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  • 1989 Chevrolet S-10 Tune-Up - Maintenance With a Shot of Whoop Ass

1989 Chevrolet S-10 Tune-Up - Maintenance With a Shot of Whoop Ass

Tune Up An S-10 With High-Performance Products

Calin Head
Jan 1, 2008
Photographers: Mike Finnegan, Calin Head
Photo 2/59   |   1989 Chevrolet S10 burnout
When it comes to performing a standard tune-up, you would ordinarily change the plugs, oil, and the air filter. Heck, if you are a real stickler for wrenching, you might even swap in a new set of plug wires, as well as a new cap and rotor. While every one of you should be doing these things at the proper intervals, the only thing that really happens is the oil change. You are not alone; I have even clocked a few extra hundred miles on the odometer before getting the oil changed.
This article is the official nail in the slacker coffin. I'll be digging deep into a simple tune-up. Instead of just doing the minimum, I'm going to pump the tune, well, up. Now let's talk about our guinea pig. The truck is an '89 S-10 with a 4.3L V-6, a 700-R4 trans, and 159,000 on the clock. This truck used to belong to my grandfather, but he had put it out to pasture because it ran like crap. Grandpa ended up trading the broken first-generation, along with some cash, for a second-generation S-10 his daughter, my mom, owned. Mom only used the truck to haul trash to the dump, so there was no sentimental attachment to it. After a few well-placed calls to my mom and a few white lies about how I'm helping her remove the truck from automotive purgatory on her front lawn, she let me have it.
The truck would barely stay running, spewed black smoke, and shook like it was firing on three cylinders. My first attempt at a tune-up was pretty simple. I changed the air cleaner and poured a bottle of fuel system cleaner in the tank, before I blew out the cobwebs on the freeway. After a few scary miles of going way too fast, the truck did show some improvement, but that high was short-lived. Not only did the truck still have some sort of misfire, it also was running pretty hot. I guess there was no miracle fix in a bottle for this one. Now, I could have just thrown in some replacement parts, but I knew there would be some power upgrades in the future, so why not just do it now?
I did a little research and found a few companies that sell hi-po parts for the 4.3L. Now, not every part needs to be a performance piece, but I still wanted to change everything, so some of the stuff you will see is just an OE-quality replacement. I did everything by myself, with only a few specialty tools, such as a code scanner and a digital multimeter. Everything else can be tackled with basic mechanic tools. So, check out how I spent my weekend bringing a 4.3L V-6 back to life.
Photo 25/59   |   1989 Chevrolet S10 live Wires
Part Two: The Ignition System

Next, it's time to tackle the ignition system. But, before tearing anything down under the hood, I assembled the LiveWires and cap. The Firepower ignition system from Performance Distributors comes with a Screamin' Demon Coil, a Dyna-Module, LiveWires spark plug wires, and a brass terminal cap and rotor. In a bone-head move on my part, I didn't take a proper product shot of everything, but you will see the parts along the way.
Part Three: Cooling System
Before going out and flogging the truck, there were a few more things to tackle. One thing I noticed when driving this truck was the temp gauge and how hot it ran. Cruising down the highway, under light throttle, the temp was in the realm of 240 degrees, way too hot for a truck with a 195-degree thermostat. I called Grandpa and asked if the truck always ran hot, and he said, "I had a small leak in a freeze plug, so I poured in a few bottles of stop-leak." Well, there was my answer: Stop-leak products work great but only when you use one can. The new replacement radiator I got from LMC and the Prestone Flush should take care of this issue. I'm going to change the thermostat and the radiator cap, just to be on the safe side.
Part Four: The Rear End
Moving under the truck, it was time to change out some other vital fluids. After looking at the fuel filter, I could only imagine the last time the rear differential was serviced. There is really not much to this job, and it turned out to be more messy than difficult. I opted to use Royal Purple for the rest of the fluids, because my editor did some dyno-testing in a previous issue and got a 5 hp gain by just changing the oil. I picked up a new gasket and a tube of RTV sealant to complete the job.
Part Five: Engine Oil
The engine oil and filter were next. According to Fra, the Tough Guard oil filter, which offers a 99 precent multi-pass efficiency, uses a combination synthetic glass and cellulose taht provides exceptional filtration for the life of the filter. Royal Purple's 10W-30 is made with the same blend of synthetic oils and the Synslide additive. I also picked up a new drain plug and oil cap.
Photo 53/59   |   After spraying some penetrating oil on the threads, I used a hammer to shock the O2 sensor and break it free. Before threading it all the way out, I unplugged the single wire lead exiting the sensor.
Sport Truck Tech Tip
Some Fresh Air!

While I was under there, I decided to swap out the O2 sensor I got from Bosch. The O2 sensor is the primary measurement device for the fuel control computer in the truck to know if the engine is too rich or too lean. Because I had fuel problems, I decided to put in a new one for safety's sake. The new unit already has antiseize compound on the threads, so all I had to do was thread it in, tighten it up, and plug it in. Before you start the truck for the first time after installing a new O2 sensor, turn the key on to the run position for about 10 to 15 seconds to let the sensor heat up and burn off any contaminants.

Part Six: The Transmission
Now for the last fluid and filter change of this article: the transmission. I used Royal Purple's Max ATF, a synthetic high-performance automatic transmission fluid. According to RP, its low co-efficient of friction and high film strength help to dramatically reduce heat and wear. Additionally, Max ATF is fully compatible and can be mixed with other automatic transmission fluids. The filter and gasket come as a kit from Purolator. The filter prolongs the life of the trans fluid and transmission by trapping foreign particles and abrasives from the fluid. These are supposed to be changed every 12,000 miles, and I'm sure mine was due.
The Final Word
All said and done, the truck is running like a champ. There is no more smoke bellowing out of the tailpipe, thanks to the new TBI and ignition system. The running temperature of the truck is almost 20 degrees lower, thanks to the new radiator and flushing the system. One of the best things of all is the power improvement. Not that it would be fair to compare how it runs now to what it did before, but the fact it will smoke the tire off the line and give me a nice chirp when it shifts into Second is making me one happy gearhead.


Danbury, CT 06810
Danbury, CT 06810
Performance Distributors
Memphis, TN 38132
Danbury, CT 06810
Royal Purple
Porter, TX 77365
Cleveland, OH 44135
Holley Performance Products
Bowling Green, KY 42101
LMC Truck Parts



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