Hunter's '96 D44 Swap | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Hunter's '96 D44 Swap

Got a big update for everyone!

First off, I moved up to Georgia and soon after bought a 2006 F-250


I've done some minor work on it, but it was already bullet proofed with 130k when I got it. I resolved a long start issue, EGR delete, and straight piped it. I installed a 2.5" leveling kit and 35"x12.5" tires, some LED lighting, and it's been good since

This allowed me some time to work on the explorer and do what I've been wanting to do for years now.. put a straight axle up front and make it 4wd. I had bought a transfer case, linkages, and driveshaft off of an F-150 several months back and it just sat for awhile. I finally got around to doing some real work on it about 3 weeks ago and have some pictures to share, but it's still a work in progress

WARNING! I enjoy threads that show pictures.. lots of pictures.. so I attempt to do the same for y'all. There's gonna be a lot of pictures in this thread. Anyways,

It all started with disassembly and cutting out the IFS components:

Then I got ahold of a Dana44 off of an early 80's Jeep Wagoneer and started tearing it apart:






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Then I got to sandblasting and cleaning parts off the axle to prep for paint and rebuild:





I bought some HD 7-leaf Wagoneer leaf springs. The amount of information on which leaf springs to choose is very slim; most guys start out with the waggy 5 leafs that come with the axle but soon say that they became too flat and would have to replace them with 'something'. I'm hoping the 7-leaf HD springs will work well for this setup



I started grinding on the frame to see how it cleaned up. I still have some grinding and cutting to do to get the old upper control arm mounts and shock mount off of the frame.


I purchased some new U-joints for the axle. I'll end up having to get new balljoints, several seals, and new hub assemblies for either side. More to come on this


I've been able to paint some parts along the way. Here are the axles after pressing out the u-joints and prior to installing the new u-joints




Here's the diff cover getting painted


While I have the explorer up on stands, I can tackle the leaking timing chain cover:


This will take a week or two to complete because the notorious water pump bolt got stuck in the block and will have to be removed once I get the timing chain cover off. Waiting on a crank pulley removal tool before I can move any further on this step..

The next steps are to get some leaf spring hangers, shackles, and some plate steel to waterjet and bend to make into the front crossmember and hanger mounts to weld to the frame. Hopefully have it all welded in within the next 2-3 weeks

I will try to update you guys at least weekly with this project, but I'm already excited for it to be done!

I started tearing into the axle some more and ground what was left of the springs mounts off of the tubes. (Someone had previously cut most of them off, so I will make new ones to weld on after the axle is mounted in place)





I took the axle to work and cleaned off the 35 years of gunk from the housing in order to prep for paint. I also welded together some leaf eyelet mounts that will get welded to the frame



Then I completed prepping the axle and eyelet mounts for paint and started painting













I also continued cutting out the upper control arm mounts and shock tower from the passenger side. I still need to do the same on the drivers side


I was able to get the timing chain cover off of the engine and cleaned up in the parts washer. I also pressed in the new seal but will need to remove a water pump bolt stuck in the engine block before I put it back together.




I managed to get the bolt out of the block by drilling it out (after failed attempts with EZ-outs and welding nuts onto the stud) and tapping new threads into the block. Since I was already this deep and I had significant leakage around the oil pan, I decide to pull the pan, wash it, and replace the oil pan gasket. It all went back together great and the water pump/timing chain cover went back in perfectly.







After that, I was able to start tackling the important stuff. I got some 2"x4" tube and cut out slots to mount to the frame.




Got it tacked into place




Moving onto the axle, I was able to sandblast, paint, and turn down the rotors to prep for installation:



I also ordered 4 new balljoints, bearings, seals, calipers and pads, and lockable Warn hub assemblies. I'll be doing balljoints this weekend. After that, I will just need gears to be able to put the entire axle together.

Its not a very good picture, but I tapped holes to remount the steering line cooler onto the new frame tube. It fits in there very nicely..


I also grabbed a steering box out of a 95 Ranger. I will definitely need a drop pitman arm for this guy:


I grabbed some threaded rod to set the center to center distance correctly and tacked the front hangers on the new frame tube





Then I mounted the springs to the axles and set them up on the new front spring eyelets





Looking good! Unfortunately traffic on here for custom offroad builds has slowed down. Anyway, I take it you aren't at this point yet, but do you know what you're doing for a high pressure steering line? I'm trying to figure out how to connect from the pump to the same Ford steering box as you have.

Same with the lower half of the steering shaft. I'd rather not hodge podge something together but the Flaming River stuff is quite expensive.

Hey Mounty, I'm not exactly at that point yet but I have done a fair amount of researching on the subject. I believe I will either do what others have done for the high pressure lines: cut the old crimped fitting off of the HP line and get a new fitting that fits the steering box crimped on. OR I may look into using an adapter that will screw onto the old HP line AND into the steering box. I need to do a little more research around the second option.

as for the steering shaft, I still need to locate my steering box on the frame rail before I can decide what needs to be done. Based off of what others have had to do to make this specific steering box fit, my plan was to piece together a shaft, but in a strategic way. I.E.- not have 4 u-joints and 2 carrier bearings etc. I'm hoping to have just 1 u-joint and 1 slip joint. We'll see what comes of it..

I'm almost done grinding down the inside of the frame to allow for the steering box to get mounted, and I ordered some tube and plate to build the mount through the frame. I might be able to tackle it this weekend and get you a better idea of what my plans are for both of these items.

What did you do for your oil filter relocation?

My plan was to cut the steering rack side of the stock high pressure line off, and get an adapter to screw into the steering box. My problem is the adapter I have doesn't go deep enough into the box to seal, the hex part bottoms out on the outside of the box before the inverted flare seals. I need to do more searching, I don't know enough about fittings and plumbing to know what options I have.

For the steering box I had to notch into the inside of the frame rail to get enough clearance for my oil filter relocation adapter, but that may have also been because I'm doing hydro assist and need extra room for those lines. I got a Transdapt (I think) kit off of summit that points the hoses forward, and I mounted the filter on outside of the frame rail.

SO I found out probably the best way to integrate a Ranger steering box into an explorer. It utilizes parts that you already have if your new steering box came with the steering linkage and you still have your old steering linkage. This will only work if your steering box mounting location is within a certain distance from the steering wheel output linkage, but there's not much room to mount it any closer/further than what I have done.

The Ranger steering linkage is just about an inch short of what I need to fit on the explorer. Note that the bolt up towards the steering wheel does not line up with the hole in the steering wheel output shaft


It just so happens that the original Explorer female tube is about 1" longer than the Ranger shaft


The solution is to use the female shaft from the Explorer and mount it to the male shaft of the Ranger steering linkage. Each linkage has a slip joint that contains two shafts.


These shafts are constrained from slipping out by two punched tabs in the female shaft


So i ground out the two tabs (one on either side of the tube)


and mated the two together. This gave me the extra 1" I needed to properly fasten the female slip shaft to the steering wheel output shaft. She fits like a glove




The Ranger linkage has a rubber rag joint that acts as a u-joint and keeps me from having to install a carrier bearing on the firewall


Excellent job! I'm glad you are contributing your progress for our reading pleasure! I added this thread to the solid axle swap registry.

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