Rough Country News

  • Toyota, Jeep stand apart for residual value

    When shopping around for a new or used car, qualities like resale value are often in the back of a driver's mind. Everyone wants to get bang for their buck, but they also want to be in a good position should they decide to sell a vehicle and upgrade to a different model. Luckily for fans of off-road driving, even the most modified off-road vehicle can still boast a solid resale value, although certain brands have proved to be better than others.

    Kelley Blue Book recently released its list of the 2014 Best Resale Value Awards, and many of the recognized models and automakers are found in the world of off-roading. No matter what truck mods or alterations are made to these machines, they should retain a fair amount of value, especially if the upgrades improve the overall quality of the automobile. 

    "Most options and packages added to a vehicle do not necessarily increase its resale value," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book. "However, there are exceptions to the rule, such as a high-performance engine for a performance package ... Regional preferences can significantly impact the value of a vehicle as well. In the colder sections of the country, a two-wheel drive vehicle's resale value often will not be as high as a four-wheel or all-wheel drive of that same model."

    To determine the winners, Kelley Blue Book measured which vehicles retain the most of their purchase value over the following five-year period. 

    Toyota takes a win
    One of the biggest takeaways from the list was the excellent resale value of Toyota vehicles. In fact, the automaker was named the 2014 Best Resale Value: Brand, landing four automobiles in the top 10 list of individual models. It also had models top their respective categories in six of the 22 segments, which was tied with Lexus for the most of any brand. Over the course of five years, Toyota vehicles kept an average of 46.1 percent of their original sticker price, an increase of 2.1 percent from last year. 

    This was the third year in a row Toyota came out on top, largely thanks to its rugged models. Its four vehicles in the top 10 consisted of the FJ Cruiser, Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner, each of which can be used as a viable off-road vehicle or heavy-duty work machine. Additionally, the Toyota Sequoia took the title as the Full-Size SUV/Crossover with the best resale value, while the FJ Cruiser, Tundra and Tacoma had the highest value in their segments as well. 

    Jeep, Dodge stand out
    While Toyota may have taken the win for the top overall brand, the Jeep Wrangler landed on the list of the top 10 individual vehicles with the best resale value. The Jeep Wrangler was also named the top Compact SUV/Crossover for resale value. Not to be outdone, the Dodge Challenger also made an appearance in the top 10, and although it didn't win its segment, it is still a force to be reckoned with and should continue to appear on the list in the coming years.

    "Jeep continues to dominate in its segment and among the top 10 list, increasing its residual value 3.9 percentage points from just last year," said Eric Ibara, a director for Kelley Blue Book. "New to this year's list is the Dodge Challenger, which heavily contributes to Dodge's success for the 2014 model year, along with other strong vehicles from the brand."

    While the resale value of a vehicle will have a lot to do with the maintenance and care that it receives, knowing which brands are more likely to hold their value could be a major boon for all drivers. 

  • The basics of winches for off-road vehicles

    Anyone who pushes their vehicle to the limit will find themselves in a sticky situation at one time or another. These precarious scenarios may have some drivers scrambling for help, but having the right tools and equipment can make the entire obstacle a bit more manageable. 

    One of the tools that drivers should have is a winch. Winching is a relatively common practice within the world of off-roading, and those who are new to the sport or need a refresher should brush up on some of the basics of winches and their benefits. 

    What is a winch? 
    A winch is a device that is situated on the front bumper of an off-road vehicle. It occasionally may be placed in the rear to tow boats, ATVs or other objects. Instead of acting as a tow hook, however, it features a motorized unit that uses a spool of wire or rope and typically draws power from the battery of the vehicle. When the power to the winch is connected, the spool turns, allowing an object to be pulled in or out. 

    Off-roading uses
    The most prevalent use of a winch in off-road driving is for recovery purposes. If you get stuck while mudding or dune bashing, you'll want to have the proper equipment to help you out of the jam, and a winch is one of the easiest ways to do that. You can use it to connect to another vehicle or something else that is solid, and once the switch is activated, the spinning spool of wire or rope will pull the vehicle out of trouble. 

    Things to know
    The first thing you have to know about installing a winch on your off-road vehicle is the weight of the car, plus any truck mods or equipment attached. Winches do have weight limits, and you should be adding in some leeway to allow for the unexpected surprises that may make an automobile heavier, such as the sand or mud dragging it down. Look for a winch that is 1.5 times the weight of your car. 

    Line length is another feature to consider. Although a long wire may be the best to get you out of a variety of situations, it is important to keep in mind that these devices work best when fully extended. Because the length of your cable is the length you will always have to deal with, this factor could prevent or promote tangles, obstacles and other annoyances. 

    Kits and accessories 
    Choosing the right winch will depend on the type of vehicle you have, as well as the type of driving and towing you plan on doing. No matter what you purchase, you will likely have the opportunity to consider buying several different accessories to go with the winch. Extra ropes, power cables, covers and mounts may all have to purchased. While winch kits can provide you with many of the tools you'll need for installation, repeated use might result in having to invest in one of these replacement parts. 

    You should also be wearing gloves when working with a winch and its cable. Steel wires or rope can easily burn hands that are pulling on it, and gloves will help protect you from these avoidable injuries. Additionally, when you are pulling the cable from the winch to the other object, consider placing some sort of weight in the middle. A jacket or heavy blanket will do - you are simply aiming to add some kind of resistance in case you lose your grip and the wire snaps back.

  • New suspension requirements aim to make driving safer

    Avid fans of off-road driving are used to tinkering with a truck suspension to customize their vehicle. While taking steps like installing a lift kit can make off-roading more manageable, it might also impact the quality of steering. To ease the mind of many drivers and ensure safety, new rules have been enacted with an end goal of making the driving experience safer for everyone, regardless of where they are operating a vehicle. 

    The new rule
    Electronic Stability Control is designed to improve control over a vehicle. It kicks into effect when a motorist uses "extreme steering maneuvers," which normally occur when trying to get out of the way of an accident or obstacle, or when the automobile nears the limit of its traction. The new rule, also known as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 126, requires ESC to be installed on all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds. 

    "ESC systems use automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to assist the driver in maintaining control in critical driving situations," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. "NHTSA estimates ESC will reduce single-vehicle crashes of passenger cars by 34 percent and single-vehicle crashes of sport utility vehicles by 59 percent, with a much greater reduction of rollover crashes." 

    How it affects off-road driving
    Installing a suspension lift kit may impact the steering, but things within the off-roading industry are changing to allow for better safety practices. Many manufacturers of aftermarket parts are taking steps to test their suspension lifts to see how they affect ESC systems, if they do at all, FourWheeler.com reported. Not only do these brands want to improve their safety reputation, but they also want to avoid liability for any accidents along the way. Already, some of the biggest names in the off-road industry have made strides toward certifying suspension lift kits and other accessories. 

    Having ESC systems on a truck or Jeep could be a major benefit for drivers. Off-roading pushes a vehicle to its limits, and if car owners are partaking in activities like rock crawling or mudding, they will want to know that their control over a vehicle is at the highest possible level. The peace of mind provided by this new technology - not to mention the enhanced steering capabilities - may make it a must-have for off-roaders. 

  • Take a look at 3 of Ford's off-road concepts

    Few companies are as dedicated to off-roading as Ford. While many are familiar with some of the automaker's vehicles, the American brand recently introduced a few new concepts that fans of off-road driving should get acquainted with. Many of the models were unveiled at the 2013 SEMA Show, and although they may have been overshadowed by machines from other manufacturers, these creations from Ford are certainly worthy of a second glance. 

    2014 Ford F-150 Adventure Edition
    The 2014 Ford F-150 Adventure Edition was designed by The Sportsman Channel, and like the name implies, it is the perfect machine for adventurous drivers. Fans of the channel sent in ideas about what type of features they would want in a vehicle for any type of hunting, camping, fishing or hiking trip, and that insight was used to make decisions about the final product. 

    Some of the truck mods include custom bumpers, fender flares and 20-inch all-terrain wheels matched with specialty tires. A Ford lift kit has also been installed to add an additional 6 inches to the height, which makes it easier to traverse terrain, and the 11,000-pound winch allows for easy towing as well. It even has a locked storage compartment and an enhanced audio system to make your time in the great outdoors even more enjoyable. 

    While this vehicle can certainly be used for standing off-roading - everything from rock crawling to mudding will likely be easier with all of the upgrades - it is also ideal for any other type of recreation. 

    Ford F-350 by EcoTrek
    Based off a Ford F-350, this EcoTrek creation stands out - and for more than just its brightly colored exterior. In addition to its red-orange paint job, this custom vehicle boasts a number of truck modifications that could prove to make a difference when off-roading. To start with, it's had a 50-gallon fuel tank installed, to go along with a 75-gallon tank on the truck bed. When both compartments are filled with fuel, the truck's range extends to approximately 1,800 miles. Beyond that, it can also be fueled up with diesel, biodiesel or algae-based biodiesel - or any combination of the three, according to Gizmag. 

    Even driving thousands of miles can be done in comfort. EcoTrek has outfitted the vehicle with a roof shelter, stoves and a small refrigerator, and it even has solar panels installed on the roof for an additional power source. As if that wasn't enough, the interior of the Ford is complete with sleeping bags, backpacks and storage lockers. All you need to do is store some food in the truck and you're good to go halfway across the country without having to stop. 

    The entire vehicle sits on 20-inch wheels that are capable of being covered with street or off-road tires. If you do decide to take the machine off-roading, you can reap the rewards of the 9-inch lift kit. 

    Ford F-150 Backwoods Sportsman by Skyjacker Suspensions
    Keeping in the theme of extreme off-road vehicles, the brand also created the Skyjacker Suspension Backwoods Sportsman Ford F-150. While on the outside this machine closely resembles the standard F-150, it does feature a 6-inch suspension lift kit, an upgraded lockable storage area and special Fab Fours bumpers. The suspension is stabilized by the large BFGoodrich tires, which help the truck find some solid ground even when crossing unstable terrain. 

    These are just three of the many concept vehicles Ford brought to the 2013 SEMA Show. Although they may simply have been custom creations that won't enter the main market anytime soon, these trucks could provide some inspiration for drivers who are ready to take their vehicles to the extreme.

  • Chevrolet introduces trucks inspired by famous figures

    The SEMA Show may have come to a close, but the buzz surrounding many of the models introduced at the show is just beginning. Chevrolet made sure to place itself at the center of this hype with the unveiling of many new concepts and creations. Several of the trucks getting the most attention were inspired by a few famous faces, ranging from the world of race car driving to country music.

    Although these vehicles may not be the most impressive models featured at the auto showcase, they will likely be among the biggest takeaways thanks to the high-profile individuals attached to the project. Here are two that fit the bill and could even be a worthy off-road vehicle with a few upgrades: 

    2014 Chevrolet Silverado Brad Paisley Signature Concept 
    One of the first creations revealed by Chevrolet was the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado Brad Paisley Signature Concept. The country singer worked with the automaker to customize a 2014 Silverado in his own style. According to Automobile magazine, Paisley is a big fan of elegant vehicles and wanted to draw inspiration from models like the 2014 Corvette and Camaro to capture the right attitude of the custom truck. 

    To mimic the high-class design of those sports cars, Paisley's pickup truck features body-colored bumpers and a bright electric blue paint job. It's even got his initials etched into the side. Some drivers may be disappointed that the Paisley and his designers passed over installing a lift kit in favor of 22-inch tires and a louvered hood. In fact, the truck's ride height has actually been dropped by 2 inches, likely in an effort to separate it from other Chevrolet offerings, the news source reported. 

    The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado Brad Paisley Signature Concept may not be built for off-roading, but it does offer a few nice touches that will certainly turn heads on the road. With a sporty look and stylish details that are sure to enhance the performance of the truck, this customized concept is not like other models Chevy brought to SEMA. 

    2014 Chevrolet Silverado Tony Stewart Concept
    Race car driver Tony Stewart also served as the inspiration for a pickup truck, dubbed the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado Tony Stewart Concept. While Stewart may not typically get to design his own vehicles, he does have a familiarity with cars that undoubtedly allowed him to create a top-notch custom truck. He wasn't the only professional driver to join efforts with Chevrolet - Jeff Gordon also worked with the company to create a Chevrolet SS for the show - but his 2014 Chevrolet Silverado Tony Stewart Concept was certainly one of the coolest models. 

    The base of the concept is a Chevy Silverado Z71, which comes equipped with many amenities for off-road driving. Chevrolet has added 22-inch wheels, 4-inch chrome assist steps and a tonneau cover to provide extra protection. It's outfitted with "Dark Tarnished Silver" paint and some gray and red graphics. Stewart's signature has been engraved on the headrests for a final touch in the interior, and the headlights and taillights have been tinted to better mesh with Stewart's nickname: "Smoke." 

    Concept vehicles from Chevrolet did not disappoint, and these trucks were just two of many customized models from the American automaker to make an appearance at the 2013 SEMA Show. Although these pickup trucks probably won't be sent into mass production anytime soon, getting a glimpse of the truck modifications on these vehicles could be enough to give drivers ideas for the future or, at the very least, an idea of what some famous faces are looking for in a heavy-duty automobile. 

  • Chrysler recalls more than 1 million pickups

    Ram trucks have received a number of accolades in recent years, but that hasn't stopped the vehicles from developing some problems that may impact many off-road drivers. Chrysler, Ram's parent company, recently announced that it is recalling more than 1.2 million Ram trucks due to front-end issues. Those problems may lead to issues with the steering of a vehicle, which in turn could place drivers and passengers in danger - regardless of whether they are on the highway or in the wilderness. 

    At the center of the recall are the tie-rods used as part of the steering system. Chrysler believes that these tie-rods could be out of alignment due to an installation error, and if they are not properly attached to the vehicle, drivers may encounter steering failures. According to the automaker, six crashes have occurred as a result of the problem. 

    Although the recall affects a large number of vehicles, Chrysler predicts that less than half of the trucks will actually need some kind of repair. Approximately 453,000 trucks may need attention. 

    "Chrysler Group is casting the net wider than necessary to identify those vehicles that require repair," the automaker said in a release. "Any found to have suspect tie-rod assemblies will have those components replaced at no cost to customers." 

    The affected vehicles that are a part of the three separate recalls include Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 models produced from 2003 to 2012. Additionally, Ram 4500 and Ram 5500 from 2008 to 2012 are also being recalled, as well as 2008 Ram 1500 4x4 Mega Cabs. 

    Anyone with a Ram from these years who uses the truck as an off-road vehicle should be sure to get it checked out. Not only is steering an essential part of driving any car, but because a Dodge lift kit may impact the steering anyway, the problem may be enhanced in a modified truck. 

  • Ram introduces 3 new concept trucks

    It was an eventful few days at the 2013 SEMA Show, with many automakers unveiling their unique creations and concepts to the public. Ram was one of the many manufacturers to show off a few unique designs, and three of them should definitely have stood out to avid off-road drivers. Although these were just three of many vehicles the American brand brought with it to Las Vegas, they were definitely among the models that made an impact. 

    Ram Sun Chaser
    The Ram Sun Chaser isn't quite like any other off-road vehicle from the brand. It's more suited for the beach than the wilderness, but those drivers who spend a lot of time off-roading in unique destinations or traveling across large expanses of sand might not mind. At the heart of the Sun Chaser is a two-inch Dodge lift kit, and adjustable seats that can be arranged to fit any type of recreational gear. 

    Surfers can carry their equipment with the help of a specially designed roof rack that has been renamed the "surf rack." With two adjustable support rails able to change size to accommodate any size surfboard, plus additional hooks on the side of the rails that can hold as many as four boards, there is plenty of room to store all of the gear a surfer needs. 

    Painted with a coat of "Vibrance Orange Blast," the Sun Chaser also features two-tone accents in "Brilliant Black." Drivers can keep the exterior looking pristine with a bed-side storage update that keeps a water tank and hose on hand at all times. This system allows an owner to wash off salt water, sand or seaweed without an external hook up, and there is even a portable shower head that can be transformed into a shower kit for on-the-go use.

    Ram Dually Case Work Truck
    Those who want their vehicles to be a bit more heavy-duty can turn their attention to the Dually Case Work Truck. Built from a Ram 3500 regular cab truck with a diesel engine, this pickup is painted a "Bulldozer Orange" and includes a number of truck mods that make it well-suited for construction work. 

    Protection of the vehicle is of the utmost importance, especially on a potentially hazardous construction site, which is why rear splash guards and power running boards have already been installed. There are also numerous alterations that can make it more apt for a construction zone. A split pullout bedliner can transform into a workbench in minutes, while utility rails and cargo hoops provide the space and tools needed to carry extra equipment. 

    The truck was created as part of an effort with Case, an agricultural and construction equipment provider that is part of Fiat Industrial, which also shares a parent company with Ram. According to PickupTrucks.com, the prevalence of Case on this specific truck was done to underscore Ram's strong ties and history with the construction industry and emphasize its capabilities within this sphere. 

    Ram ProMaster
    Rounding out the collection of modified Ram trucks is the ProMaster. This truck was designed to act as the perfect balance between being an off-road vehicle and a race-support vehicle. It is capable of pulling heavy loads and has a hitch receiver and trailer-tow wiring harness attached. Intense splash guards and increased cargo space mean that you can transport any equipment and not have to worry about the potential for damage. Toolboxes, spare tires and bins come together to create a "rolling garage" that would be suitable for any driver. 

    A few racing-inspired design elements complete the ProMaster. Accents in Mopar Blue complement the leather interior, which also boasts Wi-Fi and a power inverter. 

  • Falling gas prices open up opportunities for pickup trucks

    The sale of pickup trucks has been up and down over the course of the past few years. Troubling economic times and sky-high gas prices caused many to stay away from larger vehicles, but as more people regain their disposable income they are turning back to full-size trucks. 

    According to AAA, the average price for gasoline during the first week of November was $3.25 per gallon. That is the lowest average since December 2012 and several cents cheaper than it was one week ago, continuing the trend of decreasing costs of fuel. That has encouraged many drivers to begin looking at a pickup truck when searching for their next vehicle. 

    In fact, four of the major manufacturers - Ford, Chevy, Ram and GMC - have seen double-digit growth in the pickup segment in the past year, PickupTrucks.com reported. With lower fuel prices expected to continue throughout 2014 and potentially even beyond, the time is right for many to make the leap to a pickup. 

    "It is almost a perfect storm right now for truck sales to be strong," Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds.com told The Detroit Free Press. "And there is pent-up demand in that market as well." 

    Although fuel economy is still an important factor for many drivers, trucks have made major strides in this category and no longer lag significantly behind other options. 

    While falling gas prices may encourage many to buy pickups, it also is good news for those who have long been fans of off-roading. More disposable income means many will have the freedom to make truck modifications or go on off-road driving adventures. Installing a lift kit, adding armor or upgrading other systems could all be wise investments of time and money that can further enhance a pickup. 

  • Inside the new Jeep Cherokee lineup

    The off-roading tradition of the Jeep Cherokee is truly unique. Although designs have changed its look and capabilities over the years, it remains one of the most beloved off-road vehicles available. The latest alterations made to the line of automobiles shouldn't change much about this reputation, but they are certainly worth a second look.

    Blending old and new
    When news about the Cherokee's return to the market was initially made, many off-roading enthusiasts were pleased. After all, the iconic brand hadn't been given a makeover in more than a decade, and a resurrection of the brand meant that a lot of attention was going to be paid to the model. To capitalize on this spotlight, Jeep designers wanted to give the new Cherokee a fitting new style. 

    "We wanted a design that has throwbacks to Jeep, but looks forward to the future," Mike Manley, head of the Jeep division of Chrysler Group, told USA Today.

    Some characteristics of the new style include a seven-slot grille, lifted lights and trapezoidal wheel arches, which were inspired by some of the first military Jeeps, according to MLive. 

    Although the style may look different than past Jeeps, it still offers plenty of the abilities that the brand is known for. Additionally, the vehicle includes several "Easter eggs," such as the small outline of a military Jeep from the 1940s fitted on the windshield. Details such as these have only been around since 2010, but many drivers have come to expect them and view the touches as something that shows Jeep is connected to its roots. 

    Not without controversy
    There has been some criticism directed at the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Many have said that its new exterior design, which places an emphasis on sleek curves and front-end styling, strays too far from the original Jeep.

    "[We had] to pay homage to Jeep's heritage and visually convey that this is an all-new Jeep, while still communicating legendary best-in-class capability," said Mark Allen, Jeep's chief designer, as quoted by Car and Driver magazine. "... We couldn't make it like a box."

    The Trailhawk 
    While the pros and cons of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee line have been voiced, much of the success of each vehicle will depend on the individual drivers. Fans of off-road driving, for example, will particularly like the 2014 Trailhawk. It's smaller than some of its predecessors, but as one of the four versions of the Jeep Cherokee - along with Sport, Latitude and Limited - it offers plenty of off-road appeal. 

    2014 Cherokee models were tested in the American West, so drivers can be sure that the vehicles are ready to handle whatever gets thrown their way. That capability is only furthered by the four-wheel drive system, which Jeep claims to be one of its best. 

    "To be true to its roots, we needed to make sure it is the best four-wheel drive in its class by far," Jim Morrison, director of Jeep product marketing, told MLive. "I think we're being fair and loyal to the customers, but more important [is the fact that] we're being fair to the nameplate, because if we'd done nothing with that nameplate it would just die over time."

    A Jeep lift kit has been installed to raise the vehicle by 1 inch, adding some additional ground clearance and room for tires. It also comes with three tow hooks: two in the front and one in the rear. Each of those is capable of handling loads of up to 8,250 pounds, according to Car and Driver magazine. Add in wheel flares, skid plates and a few other Jeep modifications, and you have an off-road vehicle that is primed for rock crawling or other forms of recreational driving. 

  • 2015 Chevy Colorado to debut at LA Auto Show

    The headlines within the auto industry have been dominated by concept trucks and other news from the 2013 SEMA Auto Show, but there is another showcase right around the corner that promises to bring its own big announcements. As the Los Angeles Auto Show gets into full swing Nov. 20, Chevrolet will be unveiling its 2015 Colorado pickup truck. 

    Although most fans of Chevy pickup trucks turn to the Silverado for their off-road driving needs, this new Colorado could make a big splash in the market. The brand claims that the model's slightly smaller size should make it a more capable and versatile automobile than other available trucks. It will also offer state-of-the-art technology that should please drivers as well, PickupTrucks.com reported. 

    According to World Car Fans, Chevy promises that this truck will "reinvent what a mid-sized pickup should be." The automaker even went as far as to say that the vehicle would be the "most capable, most versatile and technologically advanced mid-sized truck in the market." 

    There is still about a year before the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado goes into production, but that won't stop the brand from raising its profile ahead of time. As one of the first of the all-new, redesigned mid-sized trucks to come around in a long time, the Colorado is likely going to be an important vehicle, and it will attract its fair share of attention at the L.A. Auto Show. 

    While the final product hasn't been shown to the public as of yet, some details have been released. The news source reported that the Colorado could come equipped with a 2.5- or 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. Those rumors also have the truck capable of achieving 150 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque with the smaller motor, and 179 horsepower and 347 foot-pounds of torque with the larger engine, respectively. 

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