Tom's '97 XLT registry | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Tom's '97 XLT registry

Here's my registry. It's not going to really serve as much of a build log or anything, just to help keep track of the (minor) things I do to it along the way.
(Edit: yeah, that all turned out to not be true...... Keep reading to see what I mean)

This is my 1997 XLT. I bought it on 10/13/2010 with 117,500 miles for $2000. It has the SOHC V6, 3.55 rear end and the "Controltrac 4 wheel drive".

This is basically as it was when I brought it home:

Interior shots:pG[/IMG]
(lost photos)

side-step boards
6,000 lb receiver
Ford mudflaps (removed)
hood wind/bug deflector

This Explorer wasn't abused- just a little neglected. The interior is in good shape. The paint isn't in horrible shape- some dings and scratches here and there. All-in-all, good shape for a 13 year old vehicle.

cracked and pitted windshield (fixed via post 61)
inoperable 3rd brake light (fixed via post 68)
inoperable fog lights (DS housing is smashed on backside and button on dash does not illuminate) (removed)
poor heater output (fixed via post 3)
coolant temp gauge not moving much (fixed via post 3)
pulsing front brakes (fixed via post 2)
slightly sagging rear end (fixed via post 7)
weak hood lift struts (fixed via post 5)
weak glass lift struts
weak tailgate lift struts
broken driver's seat recline handle (fixed via post 8)
leaking rear transfer case output seal (fixed via post 23)
worn shocks (fixed via post 7)
alignment out-of-whack (fixed via post 12)
lack of engine power (fixed via post 3)

So basically from here on out, this registry will be dedicated to how I have breathed some life back into this thing and some adventures along the way. I've already addressed some of the issues mentioned above. I'll try to post as many pictures as I can, but I know I've already failed on some.

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New front brake rotors and pads.

I've been a fan of Autozone's Duralast brand for quite a few years. The parts seem to be pretty decent quality. I went with a set of Duralast #54035 rotors and Duralast Gold Cmax #DGC652 pads. The Cmax pads are ceramic pads that come with all new brake caliper hardware (the thin metal clips and whatnot). The Cmax pads also come with a lifetime warranty. I'm not a huge fan of brake pads that last forever (they are wear items afterall) but I decided to give these a try. While I was in there I made sure to clean and lube the slider pins.

Old brakes:

The old rotors did not come off without a fight. I think I need a bigger BFH.

New brakes:

Worn front rotors- notice the groove on the outer edge. The old pads still had plenty of life but with the pulsing pedal and grooved rotor, it was time to reset the clock.

So far, I've been happy with the brakes. They seem to grab quite well and are very smooth. I come from a motorsport background, so I think I know good brakes when I see/feel them.

The ceramic compound of the pads have lived up to their low dust reputation so far. I know ceramic isn't the best material for brake pads since ceramic is an insulator and is fairly hard, but these seem to be working great so far.


I've basically got the mindset that everything on this truck is original except for gas, oil and tires so I decided to change the spark plugs. What a PAIN! Thoughts of broken plugs and stripped threads danced in my head as I wrestled with getting them out. Once out, I was pretty sure these were the factory plugs. Most of them were worn to about .090" or so.

I put in a set of Autolite double platinum plugs #APP103 gapped to .052". I also decided to put in new plug wires for good measure. For those I went with a set of Duralast #4677 wires. The Duralast wires seemed to be a hair thicker in diameter than the factory wires I pulled out as they were a little stubborn to get into the wire clips around the engine bay.

As a result, the engine seems to respond to throttle inputs MUCH better and accelerates faster.

I also tackled the thermostat and coolant on this day. As mentioned in post 1 in my issues, the heat output was crappy and the temp gauge didn't really seem to move much. When I opened the thermostat housing, I found out why:

The plate on the right was laying in the bottom of the thermostat housing. I've never actually seen a thermostat break into 3 pieces before. Surely this thing was original as well. I replaced it with a #13649 from Autozone (don't remember what brand).

The coolant was also flushed. I cringed at the sight of what came out:

I refilled with a roughly 55/45 water/coolant mix with a small splash of Red Line Water Wetter. It's no surprise that the heat output in the cabin is great and the temp gauge works like it should now.


Changed the PCV. What a pain! Used the boiling water trick to get the plastic tee off the top. I had to grind down the barb on the new PCV to prevent the plastic tee from cracking.


Changed the fuel filter with a Wix #33296.

No real reason. Just figured with the history of this truck, wouldn't hurt.

Also took on the messy job of dropping the transmission pan to change the filter and replace some of the fluid. I know the inherent risk of changing the fluid on what's very likely 117,000 mile fluid. The transmission was running fine before and has continued to run fine so far (118,420 miles as of this posting) afterwards. I put in 4 qts of new Mecron V ATF and a 10 oz bottle of Lubegard friction modifier (per Glacier's recommendations).

Sorry, no pictures. I hate ATF. Crap gets everywhere.

The plan is to do it again around Jan/Feb of 2011 and again around Aug 2011 and then stick to 30,000 mile intervals. I'm also planning on adding an external filter and an additional aux cooler soon.


The rear of my Explorer was sagging about 1-1.5" from the front. In the future I'd like to tow a popup camper trailer so I'd like to add some carrying capacity to the rear, while getting a mild lift. I got a Pro-Comp add-a-leaf kit.

Sorry, no pictures.

Install was pretty good- just messy. Lots of dirt and silt under the truck. I mostly followed this thread HERE for the install.

While I had everything apart, I installed some Rancho RS5000 shocks front and rear.

Also no pictures, sorry.

I also did a little TT up front to match the small lift I got out of the AAL in the rear. Afterwards, I had about 33" from the ground to the fenders. Overall ride was stiffer as a result of the AAL and new shocks, but it's all stiffer in a good way.


The lack of ability of recline the driver's seat finally got to me. I searched the forums and found that some people have tied a rope around what's left of the broken handle. This sounded like a decent alternative to getting either a junkyard replacement or an expensive redesigned part- either of which could also break.

It works. It's not great, but it works and the rope can be tucked out of sight.

That coolant looks horrendous! D:

Nice truck! Lots of good maintenance you got going here! Keep it up, and it will run forever! :)


I installed an Amsoil EaA122 nano fiber air filter.

I like the fact that it's a reusable dry filter. I've run K&Ns before but the washing and reoiling can be a pain. And Amsoil seems to be pretty confident that this thing filters better than anything out there.

No pics. It's a stock sized, drop in filter that's got blue filter media. Use your imagination.

Low end response seems to have been increased. I plan on modding the airbox but wanted to get used to this before I went off and changed that too.


NEW TIRES! I love the smell of new tires!

I went with 30x9.5r15 BFG KO T/A tires. I also upped the pressure from the door sticker 26 psi (I guess it never got the updated sticker) to 35 psi.

For the past several years with my previous car (2003 Mazda Protege) I've been using summer tires in the non-winter months and winter tires in the winter. These BFG tires come pretty highly regarded and have the snow-flake symbol on them which means they should work better in the snow than a normal all-season tire. Even though I've now got 4wd, I've always had 4 wheel braking and braking is usually where you get into trouble in the snow. Plus they'll go off road.

Switching for a P-rated passenger tire to the LT-rated light truck tire and increased air pressure has made the suspension feel a little more stiff, but it's all good.

I can't wait for it to snow!

The old Goodyear Wrangler RT/S tires weren't worn out- they still had 8/32" of tread remaining They were showing some signs of dry rot cracks though. They were kind of old- molded in the 19th and 20th weeks of 2007. I sold them on craigslist for $100 90 minutes after I originally posted the listing. I got 2 calls and 1 email in that time.


Got an alignment. The steering wheel wasn't quite straight while driving and I thought I noticed some odd wear on the old Goodyears. Since I got new tires, I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to ruin them prematurely.

Turns out the right side toe was out of spec.

Now the wheel is nice and straight and everything is within spec.

man, Your 30's look bigger than my 31's :confused: . maybe because my torsion bars are cranked up a little bit... But i love the BFGs, good choice!


New Radiator cap.

The old one (Motorcraft- so again, likely original) didn't seem to be sealing anymore. I've been losing coolant slowly since I bought the truck. The cap didn't seem to sit really tight and the underside of the lip would be wet and the smell of hot/burnt coolant seemed always present.

The new one (pic to follow) immediately seemed to sit more securely.

I like your updates Tom- it's a good resource as well for the new Ex owners regarding a lot of the usual stuff they're going to need to do when they buy a 100k mile Ex... :thumbsup:

That is more or less my intention. I'm trying to take a page out of your book on OCD.

I thought of you when I had my door panel off and my hands were getting incredibly dirty.

I like what you have done so far!
Glad to see you got rid of those RT/S's I hated mine.
Glad to have another Colorado member! Where are you located?

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Nice looking truck. I would have cleaned up those calipers and painted them black while you had it apart..