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  • Letters to the Editor - August 2006

Letters to the Editor - August 2006

Bruce Caldwell
Aug 1, 2006
Contributors: The Sport Truck Staff
Bust a Cap
I have an '00 Toyota RAV4 that's completely stock, mechanically. It has approximately 60,000 miles showing and, in general, runs very well. The problem is the Check Engine light comes on without any noticeable provocation. Everything seems fine; it runs fine; gas mileage is the same as always, but the light keeps going off and on. I took the RAV4 to the nearest Toyota dealership, and they said it was probably a defective gas cap. They replaced the gas cap and, of course, the check engine light didn't come on when the RAV4 was in the shop. Later, the light came on again. There isn't any logical pattern to this problem, but I'd sure appreciate it if you could help me solve it.
Joseph Martin
Richmond, Kentucky
You could have a minor leak in the EVAP system. Newer trucks and SUVs equipped with OBD-II (on board diagnostics) are somewhat prone to problems with the evaporative emissions system. A leak or crack in any number of places among the many hoses, canisters, and valves can cause the engine warning light to illuminate. A loose or defective gas cap is another possible source and one that's quick and easy to fix. We surmise that the dealership went for the quick fix, which obviously wasn't the cure. An OBD-II diagnostic system performs multiple tests on the EVAP system. Driving conditions can dictate the amount of time it takes to perform the tests based on varying driving conditions. The Check Engine light should only come on after the OBD-II system has noted repeated failures. In the case of evaporative emissions, they need to exceed federal standards by 150 percent before the light is supposed to illuminate. When an emissions problem is either repaired or goes away on its own, the OBD-II system again has to make multiple checks before it turns off the warning light. We think you still have a minor or sporadic problem with your EVAP system. There's also a very slim chance that you got two defective gas caps. Try another service department or an independent tune-up shop. We bet they'll find the problem.
I have a high-mileage '85 Ford F-150 two-wheel drive that's been given the prerunner look with lifted suspension and big 33s on wide rims. It's been a good truck, but the engine is really pooping out. The odometer reading was suspect when I bought the truck, and the only accurate odometer reading now would be lots. The engine smokes badly, uses a quart of oil every couple hundred miles, and has some pretty noisy valves. I thought about rebuilding the existing 351ci engine, but then I scored a strong-running early '70s 351 Windsor engine on a trade for an old scooter. The 351W heads were supposedly rebuilt. My question is whether I'd be better off swapping in the whole early engine, swapping cylinder heads, or trying to rebuild the existing engine? I'm looking for the best choice, but saving money is also good.
Dave Hulteen
Phoenix, Arizona
You could install the early engine in your truck, as long as that's within smog regulations in your area. The problem with the early 351 is that it's balanced differently, and you'd need to change some external accessory items. You'd need a correct flywheel or flexplate, matching harmonic balancer, and related balancer pulleys. The water pump, front cover, and oil pan from your current engine would need to be installed on the early 351. Swapping the early cylinder heads onto your current engine would involve installing hardened valve seats and different rocker arms. The old heads were designed for leaded gas. Another possibility would be to rebuild the short-block that's in your truck and add a pair of Ford Motorsports cast-iron GT-40 cylinder heads, headers, and a free-flowing exhaust system. The beauty of the GT-40 heads is that they perform like early cylinder heads, and they're designed for unleaded gasoline.
Photo 2/5   |   mail Truck check Engine
Plymouth And Pontiac Pickups?
Please settle a bet. My friend claims Plymouth and Pontiac made pickup trucks. I say he's crazy.
Josh Nealey
via e-mail
Your friend is crazy, but he is also correct. Plymouth made fullsize pickups in the Thirties and Forties. They sold a Plymouth-badged version of the Dodge D-50/Ram 50 called the Plymouth Arrow in the late Seventies and early Eighties. They also made a version of the Dodge Rampage in a mini front-wheel-drive pickup called the Scamp. In addition, there were Plymouth Trail Duster versions of the Dodge Ramcharger sport utility. Pontiac made sedan deliverys from 1949 until 1958, although many of the later ones were only sold in Canada. Pontiac supposedly built a traditional pickup in 1928. Many of the mid-Fifties V-8 GMC pickups had Pontiac engines.
Keep Clam
I own a '99 Chevy Blazer two-door two-wheel-drive model. I've spent the last three years modifying it, but I can't seem to stop. Lately, I've been concentrating on the top part of the body. I made the Blazer look more like a hardtop by painting the B-pillar black and tinting the side windows as dark as I could get away with. I think the stock tailgate setup is pretty boring, so I'd like to do something really wild back there. The whole rear cargo area is filled with custom speaker and amp enclosures, so I'd like to show it off better at shows. My first thought was to just make the liftgate power-operated, but big deal; lots of newer SUVs have that feature. I think it would be really wild if the tailgate and liftgate were retractable. I'm stumped as to how I might accomplish that trick, so I'm hoping you might be able to give me some ideas. Thanks a lot.
Bud Sorenson
via e-mail
We hope you realize that what you've proposed isn't easy. To make a retractable or, in your case, a doubly retractable tailgate/liftgate will involve a lot of fabrication and some clever engineering. While contemplating your situation, we remembered an old Chevy station wagon we once owned. That barge on wheels was a '72 Caprice Estate wagon with fake wood trim and a "clamshell" tailgate. The rear of the wagon (especially the rear glass) was pretty radically curved. The glass half retracted into the wagon's long roof, and the tailgate retracted underneath the floor. The wagon had a rear-facing third seat, so it seems that the tailgate had to go all the way under the footwell. By the time we bought the old wagon, the motors and relays were getting tired, and sometimes it seemed like it just didn't want to close. You might have difficulty finding a non-rusted example to use as your starting point, but the same setup was used on all the fullsize GM station wagons in the early '70s, including Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac. We think the disappearing tailgate appeared as early as 1971 and may have continued until 1976 or whenever that body style changed. To adapt this system to your Blazer, you'd have to carefully dissect the donor car. It would be a good idea to get a comprehensive factory body service manual for the donor car. These thick factory manuals (not the abbreviated versions sold in auto parts stores) have cutaway drawing and part numbers for all the body components. The glass part has a curvature that appears relatively close to your Blazer's current liftgate. You'd have to make the Blazer fit the wagon glass, not the other way around. The retractable lower section is very likely too wide, so it would have to be sectioned in the middle to retain all the sliding hardware. To keep things hidden, you might need to fabricate a deeper than normal rear rolled pan. Lots of measuring would be needed to be sure items, such as the gas tank, exhaust, and spare tire, didn't interfere. You might want to skip the spare tire and join AAA for roadside service. The headliner in your Blazer will need to be altered to accommodate the retractable glass. A key switch located in the rear quarter panel and/or a dashboard switch operated the original wagon versions. A remote fob operation would be the hot setup for your truck.
Photo 3/5   |   mail Truck pontiac And Plymouth Trucks
I found a very low-mileage (only 32,450 miles) '92 Chevy Silverado 1/2-ton shortbed pickup that had been stored for almost 10 years in an old shed with dirt floors. The truck belonged to a local farmer who quit driving after breaking his hip. His wife kept the truck in the shed after her husband went to a nursing home. He died and neither she (nor anyone else) drove the truck until I bought it at the estate sale after she passed. The truck has some obvious problems from poorly done long-term storage, but it was straight as an arrow with a price too low to pass up. My question involves the gas tank. The truck's battery was dead and the gas stunk. It smelled like old varnish. I had the truck towed home, and I've slowly been going through everything. I drained the old gas, but the nasty smell is still there. There's also a lot of surface rust on the outside of the tank, and I fear there's rust inside as well. There was noticeable sediment in the old gas. If I can avoid buying a new gas tank, that would be great. Can I salvage the original tank, or am I stuck buying a new one?
Jay Young
Ames, Iowa
If the gas in the tank was bad, the rest of the fuel system is probably bad, too. You'll very likely need to replace fuel lines and possibly the fuel pump. You might be able to thoroughly clean the old tank and still use it if the external rust doesn't bother you. There are companies that will clean and seal an old tank. If you can't find a shop that advertises this service, inquire at some radiator repair shops. They commonly do gas tanks, as well. There are chemical cleaning and sealing kits for the do-it-yourselfer. The Eastwood Company, 263 Shoemaker Rd., Pottstown, PA 19464, (800) 345-1178,, offers tank cleaning/sealing kits. Eastwood also has products for restoring the exterior of a gas tank. Probably the best way to ensure that the fuel system is free of debris and contaminants is to install a new gas tank. Replacement tanks for popular trucks, such as mid-Seventies to mid-Nineties GM products are easy to find and quite affordable. One source for these tanks is J.C. Whitney, 761 Progress Pkwy., LaSalle, IL 61301, (800) 529-4486, J.C. Whitney's tanks are duplicates of the originals and, in your case, cost about 200 dollars. The company also sells rustproof polyethylene gas tanks for about 30 dollars less. New mounting straps are available, as well. Given the length of storage and the less than ideal conditions, we'd go with a new tank if it were our truck.
Drip Grind
Why does the carpet in my '96 Ford Ranger get wet during hot weather when I use the air conditioning a lot?
Steve Kress
Salt Lake City, Utah
Because the technicians at the factory didn't properly position the evaporator strip seals to keep the water out. This was a problem on some '95-'96 Ford Rangers. Contact your Ford service department for repairs.
How Fargo?
I hope you don't think this is a dumb question, but how much trouble would it be to convert my '67 Dodge A100 pickup to a Fargo? I briefly saw one in British Columbia, and it looked almost identical to my A100. My truck is super rare around here, but I've never seen a Fargo.
Brandon Gilmore
via e-mail
It would be extremely difficult to make the conversion, not because the parts wouldn't easily interchange, but because you'd have to find someone with spare Fargo parts. To avoid future questions, the answer is: Fargo was the name given to Dodge trucks sold in Canada. It's the same reason there are Mercury pickups in Canada.
How Big Again?
What's the biggest wheel I can buy for my Chevy Silverado? Thanks in advance.
Joey Catone
via e-mail
Well, since you didn't ask what would fit and merely asked what you could buy, Pirelli just came out with a ridiculously large 30-inch-diameter tire, specifically for FIS Wheels. Of course, you'd have to lift your truck up an inch from stock or rip out the wheelwells just to fit the dang thing, but that's beside the point.
Photo 4/5   |   mail Truck varnish
Photo 5/5   |   mail Truck 30s



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