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Rough Country News

  • Avoid common mistakes when buying an off-road vehicle

    There comes a time when many drivers begin to consider the idea of purchasing a new or used vehicle to add to their garage. Getting this shopping process off the ground can be difficult, and it's easy for many motorists to fall into common traps that can end up costing them time, money and sanity. 

    "Buying a car is something people usually do at most every few years, so naturally the right way to go about it isn't always top of mind," said Brian Moody, the site editor of AutoTrader.com. "But a misstep during the shopping process could turn a great deal into a money pit in the long run." 

    Instead of becoming a victim of one of these blunders, drivers should brush up on their knowledge and be prepared for what lies ahead. Here are some of the most common mistakes you should do your best to avoid as you hunt for your next purchase: 

    Getting sucked into extra features
    Even if you go to a dealership with a simple list of must-haves in mind, those needs can quickly snowball to an expensive array of amenities. Before you head to a location to scout out a potential purchase, outline a clear list of features that are must-haves, as well as some that would be an added bonus.

    It is easy to get caught up in the exciting possibility of choosing a car with an impressive selection of features, but this is also one of the quickest ways to spend more money than you intend to. Stick to the list you have created and try to avoid being swayed by a salesperson. Remember, you can always make truck or Jeep modifications later on that will enhance the vehicle and cater it to your needs. 

    Not taking the vehicle for a proper test drive
    Nearly all drivers know they have to take a prospective vehicle for a test drive before signing on the dotted line. However, these motorists don't always take the automobile through a comprehensive drive. AutoTrader.com explained that a proper test drive should last for about 45 minutes in length and needs to take place on a variety of road types. 

    If you're looking to go off-roading in a vehicle, you may want to consider test driving a machine in these conditions. Clear this undertaking with the seller before setting out, and be sure you understand the expectations that go along with it - for example, if you're contemplating purchasing a vehicle from an individual seller, take care to lay down the guidelines and restrictions about off-road driving. You may have to wash off some dirt or debris and give the parts of the vehicle a once over before returning it to its original owner. 

    Ignoring the need for an auto inspection
    The work doesn't stop after you get the keys. One of the first things that needs to be done after purchasing a car, new or used, is to take the vehicle in for an inspection. 

    "Just because a car sounds and runs fine during the test drive doesn't necessarily mean everything is in top working order," Moody said. "Cars are complex machines, and nothing is worse than an expensive repair shortly after you drive the vehicle home."

    These are only a few of the tips buyers should keep in mind as they search for their next vehicle. Whether you're planning to buy a new truck for off-roading or a used automobile to upgrade with various truck mods, you can zero in on great opportunities with just a bit of helpful advice. 

  • Toyota reaches milestone as it churns out trucks

    Toyota trucks recently celebrated a major milestone in Texas. Toyota Texas, the brand's division in the Lone Star State, marked the production of its 1 millionth truck at the San Antonio plant - a major accomplishment for the automaker. 

    The millionth model was a 2014 Tundra 1794 Edition - a special model created in honor of the ranch that once stood where the Texas plant currently resides. That ranch was founded in 1794, and another homage to the area is present in the Sunset Bronze Mica paint, which was designed to mimic the sky at twilight in the location. 

    Toyota will soon be celebrating another milestone at the Texas plant. This fall marks the plant's 10th anniversary, and almost its entire decade of existence has been spent creating the light- and heavy-duty trucks for American consumers. 

    "We are grateful for our loyal customers across North America who tell us they love driving Texas-built Tacomas and Tundras," said Chris Nielsen, president of Toyota Texas. "It makes me incredibly proud of our team members and 21 on-site suppliers every time I see one of our trucks on the road knowing that safety and quality are built into every one of them." 

    Although brands like Ford, Ram and Chevrolet regularly produce thousands and even millions of pickups, slower demand has left Toyota a bit behind. As new redesigns and truck mods continue to make the Japanese automaker's vehicles better suited for off-road driving, however, the market for these automobiles could continue to grow. According to Bloomberg, the brand is content to slowly but surely grow its reputation and product offerings within the pickup truck segment as it moves from a provider of niche trucks to a more universally embraced option. 

  • Ram Rumble Bee truck may head to showrooms

    Ram made headlines at the 2013 Woodward Dream Cruise in suburban Detroit thanks to an eye-catching reveal. The automaker unveiled a bright yellow concept truck called the Ram 1500 Rumble Bee, and after the color and features of the pickup got people talking, Ram began to consider the feasibility of sending the automobile to showrooms around the U.S. 

    Although there are still many steps to be cleared before the truck can take its place on showroom floors, fans of unique truck modifications and attention-grabbing details will definitely be keeping an eye on the Rumble Bee. 

    Heading to showrooms? 
    Before the final decision is made on whether or not the Ram 1500 Rumble Bee will hit the open market, versions of the vehicle will head to dealer shows to gauge interest in the truck. If the feedback continues to be positive, Ram could begin taking steps to produce the truck on a wider level. 

    "We will take it to some dealer shows and talk to dealers," Dave Sowers, head of light- and heavy-duty marketing for Ram Truck, told Edmunds.com. "We try to listen to the dealers. They know their marketplace." 

    The truck mods that would be needed to turn the Rumble Bee into a prime on- or off-road vehicle are still unknown, but the possibilities for a one-of-a-kind automobile are endless. 

    Changes to the Rumble Bee
    The original version of the Ram 1500 Rumble Bee had a number of special features that make it attractive to drivers. With 24-inch black wheels, a two-inch suspension drop and matte yellow paint, it is hard to miss the truck, but these are only a few of the exterior details that may have to change for the Rumble Bee to be a viable option for the public. AutoBlog reported that the paint job would likely be altered to include a glossier, more subdued color, while the amber-encased bee on the shifter is likely to be left out of a mass-produced vehicle. 

    "Some of the things that we put on the truck weren't volume-production possible for us," Sowers told Edmunds.com. "That flat yellow paint would be a little bit of a challenge in the plant, and the actual bee in the shifter would be tough to execute."

    Despite these changes, all signs point to the final product including the eight-speed transmission, 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine and show-stopping details that drew so much attention in the first place. 

  • GM ready to build off-road SUV

    Savvy drivers know they can make truck and Jeep modifications to almost any vehicle that will cater the machine to off-roading. However, some motorists want to be able to buy automobiles that come equipped with features and design characteristics that are ideal for off-highway driving. This can be difficult, but a recent announcement from General Motors could change the way drivers go about looking for their next off-roading machine. 

    Rumblings of an off-road vehicle
    GM unveiled several redesigned models at the Frankfurt Auto Show early in September, and there are rumors that the manufacturer is already considering revamping these options to include an off-road model. The speculation reached a fever pitch when one GM executive confirmed that the automaker was looking into the possibilities, although no timeline or details have been confirmed. 

    "We are looking at, for this generation, a more off-road variant," Jeff Luke, the executive chief engineer for GM trucks, told Automotive News. "Owners just love off-roading with these vehicles. They look at this vehicle as more off-road capable." 

    Some of the potential improvements could include enhancing the range of GM's body-on-frame SUVs as well as a more powerful engine and rugged style. 

    GM's plans
    While much of the attention from fans of off-roading will likely be focused on the potential for specially designed off-road vehicles, any final plans are still far in the future. In the meantime, many drivers will have their eyes on some of the creations GM has in the pipeline. The 2015 versions of the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon are all slated to offer drivers a solid option in the near future, and they boast a few special features that may make off-roading easier. 

    In the past, GM has offered an off-road package known as the Z71 for these large SUVs. Although this option includes upgraded shocks, bigger wheels and wheel flares, all of which are designed to improve the off-road experience, it has not caught on with drivers. The manufacturer hopes that making a few key changes and enhancements will create a unique off-road vehicle that will attract more fans of the pastime. 

    "In the life cycle of this product, we're going to continually upgrade and add technologies, including in the powertrain area," Luke told the news source. "... Stay tuned." 

  • Fall maintenance can make a big difference

    Winter is only a glimmer on the horizon, but many drivers are taking steps to get their vehicles ready for the seasons ahead. In fact, fall is one of the best times to perform tune ups and get problem areas checked out. With summer's heavy off-roading season in the rear-view mirror, now is the time to look over an automobile and evaluate what work needs to be done to prepare it for the inclement weather ahead. 

    Here are some aspects of a vehicle that you should be checking on as fall begins: 

    Air filter
    An air filter protects the engine from debris or other airborne contaminants, and if it gets clogged, it can seriously hamper the performance of your engine. Replacing the filter outright should boost power almost immediately, and it is among the easiest ways to upgrade the performance of an off-road vehicle. You never know what could have gotten into your automobile's system after some off-road adventures in the wilderness, so cleaning it out prior to new fall or winter rides is a wise choice. 

    Battery
    Excessive heat can be harmful to a battery. High temperatures may be one of the main causes of battery failure, but drivers who take precautions to have it checked out can avoid breakdowns. Assessing the battery for any type of corrosion or damage is a must, and it is also a good idea to run separate battery testing and replace it if necessary. 

    Brakes
    You should be checking the brakes for wear and tear consistently throughout the year. It is particularly important to examine them in the fall because of the excess of driving that took place in the summer coupled with the need for strong brakes on slick fall roads. Look for pads that need to be replaced and conduct some test drives to verify that every aspect of the brakes is functioning as it is supposed to. 

    Fluid levels
    Owners need to examine the fluid levels on their vehicles at regular intervals, but it is particularly important to give them a second look in the fall. Hardcore off-roading in the summer may have contributed to additional wear or build up in engine oil as well as other vehicle fluids. As the temperature changes throughout the coming months, and you face a variety of different obstacles, continue to check fluids like engine oil, antifreeze and transmission and brake fluid. 

    Wiper blades
    Once your vehicle is stocked with wiper fluid and antifreeze, you should turn your attention to the wipers themselves. The blades are an essential tool for all automobiles, and you should never underestimate the need for fresh wipers. Heavy rains, layers of ice and debris from off-road driving are all common sights on a windshield throughout the fall and winter, and the only way to properly cut through all of these distractions is with heavy-duty wiper blades. 

    Emergency kit
    The changing of the seasons means you will also need different items stocked in an emergency kit. Consider adding a blanket in case you have a breakdown in the middle of some cold weather as well as packets of road salt or sand that can help you get out of slippery situations. Examining recovery straps or jumper cables for any excess wear and tear is also a good idea that could save time and aggravation in the long run. If any of this equipment isn't up to par, the fall is a good time to replace them and test out new options to get ready for winter. 

  • Ram Truck to update garages for 3 lucky fans

    The Ram Truck brand is offering a special opportunity for three lucky fans. Drivers of Ram vehicles are used to making their own truck modifications to create an off-road vehicle that perfectly meets their needs, but soon the automaker could be helping these drivers customize their garages to provide the perfect "Ram Cave." 

    Willing participants can apply to have their garages redone by the automaker. All they have to do is submit a photograph of their current workspace and explain why they deserve to have it redone and outfitted with everything they need to have a haven for their truck. In total, the renovation will be worth approximately $25,000.

    Home improvement guru Bob Vila, do-it-yourself advisor Timothy Dahl and Brett and Kate McKay of The Art of Manliness will serve as the judges. Fans don't even need to own a Ram to enter - they simply need to appreciate the heavy-duty, off-roading culture that goes along with the brand. 

    "Ram Truck is proud to partner with Bob Vila, Brett McKay and Timothy Dahl to offer our fans a unique opportunity to bring the style and design of Ram Trucks to their home garages," said Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Ram. "The Ram Caves contest was built to engage fans and to celebrate the spaces where owners come together to spend time with their vehicles." 

    Fans can enter the contest though Oct. 9, and the submissions will be open to public voting during that time. After that, the judging panel will select the three grand prize winners based on personal scores, public votes and cause for renovation. Barring any issues, construction on the Ram Caves will go underway by mid-November. 

  • Get your off-road vehicle ready for winter

    Just because summer has come to an end doesn't mean your off-roading experiences have to. In fact, some of the most fun and thrilling adventures can take place in the fall and winter, but you have to be prepared to handle the challenges that go along with cold, inclement weather. With heavy snows, slick fallen leaves and ice covering all types of surfaces, it is extremely important that all drivers take steps so they are ready to drive in any scenario. 

    While advanced drivers likely have a winter driving routine down pat, those who are in the beginning stages of off-roading may need a little guidance. Here are a few of the most important tips to keep in mind: 

    Tires are important
    The tires and tire pressure are two of the most vital aspects of handling an off-road vehicle in rough conditions. Snow tires are a common addition to many vehicles, while other drivers may want to stick with constantly examining tire tread to confirm they are able to grip any surface. Paying attention to the wear and alignment of the tires and rotating them as you see fit can improve the performance of a vehicle in fall or winter. 

    Be conscious of four-wheel drive
    Many drivers will turn to four-wheel drive to expertly maneuver their truck or SUV around on snow or ice. This can be a major boon in difficult driving conditions, but all motorists should keep in mind that having four-wheel drive does not aid in braking. Leave plenty of room to brake on and off pavement. You may also want to consider reverting back to two-wheel drive when going downhill. This will allow the rear wheels to slow the vehicle as the front wheels propel it forward, striking a nice balance that can enhance stability. 

    Better headlights could make a difference
    Another area you may want to upgrade before winter arrives is your vehicle's headlights. Being able to make your way through difficult conditions is of paramount importance, and having the right equipment can be a huge help in these situations. 

    An intriguing option for many drivers is LED headlights. This gear is generally brighter and more energy efficient, allowing you to accurately see the obstacles that lay before you, regardless of the weather. LED lights boast a unique light pattern and a bright white color, and these two qualities work together to offer superior visibility. Making truck mods or alterations to an SUV to add these lights is relatively easy as well, as many kits come with all of the materials you need to upgrade your lights. 

    Check the ventilation
    Before the weather gets too cold, you should examine the HVAC system to ensure the heating and ventilation are functioning at a high level. Not only are you going to want the heat for the vehicle's cabin to be able to foster a comfortable driving environment, but you should also be checking to make sure the vehicle is cycling out potentially harmful exhaust. More than likely, all windows will be closed during the winter, and knowing the HVAC system is working properly can prevent dangerous or uncomfortable situations. 

    Stay on the lookout for black ice
    You know black ice can be a dangerous thing to encounter on the roads, but it can be just as harmful off-roading as well. In areas where the sun is blocked and the temperature can drop, such as spaces you will find in the wilderness or near nature trails, black ice is more common. So when you're taking part in off-road driving, you should make a conscious effort to slow down and pay attention to the area in front of you to locate black ice. 

  • Most automobiles overstate fuel economy, study finds

    Mileage is an important factor of an automobile that practically all drivers keep in mind. Because it affects everything from the performance of a vehicle to its sticker price, fuel efficiency is not something you should glance over, and that makes tracking the mileage incredibly significant. The emphasis on fuel economy may be great, but all drivers need to be wary of putting all their faith in an automobile's report. 

    Mileage meters are not always accurate
    With all eyes on the fuel efficiency, many drivers look to onboard meters for help tracking mileage. However, these digital readouts are not as effective as most motorists would like them to be. Instead of providing drivers with a glimpse of a vehicle's actual efficiency, many of these computerized displays overstate the true number of miles per gallon an automobile is achieving, The Detroit News reported. 

    "I don't think anyone is trying to hoodwink anybody," Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing for automotive research firm Edmunds.com, told the news source. "But these meters have never been 100 percent accurate. They are more for instantaneous feedback to let you know how you're doing." 

    Edmunds.com regularly tests models to find the average miles per gallon rating and compare it to what the manufacturer claims the average is. Testing in 2010 found that some of the worst offenders had mpg readouts that inflated fuel efficiency by as much as 19 percent, the news source reported. On average, cars boasted a fuel economy that was about 5 percent better than the actual results. Although this may not seem like much, it can make a big difference in fuel costs or maintenance issues throughout the life of a vehicle. 

    PickupTrucks.com noted a similar trend during their 2013 Light-Duty Challenge. Results of this review showed five of the six trucks examined reported better fuel economy than what the real-life testing found.  

    Watch the dashboard counter
    Some drivers may trust their vehicle enough to ignore the dashboard meter, but this would be a mistake. For one, the mileage provides important insight into when vehicle maintenance is needed. It also allows owners to keep track of how much money they are spending on fuel, check if all systems are working properly and project what they need for longer, off-road driving trips. 

    Drivers of some newer trucks may have less to worry about. According to Edmunds, early testing on the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, which recently topped Consumer Reports' list of the best pickup trucks, features a mileage tracker that is only off estimates by about 2 percent. That is below average - good news for drivers on the hunt for a future off-road vehicle. 

    What you can do
    While tracking your own mileage may be manageable, it is more difficult to adjust to the counters on a used model. That makes selecting a model with good ratings and a strong history of impressive fuel efficiency of paramount importance. Researching the average fuel economy of a certain model truck before purchase enables you to avoid any surprises, but writing down the readings of a tripmeter may be the most important of all. You should also be manually logging the number of miles you get out of a certain amount of fuel.

    "The only way to get a real accurate reading is to keep log books," Edmunds told The Detroit News. "You need to record your trip odometer and the fuel amount that you used."

    Still, even registering the numbers yourself is not a fool-proof way to estimate fuel economy. Variables such as where you are driving, what the weather is like and whether or not you are off-roading can impact the bottom line. 

  • Sand Mountain is a haven for fans of off-roading

    The hunt for the perfect off-roading location frequently brings drivers to America's expansive West. With vast stretches of open land and thousands of acres of wilderness ready to be explored, this region is a hotbed of off-road driving. One of the premier places to venture to is found in Northern Nevada, where Sand Mountain and its surrounding recreational areas can act as a great place to test off-roading skills. 

    About the area
    Nestled approximately 25 miles outside Fallon, Nev., is the Sand Mountain Recreation Area. It is comprised of more than 4,700 acres of open land, and nearly all of it has been designated for off-road use. While some specific areas are closed to motor vehicles, much more remains open to the public, and it has become a popular site for off-road driving. 

    Sand Mountain, which is the main dune, extends over nearly 2 miles. Its calling card is what is known as "singing sand," as the surface makes groaning noises when riders cross over it. The sounds come about from the unique shape of the sand, as well as the way grains rub against each other under pressure, creating a one-of-a-kind environment for drivers. 

    The unique area started its formation thousands of years ago, when Lake Lahontan dried up and left a large empty space behind. Without water, the hill on the edge of the lake rose up 600 feet above the ground, and became somewhat of a beacon for adventurers. That is certainly true now, as off-roaders often make the pilgrimage to Sand Mountain to test it out for themselves. 

    Part of the reason Sand Mountain regularly attracts so many experienced off-road drivers is because of its wide array of terrain. The land is ideal for dune bashing, and various stretches of land throughout the area also provide spots for rock crawling. Add in the climate changes, which can bring everything from desert conditions to snow to the region, and you have an unpredictable location that has enough variables to challenge even the most skilled drivers. 

    What to expect
    If you're eager to bring your off-road vehicle to Sand Mountain, you should make sure that it - and you - are ready to handle the different obstacles you may encounter. ATVs are the most common sight on the grounds, although it's not strange to see a few souped-up trucks exploring the land as well. Because of the lack of large vehicles, you'll likely have plenty of room to test your latest truck modifications and explore the wide open spaces. 

    Before taking off on your adventure, you should be aware of a few rules put in place for the safety of all drivers on Sand Mountain. For example, all vehicles must have whip flags measuring 8 feet attached to them when in the dunes, and visitors are not allowed to have burning tires on their rides. Other rules are in place for camping and camper safety, and drivers should check up on those regulations before planning a multi-day trip to the area. 

    There is a fee for off-roading at Sand Mountain, with passes available on a seven-day or yearly basis. However, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are free, so those drivers who don't mind heading out during the week will be able to enjoy the land at an incredibly low cost. Additionally, those who visit in the spring or fall can reap the benefits of near-perfect weather conditions, Dirtopia reports. Summer is also a good time to visit, but only for those who don't mind the heat, as the temperatures can reach high levels and winds whip dust around the area. 

  • Protect weak spots of the Jeep JK with armor

    Jeep has made a name for itself as one of the most rugged brands in the world of off-roading. Its exemplary tradition and reputation may be well deserved, but that doesn't mean there are not areas where the vehicle could use some improvement. 

    Weak points to watch
    Even installing a Jeep lift kit on a machine can't prevent all kinds of damage from striking the bottom of the vehicle. While raising a vehicle can certainly reduce the number of obstacles it comes in contact with, it does not eliminate the threat of harm all together, which makes caring for at-risk areas extremely important.

    One area to watch is the front and rear axles. While these axles are designed to withstand wear and tear of everyday driving and off-roading, there are always unexpected obstacles that may pop up along the way and throw off the alignment. There are also a few spots along the axles that are susceptible to bending, which can cause tires to tilt inward or create gaps at the ball joints, both of which will negatively affect the performance of your Jeep. 

    The axles aren't the only weak points on a Jeep. Owners will also want to protect areas like the gas tank and muffler, which can be easily damaged while off-road driving and run up the cost of auto repair. 

    Why armor? 
    These weak points on a Jeep JK may not seem like much, but damage to these areas may be extremely costly. You could have to replace and install new gear, racking up expenses while also missing out on valuable time on the off-road trails. Instead of wasting time and money on these damages, you can take preemptive action to protect your Jeep from harm. 

    Armor and skid plates typically consist of heavy-duty plate steel that protect the underside of a Jeep. Once these accessories are installed, you can focus all of your attention on enjoying the off-roading experience and conquering any obstacles that get in your way - without worrying about excessive damage to the bottom of your vehicle. 

    Making Jeep modifications like installing skid plates and armor can go a long way toward protecting an off-road vehicle. To cut down on costs and aggravation, consider investing in some Jeep JK armor and get a head start on preventative maintenance and care. 

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