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Since its production began in 1982, the Ford Ranger has been a hot ticket in compact trucks. Here are some Ranger milestones and what too look for:
The best 4X4 models to look for are the 1990-1997 Rangers. Ford began using the Dana 35 front axle in Rangers in 1990 when they began offering the 4.0 liter V6. The Dana 35 uses Dana 44-sized axle U-joints and is comparable in strength to the Dana 44. The 4.0 models also come with a stronger Ford 8.8-inch rear axle VS the Ford 7.5-inch. Beware of the 1993 - 1997 4-cylnder Rangers. They came with a hybrid Dana 35 which was essentially a Dana 35 housing with weaker Dana 28 guts. If looking for an automatic, your best bet would be a 1995 or newer model. Ford used an A4LD automatic transmission from 1985 to 1994 and is known for being a weak transmission that fails off-road. The transmission was replaced in 1995 with the 4R44E in 4-cylinders and 3.0's and the 4R55E in 4.0's. Remember that the biggest cause of transmission failure is heat, so an additional transmission cooler always helps.
The TTB front suspensions on Ford Rangers are great for lifting. They can be built with a lot of suspension travel using taller coil springs, longer shocks and extended radius arms. Rangers have dominated off-road racing with this suspension and some of the newer style desert trucks are actually using the older style TTB suspension VS the newer IFS style suspension.
As far as 2wd models go, all Rangers make nice street trucks, each generation with its own unique style. Ranger's haven't been as popular as trucks like the Chevy S-10 for street customizations because of its TTB style front suspension. They tend to be more costly to lower than the S-10 style trucks. The TTB front suspension was replaced in 1998 with an IFS style front suspension.
The Ranger has came in some great packages such as the Tremor, Thunderbolt and Ranger GT.
Other Things To Look For:
Areas That Rust:
Look closely for rust in the rear cab corners, bottoms of doors, drivers floor board, the front of the fuel tank where the plastic skid plate is, above the plastic liner in the beds wheelwells (rusts heavily in the bed side above the wheel wells), the rocker panel behind the rear wheel near the rear bumper, the lower corners of the radiator support under the radiator, under the rubber window sills, in the corner of the floor and the rear cab wall, the bottom of the tailgate, and the rear spring shackles. A couple more spots that are prone to rusting are the roof corners, under the gas pedal, the seam where the cab floor meets the firewall sheet metal, and right smack dab in the middle of the doors, look for rust bulging/bubbling. Check the floor for wetness on either side of cab floors, and down beside the fusebox/kick panels/computer for water dripping, signs of a poorly done windshield, or one that leaked a bit and was sealed up with silicone
Things To Check:
You should take the vehicle to a reputable mechanic before deciding to buy the Ranger to have it checked out. When initially evaluating the vehicle, be sure to check the following things:
Transfer case for cracks or holes
Differentials for cracks or holes
Bent or dented driveshafts
Any visible under carriage damage
Signs of fresh repairs
Wet passenger floor from bad heater core
Ball joints - lift the vehicle and try to rock the top of the tire in and out.
Be cautious if the vehicle is running when you arrive to look at it. Turn the vehicle off and let it set for a while why you look it over. Also be concerned if the engine is warm when you show up to look at it. This could be a sign that there is problems with the engine or hard starting. When you start the engine, have someone look for smoke from the tail pipe. This could be a sign of bad rings or seals. Check the engine fluids. Check the transmission and make sure the fluid isn't dark and have a burnt smell. Check the engine oil to see if it looks milky white. This is a sign of coolant getting in to the engine from a bad head/gasket. If it has manual hubs, check to see if they lock and for any cracks or damage. When you drive the vehicle, engage the transfer case and test the 4wd. Place the case in 4Lo because the vehicle will creep and you'll be able to feel the low gearing. 4Lo is an easier range to FEEL if the vehicle is in 4wd than 2Hi. When you drive the vehicle check for strange noises, handling, steering, and check the transmission in all the gears. If the vehicle has air conditioning, check to see that it works. Check the settings on the heater and ensure the fan turns at all speed settings.
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