Bkennedy's SAS and Rebuild Thread | Page 127 | 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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The more they lean the less effective they are because they move less per wheel travel. You are having to make a lot of compromises- but I don’t think you have a ton of options. The only way you could that long shock in there vertical is if you out boarded and got it in the wheel well. Which I am sure is a pain.

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The upper looks too far back to me.

If it helps, I will put an angle finder on my rear 10" shock tomorrow. Might help you out a little with upper placement.

The lower mount, can it be placed on top of the tube, to gain some shock travel?

The upper looks too far back to me.

If it helps, I will put an angle finder on my rear 10" shock tomorrow. Might help you out a little with upper placement.

The lower mount, can it be placed on top of the tube, to gain some shock travel?
The axle mount could be placed anywhere, but I like to keep them on the sides of the axle to help with any possible axle wrap. I know the upper is leaning pretty far back. I haven't figured out the travel of these new leaf springs, but they drop a lot when the weight is taken off of them. A lot of rebound and not a lot of compression as they are limited by being directly under the frame. This is going to make shock placement difficult because I am trying to get the most out of the springs. Besides all the junk I have under there isn't helping. I will try again tomorrow, this time taking measurements of ride height, full rebound and estimated compression. I could take the leaf packs apart, leaving the upper leaf but I can also measure to the compressed bump instead.

Don't think measuring the angle of your shocks will help. I think I need to figure out mounts, then measure for new shocks. If anyone wants nearly new 8" travel 5125 Bilsteins with 225/70 valving, I might have two sets up for sale soon.

I will post up with ride height, rebound and compression measurements.

Your thinking you should have joined the FW axle club now and saved your self some headaches:D

I went back to look at when I redid the shock mounts last. It was November 2014. Starts on page 43 of this thread.
This guy helped a lot, but he is no longer on the board.
As for cycling... Don't worry too much about ride height. Your goal is to use as much of the shock as you can over the entire movement of your suspension. In a perfect world, your shocks should be 90 degrees to the axle at bump but that's not going to happen. On mine, I basically mocked up full bump of the axle/leaf pack. I then put the lower shock mount where I wanted it and with about 3/8" of shock shaft showing I swung the upper mount to where I wanted it. Tacked up my mounts and went to full droop to see if I was limiting my droop at all. From there I kind of adjusted and met in the middle for what I wanted.

Hopefully that makes a little sense? If you find your ride height though is like 2" from full bump or 2" from full droop and it's your shock, not the leaf that's limiting that, you may want to sacrifice some bump for droop or vice versa adjusting your shock mounts.

You're doing the work to do it right though! You'll figure it out... I bet less then a percent of people do this and really, to get the most out of any setup, it's really needed...

If you didn't have space limitations I could explain a pretty easy way to locate your upper mounts but it won't work for us trying to keep the shocks under the cab.

Have fun compressing the shocks and keeping them compressed to figure out your bump location! LOL I just bleed the shock and then recharge it, doesn't look like you have that option though. :p

I took some measurements.

Rebound or droop is 6" from ride height.
Compression is 5" from ride height (limited by bumps).

I think my 8" shocks are going to be way too short.

I'm thinking I might need something like this
Rancho RS9000XL Shock Absorber - P/N: RS999028

Those XL shocks work well. I run them on the 94, and used to run them on the 95.

Not sure if it matters to you, but you have to run the XL, with the can on the bottom mount, & rod to the top. I noticed your mounting them the opposite.

The RS7000MT series are Monotube, and can be mounted either direction. Those also work very well, and are comparable to the B 5100's. I happen to have a like new set of them in the 10" travel size (RS7286) in a box, getting ready to sell on CL. lol

Thanks. The Bilsteins are supposed to be run with the can on top. That's actually the only thing I don't like about the 9000's is the can on the bottom where the rocks are. I have had 9000's before but it was a long time ago but I remember losing a few knobs to rocks. I thought they might be a good option since I use the Explorer for different things and sometimes it has 300 or so extra pounds in the back.

I have been thinking about the upper shock mounts for several days and the best I can figure is I should rebuild the one I had, but stronger. The only location I can figure that will allow me to run the longest shocks possible without cutting holes through the floor. The upper cross bar is still intact so I think I can run sleeve it with another piece of DOM, then rebuild the tubes running up to it in front of where I had them so everything will be straight, and stronger. I have a pretty good idea about how I want to do that.

The only issue I can think of with using the old cross bar might not be an issue at all. The shock mounts on the cross bar mount the shock bushings perpendicular to the axle. I want to run the new axle mounts parallel but keep the old upper mount perpendicular.

Does anyone see any issues with having shock bushings 90* to each other top and bottom?

Old cross bar with multiple mounting points

Or, should I just order these?
Axle Side Mount Shock Bracket, Pair

I also think I can build something similar with that I have here.

No issue. It will use the bushings through travel but that is what they are for. I have used a shock mount for an xj that would work good for your lowers. Seems like the stock ones and some of the aftermarket ones have a slot in the so the ubolts go through and it gets the mount even further out. Then they have a stud mount. I would try to do something like that if I were you

The groove might be on the wrong side on one side

I think I got it figured out. I cut off the ends of the old cross member and it can be sleeved with 1.25" OD tube. I have some on hand, but its not thick enough wall. Off to the metal supply store I go.

The sleeve material I needed was actually 1-1/8" OD. The metal supply store had some remnants of that OD, but 1/4" wall. A little thick, but I didn't want to purchase a entire stick so I grabbed what they had. Besides, I wanted it beefier, well that's about as beef as beef gets. Spent several hours on it today while the wife was at work. The upper mount is nearly finished. Its a lot like the previous version, but I did it all in 90* angles which gave me more room. I also figured out if I unbolted the box around the gas tank fill neck, I can move the fill and vent tube well out of the way of the welder.
The first thing I did was something that I didn't think was going to work. Sleeve the old 1.5" OD tube with the shock mounts already welded to it. It was a very tight fit. I drilled a few holes on each side for plug welds, figuring I would knock the sleeve tubing in as far as it would go, cut it to size and knock it into the other side. I lightly ran over the entire sleeve material with a flap disc, then coated it with white lithium grease. It took some effort with a BFH, but it went all the way through the tube.

Fab'd up new side pieces with big gussets this time. Not sure if I am going to plug the ends of the tube. Its so thick its not like its going to rust. Might go find some plastic plugs to knock in there.


The passenger side frame actually sits almost 2" lower that driver side at this location so I had to measure ten times, cut once.

Overall picture, cross bar is just set in there for mock-up.

There is enough room for me to fully weld the cross bar to the uprights, then add more gussets. Its tighter to the underside of the body and it used all the space possible this time. I also moved it back a little over an inch. Need to get the air compressor remounted to make sure it clears before welding it together. I need to fully weld the cross bar to the uprights and the side bars into their sleeves after I measure, order and receive new shocks. Need to wait for new shocks before building the axle mounts to get them set right. Also going to add a gusset from the bottom of the square tube welded to the frame to the inside bottom C-channel. That should keep the top of the frame from flexing so much, which is what I think killed the old mount.

I ordered the Rancho RS9000XL's, RS999028. They were the only one's I could find with about 10" travel that should fit. Got them on Amazon for $97 each from Rancho. They are set prices everywhere else at $117, so I was surprised to see them there cheaper. They should be in tomorrow or Wednesday.

Today I installed the RedHead steering gear. Since I have done it a bunch of times, it went quickly. Also having the fluid cooler makes it much less messy because I disconnect the return line where it meets the hose that comes from the cooler. That hose is long and I can pull it down so all the fluid runs into the pan, completely draining the system. The hardest part of the job is holding that heavy box up with my left arm while trying to thread a bolt with the right. My left shoulder has some tendon issues and let me know quickly it was not happy. Its sitting overnight as per their bleeding instructions. Replaced both hoses with Gates and added a in-line fluid filter. There is no play in the new steering gear. RedHead already refunded me my deposit because I sent the OEM steering gear I pulled out of the donor Explorer. Had to cut the pitman arm off, gotta love Ohio. I am going to take the lifetime warranty steering gear and hoses back to AutoZone get replacements. Might sell them or just throw them in a box for when someone needs them.
Rock Auto has a bunch of this;

If anyone is interested, I am selling the Bilstein's I took off the Explorer
Bilstein 5125 Series 8.25" Travel Shocks - auto parts - by owner -...

Amazon truck showed up this morning with one shock. The other should be here someday soon. The one shock should be enough to get the mounts built. Don't have time today, so maybe tomorrow.

I got all the mounts built and tacked in place today. Took all day because I spent about an hour trying to figure out why there is a 1/2" difference in length between the right side mounts and the left side mounts when all the mounts are correct. Then I pushed up on the side of the Explorer and ended up with a little less than a 1/4". I was trying to figure that out when my Dad's voice came into my head and reminded me I am "not building the f#$&ing space shuttle". I had to make compromises to get a shock long enough to use most of the leaf spring travel. They are a little lower than I wanted, and leaned in more than I wanted. I should have 5.5" compression and rebound.

I couldn't find a axle mount I liked so I turned this

Into this


I had to weld the nut into the mount because it ends up about 1/8" off the axle.

I didn't realize how big the 2.75" shock body is on those Rancho's until you pick one up.
The angle isn't too bad.

I should get it finish welded tomorrow and back on its feet.

Edit: I forgot about something until I was washing my hair. While I was getting everything situated, the cross bar fell off its uprights. Of course, it landed directly on my head, then my elbow, then my shin. I was reminded of this when I felt the egg on my head.


Looks killer so far
Rancho warranty is awesome
9000's are good shocks now, however I still needed to remove the adjusters and lube them up.....factory lube was lacking
Let us know how you like the red head once shes back to rolling!!

I am considering wearing a helmet in the garage now....having a truck up on the lift takes some getting used to (Im also a egg head)

I noticed the adjuster knobs are hard to turn. I remember those hex head screws hold the adjuster housing onto the shock body from when I had them way back when. The way they used to sit in the OEM mounts the rocks would scrape the knobs off and Rancho would send me new sets.
I also might try moving the shocks to the next outer upper mount and see if they bottom out. I would rather have them as straight as possible. I'll try it in the current configuration with zip-ties on the shafts to check max compression and go flex out the suspension. If it looks like there is enough room on the shafts, I will move them outward. The shocks are leaned back about 10* at the top. Seems like when building a multi-purpose rig everything is a compromise.

The RedHead has zero play. Its also firmer or more positive when turning the wheel. I had purchased a new set of heim's for the steering (RuffStuff had them on clearance) but don't think I will need to install right now. Most of the play I noticed was coming from the old steering gear box.

When that heavy bar landed on my head, it really hurt. I was about to stumble over to my neighbor the firefighter's house to have him check for damage. The pain started to wear off quickly and I did not appear to be bleeding profusely so I went back to work. A helmet might not be a bad idea...

Back to work.

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I think I got it done today.

Gussets to keep the top of the frame from flexing

One side done. I was really happy when the brake lines cleared with a little bending.


Still waiting on one shock to arrive, but I got one installed. Need to install the air compressor and auxiliary battery after the shock.

I installed the auxiliary battery box, and mentally reminded myself to be careful and not to hit my head on it. Not 30 seconds later, baam. Maybe I do need a helmet.