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  • Letters to the Editor - May 2006

Letters to the Editor - May 2006

Bruce Caldwell
May 1, 2006
Candy Stripes
I saw a radical Toyota Tundra pickup at a local show that was painted Candy Lime Green with some wild graphics on the hood and inside the bed. The truck looked great from a distance, but up close I noticed that the cab and bed weren't quite the same color. I also noticed some darker stripes on parts of the bed. The owner of the truck wasn't around and I probably wouldn't have asked him anyway, but I'm curious about the color discrepancies. The reason for my curiosity is that I'd really like to paint my '03 Tundra a similar color. I realize that candy paintjobs are quite expensive, but I don't want one if the paint won't hold up. Are these problems normal and how can they be avoided?
Jim Saunders
via e-mail
There are two big reasons why candy paintjobs are so expensive. One is the high cost of materials, and two is the amount of talent it takes to properly apply candies. It sounds like someone painted the truck without a lot of candy paint experience. It also seems that the cab and bed were painted separately. Candy paints have to be applied very uniformly for consistent coverage on all panels. If parts are painted individually, they should be painted at the same time in the same spray booth using paint that was all mixed at the same time. The light and dark "stripes" that you noticed are a result of uneven paint application. The number of passes and the amount of overlap per pass has to be exact or else darker and lighter bands can appear. As for longevity of candy paintjobs, their performance is far superior to what it used to be. How a candy job holds up can depend on the quality of the clear topcoats and how well the paint is protected. Candy paints are stunning on show trucks. They're also great for flames and graphics, but a total, single color candy paintjob for a daily driver isn't your best choice. There are some modern metallic paints that can approach the brilliance of candy paint. The way to avoid candy paint problems is to work with a shop that has ample experience with candies and one that guarantees the quality of their work.
Where Do I Get Four-Banger Mods
I own an '87 GMC S-15 Pickup with a 2.5L (151ci) four-cylinder, TBI engine in it. I once had a link to Clifford Inline Performance, but I no longer can contact this company. It would be of great gratitude if you can help me find another company that handles performance parts for this truck. I am a subscriber of your mag. Keep up the good work.
via Yahoo
It's hard for automotive aftermarket manufacturers to make parts for every truck on the planet. It's the supply and demand that paves the way to which parts will sell the most so the money invested to develop a part will pay off, and keep paying. When it comes time to determine what parts will be developed, you can rest assured the Chevy four-banger truck motor was one of the last on the To-Do list. Yet, there are a few really cool parts for the little thumper that will spark your interest. You must have missed the Dec. '05 issue of Sport Truck with the Four-Banger Performance editorial, on page 82, compiled by our parts-rummaging Tech Editor, Calin Head. The list of goodies covers high-energy ignition systems and big-mouth throttle bodies, to short-throw shifters and high-volume fuel pumps. For back issues, please call: (866) 601-5199. As far as Clifford Performance is concerned, it still has headers and side-draft adapters for sale, and the company can be reached at (888) 471-1161, You can also contact Jay at STS Performance, (562) 531-6328, or go to his website by typing in your browser.
Photo 2/3   |   mail Truck cany Apple Tundra
No Cats
I want to buy a '95 Ford Lightning pickup that I found on The truck is an excellent, low mileage example that'scompletely stock except for the exhaust system. It's the best example that I've found in my price range, which is why I'm willing to travel to get it. The truck is located in Michigan, where I guess they don't have emissions testing. I live in metropolitan Seattle, where they are very strict about emissions. I can't register the truck until it passes an emissions test. My question is about the missing catalytic converters. The present owner discarded them and installed a low-restriction Flowmaster dual-exhaust system. Do I have to find the original cats in order to pass emissions? Will returning the exhaust system to original specs be expensive? Thank you.
Seth Schoenfieldbr /> Seattle, Washington
Emissions regulations are getting more and more stringent. Aftermarket exhaust companies go to great lengths to make their components smog-legal. The problem is when critical parts, such as the catalytic converters, are discarded. This is an easy fix-as long as no other emission equipment was removed. An experienced muffler shop can install aftermarket replacement catalytic converters. They should be able to integrate the cats with the present Flowmaster mufflers. Get a couple price quotes. You should be able to accomplish this repair for less than 400 dollars.
Can't Bear The Noise
My '00 Chevy S-10 extended cab pickup had-and unfortunately still has-a nasty-sounding noise that appears to be coming from the rear axle area. The truck has just under 100,000 miles on the odometer. It's hard to isolate a rearend noise, but it sounded most severe on the left side, so I replaced the left rear axle bearing and seals. Apparently, I guessed wrong because the noise was still there. I was still convinced that the rear axle was the source. I replaced the right bearing and seals. The noise is still there and it's getting louder. Is there something else that could be causing the noise? Is it something that I could fix myself? I hope you can set me on the right course. Thank you.
Shawn D'Arnier
Garland, Texas
If you're confident that the noise is coming from the vicinity of the rear axle, we'd suspect the inside carrier bearings. These bearings are inboard next to the rearend's centersection, but the noise can easily be transmitted outward. That could account for why you thought the outer bearings were at fault. If the noise is pretty constant (regardless of speed), the source is most likely a carrier side bearing or bearings. On the other hand, if the noise seems most noticeable on acceleration or deceleration, a bad pinion bearing could be the source of the unwanted noise. Overhauling your truck's centersection is pushing the skill levels for most do-it-yourself mechanics. It can be done at home, but special tools are required. You can rent the tools, but we'd recommend going to a professional. There's also a possibility that the noise is a result of an improper ring-and-pinion gear tooth wear pattern. You can remove the rearend cover plate, drain the gear lube (check for metal in the lube), and wipe the parts clean. Look for signs of chips, missing teeth, or unusual wear. Even if you spot something obvious, you should probably let a professional mechanic make the repairs.
Early Lowering For Dodge Trucks
I have a really good question for you guys. I have a '93 Dodge 250 2WD standard with a 318. I would really love to drop this truck just a few inches, but I have had nothing but bad luck in finding any lowering components for it. Could you guys help me out, or is this finally the truck that can't be lowered? Thanks for your help.
via e-mail
We've searched the Sport Truck archive and found no aftermarket manufacturers that make components for the '72-'93 Dodge truck. At one time, there was no aftermarket industry to buy "bolt-on" parts for. Depending on what you use, the truck for the option of cutting down the springs with a cutoff wheel and grinder, fabricating a deeper spring pocket in the A-arm, and fabricating a longer shackle for the rear leaf is always an option. You didn't say where you lived, but there are custom truck shops all over the U.S. You may find an airbag kit would suit your needs just fine. Because we don't know your location, we'll try some where in the middle of the nation, like Silver Star Customs in Mississippi. Silver Star has a gob of cool parts and have dropped just about every truck known to man. You can contact Silver Star Customs at (662) 342-6763,
Van No Gogh
I recently bought a '90 GMC Vandura 2500 cargo van to use in my job as a painting contractor. It has the 5.7L V-8 and automatic transmission. It ran fine when I test-drove it, but now it refuses to start sometimes. There's no real rhyme or reason to why it will or won't start. The guy I bought it from made a big deal about the fact that the truck had a new starter. When the engine won't start, it makes that terrible grinding noise. It almost sounds like gears are being sheared off. It sure sounds like a bad starter to me, but supposedly the current starter was installed less than 1,000 miles ago. Sometimes, I can get the truck to start by rocking it back and forth a little, while the transmission is in gear. I'm beginning to think the starter is bad. Is there anything else that could cause this problem?
Jeremy Warren
via e-mail
Vincent van Gogh cut off an ear, but it sounds like your van might have a tooth or two sliced off the ring gear on the flexplate. If there have been starter alignment problems, it's possible for one or more teeth to get knocked off the ring gear. Then, ring gear roulette takes over. When the ring gear is as it should be, you have 153 teeth (or 168 depending on which flexplate you have), so it's possible to avoid the damaged or missing teeth for quite a while. When the starter solenoid activates the spring-loaded pinion gear, it should mesh with the teeth on the flexplate. When the starter pinion encounters a damaged area you get that horrible grinding noise. That noise can also occur when the starter pinion gear doesn't make full contact with the ring gear. By moving the truck while in gear, you rotate the engine/flexplate combo that puts good teeth in contact with the pinion gear and the truck starts. Placing a 1/2-inch ratchet or flex bar and socket on the crankshaft pulley bolt and rotating the engine that way is easier than moving the whole truck.
The easiest way to check for ring gear damage is to remove the metal (or plastic) inspection cover to expose the bottom portion of the flexplate. The inspection plate should be held in place by four small fasteners. Then, have an assistant rotate the engine-don't run the engine-and look for damaged or missing teeth. A damaged flexplate will need to be replaced. This isn't an easy task, but it isn't beyond the grasp of a reasonably experienced home mechanic. Gaining access is the toughest part of the job. If the ring gear teeth appear to be fine, then the problem is with the starter. Just because a rebuilt starter was recently installed doesn't mean it was a good one. Inexpensive rebuilt starters don't have great quality records. A friend went through six starters on the family wagon before he got a good one. That's an extreme case, but the point is don't rule out the starter. Most major auto parts stores sell very affordable starters with lifetime guarantees. They're gracious about giving you a replacement. The catch is that you have to remove and reinstall the starters. If you're not sure about the condition of your present starter, most auto parts stores will test them (detached from the truck) for free.

Trans Transformation
How much trouble would it be to install an automatic transmission in a Chevy pickup that currently has a five-speed manual transmission? I have a '90 GMC Sierra 1/2-ton shortbed pickup with a small-block V-8, five-speed manual transmission and a 3.42:1 rear gear ratio. This truck has seen a lot of hard use, but the manual transmission is the most worn part of the truck. I've never liked the clunky manual trans, so it doesn't make sense to waste money fixing or replacing it with another five-speed. If I'm going to spend money, I'd like an automatic transmission. What's the easiest way to install an automatic transmission?Bill Sundquist
Post Falls, Idaho

You're going in the right direction, because finding a good used automatic transmission is much easier than finding a manual tranny for these GM trucks. The proliferation of automatic transmissions in 1/2-ton Chevy and GMC pickups means wrecking yards are well stocked with them. The transmission of choice for your situation is a non-electronic 700-R4 automatic. Look for one from an '88-'91 1/2-ton GM pickup. If possible, buy your transmission from a wrecking yard that hasn't separated the trans from the truck. You can get all the accessory parts such as the shifter linkage and throttle kick-down cable. You might also be able to get the radiator, so you'll have the built-in transmission cooler. Be sure you get some type of free replacement guarantee with the transmission. You can't testdrive a transmission in a wrecked truck, so be sure the yard will stand behind their parts.
Photo 3/3   |   mail Truck gear
Dana 60 Diff
First off, awesome magazine. I love the combination of horsepower and lowrider lifestyle. Here's my question: I'm wanting to upgrade my rear axle in my currently lowered suspension Dakota with a 318 to something that will be able to handle whatever I throw at it in terms of torque. I was wondering if a stock Dana 60 axle would be a good axle to start then have shortened. I basically want to know what vehicle I could relieve of its Dana 60. I was thinking a Jeep Wrangler, but I wasn't sure if they came with a Dana 60. Should I look into a 2500-series Dodge Ram like a '98-and-later model? I want a strong rearend, so that when I build up my 318 to something like a 360 or 408 stoker and narrow it, it will be able to tuck my current 20-inch wheels and possibly 22-inch future wheels. Keep up the great work, and thanks for your time and help
Let's back up a minute. It sounds like you're going to build a pimp wagon with the 20s and eventually 22-inch rims. It's not impossible to build a corner-cutting G-machine on 'bags, but if you want it to lay frame, the proposal becomes improbable. When setting up a G-machine with an air suspension, the ride height, air spring rate, airbag position, and damper location become an important part in G-machine mechanics. Setting the 'bag to support the truck at the appropriate ride height, in the best location in the 'bags overall suspension adjustment, will reduce how far the suspension will drop. By putting the ride height in center of the suspension travel for optimal performance in suspension articulation, and air spring efficiency, the 'bag will only be able to use half of its travel for dropping the suspension. This will, more than likely, prevent the truck from lying all the way down. The editor from one of our sister publications, Mini-Truckin, is tackling that task as we speak. He started the task of fitting airbags to coil springs, so he could have a canyon-carver and a frame-dragger. This is done by bringing the truck's suspension up to a performance-set ride height, and locking out the airbag with an air ram and pin. The story started in the Aug. '05 issue on page 54, "Project Dragged Daily, Part I.
If you're building a daily driver, 408 cubic inches will support about 500 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque on pump gas. If that's the plan, then the Chrysler 8.25 can be built up with a locking carrier assembly, axles made from superior materials with a beefier spline configuration, and some hardened gears. If the plan is more power, by way of NOS or Race Fuel, then you will need a better axle for sure.
The Dana 60 is a killer axle. The nodular iron construction provides a gob of strength to support big power. These axles were used as early as 1966 and are still in production today. The axlehousing itself can be found in a couple different casting configurations, but the Dana 60 cover hasn't changed and can be identified by the 12-bolt pattern configuration. The Dana 60 was used on '67-'85 Ford F-100 and F-150 trucks, '67-'92 Ford F-250s, '78-'92 Ford F-350s, and a slew of GM and Dodge 3/4- and 1-ton vans or trucks. The real question is: How much would I really save by not ordering a custom axle? You might get lucky with a junkyard diff, but you'll still have to cut the axle tubes down, order new axles, replace all the bearing and seals, cut off and weld on new spring perches, and who knows what else to fit the axle to your custom truck? Then there's the carrier, gears, and brakes to consider. If you want to change the gear ratio to fit your new rolling stock, put a locker in the diff, or need to replace the brakes, and so on, gears ($400), brakes ($100), axles ($300), and a locker ($400), plus the installation kit ($125) alone will run you $1,300, if you build it yourself.
This is considering the axle you wind up with is straight. If the axle comes off an old truck, there is a really good chance that it may have been overloaded a few times. This could very well have twisted or bent the axle tubes on the junkyard diff, in which case, good luck on getting the new bearings and seals to align properly with the axles. If by chance the housing is twisted, you can pretty much forget about getting your new locker and bearing to fit properly. You won't find many shops willing to drill out the welds to remove bent axle tubes, press then weld in straight tubes when you can order a complete rearend for less. It doesn't take but a couple of these cons to make your money-saver a money pit. Dynatrac's standard Dana 60 axle costs about $2,700 from lug to lug, which includes brakes. The Dynatrac 60 is brand-new nodular iron cast housing.It features: Model 60 semi-float; rear axle assembly with 3 month limited warranty; nodular iron housing; set pinion angle; 35-spline, 1-1/2-inch-diameter, 1-ton, heavy duty, semi-float axleshaft assemblies; choice of ring-and-pinion ratio; differential; steel heavy-duty differential cover; input yoke; brake tabs welded in place; drum brake assemblies; billet steel housing ends; large tapered roller axle bearings; clean tubes; and heavy-duty steel axle retainers. They can be reached at Dynatrac Products Inc., (714) 596-4461,

For the money and time involved, it would be cheaper to buy a custom diff with all the mods needed to make it plug and play. When your talking about big power, the last thing you want is a junker.

Chrome Alone
I have a chance to buy some mid-'90s Chevy Suburban factory five-spoke mag wheels that have been chromed. The mounted tires have 50 percent tread. I'd like to run the wheels and tires on my '95 Chevy W/T that currently has plain steel wheels. The price is attractive, but two of the wheels aren't as attractive as I'd like. The problem is that several big chunks of chrome plating are missing. It's like the chrome got chipped and then started lifting. The damage is quite noticeable. My question: Would it pay to have the wheels re-chromed? Can you tell me what it costs to have poorly chromed wheels re-chromed? Your answer will help me decide whether or not to buy the wheels.
Ernie Sanchez
El Paso, Texas

Unless the price is so low that you're basically getting free wheels with some nice tires, we'd pass on them. If you can tolerate the ragged appearance, fine, but it sounds like that's unacceptable. Having wheels re-chromed can be expensive because these blemished wheels are worse than wheels that were never chromed. All the old chrome has to be removed before the process can begin anew. If you just had two wheels re-chromed, the others two would look shabby by comparison. By the time you paid to have four wheels unmounted, re-chromed, and then remounted, we think you'd be in the wheels far more than they're worth. Our advice is to keep looking for another wheel deal.
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