Rough Country News

  • Make sure your off-road driving etiquette is top-notch

    You've learned a lot about how to equip your off-road vehicle so it can handle anything in its path. What occasionally goes unrecognized is the fact that you have to be armed with the right knowledge to handle your own obstacles. Knowing the etiquette rules for off-roading is a must, and even having a grasp of a few key elements can help you figure out what to do in a few common situations. 

    Yield to non-vehicles
    There is a good chance you will run into other people on public off-roading trails. Mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers are just a few of the adventurers who frequent parks and open spaces you may be driving through, so it's important to know how to interact with these individuals for a peaceful and respectful meeting. Always let these groups pass by you first - you both know your truck mods make you a formidable thing to run into while off-roading, and allowing others to get some distance and choose their route can keep everyone safe. 

    Watch behavior on hills
    Few things are more rewarding than hearing the rev of a souped-up engine as you accelerate up a hill. When you're pushing your truck to the limit to get it up a steep incline, the last thing you want is another vehicle coming out of nowhere and stopping you in your tracks. So if the situation is reversed and you come to a hill that another driver is trying to climb, you should yield to him or her. That truck or Jeep may need the momentum to reach the top of a hill, and making them come to a complete stop could throw that off. 

    Pull over when you stop
    At any pit stops or breaks during your off-roading experience, you should be sure to pull over so your vehicle is completely off the trail. That way, if anyone speeds around a corner or loses visibility, there is little risk of hitting your ride and causing damage. When looking for the perfect parking spot, try and stay away from tall grass or dry areas. Tall grass may be hiding wild animals or obstacles that could cause damage to your vehicle, while dry areas could be easily damaged by your vehicle - even catching fire because of a catalytic converter, Off-Road.com reports. 

    Don't litter
    It may seem self explanatory, but it can't hurt to remind yourself that littering in nature is a no-no. Make sure you bring along a garbage bag to contain any waste you produce during your adventure, whether it's water bottles or cigarette butts. There is no telling what kind of harm even the most innocent of mistakes can do, so properly disposing of all waste is a must. If you forget to bring a bag along for your trash, try to check in at a park's visitor's center or ranger station. Often, these facilities will have what you need free of cost. 

    Make sure your vehicle is up to snuff
    Setting out on a difficult trail with a vehicle that doesn't have all of the necessary Jeep or truck modifications is a recipe for disaster. While you may be eager to push your vehicle to the limit and see exactly what it's capable of, that doesn't mean you can head out into the wilderness without knowing you are completely prepared. If you do, you may end up causing damage to your ride and potentially even to others, not to mention any type of stalling can negatively impact others on the trails who are stuck behind you and have to rescue you. 

  • Strategize for an off-road race with these tips

    Some truck modifications aren't made to sit in a garage. When you make alterations to an off-road vehicle, you're going to want people to see them, and you'll also want to the chance to test out the changes. There's no better way to do that than as part of an off-road race. These events pit drivers against each other in a mad dash for the finish line, and in many instances motorists have to test their vehicles' capabilities to complete the course quickly. 

    Scout the area
    One of the most essential parts of preparing for an off-roading race is scouting the course. Whenever possible, you should take a trip to the location and conduct a practice run. A map may give you a general idea of what to expect, but lots of things can change in a short amount of time, and seeing the area for yourself is the best way to understand a course. 

    Try to head to the course at the end of the day after many other drivers have already made their way across the land. This way you'll be on terrain that is similar to race conditions - it may be torn up and muddy, but it could also be an accurate depiction of what you can expect on the day of the big event. 

    If for some reason you can't get to the trail before the start of the race, search for other ways of getting information about the course. See if there are any write-ups from people who have driven on the trail in the past to find out about certain areas you should watch out for. 

    Be prepared for anything 
    Off-road racing means pushing your vehicle to the absolute limit. When you're doing this, there's no telling what type of hiccups might happen along the way, so you need to be ready to handle whatever comes at you. Have a well-stocked tool kit with all of the basic equipment you'll need to do repairs on the fly. Recovery straps are great to keep close in case you get stuck, and spare tires are an absolute must-have in case you hit a patch of land that damages a tire. 

    Organize your gear
    Once you have collected all of the tools and parts that could be needed on the trails, you should organize the gear in a way that makes sense to you. Giving everything a proper place - one that feels natural to you - you can easily find what you need in a short amount of time. Some items you may want in the glove compartment, a tool box in the truck bed or thrown in the trunk of a Jeep, and stocking up ahead of a race will guarantee you know where all of the gear is. 

    Make sure you conduct one final check the night before the race and have everything securely stashed in your vehicle. Taking care of this in the days prior to the event ensures that you won't be scrambling to complete these tasks the morning of. 

    Be aware of weather conditions
    You can know the course like the back of your hand and have all of the top gear, but if you don't prepare for certain weather conditions, it may all be for naught. While most drivers may prefer a clear or partly cloudy day, the odds of getting your ideal weather are slim. Be sure to research in the days leading up to the event to see what the forecast is like, as this may influence your strategy for the race as well as what type of tools you bring. Something as simple as packing sunglasses for a sunny day could make a big difference. 

  • The 2014 Toyota Tundra raises the bar

    When people talk about the most popular trucks on the market, most of the attention is focused on offerings from Ford or Ram. These American-made models dominate sales of pickup trucks and are the most common choices for drivers looking for an off-road vehicle or heavy-duty work truck. 

    Toyota hasn't always produced the best trucks for the general public. Previous models have been criticized as being too small and not powerful enough for the needs of many drivers, as even with truck modifications they were not consistently reaching the performance of U.S.-based counterparts. All of this may change when the 2014 Toyota Tundra makes its debut on American roads. 

    What to expect in the 2014 Tundra
    Those drivers who haven't loved previous Toyota trucks may change their tune when they get a glimpse of the 2014 Tundra. One of the most anticipated parts of the upcoming truck is its enhanced engine. As a matter of fact, the truck boasts three different engine options, and drivers can choose whichever one they want to get the most out of their investment. 

    A 4.0L V6 comes standard on the most basic model, achieving 270 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and reaching 278 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. The next step up is the 4.6L V8, which features 310 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 327 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400 rpm. At the top of the class is the 5.7L V8 engine. With this motor, which is the most popular one offered by Toyota, the Tundra can reach 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm. 

    What's under the hood is certainly impressive, but the exterior of the Tundra has also been given a facelift. Edmunds.com reports that larger headlights and a more prominent front grille create an imposing figure - one that is highlighted by a new three-piece front bumper that adds to its distinguished look. 

    How it drives
    The design changes made to the Toyota Tundra do more than create a more rugged appearance. Many have also improved the entire driving experience of the truck, whether motorists are cruising down highways or off-road driving. Drivers can choose what size tires they want to include for a customized driving experience, while upgraded front and rear springs contribute to a much smoother ride no matter what wheels they select. 

    It's also much easier to control all of the capabilities of this truck thanks to an overhaul of the interior. A new instrument panel includes color displays loaded with information and a more centered dashboard. Enhanced safety features, such as larger airbags, have also been added to ensure anyone taking part in off-roading or even standard driving can stay safe. 

    The bottom line
    This full-size pickup truck will be offered in five price grades. While the bottom line will vary based on some of the variables that drivers choose, as well as which edition the base truck is. The most basic version of the truck comes with a suggested retail price of $25,920. With additions like a Double or CrewMax cab, as well as the customizable engine and all-wheel drive options, the MSRP can rise to as high as $47,320, with many sticker prices landing in the mid-$30,000 range. 

    All of these variables make it easy for an off-roading enthusiast to create his or her ideal truck. Drivers can choose from 4x2 or 4x4 models depending on their needs, while also selecting one of the three engine options to match their desired power output. 

    The 2014 Toyota Tundra started arriving in dealerships Aug. 9, and will become available around the U.S. throughout the month. 

  • Petersen Automotive Museum welcomes pickup truck display

    No one can deny that the pickup truck has played a major role in the shaping of America. Whether it was contributing to the production on farms, helping out at construction sites as industry exploded around the country or safely transporting drivers across the nation's roads, these trucks have been immensely important to the U.S. 

    One facility is finally giving pickup trucks the respect they deserve. The Petersen Automotive Museum is debuting a new exhibit titled "Pickups: The Art of Utility," which will highlight the history of these vehicles. 

    "The Art of Utility" 
    With a history spanning more than 100 years, pickup trucks are fascinating vehicles. Over the years, the pickup has transformed from a purely practical automobile into one of the coolest ways to get around, and drivers all around the world can make their own changes to the ride to turn it into whatever type of machine they want. 

    "Whether custom showstoppers, off-road adventure vehicles or bone stock cargo transporters, pickups have been an integral part of the automotive landscape for more than a century," said Leslie Kendall, chief curator of the museum, as quoted by PickupTrucks.com. "The pickup truck means many different things to different people, which is part of what we want to explore in this exhibition." 

    Pickups on display
    A few of the vehicles included as part of this display show off the most important styles and truck mods that occurred throughout the evolution of these automobiles. Currently, there are 19 of these trucks on display as part of the exhibit, ranging from a horseless carriage to a modern show vehicle that has been completely redone with truck modifications. 

    The oldest truck in the collection is a 1909 International Harvester Auto Wagon. It was built in the model of a horse-drawn carriage - minus the horses, of course - and was used as one of the world's first multi-purpose cars. Alterations could be made depending on if it was transporting people or cargo, and it could handle some of the earliest forms of off-road driving. 

    Fans of off-road vehicles will be particularly impressed with the 1953 Dodge Power Wagon. With its use of a Willock Swivel Frame, this truck was one of the first to incorporate special alterations catered to off-roading. According to Hemmings, the frame allowed the front and rear halves of the truck to move separately, reducing the risk of damage from extreme off-roading and making the entire process of driving over rocks or uneven surfaces much smoother. 

    Another can't-miss model is the 1952 Ford F-1 Half-Ton Pickup. While truck mods later in its life gave this vehicle four-wheel drive, it originally came with amenities like a radio, heater and windshield washer - uncommon inclusions at this time, Hemmings reported. Unlike many of its peers, this Ford was intended only for light use, making it one of the first models to be aimed at everyday driving instead of heavy-duty work. 

    About the Petersen Automotive Museum
    There are more than just pickup trucks on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Located in Los Angeles, Calif., the museum aims to fill its 300,000 square feet of space with collections that show off some of the auto industry's most important and interesting creations. Fewer than 200 automobiles are on display at any given time, but the collections are constantly rotated and interspersed with cars on loan to keep the exhibits fresh. This means that, even if you have toured the space before, you are guaranteed to see something new when you visit. 

    The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. "Pickups: The Art of Utility" will be in the museum thought April 6, 2014. 

  • Inside the Toyota Tacoma recall

    Thousands of Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks are being recalled due to a problem with the seatbelts. The manufacturer announced Aug. 7 that it was enacting a voluntary safety recall for more than 342,000 Tacoma pickup trucks. 

    All of the affected models of this midsize truck were produced between 2004 and 2011 and are Tacoma Access Cabs with rear-hinged rear doors. There is a possibility that the front seat belts of these trucks could have a screw come loose, which would potentially put both the driver and passenger in danger. According to PickupTrucks.com, repeated slams of the cab doors could loosen the screw attached to the seatbelt pre-tensioner, causing this spring to lose its function and negatively impact the performance of the seatbelt itself. 

    The Chicago Tribune reports that this is the result of a design flaw rather than a manufacturing defect, and the issue can be fixed with the installation of a new screw and sealant. Tacoma owners will be notified by mail, but in the meantime they can check out the Toyota Recall Information Site to see if they have any cause for concern. 

    Drivers who have designated their Tacoma for off-roading should heed the warning and make sure they bring their truck in for a check. Seatbelts are always important, but they become even more essential when you're traversing rocks or mudding through unknown terrain. You may want to invest in special seatbelts that are designed to offer complete protection when off-roading. Often coming in the form of harnesses, these devices disperse pressure during a collision and can help keep passengers secure in a vehicle. 

    Off-road driving is an exciting but dangerous pastime, and having secure seatbelts is the only way to drive. 

  • GM reveals information about upcoming trucks

    What's in a name? When it's the name of a car, it can mean a lot, which is why so many automakers take the time to carefully choose just the right moniker for their models. A few of these names evoke thoughts of off-roading, like the Wrangler, the Silverado and the Ram, just to name a few. 

    The latest news about automobile names comes from General Motors, as the company recently made several announcements regarding its upcoming midsize pickup trucks. 

    Same names, new identities
    General Motors recently announced that it will be keeping the names of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon for the 2015 model year. Each of these midsize pickups is going through a redesign, so there was some speculation about whether or not they would receive new names to go along with their updated look. 

    The Colorado will return to the market as a sport-pickup truck and will be more of a rugged off-road vehicle. The Canyon, on the other hand, will be a work truck catering to professionals. Despite the smaller sizes, each of these models is expected to accept truck modifications with ease and will boast enough power to handle whatever gets thrown in its way. 

    Expanding the segment
    According to The Associated Press, sales of small and midsize pickups have fallen 19 percent through the first six months of 2013. While much of this may be because GM paused production of its older versions to focus on redesigns, it represents a larger movement within the industry that has drivers leaning toward full-size trucks. 

    The main idea behind these redesigns is to make pickup trucks more attractive to a variety of drivers. To attract customers, GM aims to create trucks that cater to the every need of a specific market. 

    "Having the same car everywhere in the world is not the right answer," Dan Amann, CFO of GM, told The Wall Street Journal. "Being able to deliver on the requirements that satisfy the customer in each marketplace using as many common components, common architecture and common modules as possible is the optimization between giving customers what they want and maximizing the scale leverage we have around the world." 

    Drivers curious about the Colorado and Canyon will have to wait until late 2014 to get a glimpse of the models. 

  • General Motors plans changes to line of pickups

    It's not uncommon for manufacturers to make changes and implement redesigns when they think their offerings need a facelift. Some of the changes may be minor and can be done as the automaker moves into a new model year, but others are more intense and require a lot of time to completely implement. The latter will likely be the situation facing General Motors, as the manufacturer is preparing to make significant changes to its line of full-size pickup trucks. 

    Lighter GM trucks 
    The major difference that future truck models will have is a lighter overall weight. With the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado coming in at 4,387 pounds, it's one of the heaviest options on the market, and that is after the parent company dropped its weight by anywhere from 250 to 400 pounds in the past year. To keep the number coming down, GM will be looking at new materials and building processes that could make the truck lighter. 

    "We're going to look at all the levers we can pull - materials, aerodynamics, powertrain - to continue to improve fuel efficiency, both on an interim basis and as we go to the next-generation trucks," GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson told Reuters. 

    Although the official spokesman didn't go into much detail regarding the alterations, an insider said that most of the weight reduction would likely come about as a result of a change in the materials used to create the vehicles. 

    "GM can make some changes [in materials] when the Silverado and Sierra get a mid-cycle freshening," one source told the news source. 

    While some enthusiasts may be anxiously awaiting these changes, which could have a major impact on how truck modifications are done to GM vehicles, the final edition won't be complete until around 2019. AutoBlog reports that, in the meantime, the manufacturer will work to finish minor alterations and could start reducing the overall weight in the next few years. 

    Following Ford
    Many insiders speculate that the upcoming change to GM trucks is in response to Ford's alterations. Ford announced that it was cutting the weight of the F-150 almost five years ago, and the changes are expected to come to fruition in the 2014 model year. Each of these automakers is striving to improve fuel economy with the changes, and it could also make truck mods, installing a lift kit or implementing other changes much easier. 

  • What you need to be prepared for emergencies

    Before you head out for a day of mud bogging, it's important to make sure you have all the equipment you need to have a safe, fun experience. You should be prepared for all scenarios, including getting stuck in the mud or facing a mechanical failure. Having the right tools in your off-road vehicle can help save a lot of time and effort in the event your truck gets stuck in the wilderness. You should keep a few supplies on board just in case, including ropes and chains to help you get un-stuck as well as items to keep you and your loved ones safe.

    Emergency supplies
    You and the people you have with you should always come first in the event of an emergency. You can worry about your truck after you're sure everyone is safe. You should keep a first aid kit, flashlights, bottled water and emergency blankets in your truck so you won't have to worry if you wind up waiting for a friend to tow you out of the mud. If you are heading to a secluded off-roading spot, it is probably a good idea to bring along some food too. Jumper cables, extra quarts of oil, electrical tape for temporary fixes and maybe even a can of gasoline are other items that can come in handy. You can find emergency kits for vehicles that include most of the items you should have, such as AAA's Emergency Roadside Kit.

    Recovery equipment
    Half the fun of mudding and dune bashing is the thrill of defying the very land you're riding on, but this also means you risk occasionally getting stuck in an especially soft area. In cases like these, you'll need to find a way to pull your truck back to more solid ground so you can continue off-roading. Unless you're Superman or a bonafide strongman, you won't be able to get the vehicle out by yourself, and you'll likely need another truck or SUV to help rescue your ride.

    Off-Road.com recommends packing a few recovery straps, which are typically 2 to 3 inches wide and upwards of 30 feet long. They're designed to be able to haul up to 20,000 pounds without breaking, which makes then a great alternative to heavy, bulky chains. You can also find ropes that serve the same purpose, but straps are typically less expensive and just as effective. The news source indicates that ropes have less stretch to them - roughly between 10 and 15 percent, while straps can have up to 30 percent stretch. You'll also need two D-rings, two hitch pins and a shackle block to secure the straps or ropes between the two vehicles. Make sure to inspect all of these items for signs of wear or damage before you hit the trails to ensure they'll work properly if you need them.

    Keep everything easily accessible
    It's important to store all of these supplies in spots that are easy to reach, as you will want quick access in the event of an emergency, especially if your vehicle is in a precarious situation. Keeping a bag or box of these helpful tools underneath one of the seats or in a designated spot where no other supplies will wind up on top is ideal to allow you to act fast. Whether you need help getting your off-road vehicle out of the mud or you're coming to the rescue of a friend, being able to help quickly and easily is key to success.

  • 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee tops SUV challenge

    Jeeps are not new to off-roading, but the models usually associated with the pastime are large and heavy-duty. In reality, the automaker has a wide range of SUVs, and many of them are more than capable of transitioning to an off-road vehicle. One such model is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. This midsize vehicle is a worthy alternative to the typical gas-guzzlers that you may find when searching for an SUV, and it proved just that during a recent test that put the vehicle up against a few of its main competitors. 

    Ahead of the pack
    The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee was recently named the winner of the Midsize SUV Challenge, conducted by Cars.com and USA Today. It beat out five other SUVs for the title, coming out on top after being evaluated in categories like fuel efficiency, driving ability, comfort, features, and more. 

    "After extensive testing, the Jeep Grand Cherokee took the top spot in the Cars.com/USA Today Midsize SUV Challenge, thanks to its luxurious interior, impressive multimedia system and overall driving capability," said Patrick Olsen, the editor-in-chief of Cars.com. "Jeep Grand Cherokee has long been considered a true off-roading SUV, and thanks to some serious refinement, today's incarnation of the Grand Cherokee edges out the other, very worthy, midsize SUV options available to shoppers." 

    Final results were based on input from a panel of expert judges, as well as feedback from a family representing the average SUV buyer. While their needs may not be the same as yours - especially if you're gearing up to make Jeep modifications - the practicality is definitely something to consider. 

    About the 2014 Grand Cherokee
    The Grand Cherokee made waves in the challenge for its effortless blend of off-road toughness and touches of luxury. One key area of improvement for the 2014 version of the SUV is its technological abilities. The new Grand Cherokee can easily connect to a smartphone and has USB ports throughout the interior. Rear parking sensors and a power liftgate also make it easier to carry out any task in the car, whether you're testing your off-road driving skills or running errands.

    "We are delighted that the judges recognized the improvements we've made to the Jeep Grand Cherokee - the most awarded SUV ever - that make it even better," said Jeep CEO Mike Manley. "No other SUV offers Grand Cherokee's combination of legendary Jeep 4x4 capability, fuel economy, advanced user-friendly technology, world-class craftsmanship and on-road refinement." 

  • Cadillac Escalade is ready to 'XPLORE'

    Cadillac made a name for itself as a producer of luxury cars, but that doesn't mean its vehicles can't pack a punch. The Cadillac Escalade has plenty of features that help to make it a heavy-duty SUV, but a new expansion of the brand could catapult the luxury vehicle into the world of off-roading. 

    Aria Group and XPLORE Great Outdoors recently teamed up to offer a revamped XPLORE-series Cadillac Escalade, outfitting the car with everything it needs to be an off-road vehicle. A few key changes to the exterior of the model bring this luxury SUV to the trails. 

    About the model
    Both the standard and custom versions of the Escalade come with full-time all-wheel drive. They also have specially built suspension packages, all-terrain tires, aluminum wheels and a stainless steel exhaust system designed to provide enough power to keep the machine cruising across any type of land. This even includes water, as there is a fender-height aluminum snorkel option. 

    The exterior is designed to be just as rugged as the rest of the vehicle. With a matte black paint job complete with chrome trim, as well as a new roof rack system and power running boards, the Cadillac looks every inch the off-road machine. 

    Other accessories, such as storage compartments, all-weather floor and cargo mats, bike racks, and camping gear are also available to enhance all aspects of off-road driving. 

    "The XPLORE Cadillac Escalade delivers much more than an accessorized, meticulously designed and integrated impressive machine," said Ron Flint, program director of XPLORE. "This is a transporter of a different sort; one that can deliver you and your family to the outdoors and a life experience that you will talk about for the rest of your life." 

    Get the effect
    All versions of this SUV are built to order at Aria's facilities in California. Despite the limited availability, off-roading enthusiasts don't have to break the bank for these top-of-the-line off-road vehicles. Plenty of truck modifications can be done in a home garage, and even if the machine isn't a luxury car, you can still get a high level of performance. 

    The Cadillac Escalade is a one-of-a-kind car, but truck mods or other alterations can be done on almost any vehicle. With the help of the right materials and tools, you can easily outfit your ride with the best possible gear designed to handle any off-road scenario. 

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