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Re: 2003 Ford Ranger starts hard.
That sounds like it could be one of many things. Have you ever given the truck a tune up? I suggest the following things first.
New Air Filter New Spark Plugs New Plug Wires Oil Change (and filter)
These are the basic necessities of an engine. Having a dirty air filter, or plugs that are firing weak can surely cause this problem. Try giving the truck a good old tune up and see how it starts then.
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Sounds as if the engine is running rich ( over fueled ). There are many reasons for this issue. I'm suspecting the vehicle is fuel injected? You can check for a leaky fuel pressure regulator on the fuel rail and also a sticky/stuck EGR valve that can cause this problem. These are the quickest and easiest checks to do first. IF all ok, you may require the use of a scan tool to check sensors/codes for proper operation and look at any available data stream that may point you in the right direction
Maybe you need to test the (pcm) power relay, it controls the fuel pump relay. Once the key is turned on the pcm will initialize the power relay, it in turn will turn on the fuel relay for 2 seconds to prime the fuel rail prior to starting. Since the pump runs continuosly, it means the pcm isnt properly grounding the ckt or the relay is faulty.
i was once pulling a trailer with a ranger when it suddenly lost power and the engine died. turns out the problem was with the fuel shut off inertia switch. the switch is supposed to activate in case of accident. on my model the inertia switch is located in the passenger side under the glove box. dont know where yours is located. once you find it, just push the button and see if it resets. good luck.