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Suspension Troubleshooting

RobertE

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Joined
February 18, 2014
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City, State
San Jose
Year, Model & Trim Level
1996 Ford Explorer Sport
I received a 1996 Ford Explorer Sport (4.0 SOHC) from family and its my project car. Lot of fun and easy to work on for the most part (lots of room to get my hands dirty), so I do most of the maintenance on my own.

My family is an explorer family (2006 Sport Trak, 2000 Explorer XLT, 1996 Explorer Sport, 1999 Explorer XLT). When I first got the car, I felt everything in the road (literally everything).

So far what I've done:

- 2x Rancho 9000XL on front
- 2x Rancho 9000XL on rear (I've tried a wide variety of settings and 4-6 feels the best right now for most roads.)
- 4x Firestone Destination AT (Have about 2 years on them, good amount of tread left, inflated to 34 PSI)
- Moog lower ball joins (both sides)
- Moog upper control arms (both sides) w/ new bushings
- Moog linkages & bushings
- Front Swaybar bushings (Energy Suspension)
- Rear linkage & swaybar (same as above)
- Steering Alignment

I've been in the process of replacing the parts to try to soften it. I know it won't be a towncar, but want it to be at least a truck or similar to how the 99/2000 explorer drives.

To add to it:

It feels as if the suspension has 'settled flat'. When I hit a bump that propels the car up and extends the shocks, it feels amazingly soft in comparison when it lands. But when the car dips as if it has to contract the suspension and shocks more, it rides really hard as if there is nothing for the suspension to travel to soak it up except my spine and teeth.

Also when I hit bumps, it feels as if the tires are losing contact with the ground (wheel hop). Especially on the rear.

Does this have something to do with the torsion bars or something else I'm missing?

Sidenote: Just assuming this is a characteristic of the leaf springs in the back, but the car launches up after initially hitting speed bumps etc.
 



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What is your tire pressure? Once you go north of 30 lb you experience what you describe

Bill
 






What is your tire pressure? Once you go north of 30 lb you experience what you describe

Bill


34 on all 4 tires. Ill try dropping it to 30 for a day to feel the difference.
 






Did my morning commute this morning, and maybe it was a little better (or there's no difference and I really want it to feel as if it was better). All 4 tires were deflated to 30 psi.

Any other recommendations that I could look into?

Other notes: The weather is warm all year round, (rarely dips below 60), so not suffering from any cold weather (no salt or rust or similar underneath, its pretty clean). This weekend I'm planning on re-greasing the suspension.
 






Have the body mounts deteriorated or loosened? Might be worth a peek. Also check transmission and engine mounts for rubber loss/deterioration.

Bill
 






The engine mounts i can check but where are the transmission mounts located relative to the pan?

if i want to replace them do I have to lift the engine or drop the transmission?
 
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Just a follow up here in case someone else runs across it.

I used info found here: http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=334041

After looking at the transmission mount, it looks like that is bad, as well as when I was greasing my bushings (have Moog on the front with grease fittings), I noticed that my leaf spring shackle bushings were also bad, so those will need replacing.

I'm not sure if this will fix my ride quality issues, but looks like a step in the right direction. After this I'll take a look at the motor mounts.


General Question:
On Ford Explorer Sport (2 door, RWD), that does not do any towing, are there any benefits to swapping out for larger leaf springs from a 4 Door Explorer XLT? Or would it make the rear too stiff (or doesn't matter at all)?
 












Rancho shocks are not known for providing a soft/compliant ride. Neither are the Firestone A/T tires. 34 PSI is maybe a little on the high side, but w/in the suggested tire pressure. I run 32 PSI and find the ride is okay. I also use KYB Gas-a-Just shocks and Michelin LTX tires and find the ride on my 4-door's is pretty good. My 2 trucks with the towing package ride a bit rougher, but not by much. I know you've spent considerable money on your shocks and tires, so you're probably just going to have to live with the ride.
 






General Question:
On Ford Explorer Sport (2 door, RWD), that does not do any towing, are there any benefits to swapping out for larger leaf springs from a 4 Door Explorer XLT? Or would it make the rear too stiff (or doesn't matter at all)?

The multi-leaf pack is basically a progressive spring, so it should provide both a better ride and better load capacity (it should be softer than the monoleaf at low loads, and stiffer at high loads).

Not sure about your floaty ride. Maybe its a characteristic of the Rancho shock?

I think the wheel hop in the rear you describe is normal for this vehicle though.
 






I received a 1996 Ford Explorer Sport (4.0 SOHC) from family and its my project car. Lot of fun and easy to work on for the most part (lots of room to get my hands dirty), so I do most of the maintenance on my own.

My family is an explorer family (2006 Sport Trak, 2000 Explorer XLT, 1996 Explorer Sport, 1999 Explorer XLT). When I first got the car, I felt everything in the road (literally everything).

So far what I've done:

- 2x Rancho 9000XL on front
- 2x Rancho 9000XL on rear (I've tried a wide variety of settings and 4-6 feels the best right now for most roads.)
- 4x Firestone Destination AT (Have about 2 years on them, good amount of tread left, inflated to 34 PSI)
- Moog lower ball joins (both sides)
- Moog upper control arms (both sides) w/ new bushings
- Moog linkages & bushings
- Front Swaybar bushings (Energy Suspension)
- Rear linkage & swaybar (same as above)
- Steering Alignment

I've been in the process of replacing the parts to try to soften it. I know it won't be a towncar, but want it to be at least a truck or similar to how the 99/2000 explorer drives.

To add to it:

It feels as if the suspension has 'settled flat'. When I hit a bump that propels the car up and extends the shocks, it feels amazingly soft in comparison when it lands. But when the car dips as if it has to contract the suspension and shocks more, it rides really hard as if there is nothing for the suspension to travel to soak it up except my spine and teeth.

Also when I hit bumps, it feels as if the tires are losing contact with the ground (wheel hop). Especially on the rear.

Does this have something to do with the torsion bars or something else I'm missing?

Sidenote: Just assuming this is a characteristic of the leaf springs in the back, but the car launches up after initially hitting speed bumps etc.

It's the shocks you're using! I have found that in 2WD drive my Eddie Bauer rings after hitting a hard bump, I can feel the suspension resonate! I'm running the Monroe Sensatrac shocks that were original on the Eddie Bauer which are specifically capable of damping this ringing effect. Kicking my Eddie Bauer into Control Trac 4WD instantly redistributes power and tames this tendency for the front suspension to ring! It runs over wild pavement almost Lincoln Town Car like but feels as though it's on a rail! The shocks you're using harden up when they sense a major motion of the suspension and these would amplify this ringing effect! Thus it would throw the vehicle into the air over anything other than minor perturbations. The shocks are a major part of the torsion bar suspension, even determining front end vehicle height. To hard of a compression reaction would also throw the rear wheels off the ground giving an "axle hop" effect. Perhaps you should switch back to the ones Ford Motor company recommends, it sounds like the shocks you're running are causing this problem and you never know what will happen in a serious situation with these! The Explorer can be a very dangerous vehicle to drive if the suspension up front isn't working as it was designed! The Explorer suspension design has very little room for modifications, everything must be just so for it to work! The wrong shock characteristics can produce undesired and sometimes castrophic results, especially since they are an extremely critical part of the design!
 
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Ranchos are generally very good for full size trucks. Your shocks should be adjustable. My hunch is they are currently set very stiff hence the crappy ride quality (explorers are fairly light compared to other vehicles the same shocks fit). Try turning the setting to the lightest one and take a test drive. If too mushy, increase one increment at a time until it feels responsive enough for your tastes.
 






^ Ditto Allen and Romeoville on shocks. Also, the 10" shorter Sport wheelbase greatly contributes to a firmer ride.
Out of curiosity, how far are the lower control arms from the bump stops? Possibly weakened or sagging torsion bars?
I've tried a wide variety of settings and 4-6 feels the best right now for most roads.
rs9000xl_9levels_txt.png
 
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Unlikely your "rebound" problem, but probably worth checking. Kevlar torsion bar pads were used in 1995-97 Explorers.

http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=393048

http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=140038

Yeah, when I last took the front suspension down, they looked exactly like the pictures (torn through etc), and replaced them with a piece thin blown out tire as a separator (it seemed to work fine and was a suggestion from a mechanic) but I'll take a look at how it is doing now that it has been about 6 months since that change.

The key part of the torsion bars and I think the kevlar/lubrication, is the angle of attack of the Explorer hitting an incline or decline. For example, turning into a steep driveway from a level road, before I put the tire ad-hoc replacement in, I would end up with an audible 'clank' as the truck turned into the hill. Assuming from chasis flex and the torsion bars.

Ranchos are generally very good for full size trucks. Your shocks should be adjustable. My hunch is they are currently set very stiff hence the crappy ride quality (explorers are fairly light compared to other vehicles the same shocks fit). Try turning the setting to the lightest one and take a test drive. If too mushy, increase one increment at a time until it feels responsive enough for your tastes.

I drive through a variety of terrain where I live on an almost daily/weekly basis, so I use the heck out of the adjustable shocks. It was the main selling point for me to get the Ranchos honestly.

My roads at their best:
IMG_5531.jpg


Typical patched road quality:
IMG_3575.jpg


Normal Roads at their worst (it gets worse, but these are normal):
potholed-road.jpg
costa-rica-typical-road4.jpg


Typical Road when I go camping once a month:
DSC00843-300x200.jpg


So you can see why smoothing out the suspension as much as possible is important to me (and my teeth!)

^ Ditto Allen and Romeoville on shocks. Also, the 10" shorter Sport wheelbase greatly contributes to a firmer ride.
Out of curiosity, how far are the lower control arms from the bump stops? Possibly weakened or sagging torsion bars?

rs9000xl_9levels_txt.png

I'd have to take a look for exact measurement, but there is at minimum a hand span between the bumper and lower control arm. (3" or so) I can try measuring tonight for more specific. It wasn't in the way at all when I was greasing the ball joints.

It's the shocks you're using! I have found that in 2WD drive my Eddie Bauer rings after hitting a hard bump, I can feel the suspension resonate! I'm running the Monroe Sensatrac shocks that were original on the Eddie Bauer which are specifically capable of damping this ringing effect. Kicking my Eddie Bauer into Control Trac 4WD instantly redistributes power and tames this tendency for the front suspension to ring! It runs over wild pavement almost Lincoln Town Car like but feels as though it's on a rail! The shocks you're using harden up when they sense a major motion of the suspension and these would amplify this ringing effect! Thus it would throw the vehicle into the air over anything other than minor perturbations. The shocks are a major part of the torsion bar suspension, even determining front end vehicle height. To hard of a compression reaction would also throw the rear wheels off the ground giving an "axle hop" effect. Perhaps you should switch back to the ones Ford Motor company recommends, it sounds like the shocks you're running are causing this problem and you never know what will happen in a serious situation with these! The Explorer can be a very dangerous vehicle to drive if the suspension up front isn't working as it was designed! The Explorer suspension design has very little room for modifications, everything must be just so for it to work! The wrong shock characteristics can produce undesired and sometimes castrophic results, especially since they are an extremely critical part of the design!

My car is a RWD, not an AWD or 4WD. So not possible to switch that around to try to smooth it out. I did some adjustments based on stuff I've been reading and the feedback here:

For the front end so far:
  • Greased Swaybar Bushings, greased ball joints (top & bottom)
  • Adjusted Ranchos to level 6 (started at level 4 was too spongey)
  • Applied lubrication to control arm bushings (those are new as of 6 months ago)
  • Dropped tire pressure to 32 PSI

Those helped immensely. The front feels pretty good, rear is still giving problems.

For the back end:
  • Greased the swaybar bushings & linkage bushings
  • Reinforced rear shocks with washers. (worried that if I hit one of the many potholes in succession it might shear a shock, so it seems like a cheap preventative fix.)
  • Dropped tire pressure to 32 PSI

Problems I've identified so far:
  • Bad transmission mount, the material very brittle and rubbed away when I rubbed my finger on it.
  • Bad leaf spring shackle bushings (shackles are in very good condition, no rust or rust-through). I think this might be part of my rear suspension problem.
  • Slight sag on the driver side rear (due to leaf spring with gas tank/driver over years as I've read in other posts.)
 






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