Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Ford Ranger engines: Pros and cons of all available options detailed

Ford's Ranger ute is hugely popular, largely because it's a reliable alternative. But how reliable?

Ford’s Ranger continues to be a hugely popular vehicle with legions of happy customers. But when it comes to in-service issues, the Ford Ranger engine is far from immune to the common problems of modern, common-rail turbo-diesel powerplants. On top of that, there are also a few watch-outs specific to the Ranger’s engine line-up, and it pays to be aware of these when shopping for a Ranger.

So let’s take a detailed look at each of the Ranger’s engine options in the last couple of decades to see what’s what when it comes to reliability and durability.

Let’s start with the generic stuff that can afflict any modern turbo-diesel. Because the average turbo-diesel these days is seriously tuned up (to allow for good performance and towing ability) these modern motors are far from the lazy, under-stressed units we tend to think of when it comes to diesel technology.

Those generic issues start with the dreaded diesel particulate filter (DPF) which can become blocked and require either manual cleaning, or complete replacement at no small cost. A close check of this system is absolutely essential before you hand over the money, and don’t forget to check the service history for clues on what’s gone on over the vehicle’s life and how it’s been used.

Clogged up intake systems is another common problem in a modern diesel, usually caused by the emissions controls which force the engine to consume (via the intake system) a proportion of its own exhaust as well as any crankcase fumes.

The soot in the exhaust and the oil mist from the crankcase combine to form an evil, black gunk that sticks to the intake runners and slowly strangles the engine. Again, disassembly and manual cleaning is the most common answer. Cars with this problem will often throw a check engine light to warn the owner, but some unscrupulous sellers will use a check engine light reset tool to hide the fact. Be careful and make sure you drive the car some distance before agreeing to buy it.

Ford’s Ranger continues to be a hugely popular vehicle with legions of happy customers. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Injector life is another factor in the running costs of a modern turbo-diesel. Because these injectors run incredibly high pressures, they don’t last forever and can be very expensive to replace. Sometimes they can be reconditioned, but often that means a shorter service life than a brand-new replacement. Again, the service record is a valuable document here. Any car that has had dirty or poor quality fuel in its tank is more likely to suffer these problems early in its life.

Finally, turbochargers don’t last forever. A Ranger that works hard for its living can easily need a new turbocharger unit before 150,000km have passed under its wheels. It won’t affect every example, but turbocharger life is an issue in the Ford’s case. It’s also true that carmakers like Ford are constantly introducing running changes to improve efficiency and reliability. Even if there’s no press release to say so, it’s a fair bet that the line-up of Ranger engines in the 2011-built utes were not as good as the 2020 engines, even though they were technically the same units.

So now, let’s look at each of the Ranger models over the years. We’ll start with the PJ Ranger of 2007 which was the first time we saw the Ranger badge here (Ford’s 4X2 and 4X4 ute range was tagged Courier up to that point).

The Platinum variant is only available with a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Engine choices back then amounted to a pair of turbo-diesels with a 2.5 and 3.0-litre capacity. As early adopters of the common-rail tech, these engines had the unfortunate habit of overheating. The 3.0L Ford Ranger engine, in particular, was probably worse, since it made more power and, therefore, more heat.

Many specialists claim the problem lies within the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve which can fail allowing the engine to lose coolant (usually into number four cylinder) but others reckon the engine was just a bad design without sufficient cooling capacity. Many people avoid this Ford Ranger diesel engine and model on principle for this very reason.

The PK model was a 2009 facelift of the PJ and ran for only two years before an all-new Ranger was announced. The PK Ranger engine range was the same as the line-up for the PJ model and, according to those in the know, suffered the same overheating woes if you were unlucky.

While diesel is the most popular Ranger fuel option, petrol variants do exist.

Some owners tried multiple fixes such as replacing cooling fans, thermostats and swapping in even bigger radiators. But, give the wrong Ranger a hot day and a hill, and it would still send its temperature gauge towards the danger zone.

The Ranger we’re most familiar with, the PX model was launched in 2011 and ran right up until 2022. Engine choices over the years included a 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel, a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel and a 3.0-litre petrol V6 turbo-petrol in Raptor form. There was also a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder option in early base model two-wheel drive Rangers, but you’ll be hard pressed to even find one of those today.

The Ford Ranger 3.2 engine is probably the most common one out there right now, so let’s start with it. It’s by no means as prone to overheating as the older engines we’ve just mentioned, but there have been EGR failures on the 3.2.

The Wildtrak X is fitted exclusively with the twin-turbo, four-cylinder turbo-diesel.

Because this valve is cooled by the engine’s coolant, if it fails, it can empty the radiator pretty quickly. That will, if the driver doesn’t notice it, lead to a failed head gasket. But we’ve also heard of a few engines where enough coolant has entered the cylinder to 'hydraulically lock' the engine. If that happens, the whole motor is probably junk.

You can have the EGR valve tested for leaks at the next service, but make sure it’s tested with both hot and cold coolant, as some only leak when the engine is up to temperature.

Some specialists reckon the problem is caused by the heater’s matrix slowing the coolant too much, heating it too high and then damaging the EGR valve as a result. Replacing the valve periodically sounds like good advice.

The Ranger we’re most familiar with, the PX model was launched in 2011 and ran right up until 2022.

It’s also worth mentioning that the other Ranger diesels have a similar EGR valve arrangement but, possibly due to weight of numbers, it seems as though the 3.2-litre version is the one most afflicted. It’s also worth noting the same tune for the 3.2 engine was used in all 3.2 PK Rangers. Even the allegedly sportier Ford Ranger Wildtrak engine had the same power and torque specs as the humble Ford Ranger XLT engine. And the same problems.

While the vast majority of Rangers were sold with an automatic transmission, there were a few that made it out with a manual gearbox, in this case a six-speed. The driveline problem is not with the gearbox itself, but rather the dual-mass flywheel designed to smooth out the engine’s vibes a little.

Manual versions with the Ford Ranger 5 cylinder diesel engine that have been used to tow heavy loads can suffer a failure of this flywheel which then needs to be replaced, usually along with the clutch. The solution for some owners has been to fit a single-mass flywheel – you can buy conversion kits to do it - which does nothing for refinement inside the cabin, but prevents the flywheel failing again.

The allegedly sportier Ford Ranger Wildtrak engine had the same power and torque specs as the humble Ford Ranger XLT engine. (Image: Chadstone Ford)

The other thing to note is not so much a failure as a foible, but it can destroy a 3.2-litre engine. If you looked at a diagram of the engine oil pump, you’d see that it’s a variable displacement unit. In turn, that means the design is such that if it’s left without oil in the sump, the pump will drain out and not reprime itself when the engine is started. If that happens, the engine runs without oil pressure. Very briefly. If that’s the case, you could be looking at a huge bill for a replacement engine.

The aftermarket has come up with a different pump design that gets around the oil change problem and seems a longer lasting pump into the bargain. The replacement cost is a fraction of that of a new engine.

This is, of course, most likely to happen during oil changes, so you need a switched on mechanic who can drain the old oil, replace the sump plug and replenish the sump in under 10 minutes. The pump can be e-primed if it bleeds out, but it’s not a simple task. A fast game is a good game when we’re talking Ranger oil changes. This warning also applies to the Ford Ranger 2.2 engine which uses the same oil pump design.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel with single turbocharger produces a healthy 125kW/405Nm. (Image: Mark Oastler)

This era of Ranger was also fitted with a 'smart' alternator which, in some cases, didn’t seem very smart at all. The idea was that the alternator would reduce its output when the battery was fully charged, thereby reducing fuel consumption (the engine drives the alternator). But for Ranger owners who had fitted a second battery to run, say, a fridge, the Ranger would sometimes not recognise that the second battery had been fitted and, so, never produced enough volts to fully charge both batteries. A software fiddle can disable this smart function and return the alternator to behave as a conventional unit.

The 2.0-litre Ford Ranger bi-turbo engine, meantime, was fitted with the 10-speed automatic transmission and Ford Australia recalled these for a fault with the transmission-pump gears. These could fail, leaving the vehicle with no drive. The twin-turbo engine itself seems okay, but you need to remember it’s in a fairly high state of tune given it’s only two litres in capacity, yet cranks out 157kW of power and 500Nm of torque. The Ranger it lugs around is no lightweight, either.

The 2.0-litre can experience the EGR cooler, injector and DPF problems of the bigger turbo-diesel engines, as well, so a service history is crucial.

The 2024 Ranger XL 4x2 Double Cab engine is paired with a six-speed torque converter automatic. (Image: Mark Oastler)

The current generation Ranger is also available with a couple of new engine options, the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 and the Raptor’s V6 petrol turbo unit. These new-for 2022 engines carried through as the 2023 engines and beyond, and replaced the line up of 2021 engines in line with the upgrade of the rest of the Ranger range.

The Ford Ranger V6 diesel engine is a fairly well understood unit, mainly because it’s been around for ages in other makes and models. The biggest gripe from owners is that it’s pretty thirsty compared with the bi-turbo four-cylinder diesel it shares showrooms with.

But we’ve also heard of plenty of cases where the turbocharger oil-return line on the Ford Ranger V6 engine has fractured, leading to an oil leak, even though the turbo itself remains lubricated. The fractures occur on the low-pressure side, but run it long enough like that, and you’ll empty the sump. The fix is a simple, quick one involving replumbing the return line.

Ford has noted a handful of Raptors that were built with faulty valve springs, sometimes requiring a new engine to be fitted.

The Ford Ranger Raptor engine, meantime, is also a tried and proven unit and even though it’s tuned to make lots of horsepower, it doesn’t seem to have any major flaws that have shown up yet. The biggest potential problem will be a Raptor that has been thrashed by a previous owner, something that is more likely in such a hooligan vehicle.

Beyond that, Ford has noted a handful of Raptors that were built with faulty valve springs, sometimes requiring a new engine to be fitted. The warning signs are rough running or a poor idle, as well as fault codes showing up when the vehicle is scanned. In extreme cases, major parts of the engine (including the turbocharger) need to be replaced. Any Raptor experiencing these symptoms needs to be checked out at a Ford dealership where the relevant tests can be carried out.

As far as engine choices go, the one that go away in Australia is the 2.3 Ford Ranger engine which is a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit that also powers the 'EcoBoost' version of the Ford Mustang. This mighty little turbo-motor is available in the Ranger in the other markets, but not here, sadly, as it would be a great addition to the line-up.

David Morley
Contributing Journalist
Morley’s attentions turned to cars and motoring fairly early on in his life. The realisation that the most complex motor vehicle was easier to both understand and control than the...
About Author