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Highway Cruising & Towing with 4.0L V6 & 5R55E?

Erland

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I've been lurking/reading for some time & haven't had much luck finding an existing thread to answer my questions, so I'm hoping some of you might be able to help.
My Ranger is an '03 with the 4.0L V6, automatic, and FX4 package with low miles (66k) and is in really good shape and well maintained. The only modification is a Magnaflow cat-back system.

Living on the western side of Colorado we've got back-country mountain roads and trails galore, plus wide-open highways with speed limits between 70-80mph. I really don't want to give up any off-road capabilities with the truck, but I find it's really getting poor gas mileage for it's size and struggling to keep up on the highways. It doesn't seem right to be getting passed by full-sized trucks which should be suffering from double the rolling resistance and drag.

I'm wondering if there are some simple mods to the engine (like headers and a cam) or changes to the trans that could help me out, or should I look at a complete engine/transmission swap? I love the size of my Ranger and it's nice enough that I wouldn't be opposed to swapping in a modern eco-boost and 6 or 10-speed auto-transmission if I can keep everything functioning like factory.

I am a mechanical engineer with a CNC and a hoist so I can do some fabbing where needed.
 


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Dirtman

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Put the biggest transmission cooler you can fit on it. As for getting more power while towing... unfortunately it's a catch 22. The 4.0 can be built up but the 5r55e cant handle much power. It's a ranger, it ain't made for towing massive loads no matter what. To be honest if you can afford a ecoboost and a 10 speed, you can afford an f250. :icon_rofl:

A tuner can change the shift points a little lower and get some more torque but not much. Wont help really at highway cruising speed.
 

Erland

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It's a ranger, it ain't made for towing massive loads no matter what. To be honest if you can afford a ecoboost and a 10 speed, you can afford an f250. :icon_rofl:
As for loads, I need to be able to trailer home the occasional car from a state or two away. Stock with the towing package, my Ranger is already rated to tow 3850lbs, it's just slow going over some of the passes.
My Ranger is the right size for taking into town or the mountains, it's paid for, yearly tabs are next to nothing, and I know all it's parts are tip-top shape. A new Ranger optioned out the way I'd like is over $40k and a used truck in good shape is still going to cost a whole lot more than the ~$5-8k I can get a low mileage motor & trans for. I just don't want to reinvent the wheel, if there's a good swap or upgrade path that'll get me to a better place with respect to power and gearing, that'd be great.
 

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Shorter gears would help with towing power, but that's a PITA job and would be going the wrong way in terms of fuel mileage. The SOHC 4.0 makes decent power for a simple 2-valve 4L engine, but maybe someone more familiar with them will have some suggestions. In the mean time clean the MAFS so the ECU knows what the engine load is and can better control the transmission.
 

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Keep in mind quite a few modern half tons are running turbochargers now which will help them maintain power at elevation much better than a naturally aspirated engine.
 

Grumpaw

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Erland, it's not just the engine, it's a combination of that, tranny, suspension, ect as to what it's rated to tow, and what is safe to tow.
Your Ranger, now approaching 20 years old, just dosen't have the ability to tow a car trailer with a loaded car. Your talking around 5000 lbs, maybe more. That plus the 3500 lbs weight of your truck...your over 4 tons. Just not safe at all. The class 3 hitch on your Ranger would be just about at it's limit, and you
would definitely need brakes, which means you need to install a 7 pin trailer plug and have a brake set up installed in the Ranger. Even then, in a panic stop, that trailer/car combo will drive you into the vehicle in front of you.
I have been towing everything from 6 foot garden trailers to 35 foot campers, all over the US, for 50 years, so I speak from experience...your Ranger may "tow" that amount of weight, but it will not be safe to do so.
Keep in mind, no matter what you do to gain more HP from that 4.0, the rest of the truck is just not up to towing that much, especially the brake system. Their OK for a stock truck, but are by no means up to towing 5000lbs or more, even with trailer brakes. If anything, that and the tranny are the big weak spots.
Don't know what your definition of occasional is, but you might want to consider selling the Ranger and looking for a 5-8 year old F-150 with a tow package.
We have been to Co. numerous times in out V-10 class c motorhome, towing a small Subaru, so I am familiar with the area.
Just my 2 cents worth.
Grumpaw
 
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sgtsandman

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Erland, it's not just the engine, it's a combination of that, tranny, suspension, ect as to what it's rated to tow, and what is safe to tow.
Your Ranger, now approaching 20 years old, just dosen't have the ability to tow a car trailer with a loaded car. Your talking around 5000 lbs, maybe more. That plus the 3500 lbs weight of your truck...your over 4 tons. Just not safe at all. The class 3 hitch on your Ranger would be just about at it's limit, and you
would definitely need brakes, which means you need to install a 7 pin trailer plug and have a brake set up installed in the Ranger. Even then, in a panic stop, that trailer/car combo will drive you into the vehicle in front of you.
I have been towing everything from 6 foot garden trailers to 35 foot campers, all over the US, for 50 years, so I speak from experience...your Ranger may "tow" that amount of weight, but it will not be safe to do so.
Keep in mind, no matter what you do to gain more HP from that 4.0, the rest of the truck is just not up to towing that much, especially the brake system. Their OK for a stock truck, but are by no means up to towing 5000lbs or more, even with trailer brakes. If anything, that and the tranny are the big weak spots.
Don't know what your definition of occasional is, but you might want to consider selling the Ranger and looking for a 5-8 year old F-150 with a tow package.
We have been to Co. numerous times in out V-10 class c motorhome, towing a small Subaru, so I am familiar with the area.
Just my 2 cents worth.
Grumpaw
Not to mention brakes. Eventually one needs to stop. My father learned that lesson the hard way. He lived, but he got to visit an ER because his brakes over heated at the bottom of a long steep hill that ended in a T intersection with the bridge abutment on the far side. Thankfully, he didn't suffer any permanent damage or disabilities from the ordeal.
 

09fx4guy

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A Ranger is not the vehicle to tow a car in from a state away. If you had to move a car locally, say 10 miles in town at slower speeds, you could get away with it. Save the Ranger as a toy for off roading and look for a larger F150, maybe even one that is 2wd might be cheaper and get better mileage, that can SAFELY tow what you want.

As far as the cost and work involved with an engine and trans swap, just go get a newer Ranger. It's not just some plug and play and machining. That swap will be a real long and complicated process that may not even be possible with emissions rules in your state.
 

RegularGuy

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First off, while complicated, it is possible to have your trucks gvwr increased if you've made the appropriate modifications. I've never dealt with gcwr though and am unsure if that's able to be changed, you can find an article lightly covering the process here: Re-rating a vehicle

Personally, if I was to do an engine swap I would first be sure the vehicle is my 'forever truck', my desired year, color, trim level.... To me, this screams 2007 fx4. PowerNation has been releasing videos lately of a Lightning Ranger, so far they've done an engine and transmission swap, rear suspension (not one I'd recommend if you're taking it off-road but it was interesting to me), and now most important they are stiffening the frame.

Regardless of whether or not you have your truck up-rated, if you're doing an engine swap, stiffen the frame... I linked the first video PowerNation posted on the ranger but there are more, they show how much flex there is and if you're putting something in the truck that could potentially make twice the power... Well, the alignment shop will be taking your money every time you stomp the pedal.

On the basis of swaps, there are many options, Ecoboost being a new addition to the list, the coyote being another I've seen talked about here on the forums. Answering this part of your question is a little out of my wheelhouse but one engine I had been very excited about was Mazda's Skyactiv-x, athough the power figures for that engine come in at 178HP 165lb-ft. For someone interested in only fuel economy it would be a solid engine but for your interests, only a consideration if you decide to change your goals.

In closing, and possibly the most important part to all of this, increasing power, the rigidity of the frame, upgrading suspension, etc... (Unless you go through the complicated process of up-rating your truck afterwards) You won't be able to tow more, but you will be able to tow better.

An example I've seen elsewhere, 'if they passed a law tomorrow saying the heaviest a trailer can be is 2000lbs, an f-250 will probably still tow it better than an f-150'

In otherwards, even what you're doing is well within your vehicle's capacity, there's probably room for improvement
 

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