Long time readers of this serial assault on english grammer trying to pass itself off as a blog will probably have noted a white pickup shaped blob in the background of more than a few garage photos. Well, what with gas prices low and the ’98 Ranger’s mere 92,000 odd odometer miles staring me in the face, it’s time to bring the Ranger outa the background. The aforementioned Ranger could and has passed as a work truck, thanks to it’s “fleet white” colors, short cab, long box, and once painted steel wheels with genuine “doggie dish” hubcaps, same as come on a Crown Vic Police Interceptor… Can’t get more “fleet” than that!

DSC_4785The downside of all these plain Jane work truck bits is that after 18 years in the rust belt, they’re more rust than paint. Rust is an odd and obscure malady in Rangers, seems that on the 2nd generation (and unfortunately the last our unfortunate USA market saw) Rangers the cabs and bed are pretty much immune to the tinworm while hidden away, the frames and critical mechanical bits like brake lines rust out.

DSC_1493That rusty frame passed the Toyota “ball peen hammer test” and has now been thoroughly doused in Rustoleum’s finest, and just about everything having to do with the brakes in the back half o’ the truck has been replaced. So with frame integrity insured for a few years at least and the Ranger’s big mechanical bits not even halfway through their generally acnowledged couple hundred thousand mile life, I commenced the Ranger reboot. Normally I don’t bother documenting such things, but if any of the folks from the NTEA Work Truck Show are still regular readers, this ones for you- The Ranger is typical of the vehicles that a lot of cash strapped fleets have laying about, and with a new replacement pricing out in the mid $20k range even at fleet prices, reworking the work truck is a good investment. I’m also going to be refitting the Ranger for it’s changed mission- When I bought it in 1997 the “work” was hauling building materials to rehab a 110 year old home, now the “work” is hauling whatever a one acre orchard needs and the odd “old iron” headed for preservation if not restoration.

Having made a “NAPA run” motivated by the current 20% off bucket sale, I restored function to all four settings on the heater fan switch by replacing the thoroughly rusted out collection of resistors used to sop up excess electrons and slow down said fan to less than Weather Service reportable velocities. Next up was replacing the original serpentine belt, original because of the difficulty of finding one that fits! I first picked up a spare on sale at Fleet Farm a decade or more ago, and when it didn’t fit suspected it was for a non air conditioned Ranger. NAPA got stumped on this one, producing a slightly too short belt also. Looking about the web, I found almost every aftermarket purveyor of parts listed the same too short 882 millimeter belt for this application. Then I wandered over to http://www.fordparts.com and found an 887 mm. belt listed, and in the discussions at fordforums.com an OEM Ford 891 mm. belt was mentioned. So off to my old faithful “internet free” small town very FLOPS with the old belt, Ford part number still visible. The old guru of the parts counter, speaking from a quarter century of experience as a Ford partsman, found a proper OEM replacement in their Sioux Falls warehouse… Picked it up next day and the Ranger finally has a new fan/alternator/power steering/AC compressor/etc. belt. Finished that ’bout 4 pm, and killed another hour before supper replacing the busted tailgate stay cable.

‘Tis plenty more to do- I don’t remember changing the antifreeze, so when I quit goofing off writing that’s probably up next. The Mobil 1 0W-30 oil is great for winter starting, but it’s been in the crankcase at least 5 years and 2,000 miles, so it probly should be replaced… Though the cheapskate in me says leave it ’til the scheduled oil change at 95k miles. Ford list no change interval for the automatic transmission and I did the transfer case per Ford’s recs at 60k miles, but noting the rust on the dipstick those fluids will be changed too.

And those rusty rims… Gotta go! I ground through the surface rust on the spare wheel in the picture which is the worst, and it goes deep. Wheels and tires are pressure vessels, and SOP now is to replace them every ten years for consumer grade ones. The tires were a gift from Ford to replace the suspect original Firestones, got plenty of tread but with 2001 date codes they gotta go… Ever see (and hear) a decade old steel belted radial’s rusty belts surrender with an explosion? So I’m combing Craig’s List and the local U-Pull salvage yards for wheels, might get lucky and find some usable tires on said wheels, otherwise it’s off to Costco for new “boots” for my “baby”. The rusty bumpers aren’t so critical, If I can’t find decent replacements I’ll strip and repaint ’em.

Well, better get back to work… That coolant refuses to change itself!