well, if it's anything like the '00 explorer sport, its kindof a pain
in the butt. ford didnt do a very good job designing the 4.0L engine
for "ease-of-spark-plug-replacement." I spent a lot of time trying to
do mine and actually wasnt able to finish it until 2 weeks later when
i had a rermarkable "revelation" on how to get to the last plug. the
engine compartment of any explorer (4-door, sport or sport trac) is
usually cramped so i can recommend that you have a flexible shaft for
your ratchet handle. I used a 3/8 drive and various extensions
combined with the flexible shaft adaptor. the plugs on the driver
side of the engine are fairly easy to get to from the topside of the
engine. just get a cinder block or a milk crate to stand on and
you'll have the 3 driver side plugs changed in 15-30 minutes. the
passenger side plugs are more difficult, as the AC assembly sits
virtually on top of them. I was able to get the front two plugs (on
the passenger side) after some amount of struggling and straining to
fit my arms around the AC piping and Transmission Dipstick. but the
last one evaded me for another week or two. eventually my
"revelation" came to me when i had my explorer up on the rack at the
shop where i work. turns out there is a straight shot to the
passenger side plugs if you go in from under the wheel well. simply
pull back some of the flexible wheel well lining from around the shock
absorber and you should be able to get to them much more easily than
if you tried from the topside. of course, my explorer was up in the
air on a rack at this time, so i have no idea how hard it would be to
do it from the ground... hopefully it wont be too much more
difficult. anyway, the whole project will probably take a couple of
hours overall. When i changed mine, it was the very first time i had
changed plugs on a vehicle. I still have a lot to learn about
mechanic work, but i'm glad i can offer some advice to you on this
subject. By the way, if this is your first time to pursue such a
mechanical feat, hear are a few tips to remember while changing spark
1. either be careful with the plug wires, or replace them at the same
time you replace the plugs. i destroyed one of mine trying to get it
off the plug...
2. do them one at a time. there's no need for the confusion that
could result if you were to disconnect all the plug wires at once and
then try to find where each one is supposed to go again...
3. be careful handling the spark plugs. dropping a ceramic plug on a
concrete shop floor never ends well...
4. Make sure you set the spark plug gap correctly (the distance the
spark has to span between the two electrodes at the end of the plug)
the factory recommendation can be found on the information sticker in
front of the engine, around the hood latch. if i remember correctly,
the spark plug gap is fairly small print, so look closely. also,
spark plug gapping tools can be found at any auto parts store. they
are simply round, coin-shaped tools whose thickness increase as you
travel the circumference of the "coin". they have measurements along
the outside that show you how thick the "coin" is at any given point.
simply slide the edge of this tool into the gap of the spark plug and
CAREFULLY bend the plug's electrode to the specified gap as measured
by your gapping tool. if your gap should be .052, then slowly open
the gap of the plug (using the edge of the tool) until the plug easily
slides to the .052 on the gapping tool. remember, it is much easier
to open the gap than it is to close it, so try to be gentle. if you
do happen to overdo it, you can usually push the top electrode against
something solid, (ie, a metal work table, or a concrete block) and
once again, CAREFULLY, apply pressure until the gap has been closed
again, then start over with your gapping tool. take your time with
this step, it can mean the difference between your engine running more
or less efficiently, or even misfiring.
5. let the engine cool off and work in the shade!!! i was
intelligent enough *sarcastically* to try and change the plugs within
45 minutes of driving, in the sweltering 97 degree summer weather.
the best work environment would be inside a nice cool garage with a
nice little fan blowing on you. (LOL, something i wish i had
tried).....oh, and make sure you have plenty of light. if you're
inside your garage, you'll probably need a shop light or something to
see within the dark, cramped recesses of your sport trac's engine
6. (an automatic given, while you're under the hood) check all your
other fluids while you're at it. it never hurts to check everything
even if you think it's ok. with me it's almost a compulsion. Every
time i see a car with the hood up, i get the urge to check the oil
(anyone who works at a full service station, where you pump the gas
and wash ppl's windows, and check their engines, knows what i'm
and that's pretty much it. let me know if you have any other
questions! i'll be glad to help out!
I just changed out the plugs on my 99 XLT and here is what I came up
with on how to get out each plug on the passengers side:
Remove the inner fender skirt by popping off fasteners.You don't
really need to remove the tire. Just turn it to the left when getting
out the rear plug then turn it to the right when taking out the middle
and front plug. It's a lot safer to work with the tire on the truck.
At 100K miles, those plugs are really stuck in there. Spray them with
some liquid wrench or WD-40 and let it sit for a while.
You don't need any swivel ratchets. And plus I used a regular 5/8"
deep socket, not a regular spark plug socket with the boot inside. I
found out that removing that type of socket from the spark plug after
you tighten it is hard to get out because the plugs are hard to get at
with not much space to remove the socket. You could also remove the
boot from the spark plug socket to eliminate this problem.
Rear plug: When I tried to remove this plug with just a 5/8" spark
plug wrench and a 3/8" drive ratchet, it did not budge. Then I used a
1/2" breaker bar with a conventional 5/8" deep socket. This will give
you enough leverage and torque to loosen the plug. Plus the way the
breaker bar can swivel also helps. Once you get it loose, you can go
back to the conventional ratchet.
Middle Plug: You have the transmission dipstick tube in the way. The
best way to get it is to put the ratchet (with or without an small
extension,can't remember) between the exhaust manifold and the
dipstick tube. If you can't get it loose, get out the breaker bar
again. Then go back to the regular ratchet, but be careful. As you
loosen the spark plug, the ratchet will start to hit the A/C
evaporator box, so at a point you will have to remove the ratchet and
loosen the plug by hand, which is a pain because your hand will pretty
much be scraping on the evaporator box, but don't be discouraged, you
will get it out.
Front plug: Same thing. If it does not come loose with a regular
ratchet, use the breaker bar.
I gave it a try on my 98 SOHC starting with the "hardest" plug on the
passenger side firewall. What a pain -- couldn't get enough leverage to get
it at all (at least with my socket set). Ended up calling my dealer - they
had a tune-up special where they changed them out with motorcraft plugs (the
best for the explorer as you need double platinum plugs) and did some other
stuff for a good price so I went with them. At 100,000 miles I bet they are
seized in there pretty good so I'd check the dealer first.
PS: You need double platinum plugs for the explorer
Thats what I went through. Then I used a 1/2" breaker bar, which
allows the handle to swing down and give you a better grip. It came
loose with no problem.
In my opinion, it was actually the middle plug I though was the
hardest, because you have the A/C evaporator box in the way so to get
your hand in there to take out or insert the plug by hand is really
tough as your hand scrapes against the box.
I just finished the job. The Ford shop manual recommended removing the
passenger side front wheel and splash shield to access the right side plugs.
I did this and although the right side plugs were hard to reach, I did get
them replaced. I was able to break them loose with a 3/8" breaker bar. Once
they were broken loose, I used a 1/4" ratchet to remove the plugs and
install the new plugs. I had a small 1/4" drive torque wrench to torque the
plugs. I don't think my 3/8" torque wrench would have fit on a couple of the
right side plugs. I think the biggest problem was breaking the spark plug
boots free from the plugs. They were tight. We were installing new wires
along with the plugs, so we were not gentle with the old ones. I had my SO
(small hands) reach in and start a couple of the new plugs. I think all
together I spent around 2.5 hours replacing the plugs. around 2/3 of the
time was spent on the right side. The left side plugs were easy compared to
the right side. The front left side plug was a little hard because of the
EGR tube. The other two left plugs were easy.
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