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1987 ford ranger help

I have the six cylinder 2.9L ranger that I can’t figure out. When I start the truck, I have to let it idle for at least 5 minutes or it will definitely try to die. After that it is a crap shoot that when I come to a stop if it will try to die. Sometimes I can drive for an hour with no problems, other times it’s every 10th stop. Also, when driving, half the time when accelerating it seems like it is struggling for air or gas and kinda sputters along, so I have to floor it to get it to kick in and it does ok but shifts really hard. It seems like the truck lacks power all the time. I know the timing is a little bit off because when I set it correctly it ran terribly, so I set it to where it would run the best. I have no idea where to go from here. Please help! And thanks in advance

This truck is 29 years old and we have no Idea of the miles on it or the maintenance history. It could be anything from a worn out engine to a dirty egr system , dirty IAC valve, worn out plugs. We just don’t know what you have tried. I would start with a compression test and then move on to a vacuum gauge.

Did you jump the SPOUT connector when checking and setting the timing? If not, the timing will be a mile off.

If I remember right there is a IAC valve on the passenger side of the intake manifold and these get carboned up.

Looks like this;

I’d also be looking for a vacuum leak. All those hoses are most likely pretty dried out and brittle.


Make sure to check the inertia switch on the passenger side just behind the carpet. It can be very squirrely and will shutoff the fuel pump at random times. I bypassed the switch on all the Ford Rangers that I owned. Never had a problem afterward.

Usually that switch is spring loaded and once it sets from an impact it’s either off or on.
So I doubt that it would go on or off as you drive.

But I could be wrong on the way it works.


I’d focus on the lack of engine power off-idle. You’ve got to fig. Suggest the most frugal method to figure this out, check for stored diagnostic codes, address those, then bring the engine maintenance up to date, esp replace the engine air filter, spark plugs, distributor cap, ignition rotor, and spark plug wires. Edit: Make sure to check the idle rpm and ignition timing as part of the routine maintenance renewal.

I’d start with the iac also i had a subie with the same.syptoms just bad…so u may have to replace and not just seafoam it…and the subaru one was 400…also.the vacuum hoses tune.up etc…have u checked simpl things like fuel filter?

My feeling is that you still need to revisit the timing issue based on your comments about having to wrestle it and setting it where it would run best.

I’m assuming you have a timing light. Eyeballing the timing on one of these can get you in a world of trouble. It’s very easy to dial in too much advance and then during some highway speed road trip the engine may go south because of it.

The IAC could certainly cause the engine to die at stops but so can the ignition timing being a mile off.

As to lack of power and struggling that could be due to improper timing, fuel pressure too low, or a clogged converter.

Sorry I will try to give a little more info. I put in new plugs, wires and air filter. I did not check the distributor or rotor. I also did fix 2 small vacuum hoses that were broke, but cant find any more vacuum leaks. There obviously could be more, but i cant find any. I have seafoamed it. Yesterday I tried replacing the fuel filter, but I can’t find it. Where it should be, there are 3 sections of fuel line ( I have 2 tanks ) that looked spliced in. Would someone take out a fuel filter? I have also been wondering if a dieing external fuel pump could be the culprit, because it has the problem no matter what tank I’m on. I do have a timing light, so my adjustments should be fairly accurate. I think I will check the IAC, distributor cap and rotor next. Thanks for your suggestions, anything more would be greatly appreciated.

Definitely put a new cap and rotor on it.

Also if you didn’t jump across the terminals of the spout connector while setting the timing , your timing will be off enough to cause a problem with the engine operation.


Yosemite, my Haynes guide said to just remove it. Should I be doing something else?

Remove the spout connector to check/adjust ignition timing;

NOTE: When setting base timing, it is necessary to disconnect the SPOUT circuit. Failure to do so will result in an inaccurate base timing. There are two different types of SPOUT connectors used. The first type is a in-line connector and is simply disconnected for checking the timing. The second type has a shorting bar and the bar is removed from the connector to put the vehicle to base timing. Usually both connectors are located near the distributor refer to “COMPONENT LOCATION”.

I doubt the fuel filter would have been removed and replaced with an in-line connector. It’s got to be somewhere between where the lines for the two tanks meet up and the engine. It may take some sleuthing, the fuel filter on my Corolla is nearly impossible to see without first removing the air cleaner ass’y and associated duct work.

Heres a thing or 2 or 3 that should help;(I just watched "you nazty spy/the 3 stooges)FUNNY
The spout connector sits on the passenger side valve cover, just remove the plug & check the ignition timing.
The EEC-4 test connector is hanging at the end of it’s wires under the hood near the heater blower motor, this is where you plug in your scanner to test for trouble codes.
The high pressure external fuel pump is mounted to the frame rail below the drivers side floorboard
The fuel filter is between the fuel pump & engine approx. a foot away from the pump, yank the plastic tabs to remove it. Use the new tabs that come with the new filter.
The 1988 Ranger was the 1st year that had a check engine light/CEL on the dash. Your 87 does’nt have one. This means that you cant pull trouble codes using the CEL & the only way to know if there is a trouble code is to hook up your scanner & check.
There is a low oil level light on the dash, let the oil get a quart low & it will come on. Theres also a low oil pressure warning light on the dash, you don’t want to see that one ever.

And furthermore the 1st 1 min 20 seconds of “you natzy spy” shows that some things sadly never change.

You need to learn to do 3 quick and very simple tests anytime your Ranger isn’t running right

  1. Pull the codes, Pulling the codes with a 20 buck scanner is very simple, just follow the directions that come with the scanner. An Equus 3145 reads stores and displays the codes . With my Actron scanner I still have to count the flashes. If your truck had a CEL you could use it to pull the codes.
  2. Test with a vacuum gauge.
  3. Check fuel pressure.
    One of these quick and very simple tests should give you a good idea of what the problem is.

A couple quick examples, When my cruise control died a quick look at the factory wiring diagrams showed the speed signal came from the VSS/vehicle sensor. Another quick look at the Actron scanner manual told me the code for a defective speed sensor is 29. Hooked up the scanner & bingo it flashed a code 29.

when it was pinging & stalling off the line in 1st gear the scanner flashed a code 53 “TPS voltage too high”. A quick test of the TPS output voltage showed it jumping all over the place. I’m surprised the computer didn’t have a nervous breakdown.

Nows the time to add some very handy tools to your auto repair tool chest.

Don’t forget a $10 DVM (Voltmeter), for diagnosing electrical problems.

I agree that a DMM is a good tool to have

But I’d advise spending more than $10 :wink:

Yep, the DVM & if he can still find the 149 page factory wiring diagrams it will make his life MUCH easier when it comes to repairing electrical problems.

And don’t forget to google & watch the youtube version of “You natzy spy”.

Half the battle of fixing an electrical problem is understanding how the circuit works. A quick look at the factory wiring diagrams and understanding how the circuit works is easy.