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Vigo UltimaDork
2/24/18 9:29 a.m.

I like those trucks! You might be happy to know that those tires are nowhere near 33s. Big tires on small engines and stock gearing are full of compromise, so it's probably for the best. Looks like it's not lacking for clearance and if you wanted to do better offroad you'd probably be after a more aggressive tread pattern rather than a larger size. 

I just recently did some work replacing coolant pipes and intake gaskets on a 4.2 truck. It's still, in my opinion, the best late 90s truck v6 out there. I say that even while owning a 4.3 chevy w/~250k that still works fine and another 3.9 Magnum dodge w/175k. 

Will UltraDork
2/24/18 1:23 p.m.
Vigo said:

I like those trucks! You might be happy to know that those tires are nowhere near 33s. Big tires on small engines and stock gearing are full of compromise, so it's probably for the best. Looks like it's not lacking for clearance and if you wanted to do better offroad you'd probably be after a more aggressive tread pattern rather than a larger size. 

You're right--the tires are more like 31". Not sure how I got it in my head they were bigger.

That said, they're big enough. Building a real off-roader isn't my goal, and if this truck goes any higher I'm going to have to add a step bar to get in it.

I finally got the manifold collector nuts off, which means that the only things left to do before I can remove the motor are remove the last few trans-to-block bolts holding it together, and unbolt the torque converter from the flexplate. I think. And I'm going to leave those two things until I'm actually ready to remove the engine, so maybe another week or two, depending on how long it takes to get some friends to help.

I also replaced the front sway bar bushings and endlinks. Didn't even notice it when I drove the truck home, but the endlink bushings were gone completely. I ended up having to saw through the endlinks themselves to get them out.

Will UltraDork
3/3/18 4:31 p.m.

Spent some more time today getting the engine ready to come out. Turns out removing the intake manifold is a bit of a pain, but doing so makes it much easier to get to the top engine to trans bolts and some of the wiring you need to disconnect. Here's how I left it:

Hmm, I'm just not dead sure that green stuff is supposed to be there, though I'll admit it could have spilled in through the PS valve cover when I removed some of the hoses.

Intake gaskets are known trouble points on these engines. The amount of rust on the intake manfold bolts was the first clue that yeah, they may be a problem on this truck, too. I'm not dead positive, but the guy who put these gaskets in may not have done the best job.

If all goes according the plan, the engine will be out tomorrow.

Will UltraDork
3/4/18 3:55 p.m.

Ugh. The engine is out. I don't want to have to do that again. Trucks are supposed to have more room to work on than cars, right? Someone tell Ford that. At least on the 4WD trucks, everything is in the way of everything else. There are torsion bars, driveshafts and exhaust everywhere.

I don't know why I write these updates like how-to steps, but it just seems like the thing to do. I had a hard time finding answers to certain questions, so I guess I try to collate all the answers I had to search for or find on my own in one place. So with that said, here are a few things to know if you want to do this:

  • The little things always seem to be the hardest. There's not much room to access the torque converter nuts, and they were really on there tight. To get them off, we had to run a bunch of socket extensions forward under the motor mount, remove the oil filter (this part is important), and use a breaker bar at the front of the engine. Have a second breaker bar on the crank bolt to keep it from turning.
  • Unbolting the upper motor mounts from the lowers isn't enough--you won't be able to get the engine high enough to clear before the top of the engine hits the firewall. Unbolt the upper engine mounts from the block.
  • Removing the passenger side fender liner makes it easier to see what you're doing and get to the motor/trans bolts on that side.
  • Having one person below the truck and one above the truck makes it easier to see and get a wrench/socket on some of the tricker bolts. There are times when you can only see the bolt from above, but can only get a wrench on it from below or vice versa. Teamwork.
  • You can leave the crank pulley in place, but you should really remove the water pump if you value your AC condenser. Don't even think about trying this with the radiator in place.
  • We let a bunch of air out of the tires. It didn't lower the truck much, and it may not have been necessary, but we weren't certain the Harbor Freight cherry picker would be able to get the engine high enough to clear the core support. We didn't have a problem there.
  • We chose to remove the hood, and in the process, learned that it's made of aluminum. I had no idea, but like the idea of a superleggera F150.
  • The cherry picker arm was barely long enough--when we put the engine back in, I'll probably remove the front bumper.
  • Sitting on the core support and bending over into the engine bay is murder on your back, butt and upper legs. Have some ibuprofen and a heating pad ready for when you're done.

I'm done with this truck for the day. The engine teardown can wait.

Will UltraDork
3/10/18 2:33 p.m.

This showed up at my house today.

One of the first things I said I wanted to do to this truck was increase the amount of storage available.  Turns out if you won't count the bed, regular cab trucks are short on space. After a lot of searching I learned that the aftermarket doesn't care about regular cabs of this vintage--there are plenty of options for Supercrew cabs, but nothing for regular cabs. After more searching, I learned that Ford offered a behind the seat storage bin as a factory option, but they're rare enough that it's hard to even find photos of them. More searching turned up a part number, and more searching produced a total of four: a used, black one on eBay. Two were NOS, but willow green. One was half the price of the others, so I took a chance and ordered it even though it was the wrong color. I got an email the next day saying it was out of stock and my money was refunded. Wasn't sure about the color on the last one, but it was cheaper than the other two, so I took a chance.

Oh hell yeah! NOS storage bin the same color as my truck's interior. I'm way more excited about this than I should be.

Should be good for holding jumper cables, tools, DC air compressor, and stuff like that. I'm hoping to avoid getting an in-bed storage box.

I'll need to pull up the vinyl flooring to mount it, but you get the idea.

Will UltraDork
3/11/18 2:45 p.m.

I spent about 2.5 hours today tearing the motor apart. Got the manifolds off without breaking any studs (except for one that was visibly broken before I touched it. Removed the heads without any problems. If the head gaskets were leaking, it was a slow leak. But coolant was getting into the oil from somewhere.

What concerned me most was in the oil pan.


That sludge is about 1/8 inch thick and chunky/caked on in places. It's about the consistency of ice cream.

The oil pickup tube is absolutely packed with...something. More of that sludge, I guess.

One other thing that concerned me was actually outside the engine:

This is one of the factory lift tabs for the engine. They bolt to the exhaust manifolds, and apparently it broke sometime during the removal process. That one leg was holding half the weight of the engine. I don't even want to think about the E36 M3 show that would have resulted if it had broken completely.

Will UltraDork
3/17/18 3:50 p.m.

Got the engine fully torn down today. No pictures, but the main and rod bearings were better than I expected. The cam journals, though, are heavily scored. Maybe this is a sign to use an aftermarket cam.

I removed the one broken exhaust stud, but I still have to disassemble the heads. The only valve spring compressor I have is for LS engines. 

Once that's done, I guess the next step is getting everything to a machine shop for a cleaning and once-over to see what I can reuse and what I might have to replace.

Will UltraDork
4/1/18 7:29 a.m.

Friday night I got the heads disassembled. This means the engine is now ready to go to the machine shop, which is an easy enough chore...for someone with a working truck.

In the meantime: The local junkyard had a 40% off sale today, so a friend (with a truck that actually runs) and I went to look for some stuff.

The main thing I was after was a seat or seats. Adding a storage console has been on my to-do list for some time. Any seat/seats from an F150/Navigator/Expedition will fit, but unfortunately the Expedition/Navigator consoles won't fit if you have a floor 4x4 shifter, as I do.

Either split bench or buckets would have been fine with me. I ended up getting a set of buckets simply because they were in nicer shape than the split benches available. A bonus is that the bucket console is quite a bit larger than the bench console. $46.40 for both seats, $9.95 for the console. I found 61 cents under the passenger seat, so I'll consider that a rebate.

Installing them is pretty simple—the outer mounts use the same holes as the bench. The inner holes are present, filled with rubber plugs but not tapped. The necessary tap sizes are M10x1.5 and M12x1.75. I’d recommend getting the seat mount bolts from the donor vehicle, and just using bolts instead of studs for the console.

The only down side so far is that the driver's side seat has power tracks, and my truck doesn't seem to be wired for them. For now, I'll just get the seat set where I want it and leave it there, but at some point I'll probably try to find manual tracks.

Saturnguy New Reader
4/1/18 10:07 a.m.

You had mentioned a electric fan conversion I highly recommend it I did a e fan on my 99 f150 4.6 for less than $100 and gained a solid 2 mpgs plus there's a lot more room after u get rid of that massive fan and shroud 

914Driver MegaDork
4/1/18 10:17 a.m.


That's pretty cool, handy!  First glance I thought it was a rear bumper with storage.

Will UltraDork
4/1/18 12:14 p.m.
Saturnguy said:

You had mentioned a electric fan conversion I highly recommend it I did a e fan on my 99 f150 4.6 for less than $100 and gained a solid 2 mpgs plus there's a lot more room after u get rid of that massive fan and shroud 

I splurged on a direct-fit kit from Flex-a-Lite. It wasn't cheap, but I pretty much paid for it by cleaning out the garage and selling a few parts on eBay. I'll talk more about it when I get to that point in the project.

Will UltraDork
5/15/18 3:12 p.m.

No pictures to share, but today I was finally able to get the engine parts to a machine shop. I've also got the interior mostly reassembled except for the area around the rear window. It's not leaking at the moment, but the seal is obviously bad because the previous owner used about six tubes of RTV to seal it. It looks awful, so at some point I need to pull the rear window and seal it properly.

Will UltraDork
5/21/18 7:49 p.m.

This weekend I flew in and out of Nashville for a wedding. It's about a 2.5 hour drive to Nashville from my house, so I don't get over there all the time. Since I was in town, I took a few minutes after my flight on Sunday to hit the local pick-a-part.

One thing I miss from my CTS-V is the Homelink garage door opener in the sun visor. Homelink visors were optional on at least some F150s of this era, but they're far more common on Expeditions and Navigators. However, there must have been a law against buying one of those trucks with anything but a tan interior, because I sure couldn't find any. This yard's website showed a Navigator with a gray interior. I couldn't tell if the truck even still had its visors, but it was worth a shot. $5.58 later--cheaper than a new garage door remote--I have this. 

A little dirty, but it's not as if I'm putting it in a Bentley. Assuming it still works, it should be an easy two-wire ground/power splice into my dome light wiring. And if it doesn't work, I'm out less than $6.

Will UltraDork
5/27/18 4:09 p.m.

The engine is still in the machine shop, so I've been in parts hunting mode.

Yesterday was a good day at the junkyard. At least that's what I thought. I found a factory dual-core radiator from an Expedition with the 1A towing package.

That's a crack. Well, E36 M3. Looks as if I'll be returning that.

I also found a gas tank skid plate from a truck with the off road package.

But when I tried to install it, it didn't fit. Turns out that although the 97-98 trucks and 99-03 trucks have the same volume gas tank, the dimensions are different. This is from a 98, and mine's an 00. TLDR: It doesn't fit because the gas tank is too tall. It's a rare enough part that I don't want to return it; I'll just hope I can find someone local who wants to buy it, because it's way too big to ship economically.

Last time ebay had one of their "good on anything" coupons, I picked up this deep trans pan. The extra capacity is nice, and I don't like that the factory 4R70W pans don't have a drain plug.

My 4.6 T-Bird also has a 4R70W transmission, and the last time I pulled the pan, I had to use a floppy, tangled rubber gasket that took forever to line up. At some point since, Ford upgraded to a steel impregnated rubber gasket. This makes me so happy I bought one for both vehicles.

AngryCorvair MegaDork
5/27/18 5:40 p.m.

In reply to Will :

Good work!  Junkyarding for factory options is a great way to make a base model less base.

Will UltraDork
7/4/18 6:57 p.m.

Got a call from the machine shop yesterday, and they're done with my engine parts. I hope to pick it all up tomorrow, and then I can restart this project in earnest.

Today I took advantage of yet another 40% off sale at the local LKQ yard. God it was hot, but I picked up a sliding rear window to replace the solid window I currently have. The new one is tinted so darkly I didn't even notice it has a couple stickers on the inside I'll have to remove. Cost: $15.35.

I also managed to find a 99 Expedition with the 4x4 Off Road package, which includes skid plates for the front cross member, transfer case, and gas tank. The plate covering the gas tank (and the gas tank itself) was nearly bent in half, maybe by the forklift they use to move vehicles around at the yard. So I left that one, but grabbed the other two. Cost: $2.15 each!


Will UltraDork
7/6/18 5:53 p.m.

With some help from a friend with a (working) truck, I got my parts from the machine shop tonight. If it's not raining all weekend, I'll get started on the rebuild.

Will UltraDork
7/7/18 5:40 p.m.

I had hoped to at least have the crank bolted in place today, but apparently, main cap bolts/studs for this engine are impossible to find. I've heard some people say they've reused the factory TTY bolts, but I'd prefer not to. So today I had to settle for painting the engine.

As they say, black engines don't leak oil.

I also finally got around to fixing an incredibly minor thing that's been bugging me since I bought the truck:

The cap on the end of the column shifter was missing.  Picked one up at the junkyard for $0.48:

Will UltraDork
7/8/18 8:50 a.m.

This morning I finally got around to installing that deep trans pan.

Installing it should help the transmission run a bit cooler, but doing this also gave me a chance to see how the fluid looked. It looked relatively new and clean, and the fact that the trans dipstick plug wasn't in the pan means the pan has been removed at least once before. So it looks as if the transmission may not have been totally neglected.

Will UltraDork
7/8/18 3:29 p.m.

This morning I was able to talk to a guy I trust completely when it comes to these engines. He built the 4.3 stroker in my Supercoupe, and he said that the main cap bolts are in fact reusable. So armed with that information, I got to work.

The stock crank was good. It just had to be turned .010" under on the mains and rod journals.

The pistons are nothing fancy, but they are .030 over. That takes the engine from 256 CID to 260 (4.26 liters).

The stock cam lift on these trucks is .424/.447". From what I was told, these heads run out of steam around .450 lift, so there's no point going with an aftermarket cam. However, the stock cam was severely scored from oil starvation, and there was no way I was paying for a new, stock cam. So I went with a cam from a manual 89 Supercoupe. It specs at .448/.457" lift, so it should make the most of what the heads are capable of, yet still be mild enough to not require tuning. Got it used from my SC engine builder for $50.

Bolted down the cam retainer plate, and that's as far as I made it before the heat got to me--just didn't have it in me to attempt setting the timing. I was afraid I'd be so hot & tired I'd make a mental mistake, so I'll pick this up again another day.

Will UltraDork
7/9/18 7:57 p.m.

I only had a little time to work on the engine tonight, so I tried to do a little work. The first thing I did was install the main cap girdle and the oil pickup tube.

Next came the balance shaft, which as the name implies, is supposed to smooth out the engine a bit. Newer 3.8/3.9 car engines don't have it, but the truck 4.2 does.

The balance shaft drives off the camshaft and installs in the same way. For now, the oil pump drive gear on the cam is just loosely bolted on to keep me from losing it until I can set and install the timing assembly. Finally, I added the timing chain tensioner.

Will UltraDork
7/10/18 6:11 p.m.

Tonight I caught a big mistake I made last night. I've not dealt with a balance shaft before, so despite how obvious it is, I completely forgot to time it. Fortunately I figured that out and got the marks on the gears aligned (just like timing cam/crank sprockets--dots go toward each other.

With the cam and balance shaft timed, I could time it all to the crank. Got that set and torqued the cam sprocket to 33 lb-ft. Feels like a bigger step in the build than maybe it is, but this excites me.

Will UltraDork
7/15/18 11:00 a.m.

Made another mistake: Of course all the old parts were filthy, and I've been soaking the parts I need to reuse in a tub of Castrol Super Clean. No problems with the plastic or steel parts, but after a day or so of soaking, the aluminum timing chain cover had chemically reacted with the cleaner. It formed some sort of weird crystals or calcium formations. I didn't like the look of the sealing surface for the oil pump, and who knows what kind of crud had formed in the internal oil passages. So I decided to buy a new one, and things are on hold until it comes in.

In the meantime, the vent visors I bought with the most recent ebay coupon came in, so I got those installed.

Will UltraDork
7/17/18 7:55 p.m.

Did I need new tires for my truck? Well, not right now, anyway. But this happened.

I picked up a set of Cooper Discoverer AT3s in 265/75-16. Discount Tire was offering $75 off sets of their "better" rated tires for July 4, and Cooper is offering $70 off this model. So it was hard to resist. Total price was about $330.

I also just got the Ford shop manual for this truck on CD. It's nice seeing all the engine bolt torque sequences and values for the in one place instead of scouring the internet and hoping they're right.

Will UltraDork
7/23/18 8:03 p.m.

After soaking the lifters in oil for a while, I installed them and their plastic guides.

Buying that shop manual has saved me all kinds of frustration looking up bolt torque values and sequences, but it did add one little bit of frustration. I had to remove the water pump to get the engine out of the truck. Unfortunately, some of the bolts that hold the timing cover to the block also pass through the water pump. So you can't torque down the timing cover properly without the water pump in place. 

For Ford, step one of the official engine removal procedure is probably "Remove the cab," so it's not a problem for them. But this is going to be something I'll have to figure out. Timing chain leaks are a huge problem on these engines, so I followed the torque sequence to a T. I'll figure out how to get the engine in the truck when I get to that point.

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