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Rough Country News

  • 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 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 Today Midsize SUV Challenge, thanks to its luxurious interior, impressive multimedia system and overall driving capability," said Patrick Olsen, the editor-in-chief of "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. 

  • New wireless sensor could change weigh system

    As you continue making truck modifications and changing the truck suspension, your off-road vehicle will begin to take on a different shape. While you tinker with your ride, you'll want to keep track of what you add to the machine and how that affects the vehicle's performance. One the easiest and most effective ways to do that is to monitor how the weight changes with the new additions, which is especially important if you plan on doing some heavy-duty work or off-roading with the truck. 

    Importance of monitoring weight
    You're going to want to keep an eye on the weight of an off-road vehicle for several reasons. One of the most important is safety, as you'll likely be making alterations to a truck that require you to lift it for easier access. Any time the truck needs to be elevated, you'll need to know its weight so as to keep it within capacity limits. 

    Truck Weight recently introduced a new wireless sensor designed to track the weight of a truck without additional hassles. This system has been tested to provide accurate readings with a range of only 1 to 2 percent. Available for tandem spring, single point, camelback, walking beam and Chalmers suspension systems, this sensor could be an option for your next off-roading investment. 

    Advantages of a wireless system
    This wireless system can do more than simply let you know what kind of tools you need. If you plan on doing heavy-duty work with a vehicle, the Truck Weight product can alert you when you're close to the limitations of a truck, allowing you to perform any work easily and safely. It also lets you track how much pressure you're putting on a lift kit or suspension, which contributes to the longevity of the gear. 

    Another benefit of the wireless system? The installation time is kept to one to two hours, compared to up to 12 hours for its counterparts. So not only is it easier on you to install, but it also frees up your time so you can get right to off-roading, instead of spending unnecessary hours in the garage. 

    Truck Weight claims that its new sensor is well suited for off-roading. With no wires to get tangled in obstacles or interfere with ground clearance, it is safe for use on different types of terrain and may even enable you to extend your off-road driving time. 

  • More truck mods being done on the latest Dodge trucks

    Many truck modifications are done to more affordable models that have been used for off-roading in the past. New trucks don't require as much work and improvements as older models, and owners often aren't as keen to perform truck mods to change their new rides - which makes working on used trucks much more manageable. As such, there are constantly new offerings entering the market, and many of these tools are catered toward used trucks from previous model years. 

    More Dodge modifications
    A drop in the price of many Ram trucks means that it is easier for drivers to make truck mods to the vehicle. According to Off-Road Web, many of the more recent Ram truck models are seeing costs come down, which makes finding the right Dodge lift kit more manageable than ever before. 

    It's relatively easy to find gear for a Dodge suspension for a number of different models, especially now that several popular off-road vehicles are a generation old. Demand for many of these tools is growing, so you may soon see more offerings from the Ram line on the trails in the near future. 

    Ram Black Express
    Although many truck mods are done to older, used models, a new offering from Ram Truck may prove to be a popular option. The 2013 Ram Black Express is a factory truck that is set apart by its all-black exterior, which boasts 20-inch black aluminum wheels, a dark grille and numerous other blacked-out features. Its automaker calls it the "baddest-looking factory-built truck on the market," with its interior and exterior outfitted with the darkest additions available, USA Today reports. 

    The only things not blacked-out are the halogen projector head lamps and amber turn signals. Other offerings included in the vehicle are special features like front and rear stabilizer bars, heavy-duty shock absorbers and a powerful engine. 

    "Ram Trucks are known for their bold, in-your-face presence," said Reid Bigland, president and CEO of the brand. "The new Black Express takes Ram's aggressive good looks to an all new sinister level by 'blackening out' the entire truck while maintaining a great price." 

    Available in two- or four-wheel-drive models, this Ram truck may be the next hot vehicle - and it could prove to be the perfect option for fans of off-roading who want their ride to look as cool as possible. 

  • Keep off-road vehicle maintenance costs low

    Outfitting your off-road vehicle with the latest and greatest truck modifications means that you're usually spending a pretty penny on equipment and accessories. While elements of off-roading​, like lift kits, certainly require a lot of attention - both personally and financially - that doesn't mean there aren't other areas deserving of your focus. In fact, there are some spots where a little extra care can go a long way, especially if you want to keep maintenance costs down. 

    Watch what you haul
    One of the great things about beefing up a truck or jeep is giving it the power and capabilities to handle a heavy-duty load. Pulling around trailers, boats, ATVs, Jet Skis or any similar load can wear down the truck's suspension, so make sure you're tracking the weight of the haul. Anything you are towing will likely have to fall within certain weight parameters - especially if you have made a lot of truck mods or have accessories loaded on the vehicle. Simply keeping track of what you haul and how much pressure you're putting on a machine can go a long way in making sure you don't push it too far. 

    Always check the tires
    If there's one aspect of a vehicle that can make a big difference in off-road driving, it's the tires. You should constantly be keeping an eye on the tires to make sure they are not under- or over-inflated, as well as maintaining the right level of pressure and regularly rotating the parts. Sudden changes in the weather or an extreme uptick in the effort your vehicle exerts can lead to a drop in tire pressure, so be sure to pay attention if one of these situations pops up. 

    The U.S. Department of Energy reports keeping tires properly inflated can improve mileage by up to 3.3 percent, saving you more than $0.10 per gallon of fuel. While this may not seem like much, when you add up all of the gas you use trekking through off-road trails and powering through obstacles, it begins to add up. 

    Don't ignore extra features
    Say you get in your vehicle one day only to find that elements such as air conditioning or windshield wipers aren't working up to snuff. Although your first instinct may be to brush this off - especially if you don't need the tools at that moment - overlooking these problems can lead to bigger issues down the road. 

    Many of these minor occurrences can be signs of a major problem somewhere in the vehicle, so taking the time to check out hiccups in operation is essential for long-term care. You can use your own knowledge to examine a vehicle right away, but if the problem persists, you may want to take it to a professional. 

    Additionally, you never know when something could go wrong and leave you stuck under the hot sun or in a sudden rain storm, and if that happens, you'll be thankful you have the tools you need to get out of the situation safely. 

    Stick to recommended materials
    When you love your truck, no cost seems too high, and paying a little extra for premium fuel or high-octane oil may seem like just a drop in the bucket. However, these investments may provide little to no advancements for your vehicle. Read over the owner's manual for your truck or Jeep to find the recommended type of oil, as well as other necessary fluids, so you can provide your vehicle with the right materials. 

    Spending a little bit of time and money to take care of maintenance issues in the short term can make a big difference in the long run. By paying attention to a few areas, you can ensure the majority of time you spend with your vehicle is mudding or dune bashing - not bringing into a garage. 

  • 'Tread' lightly when on off-roading adventures

    It doesn't matter if you're having afternoon tea with the Queen of England or playing a round of golf with your buddies - etiquette makes a difference. The same is true of off-roading. Although traversing diverse terrain usually requires you to put in a lot of effort and get your hands dirty, it still has a level of decorum that you are expected to meet. Regardless of how much experience you have with off-road driving, it's always a good idea to brush up on basic etiquette to make sure you're handling yourself well out in nature. 

    The most essential parts of off-roading can be remembered through a simple phrase: tread. While this term is undoubtedly well known to drivers, you may have to familiarize yourself with an alternate meaning for the word. Instead of focusing solely on the tires of your off-road vehicle, use "tread" as an acronym to remember a few key parts of outdoor etiquette, as promoted by the organization Tread Lightly, which aims to educate recreational enthusiasts about the impact they make on the environment. 

    Travel responsibly
    At the forefront of "tread" is traveling responsibly, which includes everything from acknowledging other vehicles to making sure your own machine is in top condition. Obey any signs you see during your drive, respect the environment and follow the rest of the basic off-road etiquette to ensure you have a safe and fun time during your adventures. 

    Respect the rights of others
    Respecting others in the off-roading community is easy to do for most drivers. At its most basic level, this includes respecting other enthusiasts you meet on the trails, but it can also extend to animals you encounter along the way and residential areas you pass by. Common sense usually dictates the best course of action in these situations, but you need to be aware of what may come into play as you are off-roading. 

    Educate yourself
    There is always something more to learn in the world of truck mods and off-roading. With new models and technologies constantly being introduced and unknown lands waiting to be explored, you can easily find ways to enhance your knowledge. Before you head out on your latest adventure, catch up on local laws or regulations, learn about nature in the area and check out your vehicle. Having truck mods fail in the middle of off-roading can cause major problems for you and others, so taking the time to go over your machine and examine all of its gear can save a lot of frustration. 

    Avoid sensitive areas
    You may be tempted to test out your truck or Jeep modifications in the most extreme of areas, but you must remain cognizant of certain issues. Private property and protected lands are off-limits for drivers. With all of the designated trails available to the public, as well as the numerous parks and open spaces located around the nation, it shouldn't be too difficult to find a region where you can enjoy all of the thrills of off-roading without encroaching on others. 

    No matter where you are mudding, you should do your best to stay away from wetlands or lakeshores that are home to wildlife. If you find yourself in these areas, at least proceed with caution, as you never know when an animal could jump out in front of your vehicle or if an unintended swerve could disturb a habitat. 

    Do your part
    Being able to say you "do your part" when off-roading means you embrace all aspects of "tread." However, fulfilling these duties is only step one. You also need to make preparations for your journey, but these other issues can be easily addressed. For example, carry a trash bag with you and be sure to pick up any litter you see along the way and contain your own trash. Using your resources efficiently and minimizing your impact is another essential aspect of the pastime you should keep in mind. 

  • Don't ignore your truck's check engine light

    When you spend a lot of time in a garage making truck modifications, you get to know the ins and outs of your off-road vehicle. While this intimate knowledge may help you figure out the right truck suspension or what special features can best enhance your vehicle, it doesn't take the place of regular maintenance and cannot completely prevent repair incidents that often pop up. Some unavoidable occurrences include when the check engine light of your truck starts glowing, letting you know that it is time to take an extra look at what's going on under the hood. 

    If the check engine light flicks on, there are a few processes that you should go through. It is especially important that you do not avoid the notification, as you never know what it could be signifying. 

    Don't ignore the light
    A check engine light will turn on if the truck itself recognizes that something may be amiss. A flashing check engine light may be the sign of a more severe problem - perhaps even one that requires immediate attention - whereas a glowing light is much more common and can be taken care of in due time.

    "When the check engine light comes on, it means that a vehicle system, such as the ignition, fuel injection or emission control, is not operating properly, even if the vehicle appears to be running normally," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "A glowing check engine light doesn't mean you have to immediately pull the car to the side of the road, but it does mean you should get the car checked out as soon as possible." 

    What to do 
    If you're the type of owner who wants to take control of the auto repair, you can take several steps to fix any problem that may have triggered the alert. The first step of this process involves examining the vehicle to see if there was some kind of previous oversight that led to the alert. For example, it could mean that there is a loose gas cap, low fluid level or faulty sensor.

    Once you've thoroughly looked at the engine, as well as other basic areas of concern, you should move to a more intense check. That next step would be to employ a diagnostic scanning tool to pinpoint exactly where the problem is, which may require a visit to a repair shop. 

  • Ram 1500 Outdoorsman named ones of the best-value deals

    Most of the budget you have set aside for your vehicles will likely be relegated for use on truck modifications, such as installing a lift kit. If you want to make sure you have enough funds for investing in the right truck mods you'll need for off-roading, then you usually have to make some sacrifices when purchasing the car itself. However, that does not mean you have to sacrifice quality just to fit within the constraints of a budget. There are many options for top-of-the-line trucks or off-road vehicles that won't hurt your wallet, including some great deals that are among the best in the entire auto industry. 

    Save money with the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman
    A recent study from looked at the best value vehicles currently on the market. The organization selected the winners based on a combination of savings off of the manufacturer's suggested retail price, according to average retail costs. The 2013 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman landed the No. 2 spot on the list and was the highest-ranking truck. 

    The Ram 1500 Outdoorsman truck earned recognition thanks to its affordable pricing, even on new cars - in fact, the truck currently offers drivers an average savings of $4,330 off the suggested retail price of $37,370. That is a total savings of 11.6 percent of the truck's value, and that chunk of change could be used to purchase the right Dodge lift kit or truck suspension instead. 

    "If you're especially picky about the color or particular configuration of your new car, this would be a great time to go kick the tires and still get some of the best deals of the year on 2013 model-year vehicles," said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar. 

    EcoDiesel engine
    Want another way to save money with the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman - or any other Ram truck? Then you may want to consider investing in a model with the EcoDiesel engine. This motor should provide enough power to fuel off-road driving adventures while also saving owners money in the long run, as diesel engines are more efficient than their traditional counterparts and burn less fuel over extended periods of time. 

    The EcoDiesel engine is slated to be available on future Outdoorsman models, as well as the Ram Tradesman, SLT, Big Horn, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn. 

  • Retail price of used trucks increasing

    Drivers who are considering purchasing a used truck for their future off-roading adventures may want to think again. The cost of used trucks and SUVs remains high, making it more difficult for you to find great-value deals. It may also mean it's harder to get an off-road driving career started, leaving you with the task of making truck mods to other vehicles. 

    Prices up midway through 2013
    According to recent data from the NADA Used Car Guide, pre-owned trucks were in high demand through the first half of 2013. In fact, the average cost of used full-size trucks and SUVs is bucking seasonal trends and remains at a high level. Through the first sixth months of the year, there was a 7.7 percent increase in the average price of used trucks, compared to drops of 1 to 2 percent for almost every other category. 

    "June closed out the first half of the year with average auction prices of used vehicles up to 8 years in age nearly equal to last year's level," said Jonathan Banks, an executive analyst with the NADA Used Car Guide. "Given the stability observed in used-vehicle prices year-to-date, we expect to close out the year with prices essentially unchanged from the historically high average of $15,664 in 2012." 

    These higher prices mean it may be more difficult to try and find good value on used car lots. It could also mean that drivers looking for an off-roading vehicle or an automobile to make truck mods on may have to get a bit creative. 

    How to combat cost
    While the cost of used trucks and SUVs may be high, that doesn't mean drivers are left out in the cold when it comes to improving their off-road vehicles. Making truck modifications is easy with the help of the right tools, and drivers can generally find affordable methods for installing a lift kit that could help get an existing vehicle ready for mudding. 

    If all else fails, drivers may just have to wait until this cycle of high used-car prices ends and there is a drop in average costs. However, there's no telling how long that might take. 

    "Seasonal effects aside, consumers should expect trade-in prices to remain high through at least the end of the year, especially for full-size pickups and SUVs because of lower supply and increased demand from a recovery in construction," Banks said. 

  • The difference between body and suspension lift kits

    Entering the world of truck mods can be overwhelming for anyone not well versed in off-roading. They may have the desire to start embracing this hobby, but there are a few things these individuals have to learn before they can dive into the world of off-roading. 

    The basic function of a lift kit is to raise the body or suspension of a truck to allow for more clearance between the ground and the underside of an off-road vehicle. Lift kits are also helpful when you want to put larger tires onto a machine. Before you can get started on making improvements to your vehicle, however, you'll have to decide which kind of lift kit is right for your needs and then find one that fits. 

    Body lift kits
    A body lift is classified by additional space between the cab and bed of a truck. While the body itself is higher, the suspension and wheels remain at the original height. You end up with about one to three inches of space, allowing you to install larger tires without affecting the driving experience or handling. 

    One of the major advantages of a body lift kit is that is tends to be more affordable than its suspension counterpart. It also is relatively easier to install, so novices may find that it's more manageable as they continue to get acclimated to the world of off-roading. 

    On the other hand, body lifts leave a distinctive gap between the truck frame and the bed, which some motorists don't like, but there are gap guards that can get rid of the open space. It also doesn't increase the overall ground clearance, which limits the off-roading benefits you'll receive. There will also be added stress on the bolts of a vehicle - a fact that could spell trouble later on if you aren't careful. 

    Suspension lift kits
    Most of the truck modifications you'll be making will likely lend themselves well to the use of suspension lift kits. These kits do increase the ground clearance of a vehicle, and for that reason are frequently found on trucks and 4x4s headed for dirt trails. You can usually get between four and six inches of additional height with the help of a suspension lift kit, but in some cases, it can be as much as 18 inches. 

    Many off-roading enthusiasts prefer a suspension lift kit to a body lift kit because of the extra clearance it provides. It may be more expensive than a body lift kit, but some don't mind paying to have the added benefit of higher clearance.

    It does take a bit more effort to install a suspension lift kit onto a vehicle. It also drastically affects how a vehicle drives and handles, which could potentially make it more dangerous for novices. Experienced off-roading enthusiasts may be able to handle these challenges without a problem, but it is something beginners will have to think about. 

    Finding the right lift kit
    The right lift kit for your project will depend on the make, model and year of the car. You'll also need to consider the size of the tires you want to install on the vehicle, as this will impact the amount of clearance you need. At the very least, you'll have to look at the new tire diameter and width, as well as the rim offset. 

    Once these details are figured out, you can start shopping around for the right Jeep lift kit, Toyota lift kit or other tool that helps to make modifications to a vehicle. 

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