How to: - Step-by-step water pump replacement | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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How to: Step-by-step water pump replacement

Prefix for threads which are instructional.

The D

Well-Known Member
October 12, 2022
Reaction score
City, State
Denver, CO
Year, Model & Trim Level
‘13 Explorer XLT
Alright, it took a while but I’ve finished a water pump and timing stuff replacement on my ‘13 xlt. I didn’t really find a one-stop resource for the process so I thought I’d write one up. This was done in my driveway over the course of about 3 afternoons. This can be done much quicker though, even by someone who is unsure of themselves regarding this job. There are several reasons it took me so long: I have kids and getting them going in the mornings is time consuming, my in-laws were visiting at this time, I took lots of pictures. I didn’t get started until approximately 11am every day I was working on this. This job was done in my driveway, mostly with a junky harbor freight tool set. But, I did have some of my good stuff from my real toolbox and of course the requisite special tools. Just some background info about me. I’ve been a mechanic for over 20yrs. I work on the mass transit trains in the metro area where I live now. My first jobs were Mercedes dealerships, including some experience working on a few Mclaren-Mercedes SLR’s. I’m not tooting my own horn, just trying to explain that I know what I’m doing. That’s why I can say that this job isn’t difficult, it’s just time consuming. If you can actually get going early in the morning it can be done over a weekend, especially if you have access to some power tools.

I’ll include parts and special tools here as well. The links re-direct to the correct parts but the correct vehicle is not listed. Also remember, I’m working on a ‘13 xlt. There may be tiny variations compared to your car, do your diligence

Edit: So, after some nonsense with my car I’m going to make a recommendation. If you have ~150k or more it’s going to be a good idea to do all of the timing components while you’re in there. Ultimately it’s cheap insurance against having to do this job again. It’s not as common as the triton v8’s but these do fail. You’ll need two of each phaser, solenoid, and stretch bolt. I’m not going to list the Ford specific parts for a few reasons. A) It’s possible these could be updated in the future, 2) Ford’s online catalog is an absolute clown show, & D) It only took the parts guys a few minutes to look this stuff up

You’ll need 2 gallons

I replaced the thermostat and used this flush product a few months prior but you might as well do it all now

Serpentine belt has to come off so a new one should go on if there’s any wear to the old one.

**Note** There are two potential lengths and I just ended up taking the original one to the store to match up. I ended up making several trips anyway…

This sealant matches the original very closely.

You’re going to be 98% finished with spark plug replacement, might as well go all the way

You don’t have to replace the valve cover gaskets, they are reusable. I had a small leak in one of them and decided to make it more complicated than I needed to. You’ll see what I’m talking about…

This the oil and filter I use. Brand isn’t especially important as long as you find something that meets the Ford spec and change it at the appropriate interval

Amazon product ASIN B082Q3C8MC
Amazon product ASIN B006DXWZQU
Special tools:
Amazon product ASIN B075XJZ1DN
Amazon product ASIN B0B2DR2FF6
Amazon product ASIN B01N22CYOE
I’m sure I missed something, please double check and ask any questions

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First step: lift the RF corner and get the wheel off. I’m going to assume everyone knows how to do this. But if anyone would like pics about this, I’ll be happy to edit this post

Next: remove fender liner. Plastic clips, 5.5mm screws, & 8mm screws

Next: drain coolant. There’s a handy dandy drain on the bottom of the radiator with a little spout to vaguely direct the coolant. A small piece of 3/8”(I’m pretty sure) hose draining directly into a pan will ensure minimal mess on the driveway

Next: remove air duct under pass side engine. I’ve read that some early Explorers don’t have this. If at all possible retrofit this as it provides cooling to the PTU. There are only 3 dzus fasteners and it falls off, pretty easy


Next: My next step was to drain the oil to be re-used. Before anyone loses their mind, I did an oil change a few weeks ago and this oil has ~200 miles on it. It’s getting re-used. Only you can make the decision to do this to your car. Choose wisely. If anyone wants a few pics of this I’ll be happy to edit this as well

And, edit: I think I had some coolant leaking into the oil as well as through the weep hole and this is what caused an engine failure around the next oil change. So re-using the oil is now most decidedly not a recommendation.

Next: stand up and head to the engine bay for a while. I’m sure I’m very late to this party but take the hood rod out of its spot on the front support and move it to the drivers side to get it out of your way


Alright, now we can get to the business

Next: disconnect battery ground cable(10mm) and place cap on post for an extra protection step



Next: remove air intake. Don’t mess up the connectors with the colored tabs. These push directly outward from the connector and are located on several other connectors(maf, throttle body, coils, cam adjust solenoids I’m pretty sure are the only ones relevant to this job)





Next: remove upper intake plenum. **There is a hidden bolt under the throttle body. It’s pretty easy to get to and you can see it fairly easy. It was missing on my car but it’s there, don’t forget it and break something.

Remove coolant vent hose

Hose clamps, quick disconnect, TB connector




8mm plenum bolts. The long one comes out, the rest are captured


Next: cover lower intake so things don’t fall in. I used duct tape. Rags stuck in the intake runners will work too

Remove ignition coils

Pro tip: remove the spark plugs so it’s easier to rotate the engine to the proper position

I forgot to take pics of these next few steps. If these are necessary, let me know. I’ll see what I can get with everything back together

Next: remove fuel line. I forgot to take pics of this, sorry. It’s easy though. One end is just a QD fitting, there’s an 8mm bolt holding one end to the timing cover, & there’s a small plastic tool that slides between the fuel rail & the metal line to disconnect completely. Make sure to catch excess fuel in a cup or rag

Next: disconnect electrical connectors. Two ground wires(8mm bolts) on passengers side, fuel injectors, cam solenoids(tiny colored tab slides upward, cam sensors at rear of cylinder heads. Remove plastic clips that secure harness to various points on engine. Place/push harness out of the way to get the valve covers off.

Next: remove valve covers. 10mm bolts, some with studs on top so use a deep socket. A universal or wobble socket can make this easier but isn’t exactly necessary. The seals around the spark plug holes are really tight. Use a pry bar and be careful when removing

Next: remove serpentine belt and tensioner. Do this from below. There’s a tough spot that you need to push past to get the tensioner loose enough. Don’t forget to replace the belt also, this is the perfect time


Remove tensioner, 8mm bolts accessed from the top

Next: remove crankshaft pulley. There are many 3 jaw pullers available, this is the puller and stem I used

Place the puller on the pulley and rotate so the jaws go behind the tabs to pull off

Next: support engine from below with floor jack/wood block. Then remove the passengers side engine mount(18mm bolts & 14mm deep socket) and the two studs(E8 external torx) that are closer to midline of vehicle. These need to be removed to remove a few of the timing cover bolts



Next: Alright, now we get to some stuff that most people will rarely attempt. Removing/installing the timing cover is a little like one of those horse shoe & ring puzzles in Cracker Barrel. It’s not that bad though, take your time and you’ll be fine. There’s an 8mm bolt at the rear cylinder head, there’s 3 x 15mm bolts that can be a little hard to see, the majority of bolts are 10mm bolts around the perimeter of the cover

Long 8mm bolt

15mm bolts



All of the bolts will come out if you raise/lower the engine with the floor jack. Don’t go ham when you raise the engine though, you can damage the RF axle shaft if it’s raised too much. Go up just enough to get the uppermost 15mm out and leave it there to get the cover off and out

Pry at bottom between a/c compressor bracket

And at the top between cover and cylinder head

I’m not sure if mine was an outlier but it didn’t take a ton of effort to separate the cover. Hopefully everyone else’s is the same.

Next: the tricky part. With the engine raised, hold the cover outward near the frame rail. Lift up, then rotate clockwise(looking at front of engine) to remove. You’ll need to push the a/c line out of the way a little bit but it’s not a hindrance


Next: put the crank bolt back in and rotate the engine until the dots on the intake cam adjusters and crank sprocket line up

Crank sprocket dot must be approximately 4 o’clock position

Camshaft dots must be straight up in line with cylinder, not pointing straight up in relation to the vehicle. Hopefully that’s not too confusing


Remove oil line from cam bridges to solenoid housing

…In order to install the camshaft locking plates you got from Amazon


If all the dots are in those places and the cam plates fit over the cams, resting flat against the head, congratulations the engine is at its base timing. You did it!

Next: In the pic of the crank sprocket dot, you can see the timing chain tensioner. Remove that at this time. I didn’t get a separate pic, sorry.

Remove the cam adjustment solenoids to make room to get the chains off. One 8mm bolt per solenoid.

With the tensioner and solenoids off you can weasel(technical term) the chains out
Before the adjusters are removed, the secondary chain tensioner needs to be loosened. There’s a small, weird shaped piece of metal that came with the cam plates. We’re going to use that now to compress and temporarily lock the secondary tensioner. Don’t, however, only push the plunger down with the tool. You’ll mess it up. Snake(technical term) the tool into the little hole in the back of the solenoid tower and put the point in the dimple of the nylon pad. Hold the plunger down, however you choose. Place the small extension of the tool under the edge of the tower so the plunger stays depressed. Now you can remove the really tight cam bolts which MUST NOT be re-used. Dealership only parts, by the way. This pic isn’t very good but it’s a really tiny space to try to get a shot in. You’ll see what I’m talking about when you get there

I didn’t get pics of removing the cam adjusters but it’s not difficult. The bolts are very tight though. You’ll see a bunch of recommendations to keep the plates absolutely flat against the head and back of the solenoid tower and only using a large wrench(7/8”) to hold the cams while you loosen the large adjuster bolts(T55 torx on a 1/2” breaker bar). That’s not really necessary. The cams and plates will wedge themselves against the head, locking everything tight. Do this and put some ass into loosening the bolts. The chains, guides, tensioners are being replaced in my case(highly recommended unless you don’t have many miles on them, mine had 152k on them so it was time) so that stuff can just be thrown away. HOWEVER, make sure you pay attention to which chain guides go where. It’s not intuitive which ones go where and in what position. Make it easy on yourself and take a picture. The adjusters can be used on either side, but obviously can’t be swapped between intake and exhaust cams, so it’s not imperative to keep them super organized. Just place them somewhere that they won’t be damaged or get dirty. Once everything is removed, use the large wrench to rotate the cams back into place with the plates sitting flat against the heads

Wow, look at that. You got this far into the engine. But we’re not done yet. You can finally see the water pump. So… How do you remove the pump without filling the oil pan with coolant? It’s a very annoying process but it can be done. Use rags and brake cleaner to clean some oil off the block below the water pump.

Yes, that’s duct tape applied to the block under the pump. Yes, those are several Pig mats. Duct tape sort of deflects some of the coolant into the super-absorbent Pig mats. Remove the 8mm pump bolts and CAREFULLY pry the bottom of the pump away so only a trickle leaks out at a time. If you do this carefully enough, all the coolant will be trapped in the mats.


Look at that, you’re halfway there. Before you start cleaning surfaces, make note of where the sealant is applied

Clean the surfaces of the block and back of the cover with a razor blade(plastic or metal) and scotch-brite pads. Clean oil and old sealant with brake cleaner and rags. It does need to be fairly clean but it doesn’t need to be a mirror finish, think like 90% cleaned. Put the rubber gasket in the channel in the back of the pump. Install pump and tighten bolts. I’m not sure what the torque is but it’s not very tight, probably around 10 ft/lbs. Don’t break the bolts. I cannot emphasize this enough, it will be an absolute nightmare.

Here’s a shot of maybe the only annoying thing about working in my driveway on a Colorado autumn day. Leaves everywhere. Make sure you are diligent about keeping anything out of the cylinder head. A leaf may not be a big problem but don’t take any chances with anything

Edit: Just a little tip I found when doing this again. When you put the phasers on, just tighten the bolt down to ~10lb/ft initially in case you forget something or do something out of order. This way you don’t have to replace a bolt that is stretched already but is only 5 minutes old.

**HOWEVER** You must absolutely remember to tighten them properly before the timing cover goes back on. You can’t get to them once the timing cover is on

Alright, now we’re ready to put the cam timing components back together. I didn’t get pics of every step but it’s not difficult to figure out.

Next: remove old secondary tensioners. Just get a pair of small locking pliers and pop them off

Knipex, son. No affiliation but every pair of Knipex I have is awesome

Push the new secondary tensioners all the way into the bore. There is a small piece that snaps onto the bottom as well. Remove the blue tab, but you’re not done with that yet. There is a small ratchet mechanism inside that is the actual activation. DO NOT mess with this any more until the secondary chains and adjusters are installed and tightened.


Like I mentioned previously, the adjusters can be used on either side. Get one of each and turn them over. Remember, they’re upside down. Don’t get confused which ones are actually going where. Align the marks on the back of the adjuster with the colored links of the chain. There is a dowel on the front of the cam and the adjusters will only fit one way. Take your time, you’ll figure it out. I did…


These are going into the left bank(front bank) so the “L” get lined with the black link and the other link gets lined up with the timing dot. When you put these onto the cams, one of them will line up and one will be slightly off. Just use the wrench to turn the cam slightly until they fit. Also make sure the chain stays in place. But, if one of the gears slips a tooth you won’t be able to line everything up at this step. Once the adjusters are seated properly, install and torque the bolts. The sequence is as follows;

1) 30 ft/lbs
2) loosen one turn
3) 18 ft/lbs
4)) 180 degree rotation of bolt

I’m sure a Snap-on Tech Angle torque wrench is too much for a diy-er but they are amazing. My 1/2” Tech Angle was able to do all tightening steps(DO NOT EVER loosen something with a torque wrench).

Once the cam adjusters are lined up with the correct chain links and tightened properly, now you can release the secondary tensioner. All you need to do is press down on the plunger. It will release and take up any slack in the chain.

Remember the picture you took of the chain guides? Dig it back out and use it to bolt the 3 static guides onto the block. Then you can put the main chain around the intake adjusters, water pump, & crank sprocket. The crankshaft may have rotated a tiny bit, but you can put the old sprocket back on and rotate a tiny bit with a large pair of channel lock pliers until the dot is back to the 4 o’clock position.

These are pics of all the dots lining up with their respective colored links. Pink link to rear intake cam, gold link to front intake cam, crank dot in between the bottom two gold links



Once all the dots are lined up, it’s important that as much slack as possible is in the section where the tensioner is. Otherwise the camshaft timing will be off, check engine light will probably light up, and engine may not run well. Or worse… Once the chain is oriented correctly, put the tensioner guide onto its dowel then bolt the main tensioner to the block. Double check your double checking. Once you’re confident that all the marks line up, the cam holding plates fit onto the top of the cams and are resting against the heads, & the slack of the chain is in the correct position then you can pull the pin on the main tensioner. If there is a difficult part to this job, this is it. But all you need to do is be careful and double check each step in the cam timing assembly and alignment process.

Next: the last step in the timing process is re-installing the cam adjuster oil line. The bolts that secure this are the bolts that also secure the camshaft bearing caps so they need to be torqued properly, which is approximately 8 ft/lbs. Ford lists a range that can be applied to the bolt so I chose something in the upper end of that range.


Congratulations, you’ve gotten the engine set to its base timing. But you’re definitely not done yet. Not even close…

Next: now that all of the cam timing bits and pieces are aligned and assembled, the next most annoying step is up; getting sealant on the cover/block and mating them without smearing the sealant everywhere. Before you apply sealant and re-install the cover it would be a good idea to test fit it until you can get it in place without hitting it everywhere, thus getting sealant all over the place

This is what I used, Permatex Ultra Black. It matched the old sealant pretty closely and now that it’s been a few days I must have chosen correctly because it doesn’t leak

Because of the tight confines, it’s a good idea to apply the sealant to the block/heads as much as possible. I had to put a bead on the cover itself at the very back/top that is the hardest to see. Every other place I was able to apply sealant to the block. I believe this saved a gigantic mess of smeared sealant all over the engine compartment, my arms, my clothes…



Remember the long bolts you took out? The ones that were a pain because you had to raise or lower the engine to remove? Did you notice there was some sort of sealant on the threads? I noticed something on the threads and had it confirmed in a few YouTube videos. Those bolts, for some silly reason that I still don’t understand, go through the block and into a water jacket. Whatever, all you need to do is smear a bit on the threads. I did all 3 larger bolts just to be on the safe side

Now that the sealant is applied properly(3mm wide bead) in the correct place, CAREFULLY lift the cover into the engine compartment. Remember to hold the cover horizontally and rotate counter-clockwise as you lower it down in front of the engine and onto the locating dowels. Double and triple check for any sealant that was smeared somewhere it shouldn’t be. I know this isn’t what anyone wants to hear, but you must make sure the bead is not disturbed when it goes back together. If it is, you will have a messy leak to clean up. Another mechanic I used to work with told me; There’s never enough time to do a job right but there’s always enough time to do a job over. Once the cover can be re-installed without disturbing the bead of sealant, you can finally install and tighten all of the bolts.

Next: re-install the crankshaft pulley. I didn’t get a picture of the specific set I used but it’s a set that is readily available on Amazon. You could make your own if you want to be difficult. The thread pitch of the bolt is M10x1.5. All you need is an 8-ish inch section of all-thread, a few nuts double-nutted to the end, and another nut and large washer to push the pulley onto the snout of the crankshaft. But, this is the easy way

Okay, we’re getting closer. The next step is to re-install the valve covers. I had a small leak at the very front cam solenoid connector seal in the valve cover. So I decided to replace all the valve cover seals. This ended up biting me pretty hard. I replaced every seal, but that one solenoid seal still leaked between the plastic valve cover and the seal itself when I was finished so I just bought a new valve cover.

Pro shadetree hack tip: I’m not advocating this, but you can clean the seal/cover really well and put super glue around the whole edge of the seal to temporarily seal until you get a replacement valve cover.

But, it’s easy enough to get the captured bolts off to replace the small rubber seals.

Pry them off and just cut the old grommet. Spray a little WD-40 on the sleeve and push the new grommet on


Pound the old cam solenoid and spark plug seals off with some sort of punch or a pry bar with a punch cap on the end. These are a pain to replace though. I had to search my garage to find various things to pound the new seals into the cover. Experiment yourself before you do this, if you so choose

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Next: can you see daylight at the end of the tunnel yet? Once the valve covers are back on, you don’t have much more left. Re-install the engine mount studs and the engine mount itself so the jack can be removed.

Next: the process from here is the reverse of disassembly. Tensioner, belt, plugs, coils, harness, fuel line, intake.

Next: re-fill engine with oil.

Next: fill with coolant. Make sure the front of the vehicle is raised slightly so it’s easier for air to burp out.

My process was this. Fill with oil, then coolant. Connect battery. Start vehicle and change climate controls to full heat/ defrost to get the entire coolant system circulating. Check for any immediate leaks. If none, start putting fender liner back together. Re-check for leaks. Put wheel back on, lower off of jack stand, & torque wheel(100ft/lbs). Re-check for leaks