Do I need any special tools or skills to replace the shocks on my 1996 Ford Ranger? Regular Cab, Step Side, 3.0L V6 if it matters
Too easy with a basic set of tools, a jack and jackstands. Let's start at the front.
Jack the truck up and put it on jackstands, you'll need the jack to raise and lower the wheel which is why you need the jackstands. The shock bolts into two places, at the top in a 'shock-hoop' and at the bottom at the control arm. Unbolt the bolts from the control arm, they're probably 13mm and/or 15mm depending on if they're the original bolts. Go to the top and take a picture or two of how the shock threads up through the shock hoop with the washers and rubber bushings on each side. Your new shocks may or may not come with new bushings. If they don't and yours are cracked, grab some new ones at the part store. (note, as you're reading this go check them so you know to grab some when you pick up the shocks.) There is a nut on the topside of the shock hoop and through it, there is a rod which is connected to the shock. Hold that rod with a pair of vise grips and loosen the nut. It helps to turn the wheel or remove it entirely, but the wheel's weight helps pull it down so you can get the bottom of the shock aligned to the slot in the control arm. Your call. After some annoyance, you'll have the nut removed from the top of the shock and you can thread the rod out of the shock hoop and the shock out of the front suspension. Installation is the reverse. Start at the top, look at the picture you took and stack the rubber parts and the washer, and tighten it down. Use your jack to raise the wheel/control arm so it lines up with the bottom of the shock and bolt it down.
On to the rear. Same deal, jack it up and put it on jackstands. You're going to need to drop the spare tire to get at the top of the shocks, do it before or after you jack up the truck. Use your jack and put a slight bit of pressure under the bottom shock mounting point, leaf spring, or even on the axle itself if that works for you. The bolt that goes through the bottom bracket is under some tension from the leaf springs and it will be 10x easier to remove if you don't have the leaf springs pushing down and trying to cram the bolt and threads through the hole. Unbolt the bottom shock bracket, knowing Ford this is an 18mm nut and bolt. Tap the bolt out, and you may need a punch or a screwdriver you don't like to tap it all the way through the hole. Once that's out, let pressure off the jack slowly so that side of the rear axle fully drops. Start working on the top, this is just like the control arm at the front except with less space. Install the new one in the reverse order, starting at the top and using the jack to lift the axle up to meet the bottom of the shock.
That's pretty much it. Go for a cruise around the block and come back and check all your bolts to make sure that you didn't get one falsely tight because it was bound up a little bit. It also helps to spray all those nuts and bolts with some sort of 'break-free' penetrating oil, it will make the entire process a lot easier.