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1996 Ford Explorer roof rack rails - removal tips?

Discussion in 'Stock 1995 - 2001 Explorers' started by SteveRosenow, August 21, 2019.

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  1. SteveRosenow

    SteveRosenow Member

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    City, State:
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    Year, Model & Trim Level:
    1996 Ford Explorer XLT
    Today I attempted to reinstall the factory OEM roof rack crossbars on my '96 since I'd removed them a few years ago. They were removed because the hold down threaded "nuts" that the crossbar ends screw into, were stripped out (long story short, found out the hard way trying to haul a mattress. Nearly lost it on the highway!)

    After a trip to the local boneyard, I sourced some minty-condition replacements so I can reinstall them, and in order to do so I need to remove the rubber end caps on the rails.

    In trying to remove them, I nearly stripped out one of the Philips-head screws that hold the rubber end caps in place. The others just will not budge at all.

    Is there a secret to removing them? I'd like to have them removed so I can repaint them as well.

    Thanks in advance.
     
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  3. XLTrunner

    XLTrunner Active Member

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    I went thru the same process to repaint the rails and crossbars this past Spring and those Phillips screws can be extremely tight. I was able to remove all the rail screws intact; except for the rear one on the driver side. After patiently working it back and forth with the help of PB Blaster, it reluctantly started to come out. But after a couple turns, it simply wouldn't budge anymore. Continued to work it back and forth thinking I was gaining on it only to have the blind nut inside suddenly break free of the spot weld and it was just freewheeling after that. Ended up grinding/cutting it off with a Dremel and just doing without on that end (the end caps will still hold snug without that screw to hold them). Had gone to the local JY to get new crossbars and rails and had the same problem removing at least a couple screws on each of the four Explorers I worked on there, too. I even pulled down the headliner on one of the vehicles to see what would be involved in accessing the blind nut in order to fix mine...but, there was no way to get a tool on it. Not ideal, but you might just want to consider painting those rails without removing them.
     
  4. SteveRosenow

    SteveRosenow Member

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    As always, I like to provide an update to a thread when I've encountered success (or failure) and in this case, I found success!

    For me, I went to the local O'Reilly Auto Parts store I work at, and purchased a Philips-head screwdriver of the right size for the screws in the roof rack rail. I made sure I got one that was pretty long. It came with a hole at the end of the handle for the purpose of being hung on a peg hook organizer board.

    However, I found that hole in the handle to be rather helpful. How? I inserted a 15-inch 1/4" drive extension through the hole to the mid-point of the extension and used it similar to a T-handled breaker bar. I then put all my weight I could (I was standing on a four-foot step-ladder) onto the screws. This was done after putting a little bit of Free All around the screw heads and allowed to soak for 20 minutes.

    Not only did the screws break free relatively easy (even though I still stripped the heads of two out of the ten screws total for both sides, which isn't bad) I was able to remove at least enough screws to get a pressure washer wand underneath the rail to prep the surface for later painting. And I was able to remove the screws at one end of the rail on both sides to replace the stripped-out square nuts for the cross bar thumbwheel bolts.

    Next, it's off to an easy-out extractor bit for the stripped out screws, followed by a trip to Tacoma Screw in Olympia to grab a fresh set of replacements for the entire system (which I eventually plan on replacing, with stainless steel hardware!). I also plan on visiting at least two to three parts Explorers in a junk yard for replacement square nuts for the roof rack thumb wheel bolts should the need arise later down the road.
     
  5. CDW6212R

    CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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    For tough screws, or bolts, buy an impact driver tool. That is a heavy compact tool which any kind of bits can be attached to one end. You hit the other end with any hammer. The tool has an internal shape which makes the tip end turn as you hit the outer/other end. That is handy for most Phillips screws, it's much better than any other method or tool(easier and causes less stripping).
     
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  6. XLTrunner

    XLTrunner Active Member

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    I have one of those impact screw drivers, but must not be using the right technique as I haven't had much luck with it in the few times I've tried it. Not sure I'd want to be pounding away on a screw on that flimsy sheet metal, anyway.
     
    Last edited: August 22, 2019
  7. CDW6212R

    CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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    You definitely have to be gentle on the roof of your truck. On the one at the JY, nobody really buys a roof, so minor dents there wouldn't be that bad.
     
  8. toypaseo

    toypaseo Flunked daycare Elite Explorer

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    outside shovelling snow
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    ................ 96 XLT ™
    .

    If only you could have seen what I have done to remove junkyard parts :rolleyes:
     
  9. CDW6212R

    CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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    I saw countless examples every time I opened a door on most cars. People just tear the door panels off. Most of the time I needed something in a door or on the panel, or a part of it. I haven't been in a year or so, and my wish list has grown.
     
  10. toypaseo

    toypaseo Flunked daycare Elite Explorer

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    The worst damage I have caused was from removing a pair of Navajo taillights, with the hatch closed, using a pair of channellocks :shifty:
     
  11. XLTrunner

    XLTrunner Active Member

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    As Don stated, my biggest pet peeve at the local U Pulls is the way some people cut and hack their way to whatever it is they need with no regard for what they leave behind that someone else may need. I also frequent a few full service yards that allow me to pull my own parts and that kind of behavior would get me thrown out on my ass in a heartbeat with no chance of ever being allowed to come back. So, I bring the same conscientious effort to the U Pulls and try very hard not to damage anything as I pull parts.
     
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  12. CDW6212R

    CDW6212R Hauls the mail. Elite Explorer

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    That hatch already had rust along the bottom edge, nobody needed to buy that one. I've never had to get into a locked rear hatch etc, and I don't think I'd want to climb in the back to go through the trim piece.

    The last big project I was at a JY for was a 97 Town Car, the memory seat and mirror wiring. The wires to the seat and doors were no huge deal, but the wiring in the dash was. I didn't know if the wiring was part of the dash harness, I figured it would be. Happily that was a separate small harness, which was up against the firewall. The whole dash had to come loose and back, I almost quit for the day many times. So many little things holding the dash in place, after a while I saw the wiring I needed just stayed tight to the body. After I got the dash down, the harness took about five minutes to pull from the clips etc. Some things aren't worth it, but we get stubborn and keep fighting.
     
  13. toypaseo

    toypaseo Flunked daycare Elite Explorer

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    I actually pulled some extras a long time ago, but finding them in my garage might be another story...
     

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