By on February 28, 2014


Thanks for your recent article about buying auto parts.

I recently bought a well used ’95 F-150 with the venerable 302 and Mazda five-speed.
When I say well used, I mean the engine has about 253,000 on the clock and sounds like it is on its last legs. I’m pretty sure I can hear the jugs rattling in the cylinders when I first fire it up, the idle hunts all over the place and it has about as much power as the Ukrainian president.
I’d like to put a new mill in it. The previous owner spent a lot of time and money doing everything but engine work. Where’s a good place to start looking for a used motor, or should I spill the coin to have this tired old unit rebuilt?

Steve Says:

I wouldn’t be sold on replacing the engine just yet.

For some reason, old Fords tend to have more idling issues than any other manufacturer I see at the auctions. They can be a pain to track down, but that that doesn’t necessarily mean that the engine is on it’s last legs.  It just means that you or your mechanic is going to have fun tracking down vacuum hoses and a long, long line of other diagnostic possibilities. If you want to do this yourself I would strongly recommend buying up the Alldata information for your F150.

As for the start-up noise, that can be a variety of things. However if the timing chain and guides haven’t been replaced at this point, that may very well be your noise at start-up. I see a lot of Explorers, Rangers and F150s with this issue, and it can require the removal of the engine in order to properly replace the chain and guides.

Let’s assume for now that you have a truck that now drinks, smokes and hangs out with the bad boys. If your engine is as wore out as an old mop then you definitely need to take a tour through the automotive scenery of the nearby auto recycling centers.

First go to Since the 5.0 Liter V8 was only offered for two years on the F150, you will only have about 1000 of them to choose from. The going price will be around $500. However, I would strongly advise that you buy a new water pump, a chain and guide replacement set, and take the time to replace any hoses that may be in need of attention. Especially in those areas where hoses can be near impossible to reach.

This engine is easy to install but time consuming. Would I rebuild it? Not unless you have the time and some serious achievements when it comes to DIY work. You can get a nice rebuild done that would give you more power. But you are looking at north of $1500 for it to be done right.

I prefer durability upgrades (a.k.a. relying on enthusiast forums for guidance and getting a transmission cooler) and stock engines instead of mods when it comes to older trucks. There also may be an opportunity to get the VIN number for the engine that interests you online and find out if it was regularly serviced at the dealership through a Carfax history. Ones that have been serviced at the dealerships will at least be given a quality oil filter and the recommended oil weight. Although with an older vehicle this information gets to be a bit scanty.



Good luck!



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40 Comments on “New or Used? : I Loves My Truck...”

  • avatar

    The (original) 5.0 was offered for more than 2 yrs in the F-150. However, if you can find one from an Explorer or Mountaineer than that’d be better. Those had better flowing heads and a few other minor upgrades, the last of that venerable Ford motor.

    • 0 avatar

      This. The 302 was available at least from 1980->1996 (pre-facelift), as was the bulletproof 300 cid I-6.

      They’re nearly ubiquitous, so a replacement motor makes sense for me.

      • 0 avatar

        1980-2004 there’s plenty
        2.seafoam the oil gas tank and pour the remainder down a working vacuum line.
        3 replace iac and maf and all hoses
        4 if still not running good after a couple hundred miles have your local ford guy pick out a boneyard motor and swap it in with the above parts should set you back a total of 700-850

        • 0 avatar
          Steven Lang

          Click on the link in the response. His particular version of the 5.0 Liter was a two year deal unless you want to modify something else under the hood.

          • 0 avatar

            He has the MAF roller 302 iirc. Doesn’t really matter what 302 he puts in the maf computers don’t care. The engine internals are nearly identical minus the roller cam stuff. Most of the previous blocks have the bosses and just need to be drilled to hold the dog bone for the rollers.

            The MAF computer doesn’t really care what engine it has. So if he keeps all the bolt on and uses any efi engine he shouldn’t have much problems.

          • 0 avatar

            theyll all work why ford did this? who knows…probably had a bunch laying around grew up down the road from the foundry and factory…lotsa crazy stories out of those guys ..but nothing close to down the road at the chrsyler factory

          • 0 avatar

            You don’t have to modify anything under the hood, just put the accessories from the old engine on the new engine things that probably won’t even be on the new engine anyway.

            Also the 302/5.0 doesn’t have guides on the timing chain and you absolutely don’t have to take the engine out to replace the chain.

  • avatar

    If you’re going to put in a new engine, and IF you don’t plan on doing a lot of towing, consider finding Ford’s 300 CI online 6. Smooth, awesome torque, and works well with the Mazda 5-speed. My father had an F-150 with that drivetrain and it was awesome.

    • 0 avatar

      Shes real fine my 4.9…. Wait, did I mess those lyrics up?

    • 0 avatar

      I always thought the 300 made a good tow motor because of the torque. My father in law had one in a ’95 Econoline that would pull a house.

      • 0 avatar

        I towed my father’s boat with that drivetrain in an F-150. Did a very serviceable job, but was a hair weak on steep grades. That six was a great everyday motor though. I miss it.

    • 0 avatar

      Too much work to swap in a straight 6. You’d need the engine wiring harness and pcm along with all accessories such as power steering pump and lines, alternator, smog pump, exhaust, and ac if equipped. Plus head gasket failure is common on high mileage 4.9s. Get a 5.0 and be done with it.

    • 0 avatar

      A 300 swap would be difficult, but if you can do it, I’d say it’s worth it. I have it in my 1995 F150 Flareside, and it’s one heck of an engine. It’s the base engine, but to me the 302 seemed like a downgrade.

      Now, if you’re working your truck like I do mine, the 300 is perfect. For daily driving, though, a 302 is good enough.

      Ford didn’t really offer any bad engines in the 9th generation F150.

      • 0 avatar

        gotta love timing gears …no chain no belt and a 7 bolt main…pretty much indestructible

        • 0 avatar

          They were unkillable, except for mine. My 1995 had a nylon timing gear, which went out on me. I was only a couple of miles from home, so a chain and my 1987 Chevrolet C10 was all that was needed.

          Still, though, I’d argue that the Ford 300 was one of the best engines ever offered in any truck.

    • 0 avatar

      (OP here)

      You know, I already had an ’82 with the 300 and NP435. I bought this one thinking I might drop in the drivetrain from the ’82, but decided that was above my paygrade. I like the big six, but I’ve had good luck previous 302s, too.

  • avatar

    The 5.0L 302cui engine was offered for many years in many differant vehicles. What you have to watch out for is the firing order. In 1994 the firing order was changed to the same firing order as the 351w. Some of the older High Output 302’s used the 351w firing order much earlier than that.

    I would recommend that you hit up the ford truck forums and do a lot of reading. There is a load of info out there about swapping engines and what exactly can and can’t be done with these old trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      I forgot about that. Good catch. I hate when ford does things like that. Then again i only own a 351w so i don’t worry about it.

      They also changed the fly wheel weight at some point. Forget when that was.

  • avatar

    I was gonna say. The F-150 walks virtually hand-in-hand with the 302, and you can find one easy as rollin’ outta bed. Replace it. That’s what you’d be doing anyway.

  • avatar

    Before spending any money on the truck, do a compression test and a leak down test to see if the motor has any issues.

    Makes me wonder if the “hunting” at idle is caused by a loose timing chain or guides, I’ve seen that on other engines.

    Next I would look into the fuel injection side of things, as a rough idle is more indicative of a sensor issue then a wore out engine. I had a completely wore out 223 Ford that idled beautifully.

    As mentioned above, a 5.0 out of a Exploder might be a good option, helps that Ford made a ton of them.

    • 0 avatar

      OP here. Thanks for all that. Someone else mentioned an idler motor or some such. I’ve got a budget of $400 – over that, and I start socking it away for car-part.

      • 0 avatar

        Love those mid-90s F-series!

        For $400, you’re not going to be able to do much beyond a DIY timing chain job and some seafoam.

        If it were me, I’d find another fairly clean 5.0 (block and heads is all you need), and rebuild it. Budget a couple hundred for machine work, and another couple hundred for a rebuild kit. While not as cheap as an SBC, Ford 302s are common as dog exhaust, and you should have no trouble finding everything fairly inexpensive.

        But to do anything truly meaningful, you really will need more than $400.

        • 0 avatar

          +1 just for saying “dog exhaust”

          Seriously though, I agree. For not too much, you could probably pick up a 302 with fewer miles than yours. Plus, it’s out of your truck, so you can limp the truck along until you’re ready to swap. Projects for me always seem to take way longer than I budgeted!

  • avatar

    The 5.0 V8’s were probably one of the most commonly used motors in that generation of F150, and probably in the two or three before that. Throw a rock at a salvage yard and you’ll probably hit one or two.

    Another thing to check on the idle issue is the idle air control valve. It’s a solenoid operated valve that’s probably bolted to the top of your throttle body. They get gunked up over time, so if it’s never been touched it probably needs a good cleaning. Carb cleaner works well for this.

  • avatar

    I’d have to ask myself how the rest of the truck is. Is the body rusted? Upholstery worn out? Paint shot?

    If all those things are in play, indeed it may be time to jack up the radiator cap and replace everything underneath. If not, then a replacement motor from your friendly boneyard may just be the ticket to a couple three more years out of it, especially if your engine really is ready for a dirt nap.

    In any event, whatever you do, happy haulin’!

  • avatar

    Head over to ford truck enthusiasts they can help you with your truck and figuring out what is wrong with it. Post in the engine forums not the generation forums ( they suck for these years ).

  • avatar

    I had an 89 Lincoln with the 5.0L.

    For the two or so years I drove it, the engine ran “well” enough, I suppose.

    Every few full tanks or so, I would be about half a quart or so, low. It would make that sound, which, I could tell when it was getting slightly lower on oil.

    I knew another gentleman who had a Country Squire wagon, which he loved, but commented that he would have to add oil, as well.

    This gentleman, a skilled diesel mechanic, claimed that the 5.0L Ford “used” oil… but did NOT burn it. He said that was common with the engine and I believe he went so far as to say it was designed that way.

    I always disagreed with that notion, nor did I want any car that “USED” oil. It just didn’t seem right to me. Why/how could it use oil if there was not a design flaw or something wrong internally with the motor itself?

  • avatar

    Forget stock, if you’ve got the time, money and inclination, I’d go for MOAR POWAR!

    (Sorry I’ll go back to reading Mustang’s and Fast Fords now.)

  • avatar

    Compare a remanufactured engine costs plus tranny overhaul, suspension repair, radiator and engine and drive train components with the cost of a suitable low mileage PU.
    Nice looking and well cared for truck but compare costs.

  • avatar

    I would try hunting down and replacing dried-out vaccuum lines and performing a full tune-up first, it’s amazing how much of a difference that made for my ’96 Bronco. (Air filter, plugs, wires, cap & rotor, PCV valve, fuel filter and check timing). Most 302s will make it to 300k miles if they’ve been somewhat well cared for. I suspect if nothing else this will buy you enough time to research engine replacement options.

  • avatar

    I had similar rough idle issues with two Fords I owned (an ’89 and ’96 Taurus). The problem was resolved by replacing the DPFE sensor and EGR Valve.

  • avatar

    I’m betting a timing chain, new rings and gaskets and a good overall tune-up may be all it needs (but all that is still an expensive project). My own 1990 has similar issues on top of a decided disability to shift at the best shift points and doesn’t know how to downshift unless you floor it. I’d expect a $750-$1500 outlay to get it running smoothly unless you do the work yourself.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The first engine I would look at is a Coyote based supercharged 5 litre Miami engine. We use them in our GT Falcon’s in Australia.

    The second engine would be a FPV (Ford Performance Vehicle) 4 litre in line turbo six from a Ford Falcon.

    Each one of those engines should liven up the old truck.

    If you want to go diesel, ring someone you would know at Ford and see if you can get hold of one of those 3.2 5 cylinder, Duratorque’s that will shoved be into your US Transits.

  • avatar

    Check the shift rail plugs. New steel plugs, staked and epoxied, is good insurance. Easy to get to by removing the trans tunnel sheet metal.

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