Tom's '97 XLT registry | Page 15 | 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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Looking to get new front coil springs. I don't like how tippy my rig is in certain situations. Current ones are RE1345 from Rubicon Express. They have a 184 lbf/in spring rate. They are intended for use on an XJ. I've been looking into it and an XJ weighs about 1000 lb less than an Explorer. I think I need coils with about 210 lbf/in springs.

The search is on......

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Maybe some LJ springs? Not sure if grand Cherokee springs will work but they would be rated for more weight

I think I found my spring solution. Iron Rock Offroad out of Minnesota sells an 8" lift for XJs with a 245 lb/in spring rate but even with my heavier rig, my calculations show is get a 2" additional lift.

BUT if I cut 2 coils off, I should be right where I want height wise and it should bump up the spring rate right to the 290 lb/in range that I was shooting for.

Probably order them soon.

Installed my Iron Rock Offroad 7.5" lift ZJ springs today. According to my calculations, these springs as is would have given me an additional 2" of lift. I don't need any more lift thank you very much. But, doing my spring rate calculations, cutting out 2 coil would give me about the same amount of lift that I already have and give me a spring with about 280 lb/in rate. The springs I pulled out are Rubicon Express 5.5" lift XJ springs with 184 lb/in rate.

While these XJ springs flex great on the trail, I've bottomed out a couple times doing somethings that I would not expect to bottom out on. And on the road they seem way too soft and tend to wallow after hitting bumps and humps. I realize my vehicle is heavily modified and won't ever handle like stock, but I felt I could improve it.

to get the springs out, I just had to disconnect the sway bar and jack up on one side and pull it out. The first one was easy because the other soft RE spring was getting compressed on the other side. Getting the second spring out was not easy. The front tire actually comes up off the ground and still wasn't loose enough to get it out easily.

But a ratchet strap connected to the other leaf spring mount pulled it right out.


Getting the second ZJ spring in was not easy at all. I had to use more ratchet straps to act as spring compressors to get it into position. It sucked. Didn't get any pictures either.

But initial road impressions are favorable. Much more composed. I know I'll give up a little flex on the trail, but I think I'll be OK. Hopefully won't bottom out anymore.

Also picked up a recovery kit from a member of another local forum:

Nice! Looking forward to see how they work for you, what sway bar are you running ?

Factory spot too? It touches my coils if mounted there on mine

Storage in my rig is something that will probably always be evolving. For about the last year I've been carrying around my tools in the "black suitcase" that my Craftsman set came in. I recently ordered a tool roll from Adventure Tool Company. It's a company based in a small Colorado mountain town of Nederland. Very well done. I'm impressed with this thing. I have a feeling this will get passed down to someone else many years from now.

I opened up the cardboard shipping box and found the roll neatly wrapped up along with a paper map of Colorado. Nice touch!

I opened up that note card and found a hand written note thanking me for my purchase. How do I know it was hand written? Along with my tool roll order, I ordered another sticker and the note said "we've included another sticker for you". All in the same font and ink.

This is the empty toolroll:

So here's my tool drawer before. Getting the plastic suitcase out was always a pain because it just barely fit with the drawer open.

Here's all the tools I packed in here. I used bailing wire to group the sockets together and carabiners to hold the wrenches together.

And then the tool drawer afterwards. Looks pretty much the same right? What you can't see is the bag of recovery gear at the front of the drawer that wasn't in there before.

Very nice product.

Well after doing the spring swap last weekend, I needed to get out and see how it performed. On the road it's MUCH better. It's now way more composed going over bumps and dips in the roadway. I drove it to work for several days while my Expedition was down with a cracked intake manifold. The ride is stiffer, but in a good way.

But how will it handle the trail?

To answer that I hooked up with a buddy to get in a quick trail run Sunday morning. We had the trail bagged and were eating lunch by 11:30. Nice.

On the trail it is also stiffer. But before I was riding on what felt like a pillow- which was good from time to time but also meant I would rock back and forth excessively and bottom out easily. The ride is still better than the torsion bars, and there is still some good flex.



I think this trail didn't flex it as much as it could go. But I'm happy.

Got something to help clear fallen trees from the trail. I debated getting a chainsaw but they are bulky and problematic at changing altitudes. And oil and chains and gas (or a large inverter and extension cord......). Some guys in local overlanding group have this saw and it works great.


Installed my new rack today. It's an Eezi-Awn for

Getting the old rack off was fairly easy with a screw driver bit in my impact gun. Except the rear most fasteners on both sides just spun freely in their blind nuts- although they pulled free of the rack (which probably wasn't good).

The underside looks like this. Unfortunately, the rearmost are in this "pocket" and you can barely get fingers up in there to get a nut on:

But some Dremel action makes short work of it and I was able to push it through:

Next I laid a strip of masking tape on the roof to mark the holes. I then transferred that to the new rails and drilled them:

The new rails installed:

Because the roof is not flat- from about the B-pillar forward is pitched down, the new rail is sort of suspended in the air. Paul, the runs Equipt1 ran into this same problem on his 4Runner. If I dropped the headliner all the way I could drill a new attach point. Maybe in the future.

But with the rack feet tightened down all the way, I can push this down a little so it's not as bad as shown here.

Installed and ready to go:


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How much and how long is it ? Looks good

I think I'm probably going to stick with the stock one and extend it forward all the way to the windshield