Tom's '97 XLT registry | Page 6 | 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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Yeah, it's a bit of a racecar right now with the tires and gears. But I wanted to do the gears before getting the larger tires. 3.55s with 33s.... try towing a 2500+ lb camper up to 10,000 feet with that! The effective ratio is somewhere down around 3.10.

Oddly though, my mpgs don't seem to be taking a hit. I filled it up last on about 6/23 just before going 4wheeling. I'm in need of gas again, but I've got about 310 miles on the tank. And I know I won't know for sure until I fill it up, but all signs appear to point to the same or better mpgs so far. Unfortunately, I don't know if I'll ever get a full tank of just commuting miles on it. All tanks will either have towing miles or 4wd miles on it. Unless something happens to my VUE that takes it off the road for awhile.

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Nice work great looking truck

3.55s with 33s.... The effective ratio is somewhere down around 3.10.

Been there, done that LOL. i pulled a jet ski trailer with (2) 3 person jetskis, and an 8x12 steel trailer loaded down with a face cord of wood when i had my 285's on....i've got 3.55 gears too, it was horrendous, and i averaged about 8-10 mpg


Look what fell off tonight!


That's interesting Tom- last weekend, some of those things attached themselves to the bottom of my Explorer! lol!


4 wheeling!

These are the only pics I have right now- more to come but these are pretty good actually.

We went up Kingston Peak, down Mammoth Gulch and then up/down Rollins Pass East.

Kingston Peak was fun. The trail was easy. Grabbed a rock from lower on the trail to bring up to the rock cairn:

This cairn has grown significantly over the years. The guy I was with saw it for the first time 20 years ago and said it was much smaller than it is now. (I'll post better pics). The cairn house is at roughly 11,500 feet. The temp was 57 degrees and felt so refreshing. There's a lake (Loch Lomond) below here that I'd like to explorer later on.

Just after the rock cairn was some open tundra that we went across. Had a small water crossing to go through:


On the way down, there was a section that has been "maintained" where they filled some holes in the trail that apparently make it fairly difficult for some SUVs. I still managed to come down hard on a rock where I thought my sliders paid for themselves but instead I came down on the torsion bar mount instead.

The section behind is where I banged pretty hard:

Mammoth Gulch was nothing to report back on.

Rollins Pass East..... pot holes. Lots of pot holes. I am going to be looking into some sway bar disconnects because of this trail. The trail follows an old RR track route up the side of the mountain. Not a difficult trail at all- saw a Toyota Tercell 4wd (the old wagons) way up on the trail. Just lots of potholes and exposed rocks (loose and fixed).


Great day on the trails.

I bigger tires and more suspension though.

More pics to follow.


MPG update.

I somehow managed to rack up about 150 miles of non-towing and non 4wheeling driving. Just some around town and some 65 mph highway miles.

18.6 MPG
I'm happy. That's as good or better than these tires with the 3.55 gears.

Judging by the needle, this tank will be less. But that's OK since it involved lots of slow moving 4wheeling.

8/10/2012 (out of order)


As I eluded to above, I removed the factory side steps. While I liked their functionality (the kids used them all the time getting in and out) I didn't like the way they hung down or how the looked. And I really didn't like how if I came down on a rock on the rocker panel, I could do some major body damage.

I found a local fabricator on craigslist called First Choice Fabrication. He has done lots of bumpers, sliders and tons of non-vehicle work. His bumpers are amazing. He uses diamond plate on the top and plate on the front and sides- but the welds are ground so smooth and evenly that you'd think it was bent out of one piece of material.

I think they turned out great. Yes, they are welded to the frame, but I don't see myself ever needing to remove these things.


I'll probably get some kind of panel plugs to fill the holes left by the side steps.


Loch Lomond

The lake I could see from my Kingston Peak Trip looked like a cool place to take my family for a picnic lunch.

I've seen pictures on the Trail Damage site that showed a Town & Country minivan at the lake. If the conditions were the same that day as they were today, then that driver either is one heck of a driver, or the minivan got beat up. The trail isn't tough, but it's not friendly to minivans.

I had to pull over and let the stomachs of my passengers calm down a bit.

I followed this 4th gen (???) up most of the trail. I could tell he wasn't use to driving on trails and didn't know how to place his tires very well.

The little bump on the top of mountain directly above my Ex is the rock cairn house from my Kingston Peak trip:

At the far end of the lake is a little waterfall from the lake above this one. It's a good hike for a 5 and 6 year old- and a 10 week old puppy. Some people were there and they offered to take our pics and email to us. Very nice of them- their camera is WAY better than the one we brought.


And then back up the truck, the pups are thirsty!

Hanging out in the shade:

And even though the trail was bumpy, the puppy slept the entire way down.

And here's a 360 panorama from where we ate lunch:

Looks like another good time. I love the 360 shot! How did you do that?

8/31/2012 (out of order)

Well, as Luke eluded to above, I got some new wheels and tires. I went from 30/9.5/r15 on the factory 15x7 wheels to 33/12.5/r15 on 15x8 wheels.



They are a little....... large. Even with the 2" body lift, AAL and some TT, I had to break out the cutoff wheel and make some cuts. I think I need shackles and more TT. While on the trails, I only rubbed a couple times, but I heard from another guy we went with say that he didn't rub hardly at all. The trails were great fun, but not a lot of flexing with the wheels cranked.

But I really like the additional diameter. They really seem to smooth out the ride on the road and on the trail they really seemed to make the rocks seem smaller. Plus I like the additional lift I got. It's starting to feel like a truck when I'm driving it.

I stuck with the BFG A/T KOs. They worked great when I had them in 30s, and I liked the price.

Looks awesome. I'm not sure if I want to tackle the body lift and roll with 33s or not... How do you like it?

I think I would have been happy with 32s. But try to find some 15" 32" diameter...... I was told that tire companies aren't seeing the demand for that size so they may stop making tires in that size.

But I like the 33s. Once I lift it a little more, they won't rub anymore and they won't look so huge in the wheel wells.


RCI Skid Plate

Today I met Josh up in Loveland, CO to pick up a front skid plate.

As you can see, this thing is awesome. One solid piece, water jet cut and bent steel. I almost don't want to go 4wheeling just so I won't bang any rocks off it- this thing is pretty!





The pick up points apparently aren't the same across all frame configurations. Josh told me that I might need to drill an additional hole. The provided self tapping screws make this an easy task- once I drilled a small pilot hole.

Although I have a 2" body lift, my bumper is still at the factory height. It works really well with a stock height bumper and should work just as well with a bumper that's been raised up to match a body lift.


PM me for contact info if you're interested in one for your rig.

Good buy. I'm glad he moved over here to market his plate. I ordered from him last year over on the ranger station, I think I may have been the first with an explorer to try his plates out because we had to do some measuring to be sure it would fit up, which besides 1 hole it does. Quality product. Mine was the old design which was solid without the cuts in it (which I kind of prefer) but mine has the "arms" welded on. Mine has taken a BEATING.


Warrior Shackles

Holy crap...... Long time ago, I noticed something: the right side of nearly every vehicle I've worked on has given me more trouble than the left. My Ex has been no different. The right rear leaf spring bushing put up the fight of their life. But I guess I can't blame it- it's spent 15 years and 133k miles right next to the tail pipe getting heated every time the engine is run.

So anyway, the other 3 bolts came off with no drama after soaking most of the week with power steering fluid and PB Blaster. Then there was the fourth bolt......

5 sawzall blades later:

And a bushing BBQ:

I was able to get the outer sleeve of the bushing out:

What a PITA.....

The rest of the install went fine. I bought a bunch of large washers and 3 different length bolts to help draw the new bushing in. Worked great.

New shackle installed (left side):

During the removal of the right side bolt/bushing, I broke my 3/8" to 1/2" socket adapter so I'm not able to torque the shackle bolts down, but I have applied the German torque spec: guten-tight.

I haven't cranked up the torsion bolts yet, so this is how it sits now:

When I get my new adapter, I'll crank up the torsion bolts and get an alignment.

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I can DEFINITELY see a difference. Can't wait to see what it looks like evened out with the ttwist, and what it looks like eating up a trail :-D

Lolol @ 'guten-tight'