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Best year if I want to upgrade from my 2wd

lil_Blue_Ford

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I feel like this information needs compiled into a tech archives thing…
 


James Morse

1997 XLT 4.0L 4x4 1999 Mazda B3000 2wd
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There are two trucks. I am working on '97 now, 99 2wd B3000 is all sorted and for sale.
If I may for a second go back to the Rangers 4x4 models
Looking only at '97-00:
1. I understand 98-00 easiest 5.0L swap. What about '97, it's different?
2. Something is different about the '97 front suspension that makes it more/less desirable? TTB/TIB etc.
3. If the 4.0L SOHC is better and it came out in '01 then should I look at '01 besides or is there reasons '01 sucks?
4. Is the 3.0L in those years more reliable than the 4.0? Seems like I read a lot about timing chain issues in the 4.0.
 

sgtsandman

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If I may for a second go back to the Rangers 4x4 models
Looking only at '97-00:
1. I understand 98-00 easiest 5.0L swap. What about '97, it's different?
2. Something is different about the '97 front suspension that makes it more/less desirable? TTB/TIB etc.
3. If the 4.0L SOHC is better and it came out in '01 then should I look at '01 besides or is there reasons '01 sucks?
4. Is the 3.0L in those years more reliable than the 4.0? Seems like I read a lot about timing chain issues in the 4.0.
Of the engines that came in the Ranger, the 4.0 SOHC is the most powerful. It's design is stupid as far as the timing chain setup and complexity goes. If taken care of with some preventative maintenance changes and it is a later engine that has gotten the updated chain guides, they are a pretty good engine. But if the guides go, you are pulling the engine and need special tools to perform the work since the left and right heads are the same head. The passenger side head faces aft and there is a jack shaft that runs from the front of the engine to the back to turn the cam shaft sprocket.

There is also the issue of systems integrated into the instrument cluster and other things. The earlier models has less or none of that and make engine swaps much easier to deal with. I forget where the integration switch happened. 2005?

The front end and cab changed a lot in 1998. Others will have to chime in on the details of what those were and why certain years are more desirable for engine swaps than others.

As far as the 3.0, it is a very reliable engine but lacks power for a V-6 but has the fuel consumption of a V-6. It is an engine never designed to be in a truck, made to work in a truck. And from what I gather, there isn't a lot of aftermarket add on options or upgrades. The one big perk the 3.0 offers that I don't think any other Ranger engine offers is the ability to use E85. It must be a truck designed from the factory as a flex fuel. The fuel system, engine control system, engine, and maybe some other items must be setup for it. I imagine an non-flex fuel truck can be setup for it but it wouldn't be cheap.
 

don4331

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1. I understand 98-00 easiest 5.0L swap. What about '97, it's different?
a. The '97 fuel injection is low pressure (~40psi) and incorporates a return line; while the '98+ uses a higher pressure (65psi+) and doesn't incorporate a return line. There are also subtle differences in wiring, where the connectors and pin out are basically identical. Specifically '99-00 Rangers use the same PATS wiring - so you can plug the Explorer module into the Ranger wiring and it works. The '97 Ranger wiring is older generation.​
b. The '98-'00 Rangers and corresponding Explorers both use the same front frame (more/less). While SLA versus TTB/TIB is part of it, it goes beyond that to slightly different engine mounts, radiator/ac condenser mounts. It comes down to the '98+ Ranger mounts are in exact right location, while the older ones need modification.​
2. Something is different about the '97 front suspension that makes it more/less desirable? TTB/TIB etc.
This is more personal preference - in a nutshell TTB better off road, SLA better on.​
3. If the 4.0L SOHC is better and it came out in '01 then should I look at '01 besides or is there reasons '01 sucks?
You should look for '04+ 4.0 SOHC - they have a stage better guides. (They should still be replaced at this point).​
4. Is the 3.0L in those years more reliable than the 4.0? Seems like I read a lot about timing chain issues in the 4.0.
The 3.0 revs higher for its power band (So, does the 4.0 SOHC, but extra displacement helps it down low). People don't expect a truck to have to rev to make power (Dad hated his 351W as it was "gutless" the way he drove it compared to the 360 in his old truck. But if you downshifted and let it get some revs, it ran about the same). 3.0 doesn't lack power - you just need to get it up on cam to make power. If you do so, it rewards you with descent power, but burns gas like it is making that power.​
 

Roert42

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Any 4.0 that had bad timing chain tensioners is almost 20 years old at this point.

If the tensioners were no good they would have failed already.

So either the previous owners have properly maintained them and there was never an issue. OR, they didn’t and the tensioners failed and had everything rebuild.

Either way, you should replace the tensioners on any 4.0 you buy to avoid issues. It takes about 1/2 hour, and you are good for another 70/100k miles.

You are going to change the oil on any used vehicle as soon as you buy it. So change into the tensioners does not add much more time to that job.
 

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the 3.0 gets really decent gas mileage. 18mpg everywhere. i don't remember any of my 4.0 explorers getting that mileage. and the 3.0 is fun to drive around town. drive it like a honda and its a blast so keep the rpms up and it will spin the tires.

this is on a five speed single cab though. i am not sure how much fun this would be as an automatic. it might be horrible, actually
 

Roert42

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With a manual trans my 4.0 gets low 20s even in a super cab 4x4, and that's with 250k miles.

With the auto the 4.0 gets around 17/18mpg regularly, after the supercharger installation and running 93 all the time it gets about 21mpg. That's a 2wd super cab.
 

sgtsandman

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My 2011 averages about 18.5 with mixed driving. On a long, highway drive, I can hit 19 or 20. It used to be higher before I added the windshield visor and the 31” ATs. I even got close to 23 mpg once in a blue moon.

As soon as you start sticking things into the wind stream and putting tires with a higher rolling resistance, your mileage is going to drop. Add a load of any kind or a trailer and it’s going to drop more.
 

James Morse

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There are two trucks. I am working on '97 now, 99 2wd B3000 is all sorted and for sale.
In the TRS writeup of the front suspensions, it says 01-05 Edge and 06-09 Sport had torsion bar front suspension. Does this mean they have the same front suspension as a '97 or do I have a disconnect somewhere? Was it only on the 2wd or was it 4x4 as well (writer says note the example is 2wd but I can't tell if he means it's only on that).
 

sgtsandman

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In the TRS writeup of the front suspensions, it says 01-05 Edge and 06-09 Sport had torsion bar front suspension. Does this mean they have the same front suspension as a '97 or do I have a disconnect somewhere? Was it only on the 2wd or was it 4x4 as well (writer says note the example is 2wd but I can't tell if he means it's only on that).
The suspension is used primarily on 4X4 models and replaced the TTB front suspension. The Edge is a rear wheel drive truck that uses the torsion bar suspension to have the truck sit higher and have the 4X4 look without the 4X4 drivetrain.

The only Explorer Sport I ever worked on was a 4X4. I have no idea what suspension is on the RWD models.

The torsion bar suspension was first used on Rangers in 1998. Before that, they had the TTB. I don’t know the time line on the Explorers.
 

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In the TRS writeup of the front suspensions, it says 01-05 Edge and 06-09 Sport had torsion bar front suspension. Does this mean they have the same front suspension as a '97 or do I have a disconnect somewhere? Was it only on the 2wd or was it 4x4 as well (writer says note the example is 2wd but I can't tell if he means it's only on that).
97 and older had 2 "i-beam" style suspensions. TTB is just the name of the 4WD I beam suspension.

Everything in the front of the trucks changed in 1998. Frames, suspension style, body work, addition of rack and pinion steering, etc were all different and shared nothing with the 97 and older trucks.

98+ had 2 control arm style suspensions. All 4WD trucks for these years and some 2WD trucks (Edge and Sport trims) used torsion bars instead of springs. Many of the regular 2WD trucks (often referred to as "XL or XLT" trims) used traditional coil springs instead of torsion bars.

** The 97-01 Explorer that is often used as an engine donor for 5.0 swaps used the same frame and torsion bar front suspension as the 4WD/Edge/Sport trims of the Ranger. That's what makes the 5.0 swap so simple between those trucks. They also shared interior and dash components, so they're a common place to find some bolt in interior upgrades for Rangers as well. At least they used to be when they weren't all 20 years old and destroyed.
 
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James Morse

1997 XLT 4.0L 4x4 1999 Mazda B3000 2wd
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There are two trucks. I am working on '97 now, 99 2wd B3000 is all sorted and for sale.
So torsion bars have basically nothing to do with TTB, right? It's just used instead of springs on the SLA arrangement used 98+. Hope I got that right now.

It seems like the torsion bars were really "preferred" because the Edge and Sport I think are higher end trim packages in terms of cost. Are they actually better or worse than springs?

Kind of sucks that the engine swappable years don't match up to TTB years. For people that have up to 97 4x4, are they generally sticking with the same engine they came with or are they swapping them out (with the added problems) or just rebuilding or what?

I like the idea of TTB. I was up a dirt road last weekend and met another vehicle head on and there was no room. You have these situations with one lane where the shoulders are either mud or slanted rock pile berms and w/ good 4x4 I think I could have just drove to the side but with my rear wheel drive I ended up backing up... just to be polite I guess but the other guy had some big chevtard 4x4 he coulda drove up the side.

It kind of sounds like if I want 4x4 maybe it's reasonable to keep my '99 then just keep looking around until I find a good TTB truck that's basically solid then have the '99 to drive while I'm fixing up the other one. That might work.

Does it matter how far back I go from 97? I mean, probably I don't want an 83 or something (at least I don't think so), but mid 90's would be about the same as a 97, right?
 

James Morse

1997 XLT 4.0L 4x4 1999 Mazda B3000 2wd
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There are two trucks. I am working on '97 now, 99 2wd B3000 is all sorted and for sale.
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sgtsandman

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So torsion bars have basically nothing to do with TTB, right? It's just used instead of springs on the SLA arrangement used 98+. Hope I got that right now.

It seems like the torsion bars were really "preferred" because the Edge and Sport I think are higher end trim packages in terms of cost. Are they actually better or worse than springs?

Kind of sucks that the engine swappable years don't match up to TTB years. For people that have up to 97 4x4, are they generally sticking with the same engine they came with or are they swapping them out (with the added problems) or just rebuilding or what?

I like the idea of TTB. I was up a dirt road last weekend and met another vehicle head on and there was no room. You have these situations with one lane where the shoulders are either mud or slanted rock pile berms and w/ good 4x4 I think I could have just drove to the side but with my rear wheel drive I ended up backing up... just to be polite I guess but the other guy had some big chevtard 4x4 he coulda drove up the side.

It kind of sounds like if I want 4x4 maybe it's reasonable to keep my '99 then just keep looking around until I find a good TTB truck that's basically solid then have the '99 to drive while I'm fixing up the other one. That might work.

Does it matter how far back I go from 97? I mean, probably I don't want an 83 or something (at least I don't think so), but mid 90's would be about the same as a 97, right?
You are correct on the TTB vs torsion bar arrangements.

Torsion bars provide a way to give an independent front suspension without getting on the way of the CV shafts. Great for on road driving due to the generally better ride and handling compared to the TTB. TTB is better off road than torsion bar but it has it's quirks. There are situations where things can get squirrely but if you know how to handle it, usually not a problem.

Of the TTB systems, the D35 version is the best but someone else will have to tell you the year ranges that was available. Up to a certain point, Rangers came with the D28.

The options for the TTB when it comes to suspension components and lift kits, seem to be more than what is available for torsion bars.

The torsion bar system isn't necessarily bad, like the TTB, there are certain situations you have to be aware of to prevent bad things from happening. Skid plates would help with that some. You also have to be careful what you do as far as upgrades so you don't end up snapping half shafts.

Of course, neither system is as strong and robust as a solid axle. Both trucks would require some fabrication to make that happen.

The more serious off roaders prefer TTB over torsion bar. So, if you plan to get into some serious stuff, TTB is for you.
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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1990 was the first year for the 4.0 and D-35, which the D-35 was only in 4.0 Rangers, Bronco II and Explorers. The D-28 was still used for 4-cyl and 2.9 Rangers and the 3.0 got a strange hybrid front axle. Want to say it was somewhere mid 90’s that all Rangers got the D-35 up until the 98 change over to a different style front axle.

I own both styles and they both have plus and minus and there are certain things that can be done to each. 97 and older trucks are more off-road friendly and they handle the road difficult. Almost sort of more muscle and less finesse. They are cheap to work on and cheap to lift, relatively speaking. Strength wise, they aren’t really that different. It’s still a D-35 front differential in the 98+ and 8.8” rear for the 4.0 trucks.

The 98-00 are easiest for the 5.0 swap. The suspension does better for handling the road and is acceptable for off road, but lifting is more expensive than older trucks if you want more than 1-2” by cranking the torsion bars (yes, you can usually get some “free” lift out of torsion bars, with a little bit of rougher ride). The torsion bars can be replaced with coil-overs, but I’m not sure if anyone is still making a kit for that.
 

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