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March 2010 Off Road Rant

Posted in Features on March 1, 2010
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It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders when I recently buttoned up the last few things on my red '94 Dodge Ram. After more than 10 years of this truck being a project (and a pain) looming over my head, my old red truck has reached daily driver status once again. I'm sure a lot of you understand-there is something so satisfying about finishing a long-time project. "Relief" is the only (and best) word I can think up for what came over me. And only one year late, the truck is ready to take its trip north, towards Canada, that I've been itching to go on. Snow is already on the ground again, and as soon as we get next month's magazine issue out the door, I'm heading toward some white fluffiness in my old truck.

As I was driving it around the other day, I realized how happy I was to put my 16-year-old ride back together instead of buying some new fancy truck. Long ago my dad ingrained it into to my head to take care of my stuff instead of just trashing it and buying new stuff every few years. In fact, upkeep and maintenance to your belongings is one of the best types of environmental conservation.

That's part of the reason why I'm not buying into these green marketing campaigns that claim you're being eco-friendly if you run out and buy a new car. Isn't it more eco-friendly for me to just properly maintain an already-existing vehicle instead of paying for another vehicle to be produced from a bunch of precious resources? In fact, I wonder how many miles I'd have to drive to make my (already existing) truck's emissions do more environmental damage than producing an entirely new vehicle and driving it for the same amount of miles? While you're thinking about this, remember to include the natural resources and energy used for production, the energy needed for shipping parts for production, shipping the vehicle to a dealership after it's produced, and any other incremental environmental costs.

I'm certainly not recommending to stop buying new vehicles, as a new vehicle is often the most practical and logical choice for some people. And there is no question that a new vehicle puts out less harmful emissions than an older vehicle. But don't be fooled by some crafty marketing strategy that makes you think you're a sinner if you're driving some old ride. There are many valid reasons to purchase a new car, but saving the world should not be one of them. That's how people end up driving ugly hybrids.

This month: We worked on a bunch of heavy-duty fullsize trucks and addressed a lot of issues that they sometimes see. We also delved a little further into our daily driver with 47-inch tires-a Cherokee we'll be putting some 1-ton axles on next month.

I like this. It's just funny now, and I am growing fond of the running joke (or non-running joke) of a truck that amazes us if it doesn't break down. Call me sick, but I think I like this truck more every time it comes back from a shop. It makes it more exciting to drive when it's actually working.

And yes, here is the Super Duty on the side of the road...again. We're not yet sure what happened this time. I was on my way to the Barstow cleanup when the truck just shut down and wouldn't restart. This might be an instance in which just buying a new truck might be more practical. But then again, who wants practicality when you could get to know a bunch of diesel mechanics really well instead?

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