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F250 Gear Ratios & Why You’d Want to Change Them

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Table of Contents
  1. What are Ring and Pinion Gears and How They Mesh with the Drivetrain
  2. Stock F-250 Gear Ratios
  3. Why Someone Would Want to Change Gears
  4. What Happens When the Gears are Swapped to Taller or Shorter
  5. What the Common Swaps Are
  6. Installation Tips

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Shop F-250 Drivetrain Parts

An updated ring and pinion gear is a favorite mod among F-250 owners. Like your typical F-250 mods (cold air intakes, big tires, lift kits, and so forth) the differential ring and pinion gears contribute to some serious performance gains. They are responsible for how the truck responds to throttle input, and, more importantly, how you feel behind the wheel. You may not think it, but if it weren’t for proper gear ratios, no other mod would be worth its salt after a certain extent. They are always going to be the balancing factor.

2017-2019 F-250 lifted with stretched out tires

What are Ring and Pinion Gears and How They Mesh with the Drivetrain

Perhaps one of the most intimidating aspects of an automobile is it works on gear ratios. But once you acclimate yourself with the concept, it becomes much easier to understand and deal with, even if you don’t fully understand the formula of said ratios.

To completely understand what a ring and pinion do, we need to look at the entire system. The turning of the engine is what’s responsible for the forward motion of the vehicle. The engine is linked to the transmission, which takes the turning motion and uses gear reduction to turn the driveshaft in relevance to the engine. The driveshaft then runs to the differential pinion gear. This pinion gear turns the ring gear, which uses another gear reduction process to turn the wheels. This is the same concept for the front and rear differentials.

Knowing the enemy is the first step in deciding what gear ratio you should swap to. The F-250 is a truck designed for a hard work lifestyle. Top speed was never of much concern so relatively low gear ratios were offered in factory form.

Stock F-250 Gear Ratios

  • -3.31:1
  • -3.55:1
  • -3.73:1
  • -4.10:1

Why Someone Would Want to Change Gears

If the F-250 already had low gears to begin with, it’s easy to wonder why owners would want to change gear ratios. In a work or play atmosphere, an F-250 is going to be bogged down by a lot of weight. Tools, trailers, and equipment can be enough to hold down the throttle response of the F-250. Likewise, larger tires, big bumpers, and lift kits will hinder the go factor of these trucks. Cold air intakes, tuners, or other big power mods may correct these issues, but nothing is going to get back or increase the instant snap that swapping gears will.

What Happens When the Gears are Swapped to Taller or Shorter

The dynamics of gear swaps and the results can become a little clumsy to follow on account of the terms used to describe gear ratios. Taller gears are lower numerically, and lower gears are higher numerically.

Lower gears are going to increase throttle response but lower top speed, while taller gears will increase top speed but lower throttle response. This isn’t something you should think of as the overall top speed of the vehicle; instead, you should think about how that gear ratio comes into play in each gear of the transmission.

While overdrive may suffer and your cruising speeds hit higher RPMs with lower gears, first gear will have a lot more snap to it this is the case for each gear in the transmission; if you moved to lower gears and the opposite is true for higher gears.

What the Common Swaps Are

Things become difficult when trying to decide the right gear ratio for your truck. Yes, you can use a calculator to help figure out cruising speeds and so forth, but the feeling can’t be displayed in figures. So having a reference point is a wonderful thing. The right gear for you is going to be dependent on your current ratio, intended use, or existing modifications.

Towing: If your F-250 arrived stock with a taller gear set like 3.31:1, which is fairly common, you will feel you are being bogged down the second the trailer is attached. The 4:10:1 ratio is an excellent choice for this application as it will get the truck up to speed faster without sacrificing highway driving.

Larger Tires: Tires work a lot like a gear themselves. A taller tire increases top speed but hinders throttle response. The added weight will also wreak havoc on throttle response. For a street driven vehicle you will want to stay within range but still get low enough to get up to speed. A 4.30:1 gear ratio is very effective and popular in this division.

Off-Road Only: For off-road only applications where top speed and comfort are of no concern it’s open season. Applications running gears with ratios lower than 5:1 is nothing outlandish for these types of F-250s.

Installation Tips

Seeking professional help is never a bad idea when installing a ring and pinion set. If you aren’t familiar with the territory, calling a professional and letting them do the work is much more cost effective than having to do the job twice.

If this is something you do decide to take on, you’re going to want to take your time. This job requires the utmost precision. You will be installing ring and pinion gears to both the front and rear of the truck, which may add pressure, but you don’t want this pressure to lead to you cutting corners and forgetting steps.

It’s very critical to ensure you have the right tools for the job. A proper dial indicator and base, torque wrenches, and pinion depth gauges are going to make the difference between a short-lived or long-lasting set up that you can beat on. These tools can be expensive and if you don’t already have them, it may be more cost effective to let a professional do the install.