When it comes to SUVs, one of the most iconic is without a doubt the Ford Bronco. With over five generations spanning from 1966 to 1996, the Bronco platform evolved from a basic lightweight wheeling machine, to a more portly and refined fullsize SUV. Admittedly, we are big fans of the first-generation Broncos, but finding one for a good deal has become increasingly more challenging. Fortunately, for those looking to get into a fullsize Bronco, the ’87-’96 second- and fifth-generation models are extremely easy to find and very affordable.
So, what’s a late-model Bronco buyer need to know before buying? As is the case with all of the featured vehicles in our Fixing Factory Mistakes series, the ’87-’96 Bronco has a few weak points and items to watch out for. Compiled here are some of the most common and tips for getting the ponies back in shape.
The Problem: Pivot Bushings
Bronco enthusiasts have a love/hate relationship with the Twin-Traction Beam frontend. For guys looking to go fast in the desert, TTB offers a great amount of wheel travel potential. The largest issue we’ve seen on older TTB trucks is annihilated beam pivot bushings. A leaky oil pan is often an accelerant for the bushings demise.
The Fix: Daystar Products
A quick pivot bushing fix can be had by ordering direct-replacement bushings from your local parts house or you can swap over to a poly-style bushing kit from Daystar (www.daystarweb.com). The Daystar bushings are designed to be more fluid-resistant and durable compared to stock rubber bushings.
The Problem: 8.8 Rear
The 8.8-inch rear axle in the ’87-’96 Bronco is a 31-spline unit that works well in the factory parameters. A larger set of tires can sometimes lead to failure of the axleshafts and/or C-clip. Since the C-clip is what keeps your axle in place it can create a tremendous amount of damage (and eject from the vehicle) if and when it fails.
The Fix: Add .2
While C-clip eliminator kits are more common from the narrower-width Ford Explorer 8.8 rear axles, there are few conversions for the full-width axles. We would look into swapping in a Ford 9-inch rearend from a pre-’87 Bronco or F-150, as these axles will be the width you need with the correct 5-on-5½-inch bolt pattern. The ring-and-pinion is much stronger on the 9-inch and aftermarket support is tremendous.
The Problem: Steering Joints
The way the TTB frontend cycles, it tends to accelerate wear on frontend components more rapidly over a traditional solid axle. A common issue we see is tie-rod ends that are beyond worn and cause the frontend to wander. This not only creates terrible handling, but makes it seemingly impossible to get a proper alignment.
The Fix: New Ends
Stock replacement tie-rod ends are a quick-and-easy fix for getting the frontend back on track. For more extreme wheeling, swapping over to spherical rod ends is a good option, but will require fabrication of all new steering links.
The Problem: ABS/Rear Brakes
For ’87-’92 models equipped with rear ABS, there are many reports that the system is very problematic. Common issues include sticking or dragging rear brakes and a persistent ABS light on the dash.
The Fix: Refer to Manual
Most Ford service manuals offer a testing procedure to pinpoint the cause of the problem. Purchasing a manual for an older (out-of-warranty) vehicle is a smart investment regardless, and in this case, will save you a tremendous amount of time and guesswork. A common culprit from ABS failure is the ABS computer module, but before you start throwing parts at the truck, get a manual from your local parts store and go through the testing motions.
The Problem: Steering Pump Whine
If the Bronco is making a whining sound under the hood, the power steering pump is likely the culprit. While the factory Ford pumps tend to be noisy in general, they can also be a point of failure when upgrading your Bronco with larger tires.
The Fix: E-Series Pump
A common swap for V-8-equipped Broncos is to ditch the SUV’s factory power steering pump for a larger Saginaw steering pump that was used in the Ford E-Series vans. This conversion requires a power steering pump bracket from an ’87-’96 Ford E-Series V-8-equipped van and will require a little fine tuning to make it work. Another option would be to upgrade the stock pump and gearbox with an aftermarket setup from PSC Motorsports (www.pscmotorsports.com).
The Problem: Rust
Even if you manage to find a last-gen ’96 Bronco, it will still be an 18-year-old vehicle. Rust is a problem for any vehicle with age, but it tends to attack the Bronco more heavily in areas around the inner fenderwells and along the bottom of the tailgate.
The Fix: Remove and Replace
Companies such as LMC (www.lmctruck.com) offer replacement body panels that can help you mend your Bronco back together. If your fullsize Bronco is going to be a dedicated trail toy, we would fix it on an as needed basis. There’s also a good chance that you will cut out a sizable portion of the rust in and along the fenderwells if you are trying to keep the rig low and run a large tire.
The Problem: Front Shafts
Not to hark on the TTB, but at the end of the day, it’s a glorified independent front suspension. For years guys have opted to swap-in a solid front axle to avoid breaking axleshafts, which is more common among modified Broncos.
The Fix: RCV Axleshafts
Changing out your stock front axleshafts with a set of RCV Performance Ultimate TTB CV Axles (www.rcvperformance.com) is a great step to make the Dana 44 live a long life. The RCV joints use six internal bearings to help spread load forces and the joint configuration is said to allow them to keep a constant speed throughout its range of motion, which is important for the high-cycling TTB frontend. If you’re tired of the TTB altogether, James Duff (www.jamesduff.com) offers a solid axle conversion.