Hunter's '96 D44 Swap | Page 2 | 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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I made some really exciting progress over the last few days..

I got the diff gears all setup and shimmed, then put the spindles together and calipers installed.




I also finish welded the perches onto the axle

Then I started welding all of the perches and crossmember to the frame


Followed by painting all of the welds and the frame after grinding it all down to bare metal

FINALLY I got to hang the axle/leaf assembly under the truck!



Then I set it down to sit under it's own weight





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That was my favorite part of my SAS; setting it down on its own weight. That was the point I knew I was making real progress.

I know I haven't posted in some time, but I've got some big updates for everyone..

After the front SAS the rear sat too low so it was time for a SOA in the rear. I started by disconnecting the brake lines, parking brakes, shocks, leafs, ladder bars, and sway bar.



Then I painted the axle and ground down the area that I would be adding the spring perches on the top side of the axle




Then followed reconnecting the leafs, parking brakes, shocks, and bleeding the brake lines. For now, I've got the rear shocks fastened to what used to be the sway bar mounts on the axle. I also deleted the 3rd shock, ladder bars, and the sway bar from the rear.

Getting back to the front, the drag link would definitely not clear the PS leaf spring unless it had two 40 degree bends in it, which would be way too much for a drag link. So I ordered a 4" drop pitman arm to help make the drag link and tie rod more parallel.


Unfortunately it still wasn't enough for the drag link to clear the PS leaf spring while turning or in droop


So I had to bend a drag link to only 15 degrees to make it work and maximize the operating angles on each spherical end

Here it is on it's first flex test to make sure it doesn't interfere with the leaf spring


So with the steering complete and the rear SOA complete, it was finally time to take it around the yard to see what she can do. First stop: the front steps



But that wasn't enough so the following night I took it on a shakedown run at a local sand pit. Here are some pictures for your entertainment





and of course had to get it stuck because it's still 2wd


The next step is a tranny swap from an AWD 5.0l explorer. I already have the transfer case, linkages, and front driveshaft from an F150 so all I need is the tranny and a rear driveshaft to get this thing going!

Overall, it did great in the sand. I think I will need a front sway bar to be able to drive at highway speeds but so far I'm very impressed with the travel (without rubbing!) and the smooth ride

I have gotten a ton of stuff completed in the last few weeks on the truck. I started off with doing a lot of research around speedometer compatibility, 4wd light wiring, fitment with full size fuel tank, etc.

To start things off, I removed my old transmission and grabbed one from the local junkyard:




I also tore the transfer case output shaft housing off to access the speedo pickup. Since the case was from a 98+ model truck, it used the magneto hall-effect sensor instead of the gear driven electrical sensor that will communicate with the computer in my truck. You will need to remove the magneto gear from the output shaft and replace it with a plastic gear. More information on this procedure can be found on this thread:

Instead of grinding a round hole into the output shaft to key the gear to the shaft, I just made a small tac that worked perfectly:




From there, I drained the new [used] transmission and replaced the filter and cleaned the pan:



Then it was time for transmission installation. I didn't snap any pictures during this process because it is a dirty, oily one, and was frankly in no mood to be taking pictures.

What I can show you is the interior of the truck after removing the seats, center console, and pulling the carpet back. I was also getting into the wiring harness behind the IP to hook up the 4WD/4WD LOW lights on the dash:



I had already dropped the fuel tank and removed the forward-most bracket in order to clearance it for the tcase. This was not too bad; it just required a BFH. I do not have any pictures of this but it does clear the case by 1/2" at least. I also removed the plastic guard on the side of the fuel tank for driveshaft double cardigan joint clearance, of which now gives me about 1"

Speaking of driveshafts, here is the difference between a 1996 Ford explorer 2WD DS and a 2000 Ford Expedition 4WD DS:


The Expedition driveshaft fits right in with the transfer case installed. I will likely add a 1" spacer between the u-joint and the pinion on the rear axle in order to ensure that the slip joint will never be able to slip too far out of the transfer case since I've got the SOA in the rear too

Once I got the transmission bell housing bolted up to the engine, I started plugging in the wires for the transmission. Let it be noted that the wiring DID change between pre-98 and post-98 trucks, even though the connectors will physically plug into one another. I found this out by plugging in the main trans harness to the truck which was immediately followed by the starter engaging and the engine firing over with open headers pointing at my face while I'm on my back under the truck..

I remedied this by replacing the shifter switch with the one from my old transmission and the trans wiring harness from my old transmission. You will also have to re-pin the white connector that plugs in on the passenger side of the transmission. It was difficult to find, but can help you determine your problem if you are putting a post-98 trans into a pre-98 truck. See the two diagrams below:



Once that was figured out, I could start working on making the shifter fit inside the cab. I have seen lots of guys struggle with making this work and look nice inside the truck. I am very pleased with how mine came out and hope it can help someone else in the future.

I started by cutting out the hole in the floorboard:


Check your clearance once you fasten the shifter, and make sure you leave extra room for movement of the transmission, case, and engine when under load. Then I took the rubber-molded-over-metal piece from the f150 and hammered it into position so that all edges set flat with the contours of the Explorer floorboard:



After that, I cut a hole in the carpet and fit up the black bezel around the shifter, ensuring it too clears when shifting and when the tcase moves under load






After that was put together, I buttoned stuff up inside the cab and underneath the truck, and took it for a spin! Everything worked great! Low range is going to be a blast in the mud..

With that, I have a front driveshaft from a 5.4L F-150. I know I need a conversion U-joint to make this work with the D44, but I have a bigger issue to deal with first. The driveshaft grossly interferes with the transmission crossmember. But this isn't a common problem when doing a SAS and a 4406 , or so I thought, based on the fact that no one really mentions this issue when they do these conversions.. I guess the obvious solution is to make a custom crossmember.. I'll keep everyone posted on that

very good pics! i did the same thing for the speedo gear in my 4406 , now you have room for headers?

Thanks @delexploder! It was much easier than drilling into a hardened round shaft lol.

I took some pictures of the fitment of the transfer case underneath the truck and the shifter linkage fitment:



You can see I had to drill a new hole for the shifter to case linkage:


Front driveshaft clearance issue:




Rear driveshaft spline engagement:


I will remedy this by adding a spacer, as discussed before

Why did you need to drill a new hole in the shifter linkage?

Honestly that's just the way it lined up.. plus It helped with the location of the shifter inside the cab so that it didn't come too far rearward when shifting, and sat in a better position when in 2hi

Hmm interesting, haven't seen that needed before. I actually had to shorten my rear Navigator driveshaft which is also something I hadn't heard of anyone else needing to do before either, so I was just curious.

Fair enough @mounty71 anything on these trucks really occur on a case by case basis.. they're all different but we make them work!

@RockRanger thanks for the inspiration, I will have more to come!

Update for everyone:

So I got a 0.75" driveshaft spacer installed and was able to get the slip joint in the driveshaft to a much more acceptable position




I was also able to trim the transmission crossmember in order to clear the front driveshaft




As well as using the popular conversion u-joint from Autozone for the front driveshaft to the D44


After installing everything, I was able to take it out for a high speed test on the highway and unfortunately it didn't go as well as planned. I quickly discovered that the truck had a very strong tendency to induce roll at speeds greater than 40mph, especially whenever a single wheel experienced excitement. The body roll would continue until you hit the brakes harshly and wouldn't reoccur until you excited a wheel or hit higher speeds (60mph+)

I tried everything to fix this; alignments, shock replacement, rear sway bar installation, rear 3rd shock installation, etc. and nothing seemed to fix it.
(shot of the new shocks and 3rd rear shock install below)


There was limited information on this issue on the forums and zero information as far as what sway bar to use in the front for this setup. I ended up taking measurements and searching the local junkyard for a possible sway bar that would fit my setup.

I ended up grabbing a sway bar off of a late 90's Jeep Grand Cherokee and mounting it above the front leaf spring plates. This setup absolutely resolved the issue of body roll, but caused a different issue when I experienced double wheel compression (likely while hitting a bump at high speed on the highway). Since the sway bar was mounted directly above the axle, the clearance between the oil pan and sway bar was just several inches.

Long story short, the sway bar hit the oil pan and cracked it (I had the cast aluminum oil pan). Luckily, it cracked above the oil sump so oil did not immediately spew out. Rather, I noticed a small spot under the truck the day after and realized what happened.

Another long story short, I removed the sway bar, replaced the oil pan and also bought some new tires. The ones I was running on were some bald 33's that I was using just to test the truck rolling. I got some brand new 35x12.5 tires and quickly learned that the body roll issue completely resolved itself. This is likely due to the decreased contact patch of the tires since they are brand new and the higher psi/strength of a brand new, unworn tire. Either way, the tires solved the issue of body roll at high speeds both with and without suspension excitement.

With that, I was able to get some shots of the ol' girl with her new shoes:



Posting some pictures of the adventures we've been on since the straight axle swap.. this things badass!







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