The retail showroom and garage will be closed from Saturday, September 4th through Monday, September 6, 2021.
The retail showroom and garage will be closed from Saturday, September 4th through Monday, September 6, 2021.
Towing season is upon us and it’s time to hitch up the boat trailers, campers, car trailers or toy haulers. Road trip!
Let’s tap the brakes, though, for a minute and look at what goes into towing safely and comfortably. Regardless of how large or small, heavy-duty or light-duty your tow vehicle is, there are some basic concepts that have to be thought through before pressing it into tow duty.
Tow Capacity – Every vehicle is rated to tow a certain amount of weight, some more than others. My 2012 F-350 is rated to tow 12,000 pounds, my 2014 Wrangler 2-door just 2,000. Unfortunately, this is where many people stop their assessment of vehicle capability and whether or not it’s suited to the job. The problem is that manufacturers, especially in the truck and SUV market segments, have a sales incentives to make those numbers as large as possible without inviting liability lawsuits. So take their numbers with a grain of salt and remember that being able to tow a certain amount of weight and being able to control it are two very different things. A typical tractor-trailer can weigh 80,000 pounds, with most of that weight in the trailer and cargo. But the tractor can’t always control it and that’s why we see jackknifes and roll-overs. The same concept applies to your tow setup.
Let’s look at the 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, for example. It’s a popular truck and it’s designed to be able to work hard. The conventional or 5th wheel towing capacity is listed by Chevrolet at 9,800 pounds, compared to a Gross Vehicle Weight of 9,300 pounds if fully loaded with passengers and gear. Curb weight is just over 6,200 pounds. In other words, the truck could be towing something that weighs nearly 3,500 pounds more than it does. When things go sideways, which end of the combination is going to be in control? Probably not the truck.
This is true of every truck and SUV on the market. You need to know what your vehicle weighs (curb weight and GVWR) and how that compares to what you’re going to tow. I generally try to make sure my tow vehicle weighs more than the trailer I’m towing, but that’s not always possible and it may be necessary to employ additional items such as sway control bars to better control the load.
Trailer Hitch – There are classes of trailer hitches that are based on the weight they are rated to tow. Depending on the class of hitch, it will have a specific size receiver opening for the ball mount, typically 1 7/8, 2, or 2 5/16 inches. The class also determines how much weight can rest on the hitch when the trailer is connected. To make sure you are towing safely, there are a couple of things you need to match up here. First, make sure you are buying enough hitch for the job you want it to do, now or later. The difference in price from class to class is relatively small so it’s not worth trying to save money here if there’s a possibility you may want to tow 5,000 pounds later instead of the 3,000 you need to tow now.
Trailer hitches are typically sold separately from the electrical wiring kits needed to connect the trailer and vehicle lights together, so don’t forget to get the right kit for your vehicle.
Ball mount drop height – A trailer that is not level to the ground when hitched to the tow vehicle can produce so undesirable effects. If the trailer coupler is leaning forward, it is shifting it’s weight forward and putting more weight on the hitch than it should and may be forcing the rear suspension of the tow vehicle to squat. That reduces grip at the front wheels and changes the handling dynamics of the tow vehicle as well as it’s ability to absorb road imperfections. Conversely, a trailer that is leaning back is unloading the rear suspension and trying to lift the rear of the tow vehicle. That will cause problems as well.
To eliminate this, make sure the trailer is level to the ground while unhitched. Measure the distance from the ball coupler to the ground. Then, making sure the two vehicle is parked on level ground, measure the distance from the center of the receiver opening to the ground. The difference in height (and there is usually, but not always, at least a 2” difference in height) is the amount of drop you need in the ball mount.
Getting that right means your trailer will sit level when hitched and won’t be affecting the stance of the tow vehicle.
Brake Controller – Some vehicles that are equipped with factory tow packages come with an integrated brake controller. Others do not. The brake controller allows the driver to set the timing and intensity of trailer brake actuation. Small utility trailers typically don’t have brakes so this isn’t needed for them but trailers with a load rating over 3,000 pounds typically have electric brakes on each axle they have. Setting the brake controller correctly will prevent the tow vehicle brakes from having to stop the entire combination and can help control the trailer when necessary.
Additional Load Control Devices – For heavy loads or when the load is near or over the weight of the tow vehicle, it may be advisable to add other load control products to the vehicle. Examples of this are sway control bars or weight distributing hitches and helper springs.
Sway control bars attach to the trailer tongue and to the ball mount on the tow vehicle. They apply tension to the trailer when it wants to step out of line with the tow vehicle. This can happen due to wind gusts or the air deflecting off the front of a passing tractor trailer. The sudden rush of air will want to push the trailer sideways, but the bars should prevent or minimize that kind of movement.
Helper springs can come in two general forms. They can be an actual leaf spring that adds stability to the factory spring, providing better control or they can be an air bag that is inflated when towing and set to the pressure that provides the most stability.
As you can see, there is much more to this than just bolting on a hitch, hooking up a trailer, and hitting the road. We frequently walk customers through this discussion to help them achieve a good result that allows them to safely enjoy towing season, no matter where they’re going or what they’re bringing with them.
One of the recurring events in the automotive aftermarket retail world is the customer who comes through the door because he/she just bought a set of used wheels on Craigslist or eBay or… (substitute your favorite used parts on-line classified website here). Problem is, they don’t fit and the customer wants help figuring out what they need to do to make them work.
There are several factors that determine whether a wheel will fit a particular vehicle and they all must work together. They are:
Bolt pattern – the number of holes in the wheel that the wheel studs come through and the distance between them. Typical bolt patterns can be found here:
Wheels that have the wrong bolt pattern can still be mounted but it requires a wheel adapter. These are often expensive and people end up spending more than expected just to save their “good” used wheel deal. Depending on the difference between wheel and vehicle bolt patterns, there can be cases where no adapter is available for that combination and the customer has no option but to try to resell their now-useless wheels. Also, the wrong wheel adapter style for the vehicle can result in a wheel coming off while driving.
Bore Size – the size (in millimeters) of the hole in the center of the wheel. This hole should be as close as possible to the hub size of the vehicle on which the wheel will be mounted without being smaller. If the bore size is close, a small adapter known as a hub-centric ring will fill the space between the wheel bore size and the vehicle hub size. Too much difference, however, and there will not be a ring large enough to allow safe mounting of the wheel.
Offset – this is the point between the outside and inside edge of the wheel where the mounting surface of the wheel is located. If the mounting surface is exactly halfway, the wheel is considered to have zero offset. If the mounting surface is closer to the inside edge than outside, the wheel has negative offset and the wheel is, in effect, pushed out toward the wheel opening in the fender. If the mounting surface is closer to the outside edge, the wheel is considered to have positive offset and the effect is to pull the wheel deeper inside the wheel well.
Backspacing – this is a term that is often used interchangeably with offset but it is not exactly the same. Backspacing is the distance from the inside edge of the wheel to the mounting surface. To translate backspacing into offset, you have to know the width of the wheel. It’s generally better and safer to focus on offset so you know how the wheel will be positioned in the wheel well.
Most vehicles come from the factory with positive offset wheels. The entire wheel fits completely inside the wheel well and still has sufficient clearance of stock suspension components. However, when the vehicle is lifted, the angle on some of the suspension components can change, bringing them into contact with the wheel. That’s why lifted vehicles usually need a more negative offset so the wheel is pushed out and away from the suspension. A stock 2017 Jeep Wrangler (JK), for example, comes from the factory with a positive 45mm offset. An aftermarket wheel, on the other hand, may have a positive offset of 18mm. That translates into a negative 27mm change in offset, pushing the wheel out to the edge of the wheel well or fender flare. The more the offset changes in a negative direction, the more the wheel is pushed out.
Wheel diameter – the distance across the wheel. Vehicles can often take larger diameter wheels than the factory designed them for, but usually not smaller (there are exceptions to this rule, especially when the same vehicle, with a lesser trim level, was built with smaller wheels). The issue here is brake clearance. The inside circle of the wheel must be large enough to not interfere with the movement of the brake calipers (disc brakes) or shoes (drum brakes).
The bottom line, of course, is that wheels are not a generic component that can be readily moved from one vehicle to another. If you are in the market for used wheels, follow these important steps:
The reality is that there are lots of brand new aftermarket wheels that can be had for not much more than we’ve seen people pay for used wheels plus the pieces to make them work. Don’t rush into a “screaming deal” without checking out new wheel prices to see just how much “scream” there really is in the deal.
We all want to save money and used wheels can often be just the ticket for the informed buyer. With the information above and some due diligence on your part, hopefully that informed buyer is you.
Here are some interesting items that people often overlook when initially outfitting their new truck, but frequently include in a second round of upgrades.
If someone buys a tonneau cover to protect the contents of their bed, it means they have stuff in the bed that they will occasionally want to retrieve and that usually means getting up into the bed. A common method for that is to step on the rear bumper and then climb over the tailgate. This is actually easier than getting in the bed with the tailgate down but like most things in life, “easier “ is a relative term.
I’m 5’10” tall so even getting into the bed of my F-350 is no big deal for me if I leave the tailgate up and step up onto the bumper. It’s a lot harder with the tailgate down because I lose access to the low point of the bumper and the step up is now extremely high. But like I said, I can work around it by leaving the tailgate up.
Getting back out is slightly more difficult because it can be hard to see where to place your foot on the bumper as you step backward out of the bed over the closed tailgate. But it’s workable.
On the other hand there is no easy way in or out of the truck bed, even on a small truck, for someone shorter. That’s where the bed step comes in. It’s a spring-loaded or swivel step that attaches to the frame or rocker panel of the truck and extends out when needed, roughly halving the distance from the ground to the rear bumper. Some steps are designed to mount along the side of the bed just behind the cab so the owner can step up and reach into the bed to retrieve items.
Whichever style you use, it makes the bed much more usable on a daily basis.
The shortest of short beds is 5’ long from tailgate to front. Many are 6’ long and some are 8’ long. Regardless of which bed length you have, retrieving something from the front of the bed can be a chore and then there’s the problem of items rolling around in the bed when driving home from a shopping trip.
The most popular bed extenders make the short beds more usable by acting as a cargo fence that extends out over the tailgate, adding length to the bed. They also can flip inward, creating a corral just inside the tailgate, providing a conveniently accessible storage area that keeps items in a confined space. Sometimes, though, the bed extender can get in the way.
Recognizing that, the best bed extenders are designed for quick and easy removal as well as easy re-installation. They make the bed available for a wider range of uses, adding convenient versatility in the process.
Bed mats create a non-skid surface and protect the painted floor of the truck bed. For some owners, that’s all the protection that they need. Made of heavy rubber, they are often cut to custom fit vehicle-specific bed shapes and lengths. They don’t protect the inside walls of the bed, however.
Liners basically fall into two categories – drop-in liners and spray-on liners. Their function is simply to protect the bed of the truck from scratches and small dings as well as to provide a non-skid surface to minimize movement of items stored in the bed. A spray-on liner such as Rhino-liner requires scuffing the paint off the bed floor and walls, applying a paint preparation agent, and then spraying on a permanent coating. The materials and labor involved make this a relatively expesive option, generally in the $500.00 and up range. The advantage is that it is a tough, durable coating that will not wear off over time.
Drop-in liners are made of hard plastic and they are designed to fit the contours of the bed and extend up the sides under the bed rails. They do have the ability to move around slightly and over time can scuff the painted surfaces, but they are also significantly less expensive than spray-on, typically less than half the cost.
Drop-in liners also have the advantage of being able to move from vehicle to vehicle as long as the bed dimensions are the same or very, very close. Ford SuperDuty beds, for example, have only slightly changed once from 1999 to present, so an owner who has upgraded to a new truck a couple of times over the past 17 years could have reused their drop-in bed liner on each new truck.
Most trucks traditionally have a nose-down stance. The bed is slightly raised so that, when loaded, it has room to settle without appearing to be overloaded. Some owners prefer a level stance or they want to put larger wheel and tires on the truck. Others install snow plows and don’t want the front of the truck to drop even more under the weight.
Leveling kits raise the front of the truck up so that it’s at the same height as the bed. They provide more room for larger wheels and tires (sometimes allowing up to 35″ diameters) and they restrict how much the front can drop under weight. They are an economical and effective solution for owners who want a more aggressive look without the cost, inconvenience and complexity of a full lift kit.
All of these accessories make it possible for owners to periodically update their vehicles rather than replace them and can make them easier to live with as daily drivers. It’s almost always less expensive to refresh a paid-for vehicle than to replace it. For those owners enjoying a new purchase, it’s less expensive to personalize that new vehicle in the aftermarket than through the dealer. Stop by and let us show you how we can put your personality on wheels!
One of the more common questions we get asked by customers is this – what do most people buy for their new truck/SUV? There’s a pretty consistent set of upgrades that make up the most common aftermarket package for new vehicles, so let’s run through that list and why each item is on it.
So that’s basically the new vehicle outfitting list. Not every owner gets everything on the list. Some new vehicles, depending on trim level, come with some of these items as standard equipment. Some owners choose to only utilize a few of them items on the list. But they are the most common. After these items, personalization of the vehicle becomes as diverse as the owner personalities. They can also make an enormous difference in appearance at far less cost than factory trim upgrades. Here’s an example of the before and after from our own 2012 F-350.
We have examples of these items and many others on display in the store and we will take the time to offer advice on what will best enhance the look and protection for your specific vehicle. Sometimes that even means advising a customer to buy less than what they came in looking for because the lesser item will actually blend in better with the look of their particular vehicle’s trim level. So, if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and see us. After all, it’s always a good time to protect that new-car investment!
One of the first questions we ask a customer when they come into the store shopping for a tonneau cover is “How do you use the bed of your truck?” The purpose behind that question is simple – we want to understand whether a hard tonneau or soft tonneau makes sense for them. We ask that question even of customers who come in specifically looking for a hard tonneau.
Hard tonneau cover prices typically start at around $400 more than an equivalent soft cover. So our first objective is to make sure the customer is looking at both the right style and price point for what they need the cover to do.
Customers who mostly just want weather protection for the bed of their truck and the occasional sports equipment or DIY tools they store there will be well served with a soft cover. It will keep the bed dry (under most conditions and for most trucks, but no cover is completely weatherproof) and will prevent someone from seeing what’s there or casually reaching in and walking away with your property. The latches are typically inside the tailgate so, if your tailgate locks, your cover cannot be opened from the outside of the bed and most casual thieves won’t risk cutting your cover with no sure prospect of finding something worth taking.
For those with tailgates that don’t have factory-installed locks, we can typically provide after-market locks and install them for you for much less than the price difference between hard and soft covers.
But some customers do store valuable property, such as contractor-grade tools and hunting or fishing gear, in the bed and that needs a higher level of security. We used to take our kids to Maine every Christmas for an extended family celebration. With all of our gifts in the bed of the truck and knowing we’d be stopped at highway rest stops along the way, we considered a hard tonneau cover as a must-have. The price difference was not as important as the security and peace of mind.
Hard covers do tend to be lower profile, especially the retractable models, and sometimes that look is worth the price difference to customers
We have half a dozen hard covers on display at the store and even more soft covers. If you are unsure of what cover will best fit your needs, stop in and let us show you the differences.