Ford began production of the Ranger in 1983 to enter the mid-size pickup market. Although Ford’s F-150 is the best-selling full-size pickup truck on the market, its smaller sibling is also popular with buyers looking for top-level power in a more compact form factor.
The newest member of the Ranger family, the 2023 Ranger Raptor, offers a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 that boasts 290 horsepower and 360 lb-ft of torque. However, older models on the used market are popular with buyers on a budget because they are considered extremely powerful.
Like any truck, the Ford Ranger has had its fair share of problems over the years. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the worst third-generation Ranger models, their reliability and durability, and everything else you need to know before you buy a used one.
2003, 2007 and 2008 are some of the most problematic model years for the Ford Ranger
According to Complaints about the car on the website, more than 70 owners have registered complaints about the 2003 Ford Ranger, making it one of the most problematic model years with the Ranger nameplate.
Many reports are of engine problems with the 2003 Ranger. Complaints range from a knocking noise coming from the transmission to excessive fuel consumption and loss of acceleration. On average, problems did not occur until after the truck had driven 40,000-50,000 miles.
Another commonly reported problem with the 2003 model year concern is the truck’s automatic transmission system. According to reports, the transmission hesitates to shift gears intermittently. Most owners have not been able to find a definitive solution to this problem, while others have spent over $1,000 to obtain funds from dealers and mechanics.
Several owners of the 2007 Ford Ranger complained of a knocking sound in the steering wheel after only 1,800 km. “It definitely needs to be remembered. I don’t believe this is a security concern, but it sure is annoying and worrisome. 6000 and no problems except this knocking. It did this when it was new, so I thought it needed to be broken in,” one owner was quoted as saying in his July 2007 car complaint report.
Ford has issued several recalls for the 2007 Ranger due to a problem with the airbags. In the event of an accident, the frontal airbag can explode and strike passengers with sharp metal fragments. However, more than 200 owners, commenting on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website, complained about receiving letters from Ford regarding the issue and not receiving timely remedies. The 2008 Ford Ranger also has the same airbag problem.
Many 2008 Ranger owners have complained that their truck’s A/C system operates in all modes except “OFF.” or “VENTILATION”. After the inspection, the dealers told the owners that the car was running as normal. However, owners have been extremely frustrated with this issue as it greatly affects the truck’s gas mileage.
Last but not least, owners have complained of premature rusting on various body panels of the 2008 Ford Ranger. One owner mentioned: “There are holes in the bed frame, rusted. The holes are located where the panels are joined together by spot welding. They look like the paint starts to bubble and then if you try to remove the paint, the hole opens up from the bottom.” On average, the problem occurred after about 68,000 miles.
Proper maintenance can extend the life of your Ford Ranger up to 300,000 miles
According to various reputable automotive sources, the Ford Ranger has no problem getting 300,000 miles or more on the odometer if properly maintained. The average person in the US drives approximately 14,000 miles per year. That means over 21 years of reliable and trouble-free Ford Ranger service. In terms of durability, the Ranger has matched its older brother, the F-150.
Adhering to the manufacturer’s regular maintenance schedule is critical to keeping your Ford Ranger running. Some of the main services include:
- Every 10,000 miles: change the engine oil and oil filter, rotate the tires and lubricate the axles and joints.
- Every 20,000 miles: change cabin filter.
- Every 100,000 miles: replace the engine coolant, check the drive belts and replace the spark plugs.
- Every 150,000 miles: replace front and rear axle (AWD) fluids and drive belts.
According to RepairPal, the annual cost of ownership for the Ford Ranger is about $615, slightly above the $548 average for midsize trucks.
Final Verdict: Avoid the troubled model years and the Ford Ranger could be your next durable midsize truck
The Ford Ranger is an impressively well-engineered mid-size truck with a powerful powertrain. If you’re buying a used car, it’s best to avoid the 2003, 2007, and 2008 models because of widespread transmission and airbag problems.
Also, make sure the previous owner took care of all recalls by checking the truck’s VIN. Finally, check with a certified mechanic to make sure the engine and transmission are in good shape and the previous owner didn’t subject the vehicle to too much abuse.