Low Ranger
I can't get my '02 Ford Ranger to lay frame when I dump all the air out of the 'bags. I'm OK in back, but the front won't go all the way down. The frame hits the tie-rods. I need approximately 2 to 3 inches of extra clearance. I've owned a couple trucks with rear C-notches, so I was wondering if that same technique would solve my frontend clearance problem?
Jason Jackson
Rochester, New York

C-notches should provide adequate tie-rod clearance. The key to this solution is to maintain the integrity of the framerails. If you're a competent welder, this is something you could do yourself. If you have any doubts, hire a professional. The notches should ideally be made out of 1/4-inch steel plate. You could cut three pieces of steel for each notch and weld them to the framerails and to each other where they meet. You could also have a fabrication shop bend the steel in a brake. Make a cardboard template to mark the part of the framerails that needs to be cut out with either a Sawzall or a plasma cutter. Have your welds checked.

Parking Problem
The parking brake on my '91 Chevy S-10 Blazer doesn't seem to work anymore. I often do business in a very hilly part of the city, and even though I always put the transmission in Park, I'd feel more secure if I felt the parking brake worked, too. It seems like this problem has gotten progressively worse over the past two years. Could the act of making it super tight when I park on hills affect the parking brake? Is it possible for the parking brake cable to stretch? If I need a new one, can I install it myself?
Dave Warner
Seattle, Washington

Wear in either the parking brake cables or the rear brake shoes can affect performance. Ideally, the self-adjusters are supposed to compensate for worn brake shoes, but sometimes the adjusters malfunction. You didn't mention the condition of the rear brakes or when they were last serviced. The first thing we would do is pull a rear brake drum and inspect the brake linings. If you don't want to do this, many brake and muffler shops offer free brake inspections. If the shoes are worn, replacing them should significantly improve both overall braking and the effectiveness of the parking brake. If you're not sure about the functioning of the self-adjusting feature, back up 10 or 12 times and brake suddenly. That motion is supposed to ratchet the adjusters. When you're inspecting the brake linings, take a look at the adjusters. Check for any obstructions or excessive rust. You shouldn't need to replace the parking brake cables unless they are severely stretched or frayed. The parking brake cables can be adjusted by tightening the adjustment nut on the threaded rod at the forward end of the cables. The nut and threads may be rusty and in need of some penetrant to loosen them. Don't overtighten the parking brake cables. An overly tight cable can cause the brake shoes to drag. When the parking brake is properly adjusted, the parking brake pedal should be about half way through its travel when the pedal is depressed.