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Improving ride quality and handling via lowering? '03 B3000, Std Cab+Short Bed.


bhgl

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Howdy folks,

I'm the proud owner of a very low mile '03 B3000. It's a great truck for running around town, picking up furniture, camping and road trips.

This truck basically never sees a day off road, so I'm planning on lowering it for some added fuel economy, and utility (getting things in and out). It does on occasion tow a utility trailer, but that's about it, the truck isn't really every stressed in it's duties. It now also has a fairly stout bed cap on it, which has improved the ride slightly just from weight, but otherwise not enough to where I'd call it comfortable.

Here's the kit I'm most likely going to purchase, along with some alignment cams for the front. https://thedropshop.ca/contents/en-us/p5180_belltech-900nd-lowering-kits.html


One thing that does trouble me however, is the ride on rough pavement at reasonable speeds. I know that it's a body on frame truck with a solid rear axle, but the sheer amount of movement in the suspension is worrying. Going approx 35 MPh/60 KPh on some rough paved roads it feels like my rear axle in particular is jumping laterally. While old, most of the suspension components are in good shape, with little to no play coming from the front end.

Overall the ride isn't terrible, but after a long day of wrenching at the junk yard, my back hurts and the last few roads leading up to my house are particularly uneven. Getting out of it and into my old Toyota Corolla makes me feel like I've stepped into a Rolls Royce when comparing ride quality.

I'm hoping to improve the ride quality with a standard refresh of most of the suspension components at the same time I get around to the lowering kit, but I want to know if anyone here has any experience with these matters for their daily commuter/run around Rangers, and what you guys might recommend.

Thanks!
 


Ranger850

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@Lefty also lowerted his Ranger for similar reasons. Maybe he'll chime in soon
 

Ranger850

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I appreciate you tagging him!
IF he doesn't chime in, you can check out his content. Not sure if he did a write-up on lowering his truck or not.
 

RonD

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Ride quality starts off with tires, or more specifically tire pressure and sidewall flex
Higher tire pressure means less sidewall flex so the smaller bumps are passed on to the springs
Low profile tires will always have less flex

Springs are "the ride"
In order for springs to work they need to be right for the vehicle's weight
Pickups are usually over sprung in the rear to get the extra 1/2 ton(1,000lbs) weight rating
But you can use lower weight rated leaf springs and an overload spring that is not used until weight in the rear exceed say 500lbs
So smoother ride mostly empty but can still handle the extra weight as needed
This of course costs more so not seen on factory setups, lol

Front coils are usually OK , torsion bars can be adjusted(Edge 2WDs)

Springs are held from the top by the weight of the vehicle, when a wheel hits a bump or a dip the spring allows that wheel to come up or drop down
If its the wrong spring then it will transfer the UP motion to the frame/body so you feel it in the cab, or feel the drop in the cab
Obviously there will always be some motion in the cab on a rough road, the correct springs just make it less noticeable

Over sprung vehicles transfer ALL wheel up and down motion to the frame/body

If you remove either end of the shocks at one end of a vehicle you should be able to easily bounce that end, if its stiff then that's the ride you will have "stiff"
Shocks can make the ride firmer but not softer, shocks are there to slow down larger spring movements, so allow the spring to absorb smaller bumps/dips but get stiffer outside of the mid-range of travel to try and prevent bottoming or topping out

Lowering or lifting doesn't change any of this
 

bhgl

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Ride quality starts off with tires, or more specifically tire pressure and sidewall flex
Higher tire pressure means less sidewall flex so the smaller bumps are passed on to the springs
Low profile tires will always have less flex

Springs are "the ride"
In order for springs to work they need to be right for the vehicle's weight
Pickups are usually over sprung in the rear to get the extra 1/2 ton(1,000lbs) weight rating
But you can use lower weight rated leaf springs and an overload spring that is not used until weight in the rear exceed say 500lbs
So smoother ride mostly empty but can still handle the extra weight as needed
This of course costs more so not seen on factory setups, lol

Front coils are usually OK , torsion bars can be adjusted(Edge 2WDs)

Springs are held from the top by the weight of the vehicle, when a wheel hits a bump or a dip the spring allows that wheel to come up or drop down
If its the wrong spring then it will transfer the UP motion to the frame/body so you feel it in the cab, or feel the drop in the cab
Obviously there will always be some motion in the cab on a rough road, the correct springs just make it less noticeable

Over sprung vehicles transfer ALL wheel up and down motion to the frame/body

If you remove either end of the shocks at one end of a vehicle you should be able to easily bounce that end, if its stiff then that's the ride you will have "stiff"
Shocks can make the ride firmer but not softer, shocks are there to slow down larger spring movements, so allow the spring to absorb smaller bumps/dips but get stiffer outside of the mid-range of travel to try and prevent bottoming or topping out

Lowering or lifting doesn't change any of this
Thanks for the info! There's really two parts to this question, one being overall handling. With a lower center of gravity, I'm expecting to have a more "planted" feel, with this kit in particular.

That's one of the reasons I included a link to the kit, as it includes front coil springs, and rear leaf springs, as well as shocks front and rear. I've heard good things about the kit, but I'm wondering if it would help or potentially exacerbate the issues I'm talking about by being an overall stiffer set up.
 

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Thanks for the info! There's really two parts to this question, one being overall handling. With a lower center of gravity, I'm expecting to have a more "planted" feel, with this kit in particular.

That's one of the reasons I included a link to the kit, as it includes front coil springs, and rear leaf springs, as well as shocks front and rear. I've heard good things about the kit, but I'm wondering if it would help or potentially exacerbate the issues I'm talking about by being an overall stiffer set up.
Lowering coils are usually a noticeable amount stiffer than factory coils to minimize bottoming out, if you think the truck is too stiff as-is I probably wouldn't be going that route.

Have you verified the rear shocks are in good condition? How many leafs are in each pack?
 

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I've driven a lot of pick ups over the last 25 years. I've never liked the way they handled. Mind you, my other car was an MG and/or a Fiat.

The stock Ranger is better than most, but still could use a little improvement. What? Not perfect? No! Of course not. The reason is price. Rangers have a lot of competition in their class and the profit margins are small.

I lowered my Edge from 3" to 2". I changed out the 2" lift blocks on the back and replaces them with ones. I cranked down the front torsion bars as far as they would go (about 3/"). I widened my stance with slightly off set wheels and put bigger tires on the bottom. My tire diameter is 30" but the width is about 10 1/2. Taller is not better for the street, especially at highway speeds.

I took the squidgy feeling out of the rear by adding spring pack clamps, the very same trick on my MG. James Duff traction bars help smooth out the corners. New shocks helped. Maybe the best improvement was a 1" Ford Explorer sway bar on the front end.
20230715_094917.jpg


Front sway bar and the 1" Explorer replacement.

20230804_121838.jpg


Leaf Spring Clamp.jpg


James Duff traction bar and leaf spring clamp mounted 6" in front of the axle.

20240312_160954.jpg


10 1/2" tires slightly offset on Pro Comp wheels.

This Ranger is still higher than others but handles extremely well and does so without a harsh ride.
 
Last edited:

rusty ol ranger

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The lateral pitch is a symptom of any short wheelbase, somewhat stiffly sprung vehicle with a light ass end.
 

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The other thing that has not yet been mentioned are the cab mount bushings. They are 20+ years old, and rubber products degrade over time, so you should take a careful look at those to make sure there is no free play in the cab mount. While you are looking at squishy things, take a good look at the bushings in the ends of the rear leaf springs. I have seen those go bad, and that leads to all sorts of interesting handling issues...
 

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Stabilizer with new bushing will help but you will still get "roll" when cornering with the higher sidewall tires
 

bhgl

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I've driven a lot of pick ups over the last 25 years. I've never liked the way they handled. Mind you, my other car was an MG and/or a Fiat.

The stock Ranger is better than most, but still could use a little improvement. What? Not perfect? No! Of course not. The reason is price. Rangers have a lot of competition in their class and the profit margins are small.

I lowered my Edge from 3" to 2". I changed out the 2" lift blocks on the back and replaces them with ones. I cranked down the front torsion bars as far as they would go (about 3/"). I widened my stance with slightly off set wheels and put bigger tires on the bottom. My tire diameter is 30" but the width is about 10 1/2. Taller is not better for the street, especially at highway speeds.

I took the squidgy feeling out of the rear by adding spring pack clamps, the very same trick on my MG. James Duff traction bars help smooth out the corners. New shocks helped. Maybe the best improvement was a 1" Ford Explorer sway bar on the front end.
View attachment 107465

Front sway bar and the 1" Explorer replacement.

View attachment 107467

View attachment 107468

James Duff traction bar and leaf spring clamp mounted 6" in front of the axle.

View attachment 107471

10 1/2" tires slightly offset on Pro Comp wheels.

This Ranger is still higher than others but handles extremely well and does so without a harsh ride.
Based on your experience, do you know if the James Duff traction bar is going to work with an Axle flip and/or that Belltech Kit I linked to in the first post?

From your post it sounds like you didn't lower it too much, did you have a lift in there previously and then reduced it?

I've got some positive 12mm offset lighter weight wheels on the way, on stock 225/70R15 tires that should help compared to the slightly thinner winter tires I have on there.
 
Last edited:

bhgl

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The other thing that has not yet been mentioned are the cab mount bushings. They are 20+ years old, and rubber products degrade over time, so you should take a careful look at those to make sure there is no free play in the cab mount. While you are looking at squishy things, take a good look at the bushings in the ends of the rear leaf springs. I have seen those go bad, and that leads to all sorts of interesting handling issues...
I'll take a closer look at those rear leafs, and the cab mounts. I'll be honest though I won't be able to fix them anytime soon, just don't have the facilities, time and money to lift the cab.
 

bhgl

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Lowering coils are usually a noticeable amount stiffer than factory coils to minimize bottoming out, if you think the truck is too stiff as-is I probably wouldn't be going that route.

Have you verified the rear shocks are in good condition? How many leafs are in each pack?
I think I wouldn't mind the stiffness, it's the crashing and seemingly unpredictable travel that's getting me. Maybe it's the rebound rate in the shocks that's causing a lot of this.

Rear shocks are old, looks like they were replaced some years ago, but otherwise doing the work. I can hold off on their replacement until the kit comes in.

Leafs are in good shape, all there and otherwise surprisingly little rust.
 

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Based on your experience, do you know if the James Duff traction bar is going to work with an Axle flip and/or that Belltech Kit I linked to in the first post?

From your post it sounds like you didn't lower it too much, did you have a lift in there previously and then reduced it?
@Lefty and i have 2wd ranger edges. ours are torsion bar front ends, not springs like normal 2wd rangers. all those super easy lowering kits don;t work for us because our trucks basically are 4wd models with no 4x4 driveline stuff on them.

i would love my truck to be a normal 2wd ranger because i would lower it just like you want to do. i previously owned a red single cab 5 speed 98 gmc sonoma stepside with the zq8 sport package on it. the zq8 sport package means it came from the factory lowered and had front and rear sway bars on it. it also came with the wide camaro wheels on it. it was exactly what a sport truck should be and i thought i was going to make my little red 04 single cab stepside 5 speed ranger into the exact thing but turns out i got an edge. the way cool looks of the edge hide the difference in suspension meaning us edge guys have limited stuff we can do versus the regular cool ranger guys.

normally lowering springs are stiffer than stock springs. lower profile tires do indeed make rough roads feel rough. and incorrect shocks, or bad shocks, can make rough rouads feel rougher too.

but, if i had a regular 2wd ranger with coil springs up front, mine would have been lowered last year sometime and i would have put nice wide wheels on the back with lower profile tires and probably wide wheels up front with lower profile tires so i could go autocross my truck.
 

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