivers, the ability to tow thousands of pounds in their pickup truck is second to none. It doesn't matter if you use your truck for heavy-duty work or purely for recreational reasons - you want to make sure it has the potential to handle whatever you throw its way. 

    'King of Beasts' 
    With so many drivers prioritizing towing capacity, PickupTrucks.com decided to conduct an extensive test known as the "King of Beasts" to see which vehicles performed the best. The website took the 2013 Ford F-450 Lariat crew cab 4x4 and pitted it against the 2013 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty. Each machine was forced to complete a 1,600-mile trip with a cargo load of 24,000 pounds behind it. 

    To start the test, the website reached out to manufacturers to get a version of the biggest pickup trucks offered from each. The vehicles were attached to a trailer weighing 8,270 pounds and loaded with more than 16,000 pounds of rocks. Although the two automobiles do have different towing capacities - the Ford boasts a limit of 24,700 pounds and the Ram sits at 28,800 pounds - the website wanted to see how the machines would perform in a real-life setting. 

    The trip took the automobiles through the Davis Dam, located on the border of Arizona and Nevada, as well as into Colorado's Eisenhower Pass. While these areas do contain paved roads and therefore do not test the off-roading capabilities of each vehicle, it did offer a chance to grade performance on different inclines, altitudes and situations, which provided some welcome insight on the towing of the two trucks. 

    The results 
    The test was designed to push each of the trucks to its limit. At the end of the experience, pros and cons emerged for each of the vehicles, providing PickupTrucks.com with plenty of aspects to consider. 

    Strengths of the 2013 Ford F-450 included visibility and mobility. The design boasts rounded hood corners and large windows, which make things easier on a driver towing a heavy load, and it also benefits from improved handling. It achieved solid mileage and had a helpful smart transmission as well. 

    However, things weren't all rosy with the Ford. According to the testers, the vehicle didn't offer the kind of sleek interior that is normally associated with its high price tag - upwards of $70,000 - and the diesel exhaust fluid gauge left much to be desired. Controlling heavy loads on hills and uneven terrain was also an issue. 

    On the other side of the spectrum was the 2013 Ram 3500. A new interior package - including an easy-to-use DEF gauge - and excellent steering highlighted some of the advantages of the Ram. Its powertrain was particularly impressive, as it acted as if they heavy load was a much lighter haul than it really was. With so many benefits, PickupTrucks.com selected the Ram as the winner of its "King of Beasts" towing challenge. 

    Other evaluations
    PickupTrucks.com looked at more areas than just towing capacity. It also used the test to evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy and comfort of the trucks while they were towing the thousands of pounds of cargo. The Ram 3500 boasted solid results in acceleration, frequently passing other motorists and rigs with ease, and the truck was also more effective at braking under pressure. Although Ram's range left much to be desired, the other benefits offered by the full-size pickup more than made up for it. 

    Fans of off-road driving know how important a truck's ability can be. Tests like this one from PickupTrucks.com may give drivers something to think about, but various truck modifications and alterations may change the playing field, leaving motorists with the need to conduct their own driving tests. 

  • Honor Auto Battery Safety Month with a look under the hood

    October is Auto Battery Safety Month, and drivers who want to take advantage of the efforts launched in this month - and beyond - should be prepared to look under the hood. Approaching any type of battery without the proper knowledge can result in personal injury as well as damage to a vehicle, so all motorists should make sure they have at least a basic understanding of how to handle the situation before diving in. 

    Focus on car batteries
    For many motorists, the main focus during Auto Battery Safety Months will be on how to handle a car battery. The main purpose behind these efforts is to prevent harm to individuals and their vehicles, and these campaigns are not without basis. 

    According to data compiled by Prevent Blindness American, each year there are more than 6,000 eye injuries resulting from accidents with auto batteries. These situations may involve cuts to the eye from flying fragments or hazardous chemicals from the battery coming into contact with the eyes. Other common injuries include skin burns and cuts to the hand. 

    "Auto Battery Safety Month is a great time to raise awareness on how to avoid risks when changing a car battery, as well as on how to properly and safely jump start your car," said Brian Hafer, a vice president at AutoMD.com. "... Whether dead or not, batteries can release and explosive hydrogen gas, and all it takes is a small spark to ignite the gas." 

    Many potentially dangerous situations arise when batteries explode or are in some way damaged and the driver tries to rectify the problem. This is not restricted to just automobiles, however. 

    Not just under the hood
    Caring for auto batteries is of the utmost importance, but there are several other batteries found around your garage that need to be handled properly. For example, many drivers make it a point to have equipment like truck lifts, such as those that come in handy when making truck modifications or installing a lift kit, sitting around the garage. Dealing with the batteries and gear that are a part of these systems needs to be done properly. 

    All batteries should be expertly maintained. This usually involves inspecting them for damage or corrosion, as well as cleaning the work area to make sure there is nothing that can spark or be damaged by the battery acid. Similarly, you should be checking individual battery chargers to guarantee that the problem does not lie with this other accessory. 

    Finally, whenever you are dealing with batteries for any piece of equipment, you should keep all types of open flames away. This means never smoking or bringing any kind of spark into the work environment. 

    Safety tips for any scenario
    No matter what type of battery you are dealing with, you should be practicing the best safety tips. Before dealing with any unknown machinery or car batteries, be sure to read over the owner's manual, which may have insight into the best way of managing the gear. Wearing gloves and eye protection is also important for any car owner, as is checking equipment, such as jumper cables, to ensure they are in proper working condition. 

    Additionally, you should never try to jump start a frozen battery, and you always need to make sure the ignition is off in both vehicles when jump starting a car. 

    Most importantly, you should only handle the auto battery if you know what you are doing and have the proper tools. While it may be tempting to pop the hood and take care of a problem yourself, this can only be safely and efficiently done by owners with the know-how and equipment. 

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