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2.3L ('83-'97) 70MPH Top Speed?


nathantaylor

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Toledo, OH
Vehicle Year
1996
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Ford Ranger XL
Engine Type
2.3 (4 Cylinder)
Transmission
Manual
2WD / 4WD
2WD
Tire Size
235/75/R15
I have a 1996 Ford Ranger (Reg Cab, 2.3L, 5spd, 3.45 rear axle) unk mileage. It originally had the stock 195/70R14 tires on it and could go 80+ pretty easily (never went over 80 due to poor suspension and suspect tires). I needed to replace the tires and had some 15" rims decided to upgrade and got some heftier tires (235/75/15) and now it is very sluggish when trying to get up to speed on the hwy and peddle to the floor on flat ground it can maybe get up to 70mph (2500rpm). I knew the bigger rims/tires would have an effect on the performance of the truck but didn't think it would be this drastic. Is the tire upgrade the cause of this poor performance or is there somewhere else I should be looking? Work that has been done:
- All fluids, front to back, have been changed.
- Spark plugs and fuel filter have been changed.
- Fuel pressure tests said it was in the acceptable range but on the low side.

Am I at my limit with the 2.3L engine and 3.45 rear axle? Not looking to put a bunch of money into it and just using as a daily driver.
 


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Dirtman

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Sounds about right. You either need to go back to the smaller tire or get 4.10 or larger gears. The 2.3 doesn't make much power and 3.45 gears just aren't made for that engine/tire combo.
 

Roert42

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Is 70mph the actual speed or the what the spedo is reading? Your new tires are 17% larger, so 70mph on the spedo could actually be 80mph or so.
 

nathantaylor

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Toledo, OH
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1996
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Transmission
Manual
2WD / 4WD
2WD
Tire Size
235/75/R15
Is 70mph the actual speed or the what the spedo is reading? Your new tires are 17% larger, so 70mph on the spedo could actually be 80mph or so.
I thought about that, haven't had a chance to test yet though.
 

nathantaylor

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2WD
Tire Size
235/75/R15
Sounds about right. You either need to go back to the smaller tire or get 4.10 or larger gears. The 2.3 doesn't make much power and 3.45 gears just aren't made for that engine/tire combo.
I was afraid of that, been looking at the complexity of the gear swap.
 

racsan

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even with 4.10’s my 94 2.3 tops out at 85- and takes over 5 miles to get there. My 93 4.0 would do 90 but the handling was awful, 70 is plenty fast enough for a ranger chassis.
 

adsm08

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even with 4.10’s my 94 2.3 tops out at 85- and takes over 5 miles to get there. My 93 4.0 would do 90 but the handling was awful, 70 is plenty fast enough for a ranger chassis.

THIS!!!! These things were designed and built in an era where 55 was the national speed limit, and going much faster than that was NOT something the design engineers had in mind.
 

Dirtman

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It's up there.
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Engineers designed the Mars rover 'Opurtunity' to last 90 days and it ended up lasting for almost 15 years...

Engineers designed the Tesla autopilot to be safe and it's always running around killing people...

Engineers designed Play-Doh as a wall paper cleaner and all it's ever been used for is making hard colorful chunks Impossible to remove from carpets...

In closing, engineers don't have the forethought to design anything for it's intended purpose.
 

scotts90ranger

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Putting your specs into my spreadsheet I'm guessing you are closer to 80mph at 2500rpm, but I'd bet you $100 that you could go faster if you downshifted to 4th...

I've played with tire size a bit in my '97 Ranger that somehow came with 4.10's (I'm assuming, I didn't get the original drivers door...) and with 27" tires the engine speed was too high for my tastes* so I went to 235 75 15's then it was kinda doggy but not bad for the most part, then went to 225 70 15's and I'm liking it more...

*daily driver, I drive 300 miles a week just for work, so wanting drivability but trying to stay under 3000rpm for gas mileage, the 225's I'm running now work good on that as I think 3000rpm is around 78mph in 5th and 55mph in 4th.
 

nathantaylor

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2WD / 4WD
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Tire Size
235/75/R15
Thanks for the feedback everyone! Sounds like my Ranger is running as it should, just wanted to make sure that was the case. I'll probably just deal with it as is and just go down a couple sizes with the tires when it comes time to replace them. Looked into upgrading the rear axle but it doesn't look like the cost/benefit makes sense for me.
 

nathantaylor

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Transmission
Manual
2WD / 4WD
2WD
Tire Size
235/75/R15
Putting your specs into my spreadsheet I'm guessing you are closer to 80mph at 2500rpm, but I'd bet you $100 that you could go faster if you downshifted to 4th...

I've played with tire size a bit in my '97 Ranger that somehow came with 4.10's (I'm assuming, I didn't get the original drivers door...) and with 27" tires the engine speed was too high for my tastes* so I went to 235 75 15's then it was kinda doggy but not bad for the most part, then went to 225 70 15's and I'm liking it more...

*daily driver, I drive 300 miles a week just for work, so wanting drivability but trying to stay under 3000rpm for gas mileage, the 225's I'm running now work good on that as I think 3000rpm is around 78mph in 5th and 55mph in 4th.
Yeah I can usually downshift and get it up just above 70, just seemed like a pretty big power drop off when I "upgraded" my rims/tires and wanted to make sure that was the cause.
 

Dirtman

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It's up there.
Total Drop
It's down there.
Tire Size
Round.
You increased tire size by roughly 4 inches.

Doing some math you have effectively changed your gear ratio from 3.45:1 to 3.02:1. Even a 4.0 would have a challenge with that ratio.

To get back to "stock" power you would need a 3.94:1 ratio and the stock ratio sucked to begin with so 4.10 minimum, or even 4.56 would be ideal.
 

scotts90ranger

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If you are even remotely handy changing the whole rear axle is way more economical than paying a shop to regear the axle... a whole axle should cost around $200, 3 quarts of gear oil, some brake fluid, jacking up the back end in front of the front leaf spring hanger (and putting jack stands there), removing drive shaft, disconnect speed sensor on diff, remove tires, remove shocks, remove U bolts, disconnect brakes at center brake hose, disconnect parking brake cables then reassemble with new axle. Some of that is in the wrong order... Can be done in a driveway in a day even for a novice...
 

nathantaylor

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Ford Ranger XL
Engine Type
2.3 (4 Cylinder)
Transmission
Manual
2WD / 4WD
2WD
Tire Size
235/75/R15
If you are even remotely handy changing the whole rear axle is way more economical than paying a shop to regear the axle... a whole axle should cost around $200, 3 quarts of gear oil, some brake fluid, jacking up the back end in front of the front leaf spring hanger (and putting jack stands there), removing drive shaft, disconnect speed sensor on diff, remove tires, remove shocks, remove U bolts, disconnect brakes at center brake hose, disconnect parking brake cables then reassemble with new axle. Some of that is in the wrong order... Can be done in a driveway in a day even for a novice...
Thanks! I may do that down the road, but am currently without a garage or a driveway so trying to keep my large projects to a minimum until my situation changes.
 

600$04Ranger

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My old 96 regular cab 2.3l no power steering and no a/c would do 100 tops heading down I-5 from Siskiyou Pass. In 4th gear with a tailwind I could easily wind it up to 90+ Had the stock 14 inch rims and street tires except in winter I ran studs and kept the rear purposefully weighted for best traction. Bought it from my folks who bought it from some dumb kid who put larger tires on it but didn't change the gearing. My dad said it was a real slug with those tires. That was one of the best cars for the money in my experience. Nothing fancy but got shit done and was kinda fun to rally due to the simplicity and the fact that most dudes driving expensive vehicles to/from our local ski resort would flip out when I blew by them on the sketchy ice and snow covered access road. I probably looked like an idiot to them but never went into a snowbank, caused an accident, or got a ticket. Just get good tires and drive it like it's stolen!
 


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