Cranky Engines
Q: I have two For pickups with similar problems. I hope you can help me solve them. The problems relate to hard starting and stalling. My first truck is a '95 Ford F-150 XLT Super Cab with the 351 V-8 and automatic transmission. The second truck is my wife's '96 Ford Ranger XLT Super Cab with the 4.0L V-6 and the automatic transmission. My truck has two-wheel drive and hers has four-wheel drive.

Both trucks take a long time to start. The cranking times seem longer than they should be. Oftentimes after a long cranking period, the engines will start and then stall. What do you think could be causing this problem?

I have an additional problem with the F-150. It seems to be hard on front tires. The ride isn't very smooth and the tires get cupped, which I think causes the rough ride. What can be done to fix this problem? Your help would be most appreciated. Thank you.
Lyle Pittman, via e-mail

A: The symptoms you describe for both trucks sound like a sticking idle air control valve. You should have this checked by your mechanic. A second possibility on the F-150 could be a short in the wiring harness for the PCM (powertrain control module).F-150s from '93 through '95 have been known to have this problem.

As for the cupping tire problem, welcome to life with Ford's twin I-beam front suspension. This system seems to be extra hard on tires. A key to avoiding the problem is regular frontend alignments. Since you already have the problem, your truck could need some suspension components replaced. Worn-out front coil springs can cause this problem, and new springs will restore the ride quality. Depending on the severity of your problem and the number of miles on the truck, other suspension components may also need renewing. Have an alignment shop check the alignment and the condition of your suspension components.

Leaky Filter
Q: I do my own oil changes on my '95 Dodge Dakota. It has the 5.2L V-8 and an automatic transmission. It seems that no matter how careful I am, oil leaks around the filter. I've checked for obstructions or even an extra filter gasket, but I can't find anything. Can you think of any other thing that would cause this leak?
Boyce Heiderich, Rapid City, South Dakota

A: There's a good chance that the oil filter adapter plate is warped, so no matter how careful you are, you're not getting a perfect seal. If this is the problem, you'll need a new adapter plate.

Be sure that you're not overtightening the filter. In your efforts to prevent leaks, you could damage the oil filter gasket, which would cause the leak you're trying to stop.

More Power, Less Gas
Q: I'm sure you get this request a lot, but I'd like to get better fuel economy and more power out of the 2.8L V-6 engine in my '93 Chevy S-10. Of course, I'd like to accomplish these goals for the least amount of money possible. I know this little V-6 isn't the most powerful engine under any circumstances, but it's what I have. I hope you can help me. Thank you.
Kim Satori, Santa Rosa, California

A: Yes, we do get a lot of requests for help hopping up the S-10's little V-6. Unfortunately, there isn't a great deal you can do beyond the basics of improving the exhaust system, air intake, and computer programming. Most people who originally wanted a powerful S-10 opted for the 4.3L V-6. People interested in basic truck motivation were more likely to order your engine.

A simple first step would be to install a high-performance air filter such as a K&N unit. This should about double the amount of air available to the engine.

Several aftermarket companies make recalibrated computer chips for your truck. Installing one of these chips will give you more performance at wide-open throttle.

A performance exhaust system is your next move. Companies such as Edelbrock offer emissions-legal tubular exhaust systems and after-cat exhaust systems.

These basic and affordable changes should drop about a second off your previous 0-60 times and give some extra fuel economy to boot. It's possible to perform expensive internal engine upgrades, but you'd be better off installing a 4.3L V-6. The 4.3L engine is not only bigger, but much more aftermarket equipment is available for it.

Layin' Frame
Q: I'm building a '97 Chevy Silverado and I want to run 20-inch rims and airbags. I'm concerned about my ability to drop the truck all the way to the ground. I've noticed some similar trucks that can lay frame and others that are still a couple inches off the ground. What do I need to do to get the full drop?
Seth Serrick, via e-mail

A: Clearance is the key word. You need to move things up and out of the way of the wheels and tires. That means the inner fenderwells need to be raised. The easy way out is to just eliminate them, but that leads to a messy engine compartment. Raising and relocating the inner fenders can involve some modification of the actual fender.

The frame needs to be notched front and rear to allow sufficient room for the upper A-arms and rear axle. Any notched frame sections should be boxed for strength. Remember to allow ample room for the tie rods.

Check for any other possible areas of interference. Pay attention to firewall clearances and the engine harness on the driver side of the firewall.