Mastercraft Courser CXT

Mastercraft Courser CXT 

Commercial Traction

Most light-truck tires are welcome in my garage, from tame all-terrains to the impressively streetable modern mudder. However, I have a strong preference for rubber that fit neither category, those that intentionally blur the lines of distinction, finding their own focus. Known by their traditional name, commercial traction tires, or aggressive all-terrains, hybrid, or the newer slang moniker, tweener (in-between), the design goal is similar.

Commercial traction tires are not new, they have been produced for decades, though the choices were fewer and they rarely received much marketing budget. Still not necessarily the beneficiary of the biggest advertising campaigns, depending on the brand, the performance advantages of modern hybrid treads have won-over many enthusiasts as a practical choice with fewer compromises. This segment of the market demands good grip on multiple surfaces, load-carrying capability, and puncture resistance.

Notably better in sloppy stuff than a typical all-terrain, with less noise and superior versatility than muds, there is much to like. Some have more sipes and the 3-peak/snowflake winter rating, while many don’t, but still perform well in the wet stuff. Nearly all have prodigious tread depth and void—particularly at the outer lugs—that broadcast their ability to absorb and fling muck when required. Mud-terrains are often described as 20/80-designs (20% road 80% dirt/mud), but commercial tractions are generally 60/40, 50/50, or 40/60, depending on their characteristics.

Mastercraft Courser CXT commercial traction tires

Mastercraft Courser CXT

In May 2016, Mastercraft Tires introduced their new light-truck (LT) commercial traction tire, the Courser CXT. It’s a mid-void, 4-rib that replaces the Courser C/T (C/T = commercial traction). Mastercraft is a subsidiary of the Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, one of the few remaining American tire companies and manufacturers. Before sharing my observations and insights, what Mastercraft says about their product is quoted below in orange:

Overview

The Courser CXT was designed as a premium light truck commercial traction tire that provides trusted all-terrain performance with enhanced off-road durability. The CXT features variable full depth siping and a silica rich tread compound for enhanced wet and winter traction. The large tread element and blocky design help to resist abnormal wear while enhancing tread stability and durability.

Large Surface Area Tread Blocks

Provide increased grip on and off-road while improving wear performance.

Optimized Void-to-Rubber Ratio

The amount of rubber on the road is optimized to provide rough terrain traction and enhance on highway driving comfort and feel.

Enhanced Upper Sidewall Design

The shoulder design increases off-road traction with side traction blocks and the circumferential raised rubber feature protects against sidewall abrasion and impacts.

Large Shoulder Scallops 

The scallops provide a “mud-scoop” effect for dependable off-road traction while giving the CXT a more aggressive look, to enhance the appearance of almost any light truck vehicle.

M+S Rated

Extra Tidbits

The CXT is offered in 29 sizes, starting with the oldie-but-goodie 31×10.50R15LT, up to the 35×12.50R20LT. The size breakdown includes three 15-inch (all load-range-C), nine 16-inch, nine 17-inch, five 18-inch, and three 20-inch sizes. All sport a substantial 18.5/32-inches of tread depth, offering potentially more grip and longevity than others that start with less. In addition to the M+S rating, the CXT can be studded.

18.5/32″ tread depth in all sizes

Deep sipes

For those familiar with Cooper’s other LT designs, it is easy to assume that the CXT is simply a different tread slapped onto their extremely popular and capable, Discover S/T MAXX casing. Not so, they are different tires, both tread and carcass. Yet, many considering the CXT will likely also consider the S/T MAXX.

Mastercraft CXT vs. Cooper S/T MAXXTwo Primary Differences 

The Discoverer S/T MAXX employs Cooper’s Armor-Tek3 carcass, a 3-ply sidewall, whereas the Courser CXT uses a 2-ply design. There are pluses and minus to both depending on one’s needs; 3-ply sidewalls are generally more rugged and stiffer, where a 2-ply may flex better, ride softer, and weigh slightly less.

The S/T MAXX is optimized for severe cut and chip resistance. When the MAXX was added to Cooper’s light-truck line it’s closest sibling was the S/T (no MAXX), which was/is not nearly as cut and chip resistant. The Discoverer S/T is also a straight 4-rib, where the MAXX’s center alternates between four and five.

Tread and sidewall specifications for a CXT 255/80R17E

255/80R17 Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX and Mastercraft Courser CXT

The CXT has extra silica for additional wet traction. The slightly higher-void of the 4-rib CXT is visually similar to the older Cooper S/T, but the CXT has deeper scalloped outer lugs, plus beefy upper-sidewall (shoulder) tread that the older S/T does not.

More or slightly less void, 2-ply or 3-ply sidewalls, increased wet traction potential or optimized cut and chip resistance…only you can decide.

Outer rib tread lugs—Cooper S/T MAXX, Mastercraft CXT

Cult Of The 255 / The Third 255/80R17 

Several of the 29 Mastercraft Courser CXT sizes could fit one of my vehicles, and I was tempted to pick a larger size. However, for nearly two decades I’ve run and been a fan of moderate width tires, chiefly the 255/85R16, and for a few years its 17-inch brother, the 255/80R17. Mastercraft makes the CXT in both of these sizes, and 255/8x aficionados are surely rejoicing!

Mastercraft Courser CXT tread close-up

One challenge for those wanting to move to the 255/85 size is the lack of treads with less void; many current 255/85R16 offerings are mud-terrains. The 255/85 has become a niche choice, with few newer trucks using 16-inch wheels. The 255/80R17 is even more specialized. Mastercraft’s introduction of the CXT raises the total number of tires offered in this size to three. Cooper makes two of them; BF Goodrich’s mudder is their only competition.

Height, Weight, Width

A super-clean set of fourth-generation Ram 17×8-inch WFK forged-aluminum wheels were purchased from a Craigslist seller, each weighing just 21.8 pounds with the hubcap. Unmounted, a 255/80R17 CXT registers 55.2 pounds on my shop scale (the same size S/T MAXX is 58 lb.), and once mated to a WFK wheel the combination measured 77.2 pounds. Inflated to the maximum 80 psi, the overall height was 32 15/16-inches, with 8-inches of tread.

255/80R17E mastercraft CXT tire weight

It’s noteworthy that I’ve repeatedly found published specifications for Cooper-manufactured tires to be accurate. For this tire and size, on a 7-inch wheel, Mastercraft lists overall diameter of 33.15-inches, and tread width of 8.07-inches. Acknowledging that manufacturers’ measuring tools are likely more accurate than my straightedge and yardstick method, and the 255/80 CXT was mounted on a wider wheel, my measurements were still within nearly two-tenths. For the curious, the unmounted height was almost a half-inch shorter, but focusing on unmounted diameter is pointless: tires are not used without wheels and compressed air.

CXT 255/80R17E tread width is eight inches, both unmounted and mounted

Mounting And Balancing

Manufacturing  tolerances, weight, width, construction, and the wheel employed all affect how easily and well an assembly is balanced. In general, smaller and lighter equals easier to true. Using the static, single-plane method, the ounces of wheel weight required were:

#1 3.50

#2 2.75

#3 2.50

#4 4.50

Discount Tire has been mounting and balancing my tires lately

Modern spin balancing is quite good. Single plane, “static” balancing was chosen

First Drive 

The tires were immediately put to work supporting a maximum load on a built Ram that typically lives at its 10,000-pound Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), carrying a Hallmark Milner camper, tools, and other supplies. With the fronts at 60 psi and the rears at 80 psi, the ride was neither mushy nor harsh. Over a familiar section of freeway where expansion joints can induce freeway hop (generally not a problem on this truck) the CXTs exhibited no such tendency. Steering response was excellent, a common trait with narrower tires, as they take less energy, time, and effort to change direction. Even at paralegal speeds, balance didn’t change and no bad-vibrations were felt.

Noise

Initial impressions were that noise is slightly more than the popular Cooper S/T MAXX, which is an impressively quiet design. This is not surprising as the CXT has a higher-void, 4-rib pattern instead of the MAXX 4/5-rib. The volume and deeper tone is not annoying or loud, and what I expected; both are certainly much quieter than any mud-terrain. The CXT sounds similar but slightly quieter than the older Cooper Discoverer S/T (not to be confused with the S/T MAXX, STT or STT PRO).

Appearance

Function is more important than form, but many like their 4WDs to look tough. Before receiving this set of Mastercrafts I’d not seen the tire in person, just the few marketing shots online. There were no substantive professional reviews or user reports. This article still may be the first. The outer lug scallops were a pleasant surprise, and the sidewall shoulder tread was beefier than I expected. Pretty sexy, in a nice, girl-next-door way.

An OEM 17″ WFK forged aluminum wheel and a 255/80R17 Mastercraft CXT are a light tire and wheel combo, only 77.2 pounds

Notes On Tracking

When changing to a different tread, size, and/or wheel, there is a possibility that your vehicle may need a custom alignment to match the new combination to the chassis. Some folks are willing to ignore a little drift (or pull) right or left, where others find any drift unacceptable. Some tires have a well-deserved reputation for directing vehicles to the shoulder or median, but different trucks and roads can cause different behaviors.

If your truck has an independent-front-suspension (IFS), adjusting the caster (and to a lesser extent camber) to help it track straight should be easy for a good alignment shop willing to make custom adjustments. Be willing to pay more. Finding such an establishment with a skilled technician may be challenging. Many places that should know better still want to use the factory geometry for modified rigs when different settings would fix or dramatically improve drivability.

Picking My Own Line

The 2014 Ram initial CXT test platform has a Specialty Products Company (SPC) 1.5-degree offset ball joint at the right-front, installed after only 1,500 miles to counteract the characteristic right-pull of many Ram trucks and/or some tires. Before any modifications, still running the stock Firestone highway treads, this truck drifted right and would head for the shoulder quite rapidly if the steering wheel was released, typically in six seconds or less. Unacceptable.

The SPC offset ball joint increased caster angle on the right, effectively directing the truck left helping the chassis drive straight without input from the driver to correct the right drift. With such an aggressive geometry modification there is always the possibility, even likelihood, that the truck will track left with some tires or under certain circumstances, including differing road crown. This was a compromise I was willing to live with, but it’s not for everyone. Swapping ball joints is not a trivial affair on a live-axle truck.

With the CXTs mounted, this truck has a slight tendency to go left, depending on the roadway. However, three “look mom, no-hands” tests during the first 100 miles, under suboptimal windy freeway conditions, achieved 12.06, 11.90, and 12.26 seconds before semi-autonomous driving had to be curtailed to prevent the truck from changing lanes. These are good numbers, but not surprising as narrower treads generally track (much) better than wide ones. This also means I’d be perfectly happy to run these on long road trips. The stars were aligned during another test on Interstate 5 in California where I clocked 25 seconds of straight tracking. A buddy’s Dodge that drifts right with most tires, still did with the CXTs mounted . Your truck may vary; adjust as needed.

No complaints after the first few thousand miles

More To Come 

Two CXT follow-up pieces are planned for RoadTraveler.net. One will be an off-highway low-pressure, eye candy, flex-test photoshoot. The other will share some wear data after a few thousand miles. Stay tuned.

Sources: 

Cooper Tire & Rubber: coopertire.com

Mastercraft Tires: mastercrafttires.com

Specialty Products Company: spcalignment.com 

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

No Spill Systems Oil Drain Plug

Screwing the tube on opens the O-ring-sealed plunger allowing the oil to drain.

No-Spill Systems

Nearly two decades ago I learned about the No-Spill™ Systems (formerly FEMCO) oil-drain plugs from Geno’s Garage and have been a fan since. I love their quality and how they function. No-Spill’s housing and working parts are made with high-quality brass instead of steel. Some competitors use brass dust caps on steel plugs, and when the metals expand and contract at different rates the caps can fall off. No-Spill uses all brass construction, so the dust cap is more likely to get tighter as the parts heat-up, not looser. The brass construction is also intentionally sacrificial. Brass is softer than the steel of most oil pans, and if over tightened the plug will break or the threads may strip before those inside the pan. This is extremely important on large equipment and aircraft, where oil pans can cost thousands of dollars, plus the labor to remove and replace them.

In applications where a new washer/gasket is supplied, they are made from solid copper, not hollow core (fiber-filled) copper, and the spring inside the plug is stainless steel. The No-Spill was formerly manufactured in the Netherlands, but they now source all their metals from the United States with the final machining and assembly done in Canada.

Quality is the name of the game here, and often you get what you pay for. As a fan of top quality parts, I would rather buy the best, most-functional accessories whenever possible. All No-Spill Systems come with a lifetime warranty on all parts and workmanship.

The compact system on my 1996 7.3L Power Stroke F-350 sold to a buddy in 2014, was in-use for 18 years. Our Toyotas also sport No-Spills; one is a nine-year-old compact and the other a right-angle design. Using these has been a pleasure, and I can’t abide returning to a standard, messy oil changing process.

No-Spill Systems engine oil changing kit.

Magnetic 

For our 2014 Ram/Cummins 2500 I chose a 10-18150-06, a standard design (not compact) with a magnet in the center. There are those that might argue that a magnetic plug is unnecessary with modern filtration, and if needed, Ram or Cummins would include one. Maybe so, and countless Cummins Turbo Diesels survive without one, but pulling the copy of Robert Sikorsky’s Drive It Forever from our bookcase, and reading his recommendations encouraging using one, the wisdom of my decision was supported by a higher authority.

A magnet and a real copper gasket were noticeably missing on the factory stopper I removed. Maybe the thin rubber film on the OE plug base would seal for many changes, but it appears cheap. Kudos to Ram/Cummins for only requiring a simple 3/8-inch ratchet for removal and for the low profile, high-clearance design.

I was being careful and trying to avoid a mess, but pulling the OE plug from the pan was not a splash free affair. Never again with the No-Spill.

This No-Spill extends 1.2-inches below the bottom of the pan, not much, but being accustomed to the shorter compact design, it looks substantially lower. As a frequent backcountry traveler, I may change to a Compact, particularly if I don’t fashion a skid plate to protect the oil pan. It would take a large rock tumbling under the front axle to hit and damage this plug, but plenty of rocks have rolled under the soft white underbelly of my rigs during technical sections of trail. The consequences could be severe.

Installing the magnetic No-Spill was easy; with the one exception being it’s so large. Only because I’d recently purchased a 3/4-inch-drive socket set did I have the 1 3/16” socket I needed. Without a 3/4- to 1/2-inch reducer in my toolbox I couldn’t torque the plug to specification, instead I had to use old-fashion feel. After buying an adapter I confirmed it had at least 30 lb-ft of force applied. Subsequent changes will be a pleasure, devoid of splashing when three gallons of hot oil all fight to exit the pan at the same instant.

A large, 1 3/16″ socket was needed for the installation and torquing of the No-Spill plug.

Torque to spec, don’t over tighten, you may break the plug. I’ve done it before.

Oil Change Number One

This was the first new vehicle in decades that I avoided doing an extremely early, precautionary oil change, usually around 1,000 miles. When essentially new lubricant is drained from the latest generation Cummins ISB engines designed to travel up to 15,000 miles on fresh lube, it’s almost unused.

Modern engines are made to tighter tolerances, and there is less physical wear-in than in the distant past, but there is still some. The Ram owner’s manual speaks to this, saying “engine run-in is enhanced by loaded operating conditions which allow the engine parts to achieve final finish and fit during the first 6,000 miles.” Note the word loaded. Don’t be afraid to work a new engine. Use the whole rpm range and all the gears, plus transfer case (off-pavement) if you have one… stuff needs a “final finish”. Does this mean the oil should be changed before the EVIC says to do so, probably not? But learning that our maintenance regime might be overkill is a good, first-world-problem to have.

Doing early oil changes has not always been about dumping the factory fill for more of the same, but often to insert a preferred synthetic at what was traditionally considered very low mileage. Confident my engines have received a good and varied initial break-in during the first 1,000 miles, my anecdotal evidence has been zero consumption, leakage, nor any oil-related problems from modern cars and trucks after adding synthetic after few miles. At 1,000 miles the wear-in process has just begun on heavy-duty diesels, and towing and hauling use ensues. However, early use of synthetic oil in new Ram/Cummins ISB engines is not a concern, they are delivered with 5W-40 synthetic in the pans.

Three-Pronged Oil-Change Goal

Changing the engine lube in the new 2014 truck at 2,800-miles was about a few things, none of which were related to serious concerns about it being worn-out. The goals were: installing the No-Spill, using my chosen product, doing a baseline used-oil-analysis, and practicing the procedure once while the truck was new, clean, and before it needed a service. The first three are simple, but there are tips and a story surrounding the last.

Much oil life remains after a mere 2,800 miles in a late model Cummins 6.7L ISB that uses DEF.

Changing engine oil is a simple task, but every vehicle is slightly different, and familiarity makes it easier and faster each time. Inline-six engines were historically straightforward to work on, our beloved Cummins ISB included, though like all modern vehicles there is increasingly little space under the hood and access is limited. Reading fourth-generation changing tips in both the TDR magazine and the Turbo Diesel Register online forums, I knew to remove the intake duct or use the passenger-side fender liner/wheel-well opening for filter access.

This 6-speed manual truck lacks the obstructive automatic transmission cooling lines near the wheel-well port. Access and leverage to remove the notoriously tight factory filter was much better through the wheel well, and there is no chance of debris falling into an open and exposed intake system. The fender-liner opening appeared faster and better.

Current G56 manual transmission Ram/Cummins trucks offer good oil filter access through the provided opening in the fender liner. Removing the right front wheel provides room to work.

To make the job easier I removed the right front tire, a quick task because I frequently test different sets of tires and wheels and have-it-down. Lifting the front axle with a floor jack, lowering it onto a six-ton stand, removing the wheel nuts with a cordless impact gun, and pulling the tire took less than five minutes.

With the tire removed reaching the filter was easy, but a minor modification improved access. The block-heater cord was on the forward side of the battery ground cable to the block. It might have limited lowering a full filter, or caught my fingers, encouraging a fumble. Unclipping the cord from the ground cable and unscrewing it from the heater element allowed repositioning it to the rear of the battery cable. The reusable OE clip was attached, and I was ready to proceed.

Block heater cord was moved aft for more clearance.

Simply unscrewing the the block heater cord from the heating element allowed easy rerouting for better access.

Ready to remove the factory Mopar filter.

The metal band wrench purchased in 1993 for our first-generation Dodge Cummins Turbo Diesel still works perfectly. The filter was tight, I almost needed two hands, but I was able to loosen it without resorting to a cheater bar. After loosening, as a precaution, I used the gallon plastic bag trick. I’d read that the level would drop over time, and I’d eaten lunch between pulling the plug and returning to change the filter. Unsealing the filter resulted in zero spillage. Lowering the it into the space between the frame and engine, and then angling it toward me, I could see the oil level was about 1.5-inches below the top, and sealing the zip-lock bag was unnecessary. Pulling the filter through the liner opening allowed a few ounces to spill into the bag as I reached the maximum angle. The plastic bag technique provided a welcome safety net.

As many DIY guys note, the original filter was tight, but nothing more than a good tool and arm strength were needed.

Using the old gallon freezer bag trick to prevent spillage.

Filling new filters before installation has proponents and detractors. I’ve mostly been a filler, but the two Toyota V8s and VW TDI in our garage don’t allow pre-filling, so only the old ’96 Ford 7.3L (with superior access under the truck) has received this treatment in recent years. The Cummins Filtration Fleetguard LF16035 (purchased from Geno’s Garage) has pictures on the side suggesting filling before installation; I didn’t. Removing the risk of spillage or possible contamination, I was ready to add oil to the crankcase. It may sound like a small detail, but I appreciate the 12-quart capacity. Our ’96 F-350 7.3L needed 14 quarts, and it’s nice to add just three gallons.

Aside from minor splashing after removing the factory drain plug, this was an extremely uneventful oil change with zero mess or spills—until I started pouring the last gallon into a funnel while looking through my camera viewfinder.

Fleetguard’s LF16035 StrataPore filter.

Oil Religion Conversion and Chevron Delo 400 5W-40

In recent years my preferences for some brands and products has evolved. I’ve read the Turbo Diesel Register articles about oils that “meet the specification”, and the difference or lack thereof between brands. I was a never an only this brand guy, but still I won’t buy the cheapest stuff I can find. Reputations matter, and I enjoy consistency. The Cummins ISB is tough, and I’m more concerned about the lubrication of other drivetrain components than the engine. There are many satisfactory lubricants; using one oil for a few applications simplifies things.

Several gallons of Delo 400 5W-40 already sat on shelves in my shop intended for other rigs when the new Ram joined the fleet. This Delo meets the specification, is readily available for a low price in my part of Nevada, and will suffice for all temperatures the truck will experience. This lube should work as well as any that meets the spec, and for fun and edification I send samples to be analyzed so we can see how the performance compares to the EVIC oil-change indicator. Using the 15W-40 suggested for temps over zero Fahrenheit is an option, but the truck will see its coldest temperatures in the backcountry, with no power for the block heater. So for now I like 5W-40.

Delo 400 5W-40 has been my chosen diesel lube for the past several years.

With the dust cap on and ready for travel.

Future Change Intervals

The massive increase in oil-change intervals (OCI) on the 2013-up consumer pickups is due to the introduction of SCR/urea injection and the lack of oil dilution. I prefer a longer OCI when possible, and would not be wild about the shorter OCI on the earlier fourth-generation pickups. TDR editor Patton has confidence in Ram’s algorithm to determine OCI, and my EVIC numbers and percentages seem to support driving almost 15,000 miles before a change would be required.

After logging 2,816 miles on the engine the EVIC indicated the oil life was 82-percent of new. Simple math tells me that service life was reduced 1-percent every 156 miles. If that duty-cycle continued, I could have traveled 15,600 miles before needing a change. Impressive! This rig had yet to haul heavy loads or pull trailers, and doing so can reduce the oil’s longevity. Interestingly, the fuel-filter life was almost the same, with 81-percent remaining. The EVIC logs the engine miles and hours, and used oil analysis will likely backup the EVIC data. But what about a time-based OCI?

Resetting the EVIC oil monitor completes the process.

The 2014 Ram owner’s manual diesel supplement says, in bold, “replace the engine oil and oil filter every 15,000 miles (24 000 km) or six months, or sooner if prompted by the oil change indicator system. Under no circumstances should oil change intervals exceed 15,000 miles (24 000 km) or six months, whichever comes first.”

The six-month interval is ridiculously short. I’m calling bull on Ram and Cummins here. My truck was more than six month old when purchased. The lubricant was not changed before it was sent to me, the factory filter was still in-place, and the drain plug had not been touched. Was Dave Smith Motors in violation and my warranty in jeopardy because the engine lube was not changed? Did they sell me a truck that had not been maintained properly? Do the rules apply to me but not them? Balderdash. I’m confident the information obtained from oil analysis will show that about once a year will be often enough for a time-based interval. Avoiding draining three gallons of serviceable oil every six months will more than cover the cost of the oil analysis. We shall see.

Resources:

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

No-Spill Systems: nospillsystems.com, 866-466-7745  

© James Langan/RoadTraveler.net  All rights reserved.

A version of this article was previously published in Issue 87 of the Turbo Diesel Register (TDR) magazine.

Still Plays With Trucks, TDR Issue 86

Readers,

I rearranged my pages and needed to move this article into a new post to fix links. Largely a biographical piece, it documents my enthusiastic return to the Cummins/Ram world and was my initial Still Plays With Trucks column, originally published here on July 18, 2016.

This was the first of several articles culled from recent work for the Turbo Diesel Register (TDR) magazine, a publication I’ve been associated since its inception in 1993.

James

Still Plays With Trucks #1 TDR 86 COPYRIGHT 2014

 

© 2016 James Langan/RoadTraveler.net

Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX 295/70R18 and 285/75R17

Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX. Left 295/70R18 Right 285/75R17. Both 34-inches tall.

Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX—Left 295/70R18— Right 285/75R17—Both 34-inches tall

My idea of a good time on Black Friday? Playing with black tires in my shop of course.

After a 2,500 mile break-in, the 285/75R17 Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX on 2016 Ram Power Wagon WFV wheels were removed. They were replaced with 295/70R18 S/T MAXX on forged WBJ OE 18-inch wheels.

Aside from the wheel diameters, these tires and wheels are very similar. However, there is a noticeable and measurable height and width difference, the 295s being both a bit wider and taller.

Multi-tread and width tests are underway for future editorials.

© James Langan/RoadTraveler.net

Overland Expo West 2016

Overland Expo West 2016 

Camping and Adventure Travel Exposition At Mormon Lake, Arizona

Overland Expo West is the premiere annual gathering for overland and backcountry travel, an event more important than the SEMA Show for those seeking vehicle-supported adventures. The educational, hands-on, gear shopping, and social opportunities are almost endless, plus it is open to the public, and includes motorcycles. For more about Overland Expo (OE) events visit their website at overlandexpo.com.

During the 2015 event, Flagstaff received a deluge of rain, snow, and resulting mud, combined with unseasonably cold temperatures, but this crowd can handle a little challenge. This year there was some wind, but it was generally very pleasant with seasonal weather.

Ram Truck’s casual press conference was open to the public too.

Ram Truck’s casual press conference was open to the public too.

Ram Truck’s New 2500 Off-Road Package

There is no doubt the Ram Power Wagon is king of full-size trucks in technical terrain, but the Power Wagon package is not available with the Cummins 6.7L for those that prefer the mighty ISB. However, there is a new off-road package for the 2017 Ram 2500 series trucks, including those with the supreme diesel engine from Columbus, Indiana.

Kevin Metz, Head of Ram Heavy Duty Marketing, sharing the lowdown.

Kevin Metz, Head of Ram Heavy Duty Marketing, giving us the lowdown.

Ram conducted a small press conference during OE to talk about their off-highway prowess and offerings. When they shared details on the Ram 2500 Off-road 4×4 Package, I listen intently. The new value-priced option package includes:

-Large front tow hooks

-Fender flares, black or body color (to stop flung debris)

-Bilstein monotube shocks, tuned for the 5-link rear coil suspension and weight

-Firestone LT on/off-road tires, 18” or 20” (less wheel and more sidewall is better off-pavement)

-Transfer-case skid plate (it’s small, but something; a fuel tank skid would be nice)

-Hill-decent control

-Anti-spin rear differential

-“4X4 OFF-ROAD” decals on the tailgate and both sides

This package will be available on almost every trim, cab, wheelbase, gas or diesel-powered 2500 by the third quarter of 2016. Regular cabs were noticeably absent from the list, likely because most are purchased for commercial applications.

Ram Power Wagon is cool, I wish more of its features were offered on Turbo Diesel Rams.

Ram Power Wagon is cool, I wish more of its features were offered on Turbo Diesel Rams.

Some EcoDiesel love at the Ram booth.

An EcoDiesel 1500 at the Ram booth.

Attending this annual event is part of my work, but engaging the folks and scene is a pleasure. The following pictures and captions highlight some of the Cummins-powered standouts.

Owner/Engineer of AEV Dave Harriton’s latest personal canvas on which a custom camper will be built. Dave is a G56 fan, but likes good A/T too, and this 3500 has an Aisin tranny. Using a chassis cab allows 74 gallons of fuel capacity (F 22 R 52), and the DEF tank will be relocated to a less vulnerable and obtrusive location. In these photos the truck already has: AEV DualSport suspension, front bumper, intake snorkel, diff covers, steering upgrades, the new AEV ventilated hood. Huge 41” Super Swamper singles replaced the OE DRW setup, 4.30 gears and ARB lockers are in the differentials, and the bright white fleet paint was covered with a mellow gray color.

Owner/Engineer of AEV Dave Harriton’s latest personal canvas on which a custom camper will be built. Dave is a G56 fan, but likes good A/T too, and this 3500 has an Aisin tranny. In these photos the truck already has: AEV DualSport suspension, front bumper, intake snorkel, diff covers, steering upgrades, and the new AEV ventilated hood. The bright white fleet-look paint was covered with a mellow gray color.

Using a chassis cab allows 74 gallons of fuel capacity (F 22 R 52), and the DEF tank will be relocated to a less vulnerable and obtrusive location.

Using a chassis cab allows 74 gallons of fuel capacity (F 22 R 52), and the DEF tank will be relocated to a less vulnerable and obtrusive location.

Huge 41” Super Swamper singles replaced the OE DRW setup, 4.30 gears and ARB lockers are in the differentials.

Huge 41” Super Swamper singles replaced the factory DRW setup, and 4.30 gears and ARB lockers are in the differentials.

Mario Donovan, co-owner of AT Overland Equipment, built this Third Gen. recently. An ARB bumper protects the nose, and a Four Wheel Camper mounts to a custom flatbed.

Mario Donovan, co-owner of AT Overland Equipment, built this Third Generation Cummins recently. An ARB bumper protects the nose, and a Four Wheel Camper mounts to a custom flatbed.

Dave Bennett is the founder of the American Adventurist website and forum, a place focused on exploring what we have available here instead of abroad, and he recently left Toyota for Ram. His new 2500 project already had lots of cool stuff, including a Buckstop front bumper, but since this photo it received a custom flatbed and Four Wheel Camper.

Dave Bennett is the founder of the American Adventurist website and forum, a place focused on exploring what we have available here instead of abroad, and he recently left Toyota for Ram. His new 2500 project already had lots of cool stuff, including a Buckstop front bumper, but since this photo it received a custom flatbed and Four Wheel Camper.

Dually trucks remain a great choice for heavy slide-in campers, even a popup, particularly if challenging and/or narrow dirt roads are not part of the plan. BundutecUSA is a relatively new camper company based in Iowa, though the founder has decades in the business.

Dually trucks remain a great choice for heavy slide-in campers, even a popup, particularly if challenging and/or narrow dirt roads are not part of the plan. BundutecUSA is a relatively new camper company based in Iowa.

A simple, travlin’ light rooftop tent setup.

A simple, travlin’ light rooftop tent setup.

Copyright 2016 James Langan All rights reserved.

Sources:

AEV: aev-conversions.com, 248-926-0256

American Adventurist: americanadventurist.com

AT Overland: adventuretrailers.com, 877-661-8097

BundutecUSA: bundutecusa.com, 319-234-0071

Overland Expo: overlandexpo.com

A version of this article was also published in Issue 94 of the Turbo Diesel Register (TDR), November 2016.

 

 

Mickey and Danny Thompson at 400 MPH

Want to drive fast? Really fast?

My interest in Mickey Thompson Tires has always been related to off-road truck rubber. I’m not a racer or a car guy, I focus on four-wheel-drives and motos. However, I did speak briefly with Mr. Danny Thompson at the SEMA Show a couple years ago as he prepared for his attempt at the record, and just stumbled upon these two productions.

These excellent, short, professional videos tell an important story of triumph.

 

 

Gorilla Wheel Locks, The System

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Gorilla Automotive Wheel Locks: The System 

October 17, 2016

I’ve never had a set of tires and wheels stolen, but plenty of folks have. External and easy to remove, thieves don’t need to enter your locked truck to take them. Acquaintances that frequent Baja Mexico, and points further south, can make strong arguments for locking tires and wheels. Though one friend who is an editor of a leading overland travel magazine and routinely ventures south-of-the-border had his tires and wheels stolen while staying in a hotel in Prescott, Arizona. Not Mexico. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” —Benjamin Franklin.

The depth and amount of engagement between a Gorilla key and lug look and feel superior to the McGard wheel locks I’ve also used. Not having a key for a lock is a problem, so I always buy spares. Two ride in different locations inside the truck, and a third lives in my shop toolbox and sees regular use.

The amount of engagement between a Gorilla key and locking-lug is impressive.

The amount of engagement between a Gorilla key and locking-lug is impressive.

A decade ago I started using Gorilla Automotive Products’ locks on my 4Runner, and this was about the time I started testing several light-truck traction tread designs. So the locks have been on, off, and torqued many times more than a typical user who rotates tires every 5,000 miles. Gorilla doesn’t recommend using an impact gun, but after manual loosening I’ve used an impact to spin them off, and have repeatedly run them on (gently) with an impact; they continue to function normally after a decade.

Since buying my first set of Gorilla Locks 10 years ago, I’ve been a fan.

Since buying my first set of Gorilla Locks 10 years ago, I’ve been a fan.

Years ago I bought a 20-lock kit, “The System”, and used a few of the extras on my off-highway trailer and swing-away tire carrier so one key would work on everything, but I have never used more than one lock per wheel. For my current Ram/Cummins project I decided to embrace The System from Gorilla fully, using a complete set of replacement lug nuts. Incorporating the key instead of only a regular hex socket adds a little time to my frequent wheel and tire R&R, but not too much. Few folks outside of tire shops dismount and mount sets of wheels as frequently as I do, so the extra work required to use The System is likely of little concern for enthusiasts. Again, I break the nuts loose with a breaker bar, and run them off with an impact; on too, but just snug. A torque wrench is always used for the tightening, and rechecked frequently.

Don’t leave home without Gorilla Locks—you won’t need your American Express for new tires and wheels.

Gorilla’s System looks great, better than the OEM hex nuts, though function was the reason I installed them. Shown here on a Ram Laramie (WBL) wheel.

Gorilla’s System looks great, better than the OEM hex nuts, though function was the reason I installed them. Shown here on a Ram Laramie (WBL) wheel.

Source:

Gorilla Automotive: gorilla-auto.com, 323-585-2852

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler.net