Anyone ever swap a 5 speed into a 5.0 AWD Automatic? | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Anyone ever swap a 5 speed into a 5.0 AWD Automatic?


Well-Known Member
May 26, 2013
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City, State
Allegan County, Michigan
Year, Model & Trim Level
96 Explorer XLT 5.0 AWD
My truck is up there in miles and I figure the trans is gonna die one day. All around, I'm a huge fan of manual transmissions. Aside from the obvious, flywheel, clutch, pressure plate, pedals, master cylinder, etc, Is there anything real obnoxious about doing this?

Did the 5.0 AWD ever come from ford with a 5 speed? If not, is there a 5 speed from an F150 that will spline to the AWD case without having to alter the drive shafts or anything? What's it take to get the PCM to forgive you for removing the automatic trans and make it not throw codes?

This is kind of a pipe dream, but if it's not too ridiculous with modifications a junkyard manual trans and all the rest may cost less than a rebuilt automatic.

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Search the forum, there was a member on here that used an F-150 Trans and used the F-150 t-case and I believe custom made drive shafts. There is a lot of modification and cursing involved in a project like that.

I actually don't want to use the F150 t-case. I'd prefer keeping the AWD 4404. From reading about people swapping the manual t-case from the F-150 into the Explorer, I assume the T-case inputs are the same. My thought is that if the 5 speed is the same overall length as the automatic the driveshafts wont need to change. People change the shafts when using the F-150 t-case because the Explorer shafts don't bolt up.

As far as automatics are concerned, the F-150 and Explorer use the same one. It stands to reason an 5 speed from an F-150 should bolt up at the bell and the transfer case with only modification to the clutch, flywheel, etc. But I may be oversimplifying it or just missing something.

I guess what I'am asking is if the automatic and the manual transmissions are the same length and have the same tailshaft?

Yes, an M5R2 from an F150 bolts right up as long as you open up a couple bolt holes a little larger.

If you don't want selectable 4wd, just use your AWD transfer case. The rest of the swap is the same as shown in the link.

A 97+ F150 with an M5R2 will even put the shifter in the right location, or you have to take the shifter plate off a 97+

Yes, an M5R2 from an F150 bolts right up as long as you open up a couple bolt holes a little larger.

If you don't want selectable 4wd, just use your AWD transfer case. The rest of the swap is the same as shown in the link.

A 97+ F150 with an M5R2 will even put the shifter in the right location, or you have to take the shifter plate off a 97+

Outstanding! I was hoping to hear the F-150 used the Borg Warner T-5 but this might do. My last truck was a 2.5L 5-speed Ranger. I'm loving the V8 these days (and the back seat and the AWD) but I really want something for my left foot and right hand to do. Not to mention having something as cool as a stick shift AWD Explorer. I'm really a pavement and speed kind of guy. Mud trucks are cool and all but I really like the Explorer for the open road. I'm already happy with the AWD, it's just this automatic trans I want to lose.

A T-5 is a weak pile of crap. Why would you want it?

To be honest, I'm pretty new to the world of trucks. In a previous life before high insurance costs and seating for kids was a factor I was into sports cars. The T-5 and it's more recent counterpart commonly known as the T-6 are pretty highly regarded. They are the same trans essentially, they just added a second OD gear to the T-6.

I don't doubt the M5R2 is tougher for pulling and 4x4 and such. I wonder though if the gear ratios are made to be as aggressive for "go fast" shifting and such.

I read the first page or so of that write up you linked me to also. Lot of back and forth in there about drive shafts and speedo cables and stuff I'm not gonna need. Seems to have gone on for a while. I'm gonna have to sift through it towards the end and figure out which parts are workable for what I wanna do. Maybe even see if the author can give me a "need to buy" list so I can figure it all out. Thanks for linking it.

There's so much great info on this board but it's not the easiest to find things I've ever seen.

The transmission that is paired with the AWD is one of the most reliable transmissions made by Ford. Including the manuals. I saw Mustang guys with superchargers swapping their manual for the 4R70W.

Wait, isn't the 4R70W the same trans that's in the automatic mustangs? At any rate, bracket racers don't like manual trans. They arent consistent enough for racing a clock and looking to never jump brackets.

I know the current manual trans mustang uses the T-6. I can only assume it was the T-5 before that.

I can't imagine any decent manual trans being less reliable than an automatic. You've gotta do something real ignorant to break them. Clutches go out, synchros wear out in time, but to actually break shafts and gears is near impossible. There is absolutely nothing I am going to be doing to this truck to worry about breaking a manual gear box.

Automatic transmissions are just fine for bracket racing. Easy to set up too.

You need a transmission from a 97+ F150 (or an earlier transmission and a 97+ shifter plate), block plate, clutch, slave, pedals assembly, cylinder and lines and such from an explorer with a manual, rear drive shaft from an F150 or expedition with a 5.4 and front from one with a 4.6, and a u-joint to convert to the proper flange on the explorer front diff. You will also need a tune to delete the automatic transmission.

Just read the whole thread if you are really interested in it, along with a few others you can find on here.

It doesn't take a crazy amount of work on a mustang to build a car that can destroy T-5s consistently. An explorer weighs 1500lbs more, and AWD puts much more stress on the drive line (assuming you could bolt the transfer case to a T-5 anyway). Even 2wd though, it wouldn't take much to have an Explorer that could eat T-5s faster than tanks of gas.

Wait, so even using the same Transfer Case I still have to swap driveshafts? That doesn't make a ton of sense. I was under the impression they need to be changed when changing to the F-150 transfer case because that case has different outputs.

Not only are automatic transmissions just fine for bracket racing, they are preferred. That's what I said.

I'm really not that concerned about how you can go about making an automatic mustang destroy a manual mustang. You can just as easy make mods to the manual T-5 mustang and come out again as the winner. From the factory, the engines are the same and the T-5 will spank the other. Really, we can go ahead and forget I mentioned the T-5, it was really a side thought and not warranting a lot of chest pounding.

Shoot sorry, misread what you said about manual transmissions re: bracket racing.

I thought the different driveshafts were because the manual tranny was a different length. I may be mistaken.

Like I said, read up on it.

Yeah, I intend to. A lot of guys on here have swapped to the manual transfer case from the F-150 but kept the 4R70W (it's the same trans in both trucks). Doing that, the shafts would need to be changed so they bolt up to the different t-case (as well as because of a a different length on the T-case).

What is clear though is that either T-case will bolt up to the 4R70W and respectively will both bolt up to the M5R2. If the driveshafts are the same between the 5 Speed F-150 and the automatic F-150 then my driveshafts shouldn't need to be changed either. I'll have to do some digging into it and see.

Incidentally, I'm not really into bracket racing or drag racing. It's a fine reason to not use a manual transmission in a sports car. But that's life a 1/4 mile at a time. I'm much more concerned about gear ratios and what happens when shifting from 5 down to 3 or 4-3 or 4-2 or 3-2 etc. I'm really not even into Mustangs. They are pretty good for going straight a 1/4 mile at a time but not much else.

My other car (which just sits collecting dust with cracked heads) is a 97 Pontiac Formula Firebird. For a car that's gonna downshift, take corners ridiculously hard and generally run amok on the expressway, it beats the Mustang in almost every respect. This is where my liking for Borg Warner's T-5 and T-6 comes from (even though they are used in Ford and Chrysler cars as well). These transmissions are not geared to pull trailers, stumps or haul a load of gravel in the bed. They are built for aggressive driving and down shifting. I think the T-6 was available in the F-150 lighting coming to think of it but I doubt it bolts to a 302 or has the proper tailshaft to take a transfer case. I really don't wanna spend the money on a T-6 anyway, set ya back 3k at least. T-5's are cheaper, but if they never made it work for a 4x4, it'll get dicey having to get a custom tailshaft and tail housing (more money than I wanna put into it).

It's all about gear ratio's though. Transmissions meant to "go fast" use different kinds of gearing to keep the ratio's closer to one another. Truck transmissions usually have a granny gear (even if they call it 1) that really isn't necessary unless pulling. Usually that 1 is lower than you'd find in any other kind of trans. It'll jump better than a racecar trans will, but has to make a bigger gap between it and 2nd gear (meaning your revs drop harder after the shift). That's a trend that continues all the way through drive (4).

This of course opens up a whole other animal of concerns about the M5R2 and whether or not I'll actually like it in the Expressway Cruising Explorer that I have. I'll have to look into the gear sets and see where they're at. I may not like them at all when paired with 3.73's in the axles. I may like them better with different differential gears. I may not like how far apart the gears are in general. One can always change the gears you'll find in any given transmission, but then that ventures into a lot of money I may not want to spend. Could likely work out that I could change the tailshaft/housing on a trans I do like for much cheaper.


My dad always said, "Speed costs money, how fast do you wanna go?"

M5R2 gear ratios are 3.75, 2.32, 1.43, 1.00, 0.75

A T5 gives you a few different options for gears, but... factory mustangs got

3.35 1.99 1.33 1.00 .675

Which are only a little closer (aside from 5th), so it isn't bad at all given the torque curve on an 5.0 Explorer or F150.

Oh sweet, thanks. They are a fair bit farther apart than the t-5, but not terrible really. They might act alright with a 3.73 rear end gear. People tend to go to 4.10's with a t-5 with no regrets. As much as I understand the geometry, the math and the proof is not my strong suit. I'll have to run the numbers through a calculator a bunch of times and see how it really comes down.

The main thing of it is to have your gears close enough together so that when you max out 1st and slap it into 2nd like it owes you money, the tach really shouldn't dip too far below 3000rpms.

I did notice too that the M5R2 is already set up for a hydraulic clutch. I was talking to a friend of mine who has a 00 or 01 Mustang GT and apparently even with a T-6 it's still running a cable throwout. That might not be totally accurate, the friend is a she who just likes to beat on it and her fiance does all the work on it. He's not the shiniest apple in the cart.

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The 302 in Explorer is not build to 'stay' too long above the 3000 rpm. Is not a Mustang 302.
You'll find that out soon why I guess.