The aftermarket alloy wheels on my '99 Silverado Crew Cab pickup seem to be leaking. Specifically, the left rear wheel loses about 3-5 psi per week. I use my truck to haul a 28-foot cabin cruiser on a boat trailer, so I check tire pressures frequently and always before I haul the boat. I launch my boat in Puget Sound, which is salt water. Could the salt water be causing corrosion? There appears to be corrosion between the tire bead and the rim. Could I just clean this area and put some kind of sealer on it? How can I tell if air is escaping from the rim or someplace else? Thank you.
The best way to determine the location and severity of the air leak is to take the wheel and tire to a tire store. If you want to try finding the leak yourself, find a container that will accommodate the wheel and tire, plus enough water to submerse part of the rim. A fullsize wheelbarrow should do the trick. Over-inflate the tire and rotate it until you see air bubbles. Mark that area with a yellow tire-marking crayon.
If air seems to be escaping from all around the rim, the problem could be corrosion. If the leak seems more specific, there could be a flaw in the wheel. If you determine that the wheel isn't cracked, you could remove the corrosion with a wire wheel in a drill motor or sand it by hand. You should not sandblast aluminum wheels. Once the rim is clean and smooth, you can apply some aerosol clearcoating. You might consider applying a light coating of petroleum jelly between the tire bead and the rim before you launch your boat. If you or the tire store determines that the air loss is from a structural problem such as a crack, the solution is more difficult. Depending on the severity of the crack, a talented aluminum welder might be able to weld up the crack. I had a 1-ton front alloy wheel that developed a crack where the outer rim met the wheel center. A couple of very talented race car fabricators tried welding the crack, but the fix was only temporary. The crack kept expanding away from the repaired area. The wheel was an out of production directional style. I couldn't find a replacement, so I had to buy a whole new set of wheels.
Take My Pulse
What would cause the brakes to pulsate under light to moderately hard braking on my '99 Jeep Grand Cherokee? I don't notice the problem if I really jump on the brakes like in a panic stop. Does this mean I need a brake job?
Yes, you probably need a brake job. Pulsation under the conditions you describe can be caused by too much variance in the thickness of the front rotors. Enough '99-'02 Jeep Grand Cherokees reported similar problems that a technical service bulletin was issued on the subject; TSB 05-003-02 REV. A. addresses the problem. The usual solution is to replace the front rotors, calipers, and brake pads. Consult your local dealership.
See the Light
I have a problem with my map/dome light. It only works intermittently at best. The problem is on my '96 Explorer XLT. Dome lights seem like one of the most basic items on a truck, but replacing bulbs and cleaning the socket with fine-grade steel wool hasn't made much improvement. Am I overlooking some obvious solution to this problem?
Normally, replacing a bulb, cleaning the socket, and checking for a loose connection should fix any dome light or map light problem. If your Explorer was built before February 1996, you need an overhead console repair kit, P.N. F67Z-78519C42-AA, from your local Ford parts department. Enough similar problems were reported on other '93-'96 Explorers and '94-'96 Broncos that Ford came up with this fix. Vehicles built after February 1996 don't seem to have the problem.
There are some bad vibrations coming from my '91 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup. The truck has 2WD, the 350ci V-8, and automatic transmission. This vibration problem happens mostly around 40 to 50 mph. The type of road (rough or smooth) doesn't seem to matter. This problem has been going on for almost 6 months. My first thought was to check the U-joints. They seemed nice and solid. The fasteners were quite snug. I've tried revving the engine real high in Park to see if maybe the vibrations were coming from somewhere in the transmission. It only seems to vibrate when moving, so I don't think there is anything wrong with the transmission. Could the problem be in the driveshaft instead of the U-joints? Is there something I'm missing, or can you tell me how to check the driveshaft and find the problem? I would appreciate your input.
Buffalo, New York
Given your description of the problem, it doesn't sound like a driveshaft or U-joint problem. The fact that the problem has existed in pretty much the same condition for many months tends to rule out driveshaft problems. An out-of-balance driveshaft or failing U-joints tend to escalate rather rapidly. Once a driveshaft loses balance or U-joints start to fail, the constant rotation aggravates the problem-you end up with some serious shaking instead of an annoying vibration. If the problem was related to engine balance, the problem would be evident when you revved the engine in Park. The problem could be in the torque converter. Chevy and GMC trucks made in 1991 and 1992 and equipped with the 5.7L, 350ci V-8 and automatic transmissions have experienced similar vibration problems. The fact that the vibration ceases when the transmission is in Park points to this potential cause. Dealer Service Bulletin DSB 477116 deals with torque converter vibration problems in the 40-50-mph range. There's a strong possibility that you need a new torque converter. Consult your local GM dealership's service department.
Just Peel Slowly and Enjoy the results!
Girls, Girls, Girls
Dear Sport Truck, Last month in the Letters section of your magazine, some guy complained about the girls in the mag. I have read these letters for the past three years concerning the girl issue. I must say what a bunch of wusses you would be if you complied with the ramblings of some moralistic, self-serving, conservative Censors. So what if Rick's Garage won't read Sport Truck any more! It's virtually impossible to make every person happy. The Sport Truck niche has almost always been about hot trucks, killer tech, sweet parts, and awesome babes. It's important that you guys don't succumb to complaints as trivial as this because it would take away one of the staples that makes Sport Truck different from all the other truck books on the newsstand. Keep up the good work.
If there is one thing Sport Truck's editorial staff knows, it's that there will be controversy over the girls in the magazine. One thing's for sure: the girls help make Sport Truck identifiable from far away on the newsstand. It's part of our motif. And this helps the people who want to read Sport Truck find it quickly.
I recently bought an '01 Dodge Ram 1500 extended cab pickup. It was in great shape and offered at a price that was too good to miss. The problem is that the previous owner plastered stickers all over the bumpers and tailgate.
He wasn't content to deface a nice truck with just stickers. He also applied some mutt-ugly window tints, the kind with tacky artwork in them. His glass defacing included a windshield logo sun strip. He also had his and his wife's names painted on the doors. The final insult is some poorly applied pinstriping tape that's chipped and missing in several places.
Needless to say, I want to get all this graffiti off as soon as possible. The truck's paint is in quite good condition, so I'd like to avoid doing any repainting. The truck has been parked outside in the hot Texas weather most of the time, so some of the decals are pretty well baked. What's the best way to remove all this stuff without damaging the paint?
Fort Worth, Texas
The best way to preserve the underlying surfaces is to work slowly and carefully. If you damage the paint, you'll probably need some touch-up work. You mentioned that the truck has been outside most of the time. Depending on how long the stickers and decals have been exposed to harsh sunlight, the paint underneath might be a different shade than the sun-worn paint. You didn't mention what color the truck is. Certain colors are more prone to fading than others. It also depends on how frequently the truck was waxed.
Before you undertake any of the following procedures, you might want to get an estimate from a professional detailing shop. They have lots of experience with these problems and you might be ahead by letting them do the job. If you'd like to tackle one or more of the problems, read on.
If any of the stickers are on chrome bumpers, tackle them first. Techniques are the same for painted bumpers, but more care is required to avoid damaging the paint. Park the truck so the bumper is in direct sunlight. Allow the bumper to get warm. If this isn't possible, warm the stickers with a hair dryer. Use your fingernail or a plastic putty knife to lift one corner. Then slowly peel the sticker back over itself. Doing so helps keep the sticker intact and gives you a larger area to pull on.
Stickers that are stuck harder can benefit from various household citrus-type solvents. Check the labels. Most of them state if they work well on adhesives. When using these goo-removers, it's better to have a cold surface so the solvent won't evaporate. You can soak a rag and hold it on the sticker for several minutes.
There are also commercial body-shop products such as those offered by 3M. Its Woodgrain & Stripe Remover aerosol product is used by body shops. You can get it at paint and body supply stores. Vinyl pinstripes are very similar to bumper stickers. If you have some already chipped or broken areas, start there. Since it's tough to warm the entire length of a pinstripe, use a hair dryer (or heat gun) as you proceed. Pull up the loose ends and aim heat where the vinyl stripe meets the metal. Be careful not to burn yourself if you use a heat gun. You might end up with "ghost" pinstripes. A color-restoring cleaner wax might fix the problem or at least mitigate it. You might need to visit a professional detailer if the ghosting is really bad. 3M also makes special abrasive wheels for drill motors called Stripe Off Wheels. These expanded polyurethane foam wheels act like high-speed erasers. Trying to remove painted stripes and door names is more difficult and probably best left to professionals. You can try using polishing or rubbing compounds. Try the less abrasive polishing compounds first. Put a small amount on a clean rag and just rub with a fingertip.
Unwanted window tints require extra care if they have any contact with defroster grid wires. If there aren't any wires, a simple single-edge razor blade can be used to scrape off the offensive film. Old tint on windows with defroster grids is another one of those tasks best left to professionals. If you insist on doing it yourself and are willing to accept the risk of a non-functioning defroster, try loosening the film with household ammonia. Fill a spray bottle with water. Then find a plastic trash bag or a roll of plastic wrap that will cover the entire tinted area. Add a couple spoonfuls of ammonia to the sprayer bottle and spray the solution well on the window tint. Then stick the plastic over the wet tint. Do this in the shade and hopefully the ammonia will remain wet for 20-30 minutes. That should help soften the adhesive so you can peel off the old tint. Don't scrape on or around defroster grids with anything. Even if you're just using solvent remover or cleaning the glass, always rub with the grid wires, not across them.