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Driveshaft/rear axle/rear suspension issues…


lil_Blue_Ford

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So I’m almost done with getting my green Ranger project roadworthy and I hit another snag…

A little overview: 2000 4.0, auto, 4x4 extended cab Ranger. I used a 98 Explorer as my primary donor (5.0, auto, AWD). Transplanted the engine/trans/t-case and converted the engine to a 2000. Also swapped front and rear axles from the Explorer along with the rear leaf springs that I modified the packs. When I went to hook up the front driveshaft I found it was an inch too long (the Ranger driveshaft). Not sure why, but I had the Explorer front shaft which conveniently was an inch shorter so that problem was solved relatively easily. The rear has become a problem though, and I don’t remember any of this being an issue when we built dad’s, although we didn’t swap axles or springs.

The Ranger rear driveshaft appears to be an inch too long. This is on top of having to change the yoke at the transfer case (which proved to be a hard find for a pattern that is the same as the 8.8” flange and takes a 1330 joint). I also have the rear suspension probably a little beyond full droop right now, but it seems heavily biased towards the front of the wheel arch. I know it will move more to the middle as the springs flatten out but it kinda looks like it could stand to be an inch farther back. I was pretty certain the distance from spring eye to centering pin was the same for Explorer and Ranger springs so I’m not exactly sure why everything seems to be off by about an inch. I didn’t change spring hangers, shackles or modify the rear axle, I left the Explorer axle as-is in configuration, spring under axle and all.

At this point I see a couple options but I’m not sure of the best approach. Hopefully someone here can lend some guidance or experience.

1) Pull apart the slip joint on the driveshaft and see if I can give it a little more travel (as near as I can tell, I’m currently at absolute shortest distance because as the springs compress past where they currently are, the shaft will have to get longer.)

2) Drill a new centering pin hole an inch away from the original, mod the lower spring plates, and shift the whole axle back an inch. Seems like this might solve a couple things but I’m not sure how kosher that is to do.

3) Cut the driveshaft down and have it re-balanced. Called the local shop (half hour away), would have to leave it a couple days and it’s $75 plus weights to balance and $95 to cut down (or I can try my hand at cutting it down).

Still entirely unsure how I ended up in this boat. Still have a couple things I want to check, but I don’t see an inch magically appearing because I forgot a bolt or something.
 


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Could it be a difference between spring over vs spring under?
 

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Yes, the closer the axle is to the frame the short the distance between trans/transfer case and axle flange, the slip joint allows this change in distance as rear axle goes up and down

Not sure what leaf spring hanger differences are between Ranger and Explorer but they also play a part in centering axle in wheelwell
 

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I have absolutely zero idea so this might be a dumb question but are the leaf springs mounted backwards?
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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This article mentions using F-150 drive shafts for 1998 extended cab Explorer V8 conversion: https://www.therangerstation.com/tech/install-2000-ford-explorer-5-0-into-1998-ford-ranger/
I read that and I’m not really sure it applies, the article doesn’t really go into detail about the rear driveshaft, but he’s also using a different transfer case. Be nice if there was some more information about what exact F-150 the driveshaft would be from, what U-joint size and length. I was under the impression that if you didn’t muck around with changing the transmission or transfer case with this swap, the Ranger driveshafts were perfect and I’m pretty certain that’s how it worked with dad’s when we put it together. My memory is a little hazy these days though. I don’t know if it was from all the changes or what, but things aren’t all lining up like ai thought they would.

Could it be a difference between spring over vs spring under?
I wouldn’t think it would be a substantial difference since the axle still centers on the centering pin of the leaf springs. But it could be part of the problem.

Yes, the closer the axle is to the frame the short the distance between trans/transfer case and axle flange, the slip joint allows this change in distance as rear axle goes up and down

Not sure what leaf spring hanger differences are between Ranger and Explorer but they also play a part in centering axle in wheelwell
Well, sort of, as the leaf springs compress as the axle gets closer to the frame, the axle gets shifted to the rear. So the shortest distance from axle flange to transfer case flange isn’t with the leaf springs flat but at some other point which appears to be closer to maximum droop.

So the Explorers the frames widen out and the leaf springs are located directly under the frame rails. Perches for the springs on the axle tube are in the right spot to bolt springs to the Ranger mounts, just on the wrong side of the tube. I’m not really concerned about losing ride height with something that’s going to scream down the road, so I left the perches on the bottom of the axle tube and figured I’d run it spring under with all the Explorer suspension goodies to help control any potential axle wrap. I just didn’t really see my current crop of problems from doing it. I knew there would be some modifications in regards to shocks, sway bar and traction bars.

I have absolutely zero idea so this might be a dumb question but are the leaf springs mounted backwards?
Well, mounted backwards would certainly cause a substantial fit issue! The centering pin in RBV leaf springs is not in the center of the length of the packs, but biased towards the front, so flipping them around would make my driveshaft too short and put my axle way far back in the wheel arch. The springs are in correctly, but definitely something worth checking.
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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So I didn’t take much of any measurements but what I did do was jack it up on the rear axle and see where things land for ride height…

Well, the good news is as the leaf springs took the weight, the axle drifted back to where it’s nearly perfectly centered in the wheel arches, so apparently it was just how far I had let the springs sag causing it to look inches out of place.

The driveshaft almost fits at ride height and might actually compress enough to fit, so I may not have to do substantial alterations. Might take a look at the slip joint and see if maybe a tweak there and a limit strap or something so I can’t lower the axle far enough to bind the driveshaft might do the trick.

The bad is that ride height is also apparently against the bump stops. It was starting to get light on the jackstands under the frame right about when it kissed the bump stops. So that’s no bueno. Pinion angle looks like it might be a little out of whack so I may have to shim between the spring and spring perch. Short of building custom spring hangers or notching the frame, my only options I see are using extended shackles in the rear and/or adding another leaf to the packs. Not sure how much space I need between the axle tube and bump stops, but it has to be more than touching. That’s a little more drop than I had bargained for.
 

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Maybe put lifted leaf springs on it to offset some of the drop.

I suspect your driveshaft length issue is because of the different t-case (you finding the Explorer front shaft an inch shorter further points to this). I would suggest shorten the rear driveshaft. There's enough give in the leaf springs themselves that the right bump or impact will allow the axle to move forward enough to pogo the driveshaft into your t-case, damaging it. 2 inches or so of compression in the slip yoke at ride height would be a lot better.

I've cut down driveshafts myself (it's not hard to do), but you absolutely do have to make sure it's straight afterward. If the yoke (spline) isn't exactly straight, it may be impossible to balance it properly (I put three tiny tack-welds around the yoke (spline) and checked it for straightness by laying it in a length of angle iron and rotating it (looking for any wobble) before fully welding it).
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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Maybe put lifted leaf springs on it to offset some of the drop.

I suspect your driveshaft length issue is because of the different t-case (you finding the Explorer front shaft an inch shorter further points to this). I would suggest shorten the rear driveshaft. There's enough give in the leaf springs themselves that the right bump or impact will allow the axle to move forward enough to pogo the driveshaft into your t-case, damaging it. 2 inches or so of compression in the slip yoke at ride height would be a lot better.

I've cut down driveshafts myself (it's not hard to do), but you absolutely do have to make sure it's straight afterward. If the yoke (spline) isn't exactly straight, it may be impossible to balance it properly (I put three tiny tack-welds around the yoke (spline) and checked it for straightness by laying it in a length of angle iron and rotating it (looking for any wobble) before fully welding it).
I thought about that, not sure how much of a lift I’d have to go with and it might exceed my current budget. Also a little irritated that I went through the trouble to build custom packs and it didn’t work out height wise. Still might be worth looking into though.

I was actually worried that the rear driveshaft might end up too short when I had to use the shorter front driveshaft. Instead I ended up too long on both ends. I didn’t think the AWD explorers used two different cases, but I’m wondering about that since this is a problem with mine, but to he best of my knowledge wasn’t with dad’s which means either the axles are different in dimensions or the T-case is. I’d like to know what exactly was the problem so other people can know what to expect.

I think I’m a good enough welder to be able to cut the driveshaft down and I know I’m fairly good at being precise, but also a little hesitant because if I screw up, then I have to pay someone to fix it. I’m not sure if it would have to be balanced when I’m done shortening it or if I do a good enough job that it will still be a balanced shaft when I’m done. I’m sort of inclined to try my hand at shortening it to save a hundred bucks though.
 

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I told you the axle would move back.

Longer shackles might work. Have you thought about notching the axle tubes?
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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I told you the axle would move back.

Longer shackles might work. Have you thought about notching the axle tubes?
I knew it would move back, I just didn’t think it would move as far back as it did.

I’m trying to get my hands on some longer shackles now. Just bought a regular shackle yesterday and I knew this would probably happen but I’ll just throw the stock ones in the shed if the extended ones get me where I need to be.
 

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I knew it would move back, I just didn’t think it would move as far back as it did.

I’m trying to get my hands on some longer shackles now. Just bought a regular shackle yesterday and I knew this would probably happen but I’ll just throw the stock ones in the shed if the extended ones get me where I need to be.
Might want to look at the rear hangers while you have things apart and decide if it might be time to change them. If the shackles are starting to go, the hangers might not be far behind.
 

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Might want to look at the rear hangers while you have things apart and decide if it might be time to change them. If the shackles are starting to go, the hangers might not be far behind.
So… for whatever strange reason… when I replaced the rear frame section a few years back I replaced both rear hangers and ONE shackle. Well, the one newer shackle I guess may have been replaced later since it still looks just about brand new, but yeah. The one shackle that I didn’t replace, needed replaced. No idea why I didn’t replace both. Of course, I’m going to try the Belltech 6400 trick for shackles and see what that gets me now.
 

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Yeah unfortunately I'm not familiar enough with the AWD cases ('95 & later) to offer you a reliable answer. I just know that the front axle location is the same for a 1998 Explorer and 2000 Ranger. Finding a different length driveshaft means the output yoke on the t-case had to be in a different position relative to the axle (which could easily be the same case for the rear). There should be no differences in the axles as far as pinion locations go (both being a D35 and 8.8").

Driveshafts are balanced as an assembly. When changing the length (even if still perfectly straight) you're changing the balance of the assembly, so it will need to be rebalanced regardless. You may be able to attain good enough balance by experimenting with a couple hose clamps around the shaft next to where you cut it (the clamp screws will act as balancing weights), but failing that, you'll likely need to have a driveline shop do it.

Google (or Duck Duck Go, or whichever one you use): "Hose Clamp Driveshaft Balancing"... Should bring up some useful links.
 

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So… for whatever strange reason… when I replaced the rear frame section a few years back I replaced both rear hangers and ONE shackle. Well, the one newer shackle I guess may have been replaced later since it still looks just about brand new, but yeah. The one shackle that I didn’t replace, needed replaced. No idea why I didn’t replace both. Of course, I’m going to try the Belltech 6400 trick for shackles and see what that gets me now.
I also forget why I did things, or when...sometimes have no recollection at all lol, when done right.
 

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