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Rough Country News

  • Understanding how an off-road vehicle stays valuable

    No matter what kind of car you drive - or where you drive it - you want to be able to get the most out of the vehicle. This may refer to its capabilities or its value, but either way, motorists will have to be on the lookout for ways to keep the value high. 

    Depreciation dips in November
    Many drivers take note of rates of depreciation, as they can have an impact on the worth of their own vehicles as well as the price of used cars. One resource that can help track this statistic is the NADA Used Car Guide, which provides insight into the automotive industry.

    A recent report from this publication focused on the average rate of depreciation, and found that it skewed to drivers' favor in November. Throughout the month, the average rate of used vehicle depreciation slowed to 1.5 percent, down from 3.5 percent in October. That is good news for drivers who want to make sure their vehicle retains value, and if the economy holds steady, this rate may as well. 

    "November's decline in the rate of depreciation can be credit to favorable market conditions, lower unemployment, moderating gas prices and advantageous credit conditions, including the end of the federal government shutdown in October" said Jonathan Banks, an automotive analyst with the NADA Used Car Guide. 

    Finding the best value
    There's no surefire way of determining which vehicles are going to maintain high value for an extended period of time. While qualities like fuel economy and safety features will certainly tip the scales in one way or the other, other elements or important factors are not as easy to predict. Ultimately, searching for a vehicle with a solid reputation and reliable qualities, and keeping up with regular maintenance throughout ownership, is the most effective way of making sure it retains value. 

    Even the truck modifications you make affect depreciation. For example, if you customize an automobile with updates like new shocks or armor, you could be increasing its value. Not only are these alternations relatively common for off-road drivers, making them desirable, but they also work to protect the vehicle and improve the driving experience. Both of these aspects are extremely important, and they may cause some drivers to think twice about their plans. 

    Trucks and SUVs that stand out
    Kelley Blue Book recently analyzed some of the most popular trucks and SUVs on the market to see which vehicles retained the most value. The Jeep Wrangler was ranked as the best crossover or compact SUV, as it kept about 58 percent of its initial value five years after purchasing. Similar options like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 are also solid choices, but they don't offer the same off-roading tradition as the Wrangler. 

    When it came to midsize and large SUVs, Toyota took the crown. The Toyota FJ Cruiser and Toyota Sequoia were rated as the top models in these segments, respectively. According to KBB, the Sequoia retained just under half of its original value after five years, while the FJ Cruiser kept an impressive 70 percent of its value. 

    The brand didn't stop there. Both the Toyota Tacoma and the Toyota Tundra earned praise among pickup trucks. These editions retained approximately 62 percent and 52 percent of their original value, respectively. Of course, it should be noted that the Tacoma's only competition was the Nissan Frontier, as many manufacturers have bowed out from the midsize pickup truck segment in recent years. The Tundra, on the other hand, competed against many top-selling trucks and still managed to hold onto the No. 1 spot, even ranking sixth overall among all vehicle values in 2014. 

  • How to keep up with vehicle maintenance this winter

    Frequent off-roading in the spring, summer and fall likely results in you spending lots of time in the garage, taking care of any damage done to your vehicle and working to prevent any breakdowns from happening in the future. Despite the fact that you'll probably be doing less recreational driving in the winter, this is the ideal season to make some changes and upgrades to your vehicle. 

    Here are three things you should keep in mind as you consider what to do with your off-road vehicle this winter: 

    Upgrade headlights
    The colder months are a prime time to make truck mods regarding the automobile's lighting. After all, with inclement weather on the forecast and the hours of daylight shrinking, increasing visibility becomes incredibly important. That is where details like LED light bars or round halogen lights can come into play. By increasing the wattage of your automobile's lights, you can more accurately see what lies in front of you, which makes driving safer for you and others on the road. 

    Clean and wax the surface
    If you're searching for some way to keep busy during the winter, take the time to clean and wax your vehicle. The main reason this is a good idea is because it can have several benefits for the winter. A solid waxing coat can deflect snow and ice, making it easier for you to clear off a vehicle. It also adds a layer of protection from road salt, which can be incredibly harmful to the exterior of a car if left untouched. 

    Similarly, cleaning your windows can make life easier for you in the long run. When you wash the glass sections of your car, use a water repellent. This can prevent water - whether in rain or snow form - from sticking to the surface and freezing over. You'll thank yourself when you don't have to waste precious time scraping ice off a vehicle. 

    Last-minute enhancements
    Your winter modifications may consist of alterations that will be immediately helpful. For example, off-road or winter tires may make a big difference on the snow and ice that coats many roads. With improved grip, you'll be able to take advantage of safer practices while also making your vehicle better suited for the off-road driving you'll be doing throughout the season. Other possibilities include armor, which can act as a shield from road obstacles that are hidden by snow. 

    Keep safety a priority
    No matter what types of truck modifications you make this winter, remember to prioritize safety above all else. When working in a garage, be sure the ventilation system is working properly. If you are exposing yourself to fumes or have to run the car periodically, you could be putting your health at risk. Always open a window or the garage door when completing these tasks - no matter what the weather outside is - to ensure you are getting your fill of fresh air. 

    The safe practices should continue long after an enhancement has been made or installed. Any change should be tested in a safe area before being used on the busy, snowy roads or in the wilderness. For example, if you use the season to make changes to a truck suspension, test it out in a quiet area before heading out to more populated spaces. Breaking down in a secluded area or when surrounded by wintry conditions is the worst-case scenario, so taking steps to make sure your modifications are working properly is incredibly important. 

  • Deal struck to save off-road sites in California

    Fans of off-road driving can occasionally struggle to find a space suitable for their needs. Not only do they need expansive stretches of open land with a few challenging obstacles mixed in, but they also must make sure that the desired space is available for driving. 

    An unfortunate clash
    Recently, groups located around Johnson Valley, Calif., which is northeast of Los Angeles, clashed over the use of land. The land, which encompasses approximately 188,000 acres, has long been used for off-road driving by champions of the sport. Known for boasting a blend of trails ideal for rock crawling with large expanses of desert, this region regularly welcomes tens of thousands of off-road vehicles each year. 

    Unfortunately, the space is also utilized by the U.S. Marine Corps for live training exercises. The threat of live ammunition is a serious one, and it was impossible for the two groups to coexist - and neither was willing to budge. The Corps was also planning on expanding its control over the land, reserving more than 100,000 acres for training. After several years of conflict, the two groups finally reached a compromise, and it's one that should keep everyone involved satisfied and safe. 

    "We feel this course of action is the best balance for military and recreational use of the land," Marine spokeswoman Capt. Maureen Krebs told The Desert Sun. "Safety is a high priority for the Marine Corps and we want to ensure that both Marines and recreational users stay safe throughout the year." 

    The solution
    Luckily, the groups were able to come to an agreement on the issue. The Marine Corps will reserve more than 56,000 acres for "shared use," and it will be open for off-roading for 10 months out of the year. In total, off-roaders will be able to use about 100,000 acres of land, including this shared area, and they will still be able to host the annual events that take place in Johnson Valley. 

    "After years in which off-roaders have lived in fear of the closure of Johnson Valley, this permanently ends the threat of base expansion into off-road areas," said Rep. Paul Cook, of Yucca Valley, as quoted by The Press-Enterprise. 

    Part of the reason the Marine Corps relented was because of the enormous support for the off-roading community. Organizations such as the Specialty Equipment Market Association, along with several state government officials in California, worked together to show the importance of off-roading to the area. 

    "SEMA joined with a number of other organizations representing the off-road community to support this provision that addresses the nation's military training needs while providing access for recreational activities," said Chris Kersting, president of SEMA. "We consider this ground-breaking provision a positive result for both the OHV community and the United States Marine Corps." 

    About Johnson Valley
    Now that Johnson Valley is able to welcome off-roaders for years to come, many interested parties may want to consider trekking to this adventurous locale. With dry lake beds, massive rock trails and other challenging obstacles, there is more than enough room for avid drivers to head out into the wild and try their best to conquer the terrain. 

    One of the biggest events to take place in Johnson Valley each year is King of the Hammers. Attracting thousands of people each year, this event focuses on rock crawling across trails with huge boulders and other imposing obstacles. The new compromise shouldn't affect this celebration, and the 2014 edition of King of the Hammers should go on as planned Jan. 31 through Feb. 8. 

  • Examining 2 new Ford F-150 editions

    Many drivers consider the Ford F-150 to be a worthy off-road vehicle in its own right. As the best-selling pickup truck on the market, the model frequently earns rave reviews for its style, capabilities and extra features. Despite the overwhelming approval for the F-Series, there are still plenty of ways the automaker can improve to cater to the needs of drivers everywhere, and one of the most interesting is by producing special editions. 

    Here is a closer look at two of the latest editions released by Ford: 

    The Ford F-150 Limited
    The first thing drivers will likely notice about the Ford F-150 Limited is its attractive exterior. Built from a 2014 F-150, the Limited offers many of the appealing features of the traditional F-Series, but with a twist. It's not as large as fellow Ford models like the Tremor or Raptor, but it is certainly large enough to handle off-road driving. Powered by an EcoBoost Turbocharged engine and capable of reaching 365 horsepower, the truck is ready to handle all kinds of driving. You can even select from a number of modes, including two- and four-wheel drive, which allows you to use the vehicle for both street driving and off-roading. 

    Another element of note is the interior, which is available with a new Marina Blue specialty leather. The rest of the cabin is loaded with all of the comfortable features drivers have come to expect from Ford, including easy-to-read displays, a revere sensing system and a rear-view camera. With additional amenities like trailer sway control, roll stability control and more, you can also be sure you're always putting safety first, even when engaging in intense off-road driving practices. 

    Impressive towing capabilities are also a noteworthy feature on this Ford F-150 Limited. Chrome accents, high-intensity headlights, 22-inch all-season tires and tons of cargo space round out the notable extras on this model. 

    The Ford King Ranch
    A western-trim package highlights the Ford F-150 King Ranch. Although it's similar in many ways to the standard Ford F-150, it also boasts a few add-ons that stand out from the crowd. Named after its place of production, the King Ranch comes equipped with a distinct outlaw style. The interior is loaded with Chaparral leather on the seats and steering wheel, which provides a Western flair. All of the seats can be heated and cooled individually, and the spacious layout leaves plenty of room for storage.

    There's even an optional off-roading package, and drivers can easily pair those extras with features like a tailgate step, stowable bed extender, box side steps, skid plates, front tow hooks and multiple bed liners. Additionally ,the display and gauge layout has been revamped to be more intuitive, all while including touches of leather and metal throughout. This combination of extreme function and high-quality comfort places the King Ranch near the top of Ford's models, and it is certainly not one that drivers will want to skip over as they search for a worthy investment. 

    Embracing luxury
    While some drivers may be hesitant about looking at a vehicle that is labeled "luxury," these Fords may be a good place to start. They provide exceptional interiors and attractive exteriors, all the while offering a truck suspension that can be easily used in off-road locations. Both models have an impressive list of amenities that can be adapted for off-road use, but even those who primarily use the trucks for street driving will be thrilled with the comfortable interiors and helpful features that round out these pickups. 

  • New details emerge about the Range Rover Sport's record drive

    In the beginning of November, Land Rover made a splash in the world of off-roading following the announcement that one of its models would undergo an intense challenge. The 2014 Range Rover Sport, one of the newest introductions from the manufacturer, was poised to conquer Arabia's Empty Quarter. 

    Land Rover's video
    To mark the occasion, the automaker released a video chronicling some of the most impressive feats from the Range Rover Sport. Documenting the entirety of the trip across the Empty Quarter, the film focuses on the incredibly demanding landscape crossed by the vehicle. 

    The nearly six-minute video details the vast size of the Empty Quarter, as well as the dangerous terrain. Massive sand dunes dotted much of the horizon, and sand was everywhere. Although there were a few relatively flat stretches of land, the drivers had to look out for rocks, remains and other obstacles that could have potentially damaged the off-road vehicle. All of this was done at high speeds - an average of more than 51 mph - leaving little reaction time in the event things went south. 

    Security and safety reasons meant that no journalists were present during the high-speed drive. However, fans of off-roading can get a glimpse of the intense terrain conquered quite easily thanks to this video. 

    Dominate off-road driving
    Temperatures regularly surpassed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with some of the hottest days inching closer to 120 degrees. There were also no reliable water sources and hostile terrain all around, which meant both the vehicle and the driver had to be prepared for anything. Professional off-road racer Moi Torrallardona did his part, and the Range Rover Sport picked up the rest. 

    One of the most dangerous parts was going down sand dunes. These steep hills provided very little traction, especially with the loose sand making up the entire ground, but the Range Rover Sport was able to hold its own. The team also encountered a hiccup at the three-fourths mark of the journey, as they ran into a sand storm and had to slow progress. The giant drifts of sand buried the tires of the vehicle for a short time, forcing Torrallardona and his partner to dig the Range Rover out of the trap. 

    Even with these obstacles, the Range Rover Sport was able to successfully complete the journey - and all with limited enhancements. 

  • Michelin recalls more than 1 million tires

    Michelin has long been one of the most trusted names in tires, but a recent recall may have some drivers double-checking their wheels. The tire manufacturer enacted a safety recall Dec. 13, announcing that nearly 1.2 million tires in North America may be subject to the concerns. 

    According to Michelin, some tires have shown rapid tread or air loss. Although only a small percentage of the products are experiencing damage, the manufacturer is offering to replace the gear at no charge at retail locations around the U.S. 

    While mostly concentrated in the U.S., the recall does also extend to Mexico and Canada. The affected tires are primarily found on light trucks, full-sized vans and some large pickup trucks, according to Michelin. All were produced between January 2010 and June 2012, and drivers concerned about their tires should check the date range on each to determine if they need to be checked. 

    No injuries have been reported as a result of the faulty tires, which were sold as both the original tires on some vehicles and as replacements. 

    This recall may be just a bump in the road for some, but it does shine a light on a possibility that many drivers may want to consider: special off-road driving tires. Tire damage may arise for a number of reasons, including incorrect use, and that can be remedied by investing in a heavy-duty option that is primed for all kinds of conditions. The right tires can improve efficiency while also expanding off-roading capabilities.

    Drivers who want to make sure their vehicle is ready to handle whatever dune bashing or rock crawling is on the schedule should consider upgrading tires for improved safety and rugged abilities. Being open to new tires also allows owners to add alterations such as a lift kit, which further improves the function of an automobile. 

  • More drivers looking to all-wheel drive

    If there's one feature almost all fans of off-road driving can agree is worthwhile, it's four- or all-wheel drive. While these features are quite different, they both ultimately offer motorists greater control over their vehicles, allowing everyone to take advantage of improved safety and intense capabilities. 

    All-wheel drive, in particular, has risen in popularity in recent years. According to The Detroit News, almost one-third of all vehicles sold in the first nine months of 2013 had all-wheel drive. That is a 5 percent increase over the same time period five years ago, and doesn't include the significant number of drivers investing in vehicles with four-wheel drive instead. 

    "It brings this complete bundle of safety, driving performance and capability," Jeremy Acevedo, the supervisor of pricing and industry analysis for "It's a really big add for consumers." 

    Although off-roading enthusiasts will likely be sticking to their traditional four-wheel drive, knowing what is going on in the rest of the auto industry is important. Many SUVs and crossovers are beginning to offer this feature, including models like the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, and it could soon spread to other popular models. In fact, Jeep is planning to offer a crossover in the near future with this amenity, while all Land Rovers sold in the U.S. also include four- or all-wheel drive, the news source reported. 

    Of course, one key consideration for many will be how Jeep or truck mods will work with these capabilities. It's a well-known fact that installing a lift kit can make steering more difficult, but dealing with tire upgrades or other changes in addition may have an impact on the car's performance. However, with a few precautions and add-ons, drivers can make sure they are retaining the quality of their automobile while also making it a prime off-road vehicle. 

  • Jeep hybrids are on the horizon

    For years, drivers of all kinds have appreciated the power and capabilities that a Jeep can bring. The classic SUV has long been a favorite for everything from off-roading to family travel, thanks in large part to its excellent blend of safety, fuel economy and ability. While tradition has helped propel this vehicle to the forefront of the off-road driving industry, a few changes on the horizon may make the vehicle a bit more eco- and user-friendly. 

    Jeeps are getting more eco-friendly
    According to Drive, the introduction of a hybrid Jeep is inevitable - at least according to some of the brand's officials. Although Jeep has already added an EcoDiesel option, the inclusion of a hybrid is still in the distant future. 

    "We are absolutely looking at different things in that field, and we are very active behind the scenes in the development of these systems and how it fits into our profile," Steve Bartoli, one of Chrysler's planning managers, told the news source. 

    The move would do more than provide drivers with improved fuel economy and efficiency. It would also offer additional instant torque, which could come in handy in off-road locations. However, there is a long way to go before this is a reality, largely because Jeep is committed to its recreational use. The brand does not want to make any major changes without exploring all possible results and ensuring that the move will not hinder off-road driving. 

    Benefits of a hybrid
    Hybrids can offer a variety of advantages to drivers, chief among them improved fuel economy. Because they operate with both an electric motor and a gas-powered motor, drivers can use less gas at low speeds and reduce vehicle emissions. The inclusion of both types of engines also allows drivers to take advantage of the efficiency of a gas motor at higher speeds. 

    "These are very complex and expensive systems, not just for us to develop, but also for the consumers," Bartoli told Drive. "Not only that, but range is a very important issue, and we need to make sure how we can fit that into our systems, because you don't want to be stuck in a creek in an electric Jeep that is going nowhere. It is a big problem in that regard, so we need to understand it a bit more." 

  • How to handle a winter driving accident

    Much has been made of the best practices for winter driving. The right maintenance and safe driving techniques can go a long way toward avoiding collisions or breakdowns, but sometimes accidents are unavoidable. 

    Document the situation
    Whenever you find yourself embroiled in an accident, one of the first things you should do is thoroughly examine the situation. Get out of the vehicle and check out the damage - as long as you are not in a dangerous or heavily trafficked area. If you are still in the middle of a road or trail, pull over to the side if possible and stay in the vehicle.

    However, if you are in a setting clear of traffic and with good visibility, get out and take a look at your automobile. Be sure to take pictures of the scene as well as any damage to your vehicle or equipment. These may be important to show later on, especially if you're off-roading and need to move the car to a safer area before it can be checked by a professional. 

    To properly document an accident, you'll need to have a functioning cellphone, camera or similar mobile device. Having a car charger can go a long way toward ensuring you are able to snap photos or even take video of the damage. It may also be a good idea to brush up on your insurance coverage before getting behind the wheel. This can give you a better idea of what to look at when you're on the scene, as well as what steps to take. 

    Don't jump to conclusions 
    Accidents, breakdowns and collisions can be intensely stressful. While it may be easy to lose control, it is important to try to keep a level head and remain calm. Any accident that involves another driver needs to be handled carefully, and it does no good to discuss blame or point fingers before the arrival of the police or insurance inspector. Be sure to exchange contact information and basic insurance info with the owner of the other vehicle, and alert all of the proper authorities as soon as possible. Getting a police report filed, if necessary, will need to be done quickly, and the sooner you can file an insurance claim the better. 

    Take preventative measures
    As previously stated, staying on top of vehicle maintenance and driving safely are two of the best ways to steer clear of problems on the roads or trails. However, there won't always be a clear-cut solution that can help you avoid problems, and if that's the case, you'll want to have the right gear that will keep a situation manageable. 

    To start, you should make sure you have the right equipment for a temporary fix of a vehicle. This includes a spare tire, tool kit, recovery straps and any other items you may find necessary for your given type of off-road driving. It is also a good idea to have some kind of reflective vest or tape, as this can make you and your automobile more visible in any space, alerting other drivers to your location. 

    Because it is the winter season, you may also want to ensure you have some accessories that are equipped to handle the cold or possible inclement weather. Gravel or salt is a good idea if you're concerned about traction, especially in situations where you may be rock crawling or handling steep inclines. Here's a tip: If you're crunched for time or money, consider pet litter instead. It has the same consistency as road gravel and can typically be found at more convenient locations. 

  • GMC Canyon to debut at Detroit Auto Show

    When news about the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado first came out, many fans of pickup trucks were excited but hesitant. After all, General Motors hadn't created a midsize pickup for several years, and the market for the style of vehicle has dwindled significantly in the past decade. However, some early reviews seem to point to the fact that the Colorado will be a success, and GM hopes it can carry that momentum through to the new 2015 GMC Canyon as well. 

    A big unveiling
    Recently, GM revealed that the 2015 GMC Canyon will be debuting at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, which is taking place this upcoming January. This will be just one of the dozens of unveilings that are expected to take place during the auto show. While none of the other scheduled debuts will have much of an impact on the off-roading community, the Canyon should make a splash. 

    What to expect
    So what can drivers expect from the 2015 GMC Canyon? Unfortunately, not much is known about the truck, but some early sightings of the test models were reported earlier in the year. Those confirmed that the truck would be available with both regular and crew cab options, and its exterior design will largely consist of straight edges with rounded corners and a rounded roof, Automobile magazine reported. A teaser image released by the brand simply showed the front grille of the truck, and there is nothing especially noteworthy there. 

    The Canyon is also expected to be similar in style to the 2014 GMC Sierra in many respects. Qualities like excellent payload capacity and trailering are likely to be included, which will allow the truck to immediately compete with models like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, according to Auto Evolution. 

    Off-roading capabilities
    Auto Evolution reported that the GMC Canyon will have several major differences from the 2015 Colorado. However, those contrasts may be particularly appealing to fans of off-roading, as the Canyon is poised to be more in the line with the needs of off-road driving. 

    "GMC will be more about conquest," GM president Mark Ruess said, as quoted by the news source. "The Chevy will be about value." 

    However, drivers who are interested in the GMC Canyon may have to be flexible, as it could take time for model-specific gear, such as lift kits, to hit the market. 

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