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2000 was the first year from what I have gathered. The Lima with a belt is actually pretty good, and the belt lasts 60 k on the older ones, and maybe more on the newer ones. There is no problem with the valves hitting the pistons if there is a failure. The DOHC has had a few problems with block porosity leading to coolant leakage, but I would not let that stop me if I wanted one.
It's not how hard you work, it's how much you get done. Simplificate and add lightness
The 2.3 liter Duratec engine made its first appearance in the Ranger in Late November or early December 2000, on the "late" 2001 model Rangers.
The old Lima engine (2.0, 2.3 and 2.5) was a strong, durable engine that would last a long time and deliver decent performance... if you remembered to replace the timing belt at about 60k miles. (Yes, many engines ran a lot longer, but an ounce of prevention...) Lots of guys hate the late-model Lima engines with the 8-plug heads, too, but those hard-to-reach plugs were the only real headache. It was used on the first Rangers in 2.0 and 2.3 liter configurations, and on until 1998 when it was enlarged to the final 2.5 liter version.
For "Job 2" of the 2001 model year, Ford replaced the old (dating back to the Pinto) Lima iron-block engine with the all-aluminum Duratec 2.3 engine Ford co-designed with Mazda. This engine has twin overhead chain-driven camshafts, 4 valves per cylinder, delivers greater fuel economy, and makes a bunch more power and torque. Ford uses this engine in several different displacement variations, in the Focus, Fusion, Escape, as the gas engine part of the Hybrid powertrain, as well as the Ranger. For the past 11 years, the 2.3 Duratec has been the base engine on the Ranger, and has given the Ranger the best fuel economy on the pickup truck market.
Gene (The Old Guy)
----------------------------------- TRUCK by Ford.
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