Project what was I thinking??? | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Project what was I thinking???

Ok, so I feel obliged to give a little backstory as to how I arrived here...Here goes.

My most recent vehicle before the X was a 2000 Mercury Mountaineer. To be frank, I wasn't an X or Mounty freak then but I'm a Ford guy and it was a nice SUV.

Fast forward to November 2010 and my dad buys an old 92 Explorer, 4 door 5 speed to pick up semi parts....Rusted to hell, 170k miles, but loads of new parts on it. He jokingly one day said that he'd trade his for mine and I went for it.

Before you think I'm a complete fool, he had gifted me $2000 to pay off my Mounty (as a gift when my wife got pregnant) and offered the Explorer and $1000 for my Mounty. I had got a good deal on the Mounty so I'm not really losing out....

I finally decided to pull the trigger because after 3 years of marriage & with a 9 month old baby my wife decided to leave me (I'm still a great guy & there's no better husband or dad, apparently, she just didn't want to be "tied down"). So that's my sob story. Single daddy every other week and in need of a distraction. So anyway this is my mid-life crisis early. I've always wanted to build a mud/rock crawler and I figured what do I have to lose at this point? Unfortunately funds are a little tight but hey, they are for most people.

That's my story. I'm going to throw some more posts on what I've done thusfar and I've got some pics to put up once I get a little time. If you take the time to read this, enjoy.

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In the beginning

Like I said, I had $1000 to work with and I wasted no time. Sure, there were some mechanical quirks to work out but this is no time for reason! I'm buying a grill guard, dammit!

I headed 3 1/2 hrs from home to almost Indiana to pickup a Craigslist find. Brand new grill guard, in the box, for an 01 Explorer. Ya, I can make that fit.

$150 for the guard, $50 in gas and I'm on my way.

Installed it that night. I was up till 2 in the morning after 7 hours in a car but it looks cool ;). Took off the stupid bug guard while I was at it.

...and it begins...:D

...Welcome to the group of nuts (aka Explorerholic) who travel hundreds of miles for parts, stay up late putting them on, and they day dream about more fixes and upgrades all the time..:salute:

..You have been bit by the bug..:biggthump


Thanks TBars....The bug's got me...bad. Last night was the first time since Thursday night that I got to bed before midnight (it's now Wednesday for anyone following along). But I'll get to that project later.

I'm just going to try to cook right along here cause I'm catching up on a month's worth of work that I logged offline but not here....

The next issue was the driver's door not closing properly. It was so bad that at 55mph you couldn't hear the radio over the wind noise. No problem right? Just do DeRocha's door hinge pin replacement. Only $12 in parts...

Lol, so there was 4 hours I didn't think I would be spending. Did anyone know that the factory pins are hardened steel and riveted in? Ya, neither did I. Still, it was nice having a read-through of his to give me pointers. I ended up grinding, hammering, cursing and sweating and got through it. Thank God for buddies and thank God for his motorized chain lift :).

So, anyway, door pins finished, new bushings nice and tight and the thing still howls like nobody's business. We look at the door and it's bent out at the top, pretty badly. Evidently someone told me that they sometimes use these "air bag things" to pop open the top of doors enough to get a slipper in when you lock your keys in your car. Apparently they can bend a door outward permanently then. Not sure if that's what did it but makes sense. Solution? John Deere tractor and a tow strap :D.

Rolled down the passenger window, put the strap around the top of the door and put a big wood block and the bottom of the open door (between the door and the floorboard so it could pull against that). He was on the tractor, I was on the ladder watching and voila! Sealed door :). It ain't perfect but it's good enough for a truck 19 years old. Onward and upward!

And more...

So the next thing I did was to buy a used Smittybilt bumper for the rear (still need to refinish it but picked up for $30 from a friend).

Also decided to change out my rear differential cover. The other guy (old owner before my dad) cracked the cover (I think he used an impact to put it on, judging from how tight the bolts were).

Only $18 but we spent 2 hours trying to tap a dang fill hole in it...Who sells a solid cover? I couldn't find the fill hole on the actual differential housing itself. But, it's done and good to go.

Dad still feels guilty about the trade so he paid to get the windshield changed. There's $130 I didn't have to spend :).

JY Parts

Next I decided to fix some things w/some junkyard parts.

The driver door had the infamous pulled apart door handle so someone at some point riveted a ton of stainless all over the door to fix it. I'll get a pic of that, rather funny.

The headlight switch was missing the pull knob, and the hood was missing a bump stop and shook all over.

My grill is faded and cracked and my rear liftgate interior panel was cracked too.

For $70 I picked up a new driver door panel & rear panel (my exact interior color!), new grill, rear sub enclosure and both amps (with surrounding plastic, mine didn't have the factory sub), new headlight switch, and hood bump stop.

Installed the 2 new interior panels, the hood bump stop, and the new headlight switch (thanks to my buddy Tom for doing the headlight switch, in case he reads this ever ;) )

Here's the old riveted door panel:
(I have to hand it to him, it's creative)

And here's my new panel...A little grease to clean of the carpet but for $10 it's much, much better

And here's my original hatch...

And the new one...needs cleaning but for $10...

Mo money

Now I decided to dip back in to the remaining $800 from the project start.

Got some much needed body panels from a place up in Cleveland, Mills Supply Co. If you need first gen panels try them. I avoided shipping by driving to Cleveland to get the panels but got both rockers, both doglegs, rear quarter panel (mine is completely shot around the filler cap), and both new front fenders for $575.

On the way home went to Summit and grabbed 4 D-ring shackles to use for my aftermarket bumpers.

A guy I work with donated a big piece of 8" rectangular tubing to make the front bumper out of. Even donated the time of the weld shop here at work to make it. So some day after work I'll get on that :)

Actually fixing something now...

I finally had to repair instead of modify/remedy :(.

My brakes kept grabbing randomly. Hardcore too. Like truck wouldn't move hardcore.

Didn't know what I was looking for but decided I'd give it a shot. Got new pads, just because, and a Haynes manual. The calipers looked yucky so I changed them too.

Knock on wood it's working right now.

While I was making smart, responsible purchases I bought some Silverstar headlights (to replace the blue ricer ones that were in it) and some Rain-X latitudes off Ebay. There, now I feel like I made a grown-up purchase now :)

While I was ordering stuff online I bought new interior trim fasteners from Pretty slick, just get the Ford part number for your fasteners, call them, and you get replacements direct from Cali. $30, but worth it to fix brittle and broken clips.

To the lift!

So at this point I decided I needed to get to the part I really wanted to get to.

The truck came with 31s but for the first time in my life I wanted a lift. I researched and researched on here and made up my mind. 4" Rough Country for the front and SOA in the rear.

And I ordered it. Free shipping promo helped to make my decision.


Never would have thought so few parts would be so hard to install, lol.

Thanks to you guys I'm fully aware of the dreaded "bump stop kiss of death" from the passenger axle pivot bracket and that the RC shocks are crap. So I opted out of theirs and bought some Skyjacker ones at Summit. If nothing else maybe I convince the untrained eye that it's a Skyjacker lift, right? ;)

Gulp, after spending this much there's no turning back. Total tally at this point, a touch over $1600.

Yep, more

My little brother owed me some money and I found some tail light covers (brand new) for first gens on Ebay. Had him order them and ship them to me :). Frivolous but they'll look good with my grill guard.

Got my F-250 extended brake lines (recommended by the guys here), my spring perches, and everything I (thought) needed for the lift. My buddy even gave me a $20 off coupon at Summit. Score!

Ended up selling the lift block/u-bolt kit on Craigslist that came with the Rough Country kit. Guy met me at Summit. $35 to me :). That's about the end of money in my favor, lol.

Also purchased new shackle bushings from Ford on the advice of guys on here who said that the old ones are going to be shot when I go to do the SOA.


Enjoyed reading your thread.

Working on it :). Got them on my camera, now I just need to actually put them on my computer.

Right on dude, sounds like its coming along pretty good. Cant wait to see some pics

Getting ready to lift...

Thanks Tom.

So, to the lift...hmm...

Ok, so first off the 5 -7 hours in the instructions is really, really, really optimistic lol. My friend has a full machine shop so we thought we'd have everything we could ever need to knock it out quickly. Granted, he and I are just learning but ya, it's taking awhile. I'm currently in the process of doing it, so this post oughta catch me up. We spent a whopping 4 hours on one bracket alone so unfortunately I've long since passed the 7 hour mark lol.

Here goes....

Ok, so I had all my parts lined up & was ready to start on it Friday night (the 14th). I had the 17th off for MLK day so I figured I had plenty of time...just needed to change my friend's shifter cable on his Chrysler 300M first.

Fast forward to 1:30AM. Aside from one break for dinner we worked til 1:30 Saturday morning (from about 6 Friday night) getting his shift cable replaced. Turns out Chrysler didn't worry themselves too much about giving any "room" or "space" to work. Who needs that anyway? Let's let mechanics worry about that, right Chrysler engineers? :mad: (ya, still a little pent up anger here)

Ok, but ready to install the lift Saturday morning. Let's see how it goes, shall we?

Actually getting to the lift

So Saturday morning, the 15th, after we got together and made a big breakfast, me and two buddies headed out to the shop and got working.

I'm going to throw out the obligatory "use jack stands", chock wheels, wear PPE, etc here first.

Ok, that's out of the way. So we got the truck jacked up, parts out of the box and got on our way.
Here's my step-by-step to a 4" Rough Country front lift from a guy who's not really a mechanic. Just a wannabe with trying to impart some knowledge based on firsthand experience.

Tip before you start; get a box of sandwich baggies and a permanent marker. Label the bags for every nut and bolt you take off and keep those parts together. It will make life easier later.

1. Remove front wheels, unbolt shocks (completely, if you're changing them, just the top of you're leaving the old ones on for some reason), and remove the coil springs. Good, let's continue. By now you should be building some false confidence that this is going to go really, really well ;)

Strategy for getting coil springs out...this doesn't have to be dangerous if done "correctly"

2. Begin taking off the driver side axle pivot bracket. Ok, this is my first tip for the non-mechanics out there. Ford has a TTB front end. That stands for twin traction beam. Basically, take a step back (or a scoot if you're on a creeper) and look at the front end. There is basically a long flat 'X' made by the axles. The driver side hub is connected to a pivot point on the passenger side and vice-versa. It took me like 10 minutes to realize that. At first I just thought the instructions were wrong, lol. (Yes, I will be admitting all my idiotic mistakes along the way.)
Anyway, that bracket goes pretty smoothly. Another hint though, get on Rough Country's website and print off color instructions. The one in the box look like they were photocopied off a 1970s Xerox from a picture taken with an old Polaroid. Really. Anyways, this step is wonderful for building some more false confidence.
2A. Put on the new bump stop extension when this bracket is off. The instructions will have you do it later but it's much, much easier without that bracket in the way.

Tip for getting the new bracket in; use a bottle jack on top of the radius arm and a floor jack under the driver side hub to give yourself some clearance. But for God's sake, USE CAUTION and COMMON SENSE. It's kind of unsafe but can be accomplished safely.

3. Remove the drag link from the pitman arm. Do yourself a favor and just get the pitman arm puller from Autozone. It's $14 and you get the money back when you return it (loan-a-tool service). You might need to use some rubber mallet persuasion but it comes off pretty easy.

4. While we were under there we completely removed the sway bar for some more clearance. Went ahead and sanded and repainted it too, because it "freshened" up the look for not much money.

Lonely little sway bar...

Front end minus sway bar

5. Now it's time to tackle the passenger side axle pivot bracket (this is on the driver's side of the vehicle). Ford used rivets instead of bolts and this is where it gets dicey. My advice? Go buy a cutting wheel for a hand grinder and an air hammer with a punch attachment. If you don't have one, get one. You can order them from Lowes for $15. Not great, but if you're not using it every weekend it will do the job. We spent an hour and a half on one rivet before we decided to do that. With grinding off the rivet head and air punching them out we got the others out in 5 minutes.
***Note, you will need to repaint the frame a little where you grind it. Just spray some primer on there. Don't leave shiny metal. Seriously. It takes like 5 minutes. Ok, moving on.
Here's where I'll admit some stupidity. I put the bracket on backwards first...Ya. Couldn't get the damn axle pivot point to line up....Sometimes when you work past midnight just stop.
5A. Do the other bump stop now. If you've researched Rough Country kits at all, this is the one that matters. Otherwise you risk cracking the top of your differential.

6. Time for the new radius arm brackets. If you've followed my helpful hints maybe you're moving a little quicker than I did lol.
More grinding and punching rivets. Yes, use a grinder with a cutting wheel and an air punch. Makes life so much easier. The instructions are pretty self-explanatory at this point. Once you undo the crossmember bolts it's just a lot of using jacks and finagling to get the bolts lined up. If you followed my baggy tip you should have no problem getting all your original hardware back on that you need, by the way.

7. Put in the new coil springs. If you don't have spring compressors, good luck. I'm not totally sure how you do it without them. Since I've admitted my stupidity along the way I'll point out that my buddy put in the coil seat upside down. But it's his shop & he's donated like 24 hours of his time (and it was after 11PM) so I'll let this one slide ;) (Yes, we took it off and put it back correctly).

8. Now you can put on your new shocks and it will look like you've really done something up there, what with the new springs and shocks :D

9. Duh-duh-duh (and other ominous noises).
Now it's time to tackle the friggin steering pitman arm. I don't have much good to say about this step.
The nut you need to remove is 1 1/4. You will prob need a breaker bar. The Autozone pitman arm puller I told you to get earlier? You'll need it now. By the way, consider it purchased. You will need to grind it down to make it small enough to fit in there. And then just tons of PB Blaster, muscle, and patience to get the arm off.
Getting the new arm on is a little easier. Throw some never seize on there and once you get it started just tighten the big nut and it will pull the arm up the shaft.
My friend had me turn the wheel from inside with the key forward and truck off once we got it on. It spewed power steering fluid all over, looks like from the cap. I'm really, really, really hoping it's just a weep hole in the cap and not something we permanently screwed up from banging the hell out of that arm in our frustration.

Ok, that's where I'm at now. All caught up. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night working past eleven. (1:30AM) three of those. Totally worth it!

When I get the chance I will put up some pictures and from now on this will be my current registry! Yee-haw!!!

Hey man, dont worry about the power steering fluid, fords spit fluid out the cap like that when you turn the wheel with the engine off. Its normal


Ok, while I'm waiting on my pics to upload to photobucket figured I'd throw an update on here.

Tonight my buddy was working at his 2nd job so I tried to fly solo....Fly baby bird, fly. Alas, didn't go so well.

Got the repainted sway bar half hooked up but cant get the dang thing up to the frame. I think once I take the truck off jack stands and the axle comes up I'll be able to get it by myself...Also attempted to put on the extended brake line on the driver side...Seeing how much the sway bar is going to prevent flex I'm thinking of skipping doing that. If anyone wants to chime in and tell me that's a terrible decision I'd appreciate it cause at this point I feel very unmotivated lol.

Also got my drag link hooked back up but there's a pretty good gap. Little tip there; the bolt is going to spin inside the boot. Use a pry bar to put pressure on the taper of the bolt and you can get the nut on. Not sure if I should try to get super forceful to get it all the way on or just let Ford handle it when they do the alignment...I'm taking it over on a car hauler when it's all done so laziness/frustration might win that battle...

Hmm, that's about all for tonight. Hopefully pics are done so I can throw some in.

All right, here's a pic w/my redneck underglow. It's semi clearance lights...they came on the truck and I kind of like them lol.

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I would leave the sway bar on and get some quick disconnect links for it if you plan to go off road. I don't have one on my X and it can get scary at freeway speeds, lots of body roll.