Ford Ranger Questions

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My truck is only going backwards

this can occur while driving I have not had it happen right after driving and it just started
need to test fuel pump pressure but the valve I found is smaller than any adapters I have
Auto parts counter person said it could be a vacuum leak- code p1537
I have had some rather scary high estimates to even evaluate my A/C issues. It is currently not blowing cold air on the coldest setting. I have read that these leaks are difficult to find, even with dye. And I have also read that the stop leak products will seal up rubber as well as metal leaks. There appears to be good sound chemical engineering taking place to help a person like me (low income) to fix a problem that could cost more than the vehicle is actually worth. I was wondering if someone has some insight on this subject (other than Amazon reviews). I do not want to become a crispy critter this summer!!
When driving in 2nd and 3rd gear there is a persistent loud rattling noise that has gotten worse and worse over the past year or so. Months prior to this noise showing up, I did have my muffler welded. The weld is GOOD and still holding fine. The rattling noise literally sounds like a loose bracket or metal strap clanking against some other metal part. I do not know a mechanic that would allow me to actually look under my own vehicle while it is up on the lift.
My truck bucks when driving it has had poor gas mileage and hesitation and loss of power issues. I have replaced starter, cleaned mass air flow sensor, changed spark plugs and wires, changed distributor cap an rotor, checked timing, compression, and still having
Knocking and popping noise and I feel it through the floor boards. Sounds like metal to metal
My brakes have been check, have plenty of brake fluid
Starts right up but misses no. 5 cylinder has lots of fuel in it.
alt. tested ok power comes back up when I let off the gas.
Has new front axels and the u-joint on the front drive shaft seems ok. Can hear the tick come and go when switching between 2wd and 4wd. Tick speeds up and down with speed of travel.
has a jerking feeling when going up hill or accelerating sometimes but not always
When starting out, the transmission won't shift into gear until the rpms are high
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