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Old 03-06-2013, 12:18 PM
vintrang vintrang is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2013
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Default My '83 Ranger Repair-Pt1

The following is actually taken out of the middle of what I wrote for my introduction, because it seemed more to belong here…

I made a lot of equipment and tools for the Windstar in the process of re-building it's AX4S transaxle. (I know this is a Ranger forum, but I was asked to introduce myself and this experience is what gave me the confidence to undertake my current repair of the poor little Ranger. So, I hope you will indulge me a little.)

I needed a stand to hold the van level at 20" from the floor so I could get the transmission out without fear of killing myself. I mentioned the stands for the back, which are basically just built-up wood blocks. The stand for the front is much cooler, with a 4"x4"x1/4" wall steel tube spanning the width. It has risers that slide along the top of the beam for adjustment to the jacking pads of the van, and to allow use for other vehicles. It is supported by short pieces of the same tube, which are held steady by 18" dia. reinforced concrete bases. Since I only had a floor jack the beam doubles as a lift bar. Lifting and supporting the van so that I felt totally secure turned out to be quite a complicated business, so I can't describe the whole system here. Maybe later I will post the details in the projects section of this forum.

And just because I doubt there are many Windstar, much less AX4S, fans out there, and just because I have to brag to someone, I would like to tell what else I made for it. Hope no one minds.

An engine support rig to hold the engine up with its sub-frame support removed.

A bench-mounted transmission holder with 360 degree swivel.

A dolly and ramp to move the tranny across the floor and up to the holder.

And a bunch of tools for handling, installing and adjusting various parts of the transmission.

Unlike the lift bar and the dolly/ramp, I designed all of these other devices basically from the line drawings given for them in the shop manual, combined with observations and measurements of the actual components involved.

So, okay, that's out of my system. Besides, some of these things could be useful for a Ranger. I have detailed drawings and photos that I would be happy to share. Just let me know.

One other thing that I would like to say about the Windstar automatic transaxle repair is that I could never have done it without the actual Ford Service Manual (and a few bits of information necessarily garnered elsewhere). I see guys posting here and in other forums looking for information, some of them amazing for their ability to find what they do manage to find, who don't seem to realize how much of what they need to know is readily available in the manufacturer's publications---or that the publications are actually available.

Not to diminish that value of forums such as this, which is immense. Just that the manuals are out there on eBay, and amazon, and other sources on the internet. Why play around with the incomplete copies available in auto parts stores and libraries?

For example: The shop manual for the Windstar had complete disassembly and assembly details for the transmission where the toy manual had only a few pages that were copied from it on how to remove and re-install the transmission.

Such toy manuals were the primary reason that for many years I did not attempt the more serious repairs. I know that for an experienced person they may be adequate in most cases. But as an entry point for understanding they tend to frustrate the desire to attempt a repair. Photos and line drawings are no substitute for exploded assembly drawings with complete lists of parts. If the producers of these toy manuals really wanted to promote do-it-yourself auto repair, they would put together in one manual all of the specific information about a particular vehicle that is typically (at least with regard to Ford) spread over several of the manufacturer's manuals.

But then, this would require some kind of freedom of information act; given that the current environment is arranged to promote the employment of "authorized" mechanics, and the sale of new vehicles. It's probably a good idea not to mess with that, though. That's the commercial environment, and not the whole environment that we have to work in. What we have now is good enough… as long as we can keep it.

In that vein I cannot say enough about the importance, not only of information, but of basic machine tools and the ability to use them. And for that matter CAD (Computer Aided Drafting). It's a big investment, even collecting used equipment, accessories, instruments, and materials---not to mention having the space to keep it all in. But once you get it going, there are few mechanical problems that are not susceptible to solution---and that's a great feeling.

Oh, yeah, and the Windstar repair is not yet complete. For the engine runs only well enough to chug up and down (down and up) the drive. This is enough to at least partly verify the transmission repair, since it wouldn't move at all before. But although the guy who "gave" it to me said that it ran okay when he parked it (which may or may not be true), it ain't now. The thing is that where everyone seemed to think that repairing an automatic transaxle is such an occult mystery compared to engine repair, I find it to be in the reverse. That was simple compared to trying to figure out what is wrong with the engine. I don't know. Maybe my problem is that I can't make the diagnostic equipment. That and my having had next to no knowledge or experience, let alone interest, in repairing vehicles before starting all this. But it's been a learning experience… wonderful and at times very intimidating. Still, it is a fortunate thing that information straight from the horse's mouth is available. I wouldn't know what to do without it, even with such resources as this forum.

Am I babbling now?

So, anyway… When I got my Ranger I was fairly disappointed. I actually considered selling it for scrap. But when events conspired to deny me that option and I had to use it or die starving in the street, I discovered what a handy little brute it still was. And it's not like it wasn't worth holding onto. The body was, and still is, in amazingly good condition. That alone made it seem worthwhile. I just didn't savor the idea of having to work on yet another vehicle. So I used it with the idea of driving it into the ground. But the more it kept on going---even with the annoying click-clacking of the cam, and hauling loads that I was sure would break the wheels off---the more I wanted to keep it. And by the time it finally broke down I was determined to do just that.

That was about a month and-a-half ago. Since then I have acquired the Shop Manual, the Engine/Emissions Diagnosis Manual, the Engine/Emission Facts Book Summary, the Light Truck Specifications Book, and am waiting on the electrical schematics, which are nine 12" x 24" engineering-type drawings---a real prize. The summary and specifications books turned out to be pretty much redundant, though; with only a few bits of information not contained in the shop and diagnostic manuals. The same for the schematics; smaller versions of which are in the Electrical and Vacuum Troubleshooting Manual that I have yet to obtain.

Since then I have re-built the cam assembly (which I like to call the valve actuating assembly), and the carburetor, and replaced most of the distributor with the vacuum advance diaphragm. It would not start before, but I got it to idle---although with no power (oddly the same sort of complaint as with the Windstar). Then one day, after some study of the vacuum diagram, I discovered that the hoses to the carburetor ports, which are identified in the diagram as "U" and "L" (standing, I suppose, for "upper" and "lower") had been reversed. I had put it back together like it was when I took it apart, and only discovered the error later.

And here is a good point to make: How did I know how it was put together before? I take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. I can't seem to take enough pictures, because still too often I go back looking for details and can't find them. In this case, though, I did it right. Working only on weekends, I knew that I was generally going to forget everything, and this was an specially tricky one to remember. Often, as I used to do, the way that wires and tubes are bent is sufficient to identify where they go. In this case one tube came from the front and the other from the back, with both bending around at the same point on the carburetor as viewed from above. Knowing that I was liable to forget, I snapped a few shots from a distance, and then a close-up of the top tube connected (and, for good measure, another of it disconnected). I mean, why not? It's not like photographs cost anything but time anymore. With a little discipline even an inexperienced mechanic like me, who doesn't know what the wires and tubes are for, can avoid such punk mistakes.

Of course, with a little more discipline (and the right information), a punk mechanic like me can actually figure out what all those wires and tubes, and components are for, and maybe not need such forensic photography in the first place. Still, it seems like a good idea.

Especially when something unanticipated comes up later. Good, hi-rez, photos can be invaluable aides for any number of uses. They are another form of information, and you can't have too much of that. Of course, you need a way of organizing it so that you can find it when you need it…

Am I babbling, again?
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1983 Ranger, 2.0L
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