Tom's '97 XLT registry | Page 4 | 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 windshield was installed today! While I don't have any pictures of the cracked windshield, just imagine a windshield with 3 cracks- one going from the left to the center in the lower part of the windshield, one going across the right to center in the upper part of the windshield, and one vertical right down the center.

It is SO nice to have a clean view while driving. While the cracks weren't really in my view, the windshield was also pitted pretty badly.


And a new windshield means new wipers! I've used these Bosch Icons on 3 different vehicles now and have liked their performance on all of them. They wipe very well the first time and rarely streak.



Also went and found some mud puddles to play in. When the brand new windshield got covered in muddy water, the brand new wipers wiped it clean. I'll upload pics of the dirty Explorer later.

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Nice to not have 14 years of pitted windshield to look out of, huh?


This isn't for my Explorer specifically, but today I bought a 1995 Saturn SL2 5 speed with 128,427 miles on it. Well, I guess I bought it to keep miles off the Explorer, and to keep money in my pocket as gas prices continue to rise.




It's pretty much a no frills kind of car- no power windows, locks or cruise control. It does have A/C though. And the 5 speed manual is somewhat fun to drive. I used to have the coupe version of this car and I would autox and doing lapping sessions at a road course with it.

Mechanically these cars are easy to work on. And parts are cheap. Luckily, there's nothing that is really needing any attention at this point. There is a screw in one of the tires, but that's about it.


Those things run- no frills!

Hey- as an option:


^ Funny you mention that. Back when I had my first Saturn, some of my friends spent way too much time making these very complex body kit parts out of cardboard and taped them to my car while at work. They made a huge hood scoop, a roof vent and a gigantic rear wing. And being that they are engineers, they made them very sturdy. For only working with cardboard and tape, they turned out awesome.

I'll try to upload those pics tonight.

Update on the Saturn:
It smells like total butt inside. I think the previous owner was a smoker and someone (probably the dealer I bought it from) tried to cover it up. I'm thinking I'm going to pull a Dirt and run the interior down to the car wash and pressure wash it. While the interior is out, I may spray some bedliner on the inside of the floor pan and add some additional carpet insulation before reinstalling the interior. It's pretty loud in the interior. I want to do something about it without spending too much money- I have some left over carpet pad from when I got new carpet installed in my house.

I also took the tire with a screw to Discount Tire and they are going to patch it (for FREE!!!) and I'll pick it up after work. I love that place.


I haven't had an update in awhile. With the "new" Saturn keeping me busy, I just haven't done much to my Explorer lately.

Painted Front Grill

My front grill was not very pretty- I'm not sure if the grey paint on the center was either wearing thin and showing some black spots from the plastic or if it was lightly stained by something. Either way, I didn't like it. The truck bed liner spray I used on the bumper and side step trim worked and looks great.

I followed the Dirt/Celly removal guide:

Now on to the pictures!






I like it.

Nice work! Looks great! :thumbsup:


Third Brake Light LED Conversion

Like so many others, my third brake light was not working. I tried cleaning the plug up under the bumper with no improvement. Instead of going to the junkyard, spending roughly $35 and rolling the dice on a "new" ballast working just to have that fail on me at any time, I decided to go with the LED conversion route.

I ordered a strip of NFLS-x30 in red from

Removal of the brake light was fairly easy- drilling the rivets was a PITA. Once removed, I baked the light a little too long at too high of a temp (about 270 degrees). The lens was cloudy and bubbled up when I pulled it out of the oven- wasn't happy. But I got the light assembly apart. Here's the lens after a bunch of sanding (I was too pissed to take a picture right after it came out of the oven):

I still had some of the 3M Headlight Restorer left over, so I was hoping I wasn't screwed quite yet.

Here's all the parts (old and new):

The lens cleaned up pretty well, I think.

To seal the light assy back up, I used some black RTV. Why? Just had some laying around. The smartest choice? Probably not. I left it clamped overnight to dry.

Not wanting to follow in the footsteps of others that soldered the connector onto the wires BEFORE they fed the connector through the hole in the liftgate, I added some connectors.

Before I got too carried away, I wanted to make sure the wiring was good up to this point- I did put the multi-meter up to it before I removed everything, so I wasn't too worried. But I like to see bright, shiny progress.

All done:

Looks great Tom and I love the black grill! The third brake light wasn't originally LED though was it?

Great write up on the LED conversion. I'm in need of this and may just give it a shot. May also do the touching up on the grill too. Looks good on yours.


Hee hee... You're addicted to your Ex... :D

Looking really good, Tom!

I actually keep a spare PS fluid cap under the hood, juuuuuuust in case...


How often do you have your PS fluid cap off such that it has caused you to come to the conclusion that you need to have a spare hanging around just in case?

Since January, about 8 times...

Not really... I was diagnosing a bad cap, so it was on there for testing. ;)

I only have one now, not to worry! :D

Awesome work done on this truck so far. Looks great. Nice and clean, and love the black trim and black grill. Keep up the good work, man. :thumbsup:

Road trip at the end of the week! We'll be gone about 10 days. Here's the route:

Taking the Explorer. It's the least fuel efficient vehicle in my fleet, but it is the quietest, biggest and most comfortable for long trips.

Got a couple stops along the way to see family. Going to a water park in Wisconsin Dells. Should be a good 'ol time. I'm sure I'll post pics and updates along the way.


Road Trip 2011 is in the books!

The Explorer was loaded up pretty good- back cargo area full, stuff in the back seat, rooftop cargo box full and a hitch mount bike rack with 2 kids bikes.

Overall the Explorer did fine. It got tossed around in the wind a little- no surprise. Gas mileage wasn't exactly what I was hoping for. I had one tank at 18.x mpgs but most were 16.x- but I guess with the cargo box and the cruise set to 77-79 mph, it's not really surprising.

Not too many pics.
Here it is with the cargo box on top. I never got a pic with the bike rack on as well.

And the GPS:

I think that's actually great mileage for a loaded rig, roof box and bikes off the back cruising at high 70's...!

Nice trip! :thumbsup:

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Aux Transmission Cooler Install

So even though my Explorer had the OEM Aux transmission cooler, I figured it probably wasn't as good as an aftermarket cooler. With the towing I do up the mountains in the summer, too much cooling capacity can't be a bad thing.

I ordered a B&M aluminum transmission cooler (#70268) from Summit. It's roughly the same size as the OEM cooler.

Here's the OEM cooler installed:

Removal of the OEM cooler is pretty easy- 3 fasteners:

Here are the 2 coolers side-by-side:

Installation of the B&M was pretty straight forward with the supplied brackets. You can pretty much do whatever you want. I used 2 fasteners that also secure top radiator close out panel (the black thing visible when you open the hood- has the hinged panels for the headlight access) and a lower fastener that's used for part of the air shroud. It's not straight- but neither is the truck.

I had to trim part of the upper air shroud on the RH side for it to fit properly.

I originally intended on only installing the B&M cooler and leaving it at that. But then the OEM cooler was sitting on my work bench giving me some sad puppy dog eyes. And the original mounting holes were still available....... So I hacked up what was the upper side support of the OEM cooler:

So the OEM cooler is now installed upside-down from how it was originally installed.

The hoses were a little snug for my liking so I added some chafe protection by cutting a small length of hose and slitting it open. Then I used some black RTV as glue to hold it in place.

All-in-all, it works. No leaks. I don't have any temp data prior (or post) install to compare, but the extra cooler has to be helping.