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Old 10-12-2020, 08:08 PM   #1
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Default 1987 Dodge Xplorer Resto Mod

This build log will serve as a repository of information for future reference.

I will be posting pics here to document progress as well as refer back to if i find myself confused about what i took out and how it was originally installed.

I'm also looking to share information. If you have owned or currently own an Xplorer of any year i would appreciate any input/feedback, opinions, or even encouragement. This restoration/rebuild is a huge endeavor.

The plan is to COMPLETELY REBUILD this van. It has suffered from many years of water damage and neglect.

I'm calling this build a "Resto-Mod" as it will be both a restoration and modification. It will essentially be a refurbished/updated 1987 chassis with original OG patina but sport the latest in Chinese knockoff gadgetry. I will also be installing a custom built wet/bath.

Here's the 1987 Xplorer Xtra Van in all its glory
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Old 10-12-2020, 08:20 PM   #2
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First things first. Reliability.

Engine ran great for its journey into our possession. A 49min flight into Eugene and 11 hours later after picking our car back up at SFO we were back home. I parked the van behind our neighbors house as i needed to finish up the parking spot for it. i changed our back yard fence to make a place i could back into off our drive. In the meantime a couple days later i backed the van up a few spots to move it on the street and the waterpump weep hole started leaking. Cool.....surprised we made it home!

what does this mean? well a waterpump replacemnt obviously. But in these van, not simple task. To remove the water pump means tearing the seal on the oil pan gasket. That means dropping the pan. Except WAIT! you cant just drop the pan because of the exhaust crossover tube. You cant just remove the tube and drop the pan either because of the cross member on the frame. So you have to JACK THE ENGINE UP 3-4". guess what, now you gotta remove the motor mounts. and thats not all. remember that oil pan gasket? yup it also is part of the timing chain housing. so whan you pull the water pump the coolant will mix in the oil.

in short;

new waterpump, coolant hoses, fuel line hoses, timing chain inspection, oil pan gasket, and while the pan is off YOU BETTER REPLACE THE REAR MAIN SEAL! might as well do the oil pump while your in there! New motor mounts while its jacked and belts, pulleys, harmonic balancer since it will have a groove worn i guarantee! new gaskets belts, who knows what.

i'll show you some of the process of what i did and what else i ran across. This hole got deep so i thought i'd leave the breadcrumbs for any other Xplorer or wouldbe Xplorer owners out hera on the interwebs.
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Old 10-13-2020, 07:27 PM   #3
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Default Dodge B250 Water pump / timing chain replacement

*** I am NOT a mechanic. I am just posting things i have learned along the way from tinkering on my Xplorer van. after persevering through some difficulties and researching solutions to overcome them, i thought i would share some info since i did not find it readily available. Hopefully other Dodge Xplorer fans may find some value. ***

How to change a Dodge B250 water pump and timing chain and front and rear main crank seal;

Begin engine work with draining fluids and removing the belts, fan shroud, fan, coolant hoses, and finally the radiator.

Jack the van up and place jack stands under the van to allow room to work.

Now with some room you can access the brackets that hold the power steering pump and the alternator. TAKE PICTURES of how the brackets mount to the water pump. It may be a week or 2 before you reinstall due to getting parts and time to complete this big job. There are also timing ring brackets that may get confusing sometime later as well. you dont need to completely remove the brackets just the brackets from the engine and push the components off to the side. its a good idea to zip tie them out of the way. You will need to also remove and tie off the A/C compressor. make sure there is no tension on the lines that would allow the O'rings to leak. you must remove the compressor to be able to jack the engine up.

Now to remove the waterpump cover YOU NEED A PIECE OF CARDBOARD!! use a screwdriver to punch a hole in the cardboard where each bolt you remove goes. You will find that as you remove some of the bolts coolant will begin to drain. Those bolts require some rtv sealant when you reinstall them. mark that bolt on your cardboard as well when you push it through your cardboard pattern to hold it in its respective position. as you remove a bolt and a timing piece or bracket comes off of that bolt, identify it on your pattern. This will eliminate utter confusion later on.
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Old 10-13-2020, 07:29 PM   #4
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head down to local automotive store and borrow/rent the harmonic balancer puller. DO NOT IMMEDIATELY TAKE IT BACK. you will need to use the puller 3-4 more times as you use the pulley to press the new front main seal back on and remove the balancer again.

With the water pump removed you can now inspect the timing chain. the original chain is a single row chain.It has some kind of nylon? coating that should be on it. it chips off over time. how does it look? reach in and pull on the chain. is it slack? does it move more than an inch either direction? if it feel loose than you should probably replace it. There is an option for a dual row timing chain and its maybe 10$ more. buy it!. may be the last chain you ever need.

Now, this dodge engine may be the easiest engine you ever work on. locate the dots on the cam sprocket and crank pulley. use a large socket on a breaker bar and rotate the engine until you have the dots lined up together. The cam sprocket will be at 6 o clock and the crank pulley will be at 12 O clock. see how they are close together unlike every other brand? this way you can line them up with your eyes pretty easily, eh? you can now remove your crank pully bolt and your cam shaft sprocket bolt. i just put my breaker bar with socket under the van and zip tied it to the frame. then i bumped the starter to turn the engine over and loosen the bolt. then i lined up the timing marks and used the harmonic balancer puller to remove the pulley.

here are some things that need to be inspected. with the sprocket pulley removed. there is this sharp tab that is attached to the 2 top bolts that were behind the cam sprocket. this tab is supposed to have oil drip on it. This oil is then runs down the tab and is directed off the point onto the timing chain to lube it. THE OIL IS SUPPOSED TO COME FROM A HOLE IN THE UPPER LEFT BOLT. Did your 318/360 engine get the correct bolt from the factory? mine did not. my timing chain looked black/burnt when i pull the cover. If there is no hole in your bolt it may be a good idea to take the bolt to a machine shop and have them drill a hole through it. if you have access to a drill press you can do this yourself. Now the other thing to look for is off the crank and behind the pulley. There is supposed to be a thin tin ring called a "slinger" there. Not the dust cover, which usually stays stuck to the harmonic balancer. This ring picks up oil from the bottom and slings it back up to help lube the timing chain. If you dont have that present order one.

Now just put your new pretty dual row timing chain back over your new sprocket and on the crank pulley and line it back up best you can and slide in on. you will need to slowly keep pressing them on together using the old harmonic balancer and some finesse. see why you needed to keep that tool?!

Now you can begin the reassembly but you may wish to wait for a weekend or a time when you have couple hours. It may be a good idea to install all the gaskets including the oil pan gasket all at once if possible. you may find yourself having to pull/adjust the gaskets. it took me at least 3 times to get the oil pan gasket right. it tends to slide out. you may even want to dab just a bit of rtv on the oil pan side to hold it in place while you trie to reinstall the pan after you have completed the rear main crank seal replacement.
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Old 10-13-2020, 07:32 PM   #5
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Now you can loosen the engine mounts. Total pain in the rear to reach. 1/4 turn with a 3/4" wrench. wrachet wrenches help a lot.

Inspect your fuel and vacuum lines while your under the van. change out the fuel filter.

remove all the oil ban bolts and drop the pan til it hits the fram cross over. Now you will need your jack with some wood blocks. i used a 1/2" socket extension with a large 1"? socket on the end. place it on the block on the jack and put it under the van and you will see a hole/recessin the engine block. let the socket extension slide into that and begin to jack it up slowly. the engine mount will probaly bind to the engie but will eventually pop free. stop right there. take out that mount and slide in the block. I used 2 6"ish pieces of 2x4 screwed together. lower the engine onto the wood block. now do the other side. it will be a bit more difficult as the engine block does not have anything to hold the socket extention and it may want to pop off the block as you jack it up. just take it slow and be careful. now with you engine up and you pan removed you can access below the van.

Replace your oil pump and remove your rear main bearing cap. to remove the top half of seal thats in the engine block, screw in a small screw to it. its probably a hardened crusty seal by now. you can now grab that screw with pliers and pull. carefully apply pressure on the other side with a small allen wrench or something blunt. avoid scratching any surfaces. it should eventually give and then slide out. you will need to inch it out carefully. Now its time to reverse the entire process. Yay! pay close attention to the direction the seal is installed. it only goes 1 direction. get instructions from online if you need. if you botch this your engine will continue to drip oil. mark the seal before you install in. sometimes they come painted on one side. you will need to oil the top half of the seal to slide it into the groove without damaging the seal.

before you install the bearing cap with lower seal in it YOU MUST APPLY ANAEROBIC SEALER to the cap. put some black rtv between where the 2 seal halves connect but NOT on the bearing cap. also put some in the groove where the timing chain cover/oil pan seal meet also. but you must use anaerobic sealant on the bearing cap itself. Now torque it down. This is a VERY important step to prevent future oil leaks.

Now you can replace the pan and finger tighten the bolts. torgue them to 5lbs. barely tight but tighten them evenly as you criss-cross around the pan compressing the pan gasket. sweet...now you can pat yourself on the back.

jack the engine slightly on one side and replace your engine mount. then do the other. now slowly lower one side and then the next. if your capable of removing a half inch of thread on the engine mount it helps.
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Old 10-13-2020, 11:08 PM   #6
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Sounds to me that you are, or have become, a pretty damned good mechanic! Good luck with the rest of the adventure.
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Old 10-14-2020, 12:28 AM   #7
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Default Xplorer Van Conversion Rebuild

This poor Xplorer Xtravan was in sad sad shape when i picked it up. Luckily the frame is clean and it has no major body rust issues. It had some rust through in the rear door but i was fortunate to find a donor vehicle in my local wrecking yard. $70 bucks later i have a California perfect door and a shiny like new chrome bumper.

i suspect the major issue to rust in these doors is the dumb idea to hang a very heavy spare tire on the door. That tire will be relocated to the bumper similar to a jeep wrangler. It will swing out of the way so the giant rear door can open completely.

I also salvaged a tow package off the donor vehicle.($35) Now i will be able to carry my honda moped!!
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Old 10-14-2020, 12:44 AM   #8
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This crusty wreck of a van has had major water damage over a long period of time. it has an odor and between the dried up mildew, abandoned half full crap black tank, rotted wood, and who knows how many hanging pine airfreshners.....its prety funky to say the least.

Lets gut this heap!!


Stay tuned for pics of a complete gut and rebuild. The reason i'm calling this a a "Van Conversion" is that although its a camper van its actually more of a "weekender" van. Similar to a westafalia weekender or the likes. There is no full wet/bath. The potty is in a cabinet. When opened the cabinet doors connect to the kitchen and this is supposed to provide privacy screens i guess with major gaps to above and below the partitions the only person it benefits is the one dropping the dueces. This will be a conversion because i'll be completely retrofitting the interior to outfit this van into a fully liveable van.

The rear banquet seating and table are going. it will become a permanent bed with storage under it. There will be storage under the storage with a tool compartment. The bed will flip up in front and rear to provide access to the storage and components below. The freshwater tank will be updated to a 25gal with a yacht water heater with another 5gal of capacity. so 30gal of fresh water.

I'll leave a link when i get to the post for a direct replacement blackwater tank for these vans. The 2 "captains chairs" will be used to replace the 2 driver cab chairs as they are rough. and we'll toss them out. The space the captains chairs leave open will be used for the wet/bath conversion.

I know what your thinking......"Now how do you fit a toilet in the front of the van cab, within a cabinet with enough space to shower in?"

With flare of course!!....window flare that is. I'll be removing the large front cab window and building a custom window flare to allow the elbow room needed to actually enjoy the shower experience.

more to come!!
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Old 10-14-2020, 12:45 AM   #9
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Quote:
But in these van, not simple task. To remove the water pump means tearing the seal on the oil pan gasket. That means dropping the pan.

What is specific about these vans that makes that necessary? I have done at least a dozen small block Chrysler water pump changes without touching the pan. I looked at the Rock Auto site and the pump and timing cover appear to be just like I remember seeing.


If you want to change a timing set, yep you get into the front of the pan, but you still don't have to drop the pan as the timing cover gasket set will comes with splice in corners, which I have used several times with no leaks.


Water pump has 7 bolts and when you take it off the timing cover stays in place with 4 bolts straight in and two up through the pan into the cover. It is common, I think, for people to remove the lower 4 bolts that hold the timing cover thinking they are more waterpump bolts and then the cover moves around and will leak both water and oil. Unbolt the pump and take it off, although some engines need the accessory drive brackets removed. Biggest hassle is often the bypass hose so I would always just get one ahead of time and cut the original off because they stick so tight and awkward to pry off.


You were lucky you have a two piece rear main engine, as you don't see much of that anymore, and on the one piece motors you have to pull the transmission to change the rear main seal.
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Old 10-14-2020, 12:54 AM   #10
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Thanks Booster, this is the first one i've ever worked on. wish you were a neighbor at the time! the front of the gasket tor off and the rear main was already leaking so i went for it. Huge amount of grime under the van. who knows how many P/O's left it leaking. it wasnt a lot by any means just constant drip. from behind the dust cover.

i figured i was so far in it may be worth the time to go for it. again..im no mechanic but i'm glad i did it.

you are right about the bypass hose. i had to cut it off. that was replaced along with all other hoses that were hardened.

I think this small block has been the most fun and easy engine to work on. Now being in the van well...thats made it a lot less enjoyable!

Booster, do you have or had an Xplorer? I've got questions of some parts that were dismantled on the van when i bought it. maybe you might now how they go back in or whether i should replace them anyway???

hang around man!
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Old 10-14-2020, 01:13 AM   #11
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No help on the Xplorer, we have a Chevy Roadtrek 190P, 2007.


I grew up with Chrysler products, though, in the 60s through the early 2000s. Early on with old drivers while in high school and college, and then with twin turbo small blocks that I built and drove for the next 25 years or so.


I hear you on the first time with an engine, though. I am just now finishing up plans to rebuild/improve the Chevy LT1 gen II engine in my 96 Buick Roadmaster wagon. Never done a GM V8 and this is a really odd one with reverse flow cooling. You want to see weird water pump, this has it. Gear drive off timing set, in is out and out is in, flow through the heads first and then the block. Should be quite an adventure. Will be pulling it out in early November to get started on it, then the trans and rear axle, so the drivetrain will be all essentially new. My "LT1 engines for dummies" book should be here soon! Those books usually have lots of errors, but are good for the pix and bolt locations and lengths so worth the $20. Just don't believe the specs or clearances they give you.
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Old 10-15-2020, 07:55 PM   #12
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Default Gutting process

These pics were taken as we tore out the water damaged pieces one by one.
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Old 10-15-2020, 07:59 PM   #13
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every wood part removed was temporarily saved. These pieces were later used for patterns to make the new wood parts. and also for reference where brackets screwed in.

its been nice watching the massive heap of trash disappear from my yard.
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Old 10-15-2020, 08:05 PM   #14
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some more shots of the inside as i tore out the carpeting and underlayment.
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Old 10-15-2020, 08:15 PM   #15
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Default Fill holes / Krylon Appliance Epoxy Spray Paint / CoreSeal

after removing all the carpet under-layment and vacuum' up the mess you will be left with a surprising amount of stripped out rusty screws that will need to be removed. I used an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel to make easy quick work of that.

After this process there will be some gouges and exposed metal. Now is also a great time to remove any surface rust or worse with the grinding attachment/wire wheel. also make sure to grind down any sharp left over cutoff screws.

i found an epoxy spray paint from Krylon at the box stores. Its only sold in white and black as its for Appliance repairs. Its an epoxy paint and its only $4 per can....bargain!! i use this to paint any exposed surface.

Also its a good idea to use a RUST CONVERTER on any existing hard to reach surface rust or rusted through areas. this is not a POR-15 product or epoxy paint that starves out the oxygen. Its an actual converter that when painted on will convert the rust from iron to manganite. it will instantly turn the rust to a black color and become a paintable primer. now you can use the Krylon to paint over it.

i found the Coreseal and Rustoleum Rust converter to be the best ones.

you will be left with a surprising amount of holes from removing the self tapping hold down screws. I used JB weld to fill every hole to prevent future water intrusion. when you think your finished you might want to wait for an evening and put a flashlight or bright shop light under the van and then inspect from inside for any missed holes.
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Old 10-19-2020, 11:45 AM   #16
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I'm following your thread with interest - love restorations.

Had to read your water pump replacement scenario to my husband - we work on our old vehicles - '87 & '88 Bronco IIs - not so difficult as a van.
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Old 10-19-2020, 05:43 PM   #17
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I am watching and reading this restoration. I have owned a '76 and '86 Xplorer and now own a 2000 Xplorer wide body. I never owned an Xtravan. Xplorer was sold to a company in Elkhart, IN. I am not sure if they are still in business, but you can locate them on internet. I had an electric sofa which converted to a bed, but it became so uncomfortable, I had it converted to twin beds. All told, I have had very little trouble with my Xplorer or the Dodge engine.
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Old 10-19-2020, 07:05 PM   #18
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thanks for the company pasusan & drsdig!!

Pasusan, i just spent a week in philly last month and explored the lehigh valley a bit. Easton seemed nice an i like the older section of college hill. That was actually the reason we purchased this van. To build a rig we could efficiently get around the east coast and explore PA! One of our goals is to get over to Pittsburg and then Rhode island area. So much to see. so little we've seen.

drsdig, im super excited about your presence and any insights you feel compelled to share, please chime in! I have some questions about the shore charging system and how that is connected. the wires were cut and large transformer removed when i purchased it. Im thinking i should prolly just convert it to a modern solar portable power station like the jackery?? idk. If you have any pics of your 2000 if its similar that would help!

Back to the build!
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Old 10-19-2020, 07:18 PM   #19
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Now that the van is pretty empty in side and ready for a new floor its a good time to focus on getting this old crusty sauna waterproof. I started with the rear windows as they appeared to be the major source of water damage.

I began by removing the interior trim piece to the window. That allows the deteriorated wood paneling to be removed from the van. it was pretty much just falling out by this point. With the rear interior futher stripped it will expose a plywood ring that is cut as a form of spacer around the window. This was originally to provide a form of spacer and leverage to "pinch/pull" the windo to the body of the van i guess. The van metal is pressed into kinda a slight rounded bow shape and the windo is flat. I think the wood provides an area to sandwich and manipulate the metal to better seal/fit.

There are layer upon layer of Previous Owners inginuitey trying to stop the water intrusion. The real solution would have been to completely remove the window and re-seal with fresh butyl tape.

First i had to remove the silicone which easily pulle off. the remainder was removed with a straight razor blade. I then used the blade flat against the van to remove under the epoxy as much as possible. the widest strip i could.

Next, i slid an old thin metal putty knife between the window and van metal. Gently, to not gouge the paint. This worked excellent to "break the seal" of the leftover epoxy and hardened old butyl tape.

The windo can now easily be pulled away from the van slowly.
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Old 10-19-2020, 07:34 PM   #20
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Default How to remove silicone residue and epoxy

you will notice in the last 2 pics above that there is sealant residue around the window exterior.

epoxy(yellowish), epoxy spray(yellowish also), clear silicone, and black silicone.

This is a MAJOR problem. nothing sticks to silicone or its residue. We will need the fresh Butyl putty tape to stick to seal properly. especially above the window. the epoxy is just ugly.

Here is what i found after trying several ways to remove the residue.

1) harbor frieght - pack of 10 straight razor blades = $1
2) buy 0000 scotch brite pad. its very fine abrasion
3) Acetone
4) GOOF Off
5) wrag
6) lotsa elbow grease and patience

Remove as much as you can gently with the razor blade lying flat and wiggling it back and forth a bit as you push slowly. it will remove a surprising amount without gouging. just go slow.

when blade has done its job, tip the acetone bottle a tad onto the 0000 sponge. it will run right through it so just a tad. This will remove the epoxy very easily. it will basically goop up and become caught in the sponge. having more acetone and letting it run down works better than not enough. Basically it will dry and become stuck again to the van so its kinda a ballance/feel thing to figure out....but once you got it its pretty simple.

the silicone, uhgh this was a pain to figure out. but here's the trick. use a liberal amount of GOOF OFF on the wrag or the sponge. dont worry about trying to scrub it away. It works WAY better to use your thumbnail to remove it as the GOOF OFF is on it wet! just keep applying it and then immediately rubbing back and forth with your thumbnail. kinda balls up and comes right off. nothing i have found works better. If anyone knows of anything better for sure...post it up!

once you think you have it all removed by thumbnail, pour acetone back on the rag and go back over it scrubbing again using a clean part of the rag each time. You will see the "residue shadow" disappear. feel it when you are done, see...No more slippery silicone residue!!
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