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Driveshaft/rear axle/rear suspension issues…


Josh B

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I'd go with the shop if at all possible, and you have any reason to believe you won't get fleeced there
 


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Shop I called isn’t exactly close and I’d have to make two trips most likely, which isn’t exactly convenient when my transportation isn’t exactly being cooperative anymore (the F-150 is becoming rather finicky about starting these days). The other possible shop isn’t any closer. But yes, it’s looking like I have to at least get it balanced.

Hopefully I can get some stuff done on it next couple days, got the extended shackles today, so I’d kinda like to get those on and see what that gets me since the driveshaft shop is also a spring shop, so if I need to do something different with the springs or shim the axle on the springs, I can take care of that with the driveshaft
 

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So the extended shackles are on. There have been… setbacks…

But the bottom line is that my rear suspension is still too low. I’m maybe an inch and a half off the bump stops. But I’m significantly lower than the front. Maybe 2” lower. The front T-bars aren’t maxed out on lowering, but I am pretty much against the front bump stops. I’m not exactly sure what I can do about that. The rear I think I might be able to add another leaf to the pack and be ok after bouncing it a bit. Not sure how much that will net me.
 

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Are you against using lift blocks?
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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Are you against using lift blocks?
Well, kinda yes, but lift blocks are not applicable in this case. Since I’m running the Explorer 8.8 as is (spring under), blocks would only lower it more than it already is.

I think I figured out why I ended up with more lowering than anticipated. I was thinking that the only difference between spring over and spring under was the height of the axle tube, but that’s not the case. The spring pack thickness also comes into play, since you’re either on the bottom of the pack or the top of the pack depending on configuration. I think my assumption was that with the Explorer leaf springs lifting Rangers a couple inches and building a heavier pack would negate that difference but apparently either my Explorer leafs are more worn than expected or my assumptions were flat out wrong. Perhaps a bit of both.

I don’t mind being lower than stock, at least for this build. Lower means better handling because of a lower center of gravity. I just need it to sit level at least, which unfortunately means either the rear needs to sit higher or the front needs to be lower or a little of both. But the front is pretty much on the bump stops so I need to figure out what to do with the front and rear. Seems like most of the low rider crew use 2wd trucks so I’m not sure how to get the answers I need at this point since I’m lowering a 4x4.

My thought at this point is to check my other trucks with custom leaf packs and compare how much my body weight flexes the springs. I know what ones ride harder and softer. I think I can get away with adding one more leaf to these packs, but I’m not expecting it to do much about making the rear sit higher. But it might get me close enough to get it level if I lower the front a little more. I’m also thinking I can pull the front bump stops and either engineer a relocated bump stop or put some rubber in to make a shorter front bump stop. The big question there might be the possibility of hitting max compression of the front shocks.
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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So, I cleaned pretty much all of the stuff out of the bed that doesn’t usually live in there. That gained me a whole 1/4” of ride height in the rear. So now I’m at 1.5” of clearance from the tire to the top of the wheel arch in the rear and 2.75” in the front.

I also checked suspension feel of my F-150 (it doesn’t hardly budge with my entire body weight) and my blue Ranger, which surprisingly was nearly as stiff as the F-150. The F-150 rides a little on the hard side. My recollection of the blue Ranger was that it rode nice with the rear springs I put in it. The green Ranger has noticeably more flex under my body weight than those two, so I’m thinking I’ll probably be ok with adding one more leaf. How much (if any) height that gets me is yet to be determined.
 

Eddo Rogue

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My bad I didn't realize your springs go under the axle. I thought I read a tech article about "flipping" those...or I should say welding the spring pads to the top of the axle.

Can't you maybe mess with shackle length? or does it throw of the geometry too much?

You might actually be ok. My bone stock F150 doesn't have many leafs, or much travel, but handles loads just fine. I think my bump stops do a lot of work lol....it actually handles much better with some load, donkey kicks over dips/bumps when the bed is empty.
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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My bad I didn't realize your springs go under the axle. I thought I read a tech article about "flipping" those...or I should say welding the spring pads to the top of the axle.

Can't you maybe mess with shackle length? or does it throw of the geometry too much?

You might actually be ok. My bone stock F150 doesn't have many leafs, or much travel, but handles loads just fine. I think my bump stops do a lot of work lol....it actually handles much better with some load, donkey kicks over dips/bumps when the bed is empty.
I thought about moving the spring pads, but figured since I’m building a street toy, I’d be better off at or lower than stock height. I just didn’t expect to be as low as I am. When I saw all the stuff the donor Explorer had going on with the rear axle, I wanted to re-use it all so I figured I’d leave things alone mostly.

I did the Belltech 2400 extended shackle trick already, without it ride height was on the bump stops. Pinion angle was bad before the shackles and is worse now. Gonna have to either shim or cut and weld the pads to a better angle. I’d rather shim at this point if I can, though a cut and weld would probably be the better method.

This is my first time lowering a Ranger. Usually I’m lifting them and this is new territory for me. Many, many years ago I learned some stuff about lowering them, but years of not doing it plus a couple concussions and it’s not even half remembered. Not even sure really who to ask. Most people lowering one start with a 2wd, but I’m trying to make it work on a 4x4 to have AWD. I suspect 2wds are a little less complicated to lower.
 

Eddo Rogue

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Hmmm have you considered squeezing some air bags in there? Most lowered stuff I see these days is bagged. The bags have come a long way, many options.
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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Hmmm have you considered squeezing some air bags in there? Most lowered stuff I see these days is bagged. The bags have come a long way, many options.
Well… the thought has been mentioned. I was trying to keep costs down because I’ve already thrown a few grand at this project, but that is probably worth considering
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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So, with my body weight on the tailgate as-is, I can sink the back by an inch at the tailgate. I’m really not that fat. My F-150 (which I think is borderline too stiff, but I need it that way), barely moves with my weight. My blue Ranger (which I thought was about perfect) moves more than the F-150 but less than the green Ranger. Dad’s 99 moves almost as much as the green Ranger, but it’s also got a bunch of stuff in the bed and isn’t sitting flat right now so that may not be entirely fair of a comparison, but I think that rides a tad soft. So another leaf it is for the packs. I’m still not sure I’m exactly happy with how these springs came out, but the only other solution I see is to buy new packs from somewhere. If I buy new packs, then all the messing around with these getting poly bushings in and all was wasted effort (although I’ll probably use them for something else at that point).

I’m not sure that the two more turns (12 total per side now) that I took off the torsion bars will make a significant difference even with ditching the bump stops in the front for height, which means the rear still will likely need to come up 1-2” at the wheel to be level or slightly high rear. I’m also not sure that adding the 5th leaf to the packs will get me there. The options I see at this point is try to buy new spring packs and guess at what I need, or try lowering the front spring hangers which would help my pinion angle but I’m not sure how to figure how far it would have to move
 

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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.


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.
That was my understanding too. It sounds like weight on wheels put the exle where it should be and took care of the rear driveshaft issue. I still don't understand why you would have had an issue with using the Ranger's front driveshaft.

Just so you know, installing an explorer axle spring under on a 2wd Ranger, with the Ranger springs, is good for about a 5" drop. If this were a 2wd truck with stock springs, you'd already be on the bumpstops and getting ready to do a c-notch to make it driveable.

Given that the Explorer springs offset the 2" lost by deleting the lift blocks, you're looking at about a 5" drop for your 4x4 too. The extended shackles probably lifted it back up about 1.5" - 2". Your rear end is still sitting about an inch lower than a stock 2wd truck. If you are going to stay spring under I think you will have to get some pancake bumpstops for the rear end.

Your other option may be to go back spring over and lower via other methods. With spring over, a different shackle or a hangar flip may get you where you need to be for rear height. A set of caltracks for axle wrap. It's a little more difficult, just throwing it out there as an option.

So the extended shackles are on. There have been… setbacks…

But the bottom line is that my rear suspension is still too low. I’m maybe an inch and a half off the bump stops. But I’m significantly lower than the front. Maybe 2” lower. The front T-bars aren’t maxed out on lowering, but I am pretty much against the front bump stops. I’m not exactly sure what I can do about that. The rear I think I might be able to add another leaf to the pack and be ok after bouncing it a bit. Not sure how much that will net me.
Based on what I have read from the Explorer guys, you are going to have to modify front bumpstops to lower. The kits that Explorer Express used to sell for lowering them slightly came with different bumpstops, possibly from a earlier Explorer with active ride control.
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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That was my understanding too. It sounds like weight on wheels put the exle where it should be and took care of the rear driveshaft issue. I still don't understand why you would have had an issue with using the Ranger's front driveshaft.

Just so you know, installing an explorer axle spring under on a 2wd Ranger, with the Ranger springs, is good for about a 5" drop. If this were a 2wd truck with stock springs, you'd already be on the bumpstops and getting ready to do a c-notch to make it driveable.

Given that the Explorer springs offset the 2" lost by deleting the lift blocks, you're looking at about a 5" drop for your 4x4 too. The extended shackles probably lifted it back up about 1.5" - 2". Your rear end is still sitting about an inch lower than a stock 2wd truck. If you are going to stay spring under I think you will have to get some pancake bumpstops for the rear end.

Your other option may be to go back spring over and lower via other methods. With spring over, a different shackle or a hangar flip may get you where you need to be for rear height. A set of caltracks for axle wrap. It's a little more difficult, just throwing it out there as an option.



Based on what I have read from the Explorer guys, you are going to have to modify front bumpstops to lower. The kits that Explorer Express used to sell for lowering them slightly came with different bumpstops, possibly from a earlier Explorer with active ride control.
No, rear driveshaft is still too long, it’s just closer to being correct with the truck weight on the axle. I’m tempted to open up the slip joint and see if I can get more movement there. I’m really baffled by the driveshaft length issues.

I was on the bump stops before the extended shackle, lol. That makes sense now though as to why it ended up so low. I’d like to keep it spring under. I only have a 110v flux core welder that I can use where the truck is currently at, or I have to tack everything, pull it completely out and either haul it up to my parent’s house and use my stick welder (I’m not particularly happy with my stick welding ability), or up to my buddy’s place to use my 220v MIG. I suspect the 110v welder would work, but I still would have to lay out 150’ of 12 gauge cord to get there and although that worked fine for some not structural welding, I still worry that it may be less than ideal. That said, if I have to make some custom brackets or something, if I have to mock it up and tack it, I’d pull it off and take it up by the house or to my MIG, but dragging an entire axle is not as easy as a bracket. Even moving the spring pads on the axle would help the pinion angle, but that goes back to my less than ideal welding situation. I could always oxy-acetylene weld it…

Although I may still have to use some pancake bump stops in the rear (depending on how it ends up), the biggest reason why I need to get the rear higher is that I don’t know how to get the front any lower. I might get at most two more turns (maybe not even that much) out of the front torsion bars before the key is against the plate for the adjusting screw. Unless they make lowering keys or I go to coil-over or something, I don’t see any way to get the front lower. A 2wd would be much simpler in the front I think (with the exception of the Edge).

That all said, I didn’t think to look at Explorer lowering stuff and information. Anything they had for the front would cross over…
 

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Well, darn... I thought you'd gotten that driveshaft part settled. Hopefully it will be an easy fix once you find one.

I'm not surprised you were on bumpstops. I was unsure if the 4wd and 2wd bump stops are different or if the difference was accounted for in the lift block horn. If you were already on bumps with what amounted to 3" of drop it must be a different bumpstop. I'm saying 3" because 5" drop from flip plus 2" lift from springs, nets 3".

I know that the 2wd and 4wd rear suspension are the same except for the addition of the lift block. I was mostly relating things to a 2wd truck which are more common when talking about the axle flip. Keep in mind you're kind of being my guineapig here. I have an interested in seeing this work for you since I'm planning to do much the same work to my 99 in the not too distant future. I'll probably be sticking with the V6 and Ranger axle at the start, but V8 AWD and Explorer axle are all intended to happen.

Although I may still have to use some pancake bump stops in the rear (depending on how it ends up), the biggest reason why I need to get the rear higher is that I don’t know how to get the front any lower. I might get at most two more turns (maybe not even that much) out of the front torsion bars before the key is against the plate for the adjusting screw. Unless they make lowering keys or I go to coil-over or something, I don’t see any way to get the front lower. A 2wd would be much simpler in the front I think (with the exception of the Edge).

That all said, I didn’t think to look at Explorer lowering stuff and information. Anything they had for the front would cross over…
Drop keys do exist. If you hunt around you can find them listed on the various market places. If you could gind some 2008+ torsion keys they might be good for a little more drop as well. Those came set for a lower ride height from the factory and installing pre-2008 keys was a common lift option for those trucks.

It seems that after the stock keys (and bumpstops) the upper control arms might be the next limiting factor, they might actually be the first limiting factor. I'll probably install drop or '08+keys from the start when I begin lowering mine, and drop it as far as the upper control arms will allow. If I want lower I'll search out replacement upper control arms. Upper arms used to be available for lowering the Edges and Explorers, they can probably still be gotten if I can find the right place. Either way I think that my long term goal is to run coilovers for improved ride and handling.

These days the most you can find for the Explorers is the information. Most of the parts supplies have dried up over the years. The information can help a lot though.
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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Well, darn... I thought you'd gotten that driveshaft part settled. Hopefully it will be an easy fix once you find one.

I'm not surprised you were on bumpstops. I was unsure if the 4wd and 2wd bump stops are different or if the difference was accounted for in the lift block horn. If you were already on bumps with what amounted to 3" of drop it must be a different bumpstop. I'm saying 3" because 5" drop from flip plus 2" lift from springs, nets 3".

I know that the 2wd and 4wd rear suspension are the same except for the addition of the lift block. I was mostly relating things to a 2wd truck which are more common when talking about the axle flip. Keep in mind you're kind of being my guineapig here. I have an interested in seeing this work for you since I'm planning to do much the same work to my 99 in the not too distant future. I'll probably be sticking with the V6 and Ranger axle at the start, but V8 AWD and Explorer axle are all intended to happen.



Drop keys do exist. If you hunt around you can find them listed on the various market places. If you could gind some 2008+ torsion keys they might be good for a little more drop as well. Those came set for a lower ride height from the factory and installing pre-2008 keys was a common lift option for those trucks.

It seems that after the stock keys (and bumpstops) the upper control arms might be the next limiting factor, they might actually be the first limiting factor. I'll probably install drop or '08+keys from the start when I begin lowering mine, and drop it as far as the upper control arms will allow. If I want lower I'll search out replacement upper control arms. Upper arms used to be available for lowering the Edges and Explorers, they can probably still be gotten if I can find the right place. Either way I think that my long term goal is to run coilovers for improved ride and handling.

These days the most you can find for the Explorers is the information. Most of the parts supplies have dried up over the years. The information can help a lot though.
Yeah, I’m not exactly sure why I have these driveshaft issues. About the only thing I can think of is perhaps the AWD case is different on the 98 and older Explorers than the 99-01. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me with both driveshafts being too long from the Ranger. I don’t know if messing with the slip joint is the answer or not.

I believe the rear bump stops are the same and the “horn” on the lift block is what the difference is since that sort of mimics the 2wd height. I haven’t measured, but the bump stops on the rear of my 2wd 2000 Ranger appear identical to the 4x4 ones. I think what I had been thinking was that the Explorer leafs would make up for the lift blocks so my total drop would be only like 2”, but that’s not at all how it worked out. I don’t know if the leaf springs I’m using are just that worn, but I hadn’t accounted for the thickness of the leaf pack playing a part, I was just thinking the center of the axle tube to the top of the leaf spring perch.

That all said, I’m not happy with how the packs turned out. Right now, with weight on the rear axle, the main leaf bows up away from the rest of the pack. I’ll have to get a picture. I don’t have the pack clamps on, but this bowing kinda concerns me. I don’t know if the pack clamps will safely resolve that or not and that may or may not be part of my height issue. Didn’t want to have to buy new springs since I’m on a tight budget, but this all makes me wonder if I’d be better off with new springs.

That’s interesting on the keys. Perhaps a set of 08-11 keys would get the front a little lower and get me closer to where I need to be. You mention grinding them, what exactly is different about them?

I’m not really trying to slam the truck to the ground, since I still want to be able to use the truck as a truck and the roads and potholes around here aren’t exactly kind to super lowered vehicles, but a little lower than stock seems ideal.

What exactly is the limiting factor on the upper control arms? Alignment? As mine currently sits, I don’t have the alignment cams maxed out (I bought a replacement set since I wasn’t sure if my factory ones would come out without cutting something) and I did a sort of rough eyeball adjustment to them and if anything the top of the tires are leaning out too far at the moment. I’m a little past the middle of the adjustment range. I don’t see the upper arms hitting anything. I do think the bump stops and shocks were the first limiting factors I came up against as I could push on the front of the truck and got zero flex after my initial unwinding the adjustment screws for the torsion bars by 10 turns. Now that I’ve pulled the bump stops and shocks I can bounce the front again.

I seriously thought about coil-overs. It’s probably still in the cards at some point, but it’s not really in the budget. I had looked at it and I had found some specifics on the modifications for it, but I was having trouble finding the correct coil-over and coil. I also discovered how expensive they are. Currently I’m essentially on a fixed budget. At some point that will change (hopefully), but I don’t know when yet. So with the other expenses I’m currently faced with, coil-overs aren’t in the budget. Unless someone wants to gift me a set, it’s more of an eventual thing.
 

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