2 Low UnLoc From BD Diesel Performance

BD’s kit 1030705 2 Low UnLoc for late model Ram trucks

Installing BD Diesel Performance’s 2 Low UnLoc Differential Kit For Fourth Generation Rams

Moving Slower

Reversing and maneuvering large trucks, trailers, or other big outfits can be challenging and even stressful for those lacking skill or confidence. One way to mitigate the reduced visibility and risk of hitting something and causing property damage, or worse, is to move slowly. This is obvious to most everyone, yet the slowest transmission gears, first and reverse, are still tall for creeping around campsites, parking lots, and other narrow spaces. Adding grades and/or tight turns can increase the gearing deficiency. Excessive slipping of a clutch or loading of a torque converter is not a perfect solution, but sometimes a necessary evil. Done improperly with too much rpm, or repeatedly, wear or a mechanical failure may be the eventual reward.

Transfer Case Auxiliary Gearboxes

Four-wheel-drive (4WD) trucks have become extremely popular in recent decades, even with folks that rarely, if ever, venture off-pavement. The low gearing in most transfer cases lives a very lonely life. The point of low-range is to go slow in technical situations, with the added benefit (or impediment) of powering the front tires. Using low-range increases torque and helps the engine move loads at slower speeds, even at low idle. Some savvy and careful drivers will shift into 4WD-low to access the gears for backing and maneuvering, but this is not without consequence.

Traditional part-time transfer cases split engine torque equally between the front and rear axles and are designed for slippery surfaces. A slipping tire can release the inherent bind that occurs at the transfer case between the front and rear shafts. When used on high-traction surfaces that don’t allow dissipation, there is a possibility of drivetrain damage, though the risk is small if the steered tires remain straight and distances are short. Once the front tires are turned, which dramatically increases the need for differential action, drivetrain windup will result. This energy is transmitted to and felt in the steering wheel, which will move or jerk in the driver’s hands as the drivelines complain. (Full-time 4WD systems use a center differential, avoiding the conflict between the front and rear drive systems.)

Two-Wheel-Drive Low

When most 4WDs had manual-locking front hubs, simply keeping the hubs in their normal, unlocked position allowed shifting into low range without connecting the front wheels to the axles. This works, and I did it for decades. Drivers should be careful and smooth because all of the engine’s torque, now multiplied by the transfer-case gears, is going to only one driveshaft, not two.

Manual hubs on Dodge Turbo Diesels disappeared with the First Generation in 1993. Second Generation trucks have a vacuum-operated front axle disconnect system that allows a relatively simple bypass to use low-range 2WD. BD Diesel Performance still makes a kit for these Second Generation Dodge trucks. After Dodge eliminated the disconnect system in favor of constantly driving the front axles, no simple solution existed; the only real option was to add manual hubs. With the return of front axle disconnect on heavy-duty Rams in 2013, now electrically-activated, preventing 4WD from engaging while accessing the low-range gears is again easy.

DISCLAIMER—As always, use extreme care and (un)common sense. Operate all machinery with due care, while also accepting the inherent responsibility that comes with any modification. You may be your own warranty station.

2 Low UnLoc

Spring 2017, BD Diesel Performance introduced their two-wheel-drive low solution, the 2 Low UnLoc kit for 4WD 2009–2017 1500, 2014–2017 2500, and 2013–2017 3500 Rams. BD sent me one of the first units.

One end of the harness has two OEM-quality connectors that go inline at the Drivetrain Control Module, another has ports for the two included relays, and a third connects to the supplied switch. My friend Phil and I installed the kit on his 2014 2500 with 35,000 miles on the clock. He tows a 24-foot travel trailer.

Plug-and-play harness makes for an extremely easy installation

It’s So Easy

The 2 Low UnLoc for late-model axle disconnect trucks is a simple add-on. BD’s directions were followed almost to-the-letter because I found no way or need to improve the process. The one slight deviance was drilling the switch hole.

Removing three push-in retainers for the carpeted panel below the glove box allows pulling the carpet rearward, which exposes the drivetrain control module. Unclipping the black plastic cover exposes the blue factory male connector that is replaced with BD’s. The OE male plug snaps into BD’s female connector. Re-clipping the drivetrain control module cover was only a minor struggle with the extra BD connector inside.

There is plenty of harness to locate the relays far from the drivetrain control module if desired, but we secured them below module with mounting tape. The last thing to do was to make a hole for the switch.

First step, remove carpeted panel below the glove box

Pulling the passenger side carpet exposes the drivetrain control module

BD’s harness placed inline at the drivetrain module

Pulling The Center Stack Cover

Removing the center dash cover that surrounds the radio and HVAC control is a simple task, though like doing anything for the first time there can be trepidation. The first step is the most critical and can be easily overlooked by the uninitiated.

A plastic liner snaps into the tray above the radio and must be removed to expose two TORX T20 screws. Remove these two screws first and replace last. The remainder of the piece is held with several snap-in clips, mostly around the perimeter, and it is simply pulled away at the edges. I use my fingertips and/or a plastic interior trim tool. After the surround is loose, a few connectors on the rear must be unclipped before the piece can be completely removed.

Drilling

Phil and I started this 2 Low UnLoc project by removing the dash center stack cover, which confirmed we could use the blank spot below the cubby on the right. From the front it appeared that the matching blank space on the left could be used instead. This was not the case on Phil’s truck, as there was a connector on the back. These little panels are great locations for switches, plus they are replaceable, secured with four Philips screws on the rear.

Rocker switch requires a large hole

BD recommends using a stepper drill bit to make the hole for their lighted rocker switch. I don’t own a stepper bit, but I would have been concerned about going too deep and making the hole too big. The largest bit in my toolbox is a 5/8”. After stepping up to this size we were close, but the hole was still slightly undersized. Carefully enlarging the hole with the same 5/8” bit worked; I stopped while the rocker was still a very tight, interference fit. A small file was used to cut a notch for the locating tab on the left side. Because of the snug fit, we were unable to use the 2WD LOW sticker BD provides with the kit.

Notched left side of hole for locating tab

Function Testing

Before pushing the rocker switch into its tight, final resting place we loosely connected the three color-coded wires and tested the 2 Low UnLoc system. The operating procedure requires rotating the rocker switch to the on position first, then moving the transfer case selector or lever to low-range. The red light on the rocker will illuminate, indicating that front axle engagement has been bypassed, and BD’s 2 Low UnLoc is active. To deactivate, the sequence is reversed; the transfer case is shifted back to two-wheel-drive high-range, then the switch is turned off.

Color-coded harness wires for the switch

After rotating the rocker, and shifting the transfer case, the switch light illuminates

We reassembled everything and tested the feature again. It worked. Phil and I both love the BD 2 Low UnLoc and think the $148 price is worth the functionality and ease of installation. Geno’s Garage stocks the 2 Low UnLoc kit, and reports they have been selling well.

James Langan

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler/Turbo Diesel Register. All Rights Reserved.

 A version of this article was also published in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine.

Sources:

BD Diesel Performance: dieselperformance.com, 800-887-5030

Geno’s Garage: genosgarage.com, 800-755-1715 

 

Load Range F Toyos, a 1,700 mile evaluation

Toyo’s New Load Range ***F*** Open Country Tire Line

Toyo’s new load range *F* LT tires. Using ‘em hard.

Backgrounder

Torque, horsepower, and tow/haul ratings in our so-called light-trucks have been soaring toward the stratosphere for several years. The competition between the North American diesel pickup manufactures to one-up the other has never been stronger. They have passed the 900 lb-ft barrier and are marching toward the next big hurdle; 1,000 lb-ft of flywheel torque. (At least that is the number on-paper, torque management can make it feel like less, but the idea is to prevent unnecessary roughness and increase driveline longevity.)

In decades past the transmissions, brakes, frames, and other items didn’t match the grunt of the medium-duty truck engines stuffed into pickups, but those inadequacies are mostly behind us. The constant improvement of these components could not support the increased ratings if light-truck (LT) tire capacities didn’t keep pace. There is possibly nothing less safe than not having enough tire (capacity, speed ratings, etc.) for the job. Manufacturers continually strive to meet market demands. If we ask for and buy, companies are happy to build stuff for us.

More Air For Big Loads  

There is science and some regulating body input that affects how much tires are rated to support. A simple way to think about tire capacities is to understand that it is the total amount of air inside a tire that supports the rated weight. That includes the physical volume/space inside the tire and the air-pressure. A tire of a given size that can accept higher pressures, is almost always going to be rated to carry more mass. More space and more psi equals more capacity in pounds.

As simple as we try to make this, there is at least one combination of ratings that many find illogical. Most, but not all, load range (LR) E LT rubber carry their maximum rated loads at 80 psi, but a few are rated for a maximum of 65 psi. In addition to not supporting as much cargo, because of the lower pressure, trucks with a simple TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system), like a late model 2500 Ram/Cummins, will always have a TPMS warning light illuminated when running with less than the maximum 80 psi in the rear tires and/or 60 psi up front.

The TRA Sets The Standards

The Tire and Rim Association (TRA) is the standardization body for this industry in the United States. It was established in 1903, and it is lead by top technical representatives from member companies. There are a few niche manufacturers who don’t belong to this association, and therefore may not abide by the industry standards, but they are few. The common tire sizes, load ratings, and capacities most of us use and are familiar with were created and sanctioned by the TRA. Traditionally, flotation sizes (33×12.50R17, 35×12.50R18, etc.) have received more conservative ratings, notably lower than those for LT-metric sizes. Why? Because the TRA says so. Surely there is a technical and/or regulatory reason, but for the end user they are what they are, and we must pick a tire the meets our needs.

Load range *F* 35×12.50R18 handles 3,970# at 80 psi.

New Load Range F Toyo Tires

Toyo Tires is again leading the industry by introducing load range F tires in sizes that were formerly 65 psi, load range E. Toyo is making several in their Open Country A/T II and M/T designs, plus a couple for Open Country R/T. Toyo’s sister company Nitto was actually first to market with LR F light-truck rubber last year, but they are only offered in a few part numbers in one tread pattern, the Nitto Ridge Grappler.

Nearly all of the new LR F products added to the Open Country line are in flotation sizes, instead of LT-metric. Two 35” tall examples of these different size formats are the LT305/70R18 LT-metric, and the 35×12.50R18LT flotation size. Both are roughly 35” tall by 12.5” wide, and made for 18” wheels. All of the new Toyo LR F sizes listed here are for taller, 18”, 20”, and 22” wheels.

Open Country M/T

33X12.50R18LT

35X12.50R18LT

LT305/55R20

33X12.50R20LT

35X12.50R20LT

35X13.50R20LT

33X12.50R22LT

35X12.50R22LT

37X12.50R22LT

Open Country R/T

LT305/55R20

35X12.50R20LT

Open Country A/T II

33X12.50R18LT

35X12.50R18LT

33X12.50R20LT

35X12.50R20LT

35X13.50R20LT

33X12.50R22LT

35X12.50R22LT

37X12.50R22LT

Toyo A/T II Xtreme, 35×12.50R18, 68#, not yet mated to wheels.

Time To Think Differently About Tires. Use The Load Index

The load range letter designations will surely continue, but they are a somewhat confusing standard because the psi and LR are not married like most consumers think, they’re merely going steady but occasionally flirt around. The older ply rating (or P.R.) standard is still used, and this is stamped on the sidewalls of many tires (i.e. 6-ply rating = LR C, 8-ply rating = LR D, and 10-ply rating = LR E) and is arguably irrelevant in the 21st century. The numbers do not mean a tire has that many body plies; they don’t. This is a holdover from the old bias-ply days, where the number of cotton carcass (body) plies helped increase the capacity. Tire technology has advanced a bit over the past several decades, and cotton plies are no longer used. If the ply rating designations are outdated and the load range letters can be misleading or confusing, what should we use? One tire engineer acquaintance suggests we use the load index, and I’m inclined to agree.

Size, load index (128), speed rating (Q), and 12 ply rating.

The load index is a number that indicates the maximum weight a tire can support when properly inflated to its maximum cold psi, and it is stamped on the sidewall like the other ratings and information. Using the load index, and/or the tire inflation charts that I’ve favored for over 20 years, removes much of the potential confusion, as it focuses on how much is supported at what psi. My push to start using the load index over (or in addition to) these older metrics starts here. It will be an adjustment.

35X12.50R18LT Toyo Open Country A/T II Xtreme

My 2014, 25th Anniversary Cummins Turbo Diesel routinely operates at its GVWR, so I welcomed the additional capacity of the new load range F rubber. As a fan of shorter and narrower wheels, I chose the Open Country A/T II Xtreme pattern in a 35×12.50R18LT. With the new load range F/12-ply rating, each tire is rated to carry 3,970 pounds at 80 psi. The load index is 128, the speed rating is Q, tread depth is 17/32”, and each tire weighs 68 pounds.

For comparison, the 35×12.50R18 load range E A/T II has a load index of 123, which is 3,415 pounds at 65 psi. Increasing the maximum load by 555 pounds per tire is a big deal, and it is necessary for fans of big wheels and flotation sizes that haul heavy stuff.

The Xtreme Toyos have decent void for a 5-rib all-terrain.

Starting tread depth is 17/32”.

Perfect Balance

Toyo prides itself on making exceptionally high-quality tires that often require relatively little wheel weight to balance. This is not just a claim; it has been confirmed by Toyos I’ve tested. Mounted on 32-pound Ram Laramie WBL aluminum wheels, the tread width is 10.25”, and the combination weighed 100.6 pounds on my shop scale. Using the dynamic, dual-plane balancing method, they took the following ounces to balance:

Outside      Inside       Total

#1   0.5       0.75           1.25

#2   2.0       0                2.0

#3   1.75      0.5            2.25

#4   2.00     1.5             3.50

“The New Dodge, America’s Truck Stop”, old-school measuring tool.

Dynamic balancing always requires more weight because the tires and wheels are balanced in two planes, vertical and horizontal, instead of just vertical (the so-called static method). For these tall, wide, and heavy tires and wheels to require so little lead is impressive. Four tries requiring so little weight is what one might hope for when using the static method for a smaller, lighter tire and wheel package. Even doubling the numbers here would not be unreasonable for static balancing. Awesome Toyo!

WBL Laramie wheels are slightly narrow, 8” vs. the 8.5” minimum recommended width for a 35×12.50R18 tire. They seem fine.

First Short Drives 

Keeping the balancing data in-mind, it was no surprise that these Toyos were as smooth as glass at any speed on a good roadway. What about the difference between these new LR F Toyos compared to the same tire in a LR E? When I shared with friends I was running new LR F tires, a couple asked about the ride, assuming they would be stiff.

Ride feel is appropriate, no stiffer or sloppier than a typical LR E 80 psi tire. Running 60 psi in front and 80 psi in the rear—the same as most other tires and sizes on my Ram when fully loaded—the truck is as smooth and stable as it would be with any 80 psi tire.

The rugged and familiar 3-ply sidewalls and 7-ply tread of most Toyo Open Country LT designs felt just right. The obvious advantage of the new LR F is being able to carry more weight (load index 128) and not having a TPMS light illuminated when pumped-up to higher pressures.

Field testing in remote Nevada.

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, east of the Big Smoky Valley, Nevada.

Long Haul — A Quick 1,700 Miles 

These new 35×12.50R18 Toyos were mounted just days before driving from Reno, Nevada, to Flagstaff, Arizona, for the Overland Expo West event. Driving conditions and surfaces included a little city, plenty of high-speed Interstate freeway, winding rural highways, some rain, dirt and gravel roads, and even a bit of snow.

The Toyo A/T II is mud + snow rated, and does well in snow.

Kingston Summit, Nevada, 8,680’.

The audible hum emanating from the Xtreme version of Toyo’s A/T II may surprise the uninitiated, but this 5-rib tread has a fairly open pattern for an all-terrain. The voids needed to help evacuate rain, snow, slush, moderate mud, and other debris, will make any tire louder than a less aggressive design. Of course the roadway surface makes a difference, tires typically sing more on concrete than asphalt, and the slightly wider (than I usually run) 12.5” meats put extra rubber on the road. The tires are not loud by traction tire standards, but you can hear them, and as I headed for the Southwest, the title track from Steve Earl’s 1986 debut album, Guitar Town, started playing on my radio, including:

“Hey pretty baby don’t you know it ain’t my fault

I love to hear the steel belts hummin’ on the asphalt…”

Being familiar with the tread, there were no surprises; the tires handled varied terrain well, as expected. I’ve run the Toyo A/T II Xtremes before, and was happy to evaluate them again.

James Langan

This article was also published in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler/Turbo Diesel Register. All Rights Reserved.

Sources: 

Toyo Tires: toyotires.com 

Overland Expo West 2017

Overland Expo West 2017 — Flagstaff’s Fort Tuthill County Park 

New Venue 

Overland Expo West is a three-day annual event focused on educating and inspiring folks to explore their outdoor world, both near and far. The big news for the event this year was change: it moved to a new venue, the Fort Tuthill County Park in Flagstaff, Arizona. The park offers about 30% more area and extra separation for truck and moto enthusiasts. There were over 200 classes, workshops, roundtable programs, and inspirational programs, as well as over 300 vendor booths. Fifty exhibitor spaces were added in 2017, with a waiting list for 2018, and there were about 2,000 additional attendees. The Overland Expo team is now focused on getting better, not bigger. Leading industry vendors and OEMs were present, including Ram and Cummins, which is where my coverage is focused.

Ram was a vendor again this year.

Cummins’ R2.8 Turbo Diesel attracted much attention.

There can be growing pains… I did overhear someone saying that the general, dispersed-camping areas were too tight and full. My sense is that overall this was a good move for the Arizona event, the growing tribe of overland travel enthusiasts and the vendors that are happy to accommodate their desires for comfortable, vehicle-supported travels and camping.

New Legend 4×4 Meets The Cummins 2.8L

New Legend 4×4, based in Iowa, has been doing impeccable restorations of vintage Scout II and Scout 800 bodies, mounting them on modern chassis, complete with high-performance engines, to give enthusiasts the joy of driving beautiful vintage iron without the poor drivability of vehicles built 50 years ago. They work hard to maintain the original vibe and hard-working focus of the old wagons, while tastefully blending it with modern performance, reliability, and safety. New Legend 4×4 works with their clients to create the ultimate mix of a vintage/modern vehicle. These rigs are meant to be driven, not be garage queens.

I’ve been an International Harvester fan since my youth, partially because my great uncle Clarence had a few, plus I’ve owned a ‘60s two-wheel-drive half-ton and two Scout IIs. The first, a Scout Terra pickup, was my first four-wheel-drive. The New Legend Scout IIs with V8s were very nice, but the rig that made me gaga was this 1967 Scout 800 with a Cummins R2.8 under the hood.

1967 Scout 800 on a Jeep Wrangler chassis.

The FIRST Production R2.8 Turbo Diesel

The Turbo Diesel Register readership needs no explanation as to why one might prefer to repower vintage iron with the new R2.8 Turbo Diesel instead of a gas V8. New Legend 4×4 was one of 25 beta test shops for the Cummins R2.8L in the U.S., and thanks to Steve Sanders at Cummins, they were lucky enough to receive the first production version of this new crate engine just in time to complete this Scout 800 and drive it to Overland Expo. Yes, they drove it from Iowa to Arizona, essentially non-stop, swapping drivers, with lots of coffee and Red Bull, with the blessing and encouragement of their customer as part of the initial shakedown. I interviewed Luke from New Legend to get the details on this beautiful build.

The Cummins R2.8 swap looks factory perfect.

This is a 1967 Scout 800, the body is original but “freshened”, which means cleaned, repaired, and painted to high standards. It sits on a new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon chassis, with the excellent and proven OE Dana 44 axles with electric lockers both front and rear. New Legend wisely didn’t try to invent new Wrangler suspension, instead they use AEV’s proven 2.5” system, which maintains factory geometry and drivability. Luke said, “it drives and handles amazingly”, like a brand new Jeep Wrangler JK, because that’s what is underneath. New Legend teamed with Duluth Pack in Minnesota, because they love Duluth’s made-in-USA waxed canvas, which really helps this particular Scout retain a vintage, rugged look and feel. Just what the customer wanted.

Modified and updated, the interior still looks ‘correct’.

The Cummins R2.8 has it’s own ECM, and Cummins makes it incredibly easy to connect the engine to the donor chassis, essentially just fuel and a few wires. The flier for the R2.8 Turbo Diesel inline 4-cylinder says it produces 267 lb-ft @ 1,500-3,000 rpm, and 161 hp @ 3,600 rpm, with an asterisk indicating “final ratings may vary”. The motor is connected to a NV3550, 5-speed manual tranny, which is backed by an Advanced Adapters Atlas II twin-stick transfer case. The base price for a build similar to this is about $100k, depending on how the customer specs their new vintage four-wheel-drive. Cummins was a vendor at the 2017 Overland Expo West gathering, primarily to support this fantastic, small, light, and powerful little engine. Smart move, as the repower opportunities look promising in this market segment.

American Expedition Vehicles 

American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) displayed their Prospector XL Tray Bed Edition, and the new Recruit, Ram 1500 package. The original Prospector XL was a personal project of AEV President, Dave Harriton, that was first displayed at the 2013 SEMA Show, and it has covered thousands of miles on- and off-highway since. AEV Special Operations is creating ten of these “Limited Edition, Unlimited Adventure” vehicles based on the regular-cab, long-bed, Ram 2500 platform. The trucks will feature their signature stamped-steel front bumper, DualSport suspension, lightweight aluminum bed, massive 41” tires, and more. The Prospector XL Tray Bed Package starts around $38,000, plus the base vehicle; I think they will sell all ten quickly.

Prospector XL Tray Bed from AEV.

The timing of this announcement is interesting, as I’ve been a fan of flatbeds since my commercial driving youth and my custom flatbed-equipped ’93 First Generation Turbo Diesel. For several months I’ve been trying to suppress my lust for a new regular cab, longbed truck…keep your eye on my column.

AEV’s Ram 1500 Recruit package.

AEV’s Recruit package for 1500 Rams includes a new 4” DualSport suspension for these independent front suspension (IFS) trucks. It increases wheel travel and off-highway performance, while optimizing the steering geometry for improved handling and reduced driver fatigue on-highway. The A206 T4 cast aluminum steering knuckles, new tie-rod ends, AEV-spec Bilstein 5100 series struts and shocks are key ingredients. Under the truck, a stamped-steel 4mm skid plate offers serious protection and maximum ground clearance.

The 4” DualSport suspension include a cast aluminum steering knuckle and upgraded tie rod ends.

Perfect, tight fit for the Recruit’s skid plate.

The Recruit’s heavy-duty grille conversion facilitates mounting their existing HD front bumper. Cast aluminum tow loops instead of the ductile iron pieces reduce weight, and their Heat Reduction Hood helps the Recruit look similar to the Prospector. New 18” AEV wheels are more versatile than the common 20” OEM rims. The Recruit package starts at $15,000.

AEV’s 18” aluminum wheels for Ram 1500.

AT Overland Habitat Truck Topper

The ingenious and detail-oriented folks at AT Overland introduced a version of their Habitat camper for full-size Tundra, F-150, and Ram pickups with both 5.5’ and 6.5’ beds; it was previously only available for mid-size trucks. The Habitat fills the void between a basic truck topper and a slide-in camper. The shell is made with lightweight aluminum and composites, is very robust, and has a base weight of only 340 pounds. Easily opened by one person, the 15’ long tent that deploys provides 96” of standing headroom near the tailgate when mounted on a Ram, and 85” at the front; plenty. When standing outside on the ground, the bed above acts like an awning.

The tent is made from a very durable, Teflon-impregnated, waterproof ripstop nylon (285 grams-per-meter), by American tent and camping gear manufacturer, NEMO Equipment. If customers chose a base camper ($8,800) without optional cabinetry, stove, or refrigerator and such, the camper does not reduce the hauling area of the pickup bed. The Habitat pictured here is on AT Overland co-owner Mario Donovan’s 2017 Ram 2500.

AT Overland’s Habitat topper tent for full-size trucks.

NEMO makes the tent for the AT Habitat.

Long and spacious inside a Habitat camper.

AeroContinental 

AeroContinental has started making chassis-mounted truck campers featuring stressed skin construction that are designed to be both attractive and field-repairable. Their first effort was on a Ford Super Duty, but their second is more appealing to TDR-minded folks, as it’s mounted atop a 2017 Ram 3500 with AEV’s Prospector package. It’s just waiting for a customer to spec the final layout inside. It makes me think of a vintage Avion camper, or Airstream trailer. “Aerospace meets overland” is one of AeroContinental’s tag lines.

AeroContinental prototype Ram camper.

Inside the AeroContinental.

ARB USA

ARB had three new items on display that caught my attention. The coolest being their new Elements Fridge ($1,300), designed to survive tough duty outside, like in a pickup bed. This weatherproof 12-volt compressor refrigerator (not just a cooler) features a stainless steel body and hinges, a gas strut that holds the lid in any position, a pin-code lock plus padlock hole, a light, and more. Once you start using a real refrigerator for camping or tailgating, it’s hard to leave home without one.

ARB’s new Elements refrigerator.

The ARB Adventure Light 600 provides up to 600 lumens of LED light ($59), with a lower 300-lumen setting. This portable light can be recharged by both AC/DC power, includes a battery-level indicator, has hooks and magnets, and is dust and rain resistant. There’s little question it’s rugged; one of ARB’s press photos shows a truck driving over the light.

Adventure Light 600.

Appropriate tire pressures are critical for performance and safety. Modern TPMS provide a safety net, but the best maintenance practices involve frequent use of a quality tire gauge. ARB’s Digital Tire Inflator ($55) has 23.5”, PVC-covered braided steel hose with a push-on chuck and valve clip, which reduces the need to squat or bend over while filling tires. The backlit LCD readout is protected with a rubber guard; it’s designed to read from 1-200 psi (0-14 Bar, 0-1400  Kpa); there’s a bleeder button and a 200-hour runtime from the two provided AAA batteries.

Digital Tire Inflator from ARB.

That’s all for this year, there was so much more, it would take 100 pages to cover it all. Check it out.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler.net/PhotoWrite Intl. LLC.

All Rights Reserved. 

A similar version of this article was also published in the Turbo Diesel Register.

Sources:

AeroContinental: aero-continental.com 

AEV: aev-conversions.com 

ARB: arbusa.com

AT Overland: adventuretrailers.com 

Cummins: cummins.com 

NEMO Equipment: nemoequipment.com 

New Legend 4×4: newlegend4x4.com 

Overland Expo: overlandexpo.com 

Ram: ramtrucks.com 

AEV EcoDiesel 1500

AEV EcoDiesel 1500 prototype

America Expedition Vehicles’ EcoDiesel 1500

The enthusiasts at American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) have been focused on the heavy-duty Ram Cummins platforms in recent years, but they have now waved their magic wand over a 2017 1500 EcoDiesel. The results are easy on the eyes.

AEV’s modular Premium Front Bumper rides on a prototype AEV 4” DualSport suspension, with 325/60R20 BFG KO2 all-terrains on repainted 20” factory wheels. This is a tall wheel for AEV, who are fans of more tire and less wheel for off-highway performance, but the 35” height is moderate. I expect they will introduce a smaller wheel when the 1500 parts start flowing. A 2500 grille and AEV headlight filler panels were installed to facilitate fitting their Heat Reduction Hood, which is complemented by their Raised Air Intake. AEV’s Bed Rack and a James Baroud tent dress-up the rear.

The EcoDiesel 1500 was merely a prototype, though surely AEV was gauging interest in the 1500 platform for future offerings. For a 4WD that actually sees rugged off-highway use, the heavy-duty trucks are relatively tall, but the 1500s are low-riders. AEV’s treatment transforms the chassis…wonder how my Hallmark camper would look and work in the bed of an AEV-modded EcoDiesel? aev-conversions.com

Overland Eco-Diesel 1500 from AEV

American Expedition Vehicles: AEV-Conversions

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Warn Winches, Epic Recovery Kit, 2016 SEMA Show

Warn

Truck owners have been waiting for Warn to offer the safer and lighter synthetic winch rope on their Heavy Weight Series winches; that day has come. Warn’s Spydura or Spydura Pro rope now comes on their M12-S, M15-S, and 16.5ti-s winches, which also have Warn’s Epic Hook and a polished Hawse fairlead.

Warn added their synthetic rope to their Heavy Weight Series

A few years ago Warn introduced their VR Series, as a competitively priced line of winches that are still designed and tested by Warn engineers. Updated, they now feature a waterproof Albright® contactor instead of solenoids, located in a convertible control pack that can remain atop the winch or be remotely mounted. Synthetic rope is now available on the 12,000-pound VR 12-S, as well as the 8,000- and 10,000-pound versions. The clutch handle has a new, more ergonomic design.

Updated VR Warn winches

As of November 1, 2016, all Warn truck winches sold in North America, including the VR Series, feature a limited lifetime mechanical warranty (unchanged), with a newly updated seven year electrical warranty, which was previously only one year.

Warn has assembled all of their Epic winching accessories into one Epic Recovery Kit. An Epic snatch block, two shackles, a tree trunk protector, premium recovery strap, and gloves are packaged in a backpack. Employing a purpose-built backpack for a recovery kit is a simple yet overdue idea, as having your hands free while toting heavy gear over slippery and/or uneven terrain can be invaluable. The backpack is made from durable ballistic material, has adjustable/modular compartments, and also functions as a winch line damper. It comes in a medium-duty version for winches up to 12,000 pounds or a heavy-duty kit for winches up to 18,000 pounds.

EPIC Recovery Kit in a handy backpack

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Resource: 

Warn Industries: warn.com 

SEMA 2016

This 2016 SEMA Show post is centered around diesel pickups, and towing and hauling. Originally written for and published in my Still Plays With Trucks column, for the Turbo Diesel Register magazine. 

Was it Ford’s Year to Shine At SEMA?

The publisher of the Turbo Diesel Register suggested that I gauge enthusiasm for the new 2017 Ford Super Duty trucks based on how many were used for SEMA projects. There were certainly several new Super Dutys prominently displayed and flying Ford colors at various booths. One of my favorites was Mickey Thompson’s Tall Boy, created by X-Treme Toyz, which had a 6.2L gas V8 under the hood instead of a Power Stroke Diesel. As big and bad as the Tall Boy is, it is tastefully moderate compared to many of the ridiculous and all-show-but-no-go trucks. But that is SEMA, and I’m guilty of being too practical. Sporting Mickey Thompson’s new 20” Sidebiter wheels and 40” Baja MTZ P3 tires, the front bumper and grille treatment tastefully subdued Ford’s huge and blinding factory pieces. mickeythompsontires.com 

Tall Boy 40 Mickey Thompson Super Duty Project

Tall Boy 40 Mickey Thompson Super Duty Project

Noting a few new Fords was fine, but my personal bias favors the Ram/Cummins combination. Despite 18-years of Ford Power Stroke ownership (a good-old 7.3L) I never loved the sound of the rattling V8 compared to the inline-6 tractor music of the Cummins ISB. Even in its quieter modern form, there is simply no comparison. Despite the race to upstage each other with the highest power, torque, and/or tow rating numbers, the venerable inline-6 still delivers, admittedly with less horsepower, as an inline-6 doesn’t like to rev like the V8s. However, personal biases aside, all the heavy-duty diesel pickups offered in North America these days are insanely capable and cool. Pick one. For my 2016 SEMA Show assignment for Turbo Diesel Register, I focused on some of the new stuff, some of it Ram-specific, and the remainder good for most any truck. 

PERFORMANCE/MAINTENANCE
BD Diesel Performance

New for the 2007.5 to 2016 6.7L Cummins is the BD HE351VE Screamer Turbo, which offers:

-Drop-in replacement for the factory turbo; no downpipe or air intake mods required

-New Ballistic 64.5mm 7+7 blade compressor wheel, and new 70mm 12-blade turbine

-Exclusive BD turbine profile to reduce back pressure and increase turbine flow

-Supports up to 690 HP

-Lower EGT

-NEW Holset VGT actuator

BD’s Brian Roth explained that one of the problems observed with the 6.7L engine is high exhaust temperatures and high-drive pressures (the amount of pressure it takes to drive the turbo—or resistance), even on stock trucks without increased fuel delivery. This drop-in replacement turbocharger was designed to address these issues, while supporting 90HP injectors and a tuner set on “extreme”, delivering up to 690 horsepower.

It’s noteworthy that BD includes a new control module atop these turbos, which is important because it’s one of the more failure-prone components, even on the OE turbos according to Brian. He cautioned that often rebuilt turbochargers employ used electronics of unknown reliability. This isn’t surprising because the controllers are about $1,400, but BD focuses on quality and reliability and doesn’t want worn electronics on their new turbo. The MSRP for the new Screamer Turbo is $3,000, and the very good factory exhaust brake button on the newer trucks will still work.

BD Diesel Perfomance Screamer Turbo

Fewer performance products have been available for late-models trucks, partially because of increased emissions testing and enforcement, which helps make this bolt-on product even more significant. Of course, it takes extra fuel to make more power and torque, so the Screamer is intended to complement fuel-delivery modifications. Diesel Tech Magazine liked the Screamer Turbo enough to award BD one of their top five “Show Stopper” awards.

BD Dana 70 Diff Cover

There is no denying that high-capacity, replacement aluminum differential covers are functional, sharp, and come with none of the possible compromises associated with some high-performance modifications. This new BD cover is for 1981 to 2002 Dodge trucks, and features:

-Baffled design to keep the oil on the gears

-Extra oil capacity

-Internal and external cooling fins

-Stainless-steel Allen cap screws and fill plug

-Magnetic drain plug

-Gasket-less, reusable O-ring-sealed cover

BD Dana 70 Rear Diff Cover

Patriot Plug

The aftermarket’s response demonstrates that many enthusiasts are not comfortable with the capless fuel filler on new Ram diesels. BD joins the fray with their anodized billet aluminum filler cap. It has a magnetized base, a bottle-opener feature, and a gun-cylinder-styled handle that accepts spent 9mm shells. dieselperformance.com

BD Patriot Plug fuel cap

TOWING/HAULING
BOLT

TDR readers know from my TDR93 SPWT column that I love BOLT’s ignition-key locks. (BOLT Lock review on RoadTraveler) Their new Off Vehicle Coupler Lock makes it virtually impossible for someone to hookup and move your trailer. I hope to give this piece more attention in an upcoming article. boltlock.com

Off Vehicle Couple Lock from BOLT

CURT Manufacturing

The A25 fifth-wheel hitch from Curt includes:

-25,000 pound rated fifth-wheel hitch (20k was the largest before), designed to work with the factory Ram fifth-wheel prep option

-360-degree locking jaws

-Release lever that rotates in an arc around the pivot pin, instead of pulling straight out

-Patented yoke system under the head provides 10-degrees of movement in all directions

-Auto resetting jaws allow coupling without a manual reset

-Green, yellow, red coupler condition indicator

TruTrack 15k weight distribution system for 2” shank receivers:

Building on the existing TruTrack system that integrates sway-control into the weight-distribution hitch, Curt revealed a new 15,000-pound version. Trailers and ratings continue to climb, but not everyone wants a 2.5” receiver, preferring to keep their 2” hitch.

Curt is still a U.S. manufacturer of truck accessories, making their products in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. curtmfg.com

TruTrack 15,000 lb. 2” hitch from CURT

Air Lift LoadLifter 7500 XL

Designed for owners of heavy-duty pickups, the new LoadLifter 7500 series provides up to 7,500-pounds of load-leveling capacity for towing heavy gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers or hauling big slide-in campers. The 7” bellows were engineered for maximum loads, but like most air springs they can be run anywhere between 5 and 100 psi. airliftcompany.com

7500 XL LoadLifter from Air Lift

Trailer Legs

Are you concerned about flat spots and the overall health of your trailer tires as they sit motionless for months during the off-season? Pulling onto Trailer Legs rotates them into position and lifts your trailer axles, allowing the tires to rest without supporting the weight of the trailer. Each stand is rated to hold two tons, or 8,000 pounds per axle. trailerlegs.com

Off Season Trailer Legs supports

Transfer Flow 40-Gallon In-Bed Tank

This 40-Gallon in-bed auxiliary fuel tank system for 1999 to 2017 Ram trucks is available for both long and short bed pickups. It is designed to fit the newer pickups that come equipped with OEM fifth-wheel pucks in the bed. The tank will also work in RamBox trucks. As with all Transfer Flow tanks, it’s made from 14-gauge aluminized steel, with internal baffles, in Chico, California, USA. transferflow.com

40-gallon Transfer Flow tank that works with OE fifth-wheel pucks

GENERAL ACCESSORIES
A.R.E. Caps

Windows for the pickup shell industry are mostly aluminum-framed products very similar to those used in RVs. They work, but there are some limitations. A.R.E. is raising the bar by installing front and side windows using a new urethane adhesion process. These widows eliminate the frames and screws, provide exceptional sealing, and a seamless integration of tempered automotive glass to the caps. This also means that a local glass shop can replace a broken window easily. A.R.E. is also introducing all-glass rear doors that are contoured to fit modern tailgates, precisely. In early 2017, both the urethane adhesion windows and contoured rear doors will be offered for current trucks and a few recent models. 4are.com

Automotive-style windows for A.R.E. truck caps

Rear glass with tailgate contour

Rigid LED Lighting

The new ADAPT series from Rigid are capable of adjusting from a wide flood to a spot beam based on vehicle speed. Drivers can also use a dash controller to select eight different beam patterns from 60-degrees to a mere 5-degrees as well as any RGB-W accent light. All this from a single light bar that is available in several lengths. rigidindustries.com

Versatile ADAPT lights from Rigid

Luverne Truck Equipment

New Baja Guard uses 2” tubular one-piece construction, Made-in-USA, and powder coated black with vehicle-specific mounts for 2014-forward Ram trucks.

O-MEGA II 6” Oval Steps are an updated design featuring T6 aluminum 6” oval steps, vehicle-specific brackets, boards that are trimmed to the desired length, with the stainless-steel step pads (screwed-in) placement as chosen by the owner/installer.

The Tow Guard slides over your receiver, allowing 3/8” thick textured rubber flaps to deflect road debris, protecting your trailer. This 4-month-old product is designed for the most common 2” receiver, but Luverne is working on a version for 2.5” and 3” hitches. luvernetruck.com

Tow Guard 3/8” thick flaps

Extreme Outback Products Endura Compressor

Possibly the most powerful 12-volt compressor I own is an older ExtremeAire from Extreme Outback Products. However, that portable, metal toolbox-mounted version is not the smallest or lightest unit, and Extreme Outback’s new Endura was designed to fit a smaller space while still providing plenty of air for many needs.

The Endura can be permanently mounted (in any orientation), the compressors are waterproof, with a 30-amp motor rated for 1.2 CFM @ 100 psi, and they have a 100% duty-cycle at 70-degrees Fahrenheit. The Endura is ideal for air-suspensions, air-horns, or the occasional tire inflation chore. Single- or dual-compressor portables mounted in stout plastic boxes will also be produced. Like all Extreme Outback Products, the Endura employs only the highest quality fittings and hoses. This is just the latest addition to a complete line of 12-volt automotive compressors and recovery gear from Extreme Outback. extremeoutback.com

Extreme Outback Products Endura compressor

 Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

White Knuckle Off Road Hitch Step

Heavy Duty, 4×4 trail ready, White Knuckle Off Road hitch step

Another accessory for the road ahead. White Knuckle Off Road’s heavy-duty Hitch Step. While I’m capable of entering and exiting the Hallmark camper with nothing more than my Reunel step-bumper, and do so occasionally, it’s nice to have something to bridge the 40″ to the door’s threshold. Typically that’s one of two plastic folding steps, one that is a bit shorter but travels flat, or another that is bulkier but more stable. Wet, slippery, and messy boots, whether from snow or mud, add another dimension, and wind can move steps from their preferred positions (I use bungees). Multiple roadside stops during long road trips can make folding steps less convenient to deploy and store.

Beefy, 3/16″ thick tubing

The White Knuckle Off Road Hitch Step is not merely a step. It is constructed from 3/16″-thick, 2″ by 3″ rectangular tubing, and is “4×4 trail ready”, according to White Knuckle. Surely this is not merely a claim, as many aftermarket bumpers are made from 3/16″ steel plate, so this should be equally stout. Yes, adding a protrusion off the rear reduces the truck’s departure angle. However, convenient camper access is required much more frequently that maximum off-highway clearance.

I had to remove my Factor 55 HitchLink recovery point (it remains with the truck) to install the step. For some pulls a Factor 55 Shorty Strap or a soft shackle around the step should work. Powder coated black and delivered with a new receiver pin, the welds are beautiful. After test fitting and a few trips in and out of the camper, I added Jessup conformable grip tape (skateboard tape) to increase friction.

Looks great installed too

Jessup conformable grip tape is relatively easy to add to irregular surfaces

I carefully considered the positives and negatives of adding White Knuckle Off Road’s Hitch Step, but think I’m going to be happy with the addition. This weekend I spent hours loading the camper for an upcoming Canadian trip, and used the Hitch Step many times. Works for me.

Need a lift? Looks like a long way up from down here.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Resource: White Knuckle Off Road Products

Superwinch, Expedition Grade, SEMA Show 2016

 

New EXP, Expedition Grade winches from Superwinch

Superwinch

Superwinch unveiled their new EXP Series “Expedition Grade” winches in 8-, 10-, and 12,000-pound ratings. They will be available in integrated and non-intergraded solenoid box versions, with either wire or synthetic rope. Features include: an operation status/temp light on the winch face, an auto clutch, LED lighting for the two auxiliary power ports, sockets, and drum/rope area, wired and wireless controls, and military-grade potted electronics. The attractive design is also more compact than the older Talon line. Superwinch has filed eight patent applications for the EXP Series, which are assembled in Portland, Oregon, from globally sourced parts. They are scheduled to hit retailer shelves by April 2017.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Resource: 

Superwinch: Superwinch.com

Traction Tires from the 2016 SEMA Show

A few tires that got my attention at the 2016 SEMA Show.

Cooper Discoverer STT PRO in 40×13.50R17LT

Cooper STT PRO 40”

We really live in a super-sized America, maybe world? Tires that would have been almost monster truck worthy a few decades ago are now produced in highway-rated, easy to balance radial designs. Cooper introduced their fantastically rugged, yet tame on-road, Discoverer STT PRO in a new 40×13.50R17LT size.

Cooper has manufactured 40” tires for subsidiary and private label brands; however, this is the first to wear the flagship Cooper name. Two other big sizes were introduced, the 38×15.50R18 and 38×15.50R20. As sizable as these may sound, 35×12.50” tires can be fitted to Fourth Generation Ram Cummins Turbo Diesels with no lift,  stock wheels, and only minimal rubbing. coopertire.com

Mastercraft CXT, a new commercial traction design

Mastercraft Courser CXT

This past summer Cooper subsidiary Mastercraft introduced their latest commercial traction tire, the Courser CXT. The CXT features: variable full-depth siping, silica-rich compound for wet/winter traction (M+S rated), large scallops on the outer lugs and generous sidewall shoulder rubber. They are available in 29 sizes, each with a generous 18.5/32” tread depth. A friend and I have been logging miles on a set, accumulating wear data from two Ram/Cummins trucks. mastercrafttires.com 

Detailed look at the Mastercraft Courser CXT: Mastercraft CXT part one

Mickey Thompson’s new Deegan 38, 5-rib all-terrain design.

Mickey Thompson

Mickey Thompson introduced the Deegan 38 All-Terrain for wheels from 15” to 22”. Twenty-nine sizes are available now, with two more coming in April, and the final two sometime in the second quarter of 2017. Light-truck sizes come with a 55,000-mile tread-wear warranty, and P-metric sizes have a 60,000-mile tread-wear warranty. Mickey Thompson says the new design features a “silica-reinforced compound and special siping for great traction, superior cut and chip resistance, and excellent handling and braking in wet and off-road conditions. Tread element tie bars enhance stability and responsive handling on changing road conditions. Angled shoulder scallops and aggressive two-pitch SideBiter’s enhance traction.” mickeythompsontires.com

Ridge Grappler from Nitto Tire

Nitto Ridge Grappler

The newest LT design from Nitto looks like a winner. A hybrid all-terrain with traction lugs for the outer ribs and a slightly lower-void center, it looks like noise should be well controlled. The shoulder tread is beefy, and, as with all Nitto LT tires, there is a different design on each side; you choose. Several sizes are made for 17” to 22” wheels. nittotire.com

Toyo’s Open Country C/T mountain-snowflake rated

Toyo C/T

Manufactures are offering enthusiasts traction tires that are much quieter and less aggressive than mudders but with superior all-weather traction characteristics over a traditional all-terrain or all-season. Toyo eliminated all doubt about the target market by putting it right in the name; C/T stands for commercial traction. The Toyo Open Country C/T was originally only available in Canada, but it was released for sale in the USA in 2016. The C/T meets the mountain snowflake/Alpine severe winter spin-up test requirements. toyotires.com 

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.