Bkennedy's SAS and Rebuild Thread | Page 123 | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Bkennedy's SAS and Rebuild Thread

As some of you know, I am working on building a parts list for a shortened Dana 44, long radius arm with coil overs SAS. 5:13 gears to match my rear axle and an ARB, maybe an electric locker. I have a pretty good list so far. At the same time, I am going to swap out the rear drum brakes for discs off of a 99 Explorer.

Please note: The plan is to keep this project as simple as possible with mostly off the shelf parts. I am not a fabricator, just a decent welder with a what I would consider the minimum required tools (chop saw, cut off wheels, air tools, welder, etc.), who likes doing his own work. Your opinions are welcome, but what I really need is technical advice. I have been thinking about this for several years and now have the time and cash to make it happen. Please keep on topic with your advice and don't go off on a side track about how you would do it as a four-link, or caged arms, or leave the axle full-width because that is not what I want. I want a simple-ish set up that works.

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Got it, thanks gman.

I dropped the transmission pan today to see what I could see. I messed around with the wiring, but there was no power on the switched wire inside the transmission. I jumped the wiring and it all worked. I could see the pressure switch move. Hmmmm, what the heck. I had pulled the plug with the wiring to the transmission when I jumped the lines, and as I was looking at everything I noticed something. The wire for the manual switch was wired into the wrong slot! According to Bowtie's instructions I had the external wiring right, but they had the internal wiring wrong. It was easier to move the external wire, so bingo, bango, bongo. I now have a working manual torque converter lock up. I never realized it wasn't working all these years because I didn't know any better. The OD lock up was wired wrong by the installer so it never worked until I did the rewire of the entire Explorer after it melted. It was then that I noticed a difference when the trans went into OD and automatically locked the converter, and unlocked when braking. I think I just solved my issue with the trans getting so hot on long grades. I ordered a red LED light I can mount somewhere visible to be on when the converter is locked that will hopefully remind me to unlock it before shifting.

It started raining so I didn't go for a test drive, but should get it out sometime this week.

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Dude!!! You did it!!! Well done found the issue........ now you KNOW you are locked or unlocked = very nice.

Radiator replacement next.

I got motivated today and since I had all the parts, decided to replace the radiator and hoses with the all aluminum one I purchased several days ago. I tore everything apart this afternoon and am giving up for the evening. I noticed there is a gap at the bottom of the fan shroud where it and the fan dip below the radiator. Its the same on the old radiator. The gap is rounded and at its widest point is about 1". I am trying to get the most out of the cooling system by increasing the flow through the radiator instead of around it. I am closing up the gaps on the shroud with foam, and replacing the foam between the radiator and condenser. Does anybody see a issue with closing that gap in the shroud? I don't see any problems and it would help the fan pull air through the radiator. It would be a easy-ish job to cut some plastic or metal to fit and screw it into the bottom of the radiator mounting flange. There are already convenient holes in the right place on the flange.

All-aluminum radiator swap continued. It went smoothly, except for a few minor issues. The radiator is thicker than the mounting flanges by about 1/8" This makes it hard to mount the clips on the lower flange that hold the fan shroud. I had make the slots for the clips about twice as wide with my Dremel. It also puts a lot of pressure on the bottom mount, causing the shroud to bow. I bent the clips out to take care of that. I replaced all the foam since it was falling apart. The space between the radiator and condenser, I added 2x2" foam, which was sprayed with adhesive on one side and stuck to the condenser to keep it in place. When I installed the radiator, I had to press it into the foam, which made a great seal. I also replaced some foam on the front of the condenser around the radiator core support.

The job would have been a lot quicker if I didn't have two trans coolers, one mounted with those ziptie looking thingies through the old radiator. Its behind the cooler that is mounted to the core support, so I also had to remove that. In my life-long quest to make everything much more complex and difficult than it should be, I decided to do some work on the fan shroud. As I mentioned in a previous post, the shroud dips below the radiator with a large air gap on the bottom. It also extends over the passenger side about 1/2" at the widest point. I wanted to close those gaps so the fan could have a stronger pull through the radiator, which should help cooling at slower speeds. I cut out some thin metal sheeting into these nifty little shapes;

Then I riveted them in place with the smallest rivets I had. The first pic is the bottom of the shroud.

Entire shroud.

I used thin foam all around the shroud to help seal it to the radiator. I got everything installed and it all seems to be working fine. I didn't take any pictures of the radiator installed because its a radiator, and we have all seen them before. Pic of shroud modification under radiator.

Hopefully my work wasn't in vain and the fan will pull more air through the radiator. I could never figure out why Ford left those air gaps in the shroud on a engine prone to running hot.

well done!!

Nice execution. When my cooling system is all in good shape- like my ranger is now- my engine is prone to running cold. So was my explorer. Weird yours runs hot. Maybe it’s different climates. Most of my fords have been that way. To the point that sometimes the heater doesn’t work in the winter and needs custom cardboard inserts. My Jeeps on the other hand...


I'm sure climate has something to do with it since the coldest night here is a warm winter day in Colorado. Both of my 1st Generation Explorers have run hot while pulling long grades, especially at higher altitude. Around town and normal highway driving they are fine. OBD-1 cars don't seem to be able to adjust to altitude as well as newer versions. When I rebuild the Explorer I changed out the PCM for the one in the donor (VET-1, last most updated version). I noticed the overall temps went down. Since I had it all apart, I thought I would make improvements. I would much rather have it run cool with crappy gas mileage than hot.

Hmm. That’s a cool trick. Never heard of that one. Does it apply to manuals too? If so I should be looking for one. I would bet mine is the earliest version since it is 1991. I would guess the later one has better mileage and less power though? Not true?

I don't know if the PCM applies to manuals, but I would imagine it would. The 1994 year Explorer had changes to the PCM and other stuff that was unique to that year model. I had to get a same year donor to rebuild my electrical system because there are differences.

I went on a 125 mile drive today. Up hills, down hills, windy roads, most paved, some dirt. Went through Julian down to the desert on SR-78, then took Grapevine Canyon to Jasper Canyon (the dirt parts) up to Ranchita and back home. Using the torque converter lock up as much as possible, the trans never got hot. I had it in 4 high going up Grapevine Canyon. Its a moderately steep climb so the Explorer has to work a little. I noticed the trans temps creeping up. I put it in low range and the trans in 3rd, and locked the converter. I watched the temps drop from 180 to 140-ish in a few minutes. RMP's were about 2500 at 15 MPH. Its a little funny how fast it shifts to 3rd with the Atlas in low range. As soon as I start moving from a stop its shifting 1-2-3. Engine temps never got to the N in Normal. Its a cold day for down here and in the high desert it was colder. The real test is going up the Grapevine on I-5 in the summer, then the grade up to Shaver Lake in one day. Have to try that this summer.

Matt, I have been thinking about those mountains since last time I was there. There is just something about that area. I probably don't have to tell you that.

I crawled around under the Explorer, didn't see any leaks or other issues, and I am done messing with the drivetrain for a while. That means it was time to reinstall the skid plates. I thought it would take about an hour, but took three. The main plate bolt holes decided they didn't want to line up with the cross member threaded holes. I tried loosening the cross member and knocking it around, it doesn't move so that wasn't it. I tried different ways of mounting it, nope. Ended up slowly enlarging the bolt holes until they all lined up. Luckily the plate that overlaps that one's holes were lined up perfectly. Its always a wonder how everything lines up off the rig, but as soon as you attempt to mount it....

Atlas is safe, transmission is protected.

Seam between transfer case plate and transmission plate.


Great work

Wednesday morning I headed out for some alone time, just me, the Explorer and my ever faithful dog. Three days of bliss in the Anza-Borrego State Park. Took I-8 east to S-2 in Ocotillo, Ca. Headed north and stopped by the Dolomite Mine because I have never been there.


Then dropped down into the lower desert through Canyon Sin Nombre. Its very scenic, and a very easy trail.
Here is a picture of the "secret camping spot" that is right off the main wash. It would be a good spot out of the wind, but I don't like camping that close to canyon walls right after several days of rain.

From there I continued into the desert and up the original stage coach route or Vallecito Creek Trail. Turned into Arroyo Seco Del Diablo. It gets narrow and very scenic and I haven't been through there in several years. About 3/4 of the way through that canyon, I was met with this

You can see the Explorer's roof peeking above the slide. The slide in itself looked like it was completely passable. I put the Atlas in low and creeped forward, then decided I should take a look at why no one else decided to drive over it. Found this very large mud puddle

Its not just mud, its more like clay suspended in slimy water and about two feet deep. I chucked a rock into it and it disappeared without a splash. Backtracked to the main wash, and into the next wash, Arroyo Tapiado. This is the same wash as the mud caves. I did not even slow down as I passed them by, been there done that. Besides I am sure they were still a little damp.
Took the cross over trail to the Diablo Drop off. Its name is the scariest thing about it. It did have a few new holes in the trail, but it was still relatively easy. The narrow wash from the drop off goes into Fish Creek Wash, several miles after the main entrance at Split Mountain. That end of the wash is used by Subaru wagon types to go hiking in nature. I turned the opposite way to go deeper up the wash. First night camp was spent after about 35 miles of off road driving in upper Fish Creek. I found a nice spot in the wash prior to Hapaha Flat. Even had 4G phone service.

I was tired from all that driving, and there was a very cold wind blowing down this canyon, so I went to bed early. In the morning I packed up and went up through Hapaha Flat to see what I could see. That trail turns into a one-way trail coming form the other direction, Pinyon Mountain.
Had to mess around a little

Went two washes down looking for a more open spot that was still out of the wind. By about 1100 I found this spot in a tributary of Olla Wash.



Its hard to see in the pictures, but the area I am camping on is raised off the wash floor by about two feet. After setting up camp, we spent the rest of the day relaxing and hiking around the surrounding area. Hiked up to the top of the cliffs pictured above for an incredible view.


Didn't hear or see another human the entire time we were here. Had 5G service here. Marked it on the GPS for future use. Left this spot about noon today. Drove up Sandstone Canyon to nearly the end. There are a couple of slides to get over now, which makes it interesting. I turned around when I got to a large boulder that had fallen into the canyon. I could see the way over, but since I was by myself I decided not to push my luck.
Turnaround spot.

Drove down Fish Creek through Split Mountain to Ocotillo Wells. As I got closer to the end of the wash I came across people, bleh. Then a few hundred grade school age kids in packs of 20 or so. I had to keep stopping because they were walking down the middle of the roadway in a huge wash. Of course, one of the "adults" with one group told me I needed to slow down. "Lady, I'm stopped. I can't go any slower." Civilization approached quickly. At the end of the wash were 4 school busses from Imperial County. Several people were also driving into the wash with Liberty's or Santa Fe's, some Subaru's, some pulling little camp trailers. I was thinking of stocking up on firewood and going for another night, but decided to head home.

Got home a little after dark. All in all it was a great three days with outstanding weather. Drove about 300 miles with about 50 in the dirt. I had no unknown issues come up with the Explorer and am getting used to the Atlas. I'm glad I went with the 3.8, its just about perfect for me. Tires work very well in all types of terrain and are smooth on the highway. Trans stayed cool even with all the extra weight of camping gear. Engine temps never got over the N in NORMAL. I do need to work on getting a new set of rear leaf springs, more tailored to what I do with the Explorer. With a few hundred extra pounds it wallows a little and the rear suspension drops more than I would like.

Very nice. You just did exactly what I have been trying to prepare for, and do. Super happy for you being able to get away like that.

I understand the coming back to civilization, and dealing with people 110%!!

That was a good read with my morning coffee. Thanks!

what about air bags for the rear springs to handle the load?

what about air bags for the rear springs to handle the load?
That rear axle is crowded already. Nothing like the front axle, but crowded. Won't air bags restrict the flex? The leafs I have in there now are a Franken Leaf made from 2 sets of OEM springs. They are worn and getting loose anyways. I was going to call Alcan a few months ago, but decided to keep what I had until this trip made me rethink. I am going to see if I can hold out until after Christmas. I was also thinking about a anti-rock type rear sway bar, but I am not sure if it will do any good on the back.

Dead Pedal

I have always thought the Explorer could do with a dead pedal. Something to brace myself in the "Please don't roll, please don't roll" moments instead of pushing my foot through the carpet.. I have been messing around with how to do it for several years. Think I would remember since I have had the Explorer apart so many times, but I finally got around to pulling the kick panel and insulation off to see what was under there. Its a nice flat-ish surface of sheet metal. Its also single wall to the inner fender area. Sweet. A few weeks ago I was looking around on eBay at dead pedals. 99-04 Mustang pedals kept popping up. Looked like a close fit, or a good starting point, especially for $13.00 shipped. I thought it might also match the other pedals, being a Ford product. It arrived last week.

Dead pedal


I pulled apart the kick panel again. I needed to trim a small edge off of the firewall insulation next to the park brake cable, but that was all. I got it where I wanted it, drilled a few holes and bolted it in place. I noticed it was a little crooked but it would work fine...

Nope, I notched it and welded it back up, then reinstalled. Straight, cool

I cut too much off of the kick panel when installing that, thinking it was hanging up on the pedal when it wasn't but it came out pretty good.

I used some of the fender bolts and washers I saved from the donor Explorer to mount.
Inside the fender

Now I have what should have always been there from the factory.

Yesterday myself and a few friends took a day run out through Pinyon Mountain trail. I was with a father and son in a Wagoneer and a old XJ, both on 31's. It took a lot longer to get through because when we were at the squeeze, a very clean Cherokee and a 4 door Rubicon needed help through, and we ended up guiding them through the entire trail.

From Pinyon Mountain we went up to the end of Sandstone Canyon (well, I did anyways). The large rock blocking the trail that I decided not to drive over last time I was out there, I decided to drive over it this time. I made it over taking one line. The Waggy attempted to get over it but couldn't get up the face of it. I drove down to the end of the canyon, turned around and came back out and tried what looked like a better line from that direction. Ended up spinning all four tires in wet sand on both sides of the rock like a beached whale. I was hung up on passenger side by my radius arm and driver side on the frame to slider gussets, and the front yoke was touching the edge of the rock. I winched myself about 6" to get clear, using the Waggy's bumper shackle. Ground half of the zerk fitting off the end of my front yoke's U-joint. I am glad I didn't try that alone last time. Need to remove about half the gusset on that one slider support since it did the same thing up in the Sierra's. I was thinking about adding plate to fill the gap from the sliders to the frame, but that's a lot of metal.

Went up the canyon to Diablo Drop off. On the way we encountered a very rude couple (well, the female anyways) coming down the canyon in a newer 4-Runner. They drove down the middle of the trail right up to us and stopped. Female was making gestures, then threw something on her dash, got out and stormed up to my door. She said very rudely the trail was one-way. I asked her how she knew which way we were going and she lost it. Apparently she had never seen the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Started ranting at us until I told her to stop speaking to me so rudely and we would figure out how to get around. She then looked around and realized she was out in the middle of the desert, and started apologizing. I got the impression no one ever stood up to her before. My buddy went up to the husband and got him to move over so we could get by since the part of the trail we were in was too narrow for us to get out of his way.

Onward up Diablo Drop-off. At the top I pulled my new super *****in transfer case front output handle out of 4low and the handle broke off. It came off right where I welded it after modification to fit. I never liked the welds on the handles as there was something that caused the weld to foam up a little (best way I can describe it). I had to crawl under and shift it into neutral with a screwdriver. Fortunately, we were at a point of the trail were it was all washes to the highway. I think I am going to pull both handles off (not as easy as it sounds, need to pull both skid plates, front drive shaft, then the linkage, then the handles) and see if there is enough room to sleeve the bottom few inches of the handle rod and/or have a buddy tig them.

The dead pedal worked great. Got used to it on the way out. Drove about 175 miles total. Left the house at 7:30AM, got home at 7:30PM. The Explorer just works on every type of terrain.

A few pictures:

The Squeeze

This pretty Cherokee scraped the passenger front door handle. I was watching the door skin flex inward when I stopped him. Would have been a lot worse if I didn't jump on his driver side slider.

Mirror shots


On another note, Sasha the Wonder Dog decided to snap at a friend's Shepard and it snapped back. They are both females, same size, same type of breed, same need to be in charge, Chicks. Didn't even notice until a few hours later on another trail break because the dog don't care. Got her on the lip so I need to take her to the vet today. My buddy's daughter was with us. She just finished her residency as a vet. She said it wasn't a big deal but she didn't have her kit with her. We scoured the rigs for super glue, but struck out.

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Sounds like a good day trip,

Invite them to truckhaven:D