Maintenance tips: Ford Ranger

All you need to know about this model, plus how to keep it running strong
by TopGear.com.ph | Apr 11, 2019
PHOTO: Top Gear PH
CAR MODELS IN THIS ARTICLE

History

Hard as it might be to believe, given its current market dominance, the all-American Ford Ranger was once a Japanese truck. Based on the B-series pickup developed by Mazda. To be precise, this wasn’t the “American” Ranger, a truck developed by Ford in 1983 in response to the popularity of its Mazda-licensed Courier pick-up (circa 1972), but the “Global” Ranger introduced in 1998, following in the footsteps of the Courier.

In America, Ford licensed its Ranger to Mazda to be sold as B-series trucks, while outside of it, Mazda licensed its B-series to be sold as Rangers. This confusing arrangement came about because in the two decades since the introduction of the Ranger, the US and global markets had diverged sharply in terms of market needs and priorities.

Which brings us to this truck. This 2006 Ranger, built locally at the old Ford assembly plant in Santa Rosa, is the last to be based on the old Mazda underpinnings. It would finally bow out in 2011 to make way for the fully-Ford developed T6 Ranger.

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Value and costs

The 2006 Trekker 4x2 featured here cost P915,000 in 2006, its last year on the market. Nowadays, first-generation Rangers go for between P200,000 to P400,000, depending on vintage and condition.

There are very few things to go wrong here. Starting issues can be traced to worn-out glow plugs, and at the age these cars are at, expect to need to replace a shock absorber or two and possibly a clutch master. Also, locally assembled Fords, while mechanically robust, tend to suffer from topcoat peel when parked in the sun for years on end. As the Ranger is Mazda-based, finding spares is easy.


Exterior and interior

When it debuted locally in 2000, the Ranger featured pared-down bodywork compared to its Mazda twin and an awkward attempt to fuse Ford’s then-current egg-crate grille with Mazda’s slim headlights. The 2003 facelift, coinciding with the launch of the Ford Everest, gave the Ranger a more masculine, square-jawed appearance, accommodating a grille- headlight combo reminiscent of the US- market Explorer Sport-Trac. Buff fender- flares as on our Trekker example give it a purposeful look, and chrome accents tie up the exterior design nicely.

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On the inside, you’ll find a decently work-a-day cabin, though the rear seat leaves something to be desired. Much of the switch-gear and instrumentation inside is shared with the Ford Lynx, which was also built locally. Interior plastics are mostly durable, but double-check the interior door handles. Rough handling can easily break these. Other major wear areas will be in the side bolsters on the driver’s seat (a ’90s Mazda problem) and the shift knob and steering wheel.


Engine

While a base 93hp 2.9-liter diesel was available, a vast majority of Rangers sold featured the turbocharged 2.5-liter WLT, which produced 117hp and 280Nm. Not impressive by today’s standards, but it gave the Ranger brisk performance. This was mated to either a four-speed automatic or the five-speed manual shown here. Complaints of early clutch wear were common when this engine was new (as early as 40,000kms), but that often comes down to the driver.

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Look out for black smoke that could signal turbo or valve issues on higher mileage trucks. It’s also worth asking when the timing belt was last changed. Beyond that, the WLT is robust compared to more modern common rails. It’s even capable of surviving our deep floods.


Driving impressions

Despite the heavy steering and rubbery gearshift, the Ranger is rather fun to drive, as you’d expect from two brands known for good driving dynamics. Granted, it doesn’t have the athleticism of the model that followed, which was fettled by European chassis engineers, but it corners flat and neutral on twisty mountain roads. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of ride comfort, especially with the “high rider” Trekker suspension seen on this 4x2 units. You won’t mistake this thing for anything but a truck. Then again, that’s exactly what it is.

Verdict

It’s a shame that Ford and Mazda have parted ways. The combination of American ruggedness and Japanese engineering helped the Ford brand claw out a niche for itself on the Asian market. But the fruits of their labor have left us with cars like this. And despite the American badge, the Japanese engineering behind it, as well as the fact that it was built right here in the Philippines, means that parts and maintenance are much easier than you’d expect for an “American” car. (Niky Tamayo)

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Recommended maintenance schedule

Most modern cars are very reliable these days, with some being more idiot-proof than others. A fellow enthusiast likes to call such cars as “gas n’ go.” You put gas in the car, and you go. No doubts about whether the car will start the first time. No fears that a warning light will suddenly pop up. The ideal daily driver is essentially an appliance that you can use for many years until you get tired of the look or it finally falls to pieces (unlikely). If you follow the maintenance schedule, and if you have a basic sense of car maintenance, you can reasonably expect your car to run perfectly fine for many, many miles. Here are 10 quick tips to keep your ride in tip-top shape:

1) Check the fluids every week.

Coolant, water reservoir, oil, brake fluid, power steering, automatic transmission fluid (if applicable), and the windshield washer. There should be no significant loss in any of these except the washer fluid on a week-to-week basis. If there is (for example, from full a week ago to half-full), this could indicate a leak somewhere.

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Check the ground underneath the car for any telltale leaks or puddles and trace the origin (a few drops of condensation from the A/C system is normal, though). If everything’s good, you should only need to top up the washer fluid and water reservoir.

2) Follow the 5,000-7,500km maintenance schedule.

Depending on your car’s make and model, the service interval is important to your car’s wellbeing. The primary service is the oil and filter change, but this may also include several other services such as cleaning the A/C filter, recharging the freon, and changing the transmission fluid, and any other fluids and filters. Spark plugs are also replaced every year.

3) Check tire pressure every week.

Tires gradually lose tire pressure after several days, but they also gain a few psi as road and tire temperature increase. These have a recommended tire pressure, taking into account your average passenger and cargo load. You’d do well to follow these guidelines (it’s usually printed on the driver’s side door panel), but one or two psi above/below the recommended won’t hurt the car and will let you tailor the ride quality to your preference.

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If one full tank of gas lasts you a week, get the tire pressure checked right after you gas up, preferably while your tires are still cold in the morning. Watch out for noticeably soft tires (say, 5-10 psi below the usual), indicating a slow leak somewhere. Inspect the tire but don’t pull out the foreign object, which is usually a nail or bolt. The tire will quickly deflate if you do, and you don’t want to ruin it by running flat. Bring it to a vulcanizing shop so they can patch it up and save the tire.

4) Mind the tire rotation, alignment, and balance.

Have your tires rotated every six months or 10,000km to maintain even tread wear. When you do this, that’s when you’ll need to have them balanced and/or aligned.

5) Find out if you really need to have it rust-proofed.

Some casas may try to sell you on a four-figure “paint protection” service. Unless you park right by the sea or live in a snowy climate, you don’t need this. The shell of the car already has several layers of primer and paint to protect the metal from rust.

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6) Check your battery.

Depending on your usage, the battery will last anywhere from a year to two. A telltale sign that the battery is about to die is hesitation to turn over on startup. When in doubt, bring it over to a battery shop so they can check it for you.

7) Do not ignore your timing belt/chain.

This is probably the most critical item in your service manual that you don’t ever want to ignore. When this breaks, your engine will freeze and you’ll be stuck with an overhaul. The recommended replacement schedule is somewhere between 60,000-70,000km, depending on the car.

8) Know when you need a transmission overhaul/clutch replacement.

“Overhaul” is a scary word, but it’s just a routine service if you’re talking about the transmission. When your car’s gears begin to slip or refuse to engage, that’s a sign that the clutch is worn out and needs replacement. Don’t ever let a service advisor tell you that the entire transmission needs to be replaced, especially if it’s less than 100,000km old!

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9) Know if you really need 95- or 98-octane gasoline.

Not really, but it helps. Unless it’s a luxury/sports car, most daily driver gasoline engines do okay with regular unleaded (93-octane), but some run better with higher grade gasoline. However, if you have a minor engine mod like an aftermarket ECU chip, some knocking may occur with 93 Octane (especially during the summer when temperatures are higher). In that case, spending several hundred pesos more for 98-octane will result in smoother operation and peace of mind.

10) Have the Italian tune-up.

Metro Manila traffic is hell on an automobile and qualifies as “extreme road conditions” because of the incessant stop-and-go that’s hard on the transmission, and the fumes ingested by the air intake. Once a week, or at least once a month, take your car to a longer drive where you can gently work the upper ranges of the gears and blow out any crud from the pipes. (Andy Leuterio) 

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PHOTO: Top Gear PH
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