Early Lowering For Dodge Trucks
I have a really good question for you guys. I have a '93 Dodge 250 2WD standard with a 318. I would really love to drop this truck just a few inches, but I have had nothing but bad luck in finding any lowering components for it. Could you guys help me out, or is this finally the truck that can't be lowered? Thanks for your help.
via e-mail

We've searched the Sport Truck archive and found no aftermarket manufacturers that make components for the '72-'93 Dodge truck. At one time, there was no aftermarket industry to buy "bolt-on" parts for. Depending on what you use, the truck for the option of cutting down the springs with a cutoff wheel and grinder, fabricating a deeper spring pocket in the A-arm, and fabricating a longer shackle for the rear leaf is always an option. You didn't say where you lived, but there are custom truck shops all over the U.S. You may find an airbag kit would suit your needs just fine. Because we don't know your location, we'll try some where in the middle of the nation, like Silver Star Customs in Mississippi. Silver Star has a gob of cool parts and have dropped just about every truck known to man. You can contact Silver Star Customs at (662) 342-6763, www.silverstarcustoms.com.

Van No Gogh
I recently bought a '90 GMC Vandura 2500 cargo van to use in my job as a painting contractor. It has the 5.7L V-8 and automatic transmission. It ran fine when I test-drove it, but now it refuses to start sometimes. There's no real rhyme or reason to why it will or won't start. The guy I bought it from made a big deal about the fact that the truck had a new starter. When the engine won't start, it makes that terrible grinding noise. It almost sounds like gears are being sheared off. It sure sounds like a bad starter to me, but supposedly the current starter was installed less than 1,000 miles ago. Sometimes, I can get the truck to start by rocking it back and forth a little, while the transmission is in gear. I'm beginning to think the starter is bad. Is there anything else that could cause this problem?
Jeremy Warren
via e-mail

Vincent van Gogh cut off an ear, but it sounds like your van might have a tooth or two sliced off the ring gear on the flexplate. If there have been starter alignment problems, it's possible for one or more teeth to get knocked off the ring gear. Then, ring gear roulette takes over. When the ring gear is as it should be, you have 153 teeth (or 168 depending on which flexplate you have), so it's possible to avoid the damaged or missing teeth for quite a while. When the starter solenoid activates the spring-loaded pinion gear, it should mesh with the teeth on the flexplate. When the starter pinion encounters a damaged area you get that horrible grinding noise. That noise can also occur when the starter pinion gear doesn't make full contact with the ring gear. By moving the truck while in gear, you rotate the engine/flexplate combo that puts good teeth in contact with the pinion gear and the truck starts. Placing a 1/2-inch ratchet or flex bar and socket on the crankshaft pulley bolt and rotating the engine that way is easier than moving the whole truck.

The easiest way to check for ring gear damage is to remove the metal (or plastic) inspection cover to expose the bottom portion of the flexplate. The inspection plate should be held in place by four small fasteners. Then, have an assistant rotate the engine-don't run the engine-and look for damaged or missing teeth. A damaged flexplate will need to be replaced. This isn't an easy task, but it isn't beyond the grasp of a reasonably experienced home mechanic. Gaining access is the toughest part of the job. If the ring gear teeth appear to be fine, then the problem is with the starter. Just because a rebuilt starter was recently installed doesn't mean it was a good one. Inexpensive rebuilt starters don't have great quality records. A friend went through six starters on the family wagon before he got a good one. That's an extreme case, but the point is don't rule out the starter. Most major auto parts stores sell very affordable starters with lifetime guarantees. They're gracious about giving you a replacement. The catch is that you have to remove and reinstall the starters. If you're not sure about the condition of your present starter, most auto parts stores will test them (detached from the truck) for free.

Trans Transformation
How much trouble would it be to install an automatic transmission in a Chevy pickup that currently has a five-speed manual transmission? I have a '90 GMC Sierra 1/2-ton shortbed pickup with a small-block V-8, five-speed manual transmission and a 3.42:1 rear gear ratio. This truck has seen a lot of hard use, but the manual transmission is the most worn part of the truck. I've never liked the clunky manual trans, so it doesn't make sense to waste money fixing or replacing it with another five-speed. If I'm going to spend money, I'd like an automatic transmission. What's the easiest way to install an automatic transmission?Bill Sundquist
Post Falls, Idaho

You're going in the right direction, because finding a good used automatic transmission is much easier than finding a manual tranny for these GM trucks. The proliferation of automatic transmissions in 1/2-ton Chevy and GMC pickups means wrecking yards are well stocked with them. The transmission of choice for your situation is a non-electronic 700-R4 automatic. Look for one from an '88-'91 1/2-ton GM pickup. If possible, buy your transmission from a wrecking yard that hasn't separated the trans from the truck. You can get all the accessory parts such as the shifter linkage and throttle kick-down cable. You might also be able to get the radiator, so you'll have the built-in transmission cooler. Be sure you get some type of free replacement guarantee with the transmission. You can't testdrive a transmission in a wrecked truck, so be sure the yard will stand behind their parts.