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Rough Country News

  • What to do before you go off-roading

    Most drivers have a firm grasp on what needs to be done before venturing out for an off-roading experience. Whether it's your first time out on the trails or you're a seasoned expert, you still have to go through the motions of preparing for off-road driving. Even off-road experts may occasionally need to be reminded of the things you should be checking off a to-do list before heading out for an adventure. 

    Get a permit
    Before you can hit the trails and start taming the landscape, you have to make sure you have taken care of all of the truck mods and paperwork required to handle the dirt roads. First, you'll need to verify that your vehicle - and all of its truck modifications - is legal for both street use and off-roading. Once that has been taken care of, reach out to the location you plan on exploring to see if the property requires individual driver permits and find out how to get those if necessary. 

    Check the weather
    There are a variety of reasons you should be checking the weather forecast before you jump in your off-road vehicle, and it goes beyond deciding what to wear. Knowing the climate can help you equip yourself with the right tools that could come in handy in any situation. 

    The predicted weather should influence what kinds of tools you bring along. For example, if snow is on the horizon, you may want to pack up a winch, while drivers who are going mud bogging should bring along recovery straps in case they find themselves mired in the soft ground during their ride.

    "A change in a set of one tires to another set of tires can make it handle completely different," Chad Schroll, an expert from a company that makes winches, told KCBY News. "In snow, in particular, I end up using a winch way more because the snow consistency can change so much - from the dry, powdery snow that you can drive through easily to the wet, heavy snow." 

    Snow may be the farthest thing from your mind at the moment, but the point still stands: Knowing what to expect weather-wise is an important part of off-roading, and making the right preparations could save you some frustration in the long run. 

    Scout the area
    If you're planning on off-roading in a location you haven't explored or don't know that much about, you should scout the area ahead of time. This could be as simple as checking in with a governing body or ranger station to see what kinds of regulations are in place on the grounds, ensuring that you can comply with all restrictions. At this time you should also ask about especially difficult areas or common problems off-road drivers frequently encounter. This can clue you in as to what situations you should expect and what equipment you may want to bring along. 

    "The most important thing is knowing how your vehicle is going to behave in the different situations," winch manufacturer Andy Lilienthal told the news source. "Much like any other adventure sport - like skiing or rock climbing or anything like that - you've got to be sure that you know your limits. And you really have to know what you're doing or you need to go with people that can teach you." 

    These are just three of the steps you should be taking before you start dune bashing, mudding or any engaging in any other off-road activity. Once these basic tasks are complete, you can turn your attention to truck mods and improvements you'll need to handle whatever comes your way. 

  • How to comply with lift kit laws

    A lot of fun can come from installing a lift kit. However, it can also be a big hassle - especially if you aren't up to speed on lift kit laws in your home state. These regulations can be incredibly complicated, even for the most esteemed off-road drivers, but it's essential that you pay attention to these restrictions and make sure all of your truck mods are in line with the law. 

    State by state
    Lift kit laws and regulations vary on a state by state basis. In fact, no two states are alike, which can make it incredibly difficult to plan on installing a lift kit that can be used on off-road trails across the U.S. 

    Not only do states have different laws, but many have made it a complicated process to filter through the websites and codes in search of the applicable regulations. Luckily, organizations like LiftLaws.com have done the work for you and compiled the rules in one convenient place. There, you will be able to find laws regarding acceptable dimensions for a street or off-road vehicle, as well as information about brakes, tires, suspensions, bumpers, the engine and much more that may come in handy when making truck mods. 

    The key area you will want to look at is the frame. Each state has a maximum frame height that varies based on the type of automobile, so be sure you know what segment you should be looking for prior to starting your research. 

    Possible repercussions
    If you make truck mods that don't comply with restrictions, you could face a complicated series of challenges. Many of the repercussions depend on the individual case - for example, the laws can be enforced to different extents based on the law officer involved or the location of the violation. 

    One of the more common problems that may arise if your automobile isn't up to code is that you will be pulled over by police. The resulting tickets and fines could put quite a dent in your wallet and throw off your future plans for modifications. 

    Another possible issue? If you get into an accident or have any need for help from your insurance company, they could refuse to provide coverage. In some cases all coverage could be revoked, so be sure to check out your policy and see what's covered by the plan. There are a few companies that will even protect the off-road gear itself, making it extremely important that you're taking the time to find the right policy as well as checking your restrictions. 

    General rules to follow
    Although the restrictions depend upon the state your vehicle is registered in, there are a few general rules you can keep in mind while considering your options for truck modifications. For one, you should have a few tidbits of information figured out beforehand. Record how much your off-road vehicle weighs and its dimensions. This will make it easier to find the applicable laws and regulations when you search the Lift Laws database. Knowing these figures also allows you to measure how much of a difference your chosen lift kit will make and whether or not the upgraded vehicle will comply with codes. 

    Similarly, if you are making plans to visit an off-roading trail you've heard about in a different state, or if you have a destination you visit frequently where you may want to go off-road driving eventually, you should check the regulations of that area. That way, if you end up in the wilderness in a given region, you'll know you are in compliance with the law. 

  • Modern SUVs ready for off-roading adventures

    Sport utility vehicles were originally designed for off-roading, but over the years many models have transformed to be best suited for daily driving. However, there are still a number of SUVs that can handle dune bashing, mud bogging and other off-road adventures. You may need to install a few truck mods to these SUVs to make sure they can handle everything you throw at them, but it's a small price to pay to protect the vehicles when you veer off the beaten path.

    Jeep Wrangler
    The Wrangler is perhaps the No. 1 SUV that comes to people's minds when they think about off-road driving. The core of this machine is rugged, with standard four-wheel drive on all trim levels, and heavy duty parts like front and rear axles that are designed to take a beating in the wilderness thanks to a unique axle ratio. According to AutoTrader.com, the Wrangler is also a favorite among off-road enthusiasts because of the sheer multitude of Jeep modifications that can be made to the vehicle, so drivers can fine-tune their rides to their exact liking.

    Jeep Grand Cherokee
    Unlike the Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee has become moreand more civilized over the years, with numerous features that provide luxury and creature comforts rather than focusing on off-roading truck mods. However, it hasn't lost its edge entirely, even if it has gotten a bit soft, which is why U.S News and World Report ranked it No. 1. While they don't come standard on every model, the available off-roading features, like the Quadra-Trac II AWD that makes it easy to traverse any terrain, give Jeep lovers plenty of reasons to consider the Grand Cherokee.

    Toyota FJ Cruiser
    Tying with the Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Range Rover Sport for fourth place on U.S. News' ranking, the FJ Cruiser is a great choice for drivers who want to pick up an SUV made for the wilderness without breaking the bank. The FJ, which has a starting MSRP of about $27,000, was made for the wild. Consumer Reports indicates that even though it leaves plenty to be desired on the road, the FJ Cruiser shines as soon as it leaves the pavement. It can traverse waters up to 28 inches deep, and its undercarriage is built to protect the SUV from damage caused by boulders, tree roots and anything else that lies in its path.

    Land Rover Range Rover
    Most people think of the Range Rover as a luxury SUV, but they are forgetting that this behemoth is built to get dirty. Second only to the Grand Cherokee, according to U.S. News, the Range Rover packs a punch. Its brethren, the Range Rover Evoque and Sport models, came in third and fourth, respectively, highlighting just how versatile the luxury SUVs can be. Largely due to the sophisticated technology, the Range Rover is more than ready to splash through the mud. The only problem is that after spending upwards of $80,000, drivers might be less than thrilled by the prospect of potentially damaging the ride.

    Plenty of other SUVs are capable of holding their own in the wild as well. The Land Rover LR4, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota 4Runner and other models have plenty of available options to turn them into off-roading champions. Plus, there are countless aftermarket truck mods that you can install on virtually any SUV to enhance the off-roading experience no matter what you're driving. Many truck modifications, like adding a Toyota lift kit or modifying a Jeep suspension, can take your ride to a whole new level the next time you head to your favorite off-road spots.

  • Watch out for heat damage to a vehicle this summer

    We're smack dab in the middle of summer, and while that may mean trips to the beach for some, almost everyone has to deal with scorching temperatures. Although the heat can help to create a good environment for off-roading adventures, it can also cause damage to a vehicle if you're not careful. 

    "Prolonged exposure to high temperatures is not only a threat to passengers, but a vehicle concern as well," said John Nielsen, managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair for AAA. "Knowing the dangers and preparing your vehicle for extreme heat can keep your vehicle running smoothly during the hot summer months." 

    Dangers of heat damage 
    One of the major areas of concern when it comes to heat damage is the engine. Over-heating is a real threat, as excessive heat and humidity can cause different parts of an engine to expand or put additional strain on the motor. It's not uncommon to see drivers pulled over on the side of the road in the heart of summer, waiting for their engines to cool down, but you should pay attention to how you're pushing a vehicle to ensure you are never in that position. 

    If you're ever participating in some off-road driving and hear a peculiar sound like bubbling or gurgling, pull over and shut the engine off immediately. These sounds can signify a motor that is much too hot, and driving on this motor can destroy an engine beyond repair. Allow the machinery under the hood to rest once you pull over - the radiator cap and other gear will likely be too hot to touch, and the interior fluid could have been transformed to dangerous steam in the heat. 

    You also need to keep an eye on the vehicle's battery. Heat can cause a lot of damage to the electrical core of a vehicle, and although there isn't much you can do to control temperatures, you can make sure other areas of the battery's maintenance are up to date to prevent factors from accumulating. Double check the battery to ensure it's mounted properly to reduce vibrations and test it to see what its life expectancy is. Heat can speed up the decline of a battery, so if you have one that is near the end of its life span you may want to keep a spare nearby. 

    Tires are another part of a vehicle that could be affected by the oppressive heat. High temperatures can lead to under-inflated tires, so be sure you're checking the pressure throughout the season and comparing it to what the vehicle manufacturer recommends. 

    How to prevent problems
    Despite the potential for mechanical issues that come about when temperatures rise, there are many steps drivers can take to protect themselves and their off-road vehicles from harm. One of the easiest and most basic things you can do is consistently monitor coolant levels and replace the fluids when needed. Refresh these liquids and flush out the engine system periodically to ensure your vehicle is clean and efficient. 

    Last, but certainly not least, you should keep an eye on your air conditioning system. Even if you're not the type of driver who consistently uses the tool, it's important to periodically check on the HVAC system to make sure everything is working properly. Not only can a poorly functioning service be indicative of other problems under the hood, but you never know when an emergency will strike and you will need the amenity. Going off-road driving in the summer and getting stuck could leave you at the mercy of nature, and having the ability to take a break inside an air conditioned cabin could be just what you need. 

  • Are you keeping up with summer maintenance?

    Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in making truck mods that you forget to focus on standard vehicle maintenance. However, it is essential to be constantly watching different aspects of a truck to ensure everything is functioning in a safe and proper manner. Even doing a few simple tasks throughout the summer can go a long way toward preserving your truck and keeping you behind the wheel for longer periods of time. 

    Here are a few areas of maintenance that needs to be done on a consistent basis throughout the summer: 

    Replace your fluids 
    You should be replacing all of the fluids that keep your truck running, from engine coolant to oil to wiper fluid. Each of these liquids has their own job, so stocking up at regular intervals can have a system running smoothly while making sure you have a safe driving experience. A good rule of thumb is to flush out and replace coolant when you go in for an oil change - every 3,000 miles or three months, in general - and wiper fluid should be checked before you head out off-roading. The last thing you want is mud to splatter your windshield, only to find you have no way of cleaning it, and doing this simple check can help you avoid that scenario. 

    Check the tires
    Extreme weather changes and high temperatures can wreak havoc on your tire pressure. That means you should be monitoring your tires throughout the summer, pumping them up whenever necessary. You may even want to switch from all-season tires to summer tires to get the maximum efficiency from your vehicle, but keeping the traditional all-season gear on a truck won't be detrimental. 

    Pressure isn't the only thing you need to look out for. Tire treads can be worn down after a long winter and multiple off-roading adventures, which makes it particularly important to examine the treads to ensure there is an adequate grip. Use the penny test to check the tread on your tires. All you need for this is a standard penny. Simply place the penny in the grooves of a tire - as long as part of Abraham Lincoln's head is always at least partially covered, the treads are deep enough to be effective. TireRack.com has outlined the ways drivers can use different coins to find tread depth, so if you want to make sure your tires have enough grip to keep you safe on rocks, sand or any other terrain, you can still check on it yourself. 

    Clean and wax
    The happenings under the hood are important, but that doesn't mean you should ignore the exterior of your truck. For example, sudden rain showers can harm the outside, so waxing a vehicle regularly may help prevent rust and water spots while also extending the life of a paint job. Car wax also deflects the sun's rays, allowing you to avoid fading even in the hottest of conditions. 

    You should be washing your truck frequently in the summer, as well - especially if you make it a point to go off-road driving whenever you can. Even the most basic wash can get rid of dirt and debris left over from an adventure, which preserves the exterior and ensures you aren't allowing this mess to infiltrate the systems under the hood. 

    Have an emergency kit
    You should always have an emergency kit stored in your vehicle. The contents of this package may change with the seasons, but good things to keep on hand include basic tools, a flashlight, jumper cables and recovery straps, just to name a few. It's also a smart idea to have a few pick-me-ups for you kept in the kit, as well. Bottled water and nonperishable snacks can be a tremendous help without taking up a lot of space. If you find yourself stuck for an extended period of time under the hot sun, you'll be happy you have this nourishment on hand. 

  • Finding the best off-road trails

    Unless you own a large tract of land, you'll need to find trails to take your Jeep or other truck off-roading. If you're a seasoned off-road driver, you probably know all the best spots already, but those who are new to the sport will have to do a bit of research to track down the best trails in their area. Here are a few tips for finding the best trails to take your vehicle with all of its truck modifications out for a spin in the wilderness:

    Pay attention during everyday driving
    When you're shuttling the kids to school or commuting to work, keep your eyes peeled if you live in a more suburban or rural area. There may be trails that you've simply never seen before right around the corner. You can try taking different roads than you usually travel, as this could expose you to new areas and lead you to a diamond in the rough. When you find one, make sure your off-road vehicle is ready for action and head out for a fun adventure.

    Ask your friends
    If any of your friends or family members love off-road driving as well, they might have an inside scoop on a hot trail that you're sure to love. The benefits of getting references from people you know are two-fold. First, they have at least somewhat of an idea of the experience you're looking for when you get behind the wheel, so they won't bother telling you about a mud bogging spot that you wouldn't enjoy. Second, since you know them, you don't have to think twice about their opinion. If a friend tells you he or she experienced a lot of problems with a certain off-roading locale, it's more likely a genuine sentiment.

    Go online
    There are countless resources for off-roading enthusiasts trying to find trails. You can check out forums dedicated to the sport, which will allow you to browse through other users' questions and answers as well as posting your own to get specific feedback. The National Park Service website is another valuable resource, as it can provide information about whether or not certain parks allow recreational vehicles to leave the roads. The same holds true for state parks and other wilderness areas. It's always best to make sure that off-roading is OK before hitting the trails to avoid problems.

  • Chevy strives to match Ford's pickups

    When it comes to the auto industry, there's nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. That is especially true in the case of pickup trucks, as this segment has been dominated in the past several years by the F-series from Ford. However, things have started to change. Slowly but surely, other manufacturers are creating vehicles that can compete with Ford, and the reigning king of pickups may have some challengers for the top spot in the near future. 

    Ford still leads the way
    For now, Ford is still No. 1 in the world of pickup trucks. The F-series sold more than 60,000 vehicles in July alone, which is a growth of 22.6 percent compared to July 2012. Much of this growth comes from the re-energized construction industry, which needs trucks to carry out heavy-duty work, as well as fans of off-roading who want a top vehicle that they can make truck mods to. 

    The outlook from Chevy
    Although Ford remains the top seller, its lead is shrinking. Not only has Chevrolet introduced vehicles like the Ram 1500, which many rated as the best pickup of the past model year, but the brand is also seeing its total sales increase. In the month of July, Chevy moved more than 42,000 pickups in the U.S. alone. This is lower than Ford's total, but it is also an increase of 45.2 percent compared to last year - which is a significantly larger increase than its rival. 

    "Clearly there's a lot of customers coming in right now being driven in by our great new pickup trucks, so I think we're probably just getting a lot more traffic than our competitors in the last month or so," Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales and service, told Bloomberg Businessweek

    Could Toyota be next? 
    While Chevrolet has made major strides to put itself on the same level as Ford, other automakers have begun turning their attention to the world of heavy-duty pickup trucks. One such brand is Toyota, which is currently revamping its trucks to compete with the American-made options. 

    Toyota recently introduced the redesigned Tundra to challenge Ford and Chevrolet. The 2014 version of the truck boasts several special features that help to make the vehicle a more serious threat to the top sellers, including a towing capacity that surpasses 10,000 pounds, improved fuel efficiency and a more powerful engine, Investor Place reports. 

  • Ford turns to eco-friendly practices for its truck production

    When you think of pickup trucks, sustainability doesn't usually come to the forefront of your mind. That may be all about to change, however, as Ford is incorporating some eco-friendly materials into its upcoming lineup of F-Series pickup trucks. 

    Ford's new processes
    Ford recently announced that it would adopt a new practice as part of the production of its F-Series pickup trucks. Instead of the talc material once used in the electrical harnesses of its trucks, the automaker will be employing rice hulls to do the job. These hulls, which are a byproduct of rice grain, will be used to reinforce plastic used throughout the trucks. 

    At least 45,000 pounds of rice hulls will be used in the first year of production alone. All of the natural products will be sourced from farms in Arkansas and are part of a process created by RheTech, an automotive supplier. The end goal was to create a product that would be safer for the environment without sacrificing the toughness and rugged qualities that Ford drivers have come to expect. 

    "We developed this resin specifically for Ford over the last three years, working with the automaker closely, including in all phases of material qualification," said David Preston, director of business development for RheTech. "The whole process has been a rewarding success for both Ford and RheTech, which can add yet another natural-fiber based product to our RheVision line."

    In addition to the rice hulls, Ford will be using recycled cotton, soybeans, recycled tires and recycled plastic bottles for other sections of the trucks. In fact, Ford claims that just one 2014 F-150 truck will have the equivalent of 10 pairs of jeans or 31 T-shirts integrated into its body. These products will be used in seat cushions, carpets and plastic liners throughout the truck, and none of the changes will impact the way in which drivers make truck modifications down the line. 

    Making a difference
    Most of the efforts surrounding eco-friendly vehicles go toward improving fuel economy. While that is certainly a focus for Ford, these new manufacturing processes will allow the automaker to start making a difference before the trucks even leave the production facility.

    As the most popular truck in the U.S., the F-Series sells more than 600,000 models each year - leaving a lot of room for environmentally sound practices to make a positive impact. If this round of green processes is successful, Ford will likely expand the use of rice hulls and other products for future trucks. 

    "The 2014 F-Series exemplifies our continued efforts to use recycled content in our vehicles," said John Viera, Ford's global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters. "We can have a greater impact in this case because of the size and sales volume of this product."

    Don't let up when off-roading
    These positive sustainable practices center around upcoming Ford F-Series trucks, but even drivers who frequently get behind the wheel of older models can do their part to help the environment - without sacrificing the fun that goes along with off-road driving.

    An easy way to embrace eco-friendly practices with your off-road vehicle is by taking care of the nature and trails that you drive through in your experiences. Don't litter while driving and do your best to avoid harming the land surrounding the trails. This includes taking care when you pull over so as not to damage the wilderness and cleaning up any synthetic materials that may spill into nature in the event of an issue. 

  • Colorado beckons off-road drivers

    Few places in the world can please as many visitors as Colorado can. The Centennial State is home to big cities, quiet mountain towns and plenty of parks that protect the Rocky Mountain environment. It's in these quieter spots off-roading enthusiasts can find some of the best driving trails in the U.S., making the state a can't-miss destination for drivers hoping to traverse the most amazing routes in the country. 

    Why Colorado? 
    Colorado has its own off-roading motto: "Stay the Trail." Although some drivers may feel the urge to head deep into the unknown wilderness during their adventures across the state, there's no need - the trails winding throughout Colorado provide plenty of challenges and rewarding experiences for those who manage to cross them. 

    Those who plan on participating in off-road driving in Colorado should be aware of a few rules the state has in place to regulate the experience. There is a noise limit which may impact power output, but otherwise most of the regulations revolve around keeping off-road vehicles on designated trails and not harming the vegetation that surrounds the worn-down paths. 

    While you can find excellent off-road driving locations throughout the state, there are a few trails that continue to receive praise from those who have experience them. 

    The Silverton Trails
    Many of Colorado's off-roading trails stretch back to the days when mining in the Rocky Mountains was a common sight. These routes, once filled with workers and machinery, are now dedicated to trucks and Jeeps that make the journey to the land. Hundreds of miles of these trails are set among the San Juan Mountains, a section of the Rockies set in the southwest corner of Colorado. 

    According to Off-road.com, Silverton, which was once a mining town, is a great place to set up a base camp. From there, you can choose to test your truck modifications on any number of trails that surround the area. Paths like the Engineer Pass and Alpine Loop are favorites of visitors and locals alike, as they take drivers through some of the most scenic areas of Colorado while still offering plenty of challenges for those who like dune bashing. At some points in these trails you will hit elevations of more than 12,000 feet above sea level and be forced to use all of your knowledge to handle steep hills, rocky sections and rushing waterways that are found in the dozens of miles of trails. 

    Metberry Gulch
    If you enjoy pushing your off-road vehicle over tough rock passes, then the Metberry Gulch route might be for you. Located in central Colorado, this trail is about 4.5 miles long and transitions between fairly easy sections that anyone can drive to more difficult areas. As you progress through the path, you'll encounter sharp turns, steep hills and plenty of awesome scenery. The one section that usually proves to be the most challenging is what is known as the Rock Slab, a steep, flat rock that requires vehicles to find the perfect speed if drivers don't want to slide while crossing it. 

    At the end of the Metberry Gulch route lies the South Platte River. This doesn't have to be the end of your journey, however, as the nearby trails of Hackett Gulch and Longwater Gulch can be easily accessed to extend the experience. Much like the area surrounding the Silverton Trails, the land around Metberry Gulch and its neighboring trails is filled with wild animals, lush vegetation and towering mountains that make for a unique off-roading environment.

  • Chrysler announces plans to unveil new Ram truck

    When the 19th Annual Woodward Dream Cruise kicks off in mid-August, truck aficionados will have more to honor than just the regular celebration of the auto industry. In addition to the classic car show, this year's event will include the reveal of Ram's latest pickup truck - one that is rumored to be an updated version of the Power Wagon. 

    Unveiling the new Ram
    Chrysler will be present at the Woodward Dream Cruise to show off more than 70 of its latest vehicles, but the one that may have everyone talking is shrouded in mystery. The manufacturer's Ram truck brand will introduce its newest design as part of the event, showing off the concept in what is being hailed as the very first vehicle debut in the history of the Dream Cruise. 

    The actual unveiling will take place Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. on a lot Chrysler has rented out for the event. AutoWeek reported that Bob Hegbloom and Joe Dohner, two of the heads of the Ram truck brand, will be on hand for the big reveal, along with Ryan Freidlinghaus, who is the owner and host of "West Coast Customs." 

    According to Automotive News, although Chrysler hasn't revealed a lot of information about the new truck, some clues can be pulled from the event itself. Because the rally is catered toward fans of muscle cars and high-performance vehicles, it's likely the Chrysler offering will be similar in style. If this holds true, it will be the first high-performance pickup from the automaker since it ended production of the Ram SRT in 2006, the news source reported.

    The Dream Cruise
    Billed as the world's largest one-day auto event, The Dream Cruise is a special occurrence that features more than 40,000 vintage cars. It takes place on suburban Detroit's Woodward Avenue along a 16-mile stretch, giving the thousands of attendees plenty of room to drive. Many restored pickups and impressive truck modifications are sure to be on display, and they can provide a worthy primer for the big Ram reveal. 

    The Ram won't be the only new truck on display at The Dream Cruise. Ford has plans to show off a new specialty version of the F-150 called the Tremor, as well as the SVT Raptor, which aims to be a top off-roading option. 

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