The Ford/CTEK Desert Adventure

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CTEK wanted to introduce us to the world of battery management. Off the cuff, that sounds kind of boring. Luckily for us they are a bunch of gearhead and motorsports nerds just like we are and decided to give us the ultimate desert adventure. Boy, did they ever and in doing so opened our eyes to the amazing world that off road has to offer while demonstrating the importance of battery management beyond the race world and hobby cars.

The first day introduced us to VORE, the Vegas Off Road Experience. They are a desert racing school and even set up racing packages for SCORE, Best In The Desert, and other off road racing series in the southwestern area. These guys know what they are doing and it shows in their teaching. First, they start out in the basic classroom that you have to sit through and watch to learn about the safety aspects of driving an off road truck in a high performance environment.

Before we get into the trucks, CTEK and VORE showed us the importance of battery management for off road racing. It’s something not a lot of people take into consideration until that dreaded click of a starter that can’t turn over because the battery is dead. CTEK believes that battery management is something everyone should consider and explain that every system in your vehicle needs maintenance, not just the engine or transmission. Even VORE holds on to this creed with their race trucks, as Jason Smith explained to us that having to worry about a dead battery – even with a dual battery system in their race trucks – is something you don’t want on your mind before you trek out to the open desert.

Then we were strapped into their school trucks. Not quite short course trucks, but amazing machines none the less. These are Ford 4.0L V6 trucks that are in a rear-engine setup with a manually-shifted automatic transaxle. They also feature over 20-inches of travel. They are also very easy to drive but still have enough power to get yourself looped around if you stab the gas too much or too hard.

It also meant that the front end gets very light under throttle, so in order to power out of a turn you either had to chuck it into a slight drift and let the front end begin to wash out under power or use the berm to your full advantage. It was actually pretty easy to get the rear to swing a bit using late braking and trail braking a bit into the corner. Jason also recommended using our left foot for the brakes, but I couldn’t convince mine to do it. I’m too much of a right foot brake guy.

Even without a ton of power, these trucks would clear the 40-foot table top jump even while lifting off the gas before the rear tires left the ground. That was also another recommendation, but only because they wanted the transmissions and engines to last rather than making for a safer landing. Now I see why guys like Luke and Ricky Johnson, Robby Gordon, Burt Jenner, and others love short course and stadium truck racing: Getting air time is addictive.

CTEK also gave us dinner after the short course run on Lake Las Vegas. They also took the time to show us the future of CTEK products and it’s impressive to say the least. One that they showed some demonstrations of at SEMA was their Bluetooth enabled Battery Sense monitor. It hooks up to your battery and gives you a detailed report on your phone from their Battery Sense App. It also alerts you to put your battery on the CTEK charger if it hasn’t been on it in a while. We have one to use on LS1Tech’s Project Ron Burgundy and you’ll see an installation of it soon.

Our final day of adventure consisted of Sun Buggy’s dune rides. We were given the wheel of a few purpose built buggies that utilized small, Honda single cylinder engines with a CVT transmission and swing axles. They look similar to your typical dune buggy kit save for the engine. On the dunes, they shined so long as you kept your foot on the throttle as any lift and loss of speed would equal you getting stuck. They weren’t terribly fast, either, topping out at about 25 to 30 MPH, but it didn’t make them any less of a challenge to drive. We finished off the day at the CTEK Sportsmobile Econoline adventure van that featured their D250S Dual that featured a solar power charger and the SMARTPASS energy management system.

It was a great time that CTEK gave us in exchange for checking out their new products. Honestly, before this adventure, I was opened up to the world of battery management looking into their products. It was a question I never asked myself before or even took into consideration for my vehicles. RC Cars, sure, battery management was paramount if you wanted to win. Turns out, even in the full scale world you need it and it’s becoming more important than ever as we continue to load our electrical systems with more gadgets and electronic aids. If you haven’t considered CTEK or even battery management in general, it’s something you need to start considering. Why wait until you’re in the staging lane of your next race to find out your battery won’t start your truck or car?

Justin Banner is a regular contributor to LS1Tech and JK Forum, among other auto sites.

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