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1996 Explorer XLT 4.0l OHV V6 work in progress...

DP96XLT

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City, State
New Berlin, WI
Year, Model & Trim Level
1996 Explorer XLT 4WD
Hey guys, figured I would make my first post over in this section since I have reached a point were everything I am doing is now considered "modifications"...

First off, I picked up back in November a 1996 Explorer XLT with the 4.0l OHV V6, Electric Currant Red Metallic with Medium Graphite Metallic Trim exterior, Light Gray leather interior with sport seats, automatic with ControlTrac 4WD. It is optioned with 3.73 gears front/rear along with cassette deck headunit with rear seat controls. It had just over 42k miles on it when I picked it up.

I originally picked it up for my daughter to use for college, but it is in such nice condition I decided to pick her up something different and keep the Explorer for myself. In looking at it the only thing I noticed that was done was it had aftermarket rear leaf springs, the heavier-duty 967s, the fan clutch was stuck "on" and running the fan all the time, was obviously not run for a while and in general just needed some TLC. It sat low on the front drivers side (rear drivers was way too high and rear passenger side was low as well) but it braked fine and everything was tight and wear-free as a low-mileage vehicle should be. The steering wheel did not match the rest of the interior (leather was worn/loose and the cruise control buttons were deteriorating) so I figured at some point someone "stole" the good one it had.

So, I started in on all the regular maintenance stuff, new plugs (three were loose from the factory), wires, fan clutch, tensioner (was bouncing) and pulleys, belt, air filter, did an oil change to synthetic along with oil filter, changed all the axles/transaxle fluids to synthetic, changed the transmission valvebody to the upgraded version with all the fixes along with all new solenoids and switched to synthetic transmission fluid with a new filter and a pan with a drain plug and basically took care of the "maintenance" stuff. Ran a couple of bottles of Techron fuel system cleaner in a couple of tanks of gas (1 bottle per fill-up). She ran much better, but still didn't seem "right"... Within about 400-500 miles a bunch of stuff gave up the ghost, such as brake pads (front right inner was gone and the backing plate was touching the rotor), alternator bearings were knocking at idle under load (in drive at a stoplight for example), ended up turning out the front passenger side torsion spring adjuster almost all the way out to level out the truck (but it is perfectly level left/right/front/back), found out the lower front balljoints boots were ripped up and delaminated which means they were worn to all heck and got a good idea on what I wanted to do to it.

With all of that out of the way I decided to do some upgrades:

- Rancho 9000XL adjustable shocks all around (also used a Monroe axle damper shock)
- new "normal spec" leaf springs for the rear (fixed the rear tire system while I was in there since the plastic pressure maintainer was busted up)
- Power Stop Z36 truck & tow brake kit with new painted calipers and drilled/slotted rotors (along with new DOT3 brake fluid and new rubber brake lines)
- new Ford OEM steering wheel and cruise control buttons
- all new lift struts all around (hood, tailgate, rear window)
- new rear wiper arm (car wash broke the one that was on there)
- new Moog lower ball joints/drivers side upper ball joint (found there was a little bit of play while replacing lowers, passenger side upper was replaced at some point with a Moog replacement for the adjustable part of the 2-piece unit)
- stock replacement 130 amp alternator

Now with it being fully "functional" I decided to add in a few things that I felt were appropriate to how I want to drive it:

- 240 amp super heavy duty alternator upgrade (hand-built from the best selected parts including an overdrive pulley)
- 2-gauge and 4-gauge primary wiring upgrade (both to support the higher output alternator and to provide better all-around power to the truck as well as support the stereo upgrades)
- GPS-NAV headunit, 5 channel amplifier and a custom sub enclosure
- Component speakers up front
- Coaxial speakers in back
- Rearview camera installed into the tailgate
- Alarm system with Remote Start (integrated into all the stock alarm provisions/options as well)
- Rear optional privacy panel
- Window Tint
- Stainless Steel brushguard w/Rugged Ridge 5" Stainless Steel off road HID lights
- Upgraded lighting system with hot-wire harness (12-gauge for both low/high beams and offroad lights, integrated into the stock fuse box with 30amp and 20amp additional fuses added)
- New fog lights and new bulbs for low/high beams and fogs
- Gibson single-side-exit exhaust system (didn't like the sound, so I went with a Borla XS muffler)
- K&N cold air intake system with water-resistant mesh "sleeve" add-on
- Accel Performance Coil

I'll do add-on posts for a bunch of these upgrades.

Pics: (As picked up)

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Now:

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DP96XLT

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City, State
New Berlin, WI
Year, Model & Trim Level
1996 Explorer XLT 4WD
For the 240 amp alternator upgrade I decided to build my own unit from scratch. I have an account for buying the parts and did the same for some previous vehicles (including a 250amp unit for our 2001 mustang).

The items I choose were:

- Premium NTN bearings
- Taditel HD regulator
- 240 amp super heavy duty stator
- 240 amp super heavy duty rotor
- super heavy duty rectifier with 70amp diodes, welded connections, heavy copper circuits
- new front and rear cases
- brushes with insulated wiring
- overdrive pulley

For wiring I used 2-gauge for alternator to battery and battery to engine block. I used the available bolt hole on the drivers side of the engine behind the power steering pump. I used a file to clean the block to bare metal and a cutting tap to clean out the boss itself. I used dielectric grease when bolting the cable along with tinned copper ring terminals I used to terminate the flexible welding cable attached with a hydraulic terminal press. I also used shrink wrap tubing on all exposed cable-to-terminal joints. For fusing I used a 200-amp fuse in a mega-fuse holder installed next to the stock fuse box in the engine compartment. I will add that I added the 2-gauge cabling in addition to the stock 8-gauge wiring with the stock fuse able links. In any case of over-current situation all wiring is properly protected.

I also upgraded the stock 8-gauge battery to chassis ground terminal to wiring to 4-gauge as well as redoing the chassis to frame ground to the same and redoing all 4 of the independant braided ground straps from the chassis to the frame with new ones. All wiring in terminated in the same manner as mentioned before.

For battery terminals I replaced the stock ones with screw-crimp versions from NVX audio. Each one will hold a 0/1-4 gauge connection along with 2 4-8 gauge connections on each.

This setup gave me the flexibility I needed to add in the 4-gauge wiring I needed for the amplifier I was installing.

I will edit in and add pictures in the next day or two.

Pics:

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DP96XLT

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City, State
New Berlin, WI
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1996 Explorer XLT 4WD
For the stereo upgrades I am kinda old-school so I prefer head units that have the GPS and navigation built-in without the need to use a cellphone for that. Call it a "worst-case scenario" viewpoint. I also wanted to be sure it was going to do traffic avoidance so that really narrowed down the available options.

I already had a Pioneer AVIC-Z130BT (upgraded firmware-wise to an AVIC-Z140BH) in the previously mentioned Mustang, I am used to that setup, and it is extremely feature-rich so I resigned myself to find an AVIC-Z150BH or newer headunit.

On ebay I found a "damaged" AVIC-Z150BH being sold "for parts" with the DVD transport being broken. I won the auction, ordered up some wiring harnesses, gps antenna, and a microphone. I got it in and checked it all out. The microphone jack on the back was damaged, the DVD transport had a missing spring, but otherwise it was 100% functional. I added in a short pigtail to fix the microphone jack, salvaged a spring from the Mustangs stock tape headunit (just had to bend new ends into it) to fix the DVD transport and even ended up adding in a Miracast unit to allow casting from the phone for video and the Pioneer AppRadio stuff. It was completely fixed and ready to install.

For the subwoofer I initially won an auction for a Clarion chameleon sub setup that is used in both Explorers and Expeditions. It was new, never used and has an amp built in, but the wiring was for hooking up to a stock headunit and it was fairly underpowered (70-100 watts or thereabouts), But it had rca as well as line-level inputs. The big issue came down to how big it was, as I still didn't decide on an amp yet. In the meanwhile I found a local listing for a MTX thunderforms box and picked it up. I immediately decided that the sub it came with wasn't going to be enough for what I wanted and the size of the box was smaller than the Clarion sub so I had my specs for both the subwoofer needed and the amplifier size I could fit.

I ended up going with an NVX VAD11005 amplifier and a NVX VSW104v2 10" subwoofer. I ended up repurposing the stock amplifier bracket for the new amplifier as well as drilling two new holes for the other end of the amp (I machined two spacers on angles to allow the amp to sit solidly). I ran 4-gauge power wiring for the amplifier, reused the stock grounding location with 4-gauge wiring. To simplify the wiring to the door speakers I reused the stock wiring. The amp puts out about 110-115 watts per channel at full tilt on the 4 main channels and with the stock wiring I figure about 5-7% loss at those power levels which is more than acceptable. That way I didn't have to deal with running new wiring through the bulkhead connector in the drivers door. The amp puts out about 600 watts on the 5th channel for the sub (which got 12-gauge wiring isnide and out for the sub as well as 16 ounces of polyfill inside the box). After install I set the levels with an o-scope to keep the power levels in-line and not overpower any of the speakers. I ended up having to trim some of the map pcket plastic out to clear the subwoofer surround as well as stepping off the grill an extra 1/2" to make sure the subwoofer didn't hit it at full excursion. Wiring tied into the GEM module and since I did the remote start alarm at the same time I tied into a lot of the factory systems. The GPS antenna was mounted just to the right of the VIN plate under the cowl and I was able to mout the microphone on the side of the overhead console without interfering with the sunshades at all.

For speakers I went nostalgic once more and went with Cerwin-Vega V465C components up front and V468 coaxial speakers in back. I planned on using spacers for the rear speakers, but found they did not fit, so I tore apart the stock speaker grills and modified them to become spacers which worked perfectly. For the fronts I bought some PVC speaker adapters that I needed to open up a little and they worked out. I was kinda shocked to find that the factory only used 3 bolts for the front speakers. Upon install I used all 4 bolt locations. I ended up mounting the crossovers above the woofers and the tweeters just behind the rear view mirrors pointed at the middle of the car. I tried to do the auto-eq from the headunit and it kept saying to check the front speakers. Turns out the slopes used on the front midwoofers are a shallow 6db so they ended up putting the midwoofers out of phase with the tweeters to smooth out response. That doesn't work so well with an auto-eq system (and with the seperation imposed by my mounting locations), so I wired the tweeters out of phase (which caused its own set of issues) so I need to take the door panels off and rewire things to see if swapping the phase of both the woofers and tweeters will fix things, and if not I will see how well I can get things to sound (as it is there is a massive over-abundance of midbass, so much so that kickdrums tend to hit you solidly in the chest and piano notes reverberate you to the bone). Luckily the sub goes fairly deep and the response only needs to be dialed back a little via eq in terms midbass region so matching it all up was pretty easy.

Overall the system gets amazingly loud and stays very clear. I would put the sub on-par with a JL Audio 10w6v3 easily for output. The JL just ends up being more linear and digs only slightly deeper.

For the last item related to the headunit I should mention is the rear view camera installation. I ended up putting in a crimestopper cam with their included rubber mount. I installed it just below the horizontal trim molding below the rear hatch glass (I pulled that molding to get it installed properly) drilled a hole, used Ultra black RTV to seal things and to make sure the angle of the camera doesn't move. It is most definitely a "permanent" installation. The wiring was run up and through the stock tubing used to run all the wiring into the liftgate from the top part of the back (that was NOT fun to do). I ended up using the custom backup lines the headunit offers as it allowed me to set it perfectly for this installation.

I will post pics of various components of the stereo installation tomorrow along with another post outlining the alarm and remote start installation.

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410Fortune

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Nice! Lets see some pictures! I love 96 it is a great year for the Explorer
 




DP96XLT

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1996 Explorer XLT 4WD




DP96XLT

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City, State
New Berlin, WI
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1996 Explorer XLT 4WD
I forgot to add the picture of the rearview camera:

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974X4BLACKSPORT

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That thing is CLEAN! I would not want to drive that in the snow and salted roads in the winter time, it would be a shame to make that low mileage beauty start to rust!
 




DP96XLT

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Thanks.

Yeah I got caught in one ice storm (it did great, very controllable, even without better tires, just Goodyear Wrangler SR-A) and one snow storm.

I have a monthly subscription to a car wash about 2 miles away (that is automated brush-based that I can do up to twice a day) and I take it through a high-pressure touchless for a proper power-wash and underbody flush at least once a week.
 




DP96XLT

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Well, a couple of updates...

First off, since I left the battery disconnected while doing the lighting upgrade, I have noticed that the transmission actual has started shifting "normal" for the most part. As in, you floor it, it downshifts properly. One thing I will note is there seems to be a slight "flare" in shifts when you WOT, as in on the expressway, if I WOT it, it will shift, but the RPMs go beyond where they should and settle back to the proper shift point. It is only a few hundred RPM beyond where it settles at, but I do notice it. I might just get a video clip and everyone can let me know if it is operating properly. I noticed it when I first got the truck, that is why I adjusted the bands properly and changed out the valvebody (since I know of the well-experienced gasket blowouts, but, honestly when I pulled the stock valvebody the gaskets were all intact) as well as going with synthetic fluid along with a bottle of that well-regarded red-bottle fluid modifier.

Next, I called uncle on the drone with the Borla XS muffler. It was slight and most people wouldn't mind at all (especially compared to the Gibson muffler provided with their kit), but I am at a point where none of my other cars drone and I can't stand it on this one.

My solution is a Vibrant Performance 1141 stainless steel resonator along with a Vibrant Performance 1106 muffler. I would have to imagine that pair would get rid of the drone and give it a bit less vibration overall on the inside. The Borla XS sounds good, and my oldest son loves the sound and doesn't mind it one bit, but if I am driving it, I don't mind some exhaust tone up top, but cruising around I don't want to notice it as much as I am.

I looked high and low and read many many reviews of various options, but kept coming back to the fact that either a single muffler will either sound boomy/loud or raspy/loud and you run a great risk of having drone, and that most bullet-type resonators don't do too much to counter things, just drop them a few DBs and that a full resonator is more than likely necessary to breakup the raspy/droney stuff and then a performance muffler will do the major sound reduction needed. The option I went with is one of the more expensive ones, but after spending on the Gibson system and the Borla XS muffler, I just want to be done.

I heard the Stainless Works Turbo muffler is supposed to be "almost perfect", but there was no clarification if it was the chambered or straight through version. I read where the Dynomax stainless options all drone. I won't even consider Flowmaster (I hate the sound, personal preference) and Magnaflow is another dice-roll (I have hard great versions of their exhausts and really aweful sounding versions as well), thus why I went with Borla (I run Borlas on my other vehicles) and even though it does have that great "Borla" sound, they no longer make a canister-type resonator in 2.5", thus I would have to settle with a "less than ideal" bullet resonator (and not to mention since I bought the "long" 24 inch Borla I would have to buy another, shorter, 19 inch version to get it all to fit), so in reading reviews from people, it seems as if the Vibrant Performance resonator does it's job of cutting the drone.
 




GRNMACHINE

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What a great find! I rarely see any 2nd gen's with rockers still intact anymore. Great work on the maintenance and upgrades. Can you provide the source and brand/part no. for the trans pan with a drain plug?
 




DP96XLT

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Can you provide the source and brand/part no. for the trans pan with a drain plug?

The part is Dorman 265-831 Transmission Pan purchased from Amazon... Like $42 or somesuch.
 




GRNMACHINE

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Thanks! Really nice work and cant believe how clean it is---What a Find! engine bay looks Brand NEW
 




DP96XLT

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Since I got the new Vibrant Performance resonator and muffler installed yesterday I figured I would give some feedback...

The setup is GREAT!

No drone. You hear a little rumble at cruise below 60mph, less up until 70mph and silent from there on up. Perfect for expressway driving here (inner city is 50-55mph, outskirts and interstates are 70mph).

Upon cold start in the morning you can tell it is about 1/3 of what the Borla XS was. At idle on a warm engine it is barely noticeable (basically what I would consider a nice performance exhaust), and at WOT you can hear it sing a bit up top but there is no rice-can sound or any sort of high-pitched noises. It sounds more like what a torquey V6 should sound like.

It is quiet enough that you can actually hear the sounds of the motor from the engine compartment at times... With the Gibson or Borla XS mufflers that was not possible.

For me it is totally civilized and not trying to be something it is not. I am quite happy with this setup.

One thing I will add is that it had a hell of a "burning paper/cardboard" smell for the first day or so... It lasted much longer than I expected, but as of today it is gone.
 




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