The Late Shift
The automatic transmission on my '92 GMC Sierra shorty has been having shifting trouble. The shifts seem to be getting later and later. That might be fine if I was drag racing, but I'm just trying to get back and forth to work. The truck has the 5.0L V-8 and 700-R4 transmission. The odometer is coming up on 200,000 miles. Nothing has been done to the transmission during the approximately 80,000 miles that I've put on the truck. In addition to late shifts, the transmission sometimes doesn't want to shift at all. It seems like this problem is getting progressively worse. Does this mean I need a new transmission?
Jim Sorenson
via e-mail

You might not need a whole new transmission, but you're definitely overdue for some servicing. Your problem is most likely a sticking or stuck throttle valve. Given your truck's high mileage, things are probably a little gummy inside the transmission. Regular transmission servicing (fluid and filter change) isn't something people think of as they do engine oil changes, but this service still needs to be done. Check the maintenance schedule in your owner's manual. We're sure the recommended service interval is much shorter than every 200,000 miles. This problem with sticky throttle valves has been noted in other '90-'92 Chevy/GMC trucks and related vehicles equipped with the 700-R4 automatic transmission.

Hot Tapes
I've enjoyed the various flame painting how-to stories that you run in Sport Truck. The stories have got me wanting to flame my '02 S-10, but first I'd like to know a little more about the kinds of tape to use. I've noticed that not every painter uses the same materials or techniques. Which tape is best for a beginner? Which width is easiest to use? What about using the big, wide rolls of adhesive masking material and cutting out the flames?
Ron Marks
via e-mail

The number one rule of flame painting is that there are no rules. That's why you see so many different techniques. Most pro painters learned by trial and error. You can avoid obvious problems by reading magazine articles and books on the subject. Motorbooks International ( has an excellent book, How to Paint Flames by Bruce Caldwell (shameless plug) that thoroughly covers all the basic techniques and materials. The best way to determine which tape works best for you is to buy several rolls of different types and sizes. "Fine Line" vinyl tape is the most commonly used product. The 3M Company is the acknowledged leader in the masking tape business, but there are other excellent brands out there. Just be sure to use only automotive tape. Local body shop supply stores can be an expensive place to buy tape. Do an internet search for mail-order body shop supply firms. We've found some excellent tape values that way. The most popular size for initial layout seems to be 1/8-inch tape. It's plenty flexible and it's wide enough for good adhesion of the outer tape layers. Some painters use 1/4-inch tape because they like the thicker lines. You can get extremely thin tape, such as 1/16-inch. We don't care for the wiggle factor in ultra-thin tape, and it's easily broken. The wide rolls of adhesive material that you refer to are known as transfer tapes. They come from the vinyl sign industry. A common use for transfer tape is for quick masking of intricate designs. The transfer tape is placed over the layout tape. Then, the areas to be painted are carefully removed by cutting down the center of the layout tape. This technique takes a precision touch, so the blade doesn't cut through the tape and into the underlying paint. You can draw designs right on transfer tape, which is what many airbrush artists do when creating highly detailed graphics. Again, this isn't something for your first attempt at flame painting. We strongly recommend that you get an inexpensive front fender (body shops often discard barely damaged fenders) to use as a practice surface. You can practice on flat surfaces, but curved items are more like your actual truck.

Steer Crazy
I'm concerned about the front suspension of my '90 Dodge Dakota Club Cab pickup. The truck is a two-wheel-drive model with the 5.2L V-8 engine and automatic transmission. The problem is that the steering doesn't seem as precise as it was when I first got the truck. I haven't lowered the truck or made any suspension modifications. The truck isn't used in any abusive manner, but I do have to travel on about 5 miles of dirt and gravel roads to reach my home. The roads can get quite rutted and full of big potholes during certain times of the year. I never blast through the ruts, but I'm sure they must be hard on the suspension. Is it possible that the rough roads have caused excessive wear in the steering gearbox? I replaced all the shock absorbers less than 5,000 miles ago. Is there an easy way I can pinpoint the source of my problem? Thank you for your help.
Grady Bollinger
Havre, Montana

You should get to your nearest Dodge service department ASAP. Your frame could be cracked where it attaches to the steering box. It's also possible that some or all of the steering gear attachment bolts have fractured. The steering gear can separate from the frame, which is dangerous. There was a NHTSA recall for '90 Dodge Dakota 2WD and Club Cab pickups equipped with the V-8 engine due to this safety problem.

Where's The Beef?
First, I want to apologize if I am e-mailing the wrong person about this-I don't mean to bother you. You recently put out a Sport Truck issue with a small booklet included. This was called Instant Expert: The Audio Edition. It was put out with regard to creating custom consoles/enclosures. I was wondering where I could get this or purchase it? I was very interested in reading it. I appreciate any and all help you can give me. I again apologize for bothering you if I am indeed e-mailing the wrong individual.
Derrick Hawkins
Indianapolis, Indiana

No need to apologize for contacting us; we support our readers and eagerly accept any letters received from them. The issue you are inquiring about was the May '05 poly bag. It included our Instant Expert: The Audio Edition outsert, packed with a variety of good audio tech. Back issues can be found at (866) 601-5199, or go to our website at