Part 1 was about the weekend before last. This past weekend was a whole other set of projects. We have a road trip coming up and will be driving our 2003 Explorer up to St. Louis. It’s not an extremely long trip, but 8 hours of driving can put stress on any vehicle if it’s not properly maintained. I just did an oil change a few weeks ago as well as replaced the air filter, so I’m good to go there. This past weekend I decided to go ahead and change out the plugs and wires as well as the fuel filter. The plugs and wires went like clock work. I’m no mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but usually if I can read something and have the right tools I can do it. I always check my Haynes manual before doing something like this just to see if says anything out of the ordinary. In this instance all I had to do was remove the air intake to allow easier access to the passenger side of the engine. If you’ve ever changed plugs and wires before, then you know to do them one at a time and make sure the gap is set on the spark plugs before you get started. If you’ve not done it before, doing them one at a time makes sure you keep them in the correct firing order. If you get the firing order wrong you will have problems.
After doing the plugs and wires I moved on to the fuel filter. How come fuel filters are never easy to get to? Why can’t they just make one that you simply jack up the car and there it is, easily accessible and ready to go? In the case of the 2003 Explorer, the fuel filter is located at the front end of the fuel tank, wedged in behind the frame and the exhaust system. There are heat shields that you have to remove first, but then you still have to contend with the heat shields on the exhaust. So I get to where I can see what I’m doing and can even reach both sides by reaching around the frame on the left and the exhaust on the right. Not a very good position for getting any kind of leverage, but it’s the best I could do. The outlet side of the filter uses a “quick” disconnect fitting and the inlet side uses a different type of fitting that utilizes a plastic snap ring inside the connector. After struggling with it for quite a while I decided it may be easier if I could get the filter out of the mounting bracket. So using a flat tip screwdriver I began prying on the fuel filter, trying my best not to damage it too much. Well, I got it only so far. I went back to trying to remove the “quick” disconnect from the outlet. Again, no luck. Grrrr. At this point I call my friend Kelly who had talked about changing the fuel filter on his Mustang a while back. He asks me to send him a picture so this is what he got:
You can see the fittings clearly in the picture and also tell where I was prying on the filter. So with help from Kelly on the speaker phone, I try again. And again. And again. Grrrrrrrrr. So after a rather lengthy string of colorful expletives from me, Kelly says he is on his way over to give me a hand. I grab a beer and wait.
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is really, really good when you’re hot, sweaty and grimy.
So I finish my beer rather quickly, which a sure sign of my frustration level, and crawl back under the Explorer. I examine the two inlet connectors and realize I can just push back on the red ring and they will pop right off. When Kelly shows up, I have those two connectors off and the filter out of the bracket and re-routed so that it is much easier to get to. I still can’t get the “quick” disconnect off, but at least I’ve made some progress. I gladly get out of the way and Kelly crawls underneath, asks for a pair of needle nose pliers and PRESTO! He tosses the fuel filter out and crawls back out. He used a different size disconnect tool than I was using and was able to work it off using the needle nose pliers for extra leverage. Literally five minutes later the new filter was in place and the heat shields were bolted back on and we were picking up the tools.
I offer Kelly a beer and we shoot the breeze while I straighten up in the garage.
I think I have the Explorer road worthy now, even though I worry about the possibility of something going wrong while we’re driving in the middle of the night. I will stick a tool box in the back as well as a small compressor and a couple of good flashlights. The thought of being stuck on the side of the interstate somewhere in southern Illinois makes me a little apprehensive, but odds are in my favor….I hope.