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  • Ram Truck to update garages for 3 lucky fans

    The Ram Truck brand is offering a special opportunity for three lucky fans. Drivers of Ram vehicles are used to making their own truck modifications to create an off-road vehicle that perfectly meets their needs, but soon the automaker could be helping these drivers customize their garages to provide the perfect "Ram Cave." 

    Willing participants can apply to have their garages redone by the automaker. All they have to do is submit a photograph of their current workspace and explain why they deserve to have it redone and outfitted with everything they need to have a haven for their truck. In total, the renovation will be worth approximately $25,000.

    Home improvement guru Bob Vila, do-it-yourself advisor Timothy Dahl and Brett and Kate McKay of The Art of Manliness will serve as the judges. Fans don't even need to own a Ram to enter - they simply need to appreciate the heavy-duty, off-roading culture that goes along with the brand. 

    "Ram Truck is proud to partner with Bob Vila, Brett McKay and Timothy Dahl to offer our fans a unique opportunity to bring the style and design of Ram Trucks to their home garages," said Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Ram. "The Ram Caves contest was built to engage fans and to celebrate the spaces where owners come together to spend time with their vehicles." 

    Fans can enter the contest though Oct. 9, and the submissions will be open to public voting during that time. After that, the judging panel will select the three grand prize winners based on personal scores, public votes and cause for renovation. Barring any issues, construction on the Ram Caves will go underway by mid-November. 

  • Most automobiles overstate fuel economy, study finds

    Mileage is an important factor of an automobile that practically all drivers keep in mind. Because it affects everything from the performance of a vehicle to its sticker price, fuel efficiency is not something you should glance over, and that makes tracking the mileage incredibly significant. The emphasis on fuel economy may be great, but all drivers need to be wary of putting all their faith in an automobile's report. 

    Mileage meters are not always accurate
    With all eyes on the fuel efficiency, many drivers look to onboard meters for help tracking mileage. However, these digital readouts are not as effective as most motorists would like them to be. Instead of providing drivers with a glimpse of a vehicle's actual efficiency, many of these computerized displays overstate the true number of miles per gallon an automobile is achieving, The Detroit News reported. 

    "I don't think anyone is trying to hoodwink anybody," Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing for automotive research firm Edmunds.com, told the news source. "But these meters have never been 100 percent accurate. They are more for instantaneous feedback to let you know how you're doing." 

    Edmunds.com regularly tests models to find the average miles per gallon rating and compare it to what the manufacturer claims the average is. Testing in 2010 found that some of the worst offenders had mpg readouts that inflated fuel efficiency by as much as 19 percent, the news source reported. On average, cars boasted a fuel economy that was about 5 percent better than the actual results. Although this may not seem like much, it can make a big difference in fuel costs or maintenance issues throughout the life of a vehicle. 

    PickupTrucks.com noted a similar trend during their 2013 Light-Duty Challenge. Results of this review showed five of the six trucks examined reported better fuel economy than what the real-life testing found.  

    Watch the dashboard counter
    Some drivers may trust their vehicle enough to ignore the dashboard meter, but this would be a mistake. For one, the mileage provides important insight into when vehicle maintenance is needed. It also allows owners to keep track of how much money they are spending on fuel, check if all systems are working properly and project what they need for longer, off-road driving trips. 

    Drivers of some newer trucks may have less to worry about. According to Edmunds, early testing on the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, which recently topped Consumer Reports' list of the best pickup trucks, features a mileage tracker that is only off estimates by about 2 percent. That is below average - good news for drivers on the hunt for a future off-road vehicle. 

    What you can do
    While tracking your own mileage may be manageable, it is more difficult to adjust to the counters on a used model. That makes selecting a model with good ratings and a strong history of impressive fuel efficiency of paramount importance. Researching the average fuel economy of a certain model truck before purchase enables you to avoid any surprises, but writing down the readings of a tripmeter may be the most important of all. You should also be manually logging the number of miles you get out of a certain amount of fuel.

    "The only way to get a real accurate reading is to keep log books," Edmunds told The Detroit News. "You need to record your trip odometer and the fuel amount that you used."

    Still, even registering the numbers yourself is not a fool-proof way to estimate fuel economy. Variables such as where you are driving, what the weather is like and whether or not you are off-roading can impact the bottom line. 

  • More emphasis placed on pet safety

    We've touched on some of the best ways to keep pets safe when you take them off-roading, but some new developments have once again brought the issue into the spotlight. Although many motorists want to share off-road driving experiences with their pets, it is best to take all necessary measures to ensure that you and your passengers - human or otherwise - remain safe. 

    About the dangers
    The risks involved with letting a pet roam free within a vehicle go beyond what may happen in the event of a crash. In particular, animals getting harmed while riding in the truck bed is a widespread issue that needs to be addressed. 

    "It is estimated that 100,000 dogs die each year riding in truck beds," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president of the American Humane Association. "Unfortunately, we have all seen dogs riding in the bed of a pickup truck, which is an extremely dangerous way to transport your pet." 

    Another potential cause of problems comes from letting dogs ride with their head out the window. While they certainly enjoy doing it, this act can be incredibly dangerous, especially if you are off-roading. Just one missed obstacle or piece of debris can lead to a major issue, and it is better to err on the side of caution. Let your dog ride in the backseat, roll up the passenger window to keep its head inside or take other measures to ensure it's not placing itself in unnecessary danger. 

    Ford gets on board
    A new campaign from Ford aims to shed some light on this issues. The automaker teamed up with the American Humane Association to launch an awareness effort reminding drivers of the need to keep their dogs safe. While it goes beyond getting them out of the truck bed, that is certainly a good place to begin, and it is not difficult to get started on these safety initiatives. 

    "As America's truck leader, this is an issue that's close to the heart for us," said Doug Scott, marketing manager for the Ford Truck Group. "We're not asking that people go to onerous lengths while driving with pets, but even the smallest steps can make a difference in keeping all passengers in our vehicles safe." 

    Following some of the safety tips previously offered, as well as remaining cognizant of where your pet is and what it is doing when in a vehicle, can lead to safer experiences and better results for everyone on the roads. 

  • Consumer Reports names top pickup trucks

    There is a lot of competition within the auto industry. With countless brands fighting for supremacy across a wide range of segments, choosing the top vehicles in any given situation can be difficult. That didn't stop Consumer Reports from releasing ratings that selected the best pickup truck on the market. 

    A surprise winner
    After all of the scores were in, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 emerged as Consumer Reports' big winner. With a final total of 81 points out of 100, the truck earned a rating of "excellent,"  narrowly edging out its closest competitor. 

    The Silverado staked its claim for the title by standing out in categories like towing and cargo capacity. In the testing, the truck managed to pull up to a trailer weighing in at 11,200 pounds. It also has a tailgate that is easily lowered and raised, as well as corner bumper steps that make it easy to climb in and out of the truck bed, no matter how high a Chevy lift kit has made the vehicle. Improved handling and solid fuel economy also contributed to the pickup's win. 

    Not everything was top-notch with the Silverado. The truck got lower marks for the downshift, which could feel underpowered. Shifting up, however, can be done smoothly and quickly, allowing drivers to make the most of their time on the road. 

    The runner up
    Just behind the Silverado 1500 was the Ram 1500, which came in at 78 points out of 100. The close scores indicate how similar these two vehicles are and emphasize that both are strong options any prospective pickup owner should consider. 

    Despite all of the benefits of the Chevrolet Silverado, the publication noted that the Ram 1500 may be the better option for everyday drivers. Judges believed the Ram vehicle had a more comfortable interior, an intuitive control layout and smoother driving than its competitors, which created a nice environment for owners who do a lot of traditional driving. It was also very close behind the Chevrolet vehicle when it comes to mileage. 

    The Ram 1500 was praised for its power. With an eight-speed transmission, quick acceleration and powerful four-wheel drive, the truck was capable of accomplishing great things both on- and off-highway. 

    "The reality is you can't go wrong with either one," said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports. "Both are capable trucks that get decent gas mileage and are as quiet inside as a good luxury car." 

    Both of the trucks outpaced models like the Ford F-150 XLT, which has two separate editions placing third and fourth on the list. 

    Can they go off-roading? 
    All of the top trucks are well suited to become an off-road vehicle. The impressive towing and cargo limits makes all of the automobiles solid choices for drivers who will be lugging tools, camping equipment and other gear into the wilderness.

    Consumer Reports even conducted an off-road driving test to see just how these vehicles performed. The Silverado's lower ground clearance and wheel spin inhibited its performance on a rock-crawling course, but it was still able to complete the route. The Ram 1500 did not have those same problems when it came to off-road driving, and was instead praised for its consistent delivery. 

    Ram has a strong history of producing reliable vehicles, which makes it an attractive option for drivers who want to know what they're getting in a truck. Until the Silverado builds up its repertoire and demonstrates that it is a dependable vehicle, the publication gives Ram the edge. 

  • NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Canada for the first time

    Canadian truck lovers are sure to be overjoyed that NASCAR is coming over the border. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will make its Canadian debut at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park just north of Bowmanville, Ontario, this Labor Day weekend. Things kick off Friday, Aug. 30, when drivers will take to the track for a few practice runs that will run through Saturday, but the real fun begins Sunday, when the official races get underway.

    About the track
    Off-road driving enthusiasts won't get to see a lot of dirt flying this weekend, as the Canadian track is paved. The 2.5 mile loop features 10 turns, and it is meant for high-speed action, providing audiences with plenty of thrills. In fact, while the other motorsports tracks at this raceway have been in use, this particular track has not been used since 1961, which only adds to the excitement of the weekend.

    Plenty of action
    For event guests, there are more highlights than seeing drivers racing around the road course, as many competitors' are getting behind the wheels of souped-up trucks that have undergone many truck modifications to make them superior vehicles. Ron Hornaday, a four-time series champion with 11 top-10 finishes and three wins this season, will be the only driver in the competition who has won a road course event, according to Fox News. Saturday will see a few more practice runs before qualifying rounds get underway to determine who will start in which position for Sunday's races.

    Competition heats up
    Speedway Media reports four drivers are looking to turn heads. James Buescher, Jeb Burton, Chad Hackenbract and Ty Dillon will all be competing for the title in the Clarington 200, which will be held just before the Camping World Truck race. Dillon will be sitting in the No. 4 for Fitzpatrick Motorsports, Buescher will drive the No. 24 Dodge for 22 Racing, and Hackenbract will take the helm of No. 27 for Jacomb Motorsports. Burton will be making his debut in the Canadian Tire Series in the No. 7 State Water Heaters Dodge. The news source indicates that each racer is getting behind the wheel of a fierce truck that will be sure to make for an interesting race.

  • Pickup trucks become America's best-selling vehicles

    There's no denying that recent models of pickup trucks have something for every one. With improved handling and driving performance as well as plenty of extra amenities that allow the vehicles to be used in almost any scenario, the automobiles are quickly becoming a favorite of drivers across the U.S. That is especially apparent in the sales figures of pickup trucks.

    USA Today reported sales of pickups could reach more than 2 million in 2013, which would be the first time figures surpassed that mark since 2007, before the recession. If this estimate holds true, pickup trucks would be the best-selling type of vehicle in the U.S. 

    It's safe to say trucks will hit the 2 million mark this year, as the segment saw more than 1.9 million vehicles sold in 2012, and all predictions forecast improved sales throughout 2013. In August alone, the average price of pickup trucks increased compared to the same time last year, as did the number of units sold. Additionally, the individual best-selling models for major brands like Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are all pickup trucks, according to data from Kelley Blue Book. 

    Not only are there more pickup trucks heading to garages across the U.S., but the owners of these vehicles are using them for a wider range of tasks. Construction work and heavy-duty hauling are still completed with the automobiles, in addition to everyday driving by families. In fact, these trucks are frequently being used as the go-to family vehicle, and this everyday use is leading the way for increased sales. 

    The influx of new features also makes pickups more attractive for fans of off-road driving. As amenities like towing capacity, ground clearance and agility are enhanced, many drivers are looking to new models to satisfy their need for off-roading. 

  • Sales of pickup trucks increase in August

    Good news kept coming for the auto industry throughout the month of August. As the final full month of summer came to a close, improving sales - largely thanks to high demand for pickup trucks - gave many automakers a boost. 

    Sales up throughout the industry
    Some of the most prominent and popular manufacturers in the world saw an uptick in sales in August. Brands like Toyota, GM, Ford, Chrysler and Nissan all had sales increases in the double digits, with Toyota leading the way with a 23 percent growth. A large contributor to this was sales of the Toyota Tacoma pickup, which lead all trucks with a 25 percent increase. 

    "The auto industry continues to be a bright spot in the economic recovery," said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president. "August capped a great summer for new vehicle sales, and it was Toyota's best month in more than five years." 

    Focus on the future
    Part of the reason the demand for pickup trucks continues to grow is the rebounding state of the construction industry. More home building requires more trucks to haul materials and workers, and the improving housing sector sets off a ripple effect that benefits many brands within the world of automobiles. 

    "It seems like their past challenges are overcome," Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book, told Fox Business. "What I think is most important is the market is stronger. GM, Ford and Chrysler didn't have as strong a lineup the last time Toyota saw these kinds of sales numbers. For those brands to be selling as well as they are, and for Toyota to be selling as well as it is, the results show that no one brand is dominating this recovery." 

    Ready to go off-roading
    While the fact that no one automaker is standing out among the rest is good news for the industry as a whole, it does pose some challenges for prospective buyers. The multitude of options makes it difficult to choose one off-road vehicle that can satisfy a driver's needs on and off the pavement. 

    As a result, many individuals who have their hearts set on off-road driving are making their own truck modifications to create their dream vehicle. These truck mods may put a slight dent in your wallet, but there are many ways to efficiently upgrade an automobile with the accessories you want and need.

  • What are truck buyers looking for in their purchases?

    When it comes to buying an off-road vehicle, there are a lot of elements drivers have to consider. A recent study from the NADA Used Car Guide aimed to sort through these qualities, and it asked truck shoppers to rank the factors that played a role in their decision-making process. 

    Truck buyers had similar desires to those who drive standard cars, albeit some of the qualities were more important than others. On the whole, survey respondents said that the factors with the greatest impact on their decision were quality and dependability, brand, fuel economy, vehicle design, and versatility and utility. Also highly ranked were the towing and payload capacity of a truck, its safety features and the engine power. 

    Fuel economy, which was the top concern for buyers in last year's survey, did not carry the same weight in 2013. That is partly because gas prices have fallen slightly, and it may also be a sign of some of the diesel engines and alternative fuel vehicles rumored to be joining the world of trucks. 

    "While higher gasoline prices and stiffer federal regulations have raised the profile of fuel economy over the past few years, the survey results clearly indicate that car and light-truck shoppers are looking for a trouble-free ownership experience above all else," said Jonathan Banks, an analyst for the NADA Used Car Guide.

    If buyers were considering a new car instead of a used vehicle, they had some more qualities to take into consideration. For example, about 58 percent claimed that the ownership cost, which includes everything from insurance fees to ongoing maintenance, plays a significant role in making the final decision. Many fans of off-roading also had to consider expenses related to making truck modifications, such as the cost of purchasing and installing a lift kit on newer models. 

  • GMC launches app to make towing easier

    Driving an older car may suit your budget, and the alterations you've made to a vehicle over time could fit your needs, but that doesn't mean it isn't without its challenges. One of the many obstacles that some motorists may face could be as basic as not having enough information about the limits of a vehicle. 

    Anyone who has been using the same off-road vehicle for years, or who has purchased a pre-owned truck, may not have the owner's manual or other essential information about the automobile. To help drivers get a firm grasp on their vehicle's capabilities, GMC recently launched an app called the GMC Trailering Guide that provides information regarding towing. The application is designed to give drivers tidbits about proper towing procedures, what safety equipment is needed and more, PickupTrucks.com reports. 

    Other advantageous aspects of the new app include videos on the best techniques for making modifications, insight into how the vehicle technology works and basic information on the power and performance drivers can expect from their GMC automobiles. 

    This program could be useful to anyone from first-time truck owners to off-roading experts. With comprehensive information regarding things like hitches and step-by-step instructions, it will be easier for beginners to get involved with the world of off-road driving. For those who are not familiar with some of the key ideas and terms that go along with towing or heavy-duty work, the application can be tremendously helpful. 

    The GMC Trailering Guide is currently available for free download on any iOS-based device. Whether someone has misplaced an owner's manual or simply doesn't know where to begin as they gain an interest in off-roading, this program can provide some support and information necessary for safe and successful truck mods. 

  • Cars.com selects top trucks and SUVs for tailgating

    The arrival of fall brings plenty of good news for people across the U.S., but for many, it means only one thing: football. Even so, the cooler autumn weather is also excellent for off-roading, meaning that many drivers need to find ways to blend the two pastimes. That's easy to do with the help of some popular automobiles, as they boast a number of features that are great for off-road driving, tailgating and everything in between.

    "With football season comes the return of fans to parking lots across the nation to partake in tailgating festivities," said Patrick Olsen, the editor-in-chief of Cars.com. "The ultimate tailgate requires the perfect tailgating car, so we took a look at a variety of new cars to determine which ones have factory-installed features to take the drama out of the pre-game party." 

    Ram 1500 named the best 
    Cars.com selected the Ram 1500 as the top vehicle for tailgating, adding yet another accolade to the long list of awards the truck has already racked up. Not only is the Ram tough enough to handle itself on and off the gridiron, but it comes with a host of extras that can enhance the tailgating experience. One new feature allows drivers to lower the truck to parking height to easily access the truck bed - and all of the grilling gear you've stored there. Even if you've already installed a Dodge lift kit, this capability can help to make it more manageable to reach all of your equipment. 

    The truck bed also boasts a few extras that should make it easier to handle anything from tailgating to off-roading. Motorists can choose to purchase a RamBox package that includes weatherproof storage containers that fit snugly into the back of a truck. All together, these boxes can hold up to 280 cans of your beverage of choice - plus ice. Several tie-down points allow owners to securely place grills, tables or any other equipment in the bed. More technology-based features, such as Uconnect Wi-Fi, allow users to tap into a private network - which is great for things like checking in on other games or getting directions to your parking spot. 

    Each of these features goes a long way toward making tailgating a smoother and more enjoyable experience. However, they can also be used to make off-roading safer and easier. The impressive cargo space is ideal for storing camping equipment, tools and spare tires. 

    Other top vehicles
    The Ram 1500 wasn't the only vehicle to earn praise for its tailgating abilities. Cars.com also recognized automobiles like the Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Acadia and Honda Ridgeline for their large cargo spaces, comfortable passenger seating, excellent stereo sound systems and plenty of safety features. Not every vehicle is as keenly catered to tailgating as the Ram 1500, but these options are ideal for motorists who need to blend practical use, off-roading and other recreational activities into one automobile. 

    Enhance your own ride
    Even if you drive a different model vehicle, you can add a few truck or Jeep modifications to make it well suited for everything from off-road driving to tailgating. For example, installing towing hooks may come in handy if you're looking to bring a trailer to a tailgate, and it can also be used as you head out for off-roading experiences. This kind of all-purpose use makes it a worthy option for any driver looking for ways to enhance a vehicle. 

    Drivers should also be sure to check on their emergency kits to guarantee they have everything they need to stay safe, whether they're in the wilderness or a stadium parking lot. Things like a first aid kit, basic tool set, jumper cables and other emergency supplies are must-haves for any adventure. 

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