Tow package 4x4 = rough ride?


traildog

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Hello,
Just upgraded my clapped out '02 2wd 2.3L Ranger to an '02 4wd 4.0L Ranger with 110xxx miles. The one I picked up has both the offroad package and the tow package- it's got the torsion bar front suspension, there's no rear sway bar, and the shocks are stock Motorcraft. I'm not an off-roader by hobby so much, but I spend a ton of time driving dirt roads in the mountains for work (trails planning/design). It's obviously a massive improvement over my old one in most ways, but frankly it's rattling my teeth out on anything rough or potholed. It has very firm handling on the highway, so the shocks must be stiff, though using shocks instead of a sway bar to achieve that seems a little misguided (i believe shock tuning for low speed compression involves more compromise than adding inherent stability through a sway bar). I'm hoping someone here can give me an idea of the various options these trucks came with and where I might start in trying to make it ride smoother. But basically the question is, shocks, springs, or both?

Few Q's:

Does the tow package mean stiffer torsion bars as well as leaf springs? I'm imagining that the 4.0 engine got stiffer torsion bars cause it's heavier, but is the tow version even stiffer yet? AFAIK it's at the factory ride height.

Which shocks are the best for smooth ride? Ain't trying to race on the highway and when I do tow it's just around town. I seem to remember something about Rancho shocks being softer than Bilsteins etc. What about KYB?

Can one just remove a leaf from the rear, or would the whole assembly need to be replaced?

Would appreciate any and all feedback. Cheers!
 


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Dirtman

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Shocks don't make the ride soft or stiff... either do away bars. Springs control stiffness, shocks control rebound, sway bars control roll.

So pick which is the issue and fix that.
 

Josh B

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Hey Traildog, welcome to TRS, maybe place a post in "introduce yourself" if you want people to get to know you.
I can't answer your questions well, even tho I have a 4x4 w/tow package also(it's rated just above 3/4 ton, and actually rides "like a cadillac" when it has around that much in it). I about figured it was due to the previous owner having recently added new tires and shocks(figured the shocks were possibly heavier rating than stock)
 

bobbywalter

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Shocks can definitely stiffen or loosen up ride characteristics.

Not sure about the torsion bar ratings. I have seen spec sheets several times but can't remember those numbers.

You think it is the factory ride height, but it's possible the torsion bars are cranked and the will make for a crappy ride. Start with verifying that situation.
 

alwaysFlOoReD

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Is an adjustable shock still made? The one that you turn a dial to adjust ride characteristics.

Do you ever carry a heavy load in the box? If not then removal of a leaf might work.

Or perhaps remove a spring and add an overload spring set of the type that doesn't engage until a load is in the box.
 

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Bobby is right. The torsion bars can be adjusted with too much lift and cause a bad ride. I can't imagine Motorcraft shocks being too stiff but if the torsion bars are adjusted too high it can cause the shocks to extend to the limit and that gives you the rough ride. I have an 02 FX4 and it has the stiffest torsion bar Ford puts on a Ranger. I also have a 1.5" Torsion bar lift and I don't think the ride is stiff at all. I do run Bilstein shocks and that may help the ride. I also run 31" tires on pavement and the taller tires may soften the ride a little but not that much.
 

traildog

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Thanks, sounds like ID'ing the torsion bars is a good place to start. I carry a load in the bed from time to time, and tow just enough that I wouldn't want it to be a complete noodle.
The Rancho RS9000s have an adjustable compression knob, apparently takes them from OEM soft to performance/towing hard. That might be the way to go. Mine is FX4 and the back is significantly higher than the grill, and the front is not particularly high, so I'm pretty sure that the ride height is stock though maybe I should have a shop verify that.
Kinda feels like its the shocks, despite them being OEM, because on slow compressions like kelly humps you can feel the suspension moving, but sharp hits it just gets bounced. If the OEM shocks have a primitive orifice type damper but are tuned firm for the tow package, that would explain spikes on high speed compression. I'm a mountain bike suspension nerd but the car stuff is pretty foreign to me. The Rancho RS5000s aren't adjustable but are advertised as having shim stacks in the damper which is very appealing.
 

alwaysFlOoReD

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I'm a mountain bike suspension nerd but the car stuff is pretty foreign to me.
Pretty sure it will cross over fairly well on the high end shocks.
 

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I used to have the same truck, a 2002 Off-Road and it rode like a cement mixer compared to the 1999 I had before without the off-road package. I drove a lot doing estimates for my company and I was worn out by the end of the day but I live in PA where the roads are not smooth. Of course that's when it was new, now an 02 is 17 years old so they're probably softer.

The tow package at that time did not affect the spring rates, all it was was the trailer hitch. In later years the BFT package included the hitch and heavier rear springs but IIRC in 02 the payload package was a separate option. FWIW the factory recommended tire pressures were 30F/35r but I got better ride, handling, and tire wear reversing that and putting 35 in the fronts and 30 in the rears. I'd pump the rears up to 35 if I knew I was going to haul something heavy.
 

traildog

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Thanks JohnnyO, that's super helpful.
 

Josh B

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My 93 had all that Johnnie, offroad and tow package w/1550lb payload, and at 27 it's still a rather stiff ride, except in the front where I think the shocks need replaced because it bounces around a bit @70 on a rough highway.
Recommended tire pressures are also 35r/32f, the only change I've made was from 265/70r/15 to 235/75r/15, but still use the same tire pressure
 


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