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The vehicle for my Pan-American adventure is a red 1992 Ford Explorer. Not a very popular overlanding vehicle, but it is simple, solid and best of all, free, thanks to my very good friend Will Betts.

Base: 1992 Ford Explorer 4×4
Engine: Ford 4.0L OHV V6
Mileage: 16MPH


To Do Completed
Ready to roll! Cleaned…kind of

Removed old alarm system

Rebuilt / Replaced heads


Installed new tires

Replaced power steering pump

Replaced serpantene belt

Replaced radiator hoses

Replaced thermostat

Replaced broken tail light

Replaced weatherstripping

Fixed broken tailgate

Replaced shocks

Replaced swaybar bushings

Replaced connecting rod

Replaced battery wiring with 0 gauge wires

Installed power wire to back of truck

Upgraded alternator to 200amp HO

Installed custom offroad bumpers

Installed custom safari rack

Installed off-road lights

Installed off-road reverse lights

Installed winch

Installed surf rack

Installed CB radio

Installed 12v drops

Bed lined back of truck

Painted flat black

Replaced spark plugs and wires

Installed fridge

Replaced front seat

Replaced broken plastic interior clips

Replace broken mirror switches

Install new speakers

Replaced broken intake cover

Replaced transfer case motor

Replaced broken fuse cover

Fixed rear broken power window/rear door

Installed CB Antenna

Fabricated wheel/jerry can carrier

Replaced radiator

Replaced muffler and hangers

Rewired with OFC wire

Installed DVD player

Replaced battery with 850CCA Super Start

Added axe and shovel mounts

Added surf board tie down anchors to roof rack

Rebuilt AC system

Fixed sticking throttle

Fixed vacuum leak

Added SeaFoam to clear out gunk


Current status: Ready to roll!


Aug 23, 2013 - Explorer Build – Spare Tire Swing-out

The last few months have just flown by in a whirl of work, prep and moving so I haven’t had any time or energy to actually sit down and write about what I’ve been up to. Therefore the next few posts are going to be catching you up on what I’ve been up to, starting with fabricating the tire swing-out and jerry can carriers for the truck.

Commercial example on a random Ranger I found

There were two problems I needed to solve: how do I bring extra gas with me for the stretches of isolated wilderness, and what happens if I blow 2 tires? Granted both of these can be solved with careful planning and cautious driving, but I like to always have a backup plan and so I figured I would get a rear bumper with extra mounts for the truck. There are no commercially available options for a Ford Explorer so I initially paid a fabricator to put one together, but as I mentioned in a previous post, he never got it done. It fell back to my dad and I to weld up something ourselves.

We drew up a bunch of different designs but could not agree on how it should work. Then one day I found a guy selling swing-out rear bumpers he fabricated for Jeep Wranglers. They were cheap and it looked like they got us 80% there without having to do much work. We just had to figure out how to modify it to fit. After I brought it home, we took it apart and went to town. We decided to reuse the bumper beam itself so we cut out a center section of the tubular bumper on the truck and replaced it with a trimmed down version of the jeep one. We also lowered the swing arm closer to the beam to reduce flex and vibration.


We then extended the arm for the spare tire so we can squeeze in two jerry cans behind it, which would give at least some protection against both rear impact and theft. To mount the cans we fabricated 2 caddies and welded them directly onto the diagonal arms of the swing-out. I finished it all off with 2 coats of primer, and couple coats of paint and spray on bed liner. The jerry can caddies were also lined with some astro turf to dampen vibration, and cause it looks cool, and they are held in place with a couple of ratcheting tie-downs. For added security I added wheel locks to the spare wheel and a steel security cable that loops through the wheel and the the jerry cans.

The final result looks great and work fairly well. The hatch window is still completely accessible even with everything installed. The hatch can still be opened with the swing-out installed, but not with a jerry can in place. I’m hoping this won’t be too much of an issue since the back is still fully accessible. I also welded on my CB antenna mount, but I have not had the chance to tune it yet.

Now, here are a bunch of pictures of the build:

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Apr 18, 2013 - Explorer Build – Finished Electrical


Last night I pulled another super late post work session and got the wiring completely done. The off-road lights, fridge, 12V outlets and CB are all completely functional now, and the truck is wired up with some heavy duty 0/1 awg wire to handle both the new alternator and to provide a rear drop point for the winch. Doing all the math I’m not actually going to be drawing that much power, but I’d rather have too much on hand, rather than too little.

For anyone interested, here is the wiring diagram I came up with for the truck:


I was initially going to wire all the new heavy wire to either the new terminal blocks or the additional power distribution blocks I got, but after trying to pack it all into the very limited space I decided that it might be better to utilize the current starter solenoid point instead. Whats not pictured on the diagram is the other side of that solenoid that hooks up to the starter itself, but seeing as how I didn’t actually upgrade either the starter wire or starter itself I left it off. I did, however, use one power distribution block for the 0 gauge ground wires. Right now, there are 4 0 awg ground wires that come off the battery: battery -> chasis -> engine, battery -> pdb -> front winch and battery -> pdb -> rear winch.


One challenge I did run into was figuring out how to cut the power to the rear of the truck. I can turn off the fridge and anything else that I’m going to hook up in the back manually, but I wanted a safety guard so that if the truck is off, everything is off. This meant putting a relay between the battery and the back, but these wires are also serving as the hookup for the winch, which can draw up to 400 amps. I ended up finding a heavy duty 12V continuous relay that supports 250amp continuous or up to 600amp intermittent, which should be beefy enough.


All the cables have several layers of shielding protection (rubber grommets, wire wrap, shrink tubing/electrical tape) so shorting out should not be an issue.


I also managed to paint and attach some plastic storage bins to one half of the roof rack. I figured there is space under the tent thats not being used and I can store my wetsuit or snowboard gear up there so its not taking room in the truck.

Overall, the truck is back in running condition, but I am going to the junk yard on saturday to pick up a few more parts so I might be ripping it apart, before I have time to enjoy it.

Apr 17, 2013 - Explorer Build – Wiring Part 3


Another successful night of wrenching on the truck and I damn near finished the electrical. I upgraded a few more of the big wires (battery to starter solenoid, winch hookup), and patched together the rest of the interior. I also finished up the wiring around the battery. That entire area is so tight that it took me a while to figure out the best way of laying out the new, larger cabling. I hooked up the battery and lo and behold it didn’t explode into flames. I did, however, find a problem. The wiring I installed for all the off-road lights has the switches on the ground side of the lights. The problem, however, is that the rear lights are self grounded, so the switch does nothing and the lights are now always on. I gotta run an additional wire now to break on the source instead of ground, but it looks like thats the last electrical issue. The KC lights work, the CB radio works, and even the fridge is pumping hard!


Apr 14, 2013 - Explorer Build – Wiring Part 2


The new alternator arrived on Friday and I jumped right back into finishing the electrical. Sunday was a FULL work day. I got the alternator installed, wiring almost done, CB installed, and even the old alarm system removed. I also started looking at how to install the fridge. This thing is going to be one rad ride!




Apr 5, 2013 - Explorer Build – Suspension Upgrades


The electrical system is on hold as I’m waiting on a high output alternator and high amp relay, but what did arrive was the new suspension bits. I replaced the rear struts with some Monroe Sensa-Trac load adjusting shocks to handle the extra weight and the fronts got some new KYB’s. I got a chance to swap out one of the steering connecting rods while I was under the truck so the steering should be tighter now. I also replaced the swaybar bushings on both front and rear sway bars with some pretty red polyurethane ones.




Mar 19, 2013 - Explorer Build – Wiring Part 1


After wiring up the lights and thinking about how to wire up the rear, I started the long and arduous task of upgrading the electrical system. With the winch, lights and a new fridge I’m going to install, the stock electrical system is going to need an upgrade. I got 0/1 AWG wire that will replace the big three (aternator to battery, battery to frame, frame to body) and also will extend the power to the rear of the truck for the rear winch mount position and a general purpose electrical drop. I also got some new power distribution blocks that will handle all the spitting for me.

Mar 9, 2013 - Explorer Build – Lights


Got around to wiring up the lights finally. I looked for the best way to get the wiring into the truck without going through the roof, but nothing looked good/functioned well, and since I don’t care about resale value, out came the drill, rubber and RTV silicone. I ran the wire through the roof and down the A-pillar. The holes were first filled with rubber grommets and then sealed with RTV on both sides. I also rubber cemented black plastic sheating on the inside of the roof to contain any leaks should they spring up. I added some flight switches in the center console for the outside, inside and rear lights. The rear lights still need to be installed.


Mar 3, 2013 - Explorer Build – Bedliner


I spent the last few weeks on vacation and also just driving the truck around to get a feel for it. It definitely feels a lot better, runs smooth and stops like a champ. The steering is a little loose and it needs an alignment, but overall it’s running great. The milage has dropped slightly, but thats to be expected with all the added weight. I did finally go ahead and throw out the old stinky carpet from the trunk and replaced it with several thick coats of bed liner. This will seal up the back and let me throw anything and everything back there without having to worry about it.

Feb 3, 2013 - Explorer Build – New Tires


I got a chance to pick up some “new” rims from the junk yard and it was time to replace those super balding tires. I got recommended to this place called Bear’s Tires and they really took care of me. Yokohama Geolanders on all 6 wheels and the truck is ready to hit some trails! I also swung by my dads place to look at my breaks and replace the old and dying power steering pump. Turns out the rear ABS solenoid was totally shot. Got a new one in and the damn thing actually stops now! Don’t worry, we didnt actually work on the truck with the Hi-Lift. There were jack stands underneath, but I had just rebuilt the Hi-lift and wanted to test it out. The power steering is now whisper quiet, but I’m seeing a little bit of a leak from the return hose. Its not a big thing right now, but I’ll definitively want to replace it before I leave.





Jan 29, 2013 - Explorer Build – New Paint


Got a little free time so I decided to mount the winch and paint the truck. I was going for a crappy rattle can flat black look, but my painting skills must be too good, cause this thing looks MEAN!