Information on a Ford 2.3-Liter 4-Cylinder Engine

by Rob Wagner

The Ford 2.3-liter in-line four-cylinder engine, commonly called the Lima engine because Ford manufactured it in Lima, Ohio, belongs to the 2.0-, 2.3- and 2.5-liter engine family. Ford produced the 2.3-liter engine from 1974 to 1997. The engine is not related to Ford's in-four-cylinders that powered the 1932 to 1934 Model B cars. The 2.3 powered numerous Ford models. A turbocharged version powered the Fox-bodied Mustangs and other performance cars.


The Lima 2.3-liter engine traces its roots to the German-designed Ford 2-liter in-line four-cylinder that powered the Cortinas in Europe and the Mercury Capri in North America. Ford placed its 2.3-liter version, which was equipped with iron heads, a points distributor and two-barrel Weber/Holley carburetor, in the Ford Pinto. The initial output was 102 horsepower. In 1975, it received a Duraspark ignition system. Upgrades over the years included switching from a two-piece to a one-piece rear main seal in 1986, reducing the crankshaft main journal sizes in 1988, and changing to a distributorless ignition system in 1989.


The 2.3-liter had a 3.78-inch bore and 3.12-inch stroke. From 1983 to 1988, it had a 9-to-1 compression ratio, which increased in 1990 to 9.2-to-1. The 1994 to 1997 engines had a 9.4-to-1 compression ratio. The engine was carbureted through 1984, and then switched to a multiport electronic fuel-injection system in 1985. In the 1983 Ford Rangers, the horsepower was only rated at 79, but it climbed to 82 in 1983, 100 in 1989 and finally 112 horsepower in 1996. Its top torque rating was 135 foot-pounds.


Beginning in 1979, Ford equipped its Mustangs and some Mercury Capris with an optional turbocharged version of the 2.3-liter straight-four. These turbos came with a carburetor and had no intercooler. They were also unreliable. The 2.3 Turbo overheated and had a tendency to seize. Part of the problem stemmed from poor Ford dealership maintenance training. Ford mechanics could not figure out how to unstick a frozen turbo. The Mustang GT version had 131 horsepower and poor acceleration. Ford Motorsport offered an optional boost controller with an adjustable rod to push the psi of the turbocharger from 5 to 9 psi, but the standard among turbochargers was 15 psi. The 2.3 Turbo performed better in the 1983 Mustangs with the introduction of fuel injection, which increased horsepower to 145. The 2.3 Turbo proved itself in the 1984 Mustang SVO models, which finally received an air-to-air intercooler and a Garrett T03 turbocharger to develop 175 horsepower.


Ford used the non-turbo 2.3-liter widely. It was the base engine for the Aerostar minivan, compact Courier pickup, and the Courier's successor, the Ranger. It also powered the Mustang, Fairmont, the luxury-oriented LTD, and the Mercury Bobcat and Zephyr. In South America, Ford installed it in the Taunus, Sierra and Falcon. Jeep CJ-5s manufactured in Brazil also received the engine. Buyers could order the optional turbocharged 2.3 on the Mustang, Thunderbird, Fairmont, Mercury Capri, Cougar and Zephyr, and Merkur XR4Ti.

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