1994 Ford Ranger - to buy or not to buy?
December 1, 2009 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Should I buy a V6 4WD 1994 Ford Ranger Splash ExtCab for mostly weekend light hauling and off road use? I mostly want to know about reliability and modifiability.

The truck has 160,000 miles on it, but looks like it's in really good shape (which may just be a liberal application of Foamy Engine Brite). Less than normal interior wear, but a pretty clean engine compartment. I'll get a good idea of the mechanicals tomorrow when I drive it and crawl underneath.

I don't know yet whether it has the 3.0L or 4.0L V6, but it's definitely a V6. I've heard the 3.0L is a bit gutless, but I'm not too worried about that since it's just a weekend vehicle.

Mostly I'll be using it for offroading in the desert and trips to Lowe's. So what I'm first of all interested in is what kind of reputation that year/model has for reliability. I live in Las Vegas, so it would be nice to know if they're prone to overheating when it's 120 outside and the truck is idling for a while.

And second I want to know if anyone has ever lifted one? (I'd be doing 4 or 5 inch suspension and probably 2" body - along with adding at least a rear locker and lower gears.) I'm not going to be doing rock crawling in an IFS truck, but I at least want some good capabilities off road.

I've been looking through the few Ranger specific forums I can find, and haven't come up with any really useful information. Some people have lifted them, but no one seems to be talking much about reliability.

I've been able to find lift kits, but haven't yet dug up anyone selling gear sets or lockers.

Please let me know what you can about the truck. Especially as it relates to being useful as an offroad vehicle. (And no, can't do a Jeep - needs to be a pickup. This is also attractive because I can buy it outright and never have to worry about financing.)
posted by krisak to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
I had a '93 Ranger, and it wasn't a bad truck. Certainly better than an S-10. But in my view, if you want a compact pickup for off-road driving, you want a Toyota or Nissan.
posted by box at 6:57 PM on December 1, 2009

value looks good when I checked NADA. I used to be auto insurance adjuster and at a glance it doesn't look like a car I'd total for nothing.

I have always been suspicious of the lightest model domestic trucks because they are either a) low-priority consumer (as compared to contractors and other high-priority buyers) trucks or b) fleet vehicles, so the buyer is getting a zillion of them for bulk pricing. either way, doesn't bode well for quality, imho.

are there no similar-condition/vintage nipponese trucks available thereabouts? that'd be my choice, but be sure it's really nipponese, not just badged domestic (mazda=ford since mid 1990s, isuzu=gm since late 90s I think).
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:57 PM on December 1, 2009

Well, the other alternative I'd be interested in is a Tacoma from the same era. The problem with that is that those hold their value unreasonably highly. The Ranger is pretty cheap as compared to a comparable Tacoma. The 4WD Tacomas are also extremely difficult to find used out here.


I've owned two Tacomas, a '98 (wrecked), and a '06 (DCab V6 - more truck than I want). They were great trucks. This just happens to be a good price and at the right time.
posted by krisak at 7:11 PM on December 1, 2009

I would learn all I can from the forums; they are the true font of information.

I will say this: Ford vehicles can be kind of boring, but they are well-known and you can find all kinds of great parts at salvage yards. I'm not a truck guy but my wife has a Taurus that is still running incredibly strong at 120,000 miles and my two sons each drive a mid-90s Escort and they are also very reliable.
posted by Doohickie at 7:15 PM on December 1, 2009

I have a 2001 ext cab Ranger with 134,000 on it. SHe is very reliable. My mechanic has offered to buy it several times. My daughter wants it for when she can drive. It has a light rear end, so the few times I have taken it off road or when I am in the mountains with lots of snow, the truck has bounced around and lost some traction. I do not know anything about lifting it, but it would look sweet. My a/c died several years ago and was too costly for me to repair. Might be an issue in the heat of Vegas. It rides best with a load in the back or about 50-100 lbs of ballast over the rear wheels.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:22 PM on December 1, 2009

Had a 92 ranger 4x4 with the 4 cylinder it was definitely "gutless" but it ran and ran and ran sold it to a neighbor in 99 when it had over 200k he's still driving it. Mother in law had an 87 ranger it had well of 300k on it when she got rid of it. Did some off road with the 92 ranger and towed a few trailers that I shouldn't have towed with it. I found myself putting it in low range most of the time for climbing any kind of hill. The truck was severely underpowered. Nice truck no major maintenance problems it was the XLT the interior was rather comfortable on the road. However it could not pull the larger hills on the interstate at 70 without getting a good run for it. I'd say go for it if you can get it for a good price.
posted by jmsta at 8:54 PM on December 1, 2009

I had a 93, 4 liter Ranger and it was fantastic for general use. I carried many motorcycles and various other items all the time. I also moved across the country in it with no issues. It was 2wd and I didn't take it off-road so I can't give any feedback on that, but it was still running fine when I got rid of it with 240k miles on it.

The one recurring issue I had with it was the clutch slave cylinder died 3 times. To replace it you have to drop the transmission which is a fairly big job. Other than that it was bulletproof.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 8:55 PM on December 1, 2009

Cool, thanks for the tips. I'll go look at it today and see what happens.
posted by krisak at 10:34 AM on December 2, 2009

I had a '98 Ranger with a four cylinder, five-speed manual trans and it hauled a sailboat from Raleigh to Alabama with no problems; even over the mountains.
posted by NoMich at 6:17 PM on December 2, 2009

This is a couple days late, but here you go - I've owned two rangers, a 96 4 cylinder (2wd) and a 92 6 cyl (4wd), both with manual transmissions. The 96 really was underpowered and generally a piece of fragile crap - It had no real power, and the electrical system had all sorts of problems. I eventually just junked it and switched to my brother's 92 ranger. The 92 was awesome, and I miss it. I sold it recently with 270,000 miles when we moved. Had to put in a new transmission at about 250,000.
posted by WowLookStars at 7:11 AM on December 12, 2009

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