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Hunter's '96 D44 Swap

Discussion in 'Offroad Projects' started by Hunter32, April 1, 2017.


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    1. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      City, State:
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      Year, Model & Trim Level:
      1996 Explorer 5.0
      Got a big update for everyone!

      First off, I moved up to Georgia and soon after bought a 2006 F-250

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      I've done some minor work on it, but it was already bullet proofed with 130k when I got it. I resolved a long start issue, EGR delete, and straight piped it. I installed a 2.5" leveling kit and 35"x12.5" tires, some LED lighting, and it's been good since

      This allowed me some time to work on the explorer and do what I've been wanting to do for years now.. put a straight axle up front and make it 4wd. I had bought a transfer case, linkages, and driveshaft off of an F-150 several months back and it just sat for awhile. I finally got around to doing some real work on it about 3 weeks ago and have some pictures to share, but it's still a work in progress

      WARNING! I enjoy threads that show pictures.. lots of pictures.. so I attempt to do the same for y'all. There's gonna be a lot of pictures in this thread. Anyways,

      It all started with disassembly and cutting out the IFS components:



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      Then I got ahold of a Dana44 off of an early 80's Jeep Wagoneer and started tearing it apart:

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      Last edited: April 1, 2017
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    3. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      Then I got to sandblasting and cleaning parts off the axle to prep for paint and rebuild:

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      I bought some HD 7-leaf Wagoneer leaf springs. The amount of information on which leaf springs to choose is very slim; most guys start out with the waggy 5 leafs that come with the axle but soon say that they became too flat and would have to replace them with 'something'. I'm hoping the 7-leaf HD springs will work well for this setup

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    4. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      I started grinding on the frame to see how it cleaned up. I still have some grinding and cutting to do to get the old upper control arm mounts and shock mount off of the frame.

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      I purchased some new U-joints for the axle. I'll end up having to get new balljoints, several seals, and new hub assemblies for either side. More to come on this

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      I've been able to paint some parts along the way. Here are the axles after pressing out the u-joints and prior to installing the new u-joints

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      Here's the diff cover getting painted

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      While I have the explorer up on stands, I can tackle the leaking timing chain cover:

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      This will take a week or two to complete because the notorious water pump bolt got stuck in the block and will have to be removed once I get the timing chain cover off. Waiting on a crank pulley removal tool before I can move any further on this step..

      The next steps are to get some leaf spring hangers, shackles, and some plate steel to waterjet and bend to make into the front crossmember and hanger mounts to weld to the frame. Hopefully have it all welded in within the next 2-3 weeks

      I will try to update you guys at least weekly with this project, but I'm already excited for it to be done!
       
    5. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      I started tearing into the axle some more and ground what was left of the springs mounts off of the tubes. (Someone had previously cut most of them off, so I will make new ones to weld on after the axle is mounted in place)

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      I took the axle to work and cleaned off the 35 years of gunk from the housing in order to prep for paint. I also welded together some leaf eyelet mounts that will get welded to the frame

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      Then I completed prepping the axle and eyelet mounts for paint and started painting

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    6. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      I also continued cutting out the upper control arm mounts and shock tower from the passenger side. I still need to do the same on the drivers side

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    7. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      I was able to get the timing chain cover off of the engine and cleaned up in the parts washer. I also pressed in the new seal but will need to remove a water pump bolt stuck in the engine block before I put it back together.

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    8. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      I managed to get the bolt out of the block by drilling it out (after failed attempts with EZ-outs and welding nuts onto the stud) and tapping new threads into the block. Since I was already this deep and I had significant leakage around the oil pan, I decide to pull the pan, wash it, and replace the oil pan gasket. It all went back together great and the water pump/timing chain cover went back in perfectly.

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    9. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      After that, I was able to start tackling the important stuff. I got some 2"x4" tube and cut out slots to mount to the frame.

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      Got it tacked into place

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      Moving onto the axle, I was able to sandblast, paint, and turn down the rotors to prep for installation:

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      I also ordered 4 new balljoints, bearings, seals, calipers and pads, and lockable Warn hub assemblies. I'll be doing balljoints this weekend. After that, I will just need gears to be able to put the entire axle together.
       
      Last edited: April 20, 2017
    10. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      Its not a very good picture, but I tapped holes to remount the steering line cooler onto the new frame tube. It fits in there very nicely..

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      I also grabbed a steering box out of a 95 Ranger. I will definitely need a drop pitman arm for this guy:

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      I grabbed some threaded rod to set the center to center distance correctly and tacked the front hangers on the new frame tube

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      Last edited: April 20, 2017
    11. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      Then I mounted the springs to the axles and set them up on the new front spring eyelets

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      Last edited: April 21, 2017
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    12. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      Anyone, feel free to ask questions or comment lol
       
    13. mounty71

      mounty71 It's green, not gray. Elite Explorer

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      Looking good! Unfortunately traffic on here for custom offroad builds has slowed down. Anyway, I take it you aren't at this point yet, but do you know what you're doing for a high pressure steering line? I'm trying to figure out how to connect from the pump to the same Ford steering box as you have.
       
    14. mounty71

      mounty71 It's green, not gray. Elite Explorer

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      Same with the lower half of the steering shaft. I'd rather not hodge podge something together but the Flaming River stuff is quite expensive.
       
    15. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      Hey Mounty, I'm not exactly at that point yet but I have done a fair amount of researching on the subject. I believe I will either do what others have done for the high pressure lines: cut the old crimped fitting off of the HP line and get a new fitting that fits the steering box crimped on. OR I may look into using an adapter that will screw onto the old HP line AND into the steering box. I need to do a little more research around the second option.

      as for the steering shaft, I still need to locate my steering box on the frame rail before I can decide what needs to be done. Based off of what others have had to do to make this specific steering box fit, my plan was to piece together a shaft, but in a strategic way. I.E.- not have 4 u-joints and 2 carrier bearings etc. I'm hoping to have just 1 u-joint and 1 slip joint. We'll see what comes of it..

      I'm almost done grinding down the inside of the frame to allow for the steering box to get mounted, and I ordered some tube and plate to build the mount through the frame. I might be able to tackle it this weekend and get you a better idea of what my plans are for both of these items.

      What did you do for your oil filter relocation?
       
    16. mounty71

      mounty71 It's green, not gray. Elite Explorer

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      My plan was to cut the steering rack side of the stock high pressure line off, and get an adapter to screw into the steering box. My problem is the adapter I have doesn't go deep enough into the box to seal, the hex part bottoms out on the outside of the box before the inverted flare seals. I need to do more searching, I don't know enough about fittings and plumbing to know what options I have.

      For the steering box I had to notch into the inside of the frame rail to get enough clearance for my oil filter relocation adapter, but that may have also been because I'm doing hydro assist and need extra room for those lines. I got a Transdapt (I think) kit off of summit that points the hoses forward, and I mounted the filter on outside of the frame rail.
       
    17. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      SO I found out probably the best way to integrate a Ranger steering box into an explorer. It utilizes parts that you already have if your new steering box came with the steering linkage and you still have your old steering linkage. This will only work if your steering box mounting location is within a certain distance from the steering wheel output linkage, but there's not much room to mount it any closer/further than what I have done.

      The Ranger steering linkage is just about an inch short of what I need to fit on the explorer. Note that the bolt up towards the steering wheel does not line up with the hole in the steering wheel output shaft

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      It just so happens that the original Explorer female tube is about 1" longer than the Ranger shaft

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      The solution is to use the female shaft from the Explorer and mount it to the male shaft of the Ranger steering linkage. Each linkage has a slip joint that contains two shafts.

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      These shafts are constrained from slipping out by two punched tabs in the female shaft

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      So i ground out the two tabs (one on either side of the tube)

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      and mated the two together. This gave me the extra 1" I needed to properly fasten the female slip shaft to the steering wheel output shaft. She fits like a glove

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      Last edited: May 7, 2017
    18. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      The Ranger linkage has a rubber rag joint that acts as a u-joint and keeps me from having to install a carrier bearing on the firewall

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      Last edited: May 9, 2017
    19. yostyexplorer94

      yostyexplorer94 1st Gen Mod Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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      Excellent job! I'm glad you are contributing your progress for our reading pleasure! I added this thread to the solid axle swap registry.
       
      Last edited: May 8, 2017
    20. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      Thanks for the support Yostyexplorer94!
       
    21. BKennedy

      BKennedy Elite Loser Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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    22. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      I made some really exciting progress over the last few days..

      I got the diff gears all setup and shimmed, then put the spindles together and calipers installed.

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      I also finish welded the perches onto the axle

      Then I started welding all of the perches and crossmember to the frame

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      Followed by painting all of the welds and the frame after grinding it all down to bare metal

      FINALLY I got to hang the axle/leaf assembly under the truck!

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      Then I set it down to sit under it's own weight

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    23. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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    24. BKennedy

      BKennedy Elite Loser Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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      That was my favorite part of my SAS; setting it down on its own weight. That was the point I knew I was making real progress.
       
    25. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      I know I haven't posted in some time, but I've got some big updates for everyone..

      After the front SAS the rear sat too low so it was time for a SOA in the rear. I started by disconnecting the brake lines, parking brakes, shocks, leafs, ladder bars, and sway bar.

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      Then I painted the axle and ground down the area that I would be adding the spring perches on the top side of the axle

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      Then followed reconnecting the leafs, parking brakes, shocks, and bleeding the brake lines. For now, I've got the rear shocks fastened to what used to be the sway bar mounts on the axle. I also deleted the 3rd shock, ladder bars, and the sway bar from the rear.

      Getting back to the front, the drag link would definitely not clear the PS leaf spring unless it had two 40 degree bends in it, which would be way too much for a drag link. So I ordered a 4" drop pitman arm to help make the drag link and tie rod more parallel.

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      Unfortunately it still wasn't enough for the drag link to clear the PS leaf spring while turning or in droop

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      So I had to bend a drag link to only 15 degrees to make it work and maximize the operating angles on each spherical end

      Here it is on it's first flex test to make sure it doesn't interfere with the leaf spring

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    26. Hunter32

      Hunter32 Active Member

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      So with the steering complete and the rear SOA complete, it was finally time to take it around the yard to see what she can do. First stop: the front steps

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      But that wasn't enough so the following night I took it on a shakedown run at a local sand pit. Here are some pictures for your entertainment

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      and of course had to get it stuck because it's still 2wd

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      The next step is a tranny swap from an AWD 5.0l explorer. I already have the transfer case, linkages, and front driveshaft from an F150 so all I need is the tranny and a rear driveshaft to get this thing going!

      Overall, it did great in the sand. I think I will need a front sway bar to be able to drive at highway speeds but so far I'm very impressed with the travel (without rubbing!) and the smooth ride
       
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