Reader Question: Replacing Old Ranger Engine With Newer Ranger Engine?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Dillon asks: I caught your piece the other day about the new Ranger and have a question about my (old) one. Can I replace my 2000 Ford Ranger’s 2.5 liter engine with a 2.3 liter engine from an ’09? Will it fit? Both vehicles are from 4X2 automatic pickups.

My reply: Physically, the swap is doable. The question is how much effort – and money – you are willing to put into it. In addition to the 2.3 engine, you’d need a 2.3 liter ECU to go with it as well as a 2.3 transmission (automatic) since the 2.3 will likely not work with the transmission you have, especially if it’s a manual (because Ford hasn’t offered a manual with the 2.3 engine in a RWD configuration). This assumes everything would bolt up, which it probably won’t. You would likely need to fabricate a number of parts.

My recommendation is to either rebuild the factory 2.5 engine or buy a good used/rebuilt one. It will be much cheaper – and much easier. If you want more power, find a 4.0 V6 and go with that; it will bolt up because your 2000 Ranger was available with that engine from the factory.

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  1. Either way is a pain. There are other options, but they are various amounts of pain. You might consider the Vulcan 3.0 V6, or if you’re going for lots of power look for a 96-2000 Explorer with the GT40P 302 (5.0 in commie units). The Explorer and Ranger are actually very similar and that’s not much worse of a swap than a 4.0 and requires the same transmission swap and computer and harness swaps.

    If you want to go with the newer 2.3 engine, you’re going to start with a FACTORY service manual set for both your 2000 and the 2009, especially the wiring and vacuum (EVTM) manuals. Be prepared to swap computers and engine harnesses at a minimum, and be prepared to do some research to get the connections from the body harness/computer(s) to work with the newer engine/older trans. Some ingenuity will be required, sometimes I have taken solenoid assemblies and steppers which aren’t found on an older engine and left them in place as dummies to keep the computer/OBD happy or at least not actively antagonistic.

    If you go for a 4.0 in either OHV or SOHC flavor, you will gain a lot more power and torque, but the bell housing will be different and your trans will have to be swapped from the 2.5 one to a 4.0 one. I don’t like the 4.0, the SOHC is a grenade with bicycle chains for cam timing, and the 4.0 OHV is prone to head cracking and valve seat recession.

    If you want to go SMALLER consider swapping in an older 2.3 dual plug version of your 2.5- you might be able to bolt it in and change sensors and run it. You will lose a little power, but it is a really good little (Mazda designed) engine.

    The ideal situation will be to find an entire wrecked donor vehicle to take everything you need off (don’t be in a hurry to get rid of the hulk in your driveway before you’re COMPLETELY done with the swap). Don’t ask me how I know;)

    Bear in mind that for anything newer than mid 1990’s car’s are designed to be cheaper to replace than to fix, and that your swap is going to cost you more than it’s worth (unless your time has no value, and sometimes even then).

    Been there, done that. Also, FWIW, Ranger’s with v6 and 4×4 are 40 lbs of crap in a 10lb sack, and VERY hard to work on.

    • I heard the 4.0 SOHC was bad, didn’t know the 4.0 OHV was bad too. I heard the Vulcan was better. But some of those still had head gasket problems, just like every other OHV engine of the 90s. I wanted a small, raised vehicle as a second car. I wanted a bench seat and at least a V6 so I was thinking about a Ranger. But you seem well versed in this subject and don’t seem too keen on them.

      • Sadly, I really like the Rangers. But I’ve been burned by most of Ford’s engines and transmissions in the last 25 years. The 302/5.0 was great, though it also has some limitations to be aware of. The 4’s are great but usually not available in a 4×4. They are all fine if well cared for and low mileage, but at my end of the pool neither is usually the case. And because of this, I’ve seen the worst of the failure points.

        An S10 with a 4.3 is a very sound option for a good little truck.

        • I also liked the idea of an S10/Sonoma, but others here have said they’re POSs too. My car mood changes frequently though. We’ll see what the mood is and what’s available when the time is right.


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