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New "to me" 1996 Ford Explorer XLT 4.0l 4WD

Discussion in 'Stock 1995 - 2001 Explorers' started by DP96XLT, November 30, 2019.

^^Searches ExplorerForum.com^^





  1. DP96XLT

    DP96XLT New Member

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    City, State:
    New Berlin, WI
    Year, Model & Trim Level:
    1996 Explorer XLT 4WD
    Hey guys, I was finally able to setup an account and decided to get some input. J_C commented on it on "the other forum", but the usernames are the same...

    First off, I picked up a 1996 Explorer XLT 4wd with the 4.0l OHV engine. It only had just under 42k miles on it. It must have been in a time capsule or something, given the fact there is ZERO rust anywhere on the body and only surface stuff underneath (basically every bolt/nut I have removed has broken free pretty easily and come out and been reused). Most of the frame still has the factory black paint on it. The interior is totally clean (light gray) and it rides without any rattles/noises. Even the doors close like a new vehicle. All electronics work, all power windows work. Like I said it is damn near a "new vehicle", regardless of the age/miles.

    Here is a listing of what I have taken care of to date. I read up a whole bunch on the forum here and decided to take care of what I thought would be longer-term stuff so I could get it out of the way.

    I do remember reading up on transmission issues, and even though the 1995/1996 4R55E transmissions are supposed to have less valve body gasket blow-out issues than the later 5R55E units, I still decided to replace the valve body with a rebuilt unit that had the trans-go kit already installed that I picked it up from Shift Rite transmissions on Illinois.

    The list:

    - Installed new transmission valve body with new transmission filter
    - Installed new transmission drain pan with a drain plug
    - Did the transmission bands adjustment (OD turned in 1/4 turn more than it was originally set at, intermediate was exactly the same pre and post adjustment)
    - Changed transmission fluid to Valvoline MaxLife synthetic ATF (did the initial fill after VB change and then drained the pan once more after running it for 5 minutes through the gears to mix with old fluid still in the torque converter)
    - Changed transfer case fluid to Valvoline MaxLife synthetic ATF
    - Changed out the belt tensioner (original was bouncing), tensioner pulley, idler pulley and belt with Gates stuff
    - Changed out the alternator (original was knocking at low rpms in drive, gotta love old bearings)
    - Changed out the fan clutch (original was not engaging at temp and not releasing fully below temp)
    - Flushed and bleed the brakes with new fluid
    - Installed all new Rancho 9000XL shocks all around, replaced the 5th shock with a Monroe OE replacement
    - Installed new 43-1159 rear leaf springs (original owner put in 43-967 springs and I thought the drivers side was sagging because of it) with new u-bolts
    - Installed new Motorcraft OEM spark plugs
    - Installed new Autolite ignition wires
    - Did an oil change with new Ford OEM filter (400s if I remember correctly) and Mobil1 synthetic High Mileage 5W30
    - Changed front diff oil to Mobil1 synthetic LS 75W90
    - Changed rear diff oil to Mobil1 synthetic LS 75W140 (with about .6qt being 75w90 because I ran out)
    - Reset ride height (required front passenger torsion bolt to be almost totally turned out, 1.5 thread showing under key, but resulting in perfect level left to right and front to back, ie, under running boards there is exactly 10.5" front and rear on both sides, if there is supposed to be a rake with the back up higher I would have no way of accomplishing it the way it sits)
    - New stainless tapered spring for spare winch cable end (original plastic spacer crumbled when I removed it)
    - New air filter and wiper blades
    - New OEM steering wheel (the one that was with it when I bought it was NOT the original as it was heavily worn and the buttons were stiff and cracking, which not NOT on par with anything else on the vehicle)
    - New OEM cruise control buttons (I decided to let them be in green to match the door window switches, yet all the rest of the dash is blue, but I still have the original switches and I just need to replace the bulbs so I can swap back to them if I want blue for those switches as well at some point)
    - Alignment done (only the toe was out and the steering wheel off-center, everything else was within specs)
    - Drained and filled power steering with Lucas power steering fluid along with a bottle of Lucas stop leak (to quiet the power steering)

    After all the above it drives and handles beautifully. It idles smooth and even, basically runs as if new. During a rain recently I actuated the brakes hard enough to get ABS to engage, and it just didn't sound right the first time or two. After 3-4 times of doing that it sounded "normal" as if they were never actuated before. By the 5th hard stop it sounded completely as you would expect a Ford ABS system to sound. While it was raining out I activated 4WD Low and verified the lockup thunk and drove it a bit to verify that all 4 wheels are indeed locked in.

    Everything outside of the rear leaf springs seemed to be original and OEM. As I mentioned, everything came out beautifully for maintenance and replacement. The only strange thing is that the torsion bar adjustment for the passenger side needed to be adjusted so far out to level out the vehicle.

    The battery was from 2012-2016 (hard to read a date code on a AAA branded battery), but I pulled it and did a full recharge/recondition set of cycles and it load tests perfect (they did have a on-board battery maintainer that I removed).

    The tires are Goodyear Wrangler SR-As in 235/75R15 with date codes of 3616 for all (so newer from 2016). I am not certain about keeping them because they don't seem to be the best tires out there and I have been eyeing up some General Grabber AT/X tires to replace them. I originally ordered a set of Nokian WRG3 SUV tires, but when I got 3 of a 2018 date code and 1 of a 2015 and they cannot find me another 2018 or newer tire because they are discontinued, I am just sending all 4 back.

    When I do tires I will be replacing the spare with a 5th of the same, as I have zero doubt the spare is original and unserviceable at this point.

    In regards to the power steering fluid change, I did the same thing to our 69k mile 2002 Mustang V6 and it totally got rid of the power steering noise, so I followed the same routine here and there is only a slight hint of power steering noise on cold startup and that is gone after 5-10 seconds, so I figure it will be totally gone after a few thousand miles.

    I did notice after getting everything done that it idles very quietly and I am noticing a squeaking from the radiator area, so I thinking it is either the waterpump or the new fan clutch.

    Now the few things I am planning on doing here shortly (already have the parts or ordered them):

    - Replace the brake pads with ceramic ones (after bleeding the brakes the front right pad starts squealing when not being actuated)
    - Install K&N FIPK intake system
    - Install Gibson stainless single tip exhaust (I think the original muffler has a broken baffle or something, unless I am just not used to the exhaust sound this engine makes under acceleration)
    - Drain and flush coolant
    - Install new waterpump
    - Install new thermostat (Motorad ultra-stat @ 198f)
    - Put in new long-life coolant

    If the squeaking sound from the front at idle isn't gone I will replace the new fan clutch (I bought everything I could with lifetime replacement warranty parts locally so if I have to replace anything it is done quick with no extra expense on the parts themselves).

    In regards to the exhaust, this engine sounds nothing like the engine in the Mustang, or any other V6 I have ever known. I am thinking it has to do with something in regards to the stock muffler, regardless of how good of a shape it is in externally (heat shields are perfect and everything is solid), I am thinking it has in internal issue or something. Unless someone else can verify that these do, in fact sound quite different, I am planning on putting in the Gibson exhaust and just accepting how it sounds regardless.

    I mean it has "decent enough" power off the line, can pass on the highway nicely and doesn't feel anemic (actually feel quite a bit torquier than the Mustang V6). But, who am I kidding, more power is ALWAYS acceptable.

    The one last thing I have been looking at is headers. I can still get a set of JBA headers in stainless steel (I am very big on all stainless exhaust components) for a not-so-bad price. I have read they really are not needed on the 4.0l OHV engines, but if I have the K&N intake system, Gibson exhaust and if I plan on using a SCT X4 to put a tune into it, would it be worthwhile to do the headers then?

    I also scored a Clarion subwoofer for it off eBay, brand new in the box and it replaces the netted cargo pocket in the back with a 10" subwoofer. For now I have a bluetooth RF adapter I plug into the lighter for hands-free, but I may put in a full navigation headunit and change out the speakers for something nice from the aftermarket along with an outboard amp to replace the stock one in the side panel in back. I figure if I do all that outside of the headunit it will all be pretty much invisible and not take away any cargo room.

    Ever since we got rid of our conversion van last may we really don't have anything to transport "stuff" with at all. I have a couple of Lincolns and a few sports cars (I won't mention those, because they are from the "other camp"), but nothing for hauling, so this fits the bill well.

    I originally bought the Explorer for my daughter to use for college, but it is in such perfect condition I cannot see letting it reside in a parking lot where a bunch of teenagers and those in their early 20s will door ding the heck out of it. So I picked up a high-mileage 2001 Acura TL for her to drive instead (and she actually likes the Acura better than the Explorer).

    Any and all input on what I have done already and what my plans for doing to it is greatly appreciated.
     
    Last edited: December 2, 2019
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  3. 410Fortune

    410Fortune MUD SEASON 2.0 Staff Member Moderator

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    42000 miles!! Holy heck man what a score!! 96 4.0 was one of the best dang vehicles ever built, period!! You can get like 400,000 miles out of that SOB
    well done

    the 60 degree pushrod v6 does have its own "sound" if the engine is idling smoothly with no noticeable "hiccup" then I would say your 4.0 is healthy and running on all 6. The stock exhaust sucks. Headers do indeed help the pushrod 4.0, of course the cold air intake and a better exhaust will improve the sound and throttle response
    Do not expect much, I mean this is a 4700# vehicle with 235 ft lbs of torque, just enough to get by. They are built for reliability and longevity, not speed.


    PICS or it didn't happen
     
    Last edited: December 1, 2019
  4. RandomNerd2000

    RandomNerd2000 Well-Known Member

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    Man you scored on that truck, sounds like a time capsule for sure. I have a 96 with 98K miles, really not a bad vehicle, biggest complaint I had was the blend door being bad in it, up until the transmission went to crap on it. Mine the paint is faded but to look inside, it's definitely 98k miles. I'm still hunting a transmission for it, and since it's off the road again I'm probably pulling the dash and replacing the blend door. I'm subscribing though. Also to answer your question, a 4.0 V6 OHV has a unique sound, it took me a solid 250 miles to get used to mine and the way it sounded and performed.
     
  5. DP96XLT

    DP96XLT New Member

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    1996 Explorer XLT 4WD
    Thanks for the input guys.

    I will do the headers when I do the intake/exhaust. I can actually get a hold of a set of ceramic coated stainless, but they are about $300 more than the uncoated 409 stainless ones and I am already FAR over any sort of budget on this... So I will probably end up with the uncoated ones. I don't think a V6 with 4.0l will generate excessive heat, unless I am towing... Plus, since I still plan to use the stock catalytic converters, I am just a little concerned with coating flaking off internally and causing issues with the cats. I can always wrap the headers at a future date if I am so inclined because I feel the heat is a bit excessive.

    In regards to pictures, I have what was taken just before I bought it:

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    I will add that I have removed the cargo tray and the carpet is immaculate.

    I also got a hold of an OEM cargo privacy shade in the same light gray which matches perfectly.
     
  6. DP96XLT

    DP96XLT New Member

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    About the only things I would like to add visually, is window tint (just 50% all around, nothing really dark) and I would like to add the rear spoiler at the top of the gate (I believe they were an option starting in '97?)...

    I will also, in spring, add a Curt hitch just to have more towing options. I already picked up a stainless steel hitch ball system for the stock bumper mount location (came with both the 1-7/8"/2" hitch balls) and the vehicle came with the add-on wiring harness for the stock hitch wiring connector under the bumper sitting in the box from Ford. Nice thing about the Rancho 9000XL shocks is I can dial it in while towing to handle the load better.
     
  7. DP96XLT

    DP96XLT New Member

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    OK, after doing a lot more research and looking at physical parts as well as going off of what everyone else has done before me, I have decided to not do headers. As it stands if I went that route, looks like the only "bolt-on" ones are used ceramic coated BBKs and for a stainless option, I could pickup a set of ranger headers, but then I would need to cut/grind off the cat flange and flip it around and re-weld it. That is also assuming that the location for the cat on that y-pipe is the same as the stock y-pipe outlet location (not very likely)... Especially considering that JBA only offered a set of shorties that re-used the stock y-pipe (and those are no-where to be found), not the set for the ranger that included a new y-pipe.

    Plus the gains are all disputable, with most arguing it just moves the torque band around, so, forget it, I will skip the headers until I can get some concrete validation of which set of stainless ones will actually work.

    Also, the K&N FIPK intake system I ordered is mis-shipped via Amazon delivery, so if I don't get it today I figure it will be cancelled... Which, quite frankly, is fine. Not like the 4.0l is a high-revving choked off design, and I got a smoking deal on the intake, which was one of my main reasons for ordering it. I am sure the stock intake system with a K&N drop-in filter is plenty fine.

    I will still put on the Gibson single-outlet exhaust system when it comes in along with redoing the cooling system.

    I have moved onto making plans for a new headunit, backup camera and new speakers throughout. I have a older set of Kenwood Excelon components and subs along with their digital Excelon amps sitting in boxes (bought all of that when I bought the conversion van back in 2012 and never got around to installing it), so I figure why not put it in the Explorer. Looks to be some decent space in the side panel next to the storage pocket where the stock amp resides, so I will have to see if I can't get everything installed behind there and put a decent headunit in the dash. I am "old-school" in that I don't trust smartphones to be the best source of navigation stuff (regardless of how convenient it is, you can always lose coverage), so I am probably going to go with a system that has navigation built-in.

    I will say, the backup camera proposition leaves a lot to be desired, as in the two real options are either removing the rear lock cylinder and putting one there, or adding one of those cameras that are integrated into the license plate frame. I am just not hip on drilling into the bumper to run the wiring, and if I mount it low on the plate you lose it's functionality if I use a ball hitch in the stock bumper. Maybe I can see about running the wiring around the inside of the frame of the plate somehow.
     
  8. RandomNerd2000

    RandomNerd2000 Well-Known Member

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    One idea I have to add is if you mounted the camera to the top of the plate bracket, to use one of the screw holes on the bottom (assuming such a thing exists) to run the wire through, and then around the bumper and up and in wherever you choose to. I haven't looked at my 96 directly to verify this will work, on my 2000 I did that though and went through the rear hatch.
     
  9. EB4X

    EB4X Active Member

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    "It only had just under 42k miles on it"
    First of all I'd just like to say....I'm totally jealous...
    and second of all....I'm totally jealous.
    Those 4.0's pretty much last forever too (not a powerhouse but hey)....this things still a baby in 2019!
    I have pretty much same rig....but not nearly as mint....although it too still has pretty decent interior...and the trans was rebuilt before I got it and it's still under 170K ...which is low when these go to 400K....soooo...........
    Anyway....welcome to forum and congratulations.... that things a gem!
     
  10. EB4X

    EB4X Active Member

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  11. DP96XLT

    DP96XLT New Member

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    Thanks guys, yeah, I think this truck is pretty special.

    I did verify, it has the 8.8 with 3.73s and a Trac-lock diff... Pretty much indestructible. The front diff is the Dana 35, again pretty much what you want. That is why I did the change to Mobil1 synthetic (their LS "limited slip" variation that has the friction modifier already in the mix). It is also why I did the valve body in the trans and the switch to MaxLife synthetic as I want this to last as long as possible.

    I was sold on synthetics after being in the high-performance world for over a couple of decades... After pulling apart 1000hp engines for a refresh and finding no need because the bearings were perfect everywhere... (My sports cars are a 1000hp+ 383 supercharged Trans-Am and a 750hp+ Camaro Z28 convertible, both are 1995 vintage)

    I will checkout my options on the backup camera... I really dont want to put any holes in this rig.
     
    Last edited: December 3, 2019

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