Then and Now: My '94 XLT 4x4 "Midnight" | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Then and Now: My '94 XLT 4x4 "Midnight"

I start this after my truck's first batch of "major" work, as I figured that it was fitting. I bought Midnight back in January of 2008 for $1500, and boy was she a find. A diamond in the rough, the truck was in damn near immaculate condition for her age and location. She only had 97,000 miles on her, and she had/has no body rust. That is amazing, considering she is a Jersey shore truck, and our salty/watery/near-the-ocean air loves to rust metal.

Midnight and I started our 'relationship' rather relaxed, being nothing more than a to school, from school, to work, from work vehicle and myself having virtually NO mechanical knowledge. It was only after a few months that I started to entertain the idea of off roading with her. My first off roading run was a lot more unsuccessful than I would've preffered, running with virtually bald Goodyear Wrangler RT/S's and a transfer case that wouldn't quite engage, I got stuck what seemed like every other patch of sand. By the end of the day, however, I was hooked. I retreated home with a very dirty Ford Explorer that was nursing a borked windshield (the Grand Cherokee infront of me threw up some stones >.<).

My first obstacle that needed tackling was:

WHY WOULDNT THE 4x4 WORK!?

After searching around on google, I found this amazing site, and after a couple weeks of talking with my uncle (who had owned a first generation explorer and LOVED it) I decided to toy around with it. Only now, looking back and analyzing what I did and how I fixed it, can I accurately guess at what was truly wrong:

The damn thing was gunked up.

After looking at it funny for a few minutes, poking here, prodding here, looking at the haynes manual for a few minutes and then resuming my poking and prodding, I took the truck for a test drive and got up to about 50 mph before hitting the 4x4 button. To my amazment and joy there was a loud clank and you could audibly hear the front driveshaft spining up to speed.

I had accidentally fixed my own four wheel drive.

Armed with working 4x4, I began tackling some little trails by my house for some fun. To the parent's dismay, of course.

Alas, here comes the first infusion of money and parts to the truck: One of my old as hell RT/S's blew out on the road, and a few weeks later my truck was clad in new BFG TA/KO's, unfortunately stock sized but what the hell they were better than street slicks! Around the same time my first "off road parts" were acquired, two Marchal Magnum lights. I have no idea how old they are, what they were originally for, all I know is that they light the hell up out of everything in front of them.

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The only thing I was lacking, in my mind, was the ability to communicate with the other guys on the trail. Which brings my little Sony Sport CB into play. I had it sitting in a closet for like...three years, with no antenna! So, after talking to that same Explorer-lover uncle, I got myself a big old magnet mount antenna and plopped it right in the middle of the roof. Yeah, every time you hit a nasty bump it falls over, or every time you drive under branches, or every time you look at it wrong. But it works, and that is just how I roll.

I was set. So, after talking to some of the guys on here, I went on my second "real" off roading run.

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I handled my own. Dished out more than I took, that's for sure.

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So I think we went on two of these trips before I ripped out the carpet and the next part was ordered and put on the truck (Remember, High school/College student with no real access to money...) which was....!

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This sexy grille guard! It serves no other purpose than to protect my old as hell lights from idiots in the parking lot. So more offroading ensues, until the first "No turning back" modification came to my truck. It was scary. It was sometimes un-nerving. But...we did it. Midnight could now effectively breathe underwater.

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Of course the engine computer is still down in the passenger side kick pannel, and yeah the breather lines need to be extended, but the snorkel was deffinitely a big step in the right direction. I had gotten too close to getting water in my truck too many times, and I wanted some sort of security.

And then came what I call "The Build".

The build was the result of myself comming into some money that wasn't needed for paying bills or anything. Money that I could use for what I wanted. Holy ****. Money you can actually spend on the things you want. You'd never imagine it. Anyway. I thought for a few weeks on how best to use that money on Midnight...and came up with this plan:

3" Body Lift.
2" Suspension Lift consisting of:
2" Coil Spacers
New Custom Fabbed Shackles
F-150 Leaf Springs
33x12.50x15 Tires
Torq-Masters "Aussie Locker".

I ordered the parts, and we were under way. I got myself some used LT285/75/16 BFG TA/KM's and had them mounted on 1996 Eddie Bauer 16" rims (Thanks Jack!). The body lift took me and 2 buddies about 3 days of a few hours a day work. The suspension lift went on in about 5 hours, and after a NIGHTMARE at 3 different alignment shops, Midnight was back on the road. I've got some minor rubbing at full wheel lock as the tire sidewall rubs against the radius arm. Going to have to be careful driving her until I can invest in brand new tires/rims with better backspacing. Around this time I decided to take the "Family Protectors" off, as I call them. The running boards. Underneath, most Explorers around here have HORRID rust problems. But as obvious in the pictures, Midnight is perfectly intact complete with all the little drain holes for the body.

And here she is, "finished":

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She's my valiant steed, and as Alleizonme can attest to she takes me through things that I shouldnt be able to get through. More is obviously on the way, as I find better pics of little details like how I mounted my CB and how we built the snorkel and whatnot. For any newbie explorers who want to drastically increase their offroading potential with minimal money, my build has MORE than worked for me. Total, not counting the alignment, this was a $600 job. 5" of lift and a locker for $600 sounds pretty damn good to me.

-Will
 



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Looks Good! Bet ya can't wait to test it? lol BUT we can also attest that because you tried some of that stuff that we were your personal tow truck when we went out! hahaha hopefully with the locker that won't be the case anymore right?
 






Well, some updates: The 4WD stopped working again, blew the front pump seal on the transmission, and I'm having alternator troubles! But! That's okay. We're fixing and going to give the truck a fine tooth comb as we fix. Probably the Tcase shift motor is culprit for the 4x4 problems.
 






nice x u got there will
 






Hopefully you'll have her all set and working before the 19th that way she can actually make it through the mud this time. Here's hoping she's fixed by then!:thumbsup:
 






It's been a while, and I'm lacking pictures right now, but I wanted to update this thread.

Since the last time I updated a lot of things changed. I'll talk about it in "Stage 1" and "Stage 2". Stage 1 includes everything that's already been talked about plus some more, Stage 2 is a whole different world altogether :)

Stage 1, as you all know if you've read this thread, includes my 2" budget suspension lift and my 3" body lift on 285/75/16 tires. I took this setup out off roading ONCE and on that one trip my transmission hand-grenaded. I was slipping gears and when I got out of the truck transmission fluid was POURING out of the bellhousing. After a hairy midnight-towing venture to pull her home, the trans problem was identifed as a bad trans pump.

Well, not one to abandon my baby, I grabbed another A4LD at the junkyard and swapped trannies, which got me back on the road with little problems. I drove her daily for while, before I started to notice that the bargain M/T's I was driving on were pretty beat. I got them for $70 for the set, and the tread was getting pretty low. In the rain I was all over the road, especially with the locker, and I needed something else.

Enter my Grand Cherokee bud, Bret, and his rig which I lovingly named "Troll".

He had a full set of 35x12.5x15's sitting around on Black Window D rims with 4" backspacing, which he gave me to help me out. We jacked my truck up, put them on, and then grabbed the cutting wheels. The fenders had to get trimmed to let them fit. I tried to follow the general body lines of the truck as I cut, at first only taking a little. Then we'd turn the wheels to check the clearance, and cut more. Finally, it ended up something like this:

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This is what, for a year, was considered the "Finished Product." It drove fine, the suspension was kinda stiff, but she tackled mud and water and snow like a champ. Of course, I didn't realize until almost 9 months after I did all this work, that I had been doing all this off roading in 2 wheel drive. My hubs had been shot, and even the newer hubs I had installed had blown out after only 1 trip with my 35's. :roll:

So, after the massive snow storm we had, I went to the junkyard (in the snow) and grabbed myself a set of Warn hubs I had seen there earlier. I slapped those puppies on, put her in 4x4, and WOW. The difference was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Where my 4x4 with the crappy autohubs would engage and disengage whenever it felt like it, with the new manual hubs I TRULY had 4x4 for the first time since I bought the truck.

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(notice the manual hubs)

We also took the time to install some proper tow points, with the 20,000lb tow rings from an Expedition going in the rear and the standard 10,000lb tow hooks from a Blazer going up front.

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With my newfound 4x4, I tackled some trails and an offroad trip in the snow, and had a blast. I went through mud and snow and climbed places where before I blew autohubs and had to back down. I was proud to drive the X, as more than once people complemented me and said how "We thought you were gone back there, I wouldn't have made it!"

But all good things have to end, and this is about when I got in my accident:

(pics soon)

I bashed my passenger side headlight in, trashed the passenger side fender, snapped my steering box in half, and totally demolished the front TTB. :(

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I wasn't about to give up on this truck, however, and instead started on my next build up. Stage 2. Before my accident I had acquired a set of 1979 F150 axles that I was building up for an 'eventual' solid axle swap. I got the axles for the low price of $150 for the set, both had good 3.55 gear sets and it was only later that I realized they were both limited slips.

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So we started the solid axle swap to repair the damage cause by my accident. At this time we also decided to re-do my interior, since my driver side door panel was toast. The interior I'll talk about later, now I'll talk about the SAS.

We decided to go with the relatively standard early-bronco type suspension, with coil springs, radius arms, and a trac bar. We went full-width to avoid the hassle of getting new axleshafts. I'll add pictures later, can't get to them at work. It took us about 3 months due to income problems and weather, but we managed to finish the whole thing and now the truck sits high over those itty bitty 35's. I used superflex 5.5" EB coil springs, along with my F150 leaf springs in a spring-over configuration. I used an adjustable trac bar originally designed for a ZJ jeep (another gift from Bret, the Grand Cherokee buddy) and that worked wonderfully with some slight modification. I had to shave some metal off of the johnny joint at the frame-end of the trac bar, while at the same time widening my trac bar mount to squeeze the new trac bar in. But it worked. I spaced out my coil buckets with 2"x2"x5" pieces of 1/4" thick wall square tube.

For rear shock mounts we used the Explorer stock U-bolt plates, simply swapping them passenger for driver and mounting them upside down. This has given me no problems, however I may move to a more traditional on-the-axle shock mount for more articulation.

For steering I used the stock F150 tie rod and the Explorer drag link, this seems to work fine, however the Explorer drag link is too long for this setup and my steering wheel is at about a 40 degree angle to driver side when driving straight. I'm going to cut about an inch off of the threaded section of one of the tie rod ends that makes the drag link to allow for more adjusting.

She ran and drove great for a month, until I ran into MORE transmission problem. Faced with replacing my 2nd A4LD in as many years, I said "F This" and got myself an M5OD manual which I am in the process of installing. I also just installed a new cat-back exhaust and have new ball joints and a new tie rod ready to go on to remove some of the 'slop' out of my steering. I'll let you guys know and keep you updated as I go!
 






Once things calm down with fixing stuff, I'm also going to be trying to modify/reinforce a B2 spare tire carrier and mount it to the X. I'm hoping to do a full write-up, I'll keep you guys posted!
 






So, since I get easily distracted and forget what I want to do/need to do to the truck, I'm going to make a list of future mods/repairs!

1. M5OD/Manual Trans swap
2. Replace bad alternator
3. Replace bad fuel pump/solve no fuel delivery problem
4. Ball Joints/Tie Rods
5. Go to Junkyard and grab 5x5.5 spare wheel and have a 35" mounted on it
6. B2/Full Size Bronco Rear Tire Carrier
7. Dual alternators and dual batteries
8. Drivers window repair (the little plastic bushings are toast)
9. 5.0L MAF
10. Snorkel upgrades (K/N drop-in filter in the box, Safari snorkel top on top)
11. Waterproofing computer (I've actually already started this, I'm going to do a writeup on it)

All of these, from 1-11, should be short-term jobs and will/have to get done. The ones below are my 'wish list'.

12. 15x10 Beadlocks with 37x12.50x15 TSL's or IROK Radials. I really want BFG TA/KM2s, but they don't come big enough! :(
13. 5.13 Gears front/rear with an ECTED or Elocker up front and a lunchbox or detroit in the rear
14. Custom bumpers front/rear
15. 10,000lb winch

If anyone has any suggestions or things to add to this build, let me know! :)
 






-I like the tranny swap plan (manual hubs too?)

-why dual alternators? get a stronger alternator when you replace (at least 130amp)and have dual batteries with an isolation system. You can either wire the second battery so it only activates when you turn the key to the ignition position, or have a separate switch so you can be the boss. Either way it gives you confidence that you won't need a jumpstart one day because you played the stereo too long.

-cheers
 






Manual hubs of course, i'm SAS now.

And dual alternators because it'd be essentially free...I've got two 90 watt alternators sitting around. If I built it for dual alts I can always upgrade one later, and I don't want to worry about my battery when I'm winching someone. (When I get a winch.)
 






Well, I figured I'd update this even though no one really follows it! :P

I have a list up here of 15 things I want to do. Let's update it:

1. M5OD/Manual Trans swap - DONE
2. Replace bad alternator - DONE
3. Replace bad fuel pump/solve no fuel delivery problem - DONE
4. Ball Joints/Tie Rods - DONE
5. Go to Junkyard and grab 5x5.5 spare wheel and have a 35" mounted on it
6. B2/Full Size Bronco Rear Tire Carrier
7. Dual alternators and dual batteries
8. Drivers window repair (the little plastic bushings are toast)
9. 5.0L MAF
10. Snorkel upgrades (K/N drop-in filter in the box, Safari snorkel top on top)
11. Waterproofing computer (I've actually already started this, I'm going to do a writeup on it)
12. 15x10 Beadlocks with 37x12.50x15 TSL's or IROK Radials. I really want BFG TA/KM2s, but they don't come big enough!
13. 5.13 Gears front/rear with an ECTED or Elocker up front and a lunchbox or detroit in the rear
14. Custom bumpers front/rear
15. 10,000lb winch

So, I've made some progress over the last few months. And I just took a step backwards, too. I toasted my clutch. Time for a new list!

1. Replace Clutch
2. Reinforce Shock Towers
3. Fix grinding noise from rear differential limited slip
4. Fix vibrations. 15-20mph and 45mph+
5. Go to Junkyard and grab 5x5.5 spare wheel and have a 35" mounted on it
6. B2/Full Size Bronco Rear Tire Carrier
7. Dual alternators and dual batteries
8. Drivers window repair (the little plastic bushings are toast)
9. 5.0L MAF
10. Snorkel upgrades (K/N drop-in filter in the box, Safari snorkel top on top)
11. Waterproofing computer (I've actually already started this, I'm going to do a writeup on it)
12. 15x10 Beadlocks with 37x12.50x15 TSL's or IROK Radials. I really want BFG TA/KM2s, but they don't come big enough!
13. 5.13 Gears front/rear with an ECTED or Elocker up front and a lunchbox or detroit in the rear
14. Custom bumpers front/rear
15. 10,000lb winch
 






the list never really seems to get any shorter does it ;)

my list of to do's just keeps growing , even after i get stuff on the list done and checked off.

look forward to some updated pics , especially the sas setup.
 






SAS Pictures

Rear 9" Axle:

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Rear Shock Setup:

My rear shock setup is worthy to note for people who are trying to save some $$ or just trying to keep rear shocks they may have just bought. Simply take your stock explorer ubolt plates/shock mounts and flip them driver side for passenger side and put them up top...whallah...it works great.

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Front Axle Shot:

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Steering Setup:

My Steering setup is the stock explorer drag link/tie rod (the longer bar) with some length cut off one of the two tie rod ends so it has more inward adjustment. This modified explorer drag link is then mated to a stock 1979 F150 tie rod. (Stock replacement, thats an upgraded replacement tie rod)

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Coil Buckets and Shock Towers:

This setup is OK, but I'm not fond of it. Check out Jame's Duff's new SAS Ranger/Explorer coil buckets. That's what I'd like to use in the future. But this DOES work well, you just need to keep eyes on the bolts and your shocks...mine are too long for this setup.

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Wow, very nice build! I'd like to do several of the susp mods on my first gen when I run into some spendable money.
 






So, I've made some progress over the last few months. And I just took a step backwards, too. I toasted my clutch. Time for a new list!

welcome to the world of owning a modified vehicle that is used for a purpose.... dosnt matter if its a race car or an offroader, this will always be the way


6. B2/Full Size Bronco Rear Tire Carrier

dont... see my thread for the reasons why, page 17 iirc, the naysayers are right, the body will give. build a bumper with a mount on it will work out much better
 






Dang, don't have the funds or the skills to build a bumper (poor college kid) and I can't keep running without a spare. There's no way to reinforce the mounting points so it doesn't tear the body apart?
 






if i knew you were contemplating this i woulda shown you the plates left over from the one i had. im sure theres a way, but i gave up on the idea, i liked the swing out with the 31 on it, the 35 is to heavy and as it is i had stress damage from both the lower hinge and the latch on the gate. i went with the method of sandwiching steel plates, but it wasnt one whole peice on the inside due to the floor and the chanel that runs under the rear window.

i keep my spare standing up on the left side bungied to the side of the truck, it fits beleive it or not
 






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