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Rough Country News

  • 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. 

  • GM increases the sticker price of its trucks

    Those who like pickup trucks may face an unfortunate rise in the price of their desired vehicles when they head to the dealership. General Motors recently announced that the base price of its 2014 full-size pickup trucks would be raised at least $1,500. With that change, the new prices for a standard model Chevrolet Silverado would reach $26,670 - up from the $24,585 that a new 2013 model cost. 

    A few drivers may be surprised about the price increase, especially considering it follows a month where GM's sales were down, USA Today reported. However, despite the drop in sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which were off approximately 10.8 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, GM is confident in its 2014 models.

    It will likely be an uphill battle for the brand's pickup trucks, however, as they will have to compete with the Ford F-Series and Chrysler's Ram. Those models are the two most popular in the U.S. and posted impressive gains in recent months. 

    Still, GM claims that drivers shouldn't be too concerned about the increase, even though it may irk fans of off-roading who have plans for making major truck mods or installing a Chevy lift kit. 

    "This price adjustment was planned and is a normal part of business," GM spokesman Jim Cain told USA Today. "... A new truck with more capability, more power, better mileage, more equipment - that's kind of a rebate itself." 

    The manufacturer plans on offering a $1,500 rebate to cut down on the bottom line, but many drivers may not be aware of that option - leaving GM with an additional $1,500 from each purchase. Providing special money-back deals will also allow dealers to advertise big sales and savings, which in turn may attract more buyers. 

  • Motor Trend selects its SUV of the Year

    The award season for the automotive industry has finally arrived, and one of the first major accolades was given out by Motor Trend Magazine. The publication recently set out to name the SUV of the Year, evaluating an array of redesigned vehicles to judge which is the best in the segment. 

    Motor Trend selected the winner of its Sport/Utility of the Year based on performance in six categories, including design advancement, engineering excellence, performance of intended function, efficiency, safety and value. Only models that had been significantly made over for the model year were eligible for the prize. After all was said and done, the 2014 Subaru Forester managed to set itself apart from the pack and claim the top spot in the rankings for the second year. 

    "The 2014 Subaru Forester beat a highly competitive field of SUVs because it met our award's six criteria," said Ed Loh, editor-in-chief of Motor Trend. "Smart design, thoughtful engineering and a compelling performance on road and off were the keys to the Forester's win. Our editors were particularly impressed by the powerful yet efficient turbocharged engines, the intelligent and sporty CVT transmission and the excellent visibility and interior package found within the Forester." 

    Although the Subaru Forester was the top finisher in the three rounds of testing, there were several other finalists that may be a better option for drivers who want an off-road vehicle. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was one of the finalists, along with the Dodge Durango and Land Rover Range Rover Sport.

    All three of these automobiles boast an impressive resume of off-roading features and can be altered to include amenities that drivers want. They also performed well in the dirt-track section of Motor Trend's testing, emphasizing the fact that they could be serviceable as an off-road vehicle in addition to supporting smooth everyday driving.  

  • Mike Bishop named Off-Road Magazine's Person of the Year

    Off-roading is more than just a pastime: It is a global community of Jeep and truck enthusiasts who love conquering nature in one of the coolest ways possible. However, it takes the extreme efforts of many individuals to allow that to happen on a daily basis. Many of these people do not get the credit they deserve, which is why a few organizations within the world of off-road driving take it upon themselves to hand out accolades. 

    Person of the Year
    Each year, Off-road Magazine selects one individual from the off-roading community to be its Person of the Year. The honoree for 2013 is Mike Bishop, president of the Azusa Canyon Off-Road Association. 

    Bishop was selected as this year's winner because of his contributions to off-road drivers in and around the Azusa Canyon. He spent more than a decade formulating a plan for the creation of a rock crawling space and putting it into action, dealing with governmental restrictions, environmental regulations and other road blocks along the way. In the end, not only did he gain the ability to use off-road vehicles within a certain area, but he also set up one of the most challenging and alluring off-road obstacle courses in the U.S. 

    To top it all off, the course at Azusa Canyon benefits the environment. Prior to its construction, many regional drivers were off-roading near the San Gabriel River, which is home to an endangered species of fish. Bishop decided to undertake this massive project in an attempt to protect the precious environment in California while also providing drivers with a spot where they can indulge in their favorite pastime. 

    Off-roading at Azusa Canyon
    The result of all of Bishop's efforts is the Azusa Canyon OHV area, which officially opened to the public in July 2012. Located in the Angeles National Forest, this course is a sprawling site that features plenty of natural and manmade obstacles that can pose a welcome challenge for even the most experienced drivers. 

    All fans of off-roading can enjoy the three-acre course at Azusa Canyon. This region offers all kinds of terrain waiting to be driven. Whether you swear by rock crawling, love to go mudding or want to drive up sand dunes, you can find the perfect environment on this site. Mud pits and steep rock-covered inclines allow drivers to test out their skills and their truck mods in a safe, controlled space. 

  • Trucks on display at vintage car auction

    Many drivers are familiar with the process of buying a used car, but not everyone is used to searching for their next ride at a one-of-a-kind vintage car auction. At the Lambrecht Chevrolet Auction, which just took place in Nebraska, that is exactly what happens, as the sale features some rarely seen versions of classic vehicles. 

    This auction began when the family of one Chevrolet dealer in Nebraska decided to sell some of the vehicles the dealership had accumulated over the years. What they found was more than 430 Chevy models stored in the surrounding woods - many of which had never been driven or purchased. While they may be covered in dirt or rust, they are in otherwise strong condition and could prove to be a solid investment for many lovers of classic cars. 

    "These are cars that were basically taken from the dealer and shoved out back and have been sitting ever since they were brand new," Jim Pickering, editor of American Car Collector, told NPR. "That just flat out doesn't happen. This is kind of urban legend material."

    Many of the top vehicles on display at the vintage auction are classic pickup trucks, including one 1958 Chevrolet Cameo with only 1.3 miles on it. That truck sold for $140,000 and brought in the biggest haul at the auction. Another top seller was a 1958 Chevrolet Apache 31 Series Pickup, which had clocked only 5 miles and sold for $80,000. 

    While those pickups were among the biggest prizes of the day, there were many other Chevy trucks that drivers were able to purchase for a low cost. Although they will likely need their fair share of maintenance and truck mods, it will be a small price to pay for the unique driving experience. 

  • GM recalls thousands of pickup trucks

    Owners of pickup trucks from General Motors may want to double check some features of the ride before getting behind the wheel. GM was recently forced to recall almost 22,000 pickup trucks due to a malfunction with the seats found in a few models. 

    The affected models are all the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or the 2014 GMC Sierra. In each of these trucks, the front seats can move beyond an acceptable range of motion if the vehicle is struck from behind, causing harm to the driver or passenger, or even interfering with other safety features like the seatbelt. Because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been closed as part of the government shutdown, there are few additional details known about this recall, but more information could be released in the future. 

    This is the second recall issued for the 2014 Silverado and Sierra. Previously, GM was forced to deal with a problem with the airbags in the trucks. That threat, although serious, only affected about 843 vehicles. Owners concerned about their seats or airbags can take the trucks to a dealer for a quick fix, free of charge. 

    Drivers who have made truck mods to the Silverado or the Sierra will still want to give their vehicles a once-over. While there have been no reports of injuries due to the issue, that doesn't mean it couldn't pose a problem in the future, especially if you are off-roading. Unknown terrain around an off-road vehicle could lead to accidents if drivers are not paying attention to their surroundings, and even special harnesses or armor attached to a truck may not be enough to prevent the seats from being affected in a collision. 

  • Off-road drivers must be aware of deer collisions

    Fans of off-road driving know they need to be constantly on the lookout for certain obstacles. Some of these can be particularly difficult to plan for, especially if they are wild animals with a mind of their own. One of the biggest threats is deer, which frequently are seen near paved roads and off-road trails and can pose a danger to those drivers not paying close attention. 

    Deer collisions on the decline
    According to a recent study from State Farm, in the past year, approximately 1.22 million accidents were caused by the presence of a deer. This is a 3.5 percent decrease from the year before. 

    The odds of a motorist striking a deer in the next 12 months are 1 in 174, which is down from 1 in 167 last year. The largest declines are expect to be in North Dakota and Nebraska, where the odds are dropping by 24.8 and 22 percent, respectively. Motorists in West Virginia are more likely to have a problem with a deer collision than any other state. 

    Despite the decline in the number of collisions, those who find themselves involved in accidents with deer often face costly repairs. In fact, damage from these crashes can cost several thousands of dollars, with most destruction centered on the outside frame and truck modifications. 

    "The cars look worse because they're absorbing the impact rather than passing it on to the passengers," Dave Huskey, manager of an auto repair business, told Bloomberg. "It takes a lot of damage to get inside the frame."

    What to watch out for
    While the number of collisions has gone down, the potential for accidents remains high, especially for those who frequently go off-roading. This means drivers must stay focused at all times and should know how to react in the event of an emergency. 

    "To avoid hitting a deer, drivers must slow down whenever they see deer in the area. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby that could dash in front of your vehicle," David Pabst, director of the Bureau of Transportation Safety for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, told the Sheboygan Daily.

    "If you can't avoid a deer, it's safer to hit the brakes and hit the deer than to swerve suddenly and try to miss it," he continued. "If you swerve, you risk losing control of your vehicle and rolling over or hitting another car or stationary object, like a tree."

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