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May 2009 4x4 Truck Repair & Tech Questions - Tech Line

Willie Worthy | Writer
Posted May 1, 2009

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Ford Explorer Gears and Cheers
Question: In Techline (Dec. '08), you stated that the Ford Explorer was available with either a 3.27 or 3.73 gear ratio. This is incorrect. The Explorer was always offered with either a 3.55 or 3.73 ratio. The 3.55 came standard (still does) on V-8 models as well as V-6 models without the towing package or the off-road package.

In other Explorer news, you also spoke of the manually shifted BorgWarner 13-54 part-time transfer case. The manually shifted version was the exact same as the electronically shifted version with the exception of the back of the case, where the shifting mechanism was. I don't know if this is the case for newer Explorers, but I do know that all of the transmissions that went into 4WD Explorers had the mounting locations for the shifters on the back, regardless of the shift type. The first-generation Explorers have a section about how to use the manually shifted transfer case in the owner's manual.

And keeping with the Explorer theme, I have one more question. I'd like to convert to rear disc brakes in my '91. I know that the 8.8-inch axle was offered in some models with disc brakes, so couldn't I just take the rear brake assembly off of a disc-equipped model and run it on mine? Which models of Ford trucks/SUVs had rear disc brakes on an 8.8-inch axle?
Jon Geddes
Everson, WA

Answer: All I can do is go by the material that I have, so I just double-checked some factory service literature and it states that the Ford Explorer from '92-'95 used a 3.27 or a optional 3.73. In '96 they changed the option from the 3.73 to 4.10 and stayed with the 3.27 until at least '96. Perhaps you have some sort of Ford factory information that I have not had access to that you would like to share?

As to the 13-54 transfer case being electric or manual shift, unfortunately, I don't have a wide range of Explorers to crawl under to look at shift linkage. As I stated, I couldn't find any direct reference but my great source, Bob Hutchins of All Transmission in Portland, Oregon, did confirm that there were some manual-shift units available. Being that the electric version appears to be also wired through the computer, it just might cause some major issues if all one did was swap out the shift linkage from electrical to manual. Guess the only way to do it would be to make the swap and hope for the best. Not something that I want to tell a reader.

As to the disc-brake swap, the '90-'94 Explorers had 10-inch brakes. In '95 they switched over to disc brakes. Will these disc brakes bolt on? Sorry, I don't have a clue. If I wanted to do it, I would pull down one side and do some measuring, maybe even make a paper pattern of the flange and then head to a salvage yard and do some comparison. You might also want to check with Master Power Brakes (888/351-8785, and TSM Manufacturing (303/688-6882,, as I believe they sell disc-brake kits for the 8.8.

Wants GM 10-Bolt Beefing Tips
Question: I have a few questions about a GM 10-bolt axle. The axle is in a '93 Chevy K1500 that has about 215,000 miles on the original ring-and-pinion and axleshafts as well as the leaf springs. What can I do to make it stronger (gears, shafts, seals)? What type of leaf spring can I use? Can I stuff a 3/4-ton leaf spring on without welding or modification? Are there any mid-range priced upgrades that a college student can afford? The truck has the ability to tow and haul junk. I want a heavy-duty truck without sacrificing the smooth ride. The truck is going to be converted to a mud truck when I graduate from college.
Mike Fox
Clio, MI

Answer: Questions like these always confuse me to no end. Mainly because I can't read between the lines and decide what the reader really wants out of his truck. If your truck has lived this long on the original driveline parts, why do you want to make it stronger? Apparently you're not abusing your truck. Yes, you can put on 3/4-ton springs but all that will give you is a stiffer-riding 1/2-ton, not the capacity of a 3/4-ton 2500 series. Most likely the frames are about the same, but with the 2500 series you get a larger rear end. While the front axle is still a 10-bolt on a 3/4-ton, you get bigger brakes and spindles.

As to improving what you have, well there are aftermarket axleshafts (check out our advertisers) and U-joints that are considerably stronger than the factory parts. As to gearing, it depends on what size tires you have in mind. Let's say 4.10s for up to 33s and 4.56 for 35s. I really would not recommend going with a tire any taller than that using the K1500 running gear.

You say you want to turn it into a mud truck at a later date. Does this mean competition? Are you talking about tires taller than 35 inches? Then by all means, you want to switch over to 1-ton running gear that will give you a Dana 60 front and a GM 14-bolt rear. These are basically a direct bolt-in conversion. Even with these, you will eventually want to spend a lot more money for better axleshafts, lockers, crossover steering, hydraulic rams, and such. There is no end in sight when you don't have goals that you want to achieve.

Keys Get Stuck In Isuzu Ignition
Question: I have an '02 Isuzu Rodeo LSE 4WD with the 3.2L V-6. Last night, the ignition key would not come out of the ignition switch. I tried shifting the transmission back and forth, in and out of gear, but no matter what I did, the key would not come out. Can you tell me what I am doing wrong?
Jeff Scott
Los Angeles, CA

Answer: Well, by the time you would have read this in the magazine, your vehicle most likely has been stolen because of the key being left in the ignition while parked. So I hope you read the email answer I sent you.

Seems that this is a common problem for this particular vehicle. It's caused by either a bad lock cylinder or the shift lock cable being out of adjustment. Gaining access to the switch is quite difficult, with lots of work just getting the dash panels off. It's really a job for your dealer unless you have the dexterity of an acrobat. So your best bet is to drop the vehicle off at your nearest dealer on the way to work and let them have a go at it. OK, if you really want to try and fix it yourself, then hit the service department and ask them to be nice and print you off the service bulletin that covers this. Without the proper instructions, it will be a nearly impossible job.

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