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Driving with a coolant leak from the timing cover

I'm really hesistant to believe that all ball joints, bushings, shocks, tie rods, swaybar bushings, control arm bushings are all bad. I know bad ball joints you get obvious symptoms and Im not getting any.

Will get pics tomorrow and post them of everything that this mechanic is saying is making this truck a death trap.

His refusal to hoist the truck is super alarming though. I feel this truck is no longer good.
 



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195,000km is about 121,000mi. That’s around when my first Ex started eating up all the ball joints, bushings, etc...and she was only 10 years old at the time. At 23, if those parts are original? 110% they’re totally shot. Upper control arms, possibly lowers, all four ball joints, tie rod ends, sway bar links and bushings front and rear, trailing link bushings, I could go on and on. It isn’t cheap. Paying a mechanic you are talking thousands of dollars. Time does terrible things to rubber bushings and dry ball joints.

Without seeing pics, it’s hard to say...but I’ll say this.

If the body was solid, paint wasn’t terrible, had no rot, frame and suspension had no rot, engine and trans were strong...I’d sink a couple grand of parts into it. Fluids, filters, all new bushings and suspension components, some seals, etc.

But that’s with me doing the work for free. $2k in work like that will cost 4-5x as much with someone else doing the work once you factor labor in. Even if the truck was absolutely mint, you’d be crazy to pay that.

It sounds like your vehicle is a few steps from the scrap heap. It’s been damaged by incompetent “mechanics”, and the extent of the damage is likely not fully known. It may have other issues that haven’t even been discovered yet. The way I see it, you have three options:

1) Chalk this up to a hard lesson learned, and junk the vehicle

2) Sell it for pennies on the dollar, or try to **** over an unsuspecting victim.

3) Roll the dice and drive it until it comes apart.

These vehicles are just prohibitively expensive if you don’t do your own work. We constantly get people coming in here who can’t wrench, thinking they’re gonna drive their high mileage $1000-$1500 Explorer to 200,000mi on a budget...it never lasts. A few small-ish repairs pop up and they’re already a couple grand in the hole, and they realize that owning an old vehicle without mechanical skill is actually REALLY EXPENSIVE. Then the truck either gets junked or sold dirt cheap.

Unless you find a super great deal on a barn find that you can drive the wheels off, you’re better off moving on to a newer, more expensive vehicle, and selling it before the repair bills start getting big. Buying a cheap, old 4x4 with little rot in the great white north that’s gonna be reliable and cheap to maintain just isn’t going to happen.

I’m sorry for the harsh words, but continuing down this path likely doesn’t make any financial sense. If what you have been telling us is in fact true, this vehicle is likely completely unreliable and virtually worthless.
 






195,000km is about 121,000mi. That’s around when my first Ex started eating up all the ball joints, bushings, etc...and she was only 10 years old at the time. At 23, if those parts are original? 110% they’re totally shot. Upper control arms, possibly lowers, all four ball joints, tie rod ends, sway bar links and bushings front and rear, trailing link bushings, I could go on and on. It isn’t cheap. Paying a mechanic you are talking thousands of dollars. Time does terrible things to rubber bushings and dry ball joints.

Without seeing pics, it’s hard to say...but I’ll say this.

If the body was solid, paint wasn’t terrible, had no rot, frame and suspension had no rot, engine and trans were strong...I’d sink a couple grand of parts into it. Fluids, filters, all new bushings and suspension components, some seals, etc.

But that’s with me doing the work for free. $2k in work like that will cost 4-5x as much with someone else doing the work once you factor labor in. Even if the truck was absolutely mint, you’d be crazy to pay that.

It sounds like your vehicle is a few steps from the scrap heap. It’s been damaged by incompetent “mechanics”, and the extent of the damage is likely not fully known. It may have other issues that haven’t even been discovered yet. The way I see it, you have three options:

1) Chalk this up to a hard lesson learned, and junk the vehicle

2) Sell it for pennies on the dollar, or try to **** over an unsuspecting victim.

3) Roll the dice and drive it until it comes apart.

These vehicles are just prohibitively expensive if you don’t do your own work. We constantly get people coming in here who can’t wrench, thinking they’re gonna drive their high mileage $1000-$1500 Explorer to 200,000mi on a budget...it never lasts. A few small-ish repairs pop up and they’re already a couple grand in the hole, and they realize that owning an old vehicle without mechanical skill is actually REALLY EXPENSIVE. Then the truck either gets junked or sold dirt cheap.

Unless you find a super great deal on a barn find that you can drive the wheels off, you’re better off moving on to a newer, more expensive vehicle, and selling it before the repair bills start getting big. Buying a cheap, old 4x4 with little rot in the great white north that’s gonna be reliable and cheap to maintain just isn’t going to happen.

I’m sorry for the harsh words, but continuing down this path likely doesn’t make any financial sense. If what you have been telling us is in fact true, this vehicle is likely completely unreliable and virtually worthless.

Thanks. I see where you are coming from. I'm not going to give up just yet until I get a second opinion and 100% confirmation that 1) All my suspension parts are shot and 2) The subframe is all rotted - like the mechanic yesterday claimed.

But if I have to give her up, I will. It's just not worth it at a certain point.

I really liked what the mech had to say yesterday and appreciate him looking over things with a fine tooth comb and showing me, but I noticed that some things didn't add up during the time I was there.

1) He said my crankseal isn't leaking, I know for a fact ir is. I was even shown this by two mechs with the truck up on a hoist and I saw oil coming out of the centre of the seal.

2) He said that I need his $3500 scanner machine (forgot the name) to clear codes properly from memory. This is not true. None of my other mechs have his two expensive code reading machines and they clear codes just fine.

3) He said every single suspension part on the truck is shot. If true, how did none of the previous mechs not notice this? And also I show no symtoms of bad bushings or ball joints (no noise what so ever when driving). I've taken this truck to one of my main mechanics for oil changes and such probably 10 times in the past 2 years and he drives it in, out and looks over the suspension when it's up on the hoist. He never mentioned anything of any bad bushings etc and he always notices this and points it out to me right away. The same goes for my other mechanic, he drives it into his shop and even though he's only seen it 3 times so far, he would notice this stuff.

4) The siderails being bent from where the truck gets hoisted in a shop is worrysome though. The metal seemed soft. Sure there was rust on there, but there is on just about every car out there regardless of age. It just depends how much is too much to where it becomes unsafe to drive. I will get pics of this today as best as I can.

5) He says the truck is a death trap but yet he says I can still sell it and get $500-1500 for it (he also doesn't know about all the new parts just put in). If it was a deathtrap like he said, he would have said to scrap it. Just after all the initial repairs were done, my main mechanic said i could easily get $1300 for it and that was when the truck was running rough and shaking. So now that if runs good and fix and if none of this is true about the suspension and subframe, then I should be able to get 2k for it, dont see why not with all the new parts. But if this is the case, I would keep driving it because this is obviously what I prefer, to keep it if I can.

6) He said that my CEL light is likely on because I didn't replace the rear o2 sensor. But yet the two codes we are getting now are still 2 of the same as before. One code is cleared now. 0135 and 0155.

0135 - o2 heater circuit (bank 1, sensor 1)
0155- o2 heater circuit (bank 1, sensor 1)

So going by what I was taught, bank 1 is the passenger side o2 sensor, sensor 1 is the one up front. So this has to do with the passenger o2 sensor I just put in 3 days ago. Perhaps defective. So his assessment on it being the rear sensor not beeing replaced makes no sense if both codes i am getting is on the passenger side front upstream sensor.

Going to call up two of my main mechs this morning. There are really only 2 that I trust at this point to give me a close up honest second opinion on this to get it over with. The main reason why I went to the guy yesterday was because he only charged half of what my mechs at the shops do for his rate and when I talked to him on the phone, I was sold. I wanted to avoid the shop rate that my mechs charge in case this diganose went 3-4 hours or longer.

So like EB mentioned earlier, either the mech yesterday was exxagerating and is full of **** (possibly made up things just to avoid working on such an old truck) or he's the greatest saviour mechanic I've met in the past 5 years.

His own truck is a 98 5.2L Dakota and is in prestine condition, completely rebuilt from the ground up. He also has two harleys that he custom builted from the ground up worth over 200k combined. Yes he's a biker, a hardcore biker. So he's used to working with and seeing and working on top mint stuff. Maybe my truck just wasn't up to his standards and he didn't want to get down into it.
 






195,000km is about 121,000mi. That’s around when my first Ex started eating up all the ball joints, bushings, etc...and she was only 10 years old at the time. At 23, if those parts are original? 110% they’re totally shot. Upper control arms, possibly lowers, all four ball joints, tie rod ends, sway bar links and bushings front and rear, trailing link bushings, I could go on and on. It isn’t cheap. Paying a mechanic you are talking thousands of dollars. Time does terrible things to rubber bushings and dry ball joints.

From what I know, all the suspension is original except the the ball joints were done about 3 years ago from the previous owner.
 






The frame condition is a critical deal, in Northern places the frame can become very weak and dangerous from rust. Look into that first. Look at the frame near the rear suspension mounts, and all of the body mounts etc. The front isn't likely to fail or bend etc, before the rear, it's thicker and stronger around the engine and suspension there.

Given a solid frame, and body ideally, the 98-01 302 Explorers are still one of the best used Fords to buy and keep. They are far ahead of the 2002-2010 Explorers in reliability, and the same goes for all others with similar drive trains. The 302 and 4R70W trans are much more reliable than most anything, until you get to the newest version of the six speed trans(6R80), which is in most Fords of the 2011-2018 range. Then it's comparing late model features and potential complicated issues, versus more basic operation systems of the 90's.

The 302 is now very old, any model, so they all have trouble with water pump replacement, as well as the timing cover behind it. Those very long bolts are very likely to be seized. So any 302 that old has the worry of the WP going out. Parts are easy, but those bolts are obsolete, and the WP that used to be a 2-3 hour job, may take days if bolts break, or the timing cover breaks etc. For those you have to plan ahead, be ready for a tough job if the WP dies.
 






From what I know, all the suspension is original except the the ball joints were done about 3 years ago from the previous owner.

It is very common for any 90's Fords to need new BJ's and TRE's. These Explorers have four BJ's, and they typically will last over 100k miles, or say 15 years. But the boots crack and then the joints wear very fast. Any cracked BJ boot means a bad BJ there.
 






That camber issue may very well be the result of completely rotted/failed bushings. I’ve seen that before. Usually causes a racket though.
 






That camber issue may very well be the result of completely rotted/failed bushings. I’ve seen that before. Usually causes a racket though.

I also prefer to replace the entire control arm when the mileage is high. I've done all four of my Explorers with four new CA's early on, none have needed replacing after that one time. New control arms and an alignment have cost me about $500 here, but I usually have also replaced the hubs and sometimes the outer TRE's.
 






The frame condition is a critical deal, in Northern places the frame can become very weak and dangerous from rust. Look into that first. Look at the frame near the rear suspension mounts, and all of the body mounts etc. The front isn't likely to fail or bend etc, before the rear, it's thicker and stronger around the engine and suspension there.

Given a solid frame, and body ideally, the 98-01 302 Explorers are still one of the best used Fords to buy and keep. They are far ahead of the 2002-2010 Explorers in reliability, and the same goes for all others with similar drive trains. The 302 and 4R70W trans are much more reliable than most anything, until you get to the newest version of the six speed trans(6R80), which is in most Fords of the 2011-2018 range. Then it's comparing late model features and potential complicated issues, versus more basic operation systems of the 90's.

The 302 is now very old, any model, so they all have trouble with water pump replacement, as well as the timing cover behind it. Those very long bolts are very likely to be seized. So any 302 that old has the worry of the WP going out. Parts are easy, but those bolts are obsolete, and the WP that used to be a 2-3 hour job, may take days if bolts break, or the timing cover breaks etc. For those you have to plan ahead, be ready for a tough job if the WP dies.

Good to know this, thanks. Water pump was just replaced when I did the initial big bunch of repairs on it recently.

Got a hold of one of my 3 main mechs to ask if he noticed anything about a rotten subframe or suspension bad. He never had it up on the hoist so he said he couldn't say BUT he did say that he would be shocked if the entire suspension was shot. I mean I could take it to him at this point to check but he also said that he doesn't want to see me spend more money on it if not needed. Told him that I am trying to determine if it's a sellable truck at this point or to the wrecker.
 






Tough to get pics of this without hoisting it but I got a few. Had to use my phone unfortunately, was not able to use my better cameras.

This is the hole that is on the driver side just by the door hinge. Mechanic said that someone likely tried to jack it up there and punched the hole.

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This is the passenger side from the ground up of some of the frame along there. I was trying to get where it was bent from what the mechanic said shops hoisting it and damaged it. Looks like I was close, the bent part was just a bit further back. Will try to get another pic of it.

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Those pictures are all of the body, which no one should ever try to lift with. So that mechanic or others were idiots, these must only be lifted by the frame.

These have a very good frame, thick steel of course, but if it rots away where the rear suspension attaches, it's basically done if it gets that bad. Here's my old 93 Limited chassis in 2006 which I scrapped, you can see what is the frame there in the back with no body on it. Below that is the front part of my 99 when I was rebuilding the rolled body. I cleaned the front section and painted the frame. That frame should be strong enough to lift it from anywhere, but typically they lift it from the side rails for a car lift. That's the part you need to confirm is okay, the body can rust and the chassis still be safe to drive.

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Yeah that doesn’t really matter. We are concerned about the frame components. The big C channel that runs the length of the vehicle, the crossmembers attached to it, and all the suspension components (control arms, leaf springs and shackles), the shock mounts, etc.
 






Those pictures are all of the body, which no one should ever try to lift with. So that mechanic or others were idiots, these must only be lifted by the frame.

These have a very good frame, thick steel of course, but if it rots away where the rear suspension attaches, it's basically done if it gets that bad. Here's my old 93 Limited chassis in 2006 which I scrapped, you can see what is the frame there in the back with no body on it. Below that is the front part of my 99 when I was rebuilding the rolled body. I cleaned the front section and painted the frame. That frame should be strong enough to lift it from anywhere, but typically they lift it from the side rails for a car lift. That's the part you need to confirm is okay, the body can rust and the chassis still be safe to drive.
Okay thanks. Isn't the side rails the frame though?

Well the mech yesterday tried to put his hoist legs on the trucks side rails and said he couldn't do it. When he showed me, one part on the passenger side was bent (he said from shops hoisting it there) and that's why he didn't hoist it in fear of the thing falling apart.

He took his hand and from a light rub was able to get a couple small pieces of rust to come off with no effort. This is when he concluded that the chasis was rotten.

There is a DIY hoist garage here that rents by the hour. I may drive the truck there this morning and get it up on the hoist just to get the pics.
 






Concentrate your inspection on the frame in back, around where the leaf spring brackets attach. You can see those in the picture I posted above, the frame brackets are riveted to the frame ahead of the back tire, and the shackle is bolted on behind the tire(see the side of the frame). That frame area around those is what in worst cases is too thin from rusting. The frame there will bend/buckle when the rust eats it away too much.

Ignore the body for now, that is bad and definitely hurts to see, the body mount bushings are likely loose in most positions. Here's my 99 body alone, from underneath, just notice that none of it is bent from lifting it up. Of course I had to carefully lift it off of the frame to work on that part, I saw clipping the whole rear body as a replacement.

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Concentrate your inspection on the frame in back, around where the leaf spring brackets attach. You can see those in the picture I posted above, the frame brackets are riveted to the frame ahead of the back tire, and the shackle is bolted on behind the tire(see the side of the frame). That frame area around those is what in worst cases is too thin from rusting. The frame there will bend/buckle when the rust eats it away too much.

Ignore the body for now, that is bad and definitely hurts to see, the body mount bushings are likely loose in most positions. Here's my 99 body alone, from underneath, just notice that none of it is bent from lifting it up. Of course I had to carefully lift it off of the frame to work on that part, I saw clipping the whole rear body as a replacement.

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Thanks. Just got a lot of pics. Have a feeling this mech is full of ****. The back looked fine to me. I notice the shop owner just hoisted the truck fine and where he hoisted it from the truck is ilon the frame.
Posting shortly
 






DRIVER SIDE BUSHINGS. Those tie rods were really tough to get good pics of, not a lot of space.

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PASSENGER SIDE FRONT BUSHINGS

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I can't seem to post the rest (says I have exceeded my max number of posts per 24 hours.

Here are the rest of the pics including back tires, leaf springs and suspension.

 






That frame looks usable to me in the handful which show it. The body along the bottom edges is bad, that's common at this age up north there.

The suspension parts almost all look very old and untouched for ages. The BJ boots look bad or dry on at least three of them, I'll bet all four are indeed bad. The shocks are bad too, but most of the trouble could be the labor to actually change anything under it. So any shop is not going to like working on it, but I wouldn't say it's time to give up on it yet, based on the pictures.

I would want a trusted shop's opinion on the overall frame condition(not the body), and what they think of rebuilding the front suspension, with four new shocks. I'd use that estimate to decide where you are, truck value versus future costs etc. Any other similar age vehicle might have similar issues and expenses right after you buy it.
 






That frame looks usable to me in the handful which show it. The body along the bottom edges is bad, that's common at this age up north there.

The suspension parts almost all look very old and untouched for ages. The BJ boots look bad or dry on at least three of them, I'll bet all four are indeed bad. The shocks are bad too, but most of the trouble could be the labor to actually change anything under it. So any shop is not going to like working on it, but I wouldn't say it's time to give up on it yet, based on the pictures.

I would want a trusted shop's opinion on the overall frame condition(not the body), and what they think of rebuilding the front suspension, with four new shocks. I'd use that estimate to decide where you are, truck value versus future costs etc. Any other similar age vehicle might have similar issues and expenses right after you buy it.

Thanks. See I had a feeling once I got under it that the mech yesterday was exxagerating and being full of crap. I'm not surprised to find the ball joint boots bad or dry (like he said) but to have every single bushing and suspension part under the truck being completely shot (like he said) to be full of it. Otherwise I would hear significant noises when driving it if EVERYTHING was completely shot. Right now I get no noise.

The ball joint boots, I could probably have done at a reasonable cost from one of my main mechs. If the BJ boots are just dry, can't you regrease them? The front shocks likely as well. I want to see if I can buy me time before getting the shocks done and just start with the BJ boots first. The ride isn't overly bouncy and if I press down on the driver side and passenger ends, it doesn't bounce that much up and down.

I agree though, I feel this is still safe and the chasis looks fine. The rockers are rusted yes but thats body only, not frame.

I would love to get an alignment but I do believe the mech when he said that shops won't do it. I would likely have to change the BJ boots first.

Here are the front control arm bushings too. Don't think I showed them yet.

I left a voicemail to one of my main mech shops, just waiting to hear back. The other is booked for 2 solid weeks straight.

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Those are the body mount bushings, those actually look fair for being original. The one looks like the upper bushing may be almost gone. There are ten of those, the front two and a couple back are the worst to fall apart.

The BJ boots can't be replaced to gain more life, the joint inside wears out very fast if any moisture or dirt gets inside. So any old looking dry or cracked boot is going to mean the joint is bad, which means the tires will wear unevenly/fast. So your tire wear might be your biggest right now expense, waiting will mean tires sooner. Depending on how bad the BJ wear is, the handling may be okay for a long while still, but the tires are going to suffer for sure.
 



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Those are the body mount bushings, those actually look fair for being original. The one looks like the upper bushing may be almost gone. There are ten of those, the front two and a couple back are the worst to fall apart.

The BJ boots can't be replaced to gain more life, the joint inside wears out very fast if any moisture or dirt gets inside. So any old looking dry or cracked boot is going to mean the joint is bad, which means the tires will wear unevenly/fast. So your tire wear might be your biggest right now expense, waiting will mean tires sooner. Depending on how bad the BJ wear is, the handling may be okay for a long while still, but the tires are going to suffer for sure.
Thank you.

So my camber on the passenger side isn't necessarily shot like the mech said yesterday. The uneven tire wear could be from the bad ball joint boots. I know ball joints isn't a big job to replace so if I did, I would just replace the whole joint which I know comes with new and already greased boots.

10 of those upper bushings? Yikes. Wonder how much those would be to get done. Are these bushings the ones that sit really hit up and stand alone in the wheel wheels?

I was just suggested to consider taking the truck to an actual auto frame repair shop to get the frame assessed. I guess because most regular mechanical shops aren't licenses to assess frames. They are more money (if they do the full test, 2-3 hours) but they are much more thorough than any regular mechanical shop would. They actually pop the tires off and at the end check to make sure the frame is perfectly squared. I got recommended one with very very high reviews and seems legit and just called them, am considering booking with them next week over one of my mechanics shops. The owner said that if they find holes and problems early on, they stop the test and don't finish it because it's not worth it to them and it saves the customer money. So if they find problems 1 hour in and don't like it, they call me and only charge me $100.

The only question is how in depth do I need to dig into getting the frame condition assessed.

The uneven tire wear does suck but I can live with it for the time being. I'm not going to drive the truck for the next few days at least because of the CEL still being on and still working on that getting fixed.
 






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