Have done the water pump on the 2013 explorer 3.5v6 normal aspirated. I think the hints from this thread were gold. By far the best hint was to practice the insertion of the cover in position until you get the right sequence of moves, given there is not much time once the gasket maker is in place. Had to try >10 times until I could find a sequence of moves to slide it in rather fast.
Car was ~ about 120k miles. I thought i was doing preventive measure, but in fact the rubber gasket of the water pump was leaking. Not inside the engine, but outside.
Have changed the water pump, chain and the chain guides (except the upper left guide). All new original ford parts from dealer. The old water pump shaft did not have any play. It was as tight as the new one. The seal of water pump shaft was intact. It seems Orings gave up. The old chain was practically same length as the new one, so not much wear. In fact, the old chain was "tighter" to twisting compared to the new one.
What I would mention beside the manual.
Used breaker bar to take the pulley bolt. I have locked the pulley with a 1/2" extension pushing against the frame. Impact wrench may work, but did not have one.
The puller for the pulley must be the smallest. 4" is too big. I had the autozone small rental one (3") and worked fine. Autozone has also GM /Chrysler tool, and i think that may work too. Use a socket and a large cover bolt to have the puller push rod tip to sink in. Having the tip pressing on pulley bolt will not stay easily centered, and may damage the threads. I was almost there to damage the threads.
AC compressor and alternator do not need to be removed for the engine cover to come off. However they need to be wrapped in plastic properly, as oil may leak into them- especially alternator. Seen people saying to remove them, but no need to.
Had the camshafts holders installed. They will not align perfectly on both sides with the old chain, as it will be slightly longer. A bit of cam twist on one side will align them both. Many people say you do not need the holders, and that is true if you know what you are doing. As the first time, I would use the cam holders to keep things right.
Yes, practicing he engine cover insert procedure was tough with the AC pipes in place. I could find a sequence of moves to get it back rather fast, but it is not straightforward.
To me, it was easier to have the gasket maker on the cover. Many suggest to put gasket maker on the engine block, but it is danger to put it in wrong place (especially in the lower part of the block), as the right contact area is narrow, and you could easily miss that. On upper part of engine block, maybe not, but lower part, yes.
I have personally put gasket maker on the outer side of the water pump oring. I think the instructions do not mention that, but i think the factory had that. I have put coolant on the oring of the water pump (as per Haynes manual). Not sure it was a good idea. Open to suggestions if that is a bad idea/does not matter/OK idea.
I did my best to keep coolant from the oil pan, but it still leaked a bit. Flushed with some old oil. Put a cheap oil for 50 miles, and then changed the oil and filter with new ones.
In all, it is not a difficult job, but some actions can take forever. Back valve cover gasket is a nightmare. And cleaning the engine cover bolts from old gasket. And the bores too. took me a day just to clean the stuff....