Making them fit a 2001 Ranger
By Frank T. Austin
My truck spends most of it’s time on high speed toll roads. The boring kind where if it wasn’t for the occasional slow car or truck you could set the speed control and take a nap. Now you might think what the heck does he need or want traction bars for? Well those nice flat toll roads have some of the worst pavement imaginable at the toll plazas. Every time I accelerate hard out of one trying to get into the flow of traffic safely, especially when they have some snow, slush or ice on the ground. Even my little 4 banger can develop some major wheel hop. It’s very annoying and at the same time makes me think that any second I’m about to blow a universal and drop the driveshaft out the bottom. So I thought that I better find something to help stop or at least minimize it.
The traditional way of controlling wheel hop is to add traction bars to prevent the axle from twisting against the springs. I looked around for a set of bars for my 01 Ranger and no one makes bars listed specifically for the newest generation vehicles. But I had heard that the Classic Bars #5301 for 82-97 from James Duff are rumored to fit with some “modifications”. I checked with the company and yes they say they will fit if “modified.” Unfortunately they didn’t tell me what modifications were needed. Very frustrating but for only $49.99 + shipping I didn’t think I could go too far wrong. I enlisted the help of Dave_R because he’s well versed in machine work (in case I needed any) and knows the bottom end of a Ranger far better than I do. A machinist could have been important given what little we had to work on in the way of clues about what actually needed to be modified. I arranged to meet him at his place where we would have the benefit of a heated garage to check things out.
Originally, given what little information I had, I believed that the hole spacing on the axle mounting plate might need to be changed. But once we had the wheel off and actually looked at it, it appeared that the plates would go on with no modification at all. We made a quick decision to go ahead and try to install the system: we had the time the garage was warming above freezing; the slush on the truck was melting – what the heck.
Once we removed the u-bolt nuts and the plate fitted on, the necessity for a modification was obvious. The plate is very slightly too wide at the bottom to sit flush on the spring retaining plate. This is a simple problem and took only a few minutes with an angle grinder to bevel the bottom front and bottom rear edges.
We discovered another “problem” when Dave tried to install the forward mounting plate. The older Rangers, this kit was originally designed to fit, had their spring perches riveted in a “V” angle. The forward plate has a bend in it to accommodate this angle. On the newest generation Rangers these spring mounts are oriented vertically like a “U”. The newer shape prevents the bar from aligning properly with the bushings
Again Dave with his engineering wizardry came to the rescue. A large hammer and the back of an even larger vise proved that the hammer is mightier than a bent plate. Couple of healthy whacks and a couple of lighter tuning smacks and voila the plate is flat. It’s now at the proper angle for the bars’ bushings to go through.
All together it only took us about two hours to install the bars. The tools needed are commonly available. Most of us have them or can easily find them. The traction bars went together very simply. By doing the grinding and bending ahead of time you could probably do the entire job in little over an hour by yourself. With a friend I’ll bet you can do it in lots less time.
OK now for the big questions;
1) Did it change anything?
2) Did it feel different?
3) Will it help you?
4) Lastly would I recommend them?
To the first three I will have to say YES !!
I have, as of this writing, driven about 250 miles with the traction bars installed and I never expected this much difference: it’s much better. There’s almost none of the old hopping problem. I still get some bumps from lousy pavement. Bumps are unavoidable; at least the bad pavement isn’t causing the rear axle to hammer my teeth anymore. There are a couple of other things the traction bars have “fixed” that I never thought about before doing the install. These have come as a pleasant surprise. The first is that when going through a turn with rough pavement the rear used to hop around (jump out) a lot when under power. Bet that sounds familiar. That’s almost gone it seems that the rear stays on the pavement better than before. There is less body roll from the rear than there used to be. I can’t swear to that one but it seems that way. It may just be because the rear is tracking better and so gives that impression. Braking is better as well: even though I have ABS (I hate it) it seems to track straighter. Under very hard braking it used to dance around, some times violently, with the vibration from spring wrap up.
To the last question “would I recommend them”. I would have to give a qualified yes. Qualified in that if you’re like me, driving a 4X2 mostly on pavement with only an occasional trip down a dirt road for fishing or hunting. Then yes they’re a good deal. If you’re into hardcore off roading, rock climbing etc. I don’t think so, your probably much better off with bigger ones. I don’t believe these would survive that kind of usage for long: their just not strong enough.
All isn’t perfect however; there are a couple of drawbacks. The first is that the rear springs seem “stiffer”. This is probably the bar working against the springs tendency to want to twist up that normally would absorb most of the little bumps. That I can live with, after all it’s a truck not a Lincoln. But the biggest drawback and what really ticks me off is that the squeak that I have in the passenger’s seat is worse. &%$^()) (&%$##ing seat!!!!!
Tools needed for the job;
3/8” drill and drill bit (for the forward mounting plate bolt holes)
9/16” socket w/ratchet handle and box wrench (for the forward mounting bolts & nuts)
3/4″ socket w/ratchet handle and box wrench (for the rear bar mounting bolt and the forward adjuster nuts)
18mm deep socket w/ratchet handle (for the U-Bolt nuts, maybe a breaker bar to start them)
Angle or bench grinder (to modify the axle mounting plates bottom front and rear edges)
Large hammer and anvil, vise, or even a smooth section of concrete in a pinch (to “reshape” the forward mounting plate)