Gerard's 2000 Mercury Mountaineer
Well, it's an interesting story how this car came into my possession...
I bought a 1970 Ford Torino Cobra SCJ car, and
it needed tires to roll on while it's being refurbished. It's in bad
shape, so it will be worked on a lot in the future. I own a 1990
Ford Bronco II, and its tires are getting worn, but they hold air
well. So, I was going to get some Ford Explorer aluminum wheels
to go on the Bronco, and take the Bronco's steel wheels and put them on
the Torino. I got on Craigslist, and entered "Explorer wheels" to
find some for sale, and all these fairly nice Ford Explorers came up
for sale, some as low as $1500.
There is a Ford Explorer forum
that has a ton of good information, and I asked the folks there what
would be a good model Explorer to purchase. My limitations were
2-wheel drive for the lighter weight and simplicity over 4-wheel drive,
1996 or newer to get the OBD II diagnositcs, and 2001 or older to get
the live rear axle. The guys on the website said to just get the
V8, because it only gets 1 mpg less gas mileage, and it's a more robust
engine than the V6. When new, Mercurys are usually nicer and more
expensive than their Ford counterparts, and since they are all 10 years
old now, the prices are the same, so it made sense to look for a
Mercury Mountaineer. I like red, so that was the color I sought
While shopping on Craigslist for Mercury Mountaineers, I found a used
car dealer in Santa Ana that had exactly what I was looking for:
2000 Mercury Mountaineer, V8, 2-wheel drive, red. The price was
right at $2995, so I bought it! Here's what it looked like when I
brought it home.
And here it is after I lowered it 2 inches in the back with lowering
blocks from AutoZone ($29.95) and turning the torsion bar adjusters in
the front (free).
These cars go for anywhere between $1500 for a rough one, to $6000 for
a really nice one with a warranty. This car was sold "As-Is," and
since I'm a mechanic, I can do all the work myself. So far, a few
things have needed fixing. Big THANKS go to the guys at the Explorer Forum.
The radio didn't work when I picked it up, and there was no jack.
The seller had the car at the auction house in Los Angeles, and he said
that any time someone is missing a part on their own car for sale at
the auction, they go find that part on someone else's car, and steal
it! That explained the jack, and later the radio.
As I was driving it home, there was a "Bong-Bong-Bong-Bong-Bong," five
tones, five times every 30 minutes. The guys on the Explorer Forum
told me that was due to a burned out airbag light. Sure enough,
there was no airbag light when I turned the key to "On". Getting
TO the airbag light is another story! You have to take out ALL
the dash parts, including the radio in the center. That's when I
found out why the radio didn't work: It wasn't hooked up!
Apparently, someone at the auction liked the radio in this car better
than the one in THEIR car, so I ended up with a radio that only
partially functioned after I hooked it up. The CD player won't
work, and the display is out. But, the cassette works fine, and
that's what I use to play my iPod. No problems!
Once I got the airbag light to work, it blinked a series of 3 blinks,
pause, then 7 blinks, then steady. The guys on the Explorer Forum
have seen this before, and its due to a bad connection at the airbag
harness underneath the passenger seat. It ends up that the fix is
very simple! The connector under the passenger seat has a clip at
the very rear, and people getting in and out kick it a lot. This
causes a resistance problem and the error code. I tried all sorts
of cleaning, and even installed some plugs that take the side airbags
out of the circuit. Nothing worked until I removed the yellow
connector from its clip and moved it about 2 inches further forward to
get the tension out of the harness. Here's a pic of the location
and the clip, with the connector now removed.
As I was driving it home, there wasn't any heat coming out of the
heater, and the temperature gauge wasn't moving. Turns out it was
a stuck-open thermostat, an easy fix. There was a little exhaust
leak from loose exhaust manifold bolts, an easy fix.
The parking brake didn't work, so I took off the rear brake calipers
and the brake rotors to expose the parking brake shoes. This was
pretty obvious! The friction material was GONE completely!
In the photo below, you can see the lowering blocks between the axle
tube and the leaf spring.
The car originally comes with 15 x 7 wheels and 235-75 R 15 wheels and
tires. Since I still needed a set of wheels and tires to move the
Torino around, I started looking for something bigger and nicer.
I found a set of used 16 x 7 Explorer wheels on eBay for $300
delivered, caps included. At the tire store, we did a fit check
with a set of 255-75 R 16 tires, and they were a little too close to
the bumper cover on the driver's side. Looking underneath, I saw
that the cover was held on by 4 nuts, so I took it off and added some
washers to space it out on the left side. There's not a whole lot
to these bumpers and bumper covers.
Here it is after the tires and wheels and alignment at the tire store. Looking better!
There were a lot of water spots on the driver's side, and the paint and
interior were a little on the grungy side. At work, there is a
mobile detailer guy who comes every Tuesday. I asked him how much
to detail the Mounty, and this is what he did for $170:
So, I have about $4000 invested in the Mounty, and I sure am happy with
the purchase! My recommendation is that if you are mechanically
inclined and can fix the small things, don't be afraid to buy a cheap
car and fix it up. If you are unable to tear a dash apart and do
minor repairs on your own, you should spend a little extra and find
yourself a car in nicer condition with a warranty. Otherwise, the
small things like lights and brakes will really make the bargain not so
much of a bargain.
Kiwi Gas Mileage Meter
My car has a factory mileage meter that tells you average
mileage. This is a good thing, but doesn't tell you about what
you're doing right or wrong at a particluar instant. There's a
little meter made by Kiwi that simply plugs into the OBDII port on 1996
and newer vehicles. Amazon.com sells them for $89.
I installed the unit, and really like it! Here are two pics of
the meter while going down the road. One is going downhill, and
one uphill. The worst mileage I got at 65 MPH was uphill, about 8
MPG. The best mileage was 125 MPG going downhill in
neutral. Downhill in gear gives about 60 MPG due to the engine
speed. Putting the car in neutral (NOT RECOMMENDED) cuts the
engine speed to about 800 RPM, hence the fantastic mileage.
The best mileage is provided when the car is in the highest gear
possible, even lugging down, which surprised me. My Mountaineer
gets about 26 MPG at 35 MPH, and about 20 MPG at 65 MPH. Wind
resistance is a really big factor. Simply getting a tailwind
really increases the mileage.
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