Replacing a driver's side front freeze plug | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Replacing a driver's side front freeze plug


November 9, 2010
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Year, Model & Trim Level
1991 Explorer Sport
I recently had a freeze plug pop. At first, I thought it was the water pump, but then was confused when I saw that coolant was leaking above and to the side of the water pump. What could it be?

After some help from the kind folks on this forum and overhearing a Ford mechanic mention it, I learned that there's actually a freeze plug behind the A/C compressor / power steering pump bracket.

I changed the plug myself and it was easier to get to than I thought it'd be. I took a few pics along the way in case anyone else has a similar problem.

Here's a pic of my Exp when I was grumpy and planned on selling it rather than just fixing a relatively simple problem:


I used this diagram to determine which bolts needed to come off. The four bolts at the top and the three at the far left. You can actually see the plug location right behind where the bracket goes. I found that very helpful.


After I changed my mind and decided to fix it (it didn't sell), here's what I started with. I had already removed the belt and air intake thing, but the plug in question was right behind the bracket holding this A/C compressor and the power steering pump below it. These are the four bolts I removed to get the A/C compressor off. I'd already removed 2 when I remembered to take the pic.


The four bolts for the AC unit came off easily. I didn't disconnect any hoses and just shoved it aside. I had to kind of hook it onto something so it wouldn't keep falling back into place.


The three bolts for the bracket (bottom left) took care of both the power steering pump and the bracket itself. I also just shoved that aside.


Once that was out of the way, the culprit was pretty obvious:


I couldn't believe that one little hole could cause so much water to come gushing out, even with the engine off and cool.


Getting the thing out was a bit of a pain. I started with a punch and hammer, but could litter push the punch in further with my hands. Instead of budging, it basically just broke apart. I hammered, I used the screwdriver, I got crazy with locking pliers. In the end, I triumphed and this was my trophy. One of my kids immediately claimed it and now it's lost somewhere in the house.


I used a one of those rubber plugs instead of a regular one. In hindsight, I've been reading where folks have a hard time with those popping out. We'll see, I guess. The nut on it fits snug right up against the back side of the bracket, so hopefully that'll help. No leaks so far.

Hope that helps someone!

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Your explorer looks good.... if it was a 4 door, I'd rock it in a heartbeat. Glad you got your problem fixed.

Thanks for the writeup and pics hepcat-I learn something new everytime I get on the site.

And great looking Sport by the way, never dug the red color stripe Ford used on the trim but it looks really good with the red pin stripe and black color on your Ex.

I just did the same job! Sure enough, after I moved the ac bracket and power steering assembly outta the way, the leak was obvious! A tiny pin hole in the freeze plug was just shooting coolant out like crazy, even with the engine off and cool. I even heard a hissing sound when the engine was hot, leading me to believe it was the intake gasket. I got lucky!! Replacement plug is cheap (COPPER plug for $1.99 autozone), now to get this old one out of there, I hit the edges of it with pb blaster, and you don't need a special tool, just maybe a punch/screwdriver and hammer or some good pliers and u can muscle that bad boy outta there. I basically destroyed the old freeze plug trying to get it out, and was able to get some pliers around the ring part and pry it out. The new plug was a tight squeeze and I had to use pb blaster on the edges of the new one, put a rag over it and banged it in EVENLY with a hammer (rag is so you dont dent the new plug edges). It took a few mins but it eventually went all the way in. Put everything back together and NO MORE LEAKS, the old explorer is cooling good again and i'm not pouring coolant out anymore, thank god it was only a freeze plug!

Good write up. A good trick to removing them is knock them sideways in thier bore and pull them out with a pair of pliers. Doesn't always work but its quick. I always use gasket sealer on metal plugs as well, just cheap insurance against leaks.

Hopefully the others are in good shape still, chances are they are close to the same shape. I had one blow out on the passenger side head next to the firewall on the 4 dr eddie, that was not fun, pulled the head and found some others leaking.

I found 3 leaky plugs on my Sport while replacing the clutch. With the trans out already it was not much more work to pull the engine and replace them all.