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.

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.

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