If you'd like less contrast, you can make the roof and flames a variation of each other. Apply the silver-flake base. Lay out the flames with 1/8-inch fine-line tape. Spray the whole roof with one coat of whatever candy color you choose, then carefully tape off the inside of the flame design. Apply one or more coats of candy to the rest of the roof. That will make the roof a darker shade of the flames. When the 1/8-inch tape is removed, you'll have a nice silver-flake "pinstripe" between the two shades.
Q: The 305ci V-8 in my '85 Chevy Silverado has a big problem with surging. I'm having trouble determining what's causing the surging. The engine is stock with a four-barrel carburetor. I thought the problem might be a poor state of tune, so I had it tuned up. That didn't stop the surging.
I thought maybe there was a problem with the automatic transmission, like maybe it wasn't going into gear correctly or maybe something was slipping in the torque converter. A local transmission shop said I needed a new torque converter lockup valve. It seemed a little better after the transmission shop worked on the truck, but the problem was still there, especially in hot weather.
Can you suggest some other sources and cures for the surging? Lucas Guelker, Hartford, CT
A: The first thing we would check is the EGR valve. A sticky EGR valve can cause the engine to surge. If the EGR valve wasn't replaced or at least checked as part of the tune-up, have it checked now.
You mentioned that the surging is particularly bad in hot weather. The air-conditioning compressor could be causing the problem. You know how the engine sound changes when you're idling and you turn the A/C to Max? A compressor that's drawing too much power could be constantly cycling on and off, which could be interpreted as surging.
One mildly unpleasant way to eliminate the air conditioning as a probable cause is drive around on a hot day with the entire ventilation system shut off. If the surging stops, have the air-conditioning system checked.
You could add an auxiliary electric fan to help keep the air-conditioning condenser as cool as possible. That should lessen the burden on the A/C system, but we still think the problem is with your EGR valve.
Q: I bought a '91 Ford F-150 XLT standard-cab shortbed pickup about a year ago. It has the 5.0L V-8 engine and automatic transmission. The front tires seem to be wearing out rather quickly, and the ride isn't super-smooth. When I bought the truck, I noticed that the front tires were in much better shape than the rear ones. I think the previous owner may have rotated the tires to hide the problem. The tires are cupping. I don't know if the bad ride makes the tires cup or if the cupping causes the ride to be bad. I'd just like to fix it. What do you suggest? Jeff Norton, via e-mail
A: Your problems stem from the F-150's twin I-beam front suspension system. This twin I-beam design is hard on front tires, even on relatively new trucks. We bought a brand-new F-150 with an I-beam front suspension and the front tires barely made it past the 30,000-mile mark, while the back tires looked almost new. On older high-mileage used trucks, the problem can be more severe. The front springs tend to sag with age, which aggravates the tire-cupping problem. Your truck might benefit from a set of new front springs. If other frontend parts are worn, they should be replaced along with the springs.
Frequent frontend alignments are important if you own a Ford twin-I-beam-equipped truck. Tire cupping is one of those problems that quickly becomes annoying. The more the tires bounce, the more they cup, and cupping increases bouncing. Another cause for cupping is worn shocks. On the I-beam frontend, opt for the best and biggest shocks you can get to keep the wheels planted firmly on the ground. We also suggest feathering the front tires on these trucks since the I-beam front suspension goes through a lot of caster/camber changes when it moves up and down.
Your best bet is to check and rebuild the entire front suspension. Start with a fresh set of tires and have the alignment checked on a regular basis. Watch for tire-shop coupon specials on alignments.
Q: There seems to be a problem with the left rear window of my '96 Chevy Suburban. The windows are power windows. The window often has trouble going back up, although it always goes down fine. My son who usually sits on that side likes to play with the power windows. Could the extra use have worn out the window motor? Is there something else that could be the problem, or should I just make my son sit on the other side? Trent Sullivan, via e-mail
A: If the window goes down without any problem, the motor is working fine. If there was trouble in both directions, the motor would be suspect.
You didn't mention whether the problem occurs with just the left rear door switch or when either that switch or the master switch on the front left door is used. If the problem occurs with both switches, look for a faulty body to door connector.
If one window switch brings the window up and the other doesn't, the problem could still be in either switch. The two switches are on the same circuit. This next suggestion may sound like the old smack the TV approach to electronics repair, but try moving each switch from side to side, forward and back, and pressing on it. Do this several times to see if any of this wiggling improves the upward function. If wiggling makes a temporary improvement, that switch or its connection is faulty. Replace the switch. Check for any signs of corrosion when you replace the switch. Maybe your son has been pouring cola on the switch?
Q: I've always used premium gas in my '01 Ford Lightning pickup, but since gas prices have skyrocketed, I've been thinking about dropping down to the medium grade. I don't drive too aggressively, although that's difficult with a truck as powerful as the Lightning. I don't tow or carry anything heavy in the bed. What do you think? Brad Brownlee, Great Falls, MT
A: You should weigh the minimal cost savings of dropping an octane grade compared with the cost of repairing your engine. That makes the more expensive gas a bargain. Your truck needs the higher octane to avoid detonation. This is extra important during the hot summer months and for people who live in mountainous areas such as Montana.
Q: I drive a '92 Chevy S-10 pickup with a 4.3L V-6 and 700-R4 automatic transmission. My problem is that the tranny's slow to shift, or occasionally doesn't upshift at all. I don't like driving around with the motor revving like crazy. It doesn't do this all the time, but often enough that I thought I should write to you guys. Is there some simple cure for the problem that I could do myself, or do I have to take the truck to a transmission shop? Bill Schiedel, Baker, OR
A: You're probably going to have to visit a transmission shop. The most likely cause of slow upshifts or no upshifts at all in '90-'93 Chevy S-10 and GMC Sonoma variants equipped with the 700-R4 is a stuck throttle valve. This valve is inside the transmission, which takes the repair out of the range of most home mechanics. You might try draining the transmission fluid and installing a new filter and pan gasket to see if fresh fluid will free the valve.