My 1997 Ranger 3.0 4x4


Jim Oaks

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Roanoke, Texas
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1996 / 2019
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Ford Ranger
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33x12.50x15
Thanks for the Sport Trac vs Explorer brake caliber info!
 


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97Ranger3.0

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Thanks for the Sport Trac vs Explorer brake caliber info!
No problem!

If you want all of the specifics as to the differences between the Sport Trac calipers vs the Explorer calipers here's everything I found out when doing this axle swap.

The Sport Trac rotors are larger in diameter than the Explorer rotors, the caliper mounting bracket and the dust shields are different between the two as well. The parking brake set up is very similar. The Sport Trac brakes require 16" wheels or larger, whereas with the Explorer brakes you can run 15" wheels. However, like I discovered in my truck once I realized they were different; you can mount the Explorer calipers onto the Sport Trac brackets and use them with the Sport Trac rotors. You have to get matching Explorer pads and thin them down just slightly if everything is new to get them to fit, but after the rotor has been broken in the new pads will fit in with no modifications. This allows you to run a 15" wheel with the larger Sport Trac brakes.

Other than that, it seems to me that the Sport Trac and Explorer rear axles are the same basic 8.8 31 spline axles. The Sport Trac axle would be a good option for someone with 16" or larger wheels who wants bigger brakes. Also when I pulled this axle from a junkyard truck, I couldn't find any Explorers with 4.10 open or 4.10 L/S axles (they all had 3.73 L/S or 3.55 open it seemed) and found this 4.10 L/S axle in the first Sport Trac I checked; so it's possible 4.10's may have been more common in Sport Tracs. Just thought all this info might be helpful for someone looking into doing the Explorer axle swap in their truck!
 

97Ranger3.0

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My small project for the day...

Before:
IMG_3451.JPG


And After:
IMG_3453.JPG
 
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DannyG

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Ah. you had Lasic done. Looks good.
 

97Ranger3.0

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Started my next project - Chevy 64" leaf spring swap. I found a pretty decent set at a local junkyard, they came with the shackles and frame hangers as well. I scrapped the hangers because I don't need them but I'm keeping the shackles. The shackles are the same length as stock Ranger shackles and look almost identical, but the bushing seems to be a larger diameter. It saved me a little money to just get the Chevy spring & shackle bushings rather than getting those and the Ranger shackle bushings and re-using my shackles.

Here they were right out of the junkyard.
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I can't put rusty springs in my truck with a nicely painted undercarriage, so I took them apart to clean them up and repaint them & installed new polyurethane bushings. :p

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I also noted their original positions side to side so I can install them the opposite way in my truck to hopefully help with the driver's side lean. Meaning I will use the spring that was in the passenger side of the C1500 on my driver's side and vice versa. Hopefully I don't regret going with junkyard springs but new ones are much more expensive, and even spending $50 per spring for my set - many local junkyards were charging $65 or more per spring. Now as soon as I have a weekend free I can tackle this project!
 
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97Ranger3.0

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I got a few days off recently so I got working on the Chevy spring swap.

To get access to the bolts & nuts holding the front hangers on, I removed the gas tank skid plate, unbolted the filler neck from the bed, supported the tank with a jack, loosened the front tank strap, and removed the rear tank strap. The tank was almost full so I didn't want to undo both straps completely and try to balance it on a floor jack. This worked well enough for me to get my hands in there to get the bolts and nuts started threading and then get a wrench in there to tighten them up completely, although it really tested my patience lol.

The front hanger moved forward one bolt hole, holes center punched.
IMG_3511.JPG


And with all of the bolts in place. As you can see, I had to reverse the top two bolts. It was easier to get them through the holes from the back than to try and start a nut on them on the inside. It looks stupid but there was no way I was going to get it to work otherwise.
IMG_3512.JPG


Also, I did this swap without removing the bed. It is possible, but removing it would make the job easier. I didn't have help getting the bed off, but even with two people these 7' beds are significantly heavier than a short bed. But the bed made a nice storage bin for all the parts! 😂 If you do decide to do this swap without removing the bed, invest in a unibit (christmas tree looking bit). I don't think an actual drill bit in a drill would've fit between the bed sides and the frame to drill the new holes. The unibit was just short enough in my case and does a pretty good job.
IMG_3509.JPG


The old springs are out...
IMG_3518 (1).jpg


...And the Chevy ones are in.
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You may notice in those pictures that I originally had a shackle flip setup. I was going to use the Kartek 1.5" drop hangers with the stock height Chevy shackles. But when I dropped it on the ground for the first time it sat much lower than I expected so I decided against that setup. I went back to the original hangers with extended shackles. I had to replace the driver's rear side hanger, for whatever reason the previous owner's mechanic did 3 out of 4 spring mounts? :unsure: And this original one was disintegrating lol.
IMG_3534.JPG


For the e brake bracket, I was able to use one of those original Ford tabs with the bolts on it. I had to enlarge the lower hole just a tad with the unibit for it to fit. This worked well though because it fits tight and can't fall into the frame easily, and if I ever need to modify the bracket I can unbolt it without loosening the gas tank.
IMG_3523.JPG


I apologize in advance for the hideousness you are about to see, I do not claim to be great at fabricating or welding 😂 (both of which I have very little experience with if you couldn't tell)

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IMG_3525.JPG


But it seems like it should be strong, and if not I can remake one some day when I don't suck at welding lol. I unfortunately can't test it because my e brake pedal hasn't been working right lately. The pedal skips and sometimes gets stuck and won't release.

I've driven the truck a couple hundred miles since the swap and so far I'm happy. They do ride firm but I like that, definitely leaps and bounds better than my stiff original springs (which also had long and short add-a-leafs). They also seem to handle loads better, the truck squats noticeably less with my small trailer with a zero-turn on it than it used to. Having all new bushings back there also really tightened the truck up.

With these springs and the original shackles, the truck sat right about 1" or so lower than before the swap. With the lift shackles it sits dead on where it was before. I'd guess that my set of Chevy springs have about 2" of lift over stock Ranger springs. My original springs were in very good shape and probably sat a little taller than how they were originally even with the lift block because of the additional leaves, so I'm not surprised I lost some ride height until I added longer shackles.
 
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97Ranger3.0

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Got new (to me) shoes for the little Ranger - American Racing AR23's! 15x8, -19 offset. I got a pretty good deal on a set of 5 of them plus they all came with tires that were pretty new, but they were 225/75's. So I swapped my 30" tires onto these wheels and I'm going to sell the tires that came with these wheels. I love these wheels and happened to find this set on Facebook Marketplace. I wouldn't have considered spending the money buying these wheels new, but seeing them for a good price used it was too hard to resist. I bought them unsure of whether I'd like the raw aluminum finish or if I'd want to paint them black, but having them mounted I love how they stand out with the raw aluminum finish. Now I just need to find another 30x9.5 tire to have a matching spare!

IMG_3597.JPG


Also, I hadn't posted about my clutch issues in this thread; but basically I've had trouble with the hydraulics ever since I did the clutch job almost 2 years ago now. Sometimes the clutch would disengage properly, sometimes it wouldn't. I tried bleeding it many times, nothing. I swapped the master cylinder, nothing changed. I replaced the slave cylinder, it seemed to be working well... but then the issues came back. I replaced the master cylinder again, (this time both the master & slave were from NAPA) and what do you know the clutch works 100% properly now. Moral of the story is, learn from my mistakes and just buy good quality parts from a reputable place the first time. I had to drive two states away to get these wheels and the clutch worked perfectly the whole drive; so it's good to know it is actually fixed and working well now.
 
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97Ranger3.0

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Nothing super exciting has been happening with the truck lately, but here's a bunch of small projects I've done. I removed & repainted my Ford logos black to match the color scheme of my truck.

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Side note - who would've guessed they were this off color from each other? I never noticed till they were side by side lol.

IMG_3644.jpg
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Sometimes the easiest and simplest mods are the best. No longer will the locking hubs come off with the wheel. This was absolutely worth the time, every time I take the front wheels off I'm so glad I did this haha.

IMG_3619.JPG


I also modified my rear exhaust section to tuck it up higher, added some clearance on the driver side bend that goes over the axle as that side was shorter than the passenger side, removed all the clamps and welded it all up and painted it black. Also converted it to 2.5" piping before the muffler. Before it was 2-1/4" in and 2-1/4" dual out, now it's 2.5" in and 2-1/4" dual out.

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I also added a switch panel underneath the radio for the electric fan. I don't think I ever posted about it actually, but I am running an electric fan out of a 3.8 Thunderbird, it's run by a Volvo relay and a VW temp switch in the upper rad hose. The left switch enables the fans to run automatically when switched on or bypasses the system when switched off. The 2nd switch turns the fan onto the high speed when switched on, either for emergencies or to use when using the A/C. The green light comes on when the fan is on low speed and the red light is for high. You may also notice that the cigar/cigarette lighter isn't there and is plugged off - I used to have the fan bypass switch mounted there and had the fuse pulled, but am now using the power wire from it to power the lights. It isn't super pretty but it gets the job done.

IMG_3698.JPG


Last small update, I ditched the rack & lights for a cleaner look and am now running 265/75R15 (close to 31" tires) because I found bulges in the sidewall in two of the 30's which had me concerned. And I switched back to the shackle flip setup in the rear to get the truck sitting more level. Even with the 1.5" 'leveling kit' the truck still sat 3.5-4" higher in the rear :oops:. This has it now sitting 1.5" higher in the rear which is perfect to me.

IMG_3701.JPG


Also I never really mentioned my issues with the 1.5-2" leveling kit, so here's a (not so) small rant... I definitely learned a lot about the TTB with all the issues I had with the springs. So, when I first installed them, I ended up with the truck sitting 2.25" higher in the front than before. There was still about 2" of lean which I was fine with because I don't want to squat hard when using the truck for what it's meant to do. But, the problem was with the alignment. I could not get the camber in any further than still having around 2 degrees positive even with fully adjustable camber/caster bushings. Also steering feel was noticeably compromised in my opinion as I got a little more wander than before. To remedy this, I got radius arm drop brackets advertised as being for a 2-4" lift. They were definitely built more for a 4" lift than anything less. That helped me gain back a lot of caster which helped a lot, but dropped the rad arm bracket super low, and when I would drain the oil during an oil change the oil would shoot out right at the bracket and splash everywhere. Not fun. To address the camber issue again I bought axle pivot brackets designed for a 2-4" lift supposedly. These were nowhere near close to being useable for anything less than a 4" lift. Even with my camber caster bushings maxed out positive, these brackets were waaaaay too low and gave me like 6 or 7 degrees of negative camber. Yikes! I had to have my brother help me modify the axle pivot & rad arm brackets, and now they are setup for something like 1-2" of lift I'd say. So I learned my lesson that the aftermarket does not do a good job making TTB brackets outside of complete lift kits from common brands. With these brackets adjusted properly for my lift, the front now only sat 1.5" higher than stock. That's when I discovered the TTB's 1.5:1 lift ratio when not using drop brackets. Having the axle pivots dropped meant I now just had a 1:1 ratio. Last but not least, I wanted a drop pitman arm to improve the steering angles which were past the acceptable 1" range as stated in the steering tech article. I bought a 3-6" lift drop pitman arm which turned out to be almost perfect drop. But over time, the steering started to get super super sloppy, the truck was almost impossible to keep going in a straight line. I noticed the nut holding it on had loosened up a little and the pitman arm now had slop, so I bought a replacement because it still had slop even when I tightened it back up it felt sloppy. The new one also had a tiny bit of play when tightened. There was an improvement again, but that was short lived. So I happened to find a NOS or reproduction (I don't remember now) pitman arm for a High Rider. This was an almost identical drop to the 3-6" lift pitman arm, but just looking at the splines you could tell it was made better. And what do you know, when tightened up there was absolutely no slop and the steering felt like stock again. Moral of the story is, the leveling springs can work fine in some cases, but be prepared to have to change other stuff as well to work with it. Honestly in my opinion, if you want to level your truck, try and find high rider brackets or just go for a taller complete lift kit.
 
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97Ranger3.0

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I fixed all the lost pictures in this thread so hopefully those are now working again!

These past few weeks have been crazy for me and this truck, I had to get it ready for a long trip half way across the country because I am going back to school soon, and happen to be going far away for it lol. I also had to get the truck ready for inspection by September so that my inspection sticker was current. I had heard about a more 'lax', shall we say, inspection place around here to see if I could cut some corners (like not having to swap back to my original exhaust for example). And even still, he wouldn't pass the truck without a working parking brake. My parking brake pedal was all messed up, so I pulled it out and tried to find a replacement from a local junkyard. Long story short, the problem was mostly in the pedal as it was all messed up and would skip right to the floor without doing anything. I had a hard time finding a replacement, as new ones are not available, and I got a pedal assembly from a 93 from a local junkyard as it was about the only Ranger close to mine. Turns out, that pedal assembly is a little different. But, I was able to cut all the rivets that held it together and modify it to work on my 97 assembly relatively easily. I wish I had taken pictures but I was in a bit of a rush. The e brake still doesn't work very well unfortunately, and I'm not sure exactly why as I had it working better before. I am suspecting that the rear cables are seized or something because even though the pedal is tightening the main cable, the rear ones wouldn't move much at all. But the good news is I got my inspection sticker thankfully, so I can figure the rest out later.

One other thing I did find though while trying to sort out an on road vibration before this trip was that I had a bent axle shaft. The whole wheel/tire and brake assembly would wobble when rotating. I discovered this by having the truck running in gear on jack stands. I ended up going to a junkyard and pulling an axle shaft from an 02 Explorer Sport (thankfully the Sport and Sport Tracs both had the same solid axle) and replacing the bearing, seal, and caliper on that side. The caliper guide pins got totally wrecked from all that wobble. I think this axle was already bent when I got the axle from the junkyard last year. I remember it making funky brake noises coming from the rear after the axle swap - when driving at slow speeds, there was this "erf" sound that would happen more often as you increased speed. It eventually went away, and I realize now that noise was probably the rotor wobbling inside the caliper & pads and the sound was either the pads rubbing, or maybe the whole caliper vibrating making the noise, until the guide pins got out of whack and the whole thing could wobble. But anyway, here's the best picture I have of the bent shaft. The bent shaft is in the front, the replacement is in the back. You can see how the front shaft is bending to the right in this picture.
IMG_3751.JPG
 

97Ranger3.0

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Well, the truck made it all the way from Massachusetts to Texas with no trouble whatsoever! That was around a 30 hour trip split into 3 days driving by myself. The truck gets great highway mileage when the A/C isn't running. I drove all the way until my first gas stop without using A/C and averaged 27 MPG, which I've managed to get a few times before too so I know it wasn't a fluke. Not bad! With the AC running though, the highway mileage was right around 20. I'm surprised it drops it that much even while on the highway, but I'm glad to have working A/C down here in the Texas heat so I'll suck it up lol.

I got the truck tinted to 35% on the windows and 15% on the back window to help keep the cab from getting too hot. Speaking of, that is one benefit of having such a small cab though, the A/C cools it off fast, and most of the time I can't run it on the coldest setting because it's just too cold! But anyway, here's a picture of the truck fresh out of the car wash. The truck was covered in bug splatter and all sorts of other crap from that almost 2,000 mile drive, so it desperately needed a wash.
IMG_3799.JPG
 


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