The NMS 1997 Ford Ranger has been hanging with the team for just over 11 years now and despite being 17 years old, it only has a little over 126,000 miles on it. This year it's done everything from moving furniture to hauling a Miata engine, three sets of wheels at once, and even made it out to an autocross event to spectate. Unfortunately a few months ago it started making a horrible metal on metal clanking noise. This weekend I finally stepped in and fixed that problem.
It turns out almost all Rangers have an issue with a round metal weight that sits on the drive shaft, just behind the transmission. There is nothing but a rubber gasket holding it on, and as rubber gaskets do, it fails some time after 100,000 miles. Based on the wisdom of the Internet, most folks just take it off and don't notice a difference.
Above it's resting about where it should be, but it's loose. As soon as you hit a bump, turn a corner, or pull out of the driveway, it slides off and starts rattling around. Below you can see I've moved the balancer weight. This is right at the front of the bed. The non-rusty bit it's hanging on now is the transmission.
Step one is to go to the rear of the drive shaft and disconnect 4 bolts that hold it onto the rear differential. Below I've marked one corner of the drive shaft and the differential with a yellow grease pencil to make sure they line up when put back together. Note the blue jack stand in the background safely holding up the rear axle.
Depending on rust levels, apply hammer liberally. The shaft will come free and rest on the ground.
Step three is to slide the shaft out of the transmission...oops, and clean up the little bit of oil that spills.
Remove the ring, discard. Re-assembly is reverse of dis-assembly.