My '95 F-150 is a great truck, but I'm having problems: namely, blowing out header gaskets. I've tried doubling the gaskets and retorquing the bolts, but I still blow the gaskets out after a while. Is it possible that the 1 1/4-inch header tubes and dual exhaust are too small for the system?
The quality of headers has more to do with gasket problems than the size of the tubes. Too small an exhaust system can increase backpressure within the system, but that will rarely cause gasket failure. The head flanges on cheap headers tend to warp when installed because the material is too thin. The same goes for the collector-gasket flange, and all of this is compounded by the heating and cooling an exhaust system goes through.
Another probable cause of the exhaust leaks is from the bolts coming loose because of the expansion and contraction caused by cooling and heating. Once the bolts are loose the headers vibrate and loosen the bolts further causing the gaskets to blow out.
You can go back to stock exhaust manifolds, or try high-quality headers that feature a thick flange on the head and collector surface to minimize warping. To prevent the bolts from coming loose, try the special header lock bolts from Stage 8 Fasteners (Dept, 4WOR, 15 Chestnut Ave., San Rafael, CA 94901, 800/843-7836, Web site www.stage8.com), which solidly lock the bolts in place once they have been torqued.
I have an '86 GMC Jimmy with a 305 engine and a TH700-R4 transmission. I have the stock engine temperature gauge but also want to install engine-oil and transmission-oil temperature gauges. What are the best to use, mechanical or electrical gauges, and which is easier to install?
St. Petersburg, FL
Keeping track of engine and transmission temperatures is an excellent way to prevent damage from overheating. By keeping transmission fluid from overheating, you can double the service life of the unit. For mechanical versus electrical gauges, the electrical styles are almost always easier to install, both the gauge and the sender. A simple one-wire hookup from the sending unit to the dash-mounted gauge and another to a power source make for a slick installation. The sending units are relatively small and can fit into existing holes on many vehicles without adapters. The only problem with electrics is that they don't work when the ignition is off, unless you wire them directly to a constant power source, which results in a constant, slight battery drain.
Mechanical temperature gauges are fitted with a capillary tube, which is attached to the back of the gauge and runs all the way to the area it senses. This fluid-filled tube is like a thermometer in that it is sealed and can't be lengthened or shortened. Sometimes this makes for a more difficult installation. The end of the tube is quite large and may need adapters to fit into the engine or transmission. This tube is also easy to damage, which can ruin the gauge. However, mechanical gauges are known for greater accuracy and will continue to function without electricity, which is important if the truck still runs but the dash wiring is fried.
After purchasing a '67 Chevy 4x4 pickup, I tried to find a lift kit for it. However, it seems that 1969 is as far back as anyone makes parts and lift kits for. What's the big difference that two years make on a 4x4? I'm an outdoorsman and use my truck to dependably get me to my hunting and fishing sites, but I need bigger tires and a lift to do so. Should I give up my love of vintage trucks or move into the '70s like everybody else?
Mountain View, WY
There's nothing quite like the site of old tin rolling along in the backcountry, and these vehicles are usually up to the task. There are two main reasons that you can't find aftermarket suspension kits and parts for your vintage iron: First, the relatively low production numbers for the earlier trucks don't make it economical for the aftermarket to produce kits. There just isn't enough demand to produce the parts, especially after 30 years of attrition from such things as accidents and rust. Second, the design of the components changed significantly after 1967, so the later pieces won't fit the earlier trucks. In fact, not many kits are made for the '68-'72 trucks either, as another major redesign was made in 1973.
One thing to consider is using add-a-leaves for a lift of about 2 inches. This will allow you to run bigger tires and have an adequate ride. Another option is to have a custom spring or fabrication shop take a look at your rig. It's not a cheap proposition to go full out in the suspension department, but you may get what you need. The final option-other than rejoining the '70s-is to swap your early sheetmetal onto a later-model chassis. If you choose a '73-or-later chassis, the amount of aftermarket parts available is incredible. Just about everything is made for the solid-axle era ('73-'87), and with a variety of drivetrain choices. Of course, this entails a considerable amount of work to do properly, and as it sure won't be a bolt-on deal. However, contact some custom 4x4 shops for a price quote before starting this project.
Too Small A Toy
I just purchased an older Toyota pickup and swapped the engine into my '84 Toyota 4x4. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an 18R engine instead of a 22R. I can't find any info on the engine much less any performance parts, and I really need some extra ponies. Do you have any sources or ideas for what I can do?
Unfortunately you came up with a great big zero in this case, swapping in an engine that is at least 24 years old and has far less power than the 22R you should have. In the old days, performance parts and regular service items were available, but as you have discovered, they are rare now. Your best bet would be to put that engine in a museum and get a used 22R out of a wrecking yard.
Jim Sickles of Downey Off Road Manufacturing (Dept. 4WOR, 10001 S. Pioneer Blvd., Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670, 562/949-9494) can help you with whatever parts you need for the newer engine, but he recommends swapping in a Chevy Vortec V-6 if you really want some power. Sickles says he has everything necessary to swap in the V-6 and TH700-R4 auto tranny down to the last sensor, nut, and bolt, and he says the quality of your 'wheeling experience will definitely increase over the tired old 18R that you have.
Submission information: Questions should be as brief and concise as possible. We will answer as many letters as possible each month, but due to the large volume of mail, we cannot send personal replies. Letters are subject to editing for length, as space permits. Always check state regulations before modifying a vehicle with pollution controls or one that will be driven on the street. Write to: Nuts & Bolts, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515, fax 323/782-2704.