Tom's '97 XLT registry | Page 20 | 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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Working on a flip down table for my swingout. This is just a prototype, but I’ll probably stick with wood.


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Added a 1st gen Expedition grab handle to my A-Pillar. When I owned a 1st gen Expedition, I used it all the time. My passengers are very thankful for the addition.
Great idea, are there nut-wells in the passenger A pillars on all the Explorers? Or did you add some to the pillar?


Great idea, are there nut-wells in the passenger A pillars on all the Explorers? Or did you add some to the pillar?

I had to add my own. And shave the handle a little. And get longer screws. Typical custom install.

Hello? Is there anybody out there?

I’m still here. Still have the Explorer. Still playing with it. Those on the facebook groups probably see me post every so often. But I figured I needed to update this registry. I’ve done a few things.

I added some limit straps because my shocks were what was limiting droop. I took took some measurements and welded up some brackets. Seemed to work well. But on the compression side of things, the strap was getting smashed against the track bar mount and ended up cutting the strap. To fix that, I added additional bump stop material.




I decided I didn’t like the look of my front bumper anymore and wanted to add more protection to the front end. I also wanted to rework the rear bumper to add the ability to carry a 2nd gas can and a hi-lift jack.

Front bumper before:

Front bumper after the rework:

Rear bumper before:

Rear bumper after:


Nice updates to the bumpers! i do see you post on facebook, im not on the forums as much either. just happened to be on the computer today and see the email notification

keep at it!

I’m not sure how this came to be- I suspect the bolts for my front lower control arms weren’t tight enough and it wallowed out the holes some. I could hear/feel a bump when loading the suspension- even using the brakes on the street. I got some weld washers to take care of the problem.

I didn’t get a picture of it after. It’s basically a conical washer that you weld in place.

My rear swingout bumper is great and all, but over the years I’ve broken the latch twice. After the 2nd time, I figured it was breaking because the bolt was being side loaded while restraining the swingout portion. So I moved it to the back side of the swingout so the bolt was just in tension.




Nice to see all the updates collected! Definitely been seeing ya post on facebook too, but nice to see the progress altogether!

Previously I had Rancho 7000s on the front and 9000s on the back. They worked OK. But after putting some Bilstein 5100s on my 2014 Expedition and REALLY liking them, I decided to upgrade the Explorer’s shocks. But I decided to go with Bilstein 7100s. They have a reservoir but are not adjustable.

Brian Built Fabrication provided the rear upper pin bar upgrade (sorry, no picture) so I have a wider variety of shocks available.

Definite improvement in on and off road handling with the Bilsteins.

I don’t have great pics of the front shocks. They look similar to rear.



My Eezi-Awn Platform Rack is honestly one of my favorite pieces of equipment. It was originally installed on my Explorer, then it moved over to my 1st gen Expedition, then I put it on my 3rd gen Expedition. But I decided the Explorer actually needs it….. so back on the Explorer it went.

But now sitting on 35s, the clearance to the garage is super close!




And speaking of 35s- they absolutely ruined my braking. 33s on the Dana 30 brakes were pretty decent. But as soon as I put on these 35s…. How I haven’t rear ended people is a mystery. I have had to go onto the shoulder to to avoid ending up in someone’s backseat. Seriously. It was bad. And even on the trail, I couldn’t always hold my position on a rock.

A popular upgrade to the Dana 30 (XJ axle) is the Grand Cherokee (WJ) brake upgrade. The WJ caliper is a dual piston and the rotor is larger. I tossed around the idea of swapping master cylinders, but the WJ brake upgrade is easier. There is a bunch of info out there on how to do it: shim the unit bearing, shim the caliper, drill the rotor, new ball joints, etc…..

The end result is great. I can now stop confidently.


The brakes might be fixed, but the WJ steering knuckles completely changed the steering geometry. I had a little bump steer before, but now it was really bad.

If you don’t know anything about solid axle steering geometry, the links need to be as parallel as possible. Here you can see they aren’t.

To fix it, I ordered a track bar drop bracket from Barnes 4wd.

Since I don’t have a welder, I’m at the mercy of my friends that do. The only time we could get together and do this, it happened to also be about 98 degrees. In CO, 98 degrees isn’t as bad as other places at 98 degrees, but this project took ALL DAY. Seriously, 12 hours.

The bracket from Barnes was great, but it needed to be modified to fit. We cut it up and added a stiffener on the outside that also tied it into the frame. But that’s the typical story with everything on this truck.

Initially we set the track bar to the bottom hole, but we put the track bar bracket back too far and the diff hit it during compression. I changed it to the next hole up and eventually also removed the top bolt from the diff cover.

The resulting steering behavior was great from the new geometry.

My days of a cooler sloshing around in the back had come to an end. It was time to upgrade to a fridge.

I initially thought it would great to maintain as much of the backseat as possible so I removed the single seat and built a wooden platform to hold my ARB Zero fridge.

This worked OK but it put the fridge up so high that the lid could not fully open and had to be held open, which left my other hand to dig for stuff. And it was REALLY high. So high that I would have to pack a step stool for others to be able to see into it.



While looking at someone else’s expensive Goosegear system in their rig, I noticed it was built out of 80/20. I felt a little stupid for not thinking of this before: I could design my own 80/20 system.

The fridge setup I had before just wasn’t working out. I needed to lower the fridge but to do that, I needed to turn the fridge 90 degrees. And that meant the rest of the back seat needed to come out. But I took stock on how often my backseat actually had been used in the recent years prior, and it wasn’t much. So out it went.

I did actually CAD up a design for my 80/20 system, but my final product looked nothing like it. Well, it was close. Close enough to get a decent estimate for the needed material.

It was a fun project. The storage cubby comes in handy. I still need to add some tie down points for my water can (I may have gone on a trip or 2 with a loose water jug….)








So now that I have a fridge, I need a way to prevent the battery from draining while I’m parked. This is mostly so I can load up for a trip, go to work and have it sit in the hot sun all day and not kill the battery.

Enter the Cascadia 4x4 hood solar panel. I know a few 100-series Land Cruiser guys with this and they really like it. So I bought the 100-series hood solar panel. I figured the shape of the Explorer hood was roughly the same. It’s pretty close.

It works well. I did need to wire a switch into it because otherwise the controller is constantly running and it drained my battery- while parked in my dark garage for a couple weeks. But out in the sun it works great. And where I camp, it’s typically pretty cool at night so the fridge isn’t running too much and the heat load isn’t very high.



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I’ve always wanted an awning. But as you saw earlier, I’ve got no room above the rack for a traditional awning. And the space between the upper side doors and rack isn’t conducive for an awning to hang below the rack.

A friend of mine was using the Dragon Fly awning on his Jeep LJ. They custom make your awning when you order which is great: everything else on my truck is custom, might as well have a custom awning as well.

It sets up pretty easy and stores pretty small. For what I have to work with, it works very well.