96 ranger temperature at idle

Joined
Mar 9, 2012
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My 96 2.3 ranger runs at about 190° however when it sits it slowly creeps up. Today it got to 215° before I shut it down. This is probably not alarming however the gauge was definitely on the far side of normal not near the middle. How warm should this engine get before it peaks and stays there or cools back down?
Fan shroud is attached and in good shape. The fan seems to work fine, a magazine cannot stop it while the engine is warm and running which tells me it's locking up and not slipping. With the truck off the fan doesn't spin freely if I try to spin it it'll move a few inches but not much. I believe that is correct operation.
Radiator is clean if debris. Water pump was replaced right before I bought it and coolant looks good. I know modern cars the fan comes on around 220° and the engine cools down. This truck has a clutch fan so I wasn't sure if what it is doing is normal. My assumption is it should stay pretty steady temp wise or go up to a point and then plateau. It seemed like the longer I let it go the warmer it got. What's your thoughts?
 
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My 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee will do the same thing when it gets really hot outside, (115+F). If I let it idle in the driveway while I unload something on a hot day, the temperature gauge will slowly start creeping up a couple notches.

I have digital temperature readings on the oil, but just a "C & H" gauge on the dash for coolant temp. As soon as I move the car, or slightly rev the engine a bit, it goes right back down.

I think a lot of these cars are aerodynamically designed for the vehicle to be in motion, in order to generate sufficient airflow through the cooling system. I know for a fact the old Fox bodied Mustangs were notorious for running hot as hell in traffic.

My wife had a 1991 LX with the 5.0 HO V-8, and it was so bad that in hot weather you couldn't run the air in heavy stop and go traffic, without pegging the temp gauge.

I tried everything to cool that thing down. 180 F thermostat, (it came with a 195 F from the factory). Ford Racing radiator, and direct drive flex fan, with an extension to get the blades as close to the core as possible. It still ran hot. On the highway at 60+ MPH it was no problem. But get that thing slowed down in traffic, and it ran hot as a pistol. Every person I talked to out here who had one, all had the same issues with them running hot.

That was one car I was glad to get rid of. We finally replaced it with a new Toyota Camry in 2018. In traffic you can hang meat inside that thing with the AC on.... And the temperature gauge doesn't budge regardless of traffic, speed, or outside temperature.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2008
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Kuwait
With the engine cold, try spinning the fan by hand. It should have a good amount of resistance. If not, it may be time for replacement.

Also, not knowing where you are, try idling with the hood open and see if you notice a drop in temperatures. If you live in an extremely hot environment, heat soak could be a problem.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2011
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7,864
If the temperature creeps up at idle, I would bet the fan clutch is bad. I had the same issue with my F150. However, I would first make sure the condenser and radiator fins are clear and free of debris.
 
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
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Suburban Washington DC
My 96 2.3 ranger runs at about 190° however when it sits it slowly creeps up. Today it got to 215° before I shut it down. This is probably not alarming however the gauge was definitely on the far side of normal not near the middle.
I thought the gauge in those Fords is just a fake gauge and it always points to the middle unless really overheating.
 
Joined
May 21, 2018
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South Carolina
Ford trucks have over built cooling systems. Your 2.3 will have the same radiator as the 3.0 and 4.0.
If your clutch fan is operating as you said, the only other issues would be an internal radiator restriction (scale) that you cannot see, a clogged external radiator (dirt, bugs, debris) or a defective thermostat (most likely).
I've never had a temp gauge rise while idling in hot weather.
 
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Joined
Aug 13, 2004
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How is your A/C performance at idle? If it gets warmer, that could point to the fan clutch.

The A/C on my 2001 Silverado has seemed weak at idle for the past few summers. The fan clutch "seemed" OK, though I didn't do the magazine test. It barely turned either cold or hot, and would hold a piece of paper against the grille when running. I finally changed it (with an OEM clutch) this summer after an out-of-character high temp reading in the school pickup line. Now the air is cold all the time.

I would start cheap, though, by flushing out the condenser and radiator fins.
 

wlk

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Aug 21, 2016
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If the thermostat is unknown I would replace it and start there. Could be buildup in cooling system but less likely
 
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