The purpose of shock absorbers on your Ford Ranger is to dampen the oscillation, or bounce, of the springs. Without shocks, your Ranger would bounce up and down and keep doing so when you hit a bump. Worn shocks fail to properly dampen this and you will notice that the Ranger bounces two or three times when going over a bump. Worn shocks affect handling and can result in unsafe driving conditions. If you have to swerve, for instance, one side will dip and the other side will lift, causing a dangerous weight shift. With the Ranger parked, if you push down firmly on one corner over a wheel, it should go down and come back up to the level position. If it goes down again by itself and comes back up, your shocks are worn.
Set the parking brake. Loosen the lug nuts on both front wheels one turn. Raise the front of the Ranger with the jack and support with jack stands on each side of the frame. Remove the lug nuts and wheels. If you don't want to remove the wheels, you can probably get enough room by turning the steering wheel to the right to access the driver's-side shock and to the left to access the passenger's-side shock.
Remove the upper shock retaining nut. It is on top of the shock mounting bracket. You will need two wrenches, one to turn the nut and one to hold the flat tip of the shock rod; otherwise, when you turn the nut, the rod will spin. Remove the large washer and rubber insulator. Note how the washer fits over the insulator. The cupped (concave) side goes over the insulator. Note how the upper insulator sits on the shock. It has two different sides. One is flat -- this side faces up. The other has a small step -- it goes down.
Remove the lower shock mount. For early Rangers with a coil spring next to the shock, remove the retaining nut and washer at the bottom of the shock with a ratchet and socket. Note how the washer fits with the cupped (concave) side facing the shock. For later Rangers with torsion bar suspension, remove the two nuts and washers that attach the bottom of the shock to the lower control arm.
Pull the bottom of the shock (on coil spring model) off the mounting stud and remove the shock. Compress the shock (on torsion bar models) so that the top of the shock rod comes down through the mounting hole. Slide out the shock. The top of the shock (both types) will also have a rubber insulator on it. Note how it sits on the shock. The flat side goes down onto the shock. The stepped side will go up against the mounting hole when you replace the shock. New shocks come with new insulators, washer and nut.
Place a rubber insulator on the top of the shock rod. The flat side goes down against the shock. Compress the shock slightly and insert the top of the shock into the mounting hole. Push the bottom of the shock onto the lower mounting stud (coil spring). Continue to compress the shock and position the studs on the bottom of the shock into their holes (torsion bar).
Install the washer and nut (coil spring) on the lower end of the shock and tighten down. Install the two washers and nuts on the bottom of the shock (torsion bar) and tighten down. Install the rubber insulator over the top of the shock rod (both types) with the flat side up. Install the washer. Install and tighten down the upper retaining nut. Tighten the nut until the rubber insulator is pressed out to the same size as the washer.
Replace the wheels and install the lug nuts (if you removed them). Snug down the lug nuts. Raise the Ranger, remove the jack stands and lower the Ranger to the ground. Tighten the lug nuts.
Place wheel chocks in front of each front tire. Raise the rear of the Ranger and support with jack stands on each side of the axle at about the middle of each axle tube. It is not necessary to remove the wheels.
Remove the upper shock mount nut and washer. Note the position of the washer. The cupped (concave) side of the washer faces the shock. Remove the lower shock mount nut and washer.
Remove the lower shock mounting bolt. Pull the shock out of the lower mounting bracket. Remove the top of the shock from the mounting stud.
Push the upper end of the shock onto the mounting stud. Install the washer and nut but do not tighten down yet. Push the bottom of the shock up and into the lower mounting bracket. Install the bolt, washer and nut. Tighten the lower nut. Tighten the upper nut.
Raise the rear of the Ranger, remove the jack stands and lower the Ranger.