Rough Country News

  • More emphasis placed on pet safety

    We've touched on some of the best ways to keep pets safe when you take them off-roading, but some new developments have once again brought the issue into the spotlight. Although many motorists want to share off-road driving experiences with their pets, it is best to take all necessary measures to ensure that you and your passengers - human or otherwise - remain safe. 

    About the dangers
    The risks involved with letting a pet roam free within a vehicle go beyond what may happen in the event of a crash. In particular, animals getting harmed while riding in the truck bed is a widespread issue that needs to be addressed. 

    "It is estimated that 100,000 dogs die each year riding in truck beds," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president of the American Humane Association. "Unfortunately, we have all seen dogs riding in the bed of a pickup truck, which is an extremely dangerous way to transport your pet." 

    Another potential cause of problems comes from letting dogs ride with their head out the window. While they certainly enjoy doing it, this act can be incredibly dangerous, especially if you are off-roading. Just one missed obstacle or piece of debris can lead to a major issue, and it is better to err on the side of caution. Let your dog ride in the backseat, roll up the passenger window to keep its head inside or take other measures to ensure it's not placing itself in unnecessary danger. 

    Ford gets on board
    A new campaign from Ford aims to shed some light on this issues. The automaker teamed up with the American Humane Association to launch an awareness effort reminding drivers of the need to keep their dogs safe. While it goes beyond getting them out of the truck bed, that is certainly a good place to begin, and it is not difficult to get started on these safety initiatives. 

    "As America's truck leader, this is an issue that's close to the heart for us," said Doug Scott, marketing manager for the Ford Truck Group. "We're not asking that people go to onerous lengths while driving with pets, but even the smallest steps can make a difference in keeping all passengers in our vehicles safe." 

    Following some of the safety tips previously offered, as well as remaining cognizant of where your pet is and what it is doing when in a vehicle, can lead to safer experiences and better results for everyone on the roads. 

  • Tips help drivers before long off-roading trips

    Part of the fun of off-roading comes from conquering unknown lands. That's why finding new parks and trails is of such importance to some drivers. However, these alluring locations are not always close to home, and you may have to embark on long road trips to get to the latest spot that's caught your eye. 

    Prior to these adventures, there are a few steps you should take to ensure your vehicle is primed for a long trip. The truck mods you've made may have it ready for off-road driving, but your vehicle will need to be ready to handle pavement, mud, rocks, gravel and everything in between. 

    Inspect the off-road vehicle
    Before setting off on any significant trip, you should make sure you are thoroughly examining the vehicle to see if it is up to par - especially if you plan on off-roading. Looking at things like wipers, fluid levels and the automobile's oil are all important aspects of maintenance that you should take care of ahead of a trip. While you may be constantly updating a vehicle and be confident in its capabilities, giving the machine a once-over before an extended journey is an easy preventative measure that provides peace of mind. 

    Check the tires
    Several months of summer driving and hot weather could have contributed to the wearing down of your tires, which is why it is essential for drivers to check the tires and their pressure before long trips. Temperature changes can wreak havoc on tire pressure, so it is important to keep an eye on this aspect throughout road trips. Under- or over-inflated tires can cause problems when off-roading, which only furthers the need to have them at the level recommended by the manufacturer. 

    In addition to the tire pressure, you should also check on the alignment. Obstacles you've encountered when off-roading could have thrown the alignment off, and getting it fixed will improve other aspects of the drive as well. Should you notice there are any issues and tires may need replacing, focus on the rear two. Those are the tires that provide the most stability for a vehicle, even if you have the option of all-wheel drive, so they are the most important ones to switch out. 

    Know your blind spots
    Driving a large, souped-up truck or SUV gives you a lot of advantages both on and off the roads, but it can also cause some disruptions as you go about the journey. For example, some of your truck modifications may have expanded blind spots or even created new ones. Getting an idea of where these areas are before traveling will give you the knowledge you need to stay safe on the roads and handle any off-road trails with ease. 

    Charge all devices beforehand
    Keeping things like a cellphone charged is one task that almost all drivers know to do. But it's not the only device you should be focusing on. If you're going to be driving in unfamiliar places to reach an off-roading destination, be sure to charge gadgets like a GPS or tablet. Although you may be content to leave these items behind and rely solely on a smartphone for any directional help, that can quickly drain your battery and leave you scrambling for other ways to communicate. While you may not even need these devices, it is best for your safety and peace of mind if you bring along one or two of them and take steps that enhance your safety. 

  • Consumer Reports names top pickup trucks

    There is a lot of competition within the auto industry. With countless brands fighting for supremacy across a wide range of segments, choosing the top vehicles in any given situation can be difficult. That didn't stop Consumer Reports from releasing ratings that selected the best pickup truck on the market. 

    A surprise winner
    After all of the scores were in, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 emerged as Consumer Reports' big winner. With a final total of 81 points out of 100, the truck earned a rating of "excellent,"  narrowly edging out its closest competitor. 

    The Silverado staked its claim for the title by standing out in categories like towing and cargo capacity. In the testing, the truck managed to pull up to a trailer weighing in at 11,200 pounds. It also has a tailgate that is easily lowered and raised, as well as corner bumper steps that make it easy to climb in and out of the truck bed, no matter how high a Chevy lift kit has made the vehicle. Improved handling and solid fuel economy also contributed to the pickup's win. 

    Not everything was top-notch with the Silverado. The truck got lower marks for the downshift, which could feel underpowered. Shifting up, however, can be done smoothly and quickly, allowing drivers to make the most of their time on the road. 

    The runner up
    Just behind the Silverado 1500 was the Ram 1500, which came in at 78 points out of 100. The close scores indicate how similar these two vehicles are and emphasize that both are strong options any prospective pickup owner should consider. 

    Despite all of the benefits of the Chevrolet Silverado, the publication noted that the Ram 1500 may be the better option for everyday drivers. Judges believed the Ram vehicle had a more comfortable interior, an intuitive control layout and smoother driving than its competitors, which created a nice environment for owners who do a lot of traditional driving. It was also very close behind the Chevrolet vehicle when it comes to mileage. 

    The Ram 1500 was praised for its power. With an eight-speed transmission, quick acceleration and powerful four-wheel drive, the truck was capable of accomplishing great things both on- and off-highway. 

    "The reality is you can't go wrong with either one," said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports. "Both are capable trucks that get decent gas mileage and are as quiet inside as a good luxury car." 

    Both of the trucks outpaced models like the Ford F-150 XLT, which has two separate editions placing third and fourth on the list. 

    Can they go off-roading? 
    All of the top trucks are well suited to become an off-road vehicle. The impressive towing and cargo limits makes all of the automobiles solid choices for drivers who will be lugging tools, camping equipment and other gear into the wilderness.

    Consumer Reports even conducted an off-road driving test to see just how these vehicles performed. The Silverado's lower ground clearance and wheel spin inhibited its performance on a rock-crawling course, but it was still able to complete the route. The Ram 1500 did not have those same problems when it came to off-road driving, and was instead praised for its consistent delivery. 

    Ram has a strong history of producing reliable vehicles, which makes it an attractive option for drivers who want to know what they're getting in a truck. Until the Silverado builds up its repertoire and demonstrates that it is a dependable vehicle, the publication gives Ram the edge. 

  • NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Canada for the first time

    Canadian truck lovers are sure to be overjoyed that NASCAR is coming over the border. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will make its Canadian debut at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park just north of Bowmanville, Ontario, this Labor Day weekend. Things kick off Friday, Aug. 30, when drivers will take to the track for a few practice runs that will run through Saturday, but the real fun begins Sunday, when the official races get underway.

    About the track
    Off-road driving enthusiasts won't get to see a lot of dirt flying this weekend, as the Canadian track is paved. The 2.5 mile loop features 10 turns, and it is meant for high-speed action, providing audiences with plenty of thrills. In fact, while the other motorsports tracks at this raceway have been in use, this particular track has not been used since 1961, which only adds to the excitement of the weekend.

    Plenty of action
    For event guests, there are more highlights than seeing drivers racing around the road course, as many competitors' are getting behind the wheels of souped-up trucks that have undergone many truck modifications to make them superior vehicles. Ron Hornaday, a four-time series champion with 11 top-10 finishes and three wins this season, will be the only driver in the competition who has won a road course event, according to Fox News. Saturday will see a few more practice runs before qualifying rounds get underway to determine who will start in which position for Sunday's races.

    Competition heats up
    Speedway Media reports four drivers are looking to turn heads. James Buescher, Jeb Burton, Chad Hackenbract and Ty Dillon will all be competing for the title in the Clarington 200, which will be held just before the Camping World Truck race. Dillon will be sitting in the No. 4 for Fitzpatrick Motorsports, Buescher will drive the No. 24 Dodge for 22 Racing, and Hackenbract will take the helm of No. 27 for Jacomb Motorsports. Burton will be making his debut in the Canadian Tire Series in the No. 7 State Water Heaters Dodge. The news source indicates that each racer is getting behind the wheel of a fierce truck that will be sure to make for an interesting race.

  • Pickup trucks become America's best-selling vehicles

    There's no denying that recent models of pickup trucks have something for every one. With improved handling and driving performance as well as plenty of extra amenities that allow the vehicles to be used in almost any scenario, the automobiles are quickly becoming a favorite of drivers across the U.S. That is especially apparent in the sales figures of pickup trucks.

    USA Today reported sales of pickups could reach more than 2 million in 2013, which would be the first time figures surpassed that mark since 2007, before the recession. If this estimate holds true, pickup trucks would be the best-selling type of vehicle in the U.S. 

    It's safe to say trucks will hit the 2 million mark this year, as the segment saw more than 1.9 million vehicles sold in 2012, and all predictions forecast improved sales throughout 2013. In August alone, the average price of pickup trucks increased compared to the same time last year, as did the number of units sold. Additionally, the individual best-selling models for major brands like Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are all pickup trucks, according to data from Kelley Blue Book. 

    Not only are there more pickup trucks heading to garages across the U.S., but the owners of these vehicles are using them for a wider range of tasks. Construction work and heavy-duty hauling are still completed with the automobiles, in addition to everyday driving by families. In fact, these trucks are frequently being used as the go-to family vehicle, and this everyday use is leading the way for increased sales. 

    The influx of new features also makes pickups more attractive for fans of off-road driving. As amenities like towing capacity, ground clearance and agility are enhanced, many drivers are looking to new models to satisfy their need for off-roading. 

  • Basics of off-roading for beginners

    Off-road driving can be tons of fun, but beginners have a lot to learn. Doing lots of truck or Jeep modifications is a great start to getting your vehicle off-road ready, but that's not all you should take into account before you drive off the pavement.

    Finding the right tires
    More likely than not, the tires that came on your truck or Jeep are better for street driving than traversing the wilderness, so it's important to look into options that are made for off-roading. 4WheelParts.com recommends larger tires that will help you drive over obstacles like logs and rocks with ease. However, depending on the size you want, you may also need to install a lift kit. Plus, just as street tires are no good for off-roading, off-road tires are not meant to be driven on pavement, and too much of this can lead to excess wear.

    Packing the necessary supplies
    Driving through the woods or dune bogging in the desert is not as simple as steering your off-road vehicle into the dirt and hitting the gas pedal. You will need supplies on hand to ensure your trip is safe and fun. Some essential items to have on board include a spare tire and the tools needed to change tires in the field, a fully-charged GPS system, first aid kit and cellphone, according to The Art of Manliness. The site also recommends bringing along a tow rope that is rated to haul the weight of your truck, a vehicle-mounted winch, lift jack, spare gas and lots of extra water.

    Choosing the best weather
    If you have never been off-roading before, you may want to hit the trails on a day with nice weather. If it has rained recently, wait a while for things to dry up before hopping behind the wheel, and choose a day that is at least slightly cloudy. This way you can get used to driving through the wilderness without the sun in your eyes and slick, muddy ground below your tires. After you've gotten accustomed to that, you can try your hand at driving in different conditions. Just make sure you have the proper equipment for mudding or driving through snow or sand, and contingency plans in case of emergencies.

  • Sales of pickup trucks increase in August

    Good news kept coming for the auto industry throughout the month of August. As the final full month of summer came to a close, improving sales - largely thanks to high demand for pickup trucks - gave many automakers a boost. 

    Sales up throughout the industry
    Some of the most prominent and popular manufacturers in the world saw an uptick in sales in August. Brands like Toyota, GM, Ford, Chrysler and Nissan all had sales increases in the double digits, with Toyota leading the way with a 23 percent growth. A large contributor to this was sales of the Toyota Tacoma pickup, which lead all trucks with a 25 percent increase. 

    "The auto industry continues to be a bright spot in the economic recovery," said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president. "August capped a great summer for new vehicle sales, and it was Toyota's best month in more than five years." 

    Focus on the future
    Part of the reason the demand for pickup trucks continues to grow is the rebounding state of the construction industry. More home building requires more trucks to haul materials and workers, and the improving housing sector sets off a ripple effect that benefits many brands within the world of automobiles. 

    "It seems like their past challenges are overcome," Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book, told Fox Business. "What I think is most important is the market is stronger. GM, Ford and Chrysler didn't have as strong a lineup the last time Toyota saw these kinds of sales numbers. For those brands to be selling as well as they are, and for Toyota to be selling as well as it is, the results show that no one brand is dominating this recovery." 

    Ready to go off-roading
    While the fact that no one automaker is standing out among the rest is good news for the industry as a whole, it does pose some challenges for prospective buyers. The multitude of options makes it difficult to choose one off-road vehicle that can satisfy a driver's needs on and off the pavement. 

    As a result, many individuals who have their hearts set on off-road driving are making their own truck modifications to create their dream vehicle. These truck mods may put a slight dent in your wallet, but there are many ways to efficiently upgrade an automobile with the accessories you want and need.

  • What are truck buyers looking for in their purchases?

    When it comes to buying an off-road vehicle, there are a lot of elements drivers have to consider. A recent study from the NADA Used Car Guide aimed to sort through these qualities, and it asked truck shoppers to rank the factors that played a role in their decision-making process. 

    Truck buyers had similar desires to those who drive standard cars, albeit some of the qualities were more important than others. On the whole, survey respondents said that the factors with the greatest impact on their decision were quality and dependability, brand, fuel economy, vehicle design, and versatility and utility. Also highly ranked were the towing and payload capacity of a truck, its safety features and the engine power. 

    Fuel economy, which was the top concern for buyers in last year's survey, did not carry the same weight in 2013. That is partly because gas prices have fallen slightly, and it may also be a sign of some of the diesel engines and alternative fuel vehicles rumored to be joining the world of trucks. 

    "While higher gasoline prices and stiffer federal regulations have raised the profile of fuel economy over the past few years, the survey results clearly indicate that car and light-truck shoppers are looking for a trouble-free ownership experience above all else," said Jonathan Banks, an analyst for the NADA Used Car Guide.

    If buyers were considering a new car instead of a used vehicle, they had some more qualities to take into consideration. For example, about 58 percent claimed that the ownership cost, which includes everything from insurance fees to ongoing maintenance, plays a significant role in making the final decision. Many fans of off-roading also had to consider expenses related to making truck modifications, such as the cost of purchasing and installing a lift kit on newer models. 

  • GMC launches app to make towing easier

    Driving an older car may suit your budget, and the alterations you've made to a vehicle over time could fit your needs, but that doesn't mean it isn't without its challenges. One of the many obstacles that some motorists may face could be as basic as not having enough information about the limits of a vehicle. 

    Anyone who has been using the same off-road vehicle for years, or who has purchased a pre-owned truck, may not have the owner's manual or other essential information about the automobile. To help drivers get a firm grasp on their vehicle's capabilities, GMC recently launched an app called the GMC Trailering Guide that provides information regarding towing. The application is designed to give drivers tidbits about proper towing procedures, what safety equipment is needed and more, PickupTrucks.com reports. 

    Other advantageous aspects of the new app include videos on the best techniques for making modifications, insight into how the vehicle technology works and basic information on the power and performance drivers can expect from their GMC automobiles. 

    This program could be useful to anyone from first-time truck owners to off-roading experts. With comprehensive information regarding things like hitches and step-by-step instructions, it will be easier for beginners to get involved with the world of off-road driving. For those who are not familiar with some of the key ideas and terms that go along with towing or heavy-duty work, the application can be tremendously helpful. 

    The GMC Trailering Guide is currently available for free download on any iOS-based device. Whether someone has misplaced an owner's manual or simply doesn't know where to begin as they gain an interest in off-roading, this program can provide some support and information necessary for safe and successful truck mods. 

  • Prevent rust on your off-road vehicle

    Sometimes keeping an off-road vehicle looking good is as important as maintaining a high level of performance. When you're constantly going mudding or tackling tough terrain, however, it can be difficult to keep your vehicle in prime condition. Consistent cleaning and frequent maintenance can go a long way toward making the exterior of a machine shine, but drivers often have to go the extra mile to prevent rust from building up on their rides. 

    How it happens
    At its core, rust is just the result of the chemical reaction between oxygen and water. This isn't a problem for many drivers, as the paint protects the metal frame of a vehicle, but over time scratches or nicks in an automobile may allow for rusting to occur. 

    As a result, the places most susceptible to rust are the ones where water may build up. This is traditionally restricted to spots like the inside of doors, which frequently have condensation settle on them, or the area behind the wheels on the bottom of the automobile, where slush and ice can accrue in the colder months. Motorists who participate in off-road driving may find that the bottom of their vehicle can become a target for rust, as it is usually skimming mud, creeks and other bodies of water for an extended period of time. 

    Preventing rust build up 
    The first step toward stopping rust build up before it starts is keeping your eyes peeled for scratches in a vehicle's paint. Touch-up paint can be used to patch these smaller issues, and it's a good idea to keep a bit of the paint on hand, especially if you're frequently off-roading and encounter rocks, gravel, debris and other obstacles that could harm the exterior of an automobile. 

    Even if you're watching out for cracks in the paint, rust could still be developing on the underside of a vehicle. Drivers who are dedicated to their rides may want to have an undercoat applied to the bottom. Yahoo reported that these rubberized coatings can seal the area against corrosion. If rust has already started forming, this step won't do much good, but it could help extend the life and enhance the look of newer vehicles. 

    No matter what the age of your automobile, you should be consistently washing and waxing it. Most of the area that you will be caring for will already be covered with paint, and thus less likely to begin rusting, but getting into the pattern of cleaning the truck or Jeep after off-road adventures can help avoid problems. During this process, be sure to open all doors, the hood and the trunk of the vehicle to check for hidden problem spots. At this time you can check the undercarriage and draining spots to make sure there are no budding issues that are breeding rust. 

    Watch out for winter
    Rust can be particularly harmful in the winter, when a vehicle comes into contact with massive amounts of salt placed on the roads to increase traction. The salt speeds up the rusting process, so it is important to pay attention to rust prevention as a regular part of vehicle maintenance. 

    You should be cleaning a vehicle somewhat frequently throughout the winter season. Ridding a vehicle of salt that would otherwise sit on the exterior is incredibly important - especially if you are not off-roading as often as the rest of the year. Long breaks between drives can leave plenty of time for rust to wreak havoc on a vehicle and could cause preventable damage. 

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