Understanding Axle Ratios

GMC Pickups 101: What’s the Differential?

What an axle ratio means and why picking the right one is important

DETROIT – Technologies like advanced turbodiesel V-8 engines or hydroformed steel frames have advanced the 2013 GMC Sierra to unprecedented levels of capability for fullsize pickups. In just the decade since the 2003 model debuted, maximum towing capacity for a Sierra HD has risen 43 percent, from 16,100 pounds to an industry-leading 23,100 pounds.

Getting that towing force from the engine to each rear wheel is the task of a set of gears located in the center of the truck’s rear axle known as the differential. The ratio of the sizes of those gears is represented by the diameter of the gear that drives the wheels in relation to the gear from the driveshaft. So, a 3.08:1 ratio indicates the drive gear has 3.08 times as many teeth as the gear on the driveshaft.

2013 GMC Sierra A cut-away of the 2013 GMC Sierra rear axle and differential.
A cut-away of the 2013 GMC Sierra HD shows the truck’s rear axle and differential.

Using different diameter gears within the differential affects both towing ability and fuel efficiency. Since pickup owners have varying needs and preferences, GMC addresses different requirements by offering various rear axle gear ratios.

“A numerically lower axle ratio keeps engine speeds lower for better fuel economy, while higher ratios generally yield higher towing capacities and quicker launches from a stop,” said Greg Martuch, energy and powertrain engineer for the GMC Sierra.

Four different ratios are available across the Sierra 1500 ½-ton pickup lineup: from 3.08:1 to 3.73:1. Available ratios vary by cab type, engine and drive type. Sierra HD, including ¾-ton and 1-ton models, uses rear axle ratios of 3.73:1 and 4.10:1.

Each ratio is decided after months and years of testing factors such as acceleration from a stop; performance on a grade; transmission behavior; fuel economy; towing, and thermal management. Keeping engine speeds down allows a vehicle’s cooling to be more effective.

How much of a difference does the choice of axle make? A 2013 Sierra 2500HD with a 6.0L V-8 and four-wheel drive can tow a maximum of 9,900 pounds with a 3.73:1 ratio or 14,400 pounds with a 4.10:1 ratio. Martuch estimates the fuel economy difference at highway speeds would be around 0.2-0.3 mpg between those two ratios, though reduced engine noise is also a benefit of maintaining lower engine speeds with the more-efficient ratio.

Martuch recommends customers consider their everyday needs. “The higher the combined weight of a truck and trailer, the harder the vehicle needs to work. If a customer is going to tow a small boat just a few times a year, a Sierra 1500 with a lower ratio would capably handle the occasional towing duty while delivering better efficiency the other 95 percent of the time. But for someone towing construction equipment every day, I would definitely recommend an HD pickup with a 4.10 axle and external engine and transmission oil coolers.”

GMC has manufactured trucks since 1902, and is one of the industry’s healthiest brands. Innovation and engineering excellence is built into all GMC vehicles and the brand is evolving to offer more fuel-efficient trucks and crossovers, including the Terrain small SUV and Acadia crossover. GMC is the only manufacturer to offer three full-size hybrid trucks with the Yukon, Yukon DenaliSUVs and the Sierra pickup. The Sierra Heavy Duty pickups are the most capable and powerful trucks in the market. Details on all GMC models are available at http://www.gmc.com/, on Twitter at @thisisgmc or at http://www.facebook.com/gmc.

Tow and Recovery Straps

Where to buy:

Many of our rural areas, the width and condition of the roads aren’t always ideal, especially with multiple contractors trying to figure out how to access and sometimes just get around each other to get work done. Since my work truck isn’t equipped with a winch, two of the best tools I have on board in case my pickup or some other contractor gets stuck, are a tow strap and a recovery strap. I’ve gotten my own pickup stuck where I misjudged the condition of a unfinished driveway, that was water logged and backed into a spot where I required a little pull, lucky for me I had my recovery strap and the general contractor gave me a hand and I was back on my way.

Tow straps and recovery (often referred to as “snatch”) straps may look similar, but they are designed for entirely different uses. Understanding the difference between the two will make them more effective in your arsenal of tools and prevent you from potential safety risks of using them incorrectly.

Bubba_Rope-30Tow Straps

Tow straps are designed to help you move another vehicle that isn’t necessarily stuck. They don’t stretch under load so the force on one end is evenly distributed to the load on the other end with the length of the strap staying relatively constant. These have their purpose, say someone gets their pickup with highway tires stuck in some light mud, they need a pull out but don’t need the focus that a kinetic recovery strap can provide. Cargo straps and tree-trunk protectors have similar characteristics to tow straps. Many tow straps have open hooks for fast hook ups and releases.

Recovery Straps

When you have a vehicle or equipment stuck, however, you need to have some give in your strap to absorb the forces that you’ll be applying when attempting to recover a stuck vehicle. Recovery straps and ropes are designed to have a rubber band-like stretch to them, which not only multiplies the force by storing the kinetic energy in the strap or rope itself, but also allows you to keep momentum making traction of the vehicle being used to recover less of an issue than with a tow strap where the slack must be out of the strap, before you can even start pulling.

Correctly rated for your application

With either type of strap, make sure they’re rated for the load that you’re going to be applying to them. Not only the straps but any component being used to pull could be the weak link so make sure all your gear is up to the task at hand. When you’re going to pull a stuck pickup you could be putting thousands of pounds of force into the straps, and using an unrated strap could be dangerous in terms of property damage but also to injury as well. The size (either diameter or width depend on if it’s a rope or strap) can affect the breaking strength of the rope or strap so pick the appropriate rated gear for your full size pickup.

Check your gear and where you’ll be attaching

Anytime you’re going to use the straps you need to make sure that there isn’t any damage to them, checking for cut, frays or damaged stitching – which could have occurred during use or even while in storage. Check all the shackles or other equipment you might be using making sure not to forget any of the components in use. Check you equipment again after use to ensure it’s still in good condition.

Always check to see that where you’re attaching to both vehicles is structurally sound and are actually the approved towing attachments and not loops that may only be used for holding the vehicle while being transported. If you’re going to use the receiver hitch on your pickup you’re better off using a D-Ring hitch adapter –instead of trying to rig something with the pin or something else where you don’t know the load rating. Never attach a recovery strap with a knot, either loop it around and back through its self or use a properly rated shackleRecoveryStraps

Bubba Rope says they build a tougher vehicle recovery product that was originally developed for military vehicles out of mud, sand or snow. Their kinetic energy recovery rope has the ability to stretch up to 30% to get your stuck vehicle moving. The Bubba Rope recovery rope is coated with Gator-ize, which is a polymer coating formulated to make the ropes water, UV and abrasive resistant. Built in the USA, the 7/8” x 30’ has a minimum breaking strength of 28,600 lbs is and comes with its own mesh duffle bag. Bubba Rope; bubbarope.com; 877-499-8494

The Super Yanker from Master Pull is made in the USA out of nylon double braid rope. It can stretch to 30% when used properly. When stretched the two braids are pulled tighter allowing the rope to absorb energy and lengthen without stretching the nylon fibers. This allows the rope to be used for years without damage. The stretch also provides shock absorption helping to reduce stress on vehicle components and passengers by removing the abrupt jerking action from using other types of straps or chains. Master Pull; masterpull.com; 360-714-1313

Rugged Ridge premium recovery straps are made for off-road, and are available in a variety of sizes to best fit your needs. There straps are heavy-duty, constructed with durable mildew proof nylon and abrasion resistant reinforced eyes. The nylon absorbs the shock of heavy pulls better than polyester and its elastic properties help aid in a quicker recovery. Their recovery straps are available in these sizes: 2-inch x 30 feet for 20,000 lbs. capacity, 3-inch x 30 feet = 30,000 lbs. capacity, 4-inch x 30 feet = 40,000 lbs. capacity. Rugged Ridge; ruggedridgeoffroad.com; 770-614-6101

The TeraFlex 30’ Tow Strap features a 20,000 lbs. rating with red ‘stress thread’ for a visible warning of overstress, and potential strap failure. It features double reinforced stitched loop ends and measures 30’ long x 2” wide. TeraFlex Tree Strap provies a winch anchor for various recovery and prevents damage to Mother Nature. The Tree Trap is 7’ long and 3” wide with double reinforced stitched loop ends and a 20,000 lbs. rating. TeraFlex; teraflex.biz; 801-288-2585

US Cargo Control’s recovery/tow straps can be used for both recovery and towing. They’re made of nylon wedding which is durable and strong, yet has the capacity to stretch to 7-10% at rated capacity. The straps feature loops which have CORDURA on the inside – an extremely durable fabric that resists wear and tear. This is designed to prolong the life of the strap by adding protection at its wear points. Some of theirs straps utilize a 2-ply design which doubles the strength of the strap while maintaining a narrow width. US Cargo Control; uscargocontrol.com; 319-213-9775

Recovery Straps from WARN are made of nylon webbing designed to absorb the shock of heavy pulls, while the elastic rebound energy aids in quick recovery. Their straps are constructed from high quality nylon web encasing a red warning marker to indicate damaged webbing. The end loops are reinforced with abrasion resist wear pads. Some of Warns resover straps include a nylon sliding sleeve to help prevent excessive wear caused by exposure to sharp objects. Warn wants to remind you to use a proper tree trunk protector strap or choker chain in winching operation – never use a recovery strap. WARN; warn.com; 800-910-1122

John Deere Gator RSX850i

John Deere Gator RSX850iAn all-around machine makes a lot of sense to many hunters not only because we may not have the budget for a purpose built vehicle for each ATV use, but also because any given hunting outing can benefit from a mix of vehicle capabilities. There are times when leaving camp in a truly slow and rough riding vehicle can be a serious grind with miles to cover before you reach your planned hunting spot. This is where a side-by-side designed to handle terrain at speed is really nice.

This is especially true over rough roads where the long travel suspension of a sport machine is much more comfortable compared to the more rigid working machines built with priority for heavy loads. For hunting, you also want room for cargo space and seats that you can get in and out of easily. The new John Deere Gator RSX850i offers this versatility. It’s the best new all-around side-by-side built. Aggressive styling, stance and suspension are evidence of an emphasis on sport characteristics. Quick acceleration and speeds exceeding 50mph – a John Deere first – deliver what the new look promises.

The Gator’s ability to handle rough terrain, jumps and corners without breaking, bucking and rolling makes it fun to drive. But it also works and hunts with plenty of cargo and towing capacity and standard doors that are easy to get in and out , which is an important design feature for hunters.

We’ve been testing the RSX850i on the trails and slick rock of Moab Utah, on the tall dunes of the Oregon coast and on the logging roads of our favorite elk country. For the best balance of work and play, the new Gator delivers.John Deere Gator RSX850i

MAKING HISTORY

John Deere has a long history of building utility vehicles beginning with the All Materials Transport (AMT) in 1987 and introducing their first Gator UV in 1992. These machines were great at getting the job but you’d never call them quick – until now.

“The Gator takes a huge evolutionary step forward with the launch of the new Gator RSX850i,” said David Gigandet, marketing manager, Gator utility vehicles. “Gators have always been known for durability, utility and safety. The RSX maintains all these qualities at its core, but the incredible power, exhilarating speed and precision handling are what set it apart in our portfolio. It’s the Gator fully evolved.”

To bring about these changes, the team at John Deere collaborated with design and engineering consultants for Formula One and NASCAR to create an all new vehicle. The Gator RSX is the direct result. There are three RSX models – the Gator RSX850i Sport, the RSX850i Trail and the Base RSX.

LW_12_04816The Sport model was designed for harsh desert and rocky, sandy terrains and includes sport seats, alloy wheels with Maxxis tires, PreRunner bumper, cargo box rails, sport steering wheel and FOX 2.0 Performance Series shocks.

The Trail Model was developed for hunting, fishing and back country trails. It features sport seats, alloy wheels with Maxxis tires, winch, front brush guard, 2 inches front receiver hitch with recovery loops, rear bumper and cargo box rails.

The Base RSX can be modified to meet the needs and tastes of the owner with over 70 available aftermarket attachments.

All models come equipped with an 839 cc, V-twin, liquid cooled, four-cycle, gasoline motorcycle engine that produces 62 hp and a top speed of 53 mph. The engine also delivers 0-30 mph acceleration in three seconds. Advanced electronic controls and a fuel-injection system supply excellent starting, idling, and throttle response during operation. Some outdoorsmen may wish to find a volume knob to turn down the exhaust note a bit.

In addition, the closed-loop system offers dependable performance at high altitude and hassle-free cold weather starting, which was tested to -20 degrees F. The RSX also incorporates a large 7.4 gallon fuel tank.

John Deere designers gave well-placed attention to the suspension system with a unique four-wheel independent setup for improved ride characteristics over tough terrain and precise handling through corners.

A dual, wide arch A-arm design delivers maximum front-wheel control, precise steering and 10.3 inches of ground clearance. The exclusive Multi-Link semi trailing arm independent rear suspension features 9 inches of wheel travel and moves wheels rearward in compression, lowering the impact of terrain and improving ride.

Exclusive aluminum body monotube Fox shocks are standard on the Base and Trail models. FOX 2.0 Performance Series shocks are standard on the RSX Sport model. These shocks feature full spring and compression adjustments, which can be made quickly and easily by the driver. The FOX 2.0 Performance Series shocks are also available for aftermarket upgrade on the Base and Trail models.

John Deere Gator RSX850iSTEP INSIDE

The RSX850i was designed for occupant comfort and safety. The door design includes a great latching mechanism, which makes it very fluid to get in and out of the machine for hunters that need to go through a series of gates to get in and out of the hunting area.

The bucket seats of the 850 or well bolstered and very comfortable. The seats are positioned at a natural ride height in relationship to the floor and the angles are excellent. The seats adjust forward and back but this operation is not very smooth.

The RSX features ISO certified Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) and multiple passenger-side grab handles for added safety.

An easy-to-read digital instrument panel displays a system diagnostic light, engine oil pressure light, park break light, seat belt indicator light, fuel level, and a 4WD indicator, among other vehicle gauges. Missing is a gear selection indicator.

The RSX offers good storage options. The glove box is spacious and easy to access. A sealed space under the hood holds tools and other gear. A high-density, 8.9 cubic feet, polyethylene composite cargo box has rounded inside corners to ensure material removal when tilted and has a 400 pound payload capacity.

The cargo box is also an easy-to-operate dump bed with a release handle on both sides of the vehicle. Bed rails also serve as anchor points for cargo straps.

LW_12_04789The John Deere green and yellow sport package has a very cool set of alloy wheels, which are powder coated in the traditional John Deere yellow but with the spokes shaved to create a nice, custom looking wheel.

Available in Realtree Hardwoods HD Camo, olive and black or traditional John Deere green and yellow, the John Deere Gator RSX850i Gator is fun to drive and works hard, which is a great combination for hunters.

2012 Chevrolet Avalanche

2012 Chevrolet Avalanche LT
2012 Chevrolet Avalanche LT

Chevrolet Avalanche: New for 2012

  • Exterior colors: Silver Ice Metallic and Blue Topaz Metallic replace Sheer Silver Metallic and Mocha Steel Metallic (late availability for Blue Topaz Metallic)
  • Hard-drive navigation radio with AM/FM/XM stereo and CD player, USB port, Time Shift Recording capability and available SiriusXM Weather Service
  • Leather-wrapped heated steering wheel is standard on LTZ
  • StabiliTrak stability control system now includes electronic trailer sway control and hill start assist
  • Heated seats are now standard on LT models

2012 Chevrolet Avalanche: Highlights

The Chevrolet Avalanche is one of the industry’s most flexible utility vehicles, combining the passenger-comfort attributes of a SUV with the cargo capability of a truck, thanks to the exclusive Midgate. It opens to extend the cargo-carrying capability from the cargo bed’s 5-foot-3-inch-long (1.6 m) length to 8 feet 2 inches (2.5 m). It is available in LS, LT and LTZ models, with 2WD and 4WD.

Double Duty ATVs

If your hunting partner calls you on the radio asking for a lift, it’s no problem with an Arctic Cat TRV 1000, one of several two-up ATVs designed for two riders.
If your hunting partner calls you on the radio asking for a lift, it’s no problem with an Arctic Cat TRV 1000, one of several two-up ATVs designed for two riders.

Some Two-Up Cautions
While it’s true that passenger safety is much improved on a manufacturer engineered two-up ATV, it’s not a cure-all. As the rider, you are responsible for the safety of your passenger. Providing thrills in the form of aggressive riding is not in the best interest of your passenger. Off-camber situations on the trail need to be carefully evaluated.
Additionally, steep uphill climbs that require technical maneuvers should be avoided with your passenger on board. If you’ve ever stalled an ATV on a steep climb, you know it’s one of those situations that can get a bit dicey. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I prefer a quad over a side-by-side on our mountain trails out west – in a dire emergency you can bail off, which is not a good option with a passenger. Let your passenger off of the machine before negotiating extreme terrain.

Aftermarket Seats
Aftermarket seats can address some of the safety concerns for ATV passengers, but they do not address wheel base length and generally don’t provide adequate passenger floor boards, seat backs, handgrips, and spring rates. Proximity to the driver remains a major concern.

Date Night
While some women like to ride their own machines, many others would love to go but don’t want to be responsible for the operation of an ATV on the trail. Honey, let’s buy a new two-up quad, just for the two of us. Work it, gentlemen, you can add the buck hauling rack to replace the seat later.

Side-by-Sides
Many of the same principles discussed here for quads also apply to side-by-sides in terms of number of passengers. Stay with the machine’s design. Seat belt count is a good indicator. Some UTVs have a bench seat with belts for three. The fast and fun Polaris Ranger RZR 4 is built with four bucket seats. Polaris also makes a Ranger Crew with seating for six.

Earthquake and Tsunami News from Honda [http://www.honda.com/newsandviews/article.aspx?id=5977-en]
“Everyone at Honda would like to express our sincere sympathy, condolences and wishes for an early recovery to the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in northwestern part of Japan on March 11, 2011. Honda associates in the U.S. and from around the world have joined together as one to support the recovery. To those of you who have joined us in supporting the people of Japan at this difficult time – thank you!

Solid footing, a high seat back and dedicated hand grips keep the passenger in place for a variety of terrain conditions.
Solid footing, a high seat back and dedicated hand grips keep the passenger in place for a variety of terrain conditions.

More than 80% of Honda products sold in the U.S. are produced in North America. And, the vast majority of the parts and materials we use to build products in America come from 600 suppliers based in North America. However, for global efficiency, a few critical parts continue to be supplied from Japan.
We remain focused on minimizing the impact of any reduction in production on our associates in Alabama, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Canada and Mexico who build Honda all terrain vehicles, power equipment and Honda and Acura automobiles for our customers. “
When I was a kid, my dirt bikes were obnoxiously loud and they didn’t like idling along at slow speeds, which is why I spent quite a bit of time hunting from the back of my dad’s motorcycles. It beat hiking, but the tougher the trail, the tougher the challenges for both rider and passenger.
ATVs have replaced motorcycles for most hunters, but they generally don’t come ready for two riders. In fact, as I travel throughout the land test riding ATVs, one of the most common safety violations I see is multiple riders on machines designed for one. It goes against manufacturer recommendations, it’s illegal in many jurisdictions and it’s just a bad idea.

Most two-up ATVs convert quickly to one rider mode with the removal of the passenger seat.
Most two-up ATVs convert quickly to one rider mode with the removal of the passenger seat.

Single-rider ATVs were not designed for passengers, which is why the manufacturers strongly warn against multiple rider use. This warning should give riders pause before taking on passengers. Engineers designed and tested the machines for one rider. It’s not just a matter of seating and foot position. Weight distribution, suspension components, brakes, tires and controls were all optimized for one rider.
To safely ride an ATV in off-road situations, you need the elbow room to quickly operate the handle bars in their full range of motion without passenger interference. You also need the entire seat so you can maneuver front to back and side to side to maintain vehicle stability in off-camber situations and to take corners at speed.
If you think that the manufacturers’ recommendations are not law, you might be wrong. States are adopting ATV passenger laws that site the manufacturers’ recommendations as part of the law. The West Virginia law, for example, says “No ATV may be operated in this state with more than one passenger unless more passengers are allowed under manufacturers’ recommendations,” which raises questions, but at least attempts to cite the owner’s manual.
We will probably see more ATV laws pointing to the manufacturers’ recommendations as various groups lobby for stricter regulations. When legislators address ATV manufacturers with safety concerns, the manufacturers point out that many rides ignore the safety warnings posted in the operating instructions and on warning stickers.
Aside from state and provincial ATV laws, there are additional governing bodies that regulate ATV use in areas where you may ride. The Mark Twain National Forest regulations include “No operator of an ATV is allowed to carry passengers unless the ATV was designed by the manufacturer to carry passengers.”
Rules for the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in West Virginia are clear where their state law is ambiguous: ”No passengers on any ATV unless the ATV is manufactured for the driver and a passenger.”

If your hunting plans call for two riders on one machine, make sure it’s a two-up specifically designed for a rider and passenger.
If your hunting plans call for two riders on one machine, make sure it’s a two-up specifically designed for a rider and passenger.

Even if you are not in violation of ATV laws or a riding area regulation, your legal problems will not be over if your passenger gets hurt when you are operating an ATV in a manner not in keeping with the manufacturers’ recommendations as stated on warning stickers and in the owner’s manual. You can bet that prosecutors in a manslaughter trial and representatives for the injured party in a civil case will site the manufacturer’s safety warnings in court.
If you are going to carry a passenger on your quad, you need one of the two-up machines built by the North American ATV manufacturers. Arctic Cat’s TRV, Can-Am’s Max, and Polaris’ Touring machines are all designed to safely carry a passenger.
While the passenger seats are easy to spot, there are several other design features that make these machines well suited for the task of passenger transport.
The primary design difference for the two-up models is a longer wheel base, which provides better front to back stability while making enough room to properly place passenger legs and feet without interfering with the driver’s operation of the machine.
The passenger seats themselves are elevated to give the passenger a better view. The seats include a back, which enhances passenger comfort, minimizes fatigue and greatly improves stability to keep the passenger on board during acceleration and hill climbs without need to hold onto the driver.
The hand grips are ergonomically designed to provide a variety of good hold points, which the passenger can choose as the machine’s angle changes on the terrain – all without interfering with the driver.
Passenger floor boards are also elevated to match the seat height. They provide steps for the passenger to climb on board. They have enough room for the passenger to change foot position for comfort and to help machine balance in off-camber situations. The floor boards are also a very important component to help keep the passenger on the machine because they can brace with firm footing as terrain changes the angle of the machine.
Of course, two-up ATVs can be operated without a passenger and most models quickly convert to single operator mode with increased cargo room. Arctic Cat has one model, the TRV 700 GT, with a 3-in-1 set up, which includes the passenger seat, an optional rear rack or an optional heavy duty cargo box. The longer wheel base of the two-up machines can be a big help in rough terrain.
If you have a family, you’ll buy a pickup with enough seats for the people you intend to transport. Do the same with your ATV.

The longer wheel base of a two-up ATV provides separation of space between rider and passenger, which means better control.
The longer wheel base of a two-up ATV provides separation of space between rider and passenger, which means better control.

SEMA 2010

 

Pickups from the Lucas Off-Road Racing Series demonstrate what you can do with slightly modified pickup at the SEMA Off-Road Proving Ground.
Pickups from the Lucas Off-Road Racing Series demonstrate what you can do with slightly modified pickup at the SEMA Off-Road Proving Ground.

Long before I reached my destination I could hear the scream of tire tread on dry pavement. I could see and smell the tire smoke as I entered the Convention Center. It wasn’t hard to find the exhibition of off-road race pickups putting on a show for the gathering crowd. After exhibiting some serious drifting skills, they attacked a jump that launched them, side by side, into the Las Vegas skyline. Welcome to the Show!
Every year I go to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. SEMA is the Specialty Equipment Market Association, a trade association that consists of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, publishing companies, auto restorers, street-rod builders, restylers, car clubs, race teams and more. What they have in common is a love for cars. What they do is make, buy, sell and use all kinds of specialty parts and accessories to make vehicles more attractive, more unique, more convenient, faster, safer, more fun and even like-new again.
The 2010 version of the SEMA Show kicked-off on Tuesday, November 2, drawing more than 100,000 attendees and 1,800 exhibitors.

Lucas Off-Road Racing Series pickups gave us an eye and an ear full with a lively demonstration in front of Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Lucas Off-Road Racing Series pickups gave us an eye and an ear full with a lively demonstration in front of Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

I cover the Show every year as an automotive journalist but this year I had the privilege of taking in the Show with the interests of you, our ProPickup readers, in mind. SEMA is the ideal place to research the latest in ideas, equipment and upgrades for the owners of pro pickups. There are so many things we can do to improve the functionality, comfort and looks of our pickups and often the best of these can be seen for the first time at the SEMA Show.
Upstairs in the South Hall of the Convention Center is a cavernous facility with hundreds of booths and thousands of products designed solely for the purpose of improving pickups. We checked out the latest in electronics, fuel tanks, tools, side steps, caps, tonneaus, cargo management, hitches, tires, exhaust systems, suspension, bumpers, grille guards, differentials, intake systems, chips, programmers, batteries and lights.
We hiked miles of rows of the latest in wheels and tires. We talked to the makers of power steps and nerf bars. We interviewed suspension engineers and chatted with the makers of receiver hitches and a variety of towing accessories.

We looked at GPS systems, backup cameras and in-cab office components.
We talked to manufacturers that want to make your pickup taller, run smoother, more powerful, weather proof and unique. Here are some of the latest ideas in equipment to upgrade your pro pickup from the SEMA Show in Las Vegas:

1-Cobra_iRadarCobra iRadar Detection System (MSRP: $169.95)
The Cobra iRadar system combines industry-leading radar/laser gun and speed/red light camera detection technology with the ease of use of iPhone to create a revolutionary detection system. The system consists of a state-of-the-art Cobra radar detector and the Cobra iRadar App for iPhone. The system uses Bluetooth® wireless technology to connect iPhone to the detector, and the iPhone Multi-Touch display to control the detector’s settings, which enables motorists to view, hear and log alerts for radar/laser guns as well as upcoming speed/red light cameras and other potential hazards.
“The Cobra iRadar Detection System is truly revolutionary,” said Sally Washlow, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Cobra Electronics. “It pairs Cobra’s industry-leading radar/laser detection technology with iPhone’s exceptional display and GPS capabilities to create a truly new standard for detection systems. What makes using Cobra’s iRadar system so remarkable is that it not only provides drivers an unprecedented amount of crucial information, it does so with clarity and convenience.”
The Cobra iRadar detector detects all radar and laser guns on the market and alerts motorists to upcoming threats from all directions with its 360o protection. Its large, crisp speaker provides clear and precise warnings while its escalating audio alerts let you know the distance to any threat. The Cobra iRadar detector unit also works as a standalone detector when not paired to the app, ensuring that it is in radar/laser gun detection mode at all times.
Drivers can control all the settings of the iRadar detector including which alert notifications it will provide and the audio volume at which they will be provided. In addition, the app allows drivers to view past alert locations on a map, mark user locations, and view their speed, compass heading and car battery voltage. Cobra Electronics Corporation; www.CobraiRadar.com; (773) 889-3087

DashCommandDashCommand (MSRP: $49.99)
DashCommand is a touch screen friendly software application that is designed to integrate OBD-II data monitoring and logging into the in-car computing experience. Use DashCommand’s capabilities to create and display stunning virtual dashboards with many styles including digital gauges, analog gauges, indicator lights, and more! The dashboards are designed to look great on any screen size.
DashCommand is available on two different platforms, Windows and the iPhone/iPod Touch.
The Windows version is available at www.palmerperformance.com. The iPhone/iPod version is available from the iTunes App Store.
DashCommand features include skid pad, race track, virtual dashboards, inclinometer, and OBD-II data logging & diagnostics (find out why your check-engine light is on). Using WiFi technology and a supported hardware interface, you will be able to connect your iPhone to your OBD-II compliant vehicle and monitor, log, and playback vehicle information and parameters.
DashCommand provides interactive capabilities that allow objects such as buttons to be added to dashboards which can then trigger switching of dashboard screens and changing the state of objects on screen. You can now create a set of dashboards that suits your needs.
DashCommand also supports the scripts written in ScanXL. The scripts can be imported to supplement the data that can be displayed in the dashboards. Write scripts to calculate fuel consumption, boost pressure, power, torque, and many more based on data from the OBD-II values.
Palmer Performance Engineering; www.palmerperformance.com; For product questions, contact support@palmerperformance.com

3-Transfer-Flow-ToolRefuelToolbox and Refueling Tank Combo (MSRP: $1,724.35 30-gallon / $1,907.13 50-gallon)
Transfer Flow’s 30-gallon and 50-gallon toolbox and refueling tank combos work great for manually filling your fuel tank as well as filling other vehicles or equipment. The 30-gallon unit will fit short and long bed pickups, while the 50-gallon unit will fit long bed pickups only.
The toolbox and refueling tank combos come pre-assembled with a 12-volt pump located inside the locking storage compartment. The fuel nozzle is mounted on the outside of the toolbox, and comes with an 8-foot hose. The storage compartment of the 30-gallon unit has about 5 cubic feet of space, while the 50-gallon unit has a storage area of about 8 cubic feet. The tanks are made from 14-gauge aluminized steel for superior rust resistance and strength, and are mounted inside the bright aluminum diamond plate shell of the toolbox. The tanks are baffled to reduce fuel sloshing.
Transfer Flow’s refueling tanks come with a Department of Transportation special permit number, allowing them to carry gasoline and diesel fuel. In addition, an optional riser kit is available that allows you to store several sheets of plywood or sheetrock under the tank. Transfer Flow, Inc.; www.transferflow.com; (530) 893-5209

4-GearWrench-Double-Box-Indexing-Wrench-SetIndexing Double Box Ratcheting Wrench
GearWrench’s indexing double box ratcheting wrench was developed as a result of end user input. Two ratcheting box ends index and lock into position. This saves technicians time and eliminates the need to switch wrenches while working on fasteners that are difficult to access. The wrench features an extra-long, forged steel beam with indexing lockable joints at each end enabling each ratcheting box end to pivot over 180 degrees. Currently available in six metric size combinations. Apex Tool Group; www.gearwrench.com; (800) 688-8949

 

 

 

 

Tomahawk 375 Air Plasma CutterTomahawk 375 Air Plasma Cutting System (MSRP: $1,589.00)
Lincoln Electric’s Tomahawk 375 Air is a new plasma cutting system line designed for on-site maintenance, service tasks, small construction sites, HVAC work, demolition and rental applications.
The Tomahawk 375 Air includes an internal air compressor, eliminating the need for an external air source. This machine can be used anywhere 208 or 230 volt single phase 60 Hz power is available.
The 375 Air features continuous output control to focus the plasma arc for recommended 5/16 inch steel. The machine produces 10-25 amps output and is rated at 25 amps at 90 volts, 35 percent duty cycle. Tomahawk plasma cutting systems are designed for cutting mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum. Lincoln Electric; www.lincolnelectric.com; (216) 481-8100

 

 

 

 

MAXTRAXMAXTRAX (MSRP: $595)
MAXTRAX is a lightweight nylon, vehicle extraction device that fits in your 4WD ensuring an easy way out if your vehicle encounters a sticky situation. MAXTRAX stows easily with the rest of your day tripping, camping, or picnicking gear. You can even use MAXTRAX upside down as a shovel to remove excess material from around your tires. Large cleats on MAXTRAX sink their teeth into the tire tread and the terrain under your 4WD vehicle to help it out of mud, snow, or sand. MAXTRAX; www.maxtrax.com.au; (855) MAX-TRAX (toll free)

 

 

 

7-BridjitBridjit Curb Ramps (MSRP: $299)
Bridjit Curb Ramps are a high-quality green solution designed to help homeowners reduce the jarring and underside vehicle damage that occurs from a roll-over curb driveway entry. Simple to install, the Bridjit Curb Ramp is made from recycled tires and is generally sold as a set of three, 4 foot modular sections that provide 12 feet of driveway coverage. The only tools required are a hammer and screwdriver. Bridjit Inc.; www.bridjit.com; (877) 522-6611

 

 

 

PV Communications IncActionKover
A.R.E.’s ActionKover is a new fiberglass tonneau cover available for most current short bed and extra short bed trucks, including the Toyota Tundra, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram.
Features include an aluminum base rail system, heavy-duty front hinges, Eberhard palm handle and Lift Assist gas strut system that makes the lid easy to open and close.
“Our talented team of engineers and production crew has designed a tonneau cover that not only looks great but has a great price point as well,” said Bryan Baker, director of Marketing, A.R.E.
A DuPont® base coat/clear coat paint finish gives the cover an original-equipment look. A.R.E.; www.4are.com; (330) 830-7800

 

 

9-A.R.E.-2011-Ford-Superduty-DCUDCU (Deluxe Commercial Unit) Truck Cap
A.R.E.’s product lineup for the 2011 Ford Super Duty includes their Deluxe Commercial Unit (DCU). Specially built to withstand the rigors of any work situation, the DCU has a rugged, fully welded aluminum frame construction. More than 200 options are available, including door and window configurations, toolboxes, custom ladder racks and cap height design. A.R.E.; www.4are.com; (330) 830-7800

 

 

 

21-Montezuma-ToolBoxPortable Steel Tool Box (30” x 19”) (MSRP: $1,130)
Montezuma’s 16 ga. steel construction tool box with welded seams features a powder coat finish and holds both metric and S.A.E. tools. The lid secures tools in position when closed and a locking latch prevents unauthorized use. Lock cylinder has double-cut keys for easier locking and unlocking. Weather stripping creates a tight seal against dust and moisture and a gas spring raises the lid. Sturdy side handles make moving the tool box easy. Limited Lifetime Warranty. Montezuma Mfg., Inc.; www.montezumamfg.com; (800) 759-5157

 

 

 

 

 

 

EZ Self-Closing 7-Pin (EZS7) Electrical Towing Connection SystemEZ Self-Closing 7-Pin (EZS7) Electrical Towing Connection System
EZ Connector’s new EZ Self-Closing 7-Pin (EZS7) is a 7-Pin electrical towing connection system with robust magnets, spring-loaded pins, flat contacts and a water-proof design. Unlike the common blade plugs available in today’s market, the patented EZ Connector uses spring-loaded face-to-face contacts so that drawbacks such as arcing and contact abrasion from use are eliminated. The combination of spring-loaded pins and fixed contacts also allows for electricity to easily pass from socket to plug, and mitigates problems such as voltage drop due to increased contact deterioration and corrosion, and the resulting failure of brakes and lights. EZ Connector Inc.; www.ezconnector.com; (559) 686-5889

 

 

 

11-Continental-CrossContact-LXCrossContact LX (MSRP: Starting at $96)
The CrossContact LX by Continental Tire delivers crisp handling and all-season traction — even in light snow. This tire’s Asymmetric Tread Pattern is engineered to allow both sides of the tread to perform independently of each other. This computer-optimized tread face is designed to deliver a greater surface contact patch, with large, stiff blocks on the outside of the tire, a stabilizing rib to reduce shoulder wear and subtle tread elements on the inside tread for enhanced traction.
An innovative Tri-Net Silica Tread Compound adjusts to road conditions, cushions the ride, improves traction, lowers rolling resistance and prolongs tread life for greater fuel economy and long wear. Acoustic Alterra Technology minimizes tire noise. Interlocking sipes add lateral strength, excellent traction and directional control in all conditions — even mud and snow. Continental Tire; www.continentaltire.com; (800) 847-3349

 

 

 

 

12-GeneralTire-GrabberHTSGrabber HTS (MSRP: $105)
The Grabber HTS is General Tire’s premium all-season tire for today’s light trucks, crossovers and SUVs. Born from the Baja, the Grabber HTS is built on the technology that went into engineering the company’s Grabber off-road competition tires. Duragen ultra high strength steel belts, micro-fiber casing reinforcements, and a broad contour result in a strong, durable tire that provides even tread wear for longer mileage and confidence in challenging driving conditions. Response Grooves, Stabilink Bars and three kinds of siping result in an excellent all-season tire that promotes enhanced steering response and provides reliable performance when braking, accelerating and cornering.
This latest-generation tread compound significantly improves fuel economy by reducing rolling resistance. General Tire; www.generaltire.com; (800) 847-3349

 

 

 

 

13-DynoMaxDynoMax 2008-10 Ford F-250/F-350 Super Duty System]
Posting an additional 16 horsepower and 13-ft. lbs. of torque at the dyno, the new DynoMax 2008-10 Ford F-250/F-350 Super Duty system gives owners a boost of horsepower and torque while freeing up exhaust backpressure.
The new DynoMax system (p/n 39469) – built to match OE routing and provide added performance and sound enhancements – fits 2008-2010 Ford F-250/F-350 Super Duty 2WD/4WD 5.4L/6.8L V8 trucks. The system does not fit 2008-10 Ford F-350 Chassis Cab trucks.
The new system includes 3-in. stainless steel mandrel-bent piping to protect against corrosion. It also includes a DynoMax Ultra Flo Welded muffler, for maximum exhaust flow and an aggressive tone.
The single, cat-back system also includes necessary OE-grade band clamps, u-bolt clamps and 4-in. stainless steel slant cut, logo-embossed tip. All of the necessary instructions are included for fast and easy installation. Tenneco Inc.; www.DynoMax.com; (734) 384-7806

14-Rancho-Dodge-Ram-2500-SuspensionRancho® 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 Suspension System
The new Rancho® 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 suspension system fits 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 gas and diesel truck models and the 2010 Dodge Ram Mega Cab model (manufactured from April 2010 and newer).
Compatible with up to 37-in. tires, the new 4-in. Rancho Ram 2500 system includes a forged pitman arm, new front track bar relocation bracket, and heavy-duty tubular-style front links. The system also works with stock wheels. Rancho engineers maintained the OE location of the rack and pinion while maintaining proper driveshaft angles to minimize vibrations. Rancho includes rear leaf spring blocks and a front track bar relocation bracket. The system contains all of the necessary alignment hardware and highly detailed information on the installation of the system. Rancho Suspension; www.gorancho.com; (734) 384-7809

15-Westin-6in-ovalPremier 6” Oval Side Bars
Westin’s Premier 6” Oval Side Bars offer the largest step area for sure footed entry into full sized trucks and SUV’s. Available in 4 universal lengths to accommodate full sized trucks and SUV’s. Vehicle specific mounting systems utilizing Westin’s current 22 Series Mounting Brackets are already stocked by most WD’s and Jobbers. The Premier 6” Oval Side Bars are OE styled for a finished look and are available in polished stainless steel and black powder coated finish. There is no drilling required for mounting the 6” Oval Side Bars making installation a clean and easy process. Westin Automotive, Inc.; www.westinautomotive.com; (626) 960-6762

 

 

16-Go-Industries-RancherRancher Grille Guard
When you need extra protection from road debris and off-road brush, go with the Rancher Grille Guard from Go Industries. The one-piece, fully welded guard provides protection for the headlight and grille areas of your pickup. Constructed of 1.9”, 14 gauge steel tubing and one-quarter inch, laser-cut steel uprights, the grille guard has a center section made of 16 gauge steel with one-half inch punched holes and features a powder coat finish. Each Rancher Grille Guard is designed specifically for each vehicle model, contouring to the lines of the vehicle while providing an easy, no drill, hassle-free installation. A built-in, wide “Step Plate” allows easy access to the hood and engine on today’s big pickups. Go Industries; www.goindustries.com; (800) 527-4345

 

 

Cummins/Duramax Differential CoverCummins/Duramax Differential Cover (MSRP: $342.50)
aFe Power builds a rear-end differential for Dodge Ram pickups that provides a 5 quart lube capacity to replace the stock 4 quart version. Features include a magnetic drain plug and a magnetic tipped fill plug. Internal and external fins provide improved heat transfer. A large oil level site glass has a calibration plug to eliminate overfilling. aFe-advanced FLOW Engineering Inc.; http://afepower.com; (951) 493-7100

 

 

 

 

 

 

18-KN-Intake-Kit63 Series AirCharger® Intake Kits (MSRP: $320.99)
Guaranteed to provide more hp and increased acceleration, K&N’s 63 Series intake system is easy to install and lasts up to 100,000 miles before service is required (depending on driving conditions). The air filter is washable, reusable and comes with a million mile limited warranty. The kit works with the OEM computer systems and is street legal in most states (not street legal in CA – Check part number or vehicle listing for specific CARB status). K&N Engineering, Inc.; www.knfilters.com; (800) 858-3333

 

 

 

Insight CTS KitInsight CTS (MSRP: $448.88)
The new Insight CTS by Edge Products offers the most advanced technology in engine monitoring available today. The Insight CTS is compatible with any OBDII-enabled vehicle 1996 and newer. Features include a full-color, high-resolution, 4.3-inch touch screen (CTS). Displays available SAE data from your vehicle’s computer and is a great value because it monitors much more than just a typical 3-gauge cluster. Sounds user-defined audible alerts. Displays peak values such as speed and RPM. Performance testing: 0-60 and quarter-mile times.
Displays include fuel rail pressure on Duramax engines and Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) Regeneration Status on new diesels with DPF traps.
Add-ons include EGT pyrometer and back-up camera (sold separately).
MyStyle Software (included) allows users to choose from a variety of Edge custom background images. You can also upload an image of your choice. Edge Products; www.edgeproducts.com; (888) 360-3343

20-Hypertech-ECON-Programmer-copyE-CON Power Programmer (MSRP: $435.99)
Hypertech’s new E-CON Economy Power Programmer is designed for the driver who needs better fuel mileage and more power, but doesn’t want to pay for other high-performance features. Every E-CON is programmed with Hypertech’s Max Energy Tuning, Diagnostics, and Back to Stock options. The E-CON also comes with a USB cable and a CD containing software to enable quick updates over the internet.
According to Hypertech founder and president, Mark Heffington, “With the rise of fuel cost, fuel economy is very important to our customers. So we developed the best-optimized fuel tuning programs possible for the E-CON that increases horsepower and torque. With the additional power, drivers use less fuel to maintain cruising speed, without torque converter un-locking and transmission down-shifting to a lower gear, providing a substantial increase in fuel mileage”.
In addition, Hypertech’s E-CON Economy Power Programmers have the ability to read and clear Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) or “check engine” lights. Plus, all Hypertech products are 50 State “Street Legal.” Hypertech; www.hypertech.com; (901) 382-8888

Our Cummins-powered 2010 Ram 2500 Crew Cab 4×4, Big Boss project pickup adorned the LINE-X booth in the South Hall at the 2010 SEMA Show.
Our Cummins-powered 2010 Ram 2500 Crew Cab 4×4, Big Boss project pickup adorned the LINE-X booth in the South Hall at the 2010 SEMA Show.

Spring Tune-up

06 Dodge Ram 1500 With TrophySpring fever is far more likely to hit fishermen than the flu, and when it does the urge to get the boat in the water and a rod in hand is hard to shake.

Invariably the mind focuses on getting the tackle box sorted out, hooks changed on lures, reels lubed and refilled with new line, and missing guides and broken rod tips replaced.

Then attention is turned to the boat making sure the batteries are good, the prop is good to go, the engine tuned up, rod lockers organized, the tag is current, and the proper safety gear in place.

With those rituals handled all that remains is to sit back and wait for the fever to break on opening day with that first hook-set, right?

Unfortunately a number of fishermen will find themselves a little late to the open day party because in the throws of spring fever they forgot to pay the same attention to their vehicle and trailer as they did their fishing gear and boat.

Let’s face facts: If you want to catch fish, you first have to get to the water – and to do so your vehicle (and boat trailer) needs to be in reliable mechanical condition.

Vehicle Check

Make sure you are changing oil at the “severe service” intervals recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
Make sure you are changing oil at the “severe service” intervals recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

Any pickup or SUV used by outdoorsmen is considered being used under severe service by the definitions posed in the vehicle owner’s manual. So between 3,000-6,000 miles (depending on the engine) your vehicle needs an oil/filter change. It’s also good to have the engine given a full tune-up. This ensures maximum performance and fuel economy during the rest of the year.

The air filter should be cleaned or changed, and wiper blades refilled. (I suggest replacing the factory blades with silicon-impregnated versions such as offered by Rain-X, PIAA and Tripledge.)

In addition the spring check-up should include close checks of all belts and hoses, fluid levels under the hood and in the differentials, and a thorough check of battery and cable connections.

Jack up and properly support the vehicle. Remove each wheel and inspect the brakes, brake hoses and wheel cylinders for leaks or wear. If this isn’t something you feel comfortable doing, have a good brake shop do the inspection.

This is a good time to check the shocks for any signs of damage or wear. If the shocks have more than 40,000 miles on them, put on a new set.

Inspect the tires for unusual wear patterns and rotate if they are still in good shape. Remember if the tread is below the top of Lincoln’s head when a penny is inserted upside own in the tread, the tire is worn out.

Don’t forget to check the hitch. Look for corrosion, cracks or scraping damage. Make sure all the mounting bolts are tight and that the trailer wiring and connector plug are in good condition.

Take an especially careful look at the towing ball. Is the locknut tight? Is the ball still smooth, or is it worn or gouged? Check for any signs of bending or stress cracks. If any problems appear, replace the ball – they’re inexpensive, but a critical link in towing safety.

While your back there makes sure the taillights, brake lights, parking lights and license plate lights are working properly.

Trailer Check

It’s also wise to take a close look at the trailer coupler inside and out. The “jaws” should be adjusted to clamp securely to the ball and dabbed with a good marine grease.

 

The safety chains should be long enough to allow full trailer turn, but not long enough to drag on the ground. And, the ends that connect to the hitch should be of the snap or clevis variety, not “S”-hooks.

Hand pack your wheel bearings with a good marine-grade bearing grease.
Hand pack your wheel bearings with a good marine-grade bearing grease.

A good spring check-up also includes paying attention to the rest of the boat trailer. This means giving it a brake job, repacking the wheel bearings, replacing worn tires, repairing damaged bunks or rollers, inspecting the axle springs and hangers, checking the winch cable or strap and lubricating the gears.

 

Like the tow vehicle, the boat trailer’s tires and electrical system need to be checked and serviced as needed. (The two most common sources of trailer trouble are electrical systems and tires.) Repair/replace any damaged electrical plugs or wires.

None of the above tasks are difficult to do, but doing is essential if you want to get to the water safely all season long without drama along the way.