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Old 02-08-2010, 02:17 AM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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Unhappy 1986 Ranger 2.3 gas-putting & stalling after replacing spark plugs

Although this RANGER FORUM is nice, I am looking into moving this to this FORUM, and hopefully, I will get more replies.
[Performance, Engines and Troubleshooting >
Other Ford Engines >
4 Cylinder Engines]

Hi fellow rangers,

[ 1986 Ford Ranger/2.3 gas/5 speed OD/154,000 Miles ]

Ok, This is my "unlucky every other year" SMOG TEST ONLY where I diligently replace my air filter,spark plugs, cap and rotor, (fuel cap, if needed).

The night before doing these changes, I drove to the auto wash stall where I waited for my engine to cool down before spraying Gunk Engine Brite, to clean, to make my work a little more enjoyable, and yes, I did cover the distributor coil, distributor cap, and any other components I did not want to get wet. I was very careful not to use extreme pressure around the aluminum, bendable manifold tubing, which could easily break and water would get down into the engine. I've done the same thing every other year since this Smog test Only came into effect without any problems before.

The day after, I took a drive to the store about a mile away and noticed an extreme stalling where I had to keep gas revved up so it wouldn't stall. I could come to a light signal,and without the gas to the pedal, it would just die.

I don't remember doing anything out of the ordinary this time, except TWO THINGS, (1) the plugs I bought were Autolite Platinum (AP5145) and were supposed to be pre-gapped to .44, and I checked only one,which was fine. and (2) A few days earlier I bought a 12oz. can of OCTANE BOOST gas additive I added to half a gas tank. I know it's bad to use these additives ,but on occasion, I usually go with a fuel injector additive. I am the original owner of this truck, and have been told it's only worth $500.00, so what can I lose, but thinking about it now, these 4-banger trucks don't do good with the higher octane, that's why the REGULAR gas is better than the PREMIUM, Ummmmm....could this be one of the problems? Maybe I should filler up right away to "water down" that octane booster..don't know what the heck I was thinking?????
A few years ago, I did replace my fuel relay switch,and maybe a fuel sensor, but believe me, this truck was running much better before i did all this replacement of the Cap.Rotor, and plugs. The (expensive) spark plug wires I bought two years ago, and they looked fine inside each plug wire.

So for the life of me, I don't know where to look,because this could turn out to be a costly, and timely process of elimination. Any ideas?

Any would be much appreciated. Thank you! Have a great day!
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Old 02-08-2010, 01:06 PM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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Sorry about the winded reply.

I called the auto parts store and they told me those plugs and Cap/Rotor are the correct application..BUT he told me to pull the plugs and check to see if the tips are either real black or white, fouled out because of the concentrated octane booster in a half of tank of gas.
ALSO, Instead of autolite (AP5145) Platinum plugs, I should have gone with Motorcraft, not autolite, and make sure they are gapped to .44.

Any would be much appreciated. Thank you! Have a great day!
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Old 02-08-2010, 03:42 PM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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Update Monday FEB. 8th, 1:00PM PST -

I pulled each of the autolite plugs and did not notice any white or black carbon, checked the gap,1,2,and 4th plug was gapped to .44, but the #3 plug was more than .44. A few years back I also replaced my distributor module with a FORD part.

I looked at the dist. coil plug wire and noticed some green oxidation on the coil tip, got some sandpaper, rolled it up, and stuck it inside the coil plug to clean the terminal inside, blew it out with air...that was a few days ago, and now it was more oxidation, could that mean I should try to replace just the Dist coil plug wire? I certainly don't want to buy all new plug wires.

There is a module that is on a metal slider between the air filter assembly and the truck body with a Black base with a white top connector w/4 wires ( 2 red,1 yellow,and one black) coming from a harness,and into that connector,(Part Number #E98b-2C013...I think) which the wires going into this piece looks pretty corrosive,and the locking connector with the (I think) fuel relay looks fine. is there anyway to get just the harness side, clip the 4 wires and replace this assembly piece" I took a picture,but no way to post the pic here.

In the same area, between the air filter assembly and the side of the truck next to a rectangular part # E7EF9F479-A2A, which I think is the Sensor Assembly for the manifold Absolute pressure module) is another one of these boxes with a Blue-ish green base and a black top with 1Black,3 yellow, and 1 red wire. There are no numbers on this.

So I'm tooling around looking for what might be a problem causing all this stalling and rough idling....I'll check in periodically. Thanks!
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Old 02-09-2010, 02:13 PM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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I'd hate to think that I would have to replace the Distributor Module (under the cap/rotor,) like I’ve done many times before, a new Distributor coil, fuel relay, fuel filter, just to pass smog. Like I said before, this truck ran better than before I changes the Cap/rotor, air filter, and spark plugs.

I removed the newer Rotor I just replaced and noticed the top springy contact was pushed downward, so I just put my other one back on...still missing, and stalling out while (trying to) drive down the street.
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Old 02-09-2010, 02:32 PM
Lazy K Lazy K is offline
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Since you changed the dist cap, I`ve got to ask, are you confident the plug wires went back in right?
Next, if it was me, I think I would see if there are any stored error codes.
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Old 02-09-2010, 06:08 PM
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Danger_Dave Danger_Dave is offline
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you couldve got a batch of bad gas but the octane rating definitely has nothing to do with it. the word premium is for marketing purposes and is not better gas. octane rating is only good for one thing, "resisting detonation due to compression"
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Old 02-10-2010, 01:51 AM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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Hi and Thanks,

Have either of you ever experienced the rotor inside the cap in the bent-down position? That was weird. So I re-bent it back up,then just threw on my two year old rotor,but still missing. I went to buy only a new Distributor wire because the old one had a lot of brown residue inside the plug, I haven't put that back in yet.
I always took a permanent marker pen and mark each plug wire from the corresponding cylinder, so I (hopefully) never put them in the wrong order. This is what I've found on the firing order >

2.0L and 1983 - 1988 2.3L Engines
Firing Order: 1-3-4-2
Distributor Rotation: Clockwise

Silly question...according to this order, looking at the top left of my Dist. Cap, the top left prong #1Cyl, then to the right #3 Cyl. then bottom left is # 4,then spark wire #2 to the bottom right?
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Old 02-10-2010, 04:01 AM
Lazy K Lazy K is offline
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Looking down on the cap, if No1 is top left then No3 is top right, No4 is bottom RIGHT and No2 is bottom LEFT.
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Old 02-10-2010, 11:37 AM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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I feel somewhat stupid here. OK. I am holding in my hand my old dist. cap. The two hold down screws are at the 9 and 3 o'clock position. The small black round thingie is on the right side of cap, next to the center Coil terminal on cap.(about the 3 o'clock position) I've always marked the positions of the firing order...

and this is what I'm looking at...

TOP LEFT (around 10 or 11 o'clock position) # 4
TOP RIGHT # 2 (around 1 o'clock)
BOTTOM RIGHT #1
BOTTOM LEFT (7 or 8 o'clock position) is # 3.

OR... maybe when I put the cap back on this time, it was upside down,so the clockwise order would have been the correct 1-3-4-2, but this time with that black round plastic small **** is now on the left side of the cap,and not on the right side. Does it matter which side the black thing is on top of the cap, as long as the top left is 1,then going clockwise to 3,then 4,then 2? Shucks, if this is the reason, then I'm going hunting with dick Cheney!

Am I a complete klutz? No, you don't have to answer that, we have established that if this firing order is completely wrong.

So the correct firing order for my 1986 2.3L Gas,5-speed,4 banger ranger is 1-3-4-2 and not 4-2-3-1? It is no wonder that I am no mechanic. Doh!!! Thank you for your patience!
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Old 02-10-2010, 07:06 PM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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*UPDATE (FEB.10, 2010 5:00 PM PST)
I went to the Library and checked out the Chilton Ford Ranger and Bronco II 1983-88 years. On page 62, the firing order states 1-3-4-2 clockwise. The illustration shows the two hold down screws at 11 oíclock position right next to the #3 Cyl.) And the other screw at the 5 oíclock, or between the # 2 and # 4th Cyl.) Looking straight as the picture is shown is # 3 - # 4
# 1 - # 2
The #3 is closest to the back of the Alternator. I tried this timing order and it would not turn over, just sounded like a very bad cough and sound like bad timing. When I hooked up my original way with the #4 closest to the back of the alternator, then #2, then bottom right is #1, then bottom left is #3, at least it would lick over and idle for about 30 seconds before it stalled out.

I also tried the top left-#1, #3, #4, #2 and that also sounded terrible, and would not turn over. Iím afraid the more I play with this, the more Iím going to mess up my timing.

SOoooooo, Letís try this. If anyone out there in Rangerland has a 1986 Ranger 2.3L gas. 4-Cylinder, 5-speed, can you please tell me starting from the capís terminal CLOSEST to the back of the alternator, what # Cylinder that is, then going clockwise, what is the remaining order? I thought for sure the book would make some sense of this, but the screw locations on the cap are weird. BTW, what is that small round black thing on top of the distributor, and does it matter which side itís on? Right or left. Thanks again!
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Old 02-11-2010, 07:41 AM
Lazy K Lazy K is offline
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[quote=bozo4ford;8495284]

and this is what I'm looking at...

TOP LEFT (around 10 or 11 o'clock position) # 4
TOP RIGHT # 2 (around 1 o'clock)
BOTTOM RIGHT #1
BOTTOM LEFT (7 or 8 o'clock position) is # 3.

Most 4cyl engines (but not all) have a firing order of 1342 and for clockwise rotation of the rotor the above plug wire postions are correct. So I think you can rule that out.
Have you checked for stored trouble codes?
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Old 02-11-2010, 11:09 AM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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Hi Lazy K,
No, I have not checked for codes because I don't have that tool. If I take it ford,they will charge me more than 130.00 to hook it up the diagnostic machine, and who knows what they will charge to replace every other conceivable expensive part before I go broke. For a 24 year old truck with 120,000 miles on it, and not worth very much, All I want to do is to pass the Calif, smog test.

The rotor under the cap only goes on the distrib. rod one way? I was thinking I might have put that in wrong, but the slit where the rotor connects to, there is only one way. I taking a big chance in screwing up the timing belt or worse the more I mis-connect my firing order.

So you think (my) firing order is correct? Another stupid question..Where does this firing order begin? top left, or bottom left? according to the Chilton repair, the top left is 3,then 4,2,1 clockwise. (83-88 Ranger and Bronco II)
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Old 02-11-2010, 02:55 PM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazy K View Post
Looking down on the cap, if No1 is top left then No3 is top right, No4 is bottom RIGHT and No2 is bottom LEFT.
If the Chilton book states on page 62...looking at the order like a clock, they have # 3 (11 o'clock) then moving clockwise #4 ( (1 o'clock) the bottom right #2 ( 4 o'clock) then bottom left #1 at ( 8 o'clock) then I wonder why my truck ran with this order....#4 at the top left,then #2, then #1,then #3(bottom left)

See my confusion?
Where do you start the order?

From the Cap cylinder closest to the backside of the Alternator?

I can always cripple down to a mechanic, but being disabled with very low funds is not an option, so I'm trying to save any money I can. I DO appreciate all of you trying to help me on this...much, much gratitude.


When I steam-cleaned the engine prior to changing Cap/Rotor, plugs,I thought I was careful covering up the Coil,cap, any vacuum hoses, but there were so many fusable links that may have gotten wet. When I drove it home from cleaning, it ran fine. I should have just went directly to the smog test only center and have them fail it,then go from there. California....gotta love it!...hate the strict emissions.
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Old 02-12-2010, 04:27 AM
Lazy K Lazy K is offline
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OK, go back to basics for the timing. You will probably need a helper for this. Pull the No.1 cyl spark plug. Pull the coil wire from the dist cap. Put your finger over the No.1 spark plug hole and get a helper to crank the engine on the starter. As soon as you feel compressed air coming out of the plug hole tell the helper to stop cranking. You should now have No1 piston coming up on the compression stroke.
Now look for the timing marks on the front crankshaft pulley/balancer and the engine itself. Rotate the engine clockwise by hand until these marks line up. The marks may be hard to see so you may need to clean the pulley and engine to see them.
Another way is to put something like a drinking straw down through the plug hole and rotate the engine by hand until the straw is pushed out as far as possible. Do not use anything solid for this, it has to be something that cannot damage the engine if it gets stuck.
Either way you have now got the engine at Top Dead Center on the compression stroke.
Now remove the dist cap, the rotor will be pointing at the wire position for No.1 cyl. Make sure No.1 plug wire is plugged into that position on the dist cap then, moving clockwise, No3 plug wire, No4 wire, No.2 wire.
The problem is this, if you can get it to run and idle smoothly, even for a short time, the firing order must be right, I would have thought.
Check the MAP sensor for bad vacuum pipe or loose electrical plug.
Check that all vacuum pipes are properly plugged on.
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Old 02-13-2010, 10:51 AM
bozo4ford bozo4ford is offline
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Hey Lazy K.
Thank you for all your instructions and the time to write them.
Is it necessary to pull all 4 spark plugs out Or just the number one plug, along with the Dist. coil plug off the dist. cap?

Also, if I do not have a breaker bar, I couldn't manually clockwise move the fan assembly to that mark? I should change my name to lazy.
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Old 02-13-2010, 10:51 AM
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