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.

Low-Po Power Accessories
I recently bought a loaded '87 Chevy Silverado 1/2-ton shortbed Fleetside pickup. The truck was a one-owner low-mileage beauty that was mostly used for occasional household hauling. In other words, it wasn't used very hard. Given its light use and easy life, I was a little disappointed to see how poorly some of the power accessories operate. This is my first experience with these trucks, so maybe I'm expecting too much. My previous truck was only one year newer, although it was the new body style. Unfortunately, that truck was stolen, stripped, and burned. In particular, I'm dismayed at how slow the power windows are. The driver-side window seems slower than the passenger side, but they're both slow as molasses. The driver's window is getting progressively worse. Sometimes, it won't go all the way down or up without having to stop and catch its breath. I'm also unhappy with the power door locks. They're quite noisy and clunky. It sounds like someone is throwing a big switch on a jail cell door. My last complaint is that the air conditioning isn't very cold. I don't know if it's low on refrigerant or if the blower is defective. I'd like to bring these accessories up to the performance levels of my '88 Silverado. Are there things I can do to boost performance?
Sean Schwendt
via e-mail

There's a reason why your '88 Chevy Silverado accessories outperformed the ones on your '87; the '88 was a totally redesigned truck. General Motors definitely got its money's worth out of the stampings and parts used on the '73-'87 Chevy/GMC pickups, Suburbans, and Blazers. We've owned a couple of those trucks, and it seemed like an arthritic 90-year-old could crank the windows faster than those lame power window motors. The driver's window is more prone to problems due to its greater use.

Those clunky power door locks are the result of relatively primitive solenoids and minimal sound-deadening material in the doors. The diminished A/C performance is probably a combination of needing to have the refrigerant recharged and a not-too-fast blower motor. You could swap in similar parts from an '88-and-later truck, or you could try to maximize the existing components. Before trying to swap parts, we'd service the present parts. The driver's window problem sounds like the result of too much resistance. If the resistance is excessive, it can strain the window motor, causing it to draw too much current. When that happens, a thermal limiter or circuit breaker will protect the motor by shutting it down. To determine the cause of the unwanted friction, remove the door panel and inspect the window lift pivot points and the glass channels. A shot of silicone lubricant on the pivot points should improve performance temporarily, but white grease should be used for the long term. When you're satisfied that the pivot points are adequately lubed, run the window up and down several times while you carefully watch the glass channel. The glass could be binding or there could be an obstruction. You can adjust the position of the glass to lessen friction. You might need new channels and/or seals, but if your truck is as mint as you say, that probably isn't the problem. There could be a poor electrical connection with the power window motor.

Check for corrosion or a possible wiring short. Check the integrity of the wires where they pass from the door to the doorjamb. To lessen the clunking sound of the power door locks, you could add sound-deadening insulation to the doors. You could also wrap insulation around the solenoid motor. A certified A/C repair shop should check the air-conditioning performance. You probably need to have the system recharged, but some of the system components could also be failing.

Hammer Time
My '99 Ford Ranger makes some disturbing hammering noises, when the conditions are very hot. The noise comes from the engine compartment, but I'm not exactly sure where. A friend who has been in the truck when the noise happened said it reminded him of the old steam radiator in a run-down apartment he rented in New York City. Could I have bad pipes like an old furnace? I'd appreciate any help you can provide.
Lonny Copenhaver
Dallas, Texas

Chances are good that your friend is onto something. The '98-'00 Ford Rangers have reported hammering noises emanating from the engine compartment. The source of the noise has been traced to steam forming in the cooling system. The solution is to see your Ford dealer for a retrofit coolant bypass kit.

Rev Booster
There's something weird going on with the engine idle of my '95 Dodge Dakota pickup. The truck is equipped with the 5.2L V-8 and the manual transmission. When I come to a stop and depress the clutch pedal, the engine revs increase. The same thing happens if I put the transmission in Neutral and keep my foot on the brake. I have power disc brakes, if that matters. Initially, I thought I might have hit the gas pedal as I moved my foot to the brake pedal. I watched very carefully and that wasn't happening. I don't notice this problem when I'm shifting gears without touching the brake pedal. How could using the brakes affect the engine idle? I'm baffled, so I hope you can help. I also have a more minor problem with the engine oil filter. It leaks, although I'm very careful about how I install the filter when I change it. I've even had the oil and filter changed at a franchise oil change shop, and the filter still leaked. I was told not to overtighten the oil filter. Should I tighten the filter beyond normal recommendations?
Derrick Steeb
via e-mail

The brake system could well be the cause of your increased revs. A defective power brake booster can leak vacuum pressure, instead of increasing as it should when the brakes are applied. Engine speed can increase due to extra air bypassing the throttle.

If it's harder to stop your truck than before this problem started, that's a sign of brake booster problems. You can check the effectiveness of the brake booster by applying and holding the brakes down while the engine is idling. Push with normal force. Turn off the engine while maintaining the same pressure on the brakes. If it feels like the brake pedal is rising, you have a brake booster problem. The next step is to have a brake shop professionally check the booster. Another possible source of the increased revs is a defective powertrain control module (PCM). One function of the PCM is to receive signals from the brake pedal switch. A defective signal could tell the air control valve to increase engine speed. You need professional mechanical help if the PCM is at fault.Your leaky oil filter is most likely the result of a warped oil filter adapter plate. Other '95 Dakotas with the 3.9L, 5.0L, and 5.9L engines have reported similar leaks. The simple solution is to get a new adapter plate. Don't overtighten the oil filter. Doing so increases the risk of damaging the filter gasket, which will surely cause a leak.

Isuzu Irritants
I thought I would dare to be different and build a unique sport truck, so when I found a super deal on a '98 two-wheel-drive Isuzu Rodeo, I jumped on it. It's good-looking and with a shave, slam, and new rims, I thought I'd be set. Unfortunately, the truck started having problems soon after my check cleared. I don't want to proceed with any modifications until I'm sure the problems aren't serious. The problems are: The idle speed increases without any apparent reason; the ABS lights flash, again without apparent cause; the automatic transmission is slow to engage first thing in the morning; the steering wheel vibrates; and the fuel gauge doesn't move until I've gone at least 100 miles. Can these things be easily fixed, or should I bail out?
Dave Johnson
Eugene, Oregon

Some of your problems are common to V-6-equipped '98 Isuzus (Rodeos and other models) and others are unique to '98 Rodeos. The '98 V-6 problems are electrical ones, such as flashing ABS lights, flaring idle speeds, stalling, and no-start conditions. Service bulletin TSB 3B99-04-8001 deals with these problems and blames a poor ground connection on the P-6 ground point on the engine block. That's a pretty simple fix.The transmission start-up problem, steering wheel vibration, and inaccurate fuel gauge are '98 Rodeo problems. The transmission suffers from torque converter drain-down overnight. The steering wheel vibration can be eliminated with a steering yoke spring kit. Use your trip odometer to deal with the slow-moving fuel gauge. These problems are irritating, but they shouldn't be too tough to overcome. If this were our truck, we'd be more concerned about spending too much money modifying a not-too-popular vehicle. Resale could be a problem.

Illumination Via the Internet
My name is Kyle Warner, and I live in Vandalia, Ohio. I'm writing to you about number 8 on the 10 Mostly Worthless Facts. It says that in 1986, everyone added the third brake light. I have a '91 Chevy Silverado, and it doesn't have a third brake light. All it has is a cargo light. I didn't take it off, and I have had the truck for eight years. It might have been changed, but I don't think so. Thanks for making a great magazine, and keep up the good work.

In 1986, my folks had an Olds Cutlass Ciera, and it was the first car I can remember having a third brake light. Not all cars had them, but that was the start of the third brake light revolution. For a little more history on the elusive "center mount stop light," go to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_brake_light#History on the internet.

Mouse for a Mazda
I have an '89 Mazda pickup, and it's in great shape, except for the motor and trans has 209,000 miles on 'em. I'm lookin' to swap a small-block Chevy into it. Can you help point me to someone who's done this? It's all too often you see an S-10 with a Chevy V-8, but I want a Mazda or Ford with a Chevy motor. That would be so cool. Please let me know? Thanks.
Tom
via e-mail

There once was a shop called Ultimate Customs that produced V-8 conversion kits for Mazda B-series pickups. The kits included motor mounts and a tranny crossmember that would work with a Turbo 400 or Turbo 350 tranny and any first-gen small-block Chevy. The company is now out of business, but we see its kits pop up on eBay every now and again. One kit sold for $149 bucks just yesterday.

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