96EXXLTinCO | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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I've been lurking around here for a while now. I originally bought this 96 XLT, 4.0L, 5-speed man., 4x4 from a buddy. I was driving a 2001 Mitsubishi eclipse spyder GT, but it broke down. My buddy and his wife had just bought a newer Cherokee and the explorer was just sitting there. So he let me drive it for a while till I got the car fixed. Then I didn't want to let it go. So I gave him $1250 for it. This is pretty much it as I bought it:

started out with some lights under the dash:


Added some sound:

Then came my bday present:


But is looks WAY too small IMO, so off to Cabela's I go with gift cards.....oh btw, the body damage was from my buddy when he still owned it, backed into a gas pump pylon.....anyway, OFF TO CABELA'S:

Bought the extra 22 or so inch extension off the shelf, I think that looks much better, and is way more functional too. Then I added one of these: (yes it says ice, it was a cold day).

Next it was time for a AAL and TT:

Yes the back is still sagging, but I finally pulled the trigger on the leaf spring bushings today (will be here saturday) so I can install the cheap autozone shackles for now. I found a decent set on a 95 at one of my pick and pull yards, but bolts were seized of course and I almost lost a finger trying to get em off, so autozone cheapies it is for now until I get my hands on some 2"x3/8" and fab up my own shackles. Really not looking forward to wrestling those bushings, but I want this part of the lift done. I got a line on some Mickey Thompsons for cheap that I want to get on this thing soon. So I finally took her out on her maiden voyage run to Johnny's Park. I know, not smart, but I went alone. Back in the day I had a 79 Bronco, and then a 90 F-150 that I took up to that trail all the time. Got to one rocky section that I wasn't feeling confident about and it started raining, so I decided it best to get the hell outta dodge. Had a blast and she did well. Here's a few pics from that day:

Ya'll know how much pics never do the steepness any justice:





Found this little spur off the trail that looked fun:

And again, pics never do the steepness any justice, but was steep, and it was loose, just after where I took this, I lost traction and has to turn around. Not a fun task on a steep loose hill, thought we were gonna eat it at one point, but we finally got the nose pointed downhill.

And back home with her first bit of dirt from wheelin on her:

The very next weekend, took a gal out wheelin on a first date, LOL. Tried to hit Pierson park road in Estes, but it's still closed from floods. Headed down to Allenspark and took the ski road quite a ways back, really rocky bumpy trail, constantly getting thrown around, but I can't wait to go back up there and take the trail all the way back. Apparently there was a ski area back in there in the 40's. Was only open a few years and only had 4-5 runs and 2 tow ropes. I dont believe any evidence of it is left. So once we got out of there I attacked Johnny's park from the other end, this time crossing the sketchy rocky area that turned me back before with no problems. We found a spur off the other end of the trail and parked where we could see the lights out east and just hung out for a few hours. I did discover I'm going to need more lights however.........I turned into some pretty sharp turns without being able to see what I was turning into......a little creepy...But we made it out and then next day it was time to delete those running boards. Before:


And after:


Then I went ahead and finally installed a black herc'd grill I came across at the pick and pull:

And that's how she sits right now. I got tons of little things to fix/replace and lots more mods. I hope to have 3" BL and 33's under this time next year. For now, I just want some 31-ish tires on it, and get everything back up to par before waterfowl hunting season.

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Very nice. I was just on those trails that you mentioned this weekend.

Careful, your registry is starting out how mine started out.......

LOL, I've read yours Tom, the difference is I want my EX to end up where yours is. I was on those trails last Saturday, the 18th. Wish I woulda known you were in my neck of the woods, I hate goin up there alone, but hate not going up at all even more!!

Check out frontrange4x4.com. I'm there a little. They organize runs all the time.

I'm much more active on rockymountainoverland.com though. We try to not do "day wheeling" trips and instead focus on "overland" style trips.

I saw your posts on the grand loop trip. Looked like a blast. I'll definitely check those other sites out. I don't have anybody left around here to go with anymore, but I'm lookin forward to meeting some new people to hit the trails with that have the same passion I do for our incredible area. I'm gonna tackle spring shackles starting today. Hoping to get old shackles and bushings out today, and have it ready to put new bushings and shackles in tomorrow. Just gotta find that anti-seize now............

Old shackles are out, spring eye bushing successfully beat into submission and evicted. Tomorrow just need to clean up the spring eyes a bit, prob drill out the new shackles, and I'll be all set when the new bushings show up. Got a couple pics tonight I'll toss on with the rest when it's all done tomorrow. Well.........if it has ***** or wheels it will give you problems........so hopefully will be done tomorrow. (Just a joke ladies).

And I can't sleep........must be the anticipation of getting the shackles done finally. So, I'll just go ahead and give a little update from yesterday. blocked the front tires, took the rear tires off, lifted the whole ass end up with a floor jack under the rear diff, stuck a couple jack stands on the frame right in front of the front leaf spring hangers. lowered the rear axle down a bit and disconnected the shocks. I ran the rear axle up and down to try and get a feel for when the tension was off the existing shackle bolts, but in the end it was just a guess. I had decided early on I wasn't going to mess around with these bolts. I used my angle grinder and a cut off wheel to cut through the lower shackle boltsright between the shackle and the spring eye. didnt spring up or sown muh so my guess with height of the rear axle must have been close . Once all tension was off the upper shackle bolt, they practically fell out. Upper bushings look finer than frog hair, so I'm leaving em for now. This is what is looked like after getting the spring shackle out:



And here's how she sits right now:



Going to clean up the inside of the spring eyes, run a couple errands, and then probably sit on the curb and wait for the bushings to get delivered. Got a friend who's ex has a good set of Mickey Thompson's on stock dodge rims he said he'd sell me for about $150. Cant remember the specific size or model. Bolt pattern on the rims are identical, It's the hole size for the hub that is different. Dodge's is a little bigger than our EX's hub. Any tire experts in here know how much, if difference that might make? Hopin to get my hands on em quick if he still has em.

BTW, I'm struggling with a name for this girl. I'm open to suggestions...............

Operation lift Explorer phase 1: COMPLETE Didn't run into any major problems and I'm happy with how it turned out.





Not a HUGE difference, but quite noticeable to me. The cheapy auto zone kit comes with bolts that are too small of a size. Using those would have meant sloppy play inside the bushing sleeves. I did have to cut the 2 shackle to spring bolts to get the old shackles out, but luckily I had 2 extra laying around from one of my trips to the junkyard. I did use 2 of the bolts that the set included, along with 2 of the inner sleeves that the bushing kit came with to bind the center section of the new shackles together:


and from the back:


So now the search for tires begins, I got a call into a friend who had the line on the Mickey Thompson's mounted on 16" dodge rims. Anyone have any experiance with whether or not those rims could be used on an EX? They're both 5 x 4.5 but the hole for the hub is different sizes. Dodges' is bigger. I'm no tire and wheel expert, how much does it matter that that hole fits snug around the hub? is they're any type of adapter or filler ring that could be used?

If you bolt the wheel on and evenly tighten the lugs (cross-cross star pattern) while the wheel is in the air you'll be fine. If you can get final torque while they are in the air that's even better.

EX looks good.

That's what I was thinking Tom, especially if the dodge wheels take a conical lug nut, but like I said, I'm no expert on wheels. It looks like they do make hub ring/adapters as well, might be something else to check into if those Mickey's are still available and I can get my hands on em. Just wish I could remember what size they were.............I just remember the guy that has em saying they "should fit with a little lift, no problem". Just hope it all works out, a set tires and wheels for............shhhhhhh, $150

So it's been a busy couple days......I was pokin around on Craigslist and found a guy about an hour away in the mountains selling a set of 31x10.50x15's for $50. Mine now. Drove up there, loaded em up on the rack and strapped em down, headed back. But I had to go through the town of Nederland, and it's not like I'm going to drive through Nederland in my Explorer and NOT go play around on the trails at Caribou for a bit. So went up there with tires strapped to the top had some fun. Here's some pics of that:


Came across an old mine on a trail I had never tried before














So I knew there was a chance I wouldn't have to work today, and a member from a local group was staying in Estes. I tried to meet up with him to hit some trails today but I overslept and then with lack of cell service in the mountains we just couldn't get together today. I went to the trail he said was going to, started up it, got a section I wasn't feeling confident in, so turned around and waited at the entrance for him to come down. Sent him a text I was waiting at the entrance, got one back 45mins later saying he was already off the trail. But I had a sway bar disconnected, a full tank of gas, and the rest of the day to do whatever I want. I wanted to hit some trails. I started off by going and hitting Rock Creek again, this time to go the rest of the way to the top, which I did after having to negotiate a couple sections that were a little advanced for my trucks' current set-up. Didn't get any pics of those spots, but here's a few from the entrance where I was waiting:





So after finding out I was on my own again today, I headed over to Rock Creek:







The last pic is at the top which turned out to be quite a bummer really. surrounded by trees, no view whatsoever. The trail used to continue on, but the forest service blocked it off for some reason. Who knows. So back down I went and stopped at the bottom in Allenspark for a pizza at the Rock Creek Pizzeria. REALLY good pizza. Then I went over to Johnny's park to my favorite spot and hung out for while. I'll get some pics of that trail one of these times, it has changed a lot since back when I used to go up there all the time. It's quite a bit more challenging now. Anyway, here's a few from my spot up there:





So been a little busy the last few days, but had fun too. Now I just gotta find somewhere or someone that will mount these tires for me really cheap. Plus I'm thinking a CB is next.........

We officially are riding on 31's. Broke em down and mounted em myself in the garage, will be taking them in for balancing soon.



And after:



Damn didn't realize that 2nd pic was blurry. I think we're on to some maintenance, repairs, and hopefully a CB if I can find a decent deal on a set up. Think I want to go with a 2' firestick on the roof rack on a spring for those low hanging trees, and garage doors.

So the plan for today fell through Friday night leaving me with no one to go wheelin with. I decided I was going to try out Caribou from the other end of the trail,......
Not even a Quarter mile in and I come to this:



Tried easing into it, but it needed quite a bit more flex to tip toe through than what I have. Since I was alone, no spotter, and no one to pull me out, I backed out scrapped the idea of going in from that side for now. So I headed to eldora to try out the trail from Caribou to there. It's literally a ledge on the side of a steep hill, really rocky for my set up but I was making it just fine, no undercarriage or axle clunks at all.


and a couple pics of the view on the way up:



But I came to a spot that didnt look too promising. I studied it for a while and think I had a good line picked out, but again, being alone, no spotter, no winch or anything to help me get it out if it goes bad, I decided to back out. Now there was a few spots coming up that required careful tire placement to get through and there is not much room for error at all, single wide track with nowhere to turn around whatsoever, so backing down wasn't sounding like a great idea either, but I figured going slow, taking my time, getting out and looking a lot, I should be okay. I wish I would've got a pic of that spot.........I barely started going back down when a fullsize Ford truck appears coming down the trail in front of me. The guy gets out, I tell him I'm backing down but it's gonna take a while cuz we got a ways to go, but he helped me in the sections I needed a spotter in, and helped guide me from the cab of his truck whenever I wasn't sure about my position or line. Made it down with no issues. We stopped and talked awhile at the bottom, found out we're both from the same town, and decided to hit my ole go to, Johnny's Park, on the way back to town. Here's a few pics from there, the truck ahead of me is him.




And of course back to my favorite spot where we just hung out and shot the **** for a while.




Ended up exchanging numbers since we both love to get out on the trails and live in the same town. So even though I was getting pissed about not making into these trails, the day ended up good. Doing a little post trip inspection when I got home I discovered I got some rubbing to address now:



Think I'll lower the stops just enough to stop it from rubbing for now. And I'm thinking about adding another AAL. The back end still needs to come up a touch I think, plus it feels so much more soft than the front. I've seen guys use 2 of the short pro-comps, and some use 1 short and 1 long. I'd really like to get my hands on F-150 set of springs and use a long one out of those. Guess we'll see if I come across a set for the right price soon. I've been lucky on pretty much everything else so far!! And I'm also really disgusted at how the spring plate/shock mount hangs so low under the axle........wondering if I could change out the round end u-bolts for squared ones, run them up through the bottom of the current plate/shouck mount, and then make a custom plate to go on top of the axle for the u-bolts to go through. Maybe even use a another set of plates out of a u-pull with that sit on a couple spring perches I weld on to the axle? IDK, tossing ideas around. Very happy with the extra clearance I have for now, but those damn plate/shock mount suckers just irritate me........

So realized tonight I mention my car in my signature but have not posted a pic of it. I did not plan to have both cars be so similar in color, but I'm not complaining either. The car usually has these black 18" rims on it, but I ran the tires off those a while back so I threw the ugly azz stockers back on for now. Haven't done alot to it, wheels and tires, 3% tint all the way around including a 8" sunvisor on the windshield, a short shifter, changed out instrument lights from orange to blue, added a 12" sub, K&N drop in filter. Other than that, it's just been maintenance and repairs. I would like to lower it 1 1/2", black it out with a flat black paint job, replace the entire stock sound system, add a full LCD instrument panel controlled by a car computer build, projector headlights, Swap all exterior lights to LED, add an ingalls torque dampner, full exhaust including headers, strut tower braces front and rear (I'll have to fab my own rear due to the soft top, no one has any in production), cold air intake, front bumper off an 02 or 03, and MAYBE a NOS system, but I am no fan of the bottle whatsoever, it just might be fun to have "just in case" once in a while. Here it is with the black 18's on it:


It's a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT. Has a 3.0L DOHC. Haven't checked into much, but apparently it's a high compression motor. There is hardly any forced induction upgrades available, and the one that are there, warn the crap out you about putting anything on this car. Plus it requires Premium gas, a fact which I did not learn until AFTER I bought the car, but you dont even really notice the extra cost since it will get 30mpg if you stay out of the throttle............which I don't...........but it's still cheaper to fill with premium than the EX is with mid grade. And here she is tonight alongside her sis:




Love em both and hope I never have to get rid of either one. And I'll tell ya, crankin some turns in the mountains in the Spyder with the top down is the next best thing wheelin in the mountains!!

EDIT: Yes these pics suck, I'm still getting used to using the different setting on my camera.

And I'm also really disgusted at how the spring plate/shock mount hangs so low under the axle........wondering if I could change out the round end u-bolts for squared ones, run them up through the bottom of the current plate/shouck mount, and then make a custom plate to go on top of the axle for the u-bolts to go through. Maybe even use a another set of plates out of a u-pull with that sit on a couple spring perches I weld on to the axle? IDK, tossing ideas around. Very happy with the extra clearance I have for now, but those damn plate/shock mount suckers just irritate me........
Would these help?

Ubolt & Shock Skidplates

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I have seen those, and worse case scenario, I could make some those. I guess my thing is I've never had a spring under axle truck and although I have yet to catch one, I know I'm going to, and I'm gonna be cussin. While these to armor and protect the u-bolts, as well as move the shock mount up, there's still an inch of steel hanging below the axle. Just mental thing with me I guess. Cant wait to get to a SAS and just get those springs on the side of the axle they belong on, LOL.