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Replace engine on 96 Ranger? (yes, the engine question again)

1996 2WD Ranger that I’ve had since 1998 and has been a good truck. I like having my vehicle paid off. I like paying $35/year ad valorum. That’s basically the cost of manufacturing a license tag and not much more. I need a truck occasionally to haul my dogs, but not most of the time, so a small truck is a good compromise.

A couple of weeks ago, the oil pressure indicator started flopping around like a fish on dry land. I took it to my mechanic, whom I trust since he has occasionally directed me to people who can do work cheaper than he can. He put a mechanical gauge on it and determined that the oil pressure is actually fluctuating, it isn’t just a bad sensor. So far, no lifter noises though. He says there’s a leak somewhere and to find it will require pulling the engine to get the oil pan loose since most of the stuff that might leak is inside there. Since the engine has 200,000 miles on it, he says I might as well get a new engine. That’s in the range of $2500 to $4000 depending on whether I get a remanufactured one or a new one. Remannufactured has a three year warranty.

So I’ve been trying to decide whether to replace the engine or just get a new truck. Toyota and Nissan have incentives right now that make new vehicles competitive with recent used ones. But I’d really like to get a few more years out of this one. I’ll be applying for tenure and promotion next year, and a raise comes along with that, which makes a new one more achievable. Of course, the incentives will go away by then.

I figure $4000 is pretty close to what I would be spending on payments on a new one in a year, so from that point of view a single $4000 expense makes sense over one that will last for 5 years. On the other hand, the transmission has had a slow leak for the last ~80,000 miles. The transmission guy (recommended by my guy) told me I’d be better off living with it and just topping up the fluid, which I’ve had to do about every 6 months for the last 7 or 8 years. It seems to be stable . . . but it IS a leak, and the transmission does also have 200,000 miles on it too.

You see the dilemma. I was really hoping for another 2 or 3 years out of this truck, let’s say until I get a raise and the stepson is out of his residency and raking in the bucks as an orthopedic surgeon (with no student debt to pay back!). I could swing a new one but it would definitely put a crimp in the family budget. Meanwhile I’m driving it sparingly until the sound of bad lifters forces a decision.

Thanks, all!

I understand your situation. I assume that you are under the gun as far as time is concerned to publish, bring in grant funding, and be extraordinary in the classroom. Forty years ago when I was going for tenure, there wasn’t as much pressure to publish and I had a little time to keep my old car roadworthy. However, the last years of my career (I retired a year ago) were quite demanding and I had little time to worry about a car. I was chair of my department and college promotion and tenure committees in my last years of my career and saw the demands placed on new faculty. I kept up my scholarly work because I didn’t think it fair to ask new faculty to do things that I wouldn’t do.
With a 16 year old truck, I don’t think an engine transplant makes sense. The transmission may be the next problem. You haven’t said anything about the condition of the body and chassis. Is there a rust issue? My suggestion is that since your Ranger is still running, keep your eyes and ears open for a good used vehicle. You are on a college campus. There may be a colleague going on leave who needs to dispose of a vehicle that is still serviceable. There may be an international student who is graduating and needs to sell a car. This may be the way to maximize the time you have to get yourself tenured and to minimize the cost.

My initial reaction is that that’s a lot to spend on a 16-year-old car with a known transmission issue. How is the rest of the car? Is there any rust? Is anything else that’s expensive that’s acting up?

Has anyone looked into replacing the oil pump. I use to have a Chevy Luv pickup that had a oil pressure problem. I pulled the pan and found some crud in the screen for the oil pickup. Once I cleaned it out and then cleaned the pan. Added fresh oil…the pressure was right up to normal.

It might be worth dropping the pan. And where is the oil pump located on this truck???

If you just want to keep it a couple more years…it night be worth looking into. That’s going to cost a lot less then $2000.

Ask you mechanic if he can do a colonoscopy on the crankcase. Early 90s Rangers and F-pickups had some problems with oil pick up screens getting blocked with a gravel like material that was apparently ash from oil. It may not be too late to clean the pan out if that is the problem.

It ALL depends on the rest of the truck.
After spending the 2500.00 do you end up with a good used truck ?
If so, do the transplant.
If you could foresee a money pit, stop right now.

I agree with the drop the pan and see what it looks like idea. that is worth the investment, if it saves the truck for another day… Otherwise, I would look on ebay and CL for a wrecked ranger and get the whole drive line + extra parts if you plan on keeping the truck. That is your cheapest out, and will be the most bang for the buck. I was all in on fixing it, untill I read that it thas 200K and the original trans which is probably on borrowed time at this point… Maybe look for a good used truck… PS the Ford dealer by me is selling his left over Brand New Rangers cheap… Maybe this is an idea as well.

Fast feedback!

No, there’s no rust issue. In fact, the body and chassis are in very good condition. There are no problems other than the oil pressure and the slowly leaking transmission.

The oil pump is located inside the oil pan which can’t be removed without removing the engine, according to my mechanic. I did have a gasket replacement several years ago where he just loosened the engine, but that requires a lot less clearance than a pump.

The transmission is the only thing that really puts me on the fence. That could be another 3 or 4 K in a couple of years.

What an interesting idea about another Ranger. I just checked a couple of local dealers and they do have a handful of 2011’s still at $17-19K.

The engine can be raised a few inches and propped up to give clearance to pull the pan if the screen is blocked.

I think that your best course of action may be the following:

  1. see if someone can raise the engine enough to remove the oil pan. If the oil pump screen is clogged, have it cleaned, reassemble the engine and hope the for best.

  2. negotiate for a leftover 2011 Ranger if action 1 does not solve the problem.

I wouldn’t worry about the fact that the initiatives on Nissan and Toyota trucks will be gone in 2 or 3 years. The companies will invent some new financial initiatives by then.

Both Rod and Triedaq is right the oil pan can be dropped with the motor in… Its not axactly fun, as it does need to be unbolted from its mounts and jacked up by the front pully so it tilts back… In some cases you need to pull the trans mount as well so the tail of the trans can tillt down… Still much easyer then pulling the whole motor, they just did this job on our shop managers f-150… It was not pritty, but they got it done in a few hours.

I found this online (I have not tried it), looks like its even more of PIA on a ranger but it can be done… Apparently

  1. You didn’t have to drain your coolant.
  2. Drain Oil only.
  3. Loosen oil pan, get new gasket.
  4. Remove 4 engine mount bolts.
  5. Jack engine to maximum height.
  6. This is the tricky part but easy…
  7. Remove 2 front chassis mount bolts and the 2 under the carpet inside the cab…4 bolts only.
  8. With a 2nd jack and something sturdy ( I used 24inches of 2" pike) or 2x4 or 4x4 will do.
  9. Find a center-point up front and jack vehicle body away from chassis…you should see body rising from bolts…continue until desire height achieved.
  10. 1st jack, continue to jack the engine and trans to correct height.
  11. replace your pump.
  12. Reinstall…REVERSE order…EASY…
  13. IMPACT Drill makes it sooooo easy.
  14. Troubleshooting: Were there many metal chips in oil pan base? If Yes, then it was not your Oil pump…IT’S your DISTRIBUTOR DRIVE SHAFT/GEAR THAT’S DRIVE YOUR OIL PUMP. THE camshaft turns this GEAR…THIS CAN BE EASILY REPLACE FROM THE ENGINE TOP.

If you dont want to have the oil pump looked at. Being the body is good shape. What I would do is buy a reman engine and trans. If you look you should be able buy the trans for less than a grand ($500-$800 is what I can get for). Talk your guy in to a deal for replacing both at the time. Now you have a truck thats good for 200,000 or more miles. Remember no mater what you buy you will all way’s have replace things like brakes,shocks and tires. You get it all done under $4000 what a deal.

Oldbodyman: That might be the way to go. Since the transmission is what’s worrying me, see if I can get a deal on replacing both.

I’ll see if I can get them to check the screen. Then go from there. Thanks, everyone!