2001 Ford Explorer 5.0 Timing Set / Water Pump Replacement | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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2001 Ford Explorer 5.0 Timing Set / Water Pump Replacement


Well-Known Member
December 7, 2008
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City, State
Norfolk, VA
Year, Model & Trim Level
2001 Explorer Eddie Bauer
Just before Thanksgiving we drove an hour and a half to Deltaville to buy oysters for the dressing and grab lunch (an oyster poboy, quite good); the wife noticed fluid dripping from the front of the car, I didn't look that close and wrote it off to A/C condensate... The next day there was a significant puddle on the street under the front of the Explorer. It had been leaking coolant from the same place for several years, not enough to find the source, but a crisp green drip always formed on the oil cooler under the crank pulley where it caught a drip from above. It would take about a quart every two-three weeks, no biggie, and the coolant was self changing at that point. I guess there was only a leak under pressure, when on the road, so no puddles when parked.

So, wherever the leak was - I'm thinking the water pump bearing seal - it opened up and was running out - never anything from the weep hole. Original water pump at over 220K mi. not too shabby. Had bought a replacement 15 years ago for a leak that turned out to be the bypass hose, so had the pump on hand. Bought a Cloys double roller timing set to swap out in the process (good thing, as it was inevitable to remove the timing cover, and the old chain was slack), FelPro timing cover gasket set, and a stainless engine fastener set from AlloyBoltz [Alloy Boltz | Stainless Fasteners & Stainless Steel Kits]. No replacement studs though - bought the SKP Water Pump Stud Kit, Part Number: SK23744 from PartsGeek - though listed for the 5.0/302 engine, none of the 3 studs in the kit were the correct length to go anywhere. Thankfully, they authorized the return (30 day limit). Also replaced the harmonic balancer with DAYCO as the rubber in those things degrade and fail at some point.

The fan, shroud, pulleys, all came off without any trouble. Jacked the engine over with the breaker until the timing mark was at TDC. One of the tranny cooler connectors spun on the radiator when trying to disconnect - got a new CarQuest Premium Radiator, all fresh hoses too. Now to removing the water pump, all the bolts broke free without trouble but the right most stud/bolt (on the left side looking at the front of the engine). After working that one for a while, the head sheared off. The shaft of the bolt had rusted to the water pump flange. I got the Dremmel and cut the water pump flange edge through to the bolt where I could then spread the flange with a small chisel and remove the pump from the bolt - and the engine.

The crank bolt and the harmonic balancer had to go next. Best to have a small pneumatic impact wrench to get the bolt out - not having that, I used the serpentine belt wrapped around the crank pulley like a strap wrench, fastened that to the frame and used the breaker bar to get the bolt out. Note: The weighted portion of the balancer is only pressed onto the pulley, which shifted position when bracing that against the frame to prevent the crank from turning - no bueno if needed for re-use, besides being ineffective. I watched this video for the strap set up ( ), I didn't want to risk damaging the A/C compressor with that much stress, so I opted for the frame rail. There is some sort of transmission lock to hold the flywheel, though I didn't find one for this application. An actual strap wrench would probably work. Used a rented puller to remove the balancer.

All of the timing cover bolts popped loose without a hitch, except that broken bolt. With about an inch of the bolt shaft protruding from the timing cover, I got a stud extractor and tried working it loose. Wouldn't budge, same as before; examining the timing cover hole, the bolt had rusted to it as well. I was able to find a replacement Dorman cover in town, got it, and went to cutting away the old timing cover from the bolt, again with the Dremmel. After removing about 100 deg. of the cover that made up the through hole for the bolt, I could finally turn the bolt, which then happily unscrewed from the block with just a pair of pliers.

The old timing chain had slack which required replacement, about .5 in deflection. The timing marks all aligned perfectly, the sprockets and chain slid off, the new set slid on, I did use the cam bolt to 'press' the upper sprocket on, there was little to no resistance just tight enough to prevent pushing on by hand. Did use blue lock tite and torqued the cam bolt.

The Dorman cover required the balancer/front seal installed - I used a bearing race from a DANA 40 diff off a damaged axle to knock it in. Proper wooden support is very important to not damage the cover - plan ahead and get a large socket or appropriate tool to put in the seal, don't hit the seal with the hammer. It also needed the lower bolt holes for the oil pan bolts chased with a tap, otherwise the bolts wouldn't thread in - the cover is aluminum and easily damaged (check this before starting assembly, I had to chase the threads while under the vehicle). And the upper drain channels had to be ground to permit drainage, Dremmel was handy for that as well. Give the cover a good once over, it is from china.

By the book, the engine is pulled to remove the oil pan and the gasket. In this case, after the cover is removed the old protruding gasket is cut away where the pan meets the block. The oil pan gasket had a steel center which I was able to cut away very close to the block with the dremmel (after stuffing rags into all the crank case openings to block the cuttings). Followed the Haynes gouge for the oil pan gasket replacement bits - contact cement to the pan, black RTV on the top and a bead across where the pan met the block. One of the youtube video guys explained how he would put black RTV on the engine machine surfaces, block and cover, placing the gasket and then tightening which is what I did (another guy black RTVd both sides of the gasket and assembled). I had to use a 2+ foot long 1.25" dowl to apply enough downward pressure on the timing cover to compress the gaskets (rubber at the front of the pan, cork on the sides) in order for the holes in the timing cover flange to go onto the alignment pins on the block. Fingers weren't going to get it there. Others have dropped the oil pan a little by loosening the pan bolts, this I avoided. All the bolts were then installed by hand, replaceing stock with stainless where able. The left most water pump stud now has a cap bolt, so one of the harness mount points is lost.

The harmonic balancer went in next, with a dab of RTV at the back of the keyway to seal it, prior to installation with the rental harmonic balancer installer tool. Theory is the balancer will better center the seal on the balancer shaft, though with the alignment pins and the gasket pressure, it probably doesn't matter. Timing Cover and Water Pump bolts put in; with anti-seize on most all the bolts, torque is backed off 10-20% - I think I was closer to 10% at the end of the day. Torque, wait an hour - (three hours for me as it was in the low 40s), torque again. Left overnight and torqued a third time for gasket compression, then installed the radiator - cleaned the tranny cooler connectors real good and used anti-seize (read some bad stories of teflon tape bits trashing transmission valving). Installed hoses, fan, serp belt, lower radiator box. Filled with new Prestone cut 50% with distilled water - high mineral content tap can cause deposits like concrete to form in the water jackets, only use distilled water where possible.

When all was together, reinstalled the battery and it started right up - let it run for just a few minutes to circulate the oil through the filter, then shut down, drained and replaced oil and filter. Check the oil and coolant regularly for a few days to ensure the gaskets are holding up and the fluids are staying where they belong.

At any rate, both the timing cover and the water pump need to be ready to go on at the same time for the appropriate torque application across all the bolts and gaskets. Good prep, dry run, ensure everything goes in the right spots and assembly should go well. No leaks from any seals in my case. This is a good video -

Not many pics as I was focused on getting the job done while the weather held out, and the RTV was setting up... I hope this narrative fills in the blanks for folks, I had many going into this. She's back on the road, starts and runs nice, good power - still have to lick that pre-detonation problem.

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Very good write up! Nicely done.