Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4×4 Suspension Upgrade

Since our last update on the Ultimate PreRunner Ranger project, a lot has happened. Most recently, we did some engine tune-up stuff and a headlamp upgrade. Those were all minor jobs compared to what has been done to the 2004 Ford Ranger pushing it into its current stage. The biggest items were installing a newly fabricated four-wheel-drive Ford Ranger prerunner suspension upgrade, increased tire size, new wheels, and big shocks. We are excited about the progress and want to thank Adventure Off-Road of Tusin for the big assist at this stage of the build. 

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - Adventure Off-Road

Before we look at all of the new equipment, we have a quick summary of why we wanted to go newer and bigger. During the first stage upgrades, the Ford Ranger received prerunner suspension in the form of an all-new Dixon Bros. 4×4 kit. This used the stock spindle and hub, a robust fabricated boxed lower arm, a tubular upper arm, and a custom lengthened axle. All OE-style ball joints were utilized. Holding up the truck, on each side, was an 8-inch x 2.5-inch coilover shock, a single 18-inch Eibach Spring, and a 2-inch bump stop.

The Time Has Come

It was a good little kit, but over time, a few concerns came to the surface. The small, single coilover was a big limiting performance factor. Finding replacement axles became a serious problem for other customers who had the same setup. More importantly, my desire to go faster and eventually run 37-inch tires would expose other weak links like the stock spindle hub and ball joint components. Not to mention the very poor maintenance and upkeep on my part.

She was tired, and neglected, but still trucking.

Ultimate PreRunner Ford Ranger Gets New 4×4 Suspension Upgrade

It was safe to say that after 10 years of daily driving and regular off-roading, the old girl needed some work. It is time for a 100,000-mile off-road overhaul and tune-up, and we will start with removing old parts and replacing them with heavy-duty upgrades. 

The solution for our Ford Ranger PreRunner suspension upgrades came in the form of the BTF Fabrication 4×4 Race Long Travel System. This is a hand-fabricated kit designed for the 1998-2012 Ford Ranger that is also compatible with 1995-2001 four-wheel-drive Ford Explorers. 

As far as Ford Ranger A-arm prerunner suspension kits go, this one is at the top of the food chain and still retains 4×4 functionality. BTF Fabrication has this kit cycling 18 inches of wheel travel with zero CV joint bind.

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - BTF Fabrication 4x4 Race Kit Prerunner Suspension

The Main Motivation

Simply put, it is the most wheel travel available for a four-wheel-drive A-arm Ranger and Explorer/Sport Trac. The huge fabricated arms push the suspension out 10 inches wider than the stock track width. A very beefy fabricated knuckle moves the hub center point 1.5 inches forward to better clear up to 37-inch tires. 

Some of the other cherries used in this kit all add strength and reliability. The hefty RCV Axles and CV joints are going to be game changers along with it being set up for a Dana 44 locking hub and Wilwood Superlite Brake Calipers.

With all this heavily researched, I convinced myself of the want, need, and desire, so I pulled the trigger. I had a good-sized deposit prepared already and established a payment schedule that coincided with a delivery date for the kit. This also set the reaction to begin sourcing out all the other necessary components, i.e. shocks, wheels, tires, hubs, spindles, hardware, brakes, and more.

BTF Fabrication 4×4 Race Long Travel System Main Features:

  • Boxed upper and lower arms,
  • Fabricated knuckles
  • Fabricated steering arms
  • Fully assembled RCV Axle shafts
  • Full heim steering
  • Stainless braided brake lines
  • Designed for Dana 44 locking hubs and Wilwood Superlite Brake Calipers

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Suspension Shock Upgrade

The main attraction of the BTF Race kit, besides retaining the four-wheel-drive, is that it accommodates a coilover and bypass shock setup. To take it to the ultimate next level, our Ford Ranger prerunner suspension needed to double up. We went searching for a compatible package and landed on Bilstein Shock Absorbers. For well over 50 years, Bilstein has been a prominent innovator of shock technology in off-road desert racing as well as motorsports across the board. 

Bilstein has a proven performance track record with very high-quality products. For our project, the professional racing competition level Bilstein M 9200 Bypass and 9200 Coilover shocks fit the bill. As part of the build consultation, Brandon Line of BTF Fabrication spec’ed out and identified the shock package for us. 

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - BTF Fabrication 4x4 Race Kit Prerunner Suspension

Bilstein M 9200 Coilover Main Features:

  • Available in 46mm and 60mm monotubes
  • Threaded body with dual-rate coilover hardware
  • Multiple stroke lengths available ranging from 8 inches to 16 inches
  • Case-hardened, centerless ground 22mm piston rod
  • Machined billet aluminum components
  • 5/8-inch uniball mounts with 1/2-inch step spacers
  • 60mm remote reservoir
  • 46mm shock uses a 2.5-inch ID coilover spring
  • 60mm shock uses a 3.0-inch ID coilover spring
  • 3-stage high-temp seal
  • Red synthetic high-temp racing oil
  • Zinc plated
  • Multiple valving available
  • Owner rebuildable
  • Made in the USA
  • 46mm coil-carrier (non-reservoir) and 60mm coilover with reservoir available

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - Bilstein 9200 Coilover Shock

The Bilstein 9200 coilover shocks, P/N: 33-244471, for our project feature a 10-inch stroke, are 60 millimeters wide (or 2.5 inches), and valved at 255/100. Bilstein bypass shocks are built with left and right side orientations and receive different part numbers. The 3-tube bypass shocks are also a 10-inch stroke, and 60 millimeters wide. P/N: 33-269542 was built for the left side, and P/N: 33-269559 was built for the right side. With these part numbers in hand, we placed an order.

Bilstein M 9200 Bypass Main Features: 

  • 70mm monotube design
  • Multiple stroke lengths available ranging from 10 inches to 18 inches
  • 60mm piggyback reservoir
  • 1-1/8-inch case-hardened, centerless ground piston rod
  • All machined billet-aluminum components
  • 5/8-inch uniball mounts with 1/2-inch step spacers
  • Three-stage high-temp seal
  • Red synthetic high-temp racing oil
  • Zinc plated
  • Owner rebuildable
  • Made in the USA
  • 60mm and 70mm shock bodies are available
  • 4-tube and 3-tube, position sensitive with adjustable rebound and compression

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - Bilstein 9200 Bypass Shock

Riding High With Eibach Springs

Knowing the Bilstein 9200 series coilovers would come sans coils, I know I would have to source a set of springs. I made several calls to my Ranger prerunner friends and inquired about spring rates. Everyone of course recommended Eibach Springs as the go-to. I was already sold as Eibach is an industry leader in performance suspension and a giant supporter of motorsports. Based on my vehicle application purpose and shock package, I was advised to set up with a 16-inch/600-pound main spring and pair them with a 6-inch/500-pound tender over spring.

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - Eibach Springs

The great thing about Eibach Springs is that you get what you pay for. In this case, we invested in Eibach’s Off-road Race Springs, which are specifically manufactured for the ultimate in durability and strength. There truly is no other form of motorsports that sees as much suspension travel as off-road vehicles. Eibach knows this and has developed a comprehensive ERO (Eibach Racing Off-Road) System and product line. Each off-road race springs are designed and engineered to withstand the extreme conditions and high-performance demands of off-road racing all while retaining their rate and dimensions.

Ultimate PreRunner Ford Ranger Gets Big Hubs And Brakes

As we mentioned, the BTF Race Kit was built around the old tried and true Dana 44 IFS hub and spindle, more specifically, for 1988-1992 Ford Bronco and 1988-92 Ford F-150 four-wheel-drive models. BTF supplied the fabricated components, RCV Axles, and necessary hardware, but left me to source out the hub and spindle components. 

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - BTF Fabrication 4x4 Race Kit RCV Axles

I figured it would be in my best interest to do a refresher on the Ford variant of the IFS Dana 44 variant and found a lot of great information in this article.

Yukon Replacement Spindle

I began stockpiling parts and started with the Yukon replacement spindle for Dana 44 IFS with six stud holes. These spindles are designed as OE replacement parts but with greater strength and durability. They feature a deeper heat treatment and are manufactured with tight tolerances.

The spindles bolt directly onto the BTF Fabrication built upright and is the foundation for the hub components.


Disc Brake Rotor And Hub Assembly

Next, we needed to source the Dana 44 hub, rotor, and bearing assembly unit. For this, we wanted to keep it simple and get straight OE replacement quality components. I found what I was looking for at Jeff’s Bronco Graveyard with the Raybestos-manufactured D44 Hub and Rotor.

We also needed the D44 Timken Wheel Bearings, Races, and Seals set for both sides, a pair of Spicer OE Spindle Nuts and Washer Kits, along with a few other essentials.

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - Dana 44

Wilwood Superlite Calipers And Brake Pads

The BTF Kit spindle upright was designed to accept and mount the Wilwood Billet Forged Superlite Four-Piston Calipers P/N:120-11136. These puppies feature a symmetrical four-piston configuration and are a top choice for racing applications. The Stress-Flow forged aluminum case makes Wilwood’s benchmark caliper better and stronger. Strengthened end bridges and smooth shoulders present maximum wheel clearance in race, off-road, and street cars.

Wilwood Superlite Calipers Main Features: 

  • Computer solid modeling and stress analysis allow superior strength and efficiency, with more clamping force and less deflection, without added mass or size.
  • Only 5 pounds assembled, but exceptionally strong due to forged aluminum construction.
  • Symmetrical pistons and four bleed screws let one caliper work for left or right, leading or trailing installations.
  • High-strength steel main bridge bolts in tension provide maximum resistance to body separation under load, supplemented by a center bridge bolt to minimize deflection.
  • Single center bridge bolt provides positive brake pad retention but allows quick and easy changes.
  • Stainless steel wear plates extend caliper life and reduce pad rattle and squeak

Knowing the vehicle would spend as much time on the street as on the trail off-road, we consulted with Wilwood, looking for a mild middle-of-the-road brake pad. They suggested a medium friction Smart Pad with BP-10 Compound P/N: 150-8854K. This is a high-performance brake pad that uses a street compound with improved friction. They also offer lower wear and lower dust levels than standard replacement pads. This would be completely appropriate for both of our on and off-road requirements. 

We also picked up one bottle of the Wilwood HI-TEMP Brake Fluid to round out the order.

4WD Locking Hub Mechanism

To complete the four-wheel-drive system, Brandon Line informed us that we would need two components to make it all come together and work as intended. First, we would need a locking-hub spindle nut conversion kit and also the locking hub itself.

This Warn Locking Hub Spindle Nut Conversion Kit is compatible with the Yukon Hardcore Locking Hub Set.

The Warn Industries Locking Hub Spindle Nut Conversion Kit fits the bill and is compatible with the Yukon Hardcore Locking Hub Set Dana 30 and Dana 44 for 30-spline axels. This was all a complimenting setup to the 30 spline RCV axels supplied in the BTF kit. Brandon had lined out this equipment specifically so we we went with these units specifically.

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Suspension Is Bolstered By New Tires, Wheels, And More!

With the Ford Ranger prerunner suspension arrangements secured, big shocks, big brakes, a robust hub setup, and the complete four-wheel-drive system all staged up, we were pretty stoked with the new direction for our Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner. The truck had been rolling on 33-inch tires for much of its life with the current set-up aftermarket modifications. The slightly oversized tires were accommodated by the FiberwerX 5-inch flared fiberglass front fenders.

Ultimate PreRunner Ford Ranger Gets Upgraded Tires

At this new stage of development for the Ultimate PreRunner project, our plan prescribes only a 35-inch tire upgrade. We plan to eventually get suited for 37s but for now, a true 35 will check the box. Fortunately for me, the FiberwerX 5-inch flares provide ample coverage and room for the new tire size we have temporarily landed on.

With so many tire options out there, I wanted to go with something I knew would perform well and look great. The Toyo Tires Open Country M/T. These are tried and true and very popular in the off-road racing industry. I have run them in the past on this truck and they were great. I also even got the opportunity to race on these tires for a couple of seasons with my good friend Jason McNeil back when we were campaigning a Class 7 Open Ford Ranger. We were a competitive outfit winning multiple races and a championship to boot.

The Toyo Tire Open Country M/T is as solid as they come. If you are still not convinced, Toyo offers the Open Country M/T Tires with a 500-mile/45-day trial offer.

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - Toyo Tire Open Country M/T

Toyo Tires Open Country M/T Main Features:

  • High turn-up and tough polyester construction contribute to excellent durability, impact resistance, and handling.
  • Aggressive tread design with hook-shaped blocks delivers excellent off-road traction and great on-road performance.
  • Deep siping in the tread blocks helps maintain grip on wet surfaces.
  • Open, scalloped shoulder blocks improve off-road traction.
  • Enhances grip in muddy, sandy, or snowy off-road conditions.
  • Ejects mud and snow through the open channels.
  • Over-the-shoulder tread helps to provide traction in deep mud and snow.
  • Delivers improved off-road handling in hard turns.

Ultimate PreRunner Ford Ranger Sporting New Bead Grip Wheels

One thing I had not changed out in a very long time was the wheels. I had been running the very classic-looking matte black 301 Series Method Race Wheels with the faux bead locks. I liked the look so much that it just stayed with the truck for almost 15 years. For the next evolution, we are updating to new shoes and a new color too.

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - Method Race Wheels
Once again Method Race Wheels are my go-to choice for style, durability, and quality. I selected the 704 Bead Grip wheel, in the Titanium finishThis style has a similar 12-spoke design that is not that much different from the 301 variant that I liked so much, sans the bolted hardware around the wheel lip. One of the main features of this wheel is it features Method’s proprietary Bead Grip Technology. This design allows for the deflation of tires to a low air pressure without debeading the tire from the rim. A definite benefit in my case as I plan to run this truck in soft sand, loose terrain, and even some extreme trail crawling.

Method 704 Bead Grip Wheel Main Features:

  • Patented Bead Grip technology engages tire bead for increased grip at low tire pressures
  • Solid A356 aluminum with T6 heat treatment construction
  • Legendary 12-spoke design with debossed Method logo
  • Aggressive safety hump on bead seats further prevents debeading
  • Reinforced inner lip taken from MRW race wheel increases strength
  • Snap-in center cap with embossed Method Bead Grip logo
  • Push-through center cap with embossed Method Bead Grip logo for 8-lug applications
  • Hub-centric fitments for common applications
  • The industry’s best lifetime structural warranty
  • Super strong 2,100 lbs., 2,650 lbs., and 3,640 lbs. load ratings based on wheel size

Our new wheel specifications are as follows:

  • Part Number: MR70478555800
  • Wheel Diameter: 17 inches
  • Wheel Width: 8.5 inches
  • Bolt Pattern: 5×139.7 (5×5.5)
  • Offset: 0 millimeter
  • Hub Bore: 108 millimeter
  • Back Spacing: 4.75 inches
  • Wheel Weight: 32.8 pounds
  • Max Load: 2,650 pounds

Ultimate PreRunner Ford Ranger Modifies Hub And Bolt Pattern

If you have not caught on, the Ultimate PreRunner Ford Ranger and its new prerunner suspension now utilize the 5×5.5 bolt pattern. Traditionally, a standard Ford Ranger would run the 5×4.5 arrangement. The 5×5.5 setup is what you normally find on Ford F-150s, full-size Broncos, and whatnot from the era.

For our truck project to run one set of identical wheels, we identified the need for rear-hub wheel adapters. We contacted a local source that specializes in wheel adapters and spacers, along with many other wheel accessories. Bronson’s was super informative and got us exactly what we were looking for at a fair price.

We ended up ordering a custom set of wheel adapting spacers that would mount our 5×5.5 lug pattern wheels to our 5×4.5 Ford Ranger OE rearend. This also added 1.25 inches, per side, to the total width of our configuration. The extra width was badly needed already. This is a temporary provision, as we intend to upgrade to a fully fabricated, race-style, 9-inch rear-end. This will include all the bells and whistles typically found in a wazoo off-road truck axle. At that point, we can eliminate the wheel adapters as our future rearend will present the 5×5.5 lug pattern.

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Suspension Installed By Adventure Off-Road

Over a year and a half, I sourced a garage full of off-road truck parts. It was quite an ambitious endeavor and with everything procured, I was looking at a stash kicking over five digits. By far the most modifications I had ever thrown at a vehicle in a single build stage. It was a major milestone for me and this cherished little truck that I have become very fond of.

Understanding that landing these truck parts was the easy part, I connected with a local professional off-road shop. I have worked with Adventure Off-Road in the past and trusted they could handle the job. It also helps to have an old friend I crewed with back in my short-course racing days managing the location. After sharing with them the details of my project, we scheduled a date for them to handle the installation.

Truth be told, my project was far outside the normal scope of Adventure Off-Road’s typical services, but well within its skill purview. The “bread and butter” menu services mainly consist of high-performance and off-road accessory bolt-on modifications for late-model trucks and SUVs. However, at the Tustin location, they have been known to build ground-up purpose-built vehicles, perform radical V8 conversions, and just about anything else that could be done at a top off-road shop. Every time I visit, there is always an interesting lineup of vehicles getting fresh upgrades.

Assembly And Installation

Jesse and the crew at Adventure Off-Road were an outstanding bunch that took this job seriously and with the utmost professionalism. From the time I arrived with my pride and joy beloved truck, packed to the gill inside and out with parts, to the very end of the project, it was an easy and uplifting experience. I was even fortunate enough to live near one of the associates who offered to pick up and deliver some of the items I could not fit in my Ford Ranger’s little truck bed.

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade - Adventure Off-Road

The only hiccup along the way was a happenstance of my own doing. I purchased a super trick shock mounting support structure from Baker Fabrication that I thought would help alleviate some of the custom fabrication needs. It ended up not working out and Adventure Off-Road worked through it by devising a custom hand-fabricated upper shock mounting program.

By design, the Baker shock tower uprights were compatible with my truck and the BTF Kit. The caveout that threw everything out of wack was my shock configuration was equipped with custom 1-inch longer rod ends. This modification was prescribed by BTF Brandon and is a standard change-up that has worked out for him and his customers countless times using King Shocks exclusively.

Getting To It

At the end of it, Adventure Off-Road took my truck, stripped down, and removed all of the old that had to go. They cleaned up the work areas and pursued the precarious assembly and installation of the new Ford Ranger prerunner suspension system. They did a great job and I was very pleased when I inspected the Ultimate PreRunner Ford Ranger project in its new form.

Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner Gets New 4x4 Suspension Upgrade

Reflect On A Job Well Done And Thank Those That Put In The Effort

Off Road Xtreme would like to thank the team at Adventure Off-Road’s Tustin, California location for knocking out this project. Once the truck was assembled and back in my possession, I promptly took it out for a functions test. The Ford Ranger prerunner suspension was silky smooth with the Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs carrying the load. The BTF Kit performed flawlessly and looks super aggressive.

One thing I wanted to test out in good measure was the new four-wheel-drive system. I found myself in a very soft riverbed sand wash. It was not my intention to bury the truck, but let us just say, I was good and stuck. The rear axle was sitting on the dirt surface and the truck was no longer moving under its own power. I engaged the electronic 4WD control switch and then hopped out to lock my new Yukon HD hubs. With that, I put it into gear and floored the throttle. The front Toyo Tires began churning and pulled the weight of the truck up and out of the holes. Next, I did some rips up and down the sand wash, fist-pumping the air, and rocking out to Slayer. I was pumped and took a couple of hero shots to finish up the day.

Photo gallery


What Is Next For The Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner

You can expect a lot in the next phases of our Off Road Xtreme Ford Ranger Ultimate PreRunner project vehicle. In an effort to plan for upgraded vehicle electronics, accessories, and perhaps even a V8 swap, we have added a dual battery system. Stay tuned for an informative article on that. Another thing we are very excited about will be a complete hub-to-hub race-style fabricated 9-inch rearend drivetrain upgrade. We have a lot of plans for this truck with much of it already in the pipeline. Stay tuned for more!

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About the author

Micah Anderson

Micah is a 20 year authority in the off-road industry with extensive experience founded on marketing, events, and racing. Professionally skilled in all things creative, Micah is passionate about faith, freedom, and anything powered by adventure.
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