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  • Letters to the Editor - April 2006

Letters to the Editor - April 2006

Bruce Caldwell
Apr 1, 2006
Go Big Or Go Home
I have an '00 Dodge Ram 1500 with the 5.9L V-8. I started modifying the truck soon after I rolled off the dealership lot. I 'bagged it and put Center Line 20s on it. I was king of the local cruisin' scene for quite a while. Then, guys started showing up with lower, more radical trucks. I upped the ante by getting my truck body-dropped. You can't go any lower than laying the rocker panels on the pavement. I love my truck and don't want to sell it (especially after all the work I've done to it), but with all the advances in newer and bigger wheels, the 20s just aren't cutting it. I'd like to move up to a set of 24-inch rims and tires. Things are plenty tight underneath my truck as it is, so I'm wondering if I will have any trouble with clearances for the tires and suspension components? I've been looking at running tires in the 315/35R24 range. I want a little sidewall so the ride isn't too harsh. Can this tire and wheel swap be done without too much trouble?
Steve Ng
via e-mail
You're looking at putting some pretty tall tires under your Dodge. As such, you're pushing the limits of available space. You didn't specify what size tire you're currently running, but it's probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 28 to 29 inches tall. You're looking at tires in the 32- to 33-inch-tall range for 24-inch rims. That's a 3- to 5-inch increase over what you're currently running. The best way to estimate potential clearance problems is to measure your present setup and check with the tire store where you plan to get the new tires, regarding the inflated height of the new tires. Remember that a tire that's 4 inches taller is only 2 inches wider at opposite sides of the tire. Your clearance concerns are the distance from the center of the hub to the farthest part of the tread. A 32-inch-tall tire is only 16 inches from the wheel center. Finding an extra 2 inches of room is easier than trying to accommodate 4 more inches, but it will still involve moving a lot of parts. Depending how radically your rear framerails were notched before, they might need to be further notched. Radical notching involves bed clearance problems. You might need to narrow the rear axle and tub the wheelwells. The front fenderwells will need modifying, which is why lazy builders just simply eliminate them. That looks tacky and unfinished, plus it allows road crud to get all over the engine compartment. In addition to obvious clearance problems such as wheelwells, there can be secondary problems caused by moving primary obstacles. Moving the front fenderwells could impact the firewall, for example. It may be necessary to modify or relocate items related to the power brakes and ABS. You should have dealt with most of these problems during the body-drop process, but you might not have anticipated the amount of room needed to clear 24s. Back when 20s seemed huge, who knew that dubs would be factory equipment on some trucks or that aftermarket wheels would get as big as they are? A problem that should occur infrequently, but still needs to be addressed is the ability to change such tall wheels and tires if you get a flat tire or want to rotate the tires. Depending on how much suspension travel you have when your truck is fully aired up, the tops of the tires might not clear the fender lips. Running 24-inch (and larger) rims on a 'bagged, body-dropped truck can get quite involved, but if it was super easy, everyone would do it and you wouldn't have the unique truck you desire. Have fun measuring and moving stuff.
Photo 2/3   |   mail Truck dodge Ram Wheels
Diesel Smell
I like big, lifted custom trucks like Ford F-350 4x4 crew cabs and similar trucks. I've always driven gas-powered trucks, but lately several of my friends have been buying new diesel rigs. We all have ski boats, so the added torque, towing power, and fuel economy of a diesel is very appealing. What isn't appealing to me is the smell of diesel. You don't smell it much when you're driving down the road, but when I've helped friends fuel up, my hands stink forever. Why does the smell of diesel fuel linger so long? If I spill some gas on my hands, the gas smell goes away relatively quickly. I've noticed that diesel pumps at the gas station tend to be dirty and slimy. Is there a logical explanation to this stinky situation? I'd really like to buy a diesel truck for the power and the added fuel economy, but what can be done to avoid getting that diesel stink on my hands?
Brad Storch
via e-mail
If they still had full service gas stations, we'd consider buying a new diesel truck, too. The new diesels from Ford and GM (along with greatly improved six-speed automatic transmissions) are a far cry from previously noisy diesels. The basic reason why diesel pumps are so messy and why the smell lingers on your hands has to do with the higher evaporation/ignition point for diesel versus gasoline. Gas is very volatile and evaporates quickly. Diesel needs noticeably hotter conditions to evaporate and burn. That's a reason why diesel engines have such high compression ratios. Diesel fuel just doesn't evaporate as quickly as gas, which is why it lingers on your fingers. We've tried pumping diesel with gloves on, but unless they're disposable, the smell will just linger on the gloves. Your best bet is to buy a box of those heavy-duty blue vinyl medical gloves. You can get boxes of 100 gloves very inexpensively at discount stores, such as Costco.
Rev Happy
My '95 Sonoma extended cab pickup idles too fast. The idle speed has been creeping up lately to a point where it's now 400 rpm over what it should be. The engine is the 2.2L four-cylinder with an automatic transmission. I haven't done anything unusual to the truck, and other than the high revving problem, it runs fine. It's been 20,000 or 30,000 miles since I've had any maintenance work other than oil and filter changes. The truck has 118,000 miles on it. A friend thinks the problem is dirty injectors. Could that be the problem? Is there anything I can check before I have to take it to the dealership?
Pat Sloan, Jr.
Greensboro, North Carolina
Given your truck's mileage and the fact that it apparently hasn't had a tune-up in a while leads us to suspect the PCV valve and/or the PCV valve hose. Checking the PCV valve is one of the easiest tests you can do. Before you remove the PCV valve, check the connection hose. Look for a loose fit or signs of cracking, checking, or other wear. The PCV connections should be tight, and the hose should be free of defects. Pull out the PCV valve and shake it. If it's working right, you'll hear a distinct rattle. If it doesn't rattle or seems sluggish, it needs to be replaced. Other '94-'95 GM products with the 2.2L engine have experienced similar idle problems due to an ill-fitting hose. There is an improved replacement hose, PN 24575743. It would be a good idea to install this hose, even if your current one appears fine.
Not So Hot
The heater in my '95 Dodge Ram pickup doesn't work worth a damn. I live in North Dakota, which has some very cold winters. A good heater is a must. I like most other things about the truck, which I bought used. The Ram has the big V-10 engine, which seems to have started running rougher about the same time the heater stopped working right. Could these two problems be related, and if so, what can I do to fix them? I drive about 30 minutes to work in the morning. My garage isn't heated, but it's a whole lot warmer than the driveway. Regardless of how cold it is, I think the engine should be warmed up enough to run smoothly and make the heater work at full capacity before I get to work. I hope you can help me before I freeze to death.
Matt Olsen
Fargo, North Dakota
The most likely cause of both problems is the engine thermostat. An improperly functioning thermostat doesn't allow the engine coolant to reach normal operating temperatures. If hot coolant doesn't flow through the heater core, you won't get heat. An engine that runs cold will most likely run rougher than normal. This problem you're having has surfaced in other '95 V-10-powered Ram trucks. Dodge suggests replacing the existing thermostat with a new Mopar part (PN 53041078). Changing a thermostat is simple, but be sure the engine is completely cooled down and make sure the thermostat is installed right side up. The thermostat should be marked as to which end is up. If not, remember that the larger end (with the diaphragm) faces down toward the intake manifold. The pointed end (relatively speaking) of the thermostat faces the radiator hose. Always install a new gasket and be sure all traces of the old gasket are removed. A less than perfect mating surface will leak.
The Squeaky Spring Doesn't Get the Oil
There's a squeaky noise coming from the front of my '94 Chevy S-10. I'm pretty sure the noise is coming from the front suspension, because it seems related to motion and bumps in the road. I thought maybe the shocks were worn out, so I replaced them. That didn't stop the noise. I had the truck lubed at its last oil change, but again that didn't stop the squeaking. Can you point me toward what might be causing the noise and what I can do to stop it? Thank you.
Bill Baker
Omaha, Nebraska
Based on similar complaints from other'94 S-10 and GMC Sonoma owners, we would suspect the coil spring insulators. If your truck has more than 100,000 miles, these insulators could very well be worn to the point of squeaking. When the insulators get worn out, they rub in the control arm pockets. That's what causes the squeaking noise that you complained about. A way to check if the insulators are the problem without taking anything apart is to spray silicone lubricant on and around the spring insulators. The silicone should temporarily stop the squeaking. If it does, you need new insulators, PN 1598719. GM issued a service bulletin (463302) dealing with this squeaking problem on S-series two-wheel-drive pickups.
Photo 3/3   |   mail Truck frozen
Death Rattle
My truck is an '85 Chevy C10 shortbed stepside with a 305ci engine and an automatic transmission. It runs OK, but it doesn't like to stop running. It keeps running even after I turn off the key. The problem is especially bad in hot weather. It knocks and rattles. It sounds like the engine is on its last leg. I've found that if I turn off the key while the transmission is still in Drive that the engine stops. What causes this problem and how can I fix it?
Gary Mishler
Sparks, Nevada
Carbureted engines like yours are susceptible to engine run-on or dieseling, especially in hot weather. The engine tries to keep running even after the ignition is turned off because of heat buildup in one or more cylinders. Fuel injected engines don't have this problem. Common causes of dieseling are too high idle speed, too lean air/fuel ratios (often caused by vacuum leaks), and excessive carbon buildup in the combustion chambers. You should check your idle speed and adjust it if necessary. Carbureted engines commonly have an anti-dieseling solenoid. You could have a defective solenoid. There are chemical additives and sprays that are supposed to help eliminate carbon buildup. If these products don't do the job, the cylinders' heads will need to be removed for a thorough cleaning. Dieseling is hard on an engine, so you're doing the right thing by turning off the ignition while still in Drive, but stopped. You can also try using Premium grade gasoline.
GMC vs. Chevy, Thick vs. Thin
I want to buy a late-model sport truck, preferably a 2000-or-later GM product. Until recently, I didn't care which one, but my uncle was shopping for a new truck and the salesman at the GMC dealership told him that GMC tolerances are closer and GMC gets the best parts, while Chevy gets the leftovers. The salesman claimed to be a former machinist, so he knew stuff like that. I've never heard about any quality differences between GMC and Chevy trucks. Is what the salesman said true? If so, does that hold for all years of GM trucks? My concern is mostly about rust. This same salesman also said that the thickest frames and body parts go on GMC trucks. If this were so, I would think that I would have a better chance of avoiding rust-out problems with a GMC.
Jeremy Feucht
Troy, Michigan
You've heard of urban myths-well, this is a salesman's myth. The salesman must have thought your uncle was a real pigeon. GMC and Chevy trucks are built on the same assembly line by the same workers using the same parts. Except for trim items, emblems, grilles, and different model equipment packages, the two trucks are identical. Can you imagine the extra trouble and expense it would take to measure every part and separate them by degree of conformity to specifications? And what about the class action lawsuit when Chevy truck owners found out they got thinner fenders than GMC owners? This imaginative sales pitch reminds us of the very old myth that Sixties and Seventies GMC trucks were tougher than Chevys because of their association with GMC commercial trucks. Any connection between 1/2-ton GMC pickups and 2-ton-plus trucks was strictly advertising hyperbole. If you're really concerned about future rust problems on a 5- or 6-year-old used truck, consider buying a truck from outside the rust belt. With all the online auto- and truck-buying sites, you can find West Coast and Southwest trucks quite easily. We have a Michigan friend who regularly finds pristine rust-free trucks and cars (on eBay and on the West Coast and takes them back to Detroit. He figures it costs about a thousand dollars to get the vehicle home either via transporter or by getting a discount airline ticket and driving home. Our friend always recoups his travel expenses when it comes time to resell the West Coast trucks.
Bed Un-Lining
I bought a red '99 Ford Ranger that has a black spray-on bedliner. I don't like the look or the rough texture of the bedliner, so I'd like to remove it. Is there an easy way I can remove the liner material at home?
Steve Pozarzycki
via e-mail
Removing a spray-on bedliner at home makes installing one look like child's play. The whole idea of these spray-on liners is their toughness and resistance to scratching and chipping. You can sand off the liner, if you have enough sandpaper and don't care about eradicating your fingerprints. The solution to your problem is to seek out a media-blasting company that specializes in automotive projects. Companies that deal with street rods and restorations have much more finesse than big industrial sandblasters. By using the right media, they should be able to remove just the liner and not the underlying paint. Another solution is to install a tonneau cover, so you don't have to look at the bedliner.
Gas Gauge Guessing
Since gas prices have gotten so high, I've been paying much closer attention to the gas gauge in my '97 Chevy Tahoe. The truck has the 5.7L V-8 and automatic transmission. It's a two-wheel-drive model. It's no economy champ and filling it up is a real wallet-burner. Since I'm a student who only works part time, I often need to wait until payday to buy gas. That can mean running precariously close to empty. My problem is that the gas gauge seems quite erratic. It bounces a lot, so I get nervous about its accuracy. Is there an easy and inexpensive way I can fix this problem by myself?
Neil Strowbridge
via e-mail
The problem is very likely in the gas tank. The fuel level sender is bouncing around too much. When the sender is erratic, the gauge also fluctuates. This problem has been observed by Chevy/GMC in enough '95-'97 Tahoes and Yukons that they issued a service bulletin number 76-83-05 regarding the issue. The fix calls for installing a fuel level damper module kit. The kit carries PN 12167652. You should be able to install it yourself by dropping the gas tank. Since you often run near empty, that will make manhandling the heavy (when full) tank easier. While you have the tank out of the truck, inspect the fuel pump filter and tank for debris. It's not a good idea to run too close to empty because that increases the chance of condensation in the tank. Excessive condensation can lead to rust, and rust particles can clog your fuel pump.
Daytime Not Running Lights
The daytime running lights in my '00 Chevy S-10 pickup don't work. The headlights and turn signals all work fine, but not the daytime running lights. I replaced the fuse and checked the light bulbs. What else could be causing this problem?
Jeremy Ng
Newberg, Oregon
A body control module (BCM) and the daytime running light (DRL) relay control the lights. An ambient light sensor is located in a grille in the dashpad. It's possible that you could have blocked the sensor, if you're the type who uses the dashboard as a wastebasket. It's more likely that you have a defective DRL relay. The relay is located in the electrical control center near the battery. A diagram inside the control center cover should pinpoint which relay is the DRL. Swap the relay with another one that you know is working such as the horn or air conditioning relay. If the lights work, the relay needs to be replaced. If the lights fail to work, the problem is more serious and needs to be checked by an automotive electrical specialist or a GM service department.
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