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MAB3L, the most reasonable truck on the road!


bhgl

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Well folks,

After learning that my truck in fact had a 4.10 axle instead of the door sticker's 3.73, I was absolutely befuddled, but assumed someone had simply changed the axle or the ratio in it's long list of previous owners.

After that I dug up the truck's build code, did a VIN lookup to confirm it was in fact a Dual Sport, all that checked out! So I thought.

Well today, I finally got the opportunity to put on my new summer tires. So imagine my surprise when I come face to face with:
PXL_20240404_215106528.jpg

I've been messing around trying to fix the truck's myriad of airbag codes, replacing disabled/burnt out bulbs, getting new keys, and installing power locks. I hadn't actually climbed under the damn thing. I didn't even have the opportunity when I installed winter tires, since the shop that was doing my mandatory safety mounted and installed them on the wheels the truck came with.

As I've mentioned before, this truck was in an accident at some point, and was put back together. It's been in this configuration for at least 8 years.

So, this truck's cab, and potentially bed originally sat on a Torsion bar frame. At some point, probably after the accident, it was put onto a regular coil spring 2WD frame.

I knew this thing was one of Frankenstein's creations when I bought it, it had a Ranger's airbag, mismatched front headlights, a B4000 fender on the driver's side, and a B3000 fender on the passenger, but I'm now painfully aware of the totality of the kludge that is this supposed Mazda B3000.

Thank you everyone for you advice on Torsion Bar drops, I hope what's been posted can help someone else down the line accomplish their own drops on their DS/Edges.

Forgive me forum, for I have sinned, and insisted on research before practice.
 


sgtsandman

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Not to worry. Being that you have coils up front, take a look at where the axle is bolted to the leaf springs. See if there is axle blocks between the axle and the spring (I'm suspecting not). If there is, you can remove those to drop the back end. If not, you'll be looking at other options related dropping a coil sprung RWD truck.

People have done it. So it is possible and there should be parts out there.
 

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Tierod end look a like it's leaking grease. If it has a zerk fitting you should maybe add some. Check for play as well.
 

bhgl

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Not to worry. Being that you have coils up front, take a look at where the axle is bolted to the leaf springs. See if there is axle blocks between the axle and the spring (I'm suspecting not). If there is, you can remove those to drop the back end. If not, you'll be looking at other options related dropping a coil sprung RWD truck.

People have done it. So it is possible and there should be parts out there.
The rear end has no blocks, I checked, I promise!

I was originally planning on going with this Belltech kit. Then I found out I had a DS. Then I found out I didn't. So looks like it's back to the Belltech kit!

It's expensive, but has good reviews and is pretty complete, camber adjustment plates included.

Frankly, getting a 2 inch drop from adjusting the keys, and deleting some blocks would've been a hell of a savings compared to that kit, at least I'll get better ride quality.
 

bhgl

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Tierod end look a like it's leaking grease. If it has a zerk fitting you should maybe add some. Check for play as well.
No fitting unfortunately, I checked play when I had it on a jack today and it's not bad, but there is some. I want to refresh the front end sooner rather than later.
 

bhgl

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Here's some more evidence of cludgery, looks like the truck's frame originally came from a blue Ranger/B-Series:

PXL_20240405_002458905.jpg
PXL_20240405_002409445.jpg

PXL_20240405_002452364.jpg
 

Uncle Gump

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They actually put the body mount bolts the wrong way too. Probably didn't have a decent set of body bushings/hardware and just winged it with what they had.

I'll apologize in advance...

But the boomer in me feels a bit vindicated for some weird reason.

Remember a couple things...

Look before you leap...

Measure twice... cut once.

I do hope you get it all figured out and this little truck turns into everything you want it to be.
 

bhgl

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They actually put the body mount bolts the wrong way too. Probably didn't have a decent set of body bushings/hardware and just winged it with what they had.

I'll apologize in advance...

But the boomer in me feels a bit vindicated for some weird reason.

Remember a couple things...

Look before you leap...

Measure twice... cut once.

I do hope you get it all figured out and this little truck turns into everything you want it to be.
The vindication is absolutely yours to feel on this one, it's kind of a funny situation all around.

I never even laid eyes on the truck before I bought it. Almost ironically, I had a family member, who happens to be a literal boomer, who's also very mechanically inclined look it over before I purchased it since it was from out of town. I trust him enough to know a decent truck when he sees one, he's built his own squarebodies and keeps old Chrysler K cars running on his own farm, but he's a "keep it running, not pretty" kinda guy, so I don't think the cludgery of it all really stuck out to him. Short of a strap for the gas tank needing to be put back in place, it was good enough for him! Sure enough, the truck even passed a mechanical safety, and emissions test without an issue.

I knew from the price and the posted mileage there was something too good to be true about it, and the seller was forthcoming in that he didn't know much about it overall, just that it had been in an accident at some point. I took the leap of faith knowing there was something off to it, but it drove well, stopped well, and by Northern Ontario standards, had little to no rust!

I still love this little thing, even though it's a cludge.

Thanks for the heads up on the body mounts, it's another thing I'll add to the list!
 

JoshT

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The rear end has no blocks, I checked, I promise!

I was originally planning on going with this Belltech kit. Then I found out I had a DS. Then I found out I didn't. So looks like it's back to the Belltech kit!

It's expensive, but has good reviews and is pretty complete, camber adjustment plates included.

Frankly, getting a 2 inch drop from adjusting the keys, and deleting some blocks would've been a hell of a savings compared to that kit, at least I'll get better ride quality.
Personally I'd go for a 3" DJAM kit over a 2" Belltech kit. The DJM kit replaces upper and lower control arms, but reuses factory springs. Results in better suspension geometery and easier to align. That might be more drop than you want though. The drop springs can be aligned too, just the other route is better IMO.

I wouldn't count on adjusting keys being a savings. Keep in mind you are wanting a 2" drop on a coil spring truck. If it had been a torsion bar truck it would sit 2-3" taller. To achieve the same final ride height, you'd have to drop the t-bar truck 4-5 inches and that could not be accomplished with just a key adjustment and still been alignable. You'd have needed the upper arms linked in the other thread for alignment and other parts for the rear axle (u-bolts minimum). If you couldn't get those and aligned, you'd have been looking at acellerated tire wear and a fair bit more spent on replacing them often.

I never even laid eyes on the truck before I bought it. Almost ironically, I had a family member, who happens to be a literal boomer, who's also very mechanically inclined look it over before I purchased it since it was from out of town. I trust him enough to know a decent truck when he sees one, he's built his own squarebodies and keeps old Chrysler K cars running on his own farm, but he's a "keep it running, not pretty" kinda guy, so I don't think the cludgery of it all really stuck out to him. Short of a strap for the gas tank needing to be put back in place, it was good enough for him! Sure enough, the truck even passed a mechanical safety, and emissions test without an issue.
I'll refrain from questioning the fact that you based your trust in the guy's ability on his ability to build and keep a square body running. That is a fairly low standard though.

That said, can't really fault the guy. The things he missed, are things that anyone not familiar with the platform would miss. If you don't know Rangers and Mazda trucks you aren't going to know that some 2wd are coil springs while others are torsion bars. You aren't going to know that Edges or Dual Sports are supposed to have torsion bars. You might not know how the body mounts are supposed to be stacked.

I have seen a lot of Chevy guys give bad information about the Rangers. You wouldn't believe how many think that a Ranger torsion bar suspension is the same as what Chevy's used and assume the same stuff is available. I've seen a lot that assume the same knuckles are used between 2 and 4 wheel drive models. Telling people to lift the back of a ranger by flipping the leaf spring hanger (hello, that lowers them). Try to correct them and they'll try to fight you about it. I gave up on correcting them and just try to point people towards better resources, like here.

Not just chevy people. I've been amazed by the number of Ford people that don't know the 5.0 Explorers came in both 2wd and AWD. Some think that because they all have torsino bars, they are all AWD. Others have only ever seen a 2wd and don't know that the AWD ever existed.

Sorry, strayed off topic a bit there.
 

sgtsandman

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The vindication is absolutely yours to feel on this one, it's kind of a funny situation all around.

I never even laid eyes on the truck before I bought it. Almost ironically, I had a family member, who happens to be a literal boomer, who's also very mechanically inclined look it over before I purchased it since it was from out of town. I trust him enough to know a decent truck when he sees one, he's built his own squarebodies and keeps old Chrysler K cars running on his own farm, but he's a "keep it running, not pretty" kinda guy, so I don't think the cludgery of it all really stuck out to him. Short of a strap for the gas tank needing to be put back in place, it was good enough for him! Sure enough, the truck even passed a mechanical safety, and emissions test without an issue.

I knew from the price and the posted mileage there was something too good to be true about it, and the seller was forthcoming in that he didn't know much about it overall, just that it had been in an accident at some point. I took the leap of faith knowing there was something off to it, but it drove well, stopped well, and by Northern Ontario standards, had little to no rust!

I still love this little thing, even though it's a cludge.

Thanks for the heads up on the body mounts, it's another thing I'll add to the list!
Unfortunately, you have to be a Ford Ranger enthusiast to catch details like what everyone is pointing out. If you were to show me a Chevy S-10 or a Dodge Dakota, I would know the general things to look for but I couldn't tell you if everything was original or not or if something had been swapped. So, he didn't do bad. He just didn't know what people here do.
 

SenorNoob

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Compared to the limited contact I've had with other automotive communities, we're the weird hyper-technical nerds in the corner. LOL
 

bhgl

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Personally I'd go for a 3" DJAM kit over a 2" Belltech kit. The DJM kit replaces upper and lower control arms, but reuses factory springs. Results in better suspension geometery and easier to align. That might be more drop than you want though. The drop springs can be aligned too, just the other route is better IMO.

I wouldn't count on adjusting keys being a savings. Keep in mind you are wanting a 2" drop on a coil spring truck. If it had been a torsion bar truck it would sit 2-3" taller. To achieve the same final ride height, you'd have to drop the t-bar truck 4-5 inches and that could not be accomplished with just a key adjustment and still been alignable. You'd have needed the upper arms linked in the other thread for alignment and other parts for the rear axle (u-bolts minimum). If you couldn't get those and aligned, you'd have been looking at acellerated tire wear and a fair bit more spent on replacing them often.



I'll refrain from questioning the fact that you based your trust in the guy's ability on his ability to build and keep a square body running. That is a fairly low standard though.

That said, can't really fault the guy. The things he missed, are things that anyone not familiar with the platform would miss. If you don't know Rangers and Mazda trucks you aren't going to know that some 2wd are coil springs while others are torsion bars. You aren't going to know that Edges or Dual Sports are supposed to have torsion bars. You might not know how the body mounts are supposed to be stacked.

I have seen a lot of Chevy guys give bad information about the Rangers. You wouldn't believe how many think that a Ranger torsion bar suspension is the same as what Chevy's used and assume the same stuff is available. I've seen a lot that assume the same knuckles are used between 2 and 4 wheel drive models. Telling people to lift the back of a ranger by flipping the leaf spring hanger (hello, that lowers them). Try to correct them and they'll try to fight you about it. I gave up on correcting them and just try to point people towards better resources, like here.

Not just chevy people. I've been amazed by the number of Ford people that don't know the 5.0 Explorers came in both 2wd and AWD. Some think that because they all have torsino bars, they are all AWD. Others have only ever seen a 2wd and don't know that the AWD ever existed.

Sorry, strayed off topic a bit there.
Thanks for the info, the DJM kit is a little bit harder to find in stock, and without insane markups/shipping prices up here in Canada, where as the Belltech kit is in stock in a few places, and the ND2 shocks included have solid reviews and seem to be better suited for what I'm looking for. You're right in saying that those camber adjustment plates don't sweeten the deal that much though, they can be found pretty cheap online with fresh nuts and bolts included.

I was basing the desired drop from where the truck sits currently. Assuming it had torsion bars, I figured 2-3 inches was pretty much all it needed to make the front air dam more effective. Now knowing that it is in fact already lower than a standard torsion beam truck, I'm still only looking for that 2-3 inch drop.

The family member that looked over the car actually bought it deciding that if I didn't take it off him, he'd just keep it for himself, he's a big at home mechanic, even has a lift installed in his garage. The GMC he's driving now was originally a 2wd inline six affair, but since he got it something like 20 years ago he's built his own axles, swapped in a small block mounted a fairly modern transmission and transfer case, done endless rust repair.

What's more impressive frankly is the fact he's kept an 80s Chrysler New Yorker with its turbo on the road, and driven regularly in our salt filled winter. It's actually his winter "beater", pillow top seats and all.

Don't blame him for not catching the mismatch, I only learned about the DS/Edge differences like a couple weeks ago. In fact, after my revelation the other day, I remembered asking him what front suspension it had and him saying something like "I think its got coils".

He's always been a solid resource for help with car stuff, even helped me pull the transmission out of my Ford Freestar the hard way (with the van on jack stands, and the subframe still in place.
 

bhgl

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Unfortunately, you have to be a Ford Ranger enthusiast to catch details like what everyone is pointing out. If you were to show me a Chevy S-10 or a Dodge Dakota, I would know the general things to look for but I couldn't tell you if everything was original or not or if something had been swapped. So, he didn't do bad. He just didn't know what people here do.
Since joining the cult of the Ranger I've only just started learning this stuff, all in all the truck's already given me a little over 3400 KMs without asking for anything but gasoline and tires. I'd say he did right.
 

scotts90ranger

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Good attitude!

my '97 is kinda a mystery to me but it was dirt cheap, got it for $450 with a bent I beam (I called it when I asked as I loaded it on the trailer, pulled out of a ditch with a chain to the beam) and a white door on a red rig but was the drivetrain and stuff I wanted, $150 later I had a close to body color door and axle and some different tires and a battery... turns out it had 4.10's too (I found out by the rev limit in first gear then math method :)) but with a 4 cylinder manual that was preferred, just adjusted tire size to meet needs, tried 3 sizes before the MPG met needs and the shift points were right...

Cheap rigs that are already screwed with are great, don't have to feel guilty for doing odd stuff, I have some ideas for my '97 but it's the daily driver and have other irons on the fire so haven't gotten there yet...
 

bhgl

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Howdy folks!

Here’s an update on MAB3L

Wheels, Tires, and weight reduction:
PXL_20240416_013829051.jpg


Summer tires and wheels are installed, and look sharp! Compared to my OEM steelies with winter tires we’ve saved a massive, immense, whopping, 3.5 lbs a tire… Saving 14 lbs of unsprung, rotating mass is good, but ultimately not quite the savings we were hoping for.

As for the tires, the 205/70R15 Firestone Destination LE3s are a great tire, comfortable, quiet, and surprisingly grippy despite their high treadwear rating! On a warmer day, the truck does actually struggle to break them loose even with 4.10 gears, in 1st gear at a stop. We haven’t driven them on the highway in the rain yet, but around town in the rain I’ve got absolutely no complaints.

We’ve pulled the trailer hitch, and the sidesteps. For the hitch, this was just a matter of 4 bolts, but it did drop the rear bumper which I didn’t quite realize was going to happen, unfortunately that popped out my license plate lights, breaking the bulb in one, and breaking the actual housing of the other. The tow bar itself seems to be a quality unit. I tried fixing the housing with some Gorilla glue, but I’ve been having trouble getting it fit securely in the bumper. I’ll deal with this later. The side steps were pretty easy if just annoying from the sheer amount of dirt that fell into my eyes, and the angle of some of the bolts was annoying to get to with the much needed impact driver. From removing the sidesteps and the hitch we’ve saved just approximately 50 lbs including the fasteners.

Tune up and maintenance:
With a recommendation from @Lefty , I’ve also done a Seafoam treatment, the intake spray and the liquid one. The intake spray was annoying to use, and frankly I don’t think it provided any benefit. We got basically no smoke, aside from a brief cloud, and a light white smoke that could have just been due to it being a colder day after the treatment was performed. The regular bottle however I think did do some good work in degunking the engine, we checked the engine oil before and it was still golden, albeit used. With about a 1/3rd of the can going into the crankcase, and the rest in the gas tank. I noticed a significantly darker oil after just about 120KMs of driving. I can’t say I noticed any difference in performance before and after.

Overall, I think the engine and transmission may be the part of the frankentruck that actually had 76000 kms on it when I purchased it, as overall it seems to be quite healthy, and free of a lot of the general grime an engine this old should have.

I’ll be using a throttle body cleaner, and a separate MAF sensor cleaner soon on the intake, as they could both do with a cleaning.

I had a couple jugs of Castrol GTX 0w-20 oil from my brief time of Hyundai/Kia ownership. Before folks freak out, I’ve used 0w-20 in cars that call for 5w-20 for a long time, the bonus is a free-er flowing oil at startup and low temperatures, in my opinion providing better efficiency and engine wear protection at startup. Since the engine is overall healthy, and potentially with low miles, I’m comfortable using a lower viscosity when cold oil for now.

We also replaced the oil filter with a pretty cheap FRAM unit, I replace the oil filter with each oil change with only a few exceptions, so I’m comfortable spending less here, the bonus to FRAM though is that nice textured grippy stuff which really helps making a no-tool oil change possible. Just going to mention I hate where the oil filter is on this engine.

I also installed a cheap oil drain valve from amazon, I saw a few different folks mention just how much they love having these on their cars and trucks. It really does make a roadside/parking lot oil change possible, considering I’ve got plans for a 12 000KM road trip this year. However, I would highly recommend getting a quality unit, I bought this one (https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09B24HJ62?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details) because it was the cheapest one on Amazon, I’d highly recommend going with a Fumoto, or EZdrainvalve unit however. This one is currently not leaking, and seems to be good enough, but the arm that controls the valve doesn’t lock into place, and the spring that is supposed to push the arm into a cutout doesn’t seem to be able to do it, meaning there’s nothing aside from friction holding the valve closed.

Ignition upgrades:
PXL_20240416_013907413.jpg

Now for the fun stuff, we installed some new NGK Iridium IX plugs gapped to 0.065 compared to the stock gap of 0.044, as well as some-semi custom 10.5MM spark plug wires. The resistance on the wires is significantly lower than the original motorcraft wires which were still in the vehicle, and nearly 7-8x times lower than the Standard Motor Product Pro Series wires we had as a backup. The plugs in the engine were a set of NGKs from who knows when, they weren’t bad, but otherwise a little gross.

In order to get the 10.5MM JDMSpeed wires to work, we had to salvage the boots and 90 degree tower connectors from both sets, since I didn’t have all the tools this actually took a while, and getting a secure crimp on all the wires was a bit of a struggle, but alas, it worked and I think they look pretty sick. I did have to create a bit of a zip tie cable holder since they’re too thick, but otherwise no issue getting them in.

The original Motorcraft Tower coil is able to push spark to the plugs no problem, whether that’s due in part to lower resistance wires, or like many others have said due to the fact that the coil Ford installed is overpowered for the application. I really do want to say there was an increase in acceleration, but it’s so slight it could be entirely placebo. It seems to have more power on the low end, which SHOULD in theory help with fuel economy when the truck runs at lower rpms. I drove it last night and for most of today with this setup, the truck seems happy.

Regardless, my MSD Street Fire 5229 Ignition coil came in today. It appears to be well made, but has no markings or branding, and came in basically an entirely plain box. I installed it just a few minutes ago and the truck starts up and drives well. I need more time behind the wheel to see if it does anything over the Motorcraft coil, which I’ll hold onto as a spare for now.

We’ve got an approx. 300KM round trip drive coming this Wednesday to visit the junkyard, and a medical appointment. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some good clean numbers from the drive to compare with previous trips.

After that drive, we’ll have a decent data set to compare the truck from its winter setup, pre-tune up, and pre ignition upgrades.
 

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