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Ford Repair/1990 Ford Ranger


Dear DW,

I have a '90 Ranger XLT, 2.3L engine, 4 cylinder with 8 spark plugs.  It's been running fine, then one morning wouldn't start. Someone tried spraying ether into the intake manifold, and it started right up.  It gave a little cough - not a loud backfire - and though it seemed to be missing a little, I drove a few miles at 30mph.  It sat for an hour, and started back up just fine first crank.  The next morning, it wouldn't start again without the ether.  I replaced the fuel filter and checked the throttle position sensor, changed the spark plugs, which weren't fouled with oil or anything.  I used a fuel injector cleaner recommended by an auto parts guy. It still hesitates, sounds chuggy, but doesn't kill in idle.  Also, I went from spending $10 a week in gas to $10 every 2 days.  I checked for leaks - nothing. Am I correct in assuming that, if the fuel pump was bad, I couldn't be driving around town all day?  
I'm a 60 yr old lady who doesn't know anything about mechanics.  I can't afford to take it to a shop.  Any help you could give me will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time.

If it will start with ether, you most likely have a fuel delivery issue. When you changed the fuel filter, was black gas coming out of it? dark gas in the filter indicates lack of maintenace or a fuel pump wearing out. Checking the fuel pressure might reveal a pump issue. And check the fuel pump pressure regulator for fuel in the small vaccum line at the regulator: if there is fuel in that line the regulator is leaking into the intake air stream.

All the clues you gave point towards fuel delivery, I doubt there is any spark related problem at this time.  

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I am a retired Ford master tech specializing in electrical, climate control, emissions, driveability, chassis, brakes, and any light repairs. Cannot answer transmission, parts, or price questions, these are not areas of my expertise.


39 years of auto repair, diagnosis, and emissions testing, in service staions, independent garages, and 20 years with Ford dealers.

National Street Rod Association (NSRA)
International Automotive Technicians Network (IATN)
IAMAW (retired)

Riverside City College Automotive technology program
Ford Master Tech Certified Engine and Chassis Master (Over 500 hours)
ASE Certified in 7 categories
6 years training in Union 76 Pro-tech program

Awards and Honors
4-time Technician of the Year at Almaden Lincoln Mercury
Ford Master Tech
Union 76 Pro-tech Master tech

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