Piston Slap: A Lifted Lone Ranger?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap a lifted lone ranger

dane writes:

My 1999 Ford Ranger XLT is starting to come under some serious wear. I got it a while back and thought it was good enough, an upgrade considering my dog grew to be 70 lbs and didn’t fit into the back of my immaculate 1996 Acura Integra hatchback. I needed to upgrade in size so I did.

Now, this truck came with a few ridiculous caveats. With 140k on the clock, it’s starting to enter my personal danger zone for cars. Additionally, it had a big tow package on it, a 2 inch body lift and big 33” by 12.5” tires on it. Did I mention it has the smallest 3.0 V6? The previous owner did not regear the truck and therefore it’s a bit sluggish. Upon inspection of the truck after removing the bumpers, which were improperly re-installed after the body lift, it looks like whoever did the lift cut parts of the frame near the rear of the truck. It’s looking worse and worse.

Yesterday morning I went out to the truck to drive to work and my clutch went to the floor with little resistance. After driving it around a bit and looking under the hood, it looks like the slave cylinder for the clutch is leaking in on itself. It’s a hefty job since the entire housing to the transmission needs to come out to repair it, and my reputable mechanic told me he’d be worried about the rest of the clutch needing replacement based on the slave cylinder wearing out and mileage.

It may cost anywhere from $750 to $1200 to replace this on a truck that Blue Books at roughly $4500. I’m going to have to get the repairs in any case, but should I be looking to sell this thing after repair? If I had $3000 to purchase something big enough for the dog to be in, is it worth it to go through selling the truck or should I look more closely into fixing the imperfections (getting rid of the wheels/tires and lift, etc).

Seems like there’s not much out here on Craiglist in Oregon that isn’t just as bad as my truck, if not worse.

Sajeev answers:

Might you be suggesting that you’re a Lone Ranger in the Oregon car market? Considering this and the obvious wear items that come with a 10+ year old truck (with an aftermarket lift kit) you are in a tough quandary.

I would consider returning the truck to stock, posting a want ad on Craigslist asking for someone with a stock Ranger if they’d like all those goodies for the cost of the swap. There’s nothing better for fuel economy, durability, etc than a stock type of suspension on an older vehicle that sees frequent use. Your brakes, clutch, engine and your pocketbook will thank you for your effort.

Or maybe hit up the local junkyards and see if they’d like to do the honor. Odds are someone with a lot of land or a penchant for muddy fields would love those greasy bits. My point is, you got opportunities here.

At this age, at your budget, the old phrase “stick with your problems, don’t buy a new set of problems” comes to mind. I bought a 2011 Ranger and will keep it stock (ish) for a reason, to never be in your shoes. Ten years from now I suspect a new clutch/slave cylinder on my rig will be a rite of passage, not a fear that my truck isn’t worth the cash outlay. Do your best to return it back to stock. Odds are you will break if you find the right buyer-swapper for those parts, and save tons of cash on fuel and wear/tear in the long term.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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2 of 19 comments
  • Mopar4wd Mopar4wd on Nov 16, 2011

    Well I used to play with a lot of lifted trucks back in the day. My Toyauto ran a 2" body and 33's so I've dealt with similar issues. For my money if I had concerns over wear and tear and power I would just put the 33's on craigslist for trade or $250.00 that should net you a set of 31's in decent shape. That should bring the power into the correct range while still looking reasonable with the small lift. 33's on a 2" lift are a little tight on a ranger so you may want to check the suspension to see if they put a spacer over the leafs in back and up front there may be spacers over coils (or cranked torsion bars I don't remember the year they switched) These items tend to strain the drive line and things so I would remove them if I found em (unless I was using this as trail rig but it sounds like this is your main ride)Either way I would leave the body lift as really they don't tend to do harm, with shorter tires the COG really isn't that much higher as the frame engine and trans stay where they are. As to the frame the only frame work Ive seen done on body lifts is usually to the frame ends this is really only a concern in an accident. All in All I would keep it I personally secretly miss riding high in a little truck.

  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Nov 16, 2011

    As others have said, a stock truck kept in good mechanical condition can go over 200K miles easily, if not up to around 250K miles. I have an extended cab 92 Ranger with the manual tranny, though mine has the 4.0L pushrod motor and is 2WD though but still have the hydraulic clutch though it uses the Mazda sourced 5spd gearbox. So far I've had to replace the master and slave cylinders in my clutch, the clutch itself was replaced just before I bought it and it had about 200 miles on them, along with new front brakes, front wheel bearings and fresh oil in the tranny. That was in early 2006 and at the time, 189K miles on it and today, I have 235,800+ miles on it, roughly 45K in that length of time and outside of those 2 large bill repairs, that's been it outside of tires and new exhaust and oil changes and 2 sets of spark plugs/wires and it's been very reliable. I'd either replace your current lifted one with what looks to be a botched lift job for a relatively stock truck and you should get many years of use out of it, provided you keep up the maintenance yourself.

  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys for that money, it had better be built by people listening to ABBA
  • Abrar Very easy and understanding explanation about brake paint
  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.
  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?