Dye Job
Q: I would like to change the interior color on my '95 Chevy S-10 pickup. Currently, the interior is blue. I'd like to make it gray (first choice) or black. The last time I tried to dye an interior with do-it-yourself products, the results were pretty lame. I'd like to do the job myself instead of paying a professional. Can you give me some hints on how to get the best results?
Rick Huff, Bakersfield, California

A: Like it or not, the best way to get an excellent color change is to take your truck to a professional upholstery shop. Those shops have the knowledge and specialized products to do the best possible job.

If you'd like to tackle the job yourself, there are ways to optimize your results. The most important step is to start with a super-clean surface. Prepwork is critical to good adhesion of the new color. The surfaces to by dyed should be cleaned with a detergent and water solution, rinsed, and then cleaned with a prep product specifically designed for upholstery color changes.

A scrub brush can be used to loosen ground-in dirt. Old toothbrushes work well for getting into recessed areas, such as around seams. Hard-plastic parts that are removable, such as kick panels, can be further cleaned by soaking them overnight in a tub or bucket (depending on the size of the parts) filled with a fresh detergent and water solution. After soaking, the parts should be scrubbed and rinsed again.

Silicone is public enemy number one to any painting project, whether interior or exterior. Unfortunately, many products that make your truck look bright and shiny contain silicone. That's especially true of products used on vinyl upholstery. The presence of any silicone can affect the vinyl dye's ability to adhere to the upholstery. That's why all traces of silicone must be removed in the cleaning process.

The problem of oily contaminants can extend with the natural oils on your hands. Once the areas that will be dyed have been cleaned and dried, try to minimize hand contact. You might want to wear disposable latex gloves.

Given your two color choices, you're most likely to get good results when the new color is darker than the original. Therefore, black is a good choice. Trying to cover a dark color with a lighter one is difficult. Red can be a particularly difficult color to hide.

You should use a multipart vinyl dye system such as those made by Ditzler and SEM. Professional autobody supply stores should carry one or both of these lines or their equivalent. The SEM products can be found in The Eastwood Company's mail-order catalog or on its Web site at www.eastwood.com.

Some professional-quality vinyl dyes come in aerosol cans; others need to be applied with a small detail spray gun. Besides the cleaning agents, some systems also use a vinyl conditioner and a flex agent. Once you choose a particular brand, stick with products made by that company.

You'll have more success on surfaces such as door panels, kick panels, and dashboards than the main seating surfaces. That's because the flexing of the vinyl can cause the "paint" to crack. To completely avoid this problem, the vinyl would need to be dyed all the way through as it is during its original manufacturing process.

There are dyes for cloth upholstery and carpeting. Dying cloth can make it sort of stiff. The same goes for carpets. If you want to change the color of your carpet, the best solution is to install a new pre-formed carpet kit. These kits are easy to install and very affordable.

Beat The Drums
Q: I own a high-mileage '96 GMC Sierra shortbed regular-cab truck with the 5.0L V-8 and automatic transmission. The truck has more than 200,000 miles on it, but it still runs well. My question is about turning the rear brake drums. The rear brakes are about due for new shoes. I don't know how many sets the truck has had, but I'm sure there have been several.

The last time I inspected the brakes, I noticed some relatively minor score lines in the drums. I could see them, but they weren't big grooves. Do I need to have the drums turned, or will new brake shoes restore the truck's braking ability?
Randall Stetz, via e-mail

A: There's a good chance that your high-mileage truck could stand to have the brake drums turned. If they've been turned before, it's possible there isn't sufficient material left to turn them again. Take the drums to an automotive machine shop that does brake drum turning. The shop will measure the drums to see if there is enough drum left to allow turning.

The drums should be marked with the minimum allowable thickness. If measurement shows that the diameter is less than 0.030 inch of the maximum diameter specification, then it can't be turned. In general, a new set of brake drums should be thick enough to allow about 0.060 inch of wear. That should permit one or two turnings, depending on how scored the drums are.

A competent shop won't turn drums that are marginal. And you don't want to use thin drums because their ability to absorb and dissipate heat is significantly reduced. That can lead to brake fade, especially if you're doing heavy-duty chores such as towing.

It's also possible that your drums aren't perfectly round. That affects braking performance. A common cause of out-of-round drums is applying the parking brake when the drum is still hot. Pedal pulsating can indicate out-of-round drums. Brake drum runout should be less than 0.005 inch.

Compared with the cost of new brake drums, having them turned isn't very expensive. You should be able to find a competent machine shop that will do the job for less than $50. Whatever you do, have the drums checked. Don't cut corners when it comes to brakes.