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ExplorerTom's Explorer


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I use to have one of those automatic transfer cases- it would engage the front wheels when the reads slipped. Hated it. It just sounds like unneeded wear with it engaging and disengaging repeatedly so I always drove in 4hi if there was snow on the ground.

Now I have a manual case and absolutely love it. It's still a shift-on-the-fly case like the auto but it's 2wd until I pull back on the lever.

The more stuff gets automated, the more I want it to stay manual.

And with my sway bar disconnected, it'll flex like crazy! See above.


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Haven't done much to it lately- just driving it and having a good time with it.

But the nagging 4wd lights that have been blinking ever since I went to the manual transfer case finally got to me. I bought a GEM module back when I had the lift put on but just never opened the dash to change it out. And after getting a lecture at the emissions place from a guy saying I needed to make sure I lined up for the AWD rollers as he pointed at the 4wd switch on the dash with the "auto" position, it was just time to fix it. I picked up a "new" center dash bezel at Littleton U-Pull and swapped it out:

The old bezel (yes, that is in fact a tape player!):

The "new" GEM module:

The "new" bezel:

I was told there was a set of nice leather seats at the junkyard a couple days earlier, but by the time I got there, they were gone.


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This is a project I've been meaning to get to for awhile:

Extend vent tubes! I've only done the rear so far. I picked up this 5/16" clear tubing from Ace Hardware. I used about 7 of the 10 feet I bought just on the rear. I routed it up behind the left tail light. Because it seems to get super dusty back here, I zip tied a piece of shop rag to the end to act as a cheap filter. I then sprayed it with some WD-40 in the hopes of trapping more dust.

The front axle's tube is inside the left wheel well and ends a little above the top of the tire. I'll get to it and the transmission soon.


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Got some updating to bring this current.

Mounted a fire extinguisher up front:

It looks like this would get in the way of the passenger legs, but it really doesn't.


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Replaced the rotors and pads that came from the junkyard on the D30. I went with some DBA rotors (4096s) and Hawk LTS pads (HB210 Y.677).

The old:


Here you can see the difference in the cooling vanes density.


All done:

Braking performance was greatly improved. The Hawk LTS pads have great cold bite and I have yet to overheat them.


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Got my winch installed:

It's a Superwinch Tigershark 9500i. Not the quickest winch when respooling, but hasn't let me down.

I did a remote location of the solenoid due to clearance of the winch to the radiator support. Even had the winch fit with the solenoid on top, getting to it where it would haven would be horrible.

And then the plug now sits right here:

Hardly know it's there:


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A snorkel had been on my radar for awhile. Not for deep water, but for dust. The air box sits just in front of the tire. Between the 2" body lift and the torching/welding that went on during the SAS, the splash shields didn't survive. And therefore the dust getting churned up by that tire was going straight into the filter box. My filter was getting very dirty just from a couple day trips.

I got a snorkel for an 80-series.
mean time I've been working on this:

I've seen them used before on Rangers and Explorers. But there's a compromise to make: install it so it hugs the A-pillar which creates a bunch of tight bends in the tube between the fender and engine compartment OR install it so that there's a straight shot into the airbox and it sits forward on the fender. I went with the latter.



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My lift originally had some 5.5 lift springs intended for an XJ with a spring rate of 184 lb/in. While on the trail I would occasionally bottom out- and not by doing anything crazy. And on the road it didn't handle humps and bumps with much composure. I decided that my Explorer weighs significantly more than an XJ and therefore needed stiffer springs. I researched all over the place. Finding the right combination of spring rate, length and outer diameter wasn't easy. I finally found a solution and installed Iron Rock Offroad 7.5" lift ZJ springs. 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 coils would give me about the same amount of lift that I already have and give me a spring with about 280 lb/in rate.

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 XJ 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.

These springs are pretty close to perfect. No more bottoming out on the trail, no more scary leaning, and on road it has improved greatly as well.

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


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Josh installed it. He has the CNC code for his plasma table all set up for the plate between the frame rails.

Why? Good reviews, good price.


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The rear springs had been converted over to Chevy K1500 springs. I had a 3 leaf pack. I was never super happy with them- they seemed too soft. Maybe they were worn out- they did come from a junkyard truck that lived its own life prior to life under the Explorer.

I ordered brand new 4 leaf pack. It sat under the Explorer for months because I knew the install was going to suck. But then I got to talking to a guy at work and he said he had a lift. Done deal!

I also upgraded the u-bolts just cause.

The resulting improvement in the ride was amazing. Before on the highway (especially the SW part of c470 for anyone that knows that stretch) could create some unsettling handling characteristics. After the new springs, there is nothing unusual while driving. I did gain like 3" initially- but I can still park in the garage. It's since settled some.


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Well I suppose since the 4wheeling/camping season has been delayed, hopefully not cancelled, for 2020, I should probably update this build a little.

I recently sold my 2000 Expedition, which has been serving as my “expedition” vehicle. It was a better highway vehicle and could even handle the 4wd trails that Ben likes to incorporate when he plans a trip. The miles were starting to pile up and I had a recurring radiator failure problem that I am attributing to electrolysis. I sold it and got a 2014 Expedition. But I have zero intentions to take it on anything more than just car camping with the family.

So...... let’s turn our attention back to the Explorer. I was never super thrilled with how it drove on the road after the SAS. It was great on the trail, but those ribbons of asphalt in between were troublesome. It wandered in the lane and got much worse after I got the 35s on. I started to think that this was just life with a solid axle vehicle (it was my first). But then I realized that my Explorer was basically a Jeep Cherokee or Wrangler and those are super popular around and most have even bigger tires. Surely everyone wasn’t living with the crappy driving characteristics that I was experiencing. Something had to be wrong.

It was about then that my driver front shock started leaking fluid and dripping on the floor. I guess my shocks were bad!

But as I started looking closer at my shocks and the rest of the front suspension, I realized that my shocks weren’t sized properly. My shocks were too long. During compression, my shock was the bump stop. During extension, my shock was the limit strap.

I ordered some new shocks that are similar to the old ones but shorter. I also ordered some bump stops, limit strap tabs and limit strap.

I first installed the shocks and drove to work and around town. SIGNIFICANTLY improved! Wow! It was like a totally different truck.

Getting the bump stops and limit straps installed took a little longer due to needing to go over to my buddy’s house that has a lift. Just got all that taken care of- just in time for the state to shutdown.......
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Alright, let’s back up a little. I got 35s. I did! The 8 year old 33” BFG KOs were a decent tire, but they were hard and kinda small (goofy looking) on my rig.

I went with Cooper Discoverer STT Pro in 35x12.5r15. My first 35” tire and first mud tire.

I almost immediately took it to Moab..... and didn’t do much 4wheeling.

The tires appear to be a nice upgrade. More road noise for sure, and since the shocks are fixed, they don’t wander in the lane. Haven’t really tested them in too tough of conditions.

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I swapped the light bar off my Expedition to my Explorer. I liked the high mounting position I had on my Expedition (mounted to the Eezi-Awn platform rack- which is now installed on my 2014 Expedition) so I decided I wanted to mount it on the roof again. But getting brackets for an Explorer for this width light bar is probably impossible (although I admit: I didn’t look). But when you own a vehicle that was built during the Clinton administration, you’re not opposed to drilling through some sheet metal from time to time.

To properly fasten it to the roof, I needed to drop the headliner. To drop the headliner, I needed to remove my drawers to allow the rear cargo interior panels to be removed. While all that’s out, might as well add some sound deadening and heat insulation. I did this same recipe on my 2000 Expedition last summer. I thought it helped a great deal with temp, sound was marginally improved.
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Alright, what else......

Blew up my tcase towing a water logged 4runner out of a river. Pretty sure the tcase was on borrowed time prior, this just kicked it over the edge.

Added an additional transmission cooler. While towing the 4runner, my trans temps were over 200 degrees (much hotter at some points). I’ve also noticed elevated trans temps in other situations. The hoses look dangerously close to the winch, but I assure you there is no interference