Mazda L 2.3l DOHC came in 2 versions, 23EW for front wheel drive cars and the 23NS for RWD Ranger
23EW was built in Mexico, 23NS was built in Michigan
EW = east-west, NS = north-south, lol.
Ford branded them Duratec engines, but they did that with a whole lot of engines not just the 23EW/23NS, lol, so 2.3l Duratec is the Mazda L 2.3l DOHC engine
As far as I know any 23NS could be used in your Ranger.
23EW had a different cam, less torque more HP, and head gasket was different for coolant flow in transverse mounting, but it could also be used in a Ranger(changing intake).
So any low mile 23NS will work, not sure why a Ford Dealer would say that, official listing for the 23NS in Rangers is 2003-2011, which could be why.
Rangers were switched from the Lima 2.3l/2.5l SOHC engine to the 23NS starting in 2002, maybe there was some confusion in the years you were asking about.
8th digit in VIN should be D for 23NS, A or C for the Lima engines
So check your VIN number to be absolutely sure about what the original engine was.
One heads up, because 2.3l DOHC engine was designed from scratch to be mounted transversely, it has a coolant connection on what is the back of the engine when mounted in a Ranger.
Only way to get to this connection is to remove the transmission.
So make darn sure this connection is GOOD, if in any doubt replace it with new.
Also when an engine is out it is always a good idea to install a rear main seal, another hard part to get to.
Last edited by RonD; 01-28-2016 at 06:51 PM.