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Bruja Blanca (White Witch)

1997 4.0 SOHC, RWD, XLT, 4 door, Automatic, 16000+. She is mostly original, as in the hoses she rolled off the lot with. I bought her from the original owners, who only did the NEEDED maintenance. Named Bruja because she will bite if you touch her with a wrench.

$1000 Purchase
$1000 5 new tires and new spare rim. (Story to follow)
$500 repairs so far. New Power Steering line, fan belt, idler and tension pulleys, thermostat housing assembly, sensors, and hoses mounted to the thermostat.

  • General Maintenance, Transmission, Rear End, Shocks.
  • Drivers Seat and seat covers to match.
  • Thinking of switching to high mileage synthetic.
  • Plugs and wires.
  • A/C Kit - leaking from the compressor.
  • Stereo System, factory radio is shot and needs to be replace, no clue about speakers or rear controls.
  • Spare Carrier (That is the story to follow.)
  • Right dash light out.
  • Minor Body Work (grill is falling apart after ex-gf used it to total an Acura. (Real story unknown accident in a parking lot, nose to nose, speed unknown. Accident ruled mutually at fault, by the Insurance Companies.)
  • Steering Wheel Controls fixed (right is dark may need a bulb, left has a hole in the cruise on/off button)
  • New bumpers (Front pusher with grill guard, rear step/access)
  • Mild Lift (no more then an inch)
  • Roof Rack for gear (saw one with a ladder that might be nice.
  • Nerf/step bars
  • Night wheeling lights.


February 17, 2014
Reaction score
City, State
Tempe, AZ
Year, Model & Trim Level
1997 Ford Explorer
Camping and What happened to the spare?

We bought my Bruja as a third vehicle and as a vehicle to take on camping trips. Before I paid for it and checked the hoses, belts, and all five tires. A group of our friend's had been talking about going on an adults only camping trip. So we made the arrangements, rented the trailer and the campground at Horsethief Basin. There were five going in our vehicle plus gear and all the food. We went with two other vehicles and five more campers between them, a lifted Datsun pickup and a stock Dodge Caravan. The trip up was great even if we stared out later then we wanted. Bruja handled the climb and back roads very well, pulling the trailer we had rented to hold everything.

Our stay was awesome; there was almost no one else on the mountain that weekend. It rained off and on just enough to cool things down, until the last night about 1am the clouds let go and did not stop til about 7am. Most of the rain was below us so our camp was mostly just damp. We packed and headed home about 1pm with blue skies.

We stopped for a snack in Crown King, The minivan and the 4x4 didn't stop; they had kids to get back to. We were warned that both of the roads from the bottom of the mountain back to civilization had been washed out in the storm. One was almost impassable with a 4x4; the other road was rough but passable. Once we got off the mountain, discretion being what it is, we chose the road we were told was rough but passable road.

The first few miles were okay, the road was a little rough with some wash-outs but nothing that made me wish for a lift kit and lockers, and we passed several vehicles coming from where we were going. Then came the bad one.
I took what looked like a good line on it. It was not deep enough for me to be too worried. What I couldn't see was the ground was actually undercut fairly deeply. It did not collapse until I was committed, we came down hard. Everyone was wearing their seatbelts and we all still caught air. When the ground started to give way I hit the gas, when we stopped the trailer was still in the washout. It was still connect and intact, so I pulled it out. When I gave the rig a quick walk around, the dirt road had fallen more than a foot, everything looked fine so we drove on.

What I didn't see or check on was the spare tire tucked up under the truck. It had taken a pretty good hit from the “bump”. The spare tire lifter failed sometime after that “bump”. I did not hear the tire dragging on the dirt road; I don’t think it was because the spare hanger holds the tires just off the ground.

I think I know where we lost the spare, a wash out or two later the trailer took the in and out bumps far harder than the Truck, but did not come detached. When we reached pavement I walked around the truck and even looking at the tires the Rear end and the trailer. I didn’t think to check on the spare.

We drove our friends to their place and stayed for pizza and to watch Sharknado. After unloading our friends gear and drove home. Two miles before we got home the driver side rear tire on the truck separated. I pulled over into a gas stations parking lot to change it and that was when I found out we had no Spare. The lifter was almost touching the ground. I drove home at ten miles an hour and then took her to the tire shop.

Our friends in the other vehicles were warned by a Sherif’s Deputy that the message had been garbled and the road we were on was the one that they were saying experienced and 4x4 only. The other road was a dream and only a little rough in places. According to the guy at the tire shop the one that failed was the youngest of the remaining four and was manufactured in 2006, needless to say I replaced all five and a new spare rim. The lifter is shot I plan on moving the spare to some form of rear mounted tire carrier. Like the knucklebone, but I need to change the tow hitch or the bumper to one that I can mount the tire where I want without losing my hitch.