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  • Letters to the Editor - Mail Truck - April 2007

Letters to the Editor - Mail Truck - April 2007

Bruce Caldwell
Apr 1, 2007
Contributors: Mike Finnegan
S-10 Troubles
My '00 S-10 with the 2.2L four-cylinder engine just got a shortened aluminum gas tank from Devious Customs, and in the process, the EVAP canister was mounted closer to the muffler. I had an SES light, took it off, and never really had any problems as the light stayed off. I went to smog the truck, and it didn't pass. I was way too high on the NO gas on the test.
I do have a CGS intake and heard that this may have caused it to not pass. Would that be true, or can it be something else? My other problem is with a misfire in the No. 4 cylinder. Since the failed test, I was told to run the truck on Arco EC premium for a retest because it's supposed to lower the fumes. Then, after a few miles, it started to run funny, and later it just misfired like crazy.
I thought it might be the old spark plugs and wires, so I replaced them. That didn't work, so I tried a fuel-injection cleaner and had no luck again. Then, it was suggested that there could be water in the new gas tank and that I should add some HEET fuel-line dryer. That didn't fix the problem. I even went back to 87 octane gas, and so far nothing has worked.
I was told that it could be a bad coil or a bad injector. Do you know of any similar problems with these issues on my truck, or could you suggest anything else I could do?
via e-mail
Several things could be causing the problems you describe. We'd put a faulty or clogged fuel-injector high on the list of possibilities, but you need to do some elimination work first. It seems you have some overlapping problems-the driveability issues and passing the emissions test. An OBD II code reader is the best way to pinpoint the problem or problems. Without a code reader, you can still use process of elimination.
We doubt that your problems are related to the new gas tank. Although there are a couple things that could be checked. It sounds like you took steps to eliminate excess moisture in the tank. The chances that there is some debris in the system are slight. There could be a problem with the gas cap. An incorrect or poorly sealing gas cap can trigger an EVAP code, and it can cause you to fail the emissions test. The testing station should have tested the cap off the truck and informed you if it was the wrong cap. There could be some type of leak-possibly to do with the fuel filter-that is affecting the ability of the fuel system to be properly pressurized.
Since you have a misfire, it could be caused by an injector problem or a bad coil pack. You can have the coil pack that serves the No. 4 cylinder tested at most auto parts stores.
Our first choice for your problem is injector-related. The scanner should pick up a misfire code. The injector could simply be dirty or clogged. Even though you used a "cleaner in a can" product, that isn't the same as having the injectors professionally cleaned. The injector might have an intermittent malfunction, which can be tougher to diagnose. We suggest that you have the injectors professionally cleaned and inspected. If one is bad, another could be starting to fail, also. If the injectors are fine, the problem could be deeper, such as a bad injector driver in the truck's computer. It's even possible that you could have a burnt valve.
Photo 2/5   |   mail Truck 2002 Toyota Tundra
Skull School
Is there any easy way to do some skull graphics on my '02 Toyota Tundra?
Jim Stensby
via e-mail
Hey Jim,
The easy way to apply skull graphics is with templates or stencils. Many top custom painters use stencils as the basis for their skull graphics, especially when there are large numbers of skulls, such as when they float throughout the length of a stripe.
Photo 3/5   |   mail Truck skull King
The key to sharp edges is to only use stencils that are solvent-proof. Paper-based stencils will quickly absorb the solvents, and the edges will get fuzzy. Various custom paint mail-order suppliers offer skull templates and stencils, but one easy place to find a large variety is at The Eastwood Company is well-known for stocking lots of custom painting products, including paints, masking supplies, spray guns, and airbrushes.
Skulls should be applied with an airbrush and thinner-than-normal paint. Most successful skull graphics are subdued. The ghost-like look works well with skulls. Skulls are often shot with a dark color such as black. House of Kolor base black, reduced to a thinner-than-normal consistency, is a popular choice for many custom painters. Silver and white or pearl colors are also good skull choices.
It takes a little trial and error to get the paint thin enough to look ghostly, but not so thin as to run. The paint also needs to be thick enough to cover in one application, because it's very difficult to reposition the stencil in exactly the same spot for a second coat.
Photo 4/5   |   mail Truck skull Stencils
Professional painters often use the stencil skulls as their starting point. They use airbrush highlights to add more dimension to the skulls. The opacity of the color applied over the skulls has a large effect on the final results.
Editor's Note: We did a full tech article back in our Sept. '06 issue called "Sick Ceiling" that covered this very subject. Rich Evans and Terry "Kiwi" Stephens from Huntington Beach Body Works threw down some of the baddest skulls we have seen. These guys offer a full line of stencils and a 6-hour instructional DVD showing how to use the stuff properly. Happy painting.
'Bagging an F-150
I don't know if you can help me, but I have an '84 Ford F-150 regular cab longbed two-wheel-drive truck. I want to put it on airbags, and I want to lay frame. I haven't found any kits to do this for my truck. Can you recommend a complete kit to do this? I'm running 20s on the front and 22s on the rear.
Ronald Reichert, Jr.
Egg Harbor, New Jersey
It's too bad they don't have kits for life. We certainly could have used the ones for marriage and child rearing. Finding a kit for almost any imaginable modification is a common issue of many letters we receive. It seems like the term kit has become synonymous with the easy way to do something. Kits are great when they fit your exact application, but unfortunately, one of the first instructions in the "Build a Business Kit" is to go after the broadest markets first. That leaves people with less-mainstream trucks, such as an '84 longbed F-150, fewer options than owners of more popular models, such as late-model GM trucks. We're talking about popularity as it relates to the number of modified trucks.
The above verbiage is a windy way of saying we don't know of any airbag kits for your truck. There aren't many options for lowering '80s Fords in any manner, much less radically slamming them. A big impediment has been Ford's Twin I-beam front suspension. There are custom-built beams available from DJM Suspension,, (800) 237-6748. DJM's Dream Beams are replacements for the stock beams and should drop your truck about 3 inches.
Assuming you really want to push on with the project, the next company to contact is Art Morrison Enterprises,, (800) 929-7188. AME is well known for its drag racing, street machine, and truck chassis and suspension components. AME offers a wide array of chassis/suspension items, all the way from individual components to subframe kits to complete chassis. The company's Air Spring Plus Frames are CAD-engineered to specific applications.
AME has a line of Classic Truck Frames for '50s and '60s 1/2-ton pickups. These frames are designed for trucks and feature 2x6-inch main 'rails and 2x4-inch front and rear subframes. AME may be able to custom-build a frame for your application. A custom frame would eliminate the restrictions of your stock frame, so going low wouldn't be a problem, outside of the related clearance problems involved in laying frame.
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Air Conditions
I have a couple technical questions about my '93 GMC pickup. My truck is a base-model V-6 standard cab shortbed with few options. When I bought it, the air conditioner was dead, and when I had it fixed, it was converted to R-134.
Last year, I started noticing some odd behavior from the air conditioning. After using the A/C for a while, the airflow output drops to almost nothing. The fan speeds don't change; rather, something is blocking the airflow. If I turn the system off completely for a few minutes, when I turn it back on, normal airflow is restored for a bit and then the cycle repeats. This isn't much fun during Texas summers.
I suspect that something's letting one of more of the diverter doors move into the wrong position, but I have no idea where to start looking and neither the Chilton's or Haynes manuals that I have are any help. Could you offer some suggestions where I can start looking to fix this problem?
Second question: Due to some physical problems, it's awkward for me to operate the manual windows. How difficult would it be to convert the windows-at least, the driver-side window-to power operation, using either OEM parts or one of the aftermarket kits? I appreciate any suggestions and look forward to the how-tos that you publish in Sport Truck.
Ronnie Day
via e-mail
We agree with you that your air-conditioning problem is probably related to a malfunctioning diverter door. Given the age of your truck and your description of the problem, we'd suspect a faulty vacuum line. You need to trace the vacuum source from the engine through the firewall to the dash. A cracked or split hose anywhere along the line could cause your problem. Inspect where any hoses connect to a distribution port. The vacuum line you're seeking should run from the back of the engine to the heater box.
It's also possible that there could be a problem with the control valve that changes things from heat to blend to A/C modes.
Installing power windows, especially just the driver-side door, can be pretty easily accomplished with an aftermarket kit. The main downside to some kits is that they protrude from the door panel.
If you live near one of those pick-your-own-parts wrecking yards, you can get an entire dented door from an '88-'98 Chevy/GMC pickup. With the whole door at your disposal, it's a simple matter of swapping manual parts for power ones. If you were lucky, you could use the interior door panel from the donor door. Even if it's the wrong color, you may be able to dye it to match your interior.
Ring Ding Zing
I got a great deal on an '87 Chevy C10 shortbed pickup, because it was having a nasty starter problem. It's hard to start and often impossible to start. The seller said he had installed a couple new starters and thought the problem was in how the starter engaged the ring gear. The ring gear is missing a couple teeth. So, in order to start the truck, I often have to crawl under the front bumper and put a socket and flex bar on the crank pulley bolt and rotate the engine to a spot where the ring gear isn't damaged.
Photo 5/5   |   mail Truck old Gears
I know the right way to fix the problem is to install a new flexplate, but it is a lot of work I'd just as soon not do. A friend suggested that I could make the old flexplate work, if I just rotated it one bolt hole. I just have to get enough access to remove the bolts. Will this work?
Bob Napoli
via e-mail
Rotating the flexplate/ring gear sure sounds easier than pulling the whole flexplate, at least it did when we encountered a similar situation on a Chevy van with the same running gear. The problem is that the flexplate has an indexing hole that only fits one way on the back of the crankshaft.
In our case, a couple teeth were chipped off and the rest of the teeth were damaged on the side facing the starter. We initially thought there might be a starter/ring gear alignment problem, but when we removed the damaged flexplate, the cause was very evident. The flexplate was stamped "This Side Toward Engine," but that side was facing the torque converter.
Even though GM flexplates seem flat, there is a difference. The correct mounting places the gear teeth closer to the engine and closer to the starter for proper engagement. Even if you get a new flexplate that isn't marked, be sure the ring gear teeth are closer to the engine.
Cameo Appearance
I found a very rare '57 Chevy Cameo pickup with a small back window. The seller claims the small window models are much more rare than the big window cabs. Do you know how many small window Cameos were made?
Dwayne Eherberhardt/
via e-mail
Unless the seller has some great factory documentation, we'd say the truck is one of none. All '55-'58 Cameo pickups were deluxe models with the full width rear window. We've seen a couple small window versions, too, but they've all been regular pickups, with the fiberglass Cameo bed pieces, taillights, and rear bumper added.
Wheel Covers
I bought an S-10 Blazer that was 'bagged by the previous owner. The truck sits great and looks even better. The problem is, in order to make room for the 18-inch wheels and tires, the guy chucked the inner fenderwells. As a result, my engine compartment is filthy and I think the truck looks unfinished. Does someone make larger inner fenderwells for slammed trucks? Thanks.
Hector Morales
via e-mail
We don't know of anyone who makes oversized inner fenderwells, but it seems like a great business opportunity. They could be made out of lightweight rugged plastic.
If you want that finished appearance and cleaner engine, you'll need to make your own. How much your tires intrude on the engine compartment when the truck is laid out will determine how much wider the inner fenders need to be. It may help to raise them.
The technique is very similar to tubbing rear wheelwells. The inner fender should be split and widened with a couple inches of similar gauge metal. Many builders get an extra set of inner fenders and cut out a center band to weld into the original fenders. You can either metal-finish the welds or take the easy way out and cover them with thick undercoating.


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