Advice on used 95 Ford Ranger

I’m interested in purchasing a 1995 Ford Ranger 4x4 pickup with 145,000 miles on the original engine. It’s a 5 speed manual tranny. Owner says he had the transfer case rebuilt about 7 years ago. The turn-dial 4WD works, both high and low. Shifts in and out of 4WD quickly and smoothly. The engine is a V6 4.0 liter. There is a good sized dent in the right rear corner of the bed, above and behind the right wheel. It appears to be cosmetic. Owner says it was hit in a parking lot, and he never bothered to fix the dent because he wasn’t concerned about appearances. I drove it, and it seems to run really well. No major leaks, no rust, engine looks really clean. Under body is rust-free and looks solid. However, there was pretty noticeable vibration at speeds between 15-50 mph. The side mirrors and rearview mirrors bounced around quite a bit, and the shifter also vibrated noticeably. I’m wondering if anyone has advice on what might cause such vibration, and whether that’s something that my mechanic will be able to diagnose without taking it apart. Does anyone have experience with this make/model/year vehicle, and whether there are known maintenance issues I should know about. Timing belts? Transmission problems? Engine problems? Etc. He’s asking $2,500 for the truck, which includes a topper and bedliner. My insurance company is prepared to settle on Monday, leaving me without a vehicle as of Tuesday. I may need to move fast on this, so any advice ya’ll can give ASAP would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks so much Car Talkers!

Remember to get it checked out by a mechanic. It’s almost 15 years old, so it may have quite a few problems.

Sounds good from here but,

check compression to learn about the engine.
Check axle fluids for signs of metal shavings.
check axles for signs of slack or bearing wear.
don’t worry about looks either.

My 92 Explorer (140000 m ) is for sale too and just ‘‘feels old’’ despite every thing mechanical being in perfect working order.
Rubber bushings that once had good give and shock absorbtion properties are now old and hard, transmitting more vibrations than when they were new.
You could go broke guessing and replacing ; body, transmission,& engine mounts, spring, shock & axle bushings, etc etc etc.

Your choice in buying a mechanicaly sound old truck if you can live with the aesthetics.

You should probably plan some shop time. It should be able to be diagnosed without tearing it apart. Do yourself a favor and have it inspected before purchase, to avoid any big ticket items, and as a suggestion pick a shop that has 4 wheel alignment capability just in case it is a bent frame causing the vibration, as tehy will be able to check it. Either way it sounds like your going to have to put a little money into it. Sounds high in price to me, did you find comparable vehicles for pricing?

I’m going to have my mechanic look at it, but he’s only going to drive it, put it on the lift and give it a visual inspection on the drive train. I’m not worried at all about aesthetics, my only concern is buying a high-mileage, 15-year old vehicle that may die in six months leaving me in worse shape than when I started. I’m mainly looking for advice from Ford Ranger enthusiasts and/or mechanics with knowledge of this pickup for advice on specific, known issues I should point my mechanic to. The seller is a very nice, and in my opinion, honest guy. This is a small town, so he’s not likely to burn me on a known issue because it would get back to him. But if readers know of specific issues with this model…again, timing belt, bearings, engine, tranny, etc., I’d love to hear about it now! Thanks so much everybody.

Where I live, everything is high priced. The one advantage is road salt and rust isn’t an issue here. The price is actually pretty decent for my location assuming the thing isn’t a total lemon. Again, I do intend to have a mechanic inspect it before I purchase it, and the guy taking a look at it comes highly recommended from my personal mechanic, who is too busy to do it on short notice.

Anybody else have thoughts on this? I’m really hoping for as much good advice as I can get before Monday, when I take it into the shop. Have a wonderful and Merry Christmas everyone. Thanks again to this community for all the great advice. This is where the Internet shines, in my book. Empowering communities to help each other out. Thanks for everything.

1990 through 2001 the 4.0 L ( vin X ) is a pushrod / timing chain engine. Few specific problems at my Ford dealer all those years. Zero problems on my 92 except for some age related leaks of rear main ( not yet repaired, only seeping )and valve cover gaskets.
Check the drained oil for shavings but if a compression check is good I think you’re ok.

The weakest link in the 4x4 system was the automatic locking hubs. An un-practiced driver could easily slam and strip the internal gears. When selecting 4x4, one should ease forward counting to about three, ( one, two, three, go ) before tromping on the accelerator. This gives time for the transfer case to engage and the front axle to spin the hubs into locked. If you’re too quick on the accelerator there, the fast spinning axles slam the the gears into each other substantially shortening the life of, what are now $350.00 each hubs.

Put the truck on a hoist and check the 4x4 that way.

( pre-knowing this in 1992, I have never replaced a hub on my Explorer that I still own. )

It has exceeded its design limits and should be priced at $1,400 or less, due to obvious, possibly hard to fix problems. You should remove the topper and bed liner anyway. That cap won’t help the fuel economy. If you have no road salt and you want a 4WD, you may be planning to go off road. I believe that model of pickup will tip over if you are not extremely careful.

So I took the 95 Ford Ranger to a tranny shop. The vibration I was concerned about is a misfiring cylinder. I talked to the owner who said he NEVER had the plugs and wires replaced since he’s owned it…about 7 or 8 years…so I’m hoping that’s the problem and thus not too expensive. They said the tranny fluid needs to be flushed and the rear differential needs servicing. I’m already in for $30 for the tranny shop diagnoses, and I’ll be in for at least another $75 for the engine diagnoses. Plus the cost of plugs and wires, plus the cost of the tranny flush and the rear differential. I’m guessing I’ll be in for a total of about $300 in maintenance repairs if I decide to buy it. I’ll certainly tell the owner I want to take the cost of the repairs off the price of the truck if I buy it. Is that fair? I’ve never bought a truck from a private party, so I’m not sure what the proper protocol is here. It seems to me that he advertised the truck as a functional vehicle and wasn’t aware and/or didn’t disclose the issues that needed to be addressed with the engine/differential/tranny fluid. The tranny shop guy said other than the issues mentioned above, the truck is in great shape with no rust, no major leaks, etc. Assuming the engine misfire is a minor issue that can be resolved without too much cost, it seems like it would be a great truck for my purposes.

Knowing all of those details, can I get some more advice from readers about how I should proceed? Like I said, I’ve never bought from a private party before, so this is new territory for me. The seller is a very nice guy who lives and works in my neighborhood and drinks beers at my local brewery, so he has to be a pretty good guy! However, I want to make sure I’m doing my level best to avoid getting ripped off, and your help would be appreciated.

Thanks so much.


Have I exhausted the goodwill of the Car Talk community? I should hear back today about the engine issue detailed above. I’d still appreciate any other advice ya’ll might have before I make a decision on this truck. Oh how I wish my local public radio station didn’t bag Car Talk! I’d love to call Tom and Ray myself but I wouldn’t get to hear their answer. Thanks again in advance to anyone else who is willing to chime in with some advice. Happy New Year!