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Aaron's Mountaineer: Massachusetts

Aaron "V8BoatBuilder"s Elite Explorer Registry Page


Rausch Creek Off Road Park, PA. 33" Tires, 4" Lift



West Dennis Beach, Cape Cod, MA. Truck as purchased, Christmas Eve 2002


Got lost on the way to the mall..... Offroading in New Hampshire. November 2003

I have set up this thread to detail my modifications, provide some step by step instructions for many of them, list my tips for general maintence procedures, and even throw a writeup or two of anytime I decide to subject my truck to the abuse of off-pavement driving.

I strongly encourage all members of Explorerfoum to read this thread, or skim over my dry writing and just look at the photos. Hopefully you can find a usefull tip or learn a little bit about your Mountaineer or Explorer. If you have a question, feel free to PM me, or even post it here. I've edited many posts to reflect conversations I've had over PMs. So yea, check the "older" posts, since I sometimes update them too..... (I have way too much time it seems....)

Now the Disclaimer:
If you follow any of my writeups or tips, I take no responsibilty for damage or injury you may encur. Always double check your work, and make sure everything makes sense. Never work under a truck that is only supported by a hydraulic jack - use jack stands! Remember, some systems, such as brakes, can affect others if you are not careful. Have fun, and get greasy. Make that truck your own.

Specifications As She Stands, 1/19/08:
Year, Make: 1997 Mercury Mountaineer
Color: Black, with gray trim and body cladding
Engine: 5.0 Liter 302cu in. V8. GT40p Heads.
Battery Duralast Gold Grp 65 Wet Cell, custom wiring
Transfer Case: Borg Warner 4406 Control-Trac w/Torque on Demand and low range.
Front Drivetrain: Dana 35 SLA, 4.56 gears, Open Differentail, Center Axle Disconnect
Rear Drivetrain:Ford 8.8" 31 Spline, 4.56 gears, Track-Lock Limited Slip
Tires: Interco TrXus MT 33x12.5R15 on Cragar 15x8 Chrome Plated Steel Wheels
Interior: Gray with Leather and Mountaineer stitching
Options and Creature Comforts Power Seats, Alarm system, remote keyless entry, power locks, power mirrors, overhead console with Autodim mirror, outside temp, compass. Rear Air. Message Center.


Page One (You are here)
- Ford OEM Class III trailer hitch installed 1/10/03
- Rancho 9000x 9way Adjustible shocks installed 2/14/03
- Aux reverse lights installed 2/15/03
- Oil Pressure Sender conversion in progress 3/14/03
- Front Tow hooks installed 3/31/03
- JC Whitney Full Brushguard installed 3/16/03
- Hella 500 Driving Lights installed 3/17/03
- Audio System including: Pioneer MP3 headunit, Pioneer 12 disc changer, Alpine v12 Mono Amp, Dual 10" Rockford Fosgate Subs (Now removed), Sound deading insulation installed 3/18/03

Page Two
- Explorer Express Swaybars installed 4/13/03
- MAC open element Air Intake installed 8/15/03
- Ventshade VentVisors installed 8/15/03
- Custom made Stealth Subwoofer Box with Kenwood eXcelon 10" DVC woofer installed 8/17/03
- Warrior Shackles installed 11/20/03
- Aux Transmission Filter Installed 12/20/03
- Autometer guages (oil pressure, oil temp, trans temp) Installed 12/21/03
- Torsion bar adjusters, January 2004

Page Three
- 2" Front Lift from TT, Add-a-leafs in rear Installed Janurary 2004
- Front control arm Camber Adjusters, Installed January 2004
- 31" BFG AT KO tires Installed January 2004
- Custom Front skidplate, February 2004
- New head Gaskets and a Valve job, June 2004
- Accell DIS coils, Taylor Ignition wires, June 2004

Page Four
- Baumann Engineering Shift kit and other 4R70W Mods, December 2004
- Message Center, January 2005
- Torque Monster Headers, March 2005
- Cruise Controll Deactivation Recall, June 2005
- Control Trac/4x4 trasnfer case swap, June 2005

Page Five
- More on the 1st BW4406 swap EVER!!

Page Six
- Waterpump, Timing Chain, Timing Cover, Cooling Hose Replacement
- Superlift K494 4" Front Lift, Central Axle Disconnect Swap
- Custom Stainless Steel Braided Brake Lines
- Rear SOA, 4.56 Gears

Planned Mods...
- Custom Rocksliders
- Custom Rear Bumper w/Tire Carrier
- Fatmat entire interior
- Sandblast, POR 15, and paint underbody, suspention and frame.
- Replace rear leaf spring bushings with Energy Suspention Poly
- Lockers
- A Pillar grab handles
- Flowmaster Exhaust with 50 series delta flow(s) with dual 2.5" piping or single 3", custom downpipes and high flow catalytic converters.
- Upgraded door speakers and amp
- SCT chip w/87 octane program(s)
- FMS E303 Cam and Roller Rockers
- Cut the roof off and put in a cage!!

Help.... this list is getting too short!

These photos were taken the night I purchased the truck: (Christmas Eve 2002)


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Rancho 9000x Install

The truck had 106k mi when I purchased it, and I think the shocks were original. It was time to upgrade. I chose Rancho 9000x shocks for all four corners. After lots of research, these shocks seemed to get consistent high marks. The 9 position adjustibility is a plus as well.

I ordered them from www.summitracing.com and started the install on Friday evening. Its going longer than expected, mostly due to frozen bolts.

Following the shock install thread in the "List of usefull threads" forum, I started the rears first.

Front P/N: RS99229
Rear P/N: RS99185

Allow yourself lots of time and possibly a second vehicle to run for parts. Next time I could do it in two hours, but due to rusty bolts it took about 6 spead over two days.

1) Drop the spare tire, and hoist the cable back up.
2) Spray EVERYthing with PB Blaster.
3) Use a 13mm wrench to undo the top shock bolts above the mounting bracket. For me, the passenger side went fine, the driver's side was trickier. Access to the upper bolts is difficult due to the fuel system.
4) Use an Air Impact wrench to remove the bottom bolt. The impact wrench spun the bolt off the passenger side fine. The bolt on the driver's side was so frozen, I ended up cutting it off and replacing it. Rancho supplies new bolts for the top of the shocks, but the bottom large bolt must be re-used or replaced.
5) The new Ranchos just bolt in, the boot needs to be placed on them first.

On to the front shocks....

6) Jack up the front of the truck, and place it on jackstands. Remove the wheels.
7) Remove the fenderwell liners by carefully removing the plastic clips - the same procedure for spark plug access.
8) Soak everything in PB blaster if you are going to try and wrench it off. Don't bother - since nothing is reused in the fronts.
9) The bottom shock nuts are 13mm and easily come off with the impact wrench.
10) After a quick try, I decided to break out the sawzall for the top shock bolts on both the drivers and passengers side. Be carefull on the driver's side since there are ABS and fuel lines... don't let that blade slip!
11) The old shocks will extend to full length, so wrestling with them is a little difficult. But they are compressible.
12) The new Ranchos bolt in, after putting the boots on. I found i had to jack up the A-arm to aid in installation. See note below.

1) It appears as though the new Ranchos in the rear "top out" before the suspension does. This would be a concern in a lowered truck, since the shocks will limit the ability for the axle to get "Stuffed" into the wheel well. I'm not too worried, I will be getting Warrior shackles ASAP. They extend quite nicely, and have plenty of travel for the suspension to drop.
2)When I removed the stock shocks from the front, the A-arms fell about a 1/2". When I installed the Ranchos, they too pulled the A-arm up a 1/2". While the shocks do limit travel, I'd rather wear be put on them than the CV joints.


Shock Comparison: Stock vs Rancho 9000x


Front Passenger Side Installation
After a day of driving with the new shocks, all I can say is: WOW. They make an AMAZING difference in ride quality and handling. I have all four shocks set on #5, which according to Rancho's website makes them equivelent to Rancho 5000s. I will experiment with different settings. It is very easy to reach the rear controls, but the fronts are a little harder.

Shock Update
-March 13, 2003:
For normal driving on road, with me and aone other person, I Have changed the fronts to setting 3, and the rears to setting 5. The softer front feels pretty nice, but it really depends on the roads. I'm seriously thinking about the in-cab controller.

-May 15, 2003:
The shocks are showing some surface rust. Not good, considering there will be many more New England winters and Cape Cod salt air summers for these shocks. Performance is still excellent.

General Automotive Practice

It's common discussion, so I thought I'd post my "philosophies" on vehicle maintence.

Fluid/Filter Change Schedule
Oil Change Frequency: I change my engine oil three times a year, in early September, in early January, and in early May. It works out to be about ever 3,300 miles as I drive about 10,000 per year. I use Motorcraft FL820S oil filters, and 5w-30 Dino oil. I'd rather change it often, then run synthetic.
Transmission Fluid: I change this once a year, every January/10,000 miles. I will be installing a B&M drainplug in the pan, and changing the remote tranmission filter at least twice a year, without changing all of the fluid. I use Castrol Mercon-V semi-synthetic.
Transfercase Fluid: Once a year/10,000 mi. I use standard ATF.
Powersteering Fluid: Once a year/10,000 mi. I Use a mix of standard ATF and powersteering fluid.
Front Differential: Once a year/10,000 mi 85w-90 gear oil
Rear Differential: Once a year/10,000 mi 85w-140 Synthetic, with Ford OEM friction modifier.
Engine Coolant: Schedule not decided yet... ;)
brake Fluid: DOT 3, changed with every brake job.

It may seem like an agressive fluid change schedule, BUT - fluid changes are easy, fluid recyling is easy and conveinent in Newton, and fluids are cheaper then components. The real reason: It gives me an excuse to wrench the truck!!! :D

Spark Plug Install

New spark plugs make all the difference! Quicker stars, noticible power. Smoother operation too. Shame on me for waiting to replace them.

I tried several times to find replacement plugs for the V8, but surprisingly, both Autozone and Pepboys did not have the correct plugs!!!! I wasn't about to spend 8 bucks at the dealer. Both the Bosch and Motorcraft platinum, and AC Delco copper plugs were very similar - but the thread length was different. My V8 has the Gt40p heads.

Getting desperate, I settled with some copper Autolite plugs for a buck a peice and figure that I'll just replace them often.

Old plug P/N: Motorcraft #WSF32E
New Plug P/N: Autolite #764

While I would have liked Platinum plugs, we'll see how these last. But I feel the same about spark plugs as oil: By decent parts cheap, but change them often.

EDIT: December 2003
I have since found out that the plugs were indeed correct. The thread length on the original Motorcrafts and Autolites matches the 1/2 length thread in the heads. However, the full length threads fit fine.

I have had an intermittant miss, and in attempt to remove it, replaced the year old Autolites with Bosch single Platinums. The Autolites were in perfect condition on all 8 cylinders.... I replaced wires as well.

Rear Aux Reverse Light Install

The back of the truck needs more light! With the tinted windows, the stock reverse lights often aren't enough. Also, there have been many times when I have worked behind the truck and needed light, or tried to hitch a trailer up at night. The solution: $20 bucks for lights at Walmart.

I purchased a kit of (2) Blazer 55w Driving lights. They have clear lenses and H3 bulbs. P/N #C1093K.

They come with relativley large 3/8" mounting bolts. I drilled holes into the bottom of the bumper approximatley 7" inboard of the hitch mounting brackets. This puts the lights far enough outboard from the hitch so they won't interfere with saftey chains, and will provide decent coverage. There is enough outboard room on the hich for future tow hooks.


The lights are wired to a relay and 3-position switch so that I can have Automatic with reverse, On, or off. They only come on when the parking lights are on.

EDIT: December 2003
I have managed to bust the lense of a light on two different occations. I may re-locate them into the bumper in place of the reflectors. Other then that, they have been invaluable!

Oil Pressure Guage Mod

I'm a firm believer in knowing what my engine is doing. I think you can never have too many gauges either. (Turning my Mountaineer's dash into an airplane's dash would be A-OK) But the gauges must work for them to be usefull. The stock oil pressure gauge in stock form is nothing more and an idiot light - it points sky high as long as there is about 5psi oil pressure. It reads low if there is anything less. However, there is a cheap, but time consuming fix.

Many members have posted how to convert the stock guage into a real oil pressure gauge, which shows fluctuating pressure. (Normal - and vital to undertanding the health of the engine) All of these posts have been for the OHV V6. I found that the V8 is slightly different - and a more time consuming install compared to what other members have reported.

1) Neihoff F133 Sender, From a 1987 F150 5.0. $5.99 Autozone
2) 1/4" Brass coupler $0.39 Home Depot
3) 2" 1/4" Brass pipe, $1.00 Home Depot
4) Teflon Tape
5) RTV sealant
6) short length of wire, 2 butt splices and heatshirnk tubing
7) 1qt ATF (for powersteering system)
8) PB blaster for stuck/rusty bolts

Special Tools needed:
1) 1 1/6" DEEP DRIVE socket
2) 10" extension
3) U-joint for socket

Once all of the tools and parts are gathered, give yourself a full day to get this job done. It may help to have an extra vehicle nearby to run for parts.

This is the method I chose to install the sender. There may be a better method, that involves less cuts and scrapes. Be carefull when working on your truck, but have fun and be creative

Part One: In the Engine Bay
1) Remove wheel well liner
2) Remove the reservoir-P/S cooler power steering hose from the small cooler. Drain the P/S reservoir.
3) Remove the battery
4) Unbolt the battery tray, (3 13mm Bolts) and disconnect any hoses/wires from the battery tray.

5) Remove the 10mm nut holding the powersteering hoses to the side of the A/C compressor. Route high pressure P/S hose out of the way. Disconnect low pressure hose from reservoir, and pull out of truck.
6) Disconnect green electrical wire from current oil pressure switch
7) Use 1 1/6" deep drive socket, u-joint and extension to remove the oil pressure switch

8) grab lunch - you're halfway there.
9) Assemble new oil pressure sending assembly. Use one layer of teflon tape on all threaded joints, as well as a THIN layer of RTV sealant. You don't want it to leak, but the electrical ground travels through the brass pipe. Make sure everything is tight.

10) Insert assembly into block hole. It may help to have a partner guide you by looking into the wheel well, while you stick you hand down the hood.

11) Use a 9/16" wrench on the base of the sender to tighten up the works. This process really requires patients and contortions. You will get scraped hands from the fanblade, but hey, no pain, no gain.
12) The old electrical wire is too short. Remove it from the block by undoing the two clips behind the upper serpentine idler pully. They just pull right off.
13) Crimp/Heatshirnk about 24" of 18 ga wire into the current harness. you want to keep the stock plug at the end. Rather than running down the front of the block, i chose to run down the side of the A/C compressor with the new wire.
14) Reassemble everything
15) Refill Powersteering system
16) Start the X up, check for leaks in both the oil and P/S stystems.

Part Two: Behind the Dash

The dash was removed as part of a mult-day project of replacing the stereo system and wiring in some Aux lights. Dash removal instructions by bigtigexplorer were followed. Dead Link Removed
Once the dash was out, I replace all of the 194 lightbulbs used for illumination.

Setbacks... Setbacks... what was supposed to be a ten minute solder job... wasn't.

On early model Explorers and Mustangs, to make the gauge fully functional, a 20 ohm resistor needs to be bridged on the back of the dash. However, my dash did not have this resistor. In mid 96, Ford stopped putting in real gauge armatures in Mustangs since they weren't putting in senders. It appears they did the same in my Mountaineer. So I'm stuck.

There are several options.
1) Do some hardcore electrical engineering to get my gauge working.
2) Tap into the sender, and run an external gauge, and leave the dash alone.
3) Go junkyard diving and get a 95-96 gauge cluster.

Many thanks to Maniak for helping me troubleshoot this problem. The diagnostics are taking place in the following thread:
Dead Link Removed

I know some people have asked about the resistance values of the Neihoff Sending unit. I hooked it up to my air compressor before installing it on the truck.

0 psi = infinite ohms
20psi = 30.7 ohms
30psi = 28.5 ohms
40psi = 24.4 ohms
50psi = 21.3 ohms
60psi = 18.9 ohms
70psi = 17.1 ohms

The original ford unit is:
0 psi = infinite ohms
6 psi = zero ohms

This is a writeup of the mod on a mustang:
Dead Link Removed

EDIT: December 2003
I have replaced the 6psi switch, and installed an Autometer Oil Pressure Gauge. For the writeup, go to page two ;)

good to see a masshole joining the ranks of the elite explorers dude! weve got to go wheeling sometime soon!

Brushgaurd and Hella 500 Install


I really like the looks of brushguards on SUVs, an even though many on the road today are all show and no go, and on the front ends of grocery getters, I decided to get a guard for myself.

When researching, I was dismayed at the extreme cost of such guards by Manik, WAAG and Smittybuilt. Manik has an online outlet where a nice 1 piece, frame mounted guard could be had for close to $300 - and it needed to be repainted. I called local junkyards. No luck. But - while thumbing through the JC Whitney catalogue I found what looked like a perfect solution. For only $125, a decent looking brushguard. Yes it was bumper-mount, yes it was knockdown, but it was in my budget.

When it arrived at the house - I was unsure. That was a small box! But put together it fit the front of the Mountaineer quite well. The wrinkle finnish looks durable, time will tell. The only defect was the passenger side light mount was welded on slightly crooked.

Once the center section was assembled, I marked the top holes on the bumper, drilled, and then bolted the gaurd on. Don't drill the bottom holes untill the top bolts are torqued down, the plastic bumper cover compresses about a 1/2." After the top 2 bolts were secure, I drilled and bolted the bottom two bolts.

The side wings were bolted to the center section. Install time took less than an hour, including assembly of the center section and aligning it.

Hella 500 Driving Lights

Simply bolted to the light mount tabs on the brushgaurd - it couldn't have been easier.


Brushgaurd and Lights, Front View


Brushgaurd, Side View

Welcome to the elites. :cool: :chug:

Thanks Bashman.

I spend so much time on here, I felt I owed it to Rick for all the bandwidth I use! I also needed a place to post photos.

I really like this site - the people here are always willing to help out and give me assistance on problems, projects, as well as ideas for new ones!


Yes. Spring break is here, and the Stereo install has begun.

The truck came with the Audiophile JBL system, which sounded great, but I needed to upgrade. Unfortunatley, the "dstributed architecture" made this install more challenging, as I chose to rewire the entire vehicle.

This is my fourth major custom car audio install.

Pioneer DEH-P7400MP

Head Unit Installed along with switches for onboard lights

Pioneer 12 Disc Changer

Subwoofers and Amp

Rewiring the door speakers
Since the JBL system pretty much necessitates rewiring the entire vehicle, new 16ga speaker cable needs to be run to the doors, through the rubber booties. What makes it challenging is the S curve of the booties, as well as their corrogated constrcution. The best wire fish is a heavy duty wire tie, starting in the truck, and fishing into the door. It makes a word of difference to pop the rubber out of the vehicle and/or door and try to strighten the bends out.

The Drivers door presents a challenge. Instead of the rubber going from a hole in the body to the door, there is a bulkhead connector. This is probubly due to the LARGE number of wires in the junction. It allows quick seperation of the door from the body.
1) Disconnect the lower connector by loosening the 10mm bolt.
2) Notice the two small holes on the door under the bulkhead connector - thread the speaker wire through here.
3) Run the wire through the rubber bootie, using the cable tie fish method
4) Re-attach the bulkhead connector, trim off the excess speaker wire.

Antenna Wire
The truck comes with the power antenna. Since the reciver is in the rear quater panel, the antenna wire runs throug the passenger side wire chase to the unit. Fortunatley, in the passenger foot well, there is a junction for the antenna lead. I used the lead as a wire fish to run the cables for my new 12disc changer.

The connector on the antenna is NOT a standard radio connector, an adapter ($10) is needed, as well as a 4ft Antenna extension lead.

The Power Antenna needs a relay control to go up/down. Simply wiring it into ground and the remote turn on lead will force the antenna up and burn out the motor. I've always wanted manual control of the antenna, so it can be down while listening to CDs. The control was accomplished by using a momentery on-off-on switch and relays. write up and diagram to follow

This Post will evolve as I have time to write it up

12VDC Power Distribution Modifications

To power all my accessories, including the Subwoofer Amp, Aux reverse lights, 120v inverter, and 12v outlet, I ran a 4ga power cable in the driver's side wire chase to the rear quater panel.

Underhood Wiring

I wanted to install a wiring system that will carry future electrical loads as well. 4ga cable was run from the battery to a 70 Amp Marine Circuit Breaker (Blue Sea Systems). From the breaker, 4ga Cable was fed through the firewall and run to the rear of the truck. 8 Ga cable was run to a 6 gang fuse box. So far, the fuse box handles power for:
* Front Hella 500 Driving Lights
* Audio System

70a circuit breaker and fuse distribution block

Rear Wiring
The 4ga cable terminates at a buss-bar in the rear jack compartment. This buss bar provides power to:
* Subwoofer Amplifier
* Aux Reverse Lights (and relay)
* Rear 12v Outlet
* 120v Inverter not yet installed


Rear electrical wiring, Relay for Aux Reverse Lights

wheeling in massahcusettes? hmmm..... i guess there is an awesome off road park in Florida mass (out by new york) but i havent been there yet. there is a good place for stock vehicles in Groton, but i usually go to Milford NH, where there is an awesome place about 20 minutes from nashua.

Im pulling my hair out here!!!

let me say this.... Off-Road Wheeling in Mass and NH is Rare.... that is if you are NOT a member of a Off-Road club, Espically one that is not in the Dead Link Removed .......

All the Clubs in the Association are working on finding and gaining access to LEGAL Places to wheel.

If you go to some of the mentioned places, you could be caught by Enviroment Police, and if they are having a BAD day, They have the Rights to Fine you, maybe even take your Truck......

And there are some places where we have gaied access to... after a long process of getting hand written permission from all of the Abutting Land owners....... where as we let them know when we will be on the trails near them... and they also have the phone numbers of these Enviromental police officers, and can and will call them when they see tresspassor's.

All I can say is, As you have Joined to be an Elite Member here, Join a 4x4 Club and make a difference by helping to gain places to legally 4x4, and also help keep the trail clean with Organized Trail Clean up's!

PLEASE do NOT Give us (the ones who are working to make more places available) a BAD name!


I appreciate all of the suggestions on wheeling in MA, but I would like to have that discussion in another thread, say in the "Trail Runs" forum. I intend on keeping this thread as a log of the Mods to my truck, and welcome any posts on that topic. Otherwise, lets keep the discussion where the discussion belongs.

CBoug, your point is well taken, and I plan on looking up the 4wheel drive clubs as you suggest. I have zero intent on doing any illegal wheeling - it just makes it worse for everyone!

Thanks guys,

FYI, I will make your Request a reality...

Another local chiming in

Not about the off-roading, but congrats on becoming Elite! This site is very cool, and I definitely get a lot more than $10 worth of knowledge / entertainment from it.
GT-40 heads and an e303 cam......that is a serious dream.
Karl Burns

Fuel Filter Change Instructions

I change mine every other year, about 20,000 mi.

Change Instructions:

It is located inside the driver's side frame rail next to the transmission, inline with the fuel hose.

To undo it, you need some plastic collars to slip over the filter barbs and undo the clips inside the hose connectors. These can be purchased at any autoparts store, usually for under $10, in a blister pack "A/C and fuel line Disconnect tools"

Once you have the disconnects, the filter, some red rags, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, some water and a drain pan, look under the glovebox for the fuel pump emergency reset switch. Unplug the harness, and try to start the X. This will kill most of the pressure in the line.

Jack up the X if its low, and place the drainpan under the filter. Use the clips to detach the fuel lines, and unsnap the filter from the mounting bracket.

GAS WILL LEAK OUT. Be careful, an 87octane shower is not fun. Use the flashlight under the vechile.

Put the new filter in, making sure the lines are TIGHT. they will "click" in place. Douse the entire area with water, hitting every spot fuel dripped on.

Reconnect the fuel pump disconnect harness, let the water evaporate, and you're good to go.

The procedure takes 15min.

I really like those rims with the tear drop painted black. I wish mine were :(

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Thanks Andrew, they came stock that way. I think it was a 1997 Mountaineer thing, the 97 Mounty's have a different grill than the 98+ ones, as well as reflectors in the rear bumper.