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Rough Country News

  • An expert weighs in on common mistakes made when installing lift kits

    Lift kits are one of the most common ways to prime a vehicle for off-road driving. For someone new to the world of off-roading, it can be daunting to jump right in and purchase a lift kit, as there are a number of questions that need to be answered to avoid making a costly mistake. 

    To get the inside scoop on some of the most common mistakes made when installing a lift kit, we turned to one of the experts at Rough Country. Keith Lovins has been working within the off-roading industry at Rough Country for almost nine years, and much of his expertise comes from working as a new parts designer and quality manager. Lovins currently works as a technical writer, so he definitely knows his stuff when it comes to making any type of Jeep or truck modifications. 

    Here is what Lovins had to say about some frequent questions or misconceptions that drivers may have on their minds: 

    What tools should a driver have on hand as they start installing a lift kit? 
    There are few things more annoying than starting to install a lift kit, only to find that you don't have the proper tools to complete the job. Not only can this lead to half-completed tasks that keep you off the roads, but trying to finish the installation without the right equipment is unsafe. Lovins recommends all drivers have a floor jack and jack stands, a drill and drill bits, a reciprocating saw, screwdrivers, pry bars, WD-40 and a socket and wrench set in standard sizes of 1/4-inch through 1-inch. 

    Will installing a lift kit prevent drivers from making other modifications down the road? 
    Drivers new to off-roading may be hesitant about installing a lift kit because they believe it will impact other plans they have for a truck or Jeep. This kind of misinformation could lead to owners making other alterations to a ride that don't have the same immediate effect lifting does. 

    However, lift kits are usually just the first taste of truck mods. It allows the driver to make several similar changes to the exterior of a vehicle, many of which work seamlessly with the lift kit to provide a better driving experience. 

    "Most of the time it is only the start of modifications done to the vehicle," Lovins said. "Once a lift kit is installed, then the customer is going to want other accessories like fender flares, extra lights, [a] winch, bumpers, gears, tube steps or skid plates." 

    Are certain lift kits better suited to a style of driving, such as a better option for mudding, desert driving, etc.? 
    Rough Country kits are split into three categories: economy, standard or trail riding, and rock crawling or heavy off-road kits. Each of these styles is ideal for a certain type of driving, and owners should consider what their vehicle will be used for prior to making a purchase. 

    Economy kits lift a vehicle between 1.5 and 3 inches, and are mainly catered toward drivers who want a bigger tire size but will mainly be driving on the streets. The next level up is the standard kits. These lift a vehicle 4 to 5 inches and can be driven on pavement or for light trail riding on weekends. 

    Those individuals who want to get serious about off-roading will be drawn to the rock crawling or heavy off-road kits. 

    "We have rock crawling long arms kit that are designed for performance off-road use, and are still able to be driven on the road," Lovins explained. "This customer is going to install roll cages, [a] winch, bumpers, lockers and bigger ring gears and pinions to get the most performance he can out of that vehicle."

    Should drivers purchase shock absorbers, brake upgrades or any other accessories with a lift kit? 
    "All of our lift kits already come with new shock absorbers," Lovins said. "They do not need to purchase any another accessory with the lift kit to function correctly ... [but] there are many upgrades that can be added to the lift kit, like brake lines, sway bar disconnects or steering stabilizers." 

    What is the most important thing drivers should keep in mind throughout the process of shopping, buying and installing a lift?
    Lovins believes drivers should pay special attention to what size tires they will need once they install a lift kit. Some kits allow for the use of stock tires, while others require larger wheelers for more clearance. This will also impact the bottom line, so taking these details into account can help drivers stay within budget.

  • GM pickups break barriers with latest safety ratings

    Safety is of paramount importance to all drivers, especially if you make it point to take a vehicle off-roading whenever possible. The combination of potentially dangerous terrain, heavy-duty equipment and unpredictable situations makes it essential to have top-of-the-line safety features. Whether these amenities are extras that you tack on as part of truck modifications or come included on the automobile, they certainly require some additional consideration as you go about shopping for a vehicle or updating one. 

    Drivers who are particularly concerned about safety may want to look into some of the new pickup trucks from General Motors. The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Chevrolet Silverado High Country 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 and GMC Sierra Denali 1500 all received a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All of these vehicles share the same general components, which explains the similar high scores across the board. 

    Five-star ratings for GM
    These four pickups are the first trucks to achieve the top five-star rating from the NHTSA since the organization changed its testing program in 2011. All vehicles now undergo extensive crash testing that continues to evaluate how they perform in front, side and rear crashes, as well as in rollover accidents. They are also judged based on the safety features and preventative technologies that come included in each model. 

    "Safety is as important to truck buyers as it is to car buyers," said Gay Kent, general director of Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness for GM. "Silverado and Sierra set a benchmark for pickup truck safety by offering a full array of advanced features designed to protect occupants before, during and after a collision." 

    Features included
    A few of the features included on the upcoming GM models should make fans of pickup trucks take notice. At the center of the protection efforts are the high-steel boxed frames used on each of the models, which creates a strong and secure cab for drivers. Other elements, such as improved seat belts and air bags, also contribute to a safer interior. 

    In addition, a number of advanced amenities have helped to enhance these GM trucks. As part of crash avoidance systems, a new Safety Alert Seat uses vibrations to warn drivers of potential dangers in traffic. Similarly, the vehicle will warn passengers when it is approaching an obstacle, such as another car, too quickly, while a Lane Departure Warning notifies the driver when the truck goes over a lane line at high speeds. 

    Those who plan on doing some off-road driving in the truck will appreciate the four-wheel drive with antilock brakes, stability control designed to kick in when towing heavy loads, and OnStar technology, which can be accessed even when lost on a trail. 

  • Protect against the growing trend of truck theft

    It may not be pleasant to think about, but sometimes drivers have to face their worst car nightmares. This could involve anything from getting mired in the mud when off-roading to, in an even worse case, finding out that you have been the victim of a car theft. Unfortunately, a number of owners of off-road vehicles have found themselves in this exact situation. 

    Thieves favoring pickups
    As full-size trucks have become more popular with drivers on the roads, they have had popularity boosts in other areas - and some of these are not as positive. A recent study shows that full-size trucks are the most common target of thieves, both with actual vehicle theft and taking items from the truck itself. 

    According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, the Ford F-250 crew cab is now the most popular target for car thieves. The truck had a claim frequency of seven per 1,000 insured vehicle years, which is almost six times the average rate for other automobiles. The average loss payment for thefts involving this truck comes in at $7,060. While this may seem like a significant sum, it is also indicative of the heavy losses that some drivers experience when they are the victims of theft. 

    This Ford truck is in the No. 1 position, but the rest of the top five are full-size trucks as well. Those selections include the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew, Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 crew and Ford F-350 crew.

    Many drivers are also finding that their tailgates are being stolen. The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that incidences of stolen tailgates have risen each year since 2009, and they are expected to keep growing. 

    Some good news
    Despite the fact that pickups are increasingly becoming the target of thieves, there is some good news for motorists. The overall number of vehicle thefts is declining, partially thanks to a few features that are becoming standard in new models. Ignition immobilizers, for example, were installed in 89 percent of all 2012 models, GEICO reports. That number should only increase in the future, although it's not as common in trucks and large SUVs. 

    Several more recent model years have hit the market with extra security features that can help keep the vehicles safe. These additions may have had something to do with the fact that the Cadillac Escalade dropped from the most popular target for thieves to only the sixth-most popular. 

    "General Motors has put a lot of effort into new antitheft technology, so that may help explain the decline in the Escalade's theft rate," said Matt Moore, the vice president at HDLI. "On the other hand, sales of the Escalade have fallen in recent years, so there may be less of a market for stolen Escalades or Escalade parts." 

    What to do
    You aren't helpless when it comes to defending your truck or SUV. In fact, there are a number of truck and Jeep modifications you can make that will protect you and your ride against theft. For example, to avoid tailgate theft, drivers should invest in an integrated tailgate lock and even have the vehicle identification number etched into the section, Yahoo Autos reports. 

    Many thefts result from the perpetrator seeing goods in the truck bed, so you shouldn't leave your vehicle unattended for too long if you have possessions in the truck bed. Investing in thorough security systems to protect your automobile is also a must, especially for those drivers who put a lot of money into truck mods and special features. Those simple steps, along with always parking in lighted, public areas, can help you stave off theft. 

  • Diesel fuel looks like the next big thing in the world of trucks

    Most of the money that gets investing in an off-road vehicle probably goes toward regular maintenance and truck mods. But what if drivers could down on standard costs and focus solely on the enhancements they want to make to their automobiles? With diesel engines, it may be possible. That's why so many manufacturers are turning their attention to alternative sources of fuel, especially when it comes to pickup trucks and other large SUVs. 

    Why diesel? 
    Diesel is an attractive alternative to gasoline because of the improved efficiency it offers. Many diesel engines can deliver up to 30 percent better fuel economy, even matching hybrid vehicles in some cases, which makes it a cost-effective way to power an automobile. Fans of off-road driving will appreciate the fact that these engines provide more torque than traditional gasoline-powered cars, allowing motorists to tow heavier loads and reach greater speeds without expending as much effort. 

    Another benefit of diesel engines is that they don't use the same system as traditional vehicles. There are no spark plugs or distributors, and eliminating the need for these parts also reduces the amount of vehicle maintenance drivers have to provide. In fact, diesel-powered machines can typically go longer without upkeep than their standard counterparts and usually don't need as many large repairs. 

    What brands are doing
    General Motors is one manufacturer making waves with its anticipated diesel offerings. Chevrolet already has a light-duty diesel truck, the Cruze Diesel, but the company plans on creating even more options for drivers everywhere. Rumors indicate the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon will both boast diesel options and could be sold in the U.S. within the next two years. 

    Similarly, the Ram is planning on debuting the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, a light-duty truck that would use a turbodiesel V6 engine. Not only is this motor going to come to one of the nation's most popular trucks, but there are also plans to install it in future editions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Although this is not as powerful as the Nissan engine, it is still powerful enough to handle basic off-roading. 

    GM's focus on diesel engines signals a change that is taking over many members of the truck and SUV communities. If the models are a success, more brands could follow suit and introduce a wider selection of trucks with alternative fuel sources. 

    "It would show that they're serious about competing on fuel economy in their truck lineup and that they're trying to leverage their global resources," Michael Omotoso, a senior manager of global powertrain forecasting told Automotive News. "But we don't know what the demand for a diesel in a mid-sized pickup will be." 

    Nissan is also jumping on board with diesel trucks. The 2015 Titan will be a Cummins-powered truck that is capable of reaching impressive levels of fuel efficiency while also offering enough power to meet the needs of drivers - something that would be a boon for Nissan, which has generally been less popular than brands like Ford or GM. 

    What off-roaders can expect
    The benefits of diesel fuel within the world of off-roading is obvious. Drivers can get more power and better fuel economy out of their vehicles without putting as much time and energy into maintenance. As more state and federal regulations begin addressing the fuel economy of vehicles, drivers may find themselves forced to make a change. While truck modifications and similar updates may help to reduce the impact these laws have on off-roading or heavy-duty work, turning to advancements like diesel engines may soon become a more popular option. 

  • Land Rover launches Expedition America

    Have you ever wanted to hop behind the wheel and set out on an exploration of the U.S.? You aren't alone. Many eager travelers, whether they are off-road driving experts or just curious minds, venture out onto American roads to try and see as much of the country as possible. That's the general idea behind the Land Rover Expedition America - with one major twist. Instead of seeing the nation on paved roads, drivers participating in the event are getting a chance to off-road through the U.S. as part of an official Land Rover effort. 

    Land Rover Expedition America
    Land Rover Expedition America aims to do something that hasn't been done before: conduct an off-road driving experience from one coast of the U.S. to the other. 

    The Expedition began Friday, July 27, when the pack of drivers departed from a Land Rover Experience Center in Asheville, N.C. For the next several weeks, the pack of three SUVs will traverse dirt and gravel trails, as well as mountains, rock-laden routes and other hazardous areas. While a few short stretches of tarmac are unavoidable, the bulk of this trip is set in the wilderness and will require every ounce of power and effort from the Land Rover machines. 

    Expert off-road driver Tom Collins is leading the charge, and this isn't the first time Collins and Land Rover have teamed up to show off their prowess. After he competed in the 1987 Camel Trophy competition, which consisted of driving through the terrain of Madagascar in a Land Rover, Collins also participated in 1989's Great Divide Expedition through Colorado and organized a number of driving schools across the country. With so much off-roading experience, particularly behind the wheel of a Land Rover, he is the perfect choice to lead this trek. 

    Collins and the rest of the drivers are not expected to reach their destination - the Pacific coast in southwest Oregon - for another month. 

    The Trans-America Trail
    The Trans-America Trail is the brainchild of avid motorcyclist Sam Correro. Correro spent years nourishing his passion for off-roading before eventually setting his mind to traveling from coast to coast on the back of his trusty dirt bike. This idea required quite a bit of effort, however, as no one had mapped out a route that could bring an off-road enthusiast from one end of the country to the other. So, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Correro decided to do just that. The end result was a meticulously tracked route stretching 5,000 miles through 10 states - the Trans-America Trail. 

    Most of the Trans-America Trail is dirt and gravel tracks, and the Land Rovers heading out on the expedition will have to deal with obstacles and potentially treacherous environments as they navigate these routes. There are also several complicated mountain passes along the way. A mountain range in Colorado and Oregon, as well as multiple peaks in Utah, will certainly pose a major challenge, but perhaps the most difficult area lies in Nevada. 

    This route was originally intended to be just for motorcycles, and it remains to be seen how much success larger off-road vehicles like these Land Rover SUVs will find. When the fleet safely reaches its destination, however, it will prove that the 2013 Land Rover LR4 has what it takes to succeed in the world of off-roading. After successfully navigating mud, mountains, dirt, sand, rocks and anything else it encounters in the wilderness, this off-road vehicle could become one of the coolest options for avid explorers. 

  • Building blocks for the perfect off-road truck

    Whether you prefer dune bashing or have a penchant for mud bogging, odds are that you'll need to make at least a few adjustments to your truck to ensure your adventures don't damage the vehicle. There are countless truck mods that can help you fine tune your ride to your exact specifications, but a few of them are universally smart ideas for all off-road drivers. While many trucks and SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler and Land Rover Range Rover are built to drive off the beaten path with ease, they will need adjustments so you don't wind up cracking an axle or damaging the undercarriage. Here are a few of the things you should consider when you begin modifying your truck.

    Lift kits
    Ground clearance is an important factor to take into consideration if you want to go off-roading. Everything from boulders to fallen tree branches can scrape along the underside of your vehicle if you do not have enough space between the car and the ground, which, may cause harm to various auto parts and lead to costly repairs. A lift kit modifies the suspension system, allowing you to install larger tires and give you some more breathing room. This truck mod will also create a wider range of travel for the vehicle, so you won't get tossed around as much when traversing a highly uneven area. You will want to find a lift kit that is best suited for the type of off-roading you plan to do, as mud bogging and desert driving will require different systems.

    Tires
    After installing a lift kit, you'll have more room for larger tires. These serve two purposes - the first being a higher ground clearance for the vehicle. Larger tires will also have more surface area, making it easier for you to get across rocky sections without fear of getting stuck while providing better traction. You can get a set of all-terrain or mud tires that are designed specifically for off-roading, and Jalopnik reports that bigger is better.

    Skid plates
    While large tires and lift kits will go a long way to preventing damage to the undercarriage of your vehicle, there are still bound to be large obstacles that might scrape up against your car as you pass over them. You can install skid plates that are designed to protect everything from the gas tank and differentials to the oil pan and rocker panels, so you won't have to worry about getting stuck out in the wilderness with a truck that won't start.

  • New list highlights the best off-road vehicles of the year

    It's never easy to try and sift through all of the available information regarding potential vehicles. With so many statistics, reviews and other write-ups out there for the public, drivers have a lot to consider when they're looking at off-road options. In some instances, you've got to turn to other sources for input, which is why lists like "The Top 10 4x4 Off-Road Trucks This Year," released by autoMedia.com, can be so helpful.

    This ranking looked at some of the best trucks and SUVs for off-road driving introduced this year. The list contains some vehicles that are traditional choices for off-roading, as well as some other options you may not have previously considered.

    "Off-road vehicles are no longer minimalist cars that have few creature comforts and are difficult to drive in everyday situations, and this new list reflects that," said Doug Hamlin, founder of autoMedia.com. "Buyers can find a wide variety of brand new trucks and SUVs in any price range, and select the one that fits their budget and sense of adventure." 

    Here are a few of the selections that autoMedia.com singled out as being among the best options of the year so far:

    2013 Ram 1500
    It's no surprise to see the Ram 1500 on this list. Through the first several months of 2013, the pickup has racked up tons of awards and accolades, including many that have cited it as being one of the best - if not the best - options of any automobile on the market. One of the calling cards of this model is its frame, which is rugged and capable of handling whatever obstacles you throw at it. An adjustable air suspension can be easily modified with a Dodge lift kit, and the impressive 407 foot-pounds of torque is standing by to get you through any kind of tough situation.

    2013 Honda Ridgeline
    There are some instances where fans of off-roading have to toe the line between heavy-duty vehicles and family-friendly options that can meet a variety of needs. Although it's not usually considered to be an off-road staple, the 2013 Honda Ridgeline has enough amenities to keep fans of off-roading happy while also serving as an everyday car. It's got plenty of cargo space for gear and supplies, as well as above-average steering and all-wheel drive. 

    2013 Jeep Wrangler
    No list of the best off-road vehicles would be complete without the presence of the Jeep Wrangler. As with its predecessors, this Wrangler was practically born to conquer tough terrain. Valuing function over flair, the ride is ready to hit the trails with or without Jeep modifications, and making even a few small changes to the ride can turn it into the off-road vehicle of your dreams. Tires perfect for mud bogging and hardcore rock rails are just two of the many included features that can enhance your time on the trails. 

    2014 Toyota Tundra TRD
    As one of the newest inclusions on the list, the 2014 Toyota Tundra TRD still has a lot to prove - but it seems more than up to the task. The TRD package is designed to offer some of the most popular off-road amenities, bringing drivers tools like Bilstein shocks. Special touches to the exterior aim to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics, while also making for a more stable driving experience - no matter what the environment. This Toyota is still in the process of being rolled out to dealerships around the U.S., but it is definitely one to keep an eye on as the year goes by. 

  • Show off truck mods in a SEMA contest

    Think your truck modifications are impressive enough to stand out among some of the best mods in the U.S.? Those drivers who believe the truck mods they've made are up to snuff will have a chance to pit their vehicles against rides from across the country as part of the upcoming Royal Purple contest, done in partnership with the 2013 SEMA Show

    The contest
    A revamped contest from Royal Purple, a manufacturer of synthetic oil, is scheduled for the 2013 SEMA Show. The new setup will provide truck owners with their own class to compete in, which is a change from years past. Previously, the competition, called "Show It Off At SEMA" and conducted by the manufacturer, selected some of the best modified vehicles from a pool of entrants and brought the winners out to the official SEMA show. This year will be a bit different, as the company has expanded the classes to include one specifically for trucks. 

    "Royal Purple has an incredibly diverse customer base that includes enthusiasts of just about every type of vehicle imaginable," said Marlena Soloman, a communications specialist for Royal Purple, as quoted by Mopar Muscle magazine. "By adding this new truck class, it enables thousands more enthusiasts to be a part of our most successful contest." 

    All drivers have to do to enter their ride is submit photos of their truck through a special contest app. You can download the program and submit your truck pictures starting Aug. 1 at 12 a.m., with the deadline coming one week later, Aug. 8. Car owners can then enter from Aug. 8 to 15. Once that period has closed, Royal Purple will select five vehicles from each class for further consideration. A panel of experts will then judge the automobiles based on their modifications, and the winners will be brought to the SEMA show and given their own display to showcase their rides. 

    About SEMA
    The 2013 SEMA Show is slated for Nov. 5 to 8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev. It is one of the largest specialty product trade events in the world, drawing in thousands of guests and vendors eager to check out the latest and greatest products and designs. With seminars, discussions, demonstrations, entertainment and more, the show is one of the coolest and most eye-opening events for fans of off-roading and vehicle modifications. 

  • Ram Truck named 'Most Ideal Brand' by AutoPacific

    Each year, AutoPacific gives out awards to various vehicles and brands that have earned "most ideal" ratings, and the Ram Truck brand took the top accolade for 2013. With a title like "Most Ideal Popular Brand," it's easy to see why Ram is so beloved among people who love off-road driving or have heavy-duty jobs to do.

    Drivers love their Ram trucks
    The AutoPacific Awards are decided by drivers who fill out surveys that aim to find out how likely the participants are to change vehicles based on 15 different categories. More than 52,000 car and truck owners revealed how they feel about their current rides in terms of power, acceleration, storage and more. Ram owners were the least likely to want to change vehicles, which indicates they're the most content with their current rides.

    "The Ideal Vehicle Awards show that marketers, product planners, researchers and engineers have developed and launched a vehicle executed best for their target market," said Dan Hall, vice president of AutoPacific.

    Jeep saw some success too
    In addition to Ram, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee was recognized for its high quality and driver satisfaction. The off-road vehicle received the award for "Most Ideal Mid-Size SUV," marking the third consecutive year the model has won this accolade. Since Jeep and Ram are both sub-brands of Chrysler Group, their respective wins - coupled with the Chrysler Town & Country's "Most Ideal Minivan" award - highlight the top quality that the auto manufacturer is offering drivers. Whether consumers want pickup trucks or SUVs built for off-roading or they need minivans to cart their families around, Chrysler is a brand worth checking out.

    What's next for Ram?
    Ram recently unveiled its next big thing - the 1500 Rumble Bee concept pickup - at the 2013 Woodward Dream Cruise in metropolitan Detroit. This vehicle was modeled after the 1960s Super Bee, and Ram engineers started out with a 2013 Ram 1500 R/T. They added truck modifications such as "Drone Yellow" paint and a glossy black stripe that fades into honeycomb. The "bee" theme is echoed inside the passenger cab as well, with black and drone yellow leather seats and an amber-encased bee on the shifter knob. Not all the truck mods were about appearance either - they gave the pickup larger tires and dropped the suspension 2 inches to improve handling and performance.

  • Guinness World Record for pickup truck parade on the line in Indianapolis

    Who doesn't like seeing big groups of trucks together? You may enjoy checking out truck mods that fellow drivers have implemented or seeing how certain models that could be perfect for your next off-road vehicle run. No matter what you appreciate at these gatherings, there's a good chance you get a thrill from seeing so many top-notch trucks together in one place. If that's the case, then the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the place to be at the beginning of August, as organizers are trying to break the Guinness World Record for the World's Largest Parade of Pickup Trucks. 

    To honor the launch of a new SiriusXM channel called Rural Radio, promoters are attempting to rally pickup truck owners in the Midwest to participate in the parade. All vehicles must circle a minimum of 2 miles at less than 5 miles per hour, with all participating rides completing the full length of the route to qualify for the world record. 

    The current world record for the Largest Parade of Pickup Trucks is 273. It was set Aug. 25, 2013 at the Dresden Raceway in Ontario, Canada, but if all goes according to plan, this upcoming event should surpass that mark.

    Aside from the procession, visitors will be able to check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, examine some of the coolest truck modifications on display and enjoy the live entertainment offered at the event. Additionally, about 20 classic tractors will be showcased to go along with the Antique Tractor Parade, PickupTrucks.com reports.  

    All are invited to head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take part in this event, and drivers are encouraging to decorate their pickups in whatever manner they see fit. Of course, some will likely want to keep it simple so their truck mods are the highlight. 

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