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Ford Ranger Intermediate Shaft
The Ford Ranger steering shaft has came in a few different configurations over the years. When there is an issue with sloppy steering, you'll hear the term "Intermediate Shaft" used.
Actually, you'll hear the terms:
There are steering shafts that connect between the steering wheel, and the gear box on the frame. These shafts can have couplers (also referred to as a rag joint), universal joints, or a combination of the two. Since there is a shaft that runs from the steering wheel through the firewall, and one that connects between that shaft and the gear box, you may hear the term "upper" and "lower" shafts.
(Photo of intermediate steering shaft from a 1990 Ford Ranger)
(This is the steering box and intermediate shaft from a 1989 Ford Ranger 4x4)
('A' is the intermediate shaft for a 1995-1997 Ford Ranger)
If you're running tires larger than stock, you should inspect the universal joints and rag joints (steering coupler) for wear. it's important to check the joint at the gear box. The splines on the gear box are usually good, but sometimes the splines on the shaft can wear out. A worn out steering coupler (rag joint) can be replaced, and can purchased from most part stores. If the shaft has universal joints, you'll have to replace the whole shaft. You'll either need to get a replacement from the dealer, or look for one in a salvage yard.
There have been some Rangers that used an intermediate shaft with universal joints, and no rag joints. So far, these have only been found on the 1991 Ford Ranger and Explorer. It's been said that they were only used on the ones built before May 1991.
If you need to replace your rag joint, the part stores will most likely only know it as a 'Steering Coupler', or 'Coupler Assembly'
If you look in the 'HELP' section of the store (The area with all the little odd and end repair parts in a group), you may find just the rag joint that looks similar to this:
Otherwise, you'll need a Steering Coupler (or Steering Coupler Assembly) that looks similar to this:
If your local part store doesn't have one, you can get one from rockauto.com.
Replacing The Rag Joint:
For more information on replacing the rag joints, click HERE.
Intermediate Shaft Examples:
Here are some diagrams of intermediate shafts, but they're not exact. There were other configurations.
(1983-1988 Intermediate Shaft)
(Intermediate shaft used on 1985-1988 Ford Ranger)
(1989-1994 Intermediate Shaft)
Some 1991's had dual universal joints, and some has a lower rag joint and upper universal joint (shown in labeled photos above)
Some 1992's had dual rag joints.
(1993 Ford Ranger intermediate shaft with dual rag joints)
(1995-1997 Intermediate Shaft)