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Have a 1988 Ford Ranger with the 2.0L inline 4 (which I believe is pretty much a smaller bore version of the 2.3L) with 68K original miles (manual tranny, manual steering, no AC, just a bare bones truck).
Checked the oil and it was milky white and the coolant was down. I just topped off coolant last week but it's down again...no leaks or smell. I just changed the coolant, timing belt, plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotor, PCV, valve cover, fuel filter, belts about 2k miles ago. I don't drive the truck much...it's just a back up for my 85 F250 6.9L.
Anyway, looks to me like a headgasket (or cracked head). I'm a diesel mech so I'm comfortable doing the work myself but I don't work on gassers much.
Any advice while I'm doing the headgasket? Are HGs a problem with these engines? Any "gotchas" with these engines? Anything I should know about before I start?
Should I check/change anything with the overhead cam? Do they use shims to adjust the valves? How about the timing belt tensioner...should that be replaced? I was going to do the fuel pump too since it's been a little harder starting of late and maybe rebuild the carb too. And I was going to tear out all the emission crap. If the head looks ok I'm debating on whether I want to send it out to be rebuilt and checked. How about the head bolts? Ok to reuse? Is there a spec for their length to check for stretch?
I'm not sure if it is as much of a problem with the N/A heads, but look for cracked exhaust valve seats and any warping if the engine has ever been run hot. That's about the only weakness I can think of with the heads on these motors.
As far as the valvetrain is concerned, it uses hydraulic lash adjusters so there's really nothing to shim. Just inspect the followers and cam lobes for any unusual wear. I would suggest buying the valve stem seals that are spec'd for 87-88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupes as they are of a much better design than the stockers.
I'd replace the timing belt tensioner if you can find a new one. Esslinger sells a much better one than the stock piece (that's not saying much though) but it is kinda pricey. Although it hasn't happened to either of my 2.3Ls, I understand that the bearings in the tensioners on the older engines are prone to giving up the ghost. Head bolts can be reused unless the threads are torn up or show signs of fatigue. They're not torque to yield bolts, just torque em in stages 30-60-90 lb/ft according to the factory shop manual.
When you pull the head, I *think* you'll find a slug in the right-rear corner of the head oil passage that acts to limit oil flow.. Be careful not to lose it. The belt tensioner is a spring loaded follower that you do not adjust after installation, and is then locked down, so it is not a matter of spring tension as it ages, but the bearings in the follower. They're relatively cheap.
It's not how hard you work, it's how much you get done. Simplificate and add lightness
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