As posted previously, I have a 2003 Ford Ranger. I’ve done a few upgrades, and I’m keeping track of them here. For details on individual upgrade information, contact us.

All-terrain tires

Stock tires are P225/70R15. This tire designation code means:

P: Passenger vehicle

225: Width of tire in millimeters

70: Aspect ratio of width to sidewall. This means the sidewall height is 70% of the width: 157mm in this case. This gives a total tire diameter of 27.4″.

I upgraded to P235/75R15’s with knobby, all-terrain tread. The total diameter increases to 28.9″. The increased diameter isn’t something I was really looking for, but I do like how they fill the wheel wells just a bit more. The truck only sits about 1/2-3/4″ taller, so it’s not even noticeable.

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These tires don’t decrease my gas mileage by any measurable amount, but they do allow me to go essentially anywhere a 4WD truck can go, as long as I have some weight over the rear axle. Snow, ice, mud, etc. No problem.

Stereo Head Unit (x2)

First, I replaced my stock head unit with a Pioneer unit with Bluetooth capability. I used that for a while and then upgraded again to a touch-screen unit and added a backup camera.

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(I know the picture isn’t centered… fixing it)

This unit has Bluetooth, satellite radio, and USB capability. I also set my own background and can customize the display completely. It will play DVD’s, but I have no use for that.

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One of my favorite songs ever – two of my babes collaborating!

To use this head unit with satellite radio, I had to remote-mount the radio receiver, which plugs into the back of the head unit, outside of the truck.I routed the wire up through the panels around the doors, along the top of the rear window, and through the third brake light. I used silicone to seal the brake light to the cab since the wire passing through caused a gap that would allow water to get into the headliner.

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LED light bar

Installed an 18″ LED light bar in the front valence. It mounts to the frame using custom mounting brackets that I designed and fabricated.

I had to move my front vanity plate up, which meant drilling out the old rivet mounts in the bumper, drilling new holes in the plate bracket, and using new bolts.

I routed the harness up through the engine compartment, tying it up out of the way cleanly, and passed it through a grommet hole in the firewall. I brought the switch harness up under the kick panel under the steering column and temporarily placed the switch. Later, I got a new switch; the plan is to mount it into the bezel around the radio.

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PHOTO COMING SOON

Switch will be mounted in my dash when I open everything up to replace a burnt-out bulb in my instrument cluster.

Leveling Kit

Most 2WD Rangers come from the factory sitting completely level, or sometimes even down in the back a bit. With my toolbox in the back, it lowered it even further. This is the truck with no load in the back, except for the toolbox and the spare for my trailer.

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I’ve never liked the ass-on-the-ground look, so I installed small lift blocks between the rear axle and the springs. I did some testing and determined that I needed 1.5″ blocks to give it the look I wanted, but no one makes 1.5″ blocks that would fit the truck. So I bought 2″ blocks and machined them down to 1.5″. The kit I bought came with new U-bolts; U-bolts should never be torqued more than once because they stretch.

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Notice that these blocks have a straight side and a slanted side – this is to maintain the correct angle between the springs and the axle. The locating pins are critical as well. This isn’t something to attempt to make at home!

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I also replaced the shocks to account for the increased distance between the axle and the frame. I technically could have kept the stock shocks, since I never really take them to full extension driving off-road, but the shocks on the truck were 14 years old anyway. I figured they could use an upgrade. I found shocks for the 4WD version of my truck – the only difference between the 2WD and 4WD models in the rear is the addition of 2″ blocks to raise the truck to match the height increase in the front caused by the transfer case.

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Finished product. It turned out exactly how I wanted it!

Tailgate Light Strip

Okay, this one was totally unnecessary… I tried to find some justification for it, but really, I just wanted to do it!

I installed a light strip in the space under the tailgate so that the light glows out from under it. It hooks into my trailer harness and does everything my taillights do: brake lights, turn signals, and bright white light when reversing. The white lights are really the only useful part of it; it makes seeing behind me when backing up pretty easy. Honestly, the red lights do make it easier for other drivers to see the back of my truck when I’m driving in the pouring rain or driving snow, but that’s just a fringe benefit, not the reason I did it.

To avoid having to unplug my light strip when using my trailer, I spliced in a new trailer connector into the existing harness. It was really straightforward; I bought a trailer connector that was pre-wired and just spliced each wire into the corresponding color on the existing harness, soldered it, and wrapped it in electrical tape. Then I loomed the whole thing and made it water- and vibration-proof. Now I have another harness that hangs down neatly to plug my trailer into, while the other is tied up cleanly out of sight.

Rust Repair

Wheel wells are usually the first places to show signs of the vehicle’s age. My truck is 14 years old, and it was starting to show.

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So I put it up on jack stands, took the wheels off, and carefully removed the rust down to the bare metal with a small wire disk on a pneumatic die grinder.

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Then I taped the fender off CAREFULLY and covered the body panels with plastic to prevent over-spray. Then I hit it with a few light coats of primer.

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After the primer dried, I hit it with a few light coats of Rock Guard. Rock guard is similar to spray-on bedliner; it provides a heavy-duty layer of protection from the elements. After this dried, I sprayed on several light coats of touch-up paint that I bought at an auto parts store that perfectly matches my truck color: Sonic Blue Pearl. The exact color of any car can be found here.  After that dried, I put on a few light coats of clear coat that I bought with the touch-up paint. Carefully remove the plastic and tape when that dries, and check it out!

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I have future plans to paint the whole inside wheel well with rock guard. I plan to keep this truck for a long time, and I don’t want the wheel wells rusting through!

LED Upgrade

Another just-for-the-cool-factor upgrade. I upgraded all the exterior lights, minus the headlights, to LEDs. Super Bright LEDs has a great website, and they have a vehicle bulb finder for any model. It requires some knowledge of what the vehicle currently has so you don’t order bulbs you don’t need.

I decided to upgrade the exterior because I noticed that the amber coating on the incandescent bulb up on my front turn signal was peeling. It looked like shit. I wanted a crisper, cleaner look, so I went with LEDs. I don’t have good before photos, but here is the finished product:

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I definitely like the LED look better. The turn signal lights turn on and off immediately, rather than turning on and off over a period of a few milliseconds. I know that sounds insignificant, and it is, but I like it.

Upgrading the turn signals requires an LED flasher relay. The flasher relay is up under the dash on most vehicles, and that’s what makes the “click” sound with the turn signals. LED bulbs draw significantly less power than incandescent, so with LEDs, the vehicle thinks that the bulbs are burnt out and will do the fast-flash indicative of that. The LED flasher relay has a higher resistance internally and “tricks” the vehicle into thinking they’re standard bulbs.

I did NOT change my headlights to LEDs because the headlight housings are designed for halogen bulbs. Halogen bulbs throw light out in every direction, and the housing captures this light and sends it forward. LEDs throw light out in only the direction they are pointing, and the housings designed for halogens don’t do a good job with LEDs. That doesn’t mean people don’t still do it… They just aren’t as bright, and they definitely look aftermarket. I chose to stay with the stock headlights and add the LED light bar for additional light when I need it (and when no one’s around so I don’t blind anyone).

I also changed my interior dome lights to blue, just for the hell of it. They’re brighter than the standard white dome lights and less harsh on my eyes at night. My dad gives me shit for it, but I like it.

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Future Upgrades

  • LED upgrade of instrument cluster (one bulb burnt out, so I’m replacing them all at the same time)
  • Mount switch in radio bezel
  • Courtesy lights on underside of door that turn on when the door opens (I drop stuff when I get out of the truck a lot…)
  • Custom storage in back seat (dedicated post coming soon)
  • Rock guard inside wheel wells

 

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