Replacing the Ford Explorer's Engine Cooling Fan

Contributed by drbob

I finally got around to changing out the fan on my Explorer today. Here's a step-by-step procedure that you can use if you decide to change yours. The symptom was cracks that started to appear in the nylon web sections between the fan blades. These show up as light-colored marks, forming around the holes in the inner metal hub. The plastic fan blade is molded around the metal hub. The hub is fastened to the fan clutch with four bolts. The fan clutch threads on to a stub that sticks out of the center of the water pump shaft.

Tools you'll need:

  1. A straight-blade screwdriver to undo the clamps on the air duct.
  2. A 5/16" or 8mm wrench, preferably a socket.
  3. A 10mm wrench, preferably a socket.
  4. A 5/8 wrench, preferably a socket.
  5. A 1 7/16 end wrench, or a pair of large water-pump pliers (Channel-Locks)
  6. A strap wrench of some kind to hold the water pump pulley.
I borrowed one from my local parts store; they will 'loan' certain tools if you leave a deposit equal to the price of the tools. This one, made by KD Tools, was intended to be used on steering pump pulleys I'm guessing. It worked perfect for this application. You can use an old drive belt and a pair of Vise-Grips if you can't get the right tool.

Other parts:

The fan assembly comes from Ford. Mine was about US$35, and was in stock at my local dealer. If your belt is over 40k or so old, now's a good time to put a new one on.

What to do:

First step is to remove the plastic shield that covers the throttle body on top of the engine. The 8mm wrench fits the two screws that hold the shield on. There's also a clip that snaps around the idle air solenoid on the driver's side; with the two screws removed, just pull gently and the cover will lift off, free of the clips.


Second step is to remove the air duct that runs from the air flow sensor to the throttle assembly. A screw clamp at each end is loosened with the screwdriver, and the duct is gently pulled free of the sensor and throttle. You'll need to pull the breather hose off too; It runs from the duct to the oil filler neck, and slides easily off the plastic fitting molded into the duct.

Third step is to remove the drive belt. My car still has the sticker in front of the radiator showing the routing of the belt. If yours is not there, make a quick sketch showing how the belt fits over the various pulleys. Once that's done, you remove the belt using the 5/8" wrench or socket on that bolt in the middle of the tensioner pulley. Just turn the whole thing to the left (counter- clockwise) until you can lift the belt off the A/C compressor and the steering pump pulleys. Pull the belt completely clear of the pulley on the water pump.

The next step is a little tricky, in that you need to either borrow or rent a strap wrench, or make do with an old drive belt and some vise-grips. If you have the strap wrench, go ahead and fit the strap around the water pump pulley. If you don't have one of those tools, you can use an old drive belt. Wrap it around the pulley, then clamp the belt with some vise-grips so it's tight around the pulley. Don't clamp the pulley itself, just around the belt where it comes off the pulley.

Step five is loosening/removing the fan clutch nut from the front of the pump shaft. Ideally, you are using a 1 7/16 open-end wrench for this. I didn't have one of those, so I used a pair of large water-pump pliers. Commonly called Channel-Locks, these pliers have a large adjustable opening that will fit around the nut on the fan clutch where it mates with the water pump shaft. While holding the strap wrench (or the old belt and the vise-grips,) turn the nut with the wrench or water-pump pliers. Mine came loose quite easily, with just a single hard yank to get the thing free. The direction of loosening may be different on your car, incidentally. My 4.0 liter V-6 has standard right-hand threads. Some cars with other engines may have left-hand threads. Check for the thread direction on the fan shroud; mine has 'right hand threads' molded into the plastic at the top.

Step six requires that you lift the fan out once the big nut is loose. Unscrew the fan clutch completely from the water pump shaft. There's about an inch of threaded stub that you have to clear with the nut. Now, with the fan laying in the bottom of the shroud, loosen and remove the two screws that hold the shroud to the radiator. These are the two at the top. Using the 8mm or 5/16" wrench, completely remove these two screws. Now, carefully remove those two captive nuts that the screw goes into. Store these parts together for later re-assembly. Lift the fan and clutch assembly up inside the shroud, and then lift both parts together about 8" allowing the fan to be removed upward toward the rear of the car.

Step seven has the fan and clutch on the floor. Get out your replacement fan blade assembly, and compare it with the old one. Then, 4 bolts get removed with the 10mm wrench. Remove the old fan assembly. The new fan goes on the clutch, and is attached with the 4 bolts that held the old one in place.

Once the bolts are secured, go ahead and put the fan back inside the shroud, and slide the whole thing down so the fan clutch can be threaded back on the water pump. It took me a bit of time to get it started. The threads are fine, so it needs to be lined up pretty well before they will start. Once you get it started, it should go quite easily the rest of the way. Go ahead and tighten the nut back up to the pump, still holding the pulley with the strap wrench or old belt.

Step eight is re-installing the fan shroud. It drops into two tabs at the bottom of the radiator, then gets those two bolts and the captive nuts at the top. I ended up laying under the radiator and reaching up to seat the shroud in those two tabs. Once in place, the bolts get snugged at the top to keep it in place.

Step nine is to install the belt again. If you have a new belt, now's the time to put it in. Follow the diagram or map you made to get the belt routing correct. It needs to go under the tensioner before the wrench goes on the front, so the last thing you slip the belt on to will probably be the A/C and power steering pump. Then pull up on the tensioner and slip the belt on those two last things. Inspect the belt routing carefully to make sure it is sitting correctly in all the grooved pulleys, and not twisted or kinked anywhere.

Step ten replaces the air duct. Push it on gently, twisting it a bit as necessary to get both ends securely on the two end fittings. When correctly installed, the ends of the duct butt up squarely against the air flow sensor and the throttle body. Tighten the two clamps, rotating the duct so that is rests firmly on that rubber pad on the radiator sheet. Push the breather hose back on, too.

Step eleven is the last. Fit the throttle body cover back on, and snap it over the idle air solenoid on the driver's side. Then, two screws go back in to hold it securely in place. It's not a bad idea to grease the throttle and kickdown cable linkages while you have the cover off, by the way.

Hey, you are all done. It took me less than 1/2 hour to complete the job, including putting the tools away. Start the engine, and look to be sure the belt is tracking ok. Close the hood, etc., and wash your hands before you go into the kitchen for a cold one.

My car is a '92 with about 115k miles on it. It has lived all but its first year in the Los Angeles area, where rust is not a problem with mechanical parts. If I had rust in that nut where the clutch attaches to the water pump shaft, this job would have been a lot tougher. After reading a few accounts of problems getting the nut off, I was a bit worried. Mine came off pretty easily, for which I am thankful. If yours does not come off using regular tools, stop. Put it all back together and seek professional help. Adding heat to the nut with a torch risks destroying the water pump seal and the clutch bearing. Hammering on the shaft risks damage to the water pump bearings. Be as gentle as you can, so you don't end up spending your saved dollars fixing your own damage.

Contributed by Lynn B.

Trak Auto here in Northern Virginia had a tool for lending called a "Ford Fan Clutch Removal Kit" or "Ford Fan Clutch Wrench Kit" or something which is exactly what is needed. It had a flat 1 7/16 wrench and a pulley holder that goes on the end of a 1/2 drive tool (like a breaker bar).

I didn't see the need to remove the serpentine belt, as mentioned at above. I looked it over and it was not in the way. I consulted the Haynes Guide procedure as well and it didn't mention removing the serpentine either.

I was able to loosen the big bolt on the fan assembly without even holding the pully (the serpentine belt provide enough friction I guess) and the bolt was not very tight.

Anyway, I thought I would point out the alternative to using a strap wrench or an old belt and channel locks to hold the pulley and it looks like the serpentine belt removal is not necessary. Oh yeah, this was on a '92 XLT, so other years may be different.

Contributed by Jeff S.

To echo Lynn, I used a 1 7/16" wrench fabricated from 1/4" flat plat aluminum and a small pry bar (large screw driver will also do) wedged into the pulley bolts to break that nut loose.




Updated November 21, 2000

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