Monday, January 23, 2012

Explorer Engine Swap - Removing The Essentials

In the last article, we talked about stripping the Explorer engine down to the core components that you will need to use.

From this point going forward, you will want to save everything you remove from this engine because you will most likely be reusing it again.

Let's get started.

In this article we are going to cover the disassembly of the top of the engine.

The parts that you are going to want to remove will include the upper and lower intake, valve covers, rocker arms, and push rods.

We are going to prepare to change the valve springs and valve seals.

Don't worry, there is a reason that we are doing it in this order.  You would have to take all of this stuff off in order to change the cam anyway.

Let's start with the upper intake.  There are six bolts that hold this on.  There are two that are hidden under the intake plaque.  This plaque is usually black and either says "Explorer V8" or "5.0 V8" on it.  This is held on by two torx bolts.  Be careful with these.  Sometimes they are a bit tricky to take out, but never the less, they will come out.  Regardless of what this plaque says, you will need it if you are putting this in a 94 or 95 Mustang. The plaque that is on the 94/95 is not the same shape and cannot be used.  Store this in a safe place with the screws you used to take them out.

Remove the six bolts that hold the upper intake on the lower.  Once this is done, put the upper intake in a special location.  You will need to use this as the upper for the Mustang is different.  Not to mention, this upper is much better than that of the Mustang.  Don't forget to put your bolts in a ziplok style bag and mark on it that these are from the upper intake.

You would think that you could just go ahead and unbolt the lower at this point right?  Not so fast. There is a coolant line bar that needs to be removed.  This is covering one of the bolts for the lower intake.  Your best bet is to remove this now.  You will need a large wrench.  I think it is about 1 1/8".  take off the nut that holds the bracket and put the tube with the upper intake you just removed.

Remember organization is very key.  If you put these parts in the order that you removed them, it will help you remember what you need to do to remove them.  Keeping notes of this is also not a bad idea.  This will help you write down things that you will need to remember even if you think that you will remember them anyway.

At this point I would remove the valve covers.  They should be quick and easy.  Make sure the bolts are in a ziplok bag marked valve cover.  The valve covers are tin and they are secured pretty well on the heads.  You may ned to pry these loose with a screwdriver to get them off.  Just be careful not to bend them.  You don't want leaky valve covers.

I know I keep harping on the ziplok thing, but I can not stress it enough how important the organization of these things are.  It will also help you to not have "extra" bolts when it is all said and done.  You will have all the bolts that you know about and you will know where they go.  From this point forward, I am going to assume you are going to keep them organized and marked in bags so I won't be reminding you.

Now is the time to remove the lower intake.  There are about 14 bolts that hold this on.  Make sure you note where the bolts with the studs are.  You will want to compare this to your Mustang engine when it comes out so that you can install all of your accessories in the same spots and not have a missing stud or misplaced stud.

It may take a slight pry up to get the intake off, but it should come off pretty easy.  Note we have not removed the goose neck/thermostat housing.  It will eventually come off, but we can save that for later. This will help prevent the goose neck from coming up missing.  :)

You can keep the fuel rails on the intake at this point as well.  Eventually they will have to come off, but you can do that when you put it on your work bench where you can move it how you need to to get them off.  Our goal here is to keep everything as together as possible while we are removing stuff so that there aren't so many loose pieces that can come up missing.

At this point you are going to want to get a cardboard box.  This is going to be your best friend for a while.  We are going to put 16 holes in the top of this box that are about the size of a pencil.  We are going to use this to store our pushrods to ensure they go back in the same spot they came out of.

Mark your box with "front" which will represent the "front" of the engine.  You will be removing the pushrods and each of the rocker arms in order from front to back.  I would start on the left side of the engine as you are facing it.

To remove the pushrod, you need to remove the rocker arm for each of the intake and exhaust valves.  Make sure you store these either next to the box or in the middle of the box because you will want to have them matched with the pushrods they have been paired with.

To remove the rocker arm, take the one bolt out of the middle of the rocker arm. You will feel the valve spring release tension on the rocker arm as you loosen it.  Once it is off, pull the push rod out at the same time and put them on the box you have created for this storage.

Once you have taken all of these off, there is one last thing that you will want to do before moving on to the next step and that is to make sure all of your spark plugs are removed.

That should be a good 2 hour work time.  Next we will discuss how to change your valve springs without taking the heads off.


  1. Hi,

    I am doing the same swap and have been using your blog. It has been very helpful. It looks like you did not remove your heads and change the head gaskets.

    Can you explain why you did not do this?


    1. There were 2 factors in deciding this.

      1. The junk yard I bought the engine from gave me a warranty against smoking and knocking, etc. As long as I didn't remove the heads all was good.

      2. The amount of money I was sticking into this swap was already exceeding my budget. So to get the heads serviced and buy new head bolts for an engine that showed no signs of a head gasket problem wasn't in my budget.

      With that said. I was lucky in that I had no problems with my heads. I knew I could change the springs without the heads coming off the engine and I also knew I could do this without having to reseat the valves. There was a lot of work put into this conversion, so if I would have gotten it all done and found out I had a bad head gasket, I would have blown a gasket. :)

      If you have the means and budget for it, I encourage you to go ahead and do it.

      If you are relatively confident that your engine is fine, save the money for the head bolts ($40 for new ones and they can only be used once) and you will also save money on the heads being done.


  2. Thanks, I was plannimg on just changing the head gaskets and head bolts. Is there anything else I will need to do with the heads?

    Also it seems easier to do the valve springs with the heads off. Is this correct?

    Thanks, I really apreciate all your help

    1. I was thinking just brining the heads into the machine shop to get them examined to make sure there is no warping or cracks. It isn't very likely to have them, but since they are off it is better to be safe than sorry. The other thing would be getting the valves reseated. Just to make sure all is good there.

      If you were to do this I would let the machine shop put your springs on for you. It shouldn't be any additional cost at that point since they will already have the springs off to do the reseat of the valves. The seals will get changed at this point as well (as it would have if you were to change it on the engine)

      That is the additional cost I was referring to.

      This is not something you necessarily have to do. But recommended if you already have the heads off.

    2. Don't forget, the valve springs have to be changed.