Piston Slap: Gently Tapping, Tapping at My Ranger's Door?

Dave writes:

Hi Sajeev,

This is the second question I’ve asked on here, and while I didn’t even follow the advice I received last time and here I am again! Last time I was asking about a sporty car, and I ended up getting a 2007 Ford Ranger, 2.3L, 5 speed, with all of 35,000 miles on it. It is a regular cab with nothing extra on it, a real throw back, manual windows, no AC, a nice basic truck with nothing to go wrong right?

Wrong.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Less is More…Enlightening?
Mark writes:

Sajeev,

We can’t let Jeep get away with what they have done to the (redesigned Jeep) Grand Cherokee’s face. This square-peg-in-a-round-hole approach just looks half-baked, lazy, and cheap. Even the choice of filler material used to fill the void is wrong in material, color and pattern.

In short, Jeep’s design team needs to be raked across the coals for destroying what was Chrysler’s best-looking vehicle on the market, and I think you are the man to do the raking.

Sajeev answers:

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Monday Mileage Midget: Vecchio Combustible Paradisio!

Today’s edition of Monday Mileage Midget is brought to you by the state of Florida.

Palm trees. Retirement communities. Traffic signals and double yellow lines that are treated as mere suggestions. Florida has become an economic juggernaut thanks in large part to cheap housing, plenty of sunshine, and legal loopholes that allow well deserving retirees and unethical douchebags to live on the cheap.

There is one other unusual reality benefit of living in Florida… low mileage cars.

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Super Piston Slap: NVH = Killing You With Kindness?

While Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) control built into a modern machine is normally your friend, it often kills you with kindness. That’s when NVH hides things that should never be hidden. Shameful. Cowardly. Pathetic. And while I wasn’t expecting this level of deceit when merely replacing the shift knob on the otherwise stock transmission in my 2011 Ford Ranger…well it was thrust upon me. And it can happen to you, too.

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Super Piston Slap: A Love Supreme, A Traveling DashMat

TTAC Commentator supremebrougham writes:

Hey Sajeev…

I just got done reading the Ranger piece on TTAC, and I decided that I want to ask you something. A few months ago I lost my Father, and last week my Mom gave me his ’03 Ranger to use as a trade for a new Escape.

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The Truth About Ford's Other Workhorses

Ford makes great full size trucks, but repeat after me: not everyone cares about the F-150. There’s more to being a Ford truck than what Toby Keith and Mike Rowe said. Listen up peeps: this is a story of having a growth and retention strategy for one product line, and an exit strategy for another.

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New or Used: Eliminate Debt, Eliminate Subie?

Ryan writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I find myself perplexed by a vehicular conundrum. A year ago I purchased my first new car, a 2010 Subaru WRX STI SE. It is a great car. Previously I daily drove a 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser. Another great car. I drive about 20,000 miles a year, mostly on the highway.

My wife and I both work. We contribute heavily to our 401K’s and IRA’s. About a month after I purchased the car my wife decided to go back to school, for an MBA. No problem. She now has a year left. For the year we will be setting aside just shy of $1000 per month to pay for her schooling. This leaves us saving very little over the next year. We have emergency funds to last a few months should the need arise. I want to eliminate debt as soon as possible (currently 2 car loans and a mortgage, nothing more).

My inner cheapskate has become uncomfortable with the nearly $1100 a month operating costs of my beloved STI. My inner car guy misses the Land Cruiser terribly. I’m without a truck. Replacing the STI with another 80 series Land Cruiser or Land Rover Discovery I do not save much money because of the fuel costs.

I am contemplating selling the STI, and picking up a truck and a commuter. The commuter would need to be somewhere around $10,000 or less. Cash for one vehicle, maybe a loan for the other. The ideal commuter would be more comfortable than the STI, get around 30 MPG, have four doors and possibly be all wheel drive (for ski trips). Cadillac CTS? Lexus something? Nothing soulless, please. I can turn a wrench and can maintain both vehicles no problem.

What say you? Do I keep the STI and buy a truck when I can? Sell the STI, buy the truck and commuter? If so, what kind do you suggest?

See the attached spreadsheet. ( Ryan’s Car choices)

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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.

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Ford Kills Historic Assembly Plant, Ranger RIP

According to many news sources, the historic Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota is headed for a not-so-grand finale. Come December 19th, the 86-year-old facility that originally built Model Ts will be history. Ironically, Twin Cities is currently making the T’s spiritual successor: the (somewhat iconic) Ford Ranger compact truck. So shall we, the collective group of automotive journalists, lament the loss of this famous nameplate from Ford’s storied past?

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Piston Slap: The Budget is Tight, the Ranger is Right?

Ryan writes:

I have a friend who just got her PhD and is moving to Texas for her post-doc. She has never owned a car, but now needs to get one so she can go out in the field to do research. I’ve agreed to help her find something used, probably a small manual-transmission pickup truck. Needless to say she’s not a car person at all, just wants something inexpensive (under 5k), that she won’t have to worry about too much. I’m recommending something after 96 or so, to get the R134A A/C and maybe a few more airbags and safety features.

I have owned a couple Nissans (Frontier and Rogue), and a Toyota Tacoma, and my brother owned a Nissan Frontier, all were mostly problem free. I also had a 91 Ford Explorer before that, which also gave me few problems up to 200k miles.

Given my experiences, I’ve been thinking Tacoma or Frontier for my friend, I think they will be more reliable at the high mileages she can afford. But looking in the local (Phoenix, AZ) Craigslist – By Owner section, I see that Tacomas are relatively more expensive, older Frontiers are cheaper but less common (many are also heavily modified), and there seem to be lots of less expensive Ford Rangers available.

Do you agree with the 96 or later idea? Or do you think something older could work? What about the Ranger’s reliability as opposed to the imports? Also, are there any other models with a proven track record she should consider? And finally, given that a 10+ year old truck with over 100k miles is going to need maintenance no matter what, what about parts availability and ease-of-maintenance between the brands?

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Piston Slap: The Grapes of Wrath, Revisited

A New Age?

Jeremy writes:

I would like to thank you for your website it is one of my primary sources for automotive information, I read new articles basically every day. And with that covered, this is for the most part a piston slap:

I currently own a 93 Ranger STX approx 108k on the 4.0L V6. I bought it used in about 2000. It has been a good truck and has served me well other than feeling quite sluggish and there being some slack in the transfer case (nothing abnormal from what I am told) It is in good shape and serves me well for driving around town and taking some miles off my 05 Focus ST.

I have been looking for and thinking about purchasing a used full size 1/2 ton pickup, so that I would have a truck more comfortable for road trips (I live 50 miles from the nearest 1000+ population town) and I would like to be able to lay 8’ panels flat. My current requirements are V8 (I need some pulling power for a boat, etc) anything other than a regular cab with an 8 foot box. Its tough to find such a machine being they end up so long and unwieldy. It would be in the garage more often than not and would be used more for the big jobs than anything.

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New or Used: I Know You. You Are Me.

TTAC commentator siggy writes:

Hello Sajeev and Steve,

I’m a big fan of TTAC’s Piston Slap column and I hope you can help me with a good recommendation. Currently, I have one car, a 1984 Mustang SVO. It has about 75k miles, and I’ve given it numerous upgrades. I love it, but it doesn’t have a heater or A/C, and the mileage is crap. On long freeway drives, I can get up to 25mpg, but the reality is my commute to work is 10 miles, and it’s all stop and go, sometimes bumper-to-bumper traffic. So I end up with about 15mpg. But, like I said, I love the car, so I will not be getting rid of it in the foreseeable future.

With gas at almost $4, and the way the SVO chugs the premium juice, I think it’s time to get a proper commuter. Not having A/C in the summer is a serious problem here in Orange County, so with spring and summer around the corner, I need to act on this now. Time for a beater!

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Piston Slap: Range(r) of Motion, OMGWTF Edition

TTAC Commentator 67dodgeman writes:

Sajeev, I have a question for the Piston Slap expert. My son drives my old ’99 Ford Ranger (extended cab, 4 cyl, manual, 2WD) with roughly 130,000 miles on the odometer. I had new tires put on 5 months back at the Firestone place. Then last week, the anti-lock brakes started acting up. As in heavily manipulating the pedal even during very light braking. I assumed the sensor was fried and pulled the fuse, after which everything worked normally. There was a slight ticking sound from the drive train, so I replaced U-joints. Still ticking, but no other obvious issues.

Then, Friday, the driver’s side rear tire and axle came loose. Luckily he was making a low speed U-turn and the last 6” of axle was still in the housing by time he stopped. We jacked the truck up, pushed the axle back in, and pushed it home (two blocks – very very lucky it happened there and not on I-45). I pulled the differential cover and immediately found the (bleeping) C-clip loose in the housing. The anti-lock sensor works off of teeth on the ring gear (just now figured that out), so I’m assuming that having about half the teeth ground off is the cause of the brake malfunction. The oil appeared original, had that burnt smell, and was full of grit. I’m now in the process of changing the whole assembly with a salvage yard spare due to the gear damage.

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Ford Replacing Ranger With F-150, Focus, Fiesta

Ford’s facing one of the toughest challenges in automotive product planning: how to offer the competitive compact pickup consumers say they want without cannibalizing far more profitable full-sized trucks. The solution? Don’t offer a competitive compact pickup. “It’s no secret we have a new Ranger coming globally. We’re working on one for all the other markets in the world,” Ford’s Derrick Kuzak tells Pickuptrucks.com. “The difference is that all of those other markets only have a Ranger. They don’t have an F-150 above it.” See how that works? But don’t worry, Ranger fans. Ford has your effete, pathetic backs…

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Piston Slap: No OBD-II Code, No Clue Edition

TTAC Commentator Detroit-Iron writes:

I have a 2000 Ford Ranger, 2wd 3.0L V6 with 143k miles. The CEL has been on for at least last 70k and I finally went to AutoZone and got the code read. Turns out the O2 sensor is bad and the EGR valve is stuck. Is that the kind of thing that I can fix myself? I don’t want to put a whole lot of money in this truck seeing as it has a lot of miles and has been running reasonably well, if inefficiently (21 mpg all highway), for so long. I have an ok tool set and I do my brakes, but I recently paid $70 to have the fuel filter replaced-I’ve done it before and I didn’t want to do it again. The truck is going back to my parents to be semi-retired and put into “farm use” so I wouldn’t mind fixing it up a little before giving it back but I don’t want to spend a lot.

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  • ToolGuy If I had some space I would offer $800 and let the vehicle sit at my place as is. Then when anyone ever asked me, "Have you ever considered owning a VW?" I would say "Yes."
  • ToolGuy In the example in the linked article an automated parking spot costs roughly 3% of the purchase price of the property. If I were buying such a property, I would likely purchase two parking spots to go with it, and I'm being completely serious.(Speaking of ownership vs. subscription, the $150 monthly maintenance fee would torque me off a lot more than the initial acquisition cost.)
  • ToolGuy "which will be returned as refunds to citizens of the state" - kind of like the Alaska Permanent Fund? Make the amount high enough and I will gladly move to California to take advantage (my family came close to moving there when I was a teen, and oodles of people have moved from CA to my state, so I'm happy to return the favor).Note to California: You probably do not want me as a citizen.
  • ToolGuy Nice torque figure.
  • ToolGuy Pretty cool.