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The most popular vehicle in the U.S. is one tough truck.

Ever since 1983, the Ford F-Series pickup truck has been the best selling vehicle -- truck or car -- in the U.S. It is obviously a workhorse for an enormous number of Americans, but it's also a personal vehicle of choice for many more who like the versatility of a truck compared to a car or minivan or SUV.

There is an enormous rivalry between owners of the F-Series and Chevy C/K full-size pickup trucks. Naturally, both groups contend that theirs are better. According to Polk Company, a research firm that keeps track of such things, F-Series owners are the most loyal of all pickup truck owners. Fully 37 percent of F-Series buyers in 1998 traded in an older F-Series, compared to only 25 percent average for other makers of pickup trucks.

The F-Series offers a large choice of engines, drivetrains and cab/bed combinations to suit different needs. F-Series models powered by a V-8 engine offer better performance and greater load carrying capacity yet they don't suffer from much worse fuel consumption. Unfortunately fuel consumption is not one of the F-Series' strong points -- but it's obviously not much concern when the vehicle is used as a work vehicle. When you're looking for a pre-owned F-Series, beware of trucks that have had a tough work life.

 

What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1992 Ford F-150

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of F-150

4. Review of Current Model

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Safety Information

8. Value Guide

9. Option Installment Rate

10. Awards and Commendations Earned

11. Other Reviews

12. Recall Information

13. Price of Spare Parts

 

1. Pre-Owned Vehicle Review -- 1992 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCab

My Likes: toughness, decent ride

Dislikes: slab-sided look (prior to 1997), fuel economy

Competitors: Chevrolet (and GMC) C/K, Dodge Ram, Toyota T-100

Miles: 43,300

Condition: A-

Price new: $16,000

Estimated 1998 value: $11,000

I tested a vehicle that was older than usual because it obviously had not been used as a work truck. Its condition was more comparable to a newer vehicle and its well below average mileage added $2,500 to the estimated value. The current owner bought it from the original buyer, when it was three years old, at about 22,000 miles. Since that time he has only racked up an additional 21,000 miles during three years of ownership. The truck had been well cared for and even included a dash cover to protect the dash from cracking caused by the California sun. The current owner has been meticulous about keeping the body and interior looking good.

This F-150 had an extended cab (Ford calls it a SuperCab) with a short bed. It was powered by a 350-cubic-inch V-8 engine coupled to an automatic transmission. The truck drove well. There did not appear to be any problems other than a few creaking noises coming form the dashboard and a slight rattle in the door when driving over bumps. The condition of the interior was excellent, certainly better than in most six-year-old vehicles. The owner said he'd had no problems in the past three years.

Although the F-series remained largely unchanged between 1981 and 1997, Ford continuously improved the vehicle. In some ways this '92 model felt more up to date than a Chevy C/K pickup of the same era. The dashboard had a more car-like appearance with a better ergonomic layout of switches and controls.

Back in 1993, I tested a F-150 Lightning, which was a limited production high-performance version of the regular truck. I was impressed by its sports car like acceleration. The truck bed on the back just seemed like an added bonus to a high performance vehicle. I described its ride as being sporty, but had to admit that handling on curvy roads was not up to par with a sports car. Of course a stock truck, especially with a six-cylinder engine, won't perform anywhere close to the Lightning, but it did show how capable a F-150 is under pressure.

One can see why the F-series has been the most popular vehicle in the US for the past 15 years. Judging by the excellent condition of this six-year old, it's easy to see it giving many more years of service. It's a solid workhorse that can as easily fit in with a family or a business. It is equally adept as a "Round Town" vehicle or out in the rough and tumble workplace.

 

2. Summing It Up - Owners' Views

Good:

"It's big"

"Doesn't ride like a truck"

Bad:

"Lack of airbags" (started to appear in some 1994 models)

"Lack of third door in SuperCab model" (rectified from 1997 on)

" Gas mileage"

Verbatims:

"It's so nice to be above everything."

"I like the third door on the new models."

 

3. History of F-Series Pickup

The first F-Series truck was introduced by Ford in 1948 and was called the F-1. The F-100 appeared in 1953 and the first F-150 was introduced in 1975. In 1995, production of the F-Series surpassed production of the VW Beetle making it the most popular selling vehicle in history. Ford claims that 8 million of these F-series trucks are still on the road. Most of them are in the U.S. as full-size pickup sales overseas are negligible.

The newest F-Series was introduced in early 1996 as a 1997 model. The '97 model included the most comprehensive redesign since 1981 -- much more than just a reskinning. The new truck features a totally redesigned chassis with a new more refined front suspension. The F-150 and F-250 Regular Cab are about 5 inches longer than in 1996, providing additional storage space behind the seat and more comfortable backrest-recline angles.

The old 1996 F-Series was produced for some months after the new one went on the market which means that you can find a '97 model that is actually older than a '96. In fact, the all-new Super Duty F-250, F-350 and F-450 went on sale as 1999 models (there are no 1998 Super Duty models) early in 1998. Although these monster-sized trucks (over 8,500 lbs. GVW-gross vehicle weight) carry the F-Series designation, they are different in many ways from the smaller F-150 and F-250 light-duty trucks (there are two versions of the F-250 model). It's confusing to say the least.

Although the Super Duty models are designed primarily for commercial use, Ford has found that up to 30 percent of owners use them for recreational purposes. For this reason some Super Duty models have been anointed with the same plush interiors found on the upscale trim levels of the light-duty F-Series trucks. Their exterior designs however, are not as rounded as the light-duty F-150 and F-250's (under 8,500 lbs. GVW).

F-series trucks are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes. There are three cabs to choose from -- Regular, SuperCab and Crew Cab. Then there are two bed sizes and six engines and several transmissions. Most models are also available as 2WD or 4WD. By the way, the "F-XXX" number relates to the load carrying capacity: 150 is a half-ton truck, 250 is a three-quarter ton and 350 is a one-ton truck, etc. They are sold in what seems to be an infinite variety of permutations based in part on the styles listed above. Commercial users also have the option to buy just a cab and chassis for installation of a custom body.

Consider these examples for the 1997 model. There are F-150s and F-250s in Standard, XL, XLT and Lariat trim series. There are Regular Cabs, SuperCabs and Crew Cabs. There are Stylesides and Flaresides. There are short and long pickup boxes. There are 4x2s and 4x4s. There are manual and automatic transmissions, a V-6 engine (replaces the straight-six in the older F-Series) and five separate V-8 displacements, one available in both gasoline and natural gas versions, another unique to the turbo diesel. F-series offers nine wheelbases (not including four others that are exclusive to F-Super Duty chassis). Plus, there is a wide assortment of payload packages and GVW ratings, a diverse selection of seating materials and configurations, alternative axle ratios, etc.

 

4. Review of Current F-series Pickup

When Ford introduced the 1997 F-series truck, some pundits thought its curvy look might not appeal to traditional truck owners. They were wrong. The newest version of the F-series has been selling extremely well pulling even further ahead of the Chevrolet C/K pickup in the sales race.

After driving the new F-150, it easy to see why the Ford is gaining popularity. It has a distinctive style that gives it a tough yet smart look. The chassis was completely redesigned to utilize all-new front and modified rear suspensions. When you jump into one you'll also find that it has a feel that is more akin to a sport-utility vehicle than a pickup truck. The short wheelbase version still rides a bit firm but jump into a longer wheelbase model and the smoothness is impressive for a full size truck.

The V-8 engine in the 1997 F-series has also been brought up to date. It has overhead camshafts instead of the old traditional push-rod engines that have served so well for many decades. The overhead cam design allows engine designers to produce more horsepower and better fuel economy while keeping emissions low. The engine options include a 4.2-liter split-port-induction V-6 rated at 210 horsepower, the most powerful standard V-6 engine available in a full-size pickup truck. Optional engines include a 4.6-liter SOHC Triton V-8 that delivers 220 hp and a 5.4-liter SOHC Triton V-8 with 235 hp. These V-8 engines are the first and only ones available in full-size pickups that feature a "fail-safe" cooling system to help protect the engine from potential damage by allowing alternating cylinder firing to keep the engine running at reduced power if there is a problem with coolant loss.

Coupled to an electronically-controlled automatic transmission, these trucks perform and sound more like a car.

Ford has also upped the ante in the door department with a third door fitted as standard on the extended SuperCab models. From 1999 on it will offer a fourth door on these models as the convenience of these rear doors has really caught on with truck buyers.

I also had the opportunity to drive the Super Duty F250-F550 soon after they were introduced. Although they are based on a heftier chassis and are aimed at commercial and serious recreational customers who need to haul large boats or horse trailers, etc. they drove astonishingly well. Other than the intimidating size the ride was comparable to many SUVs and the interior trim options mean one does not have to sacrifice any mod cons.

 

5. Basic Facts (1992-96 model F-Series Pickup)

Vehicle Type: Full-size Pickup

No. Passengers: up to six

Origin of assembly: Kansas City, MO; Wayne, MI; Norfolk, VA; St. Paul, MN; Oakville, Canada; Cuautitlan, Mexico.

Engine: Standard: 4.9-liter 150 hp I-6

Option: 5.0-liter 185 hp V-8, 5.8-liter 200 hp V-8, 7.5-liter 230 hp V-8, 7.3-liter 185 hp V-8 diesel, 7.3-liter 190 hp V-8 turbo diesel.

Transmission: 5-spd. manual, 4-spd. automatic; rear-drive or 4WD

Length: 197 to 249 inches

Wheelbase: 117 to 168 inches

Width: 79 inches

Height: 71 inches

Curb weight: 3886 to 4316 lbs.

Cargo volume: n/a

Fuel tank capacity: 18 to 37 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 12-15/16-20 mpg

 

6. Changes in the Ford F-Series Line 1994 - 1999

1994 Model Year

Ford's electronically fuel injected (EFI) V-8 gasoline engines are improved for 1994.

An all-new, fully electronic wide-ratio overdrive (4R70W) automatic transmission uses the highly sophisticated logic system of Ford's fourth-generation electronic engine control system (EEC-IV).

Air conditioning systems in all F-Series trucks for 1994 will use a refrigerant that is free of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Safety improvements include a driver-side airbag supplemental restraint system (SRS) on models with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) under 8,500 pounds, side-door impact-protection beams, a brake/shift interlock system, and a center high-mount stop light that is integrated into the pickup box cargo light.

The brake/shift system requires that the brake pedal be applied before the truck can be shifted from park into any other gear.

The F-150 brake system for 1994 provides reduced brake noise, improved overall brake feel and increased brake-lining life and system serviceability.

1995 Model Year

New diesel options, the 7.3-liter DI (direct injection) "Power Stroke" V-8 Turbo Diesel is available with both manual and automatic transmissions on vehicles over 8,500 pounds GVWR.

Privacy glass is a new option.

1996 Model Year

On four-wheel-drive models, the hub-locking system and transfer case have been improved for greater durability.

Inside 1996 F-Series cabs, the instrument panels and door panel inserts on Eddie Bauer models now have woodgrain trim. And all outboard seating positions have Automatic Locking Restraint/Emergency Locking Restraint safety belts. Many new comfort and convenience features are added for 1996, including a new seat design featuring an integrated head restraint.

1997 Model Year

An all-new generation of F-Series pickups is introduced.

Rounder and more aerodynamically styled, the all-new F-150 and F-250 models feature new body, chassis and suspension systems; larger cabs, and a new gasoline engine lineup.

Third door on SuperCab models and improved interior comfort and convenience. Optional locking tailgate aimed at foiling vandals.

1998 Model Year

The new V-8 engines are the first and only ones available in full-size pickups that feature a "fail-safe" cooling system to help protect the engine from potential damage by allowing alternating cylinder firing to keep the engine running at reduced power during coolant loss.

1999 Model Year

Extended cab model with four doors added to range

Slight changes to external appearance of F-150 and F-250 models

Front seats improved

Super Duty F350-F550 introduced, they are based on a heftier chassis and different styling.

 

7. Safety Notes

NHTSA Ratings: Driver: 5, Passenger: 5 (since 1994)

Rear anti-lock brakes fitted since 1987

A driver side air bag began installation in some F-series trucks in 1994. All models under 8,500 GVW had them as standard from 1995 on.

Passenger-side airbag added in 1997

Four-wheel anti-lock brakes optional since 1997

Since 1997 major safety features include Second Generation dual airbags, a switch to deactivate the passenger-side airbag when installing a rear-facing child safety seat, knee bolsters for outboard occupants, shoulder belts for rear outboard seating positions and head restraints for outboard front seating positions.

 

8. Value Guide

Prices listed are for base models. Options can add considerably to the lowest price listed as these are usually "stripped" models. In many cases, very few vehicles are ever sold at the lowest price listed! Source: Kelley Blue Book

1992 Model Year

New: $9,866 to $16,812

1993 Model Year

New: $10,747 to $18,014

1994 Model Year

New: $11,885 to $18,402

1995 Model Year

New: $12,548 to $19,706

1996 Model Year

New: $13,522 to $20,905

1997 Model Year

New: $13,859 to $23,786

1998 Model Year

New: $14,205 to $26,994

 

9. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

(The installment rates listed are just for the F-150 model)

1993 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.9-liter 6-cylinder 42%

5.0-liter V-8 45%

5.8-liter V-8 13%

Transmission:

Manual 26%

Automatic 74%

4WD 26%

Air Conditioning 86%

Power Windows 56%

Cruise Control 66%

1994 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.9-liter 6-cylinder 42%

5.0-liter V-8 47%

5.8-liter V-8 11%

Transmission:

Manual 24%

Automatic 76%

4WD 32%

Air Conditioning 86%

Power Windows 53%

Cruise Control 62%

1995 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.9-liter 6-cylinder 41%

5.0-liter V-8 44%

5.8-liter V-8 15%

Transmission:

Manual 32%

Automatic 68%

4WD 35%

Air Conditioning 95%

Power Windows 57%

Cruise Control 64%

1996 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.9-liter 6-cylinder 46%

5.0-liter V-8 42%

5.8-liter V-8 12%

Transmission:

Manual 32%

Automatic 68%

4WD 32%

Air Conditioning 97%

Power Windows 54%

Cruise Control 62%

Keyless Entry 8%

1997 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.2-liter V-6 30%

4.6-liter V-8 57%

5.4-liter V-8 13%

Transmission:

Manual 16%

Automatic 84%

4WD 36%

Air Conditioning 97%

Power Windows 70%

Cruise Control 81%

Keyless Entry 8%

Leather Seats 28%

 

10. Awards and Commendations

1994

"Best Overall Value of the Year" (F-250 Styleside XL) - IntelliChoice

1995

"Pickup Truck of the Year" (F-250 Diesel) - Four Wheeler

1997

"Truck of the Year" - Motor Trend

"North American Truck of the Year" - North American Auto Writers

"Best Buy" - Consumers Digest

"Best Truck Value Over $18,000" (F-250 Styleside XL SuperCab) - IntelliChoice

1998

"Best Buy" - Consumers Digest

 

11. Quotes

There were few published road tests on the F-series during the years prior to the introduction of the all-new 1997 F-series. In fact, the first reports on this vehicle started appearing as early as the fall of 1995. In comparison tests the last-generation F-Series seemed to be rated just behind the then new Dodge Ram and the Chevrolet C/K pickup. The tables turned with the introduction of the 1997 F-series.

"The dashboard in the regular F-150 is quite attractive and contains all the necessary instruments. It [the F-150 Lightning] certainly puts to rest the myth that a truck can't run like a "high-performance car." -- John Rettie, New York Times Regional Newspaper Group Test Drive, 1993

"This stylish, round-shouldered [1997] Ford F-150 SuperCab rides better than you'd think a truck with a live rear axle could. The Ford also boasts a rev-happy, high-tech V-8 with a hair-trigger throttle that makes you think the engine's a lot bigger the first time you tap the juice pedal." -- Car and Driver, June 1996, comparison test.

 

12. Recalls

(The following list does not include recalls for low-volume conversions. Also, some recalls covered a wider variety of models and years than listed here and some were also listed under additional ID Numbers)

ID Number: 96I003000 Component: engine Year: 1993- '94 Year of Recall:'96 Potential Number of Units Affected: 240,000+ Summary: This is not a safety recall in accordance with Federal Regulation 573. However, it is deemed a safety improvement campaign by the agency. The front end accessory drive (FEAD) serpentine drive belt can detach from the engine pulleys during certain engine operations. The diesel engine can cause the belts to stretch in excess of the tensioner capacity and the belt detaches from the pulleys. Belt failures can result in the loss of power steering assist and the loss of brake assist once the vacuum reservoir is depleted. Also FEAD belt failure poses a risk of engine compartment fire in vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions if it results in the transmission oil cooler hose rupture.

ID Number: 96V064000 Component: interior systems: tracks and anchors: front seat: lumbar system Year: 1995 - '96 Year of Recall:'96

Potential Number of Units Affected: 31,000+

Summary: The wire harness for the power lumbar feature on the seat is underneath the front seat cushion support wires. The support wires on the driver seat can contact and damage the insulation harness resulting in a high resistance electrical short through the support wires. Consequence of defect: over heating of the support wires could result, and melting, smoke, or possible ignition of the surrounding materials could occur.

ID Number: 97V066000 and 96V064000

Component: brakes: hydraulic: shoe and drum system: drum

Year: 1995 - 1996

Year of Recall: '97

Potential Number of Units Affected: 33,121+

Summary: The retainer clips were not removed from the rear brake drum wheel stud bolts prior to the installation of a custom wheel. The wheel can appear to be or can actually go out of balance and could crack in the lug nut area increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.

ID Number: 96V161000 Component: equipment: certification label

Year: 1996 - '97

Year of Recall: '96

Potential Number of Units Affected: 500,000+

Summary: The Certification Labels on the involved vehicles has incorrect rear tire inflation pressure designations. This does not comply with FMVSS NO. 120, "Tire Selection and rims for Motor Vehicles other than Passenger Cars." Incorrect inflation pressures could cause premature wear of the rear tires.

ID Number: 96V184000 Component: brakes: hydraulic: master cylinder: pistons: cups: spring

Year: 1997

Year of Recall: '96

Potential Number of Units Affected: 1,200

Summary: The retainer clip that holds the master cylinder push rod to the brake pedal arm is missing. A loss of service braking can occur increasing the risk of a vehicle accident.

ID Number: 96V251000 Component: fuel: throttle linkages and control Year: 1997 Year of Recall:'96 Potential Number of Units Affected: 22,000 Summary: Vehicles registered in the following states: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan (Upper Peninsula), New York, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. ion at highway speeds during extreme cold, northern climate winter conditions, can result in ice forming in the throttle body of the engine. This ice can cause the throttle plate to remain in the highway cruising position after the accelerator is released or the speed control is deactivated. Under such conditions, the vehicle stopping distances would be increased possibly resulting in an accident.

ID Number: 96V256000

Component: interior systems: restraint: belt anchor and attachment

Year: 1997

Year of Recall: '96

Type of Report: Vehicle

Potential Number of Units Affected: 133,000

Summary: The seat belt anchorage attachments are missing or mis-installed on these vehicles. A loose fastener can eventually detach and would not properly restrain an occupant in the event of a vehicle accident.

ID Number: 97V147000 Component: power train: transmission: automatic Year: 1997 Year of Recall:'97 Type of Report: Vehicle

Potential Number of Units Affected: 15,500

Summary: The transmission bracket end fitting can separate from the shift cable assembly resulting in operator inability to shift the transmission from one of the drive gear positions into the park position. This condition can result in unintended vehicle movement if the parking brake is not set.

ID Number: 97V171000 Component: power train: transmission: automatic: indicator: lever: gear Year: 1997 Year of Recall:'97 Potential Number of Units Affected: 866,000

Summary: If the automatic transmission shift cable assembly was not fully attached to the steering column bracket, the shift cable assembly can come out of the bracket. The vehicle operator would then not be able to shift the transmission from one of the drive gear positions into the park position even though the gear shift selector would indicate "Park." The condition would not allow a disengagement of the transmission from the park position or affect proper neutral start switch operation. Unintended vehicle movement could occur if the parking brake was not set.

ID Number: 98V007000 Component: fuel: throttle linkages and control: pedal Year: 1997 - '98 Year of Recall:'98 Type of Report: Vehicle Potential Number of Units Affected: 45,000

Summary: Trucks equipped with a 4.2L engine and originally sold or currently registered in one of the following states: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. The throttle is unable to return to idle due to ice forming in the throttle body when the temperature ranges from -10 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Increased brake pedal efforts or some increase in stopping distance could result.

ID Number: 97V171000 Component: power train: transmission: automatic: indicator: lever: gear Year: 1997- '98 Year of Recall:'97

Potential Number of Units Affected: 866,000

Summary: If the automatic transmission shift cable assembly was not fully attached to the steering column bracket, the shift cable assembly can come out of the bracket. The vehicle operator would then not be able to shift the transmission from one of the drive gear positions into the park position even though the gear shift selector would indicate "Park." The condition would not allow a disengagement of the transmission from the park position or affect proper neutral start switch operation. Unintended vehicle movement could occur if the parking brake was not set.

ID Number: 97V187000 Component: tires: bead Year: 1997 Year of Recall:'97 Potential Number of Units Affected: 31,600

Summary: The tires on these vehicles were damaged during mounting onto the wheels. The bead area of the tire was cut which could result in air loss. Sudden air loss could occur resulting in a loss of vehicle control.

 

13. Cost of Parts and Service (Relative to Other Vehicles)

Headlight unit: $79 (below average)

Side marker lamp: $21 (below average)

Door (left front): $214 (below average)

Fender (left front): $175 (average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1995 model. Prices are current as of mid-1998 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision

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