Purchasing a used Merkur XR4ti
Experience and disclaimer: I have bought two XRs, both 87s
and lusted after several others, including Rich Franco's black
89, which is just about perfect but he won't sell it to me nomatter
what. I've also read the IMON e-mail list for nearly four years
and prowled through almost all of the Archives. I have done most
of the work on both XRs myself, renovating both back to what I
would consider very good condition. I sold the first one to a
fellow in Las Vegas, who still owns it and as far as I know, still
enjoys it. The second one is just about finished, lacking only
a driver's seat (and maybe new carpeting) to be complete. The
following is based on my experiences; your results may vary and
others might have different opinions. This is intended as a guide
only to the buyer interested in buying an XR. Regretfully, I don't
know anything about Scorpios, although there are similarities.
There are many Web sites now for Merkur owners. The two best,
in my opinion, are Merkurbahn and the Merkur Encloypedia. There
are several parts suppliers... Rapido, BAT (British American Transfer),
Lou Fusz Ford, MerknDice, Modern Performance, plus others.
I hope this helps you become an XR owner. Good luck.
Richard Curtis Fairfax Station, Va. 87XR, 5-speed, 63k miles
Don't enter into XR ownership lightly. Unless you can work
on the car yourself, or have a boatload of money, or both, or
you will be frustrated most likely with XR ownership. Almost all
XRs require a lot of tender loving care. Parts are usually obsoleted
(although you might be surprised at what turns up at local auto
parts stores); you must be inventive in figuring out cures/repairs;
you won't find many mechanics who know much (if anything) about
XRs; you won't get any support from Ford Lincoln Mercury (henceforth,
FLM). Having said that, I must admit to enjoying greatly the feeling
of community that surrounds XR ownership, almost all of it because
of the Internet. The car is great also... surprising performance
coupled with good fuel mileage, great ride quality, cool looks.
And almost all XRs are cheap to buy with the most expensive one
I've seen recently being around $4,000 and many opportunities
to buy a good XR for $2,000 or less. There are still some low-mileage
examples around although don't be scared off by high-mileage cars.
150,000 miles is not uncommon for an XR.
XRs were sold in the U.S. starting with the 85 model year and
ending with the 89 model year. Basically, the 85 and 86 models
were alike in almost every respect. Beginning in 87, the floor
pan changed slightly and the rear spoiler went from a biplane
design to a mono design. Until sometime in 87, XRs had the lower
plastic body cladding done in grey and then mono-colors became
available. I believe most 88s and all 89s were mono color (the
cladding was same color as the body but I might be wrong about
this). Early models tend to have cracked dash covers and split
leather upholstery or broken upholstery seams; some of these were
recalled and replaced/repaired. There is a catalytic converter
recall available for some of the early models (to find out if
yours qualifies, call 1-800-392-3673 and inquire. Have your VIN
handy.) The 88 and 89 model years offered Raven Black and some
few beige (?) interiors that were not prone to the cracking dashes/split
seams of the early models. Sadly, few 89s were brought into the
U.S. (2,500?). In all, an estimated 44,000 XRs were imported from
Most XRs came with power windows, power locks and mirrors,
sunroofs, etc. Heated seats are fairly common (although not all
of them still work). A sunroof-less XR is relatively rare and
sometimes is referred to as a competition shell (slightly stiffer
body). Beginning with some late 87s and through the 89s, the antenna
became integral with the rear hatch glass, and were problems in
a lot of cars (due to a breaking of the wire from the hatch to
85 models do not have the third Center High Mounted Stop Light
(CHMSL). The 85-86 models had what are referred to as phone-dial
wheels that are 14 inches. The 87 models had what are referred
to a pie-spoke wheels but are 15 inches as are all 88s and 89s.
The 88s and 89s had BBS-style wheels. XR wheels are hub-centric
and have a specific offset (information you'll need if you're
looking for aftermarket wheels, a common upgrade). Not all colors
were offered in all years. If you buy an XR ask the seller if
he/she has a shop manual to go with it. These are now extremely
rare (out of print) and are still worth their original $75 price
if not more. There was also offered an electrical diagram and
a vacuum diagram, both highly recommended.
Things I've observed on XRs that generally need to be replaced/repaired:
- Radiator cap. Buy a new one immediately after picking up
your XR. TFI (see below)
- Plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotor.
- Fan belts.
- Change the oil.
- Change the coolant.
- Flush and change the power steering fluid.
- Flush and refill brake fluid.
- Charge the a/c refrigerant. Check for leaks.
- Replace all wipers.
- Check the brakes (see below for shuddering condition).
- Install a new PCV valve.
- Check the timing.
- Check all vacuum lines.
- Replace steering rack boots if split, torn or missing altogether.
- Polish the plastic headlights (they'll look sorta yellow);
a plastic polish such as Meguiars will clean up most of this
Common XR problems:
- Erratic idle.
- Dead batteries.
- Driveline vibration.
- Electrical problems (most due to corrosion on the contacts)
- Timing belt needs replacing every 60k miles.
- TFI on the blitz.
- Leaking radiator, usually around the plastic end caps (I
fixed a minor leak on my 2nd XR with some RTV sealant).
- Leaking taillight gaskets.
- Drooping headliner.
- Cracked dash.
- Cracked leather seats or split seams.
- Inoperative hatch lock.
- Inoperative electric antenna on 85-87 models.
- Inoperative "hatch window" antenna on late 87-89
- Erratic tach, fuel gauge or temp gauge. Or all three.
- Burned out illumination bulbs in the gauge cluster.
- Leaking fuel injectors.
- Leaking valve cover gasket.
- Torn steering rack boots.
- Clicking CV joints.
- Shudder under braking.
- Paint. Faded paint is a common XR problem, especially on
the rear wing. Repainting a car can cost anywhere from $400 to
$4,000 with an average repainting costing about $2,400.
Cracks in the grill (or what passes for a grill) are not uncommon,
especially around the headlights. This piece is plastic and is
easily repaired. These tend to fade faster than the body also.
Small dings are common and acceptable but you would be advised
to steer clear of a car needing major bodywork (like replacing
a fender; they're welded on).
- While you may find some XRs in salvage yards, they are pretty
rare even in large metro areas so replacement body panels may
be a problem. Don't rely on Ford-Lincoln Mercury for any replacement
parts; most have been obsoleted. Rust is UNcommon in XRs. Small
pits, etc., can be repaired.
- Leaks. Check the spare tire well for moisture and the trunk
floor mat for dampness. If damp, this is most likely a sign of
leaking taillight gasket(s), which are easily repaired and are
a very common problem. Can be a negotiating point of the seller
is unaware of the cause of the problem. New gaskets are about
$40/pair. You can make your own for pennies out of gasket material
or any foam-like product (floor underlayment for example) or
make-your-own gasket bought by the sheet or roll.
- Some cars will have loose lower body cladding. To repair,
you need to remove the piece of cladding (drill out some rivets)
and re-rivet (rivets to do the entire car cost $0.89 each; you'll
need at least 28; a good tip is to buy extras. Available from
Rapido). Easy repair. Bumper cover damage (as in torn or cracked)
is also common. Relatively expensive to repair although some
minor repairs can be done with material available in most auto
body shops. Most difficult part of this is finding either a replacement
bumper cover (and sometimes you might need the underlying bumper
itself) or getting a bodyshop to repair the damaged cover (this
can be done; it's just plastic). The bumper covers are fairly
easily removed and replaced (see IMON Archives).
- Taillights/headlights: If the car you're looking at has broken
lights, your car won't pass a state safety inspection. Finding
replacements can be difficult although not impossible. The going
rate seems to be about $50-$75 per unit and they seem to be fairly
available in Merkur-related classified ads
- Foggy looking headlights. Very common. Some of this (if not
all of it) can be cleared up using Meguiar's plastic cleaner
and polish (or similar) but the seller might not know that. Negotiating
- Inoperative exterior lights: You can find replacement bulbs
at any auto parts store.
- Broken foglights. Pretty rare to find a replacement foglight.
I would suggest that if they're important to you (the originals
really don't shed much light on anything), buy aftermarket units.
I bought one XR foglight at a salvage yard ($20) and then had
to put a $10 bulb into it. You can buy an entire set of equally
ineffective foglights for the same amount.
- Glass. Again, finding the replacement glass might be your
biggest task. Any competent glass shop can replace the pieces
if they have them.
- Antenna. On 85 through most 87 models, the powered antenna
on the left rear quarter panel is most likely inoperative because
water has entered the mechanism and rusted everything shut. Or
the plastic cable that raises and lowers the mast has broken.
Or both. I've read that these can be repaired but it is a real
pain (i've tried). You can fit a universal electric antenna (Radio
Shack, etc.) but will need to get a special fitting to connect
its antenna cable to the radio (or do as I did and just replace
the entire cable from radio to antenna).
- Inoperative trunk lock. Caused by the pot-metal lock assembly
breaking, which is caused by the actuation of the solenoid each
time you unlock or lock the door. A small part that costs $40-$60
to replace (just for the part). I've found this to be a real
pain to replace. I "fixed" the broken part by "rewelding"
it with JB Weld and then disconnected the solenoid so that I
now open/close the hatch with a key. No more problem.
- Broken windows. A windshield repairman said that windshields
were still available (this was in Spring '99). I've noticed lots
of good window glass including windshields in junkyards. So don't
be put off an otherwise good buy by some broken or missing glass;
it's easily replaced but a good bargaining point in the meantime.
- Cracked dashes on early models 85-'87 and some 88s are very
common. A replacement dash from a later model will cost about
$100-$150, maybe more as they become more rare. If you can handle
a Philips-head screwdriver and have a little patience, you can
replace the dash yourself in about two hours. Also available
are dash covers for about $100; this just glues over the existing
cracked dash pad. Note that 88 and 89 XR dashes are a darker
grey than the early models, both the upper and lower dashes.
Regardless, the difference in color is not nearly as noticeable
as the cracks in the dash.
- Seats: XRs came in either cloth or leather interiors. Cracked
leather or torn seams are common in early-model XRs, especially
the driver's seat (it gets most of the wear and tear). You can
buy replacement leather seat covers (really big $$$ from Rapido),
get them recovered in leather or vinyl at an upholstery shop,
buy used seats from a salvage yard or XR enthusiast, or buy seat
covers from any number of sources. Used leather seats, if you
can find them, are about $100 each. I recently saw an excellent
condition leather driver's seat advertised for $300. Getting
the seams resewn is an option but one upholsterer knowledgeable
about XRs said the resewn seat covers would then be too tight
to slip back onto the seats. (The reason the seams split, he
said, is that the leather shrinks.) Heated seats. Most XRs came
with heated front seats. It is not uncommon for these no longer
to be working. Usually a broken connection as the heating elements
themselves were very brittle. I don't know for sure, but I would
guess these are expensive to repair. I do know from experience
that the seat upholstery is very difficult to get off and back
on if you do it yourself.
- Switches. If the electric windows don't work, suspect corroded
connections at the switch(es), or the switch itself could be
bad (there have been many reports of both). Remove switch, spray
with electrical contact cleaner, reassemble. Should work. Another
good bargaining point. The problem might be worse (bad electric
motor, for example) but most often, it's just corrosion. Corrosion
at all electrical connections is a typical XR problem. If you
have inoperative rear turn signals, for example, try cleaning
the bulb contacts with a Scotchbrite pad and/or spraying with
- Wet floormats or carpets. Suspect clogged sunroof drains.
Unclog with clothes hanger. If wetness is accompanied by smell
of coolant, suspect ruptured heater core.
- Drooping headliner. Very common especially in early-model
XRs. You can repair this yourself fairly easily (can you operate
a Philips screwdriver?) in 2-3 hours. Cost me $50 for fabric
and glue. Simply unscrew everything holding the headliner in
(it's fabric-covered hardboard and the fabric has become delaminated
from the hardboard), remove headliner through the hatch, strip
the fabric, clean the panel, reglue and recover. Getting the
right type of glue is crucial. See Archives or Merkur Encloypedia.)
- Blinking warning lights. These are the lights above the radio
that come on when you first start the car and should go off almost
immediately unless something is wrong. However, they usually
stay on. Or blink. Sometimes while you're driving down the road
they come on for absolutely no reason, blink for a minute or
so, then go off again. Almost as if they're haunted. XRs are
notorious for this (both mine have done this, for example). Some
folks have replaced the computer that controls this (beneath
the glove box) and fixed it; others have done this and not fixed
it. Others just disconnect the wiring harness. Others have said
simply cleaning the contacts at the wiring harness has cured
this problem (this has worked for me twice). Same goes for the
little plan-view diagram of the car that shows if headlights/taillights/etc.
are working or if a door is open. Clean the contacts on this
also. At least one XR owner has taken all this out of the dash
and replaced it with a three-gauge cluster of oil temp, oil pressure
and one other gauge.
- Dark gauge cluster. Turn the dash lights on. You should be
able to see all the gauges clearly. There are six illumination
lights in the cluster and it is not uncommon for one or all of
them to be out. Easy repair and can be inexpensive if you just
replace the bulb (see Archives).
- Lazy tachometer or inoperative tachometer. Again, fairly
common. You need to resolder all the connections on the tach
(or send it to Dave Compton and he'll do it for $40 exhange plus
recalibrate it). Removing the gauge cluster again is a Philips-screwdriver
- Erratic fuel gauge. Could be the gauge or could be the sender.
- Inoperative or low-reading engine temperature gauge. Can
be any number of problems. Simplest: clean all the coolant passages;
this has worked for me after doing all the following to no avail:
Replace the engine coolant temperature sensor (this sends signal
to the EEC). Or replace the sensor that sends signal to the gauge,
also known as the purple ring sensor; each of these cost about
$40. Your engine cooling fan might also be inoperative (many
more bucks), or you might have a blown relay (rare) fuse. It
would be very important to have a functioning gauge in an XR
since the engine and turbo generate so much heat. (Most XRs engine
problems are due to overheating.)
- Inoperative speedometer. Replace with one from salvaged car
(around $25). If that doesn't fix it, suspect the speedometer
cable or the speedometer gear in the transmission.
- Cigarette lighter. Some of them work; most don't. You shouldn't
be smoking anyhow.
- Radios. I don't think I've seen but one or two original XR
radios. Most of the buttons on the originals fail.
- Speakers. Originals don't last long it seems. Replace with
aftermarkets. Crutchfield offers excellent service and accurate
directions, IMHO. Fan switch. You should have three speeds on
the fan switch. If the fan works only on the highest setting,
you've probably got a bad resistor pack, although very, very
cheap and an easy repair ($2?) but a good bargaining point if
the seller is not knowledgeable.
- The original manual 5-speed is known as a T-9. Pretty sloppy
shifting but strong enough for this car. A lot of enthusiasts
replace the T-9 with a T-5 from late-model Mustangs. Much stronger
transmission with better shifting. You'll also need a different
bellhousing, driveshaft, etc.
- Clutches. Will need replacing since they do wear out.
- Automatics are Ford C-3 units (3-speed). Keep transmission
fluid in them and they should be fine. Prone to leakage around
the filler tube (cheap repair), which looks suspiciously like
something worse (expensive repair). Also suspect the front seal.
Change fluid and filter in the transmission often (every 30k).
Pull the transmission dipstick and check the color of the fluid
(should be pink) and smell it (should NOT smelled burned). If
fluid is any color other than pink or smells burned, run away
from this car.
- Guibo also known as a roto-flex coupling. Connects the output
shaft of the transmission to the driveshaft. Fails around the
60k mile mark, usually catastrophically (a big bang followed
by thump, thump, thump under the car followed by severe driveline
vibrations). Part costs around $40-$60 depending on which one
and where you buy it. Pretty simple driveway repair although
easier on a lift. To check if it's ABOUT to fail, crawl under
the car and inspect the guibo. Look for cracks or chunks missing.
If that's what you find, replace the guibo. Some Fiat guibos
and some BMW guibos are direct replacements.
- Engine mounts. They go bad. If you notice a lot of vibration
(as in the rear-view mirror vibrating), or if the oil pan is
resting on the crossmember, replace the mounts. Mounts cost about
$100 each. While you're at it, replace the transmission mount
- Clicking sound from the rear while driving slowly. This most
likely is a bad Constant Velocity (CV) joint(s). Not a complicated
repair but one of the most difficult because of the difficulty
in removing the Torx bolts (see Archives for tips on how to do
this. Also get (1) a lot of guaranteed Torx bits; and (2) a list
of pretty strong cuss words. Keep them handy.) You can buy rebuilt
rear axles with c/v joints and replace everything.
- Shocks/struts. Like any car, they wear out. Replace them
if ride has deteriorated or car sags. Sagging also caused by
worn springs. Car should sit level. Some enthusiasts replace
shocks/springs/struts with aftermarket units to lower the car
and improve the handling.
- Bushings. Again, parts that wear out (but seemingly more
often on XRs than any other Ford product I've owned). Lower control
arm bushings are most notorious; causes brake pedal shudder on
braking (which also can be a symptom of warped brake rotors).
LCA bushings cost about $100/pair and is a repair you can do
yourself (but is is not a Philips-head screwdriver repair, however).
Sway bar bushings also need to be replaced periodically as do
strut tower bushings and bearings (when you replace the struts).
Less common is a need to replace the bushings in the rear of
- Wheels. The aluminum on XR wheels must be soft, because I
read a lot about wheel rims being bent and I've had two bent
ones. Can be repaired at a wheel shop specializing in straightening
bent rims. Check your Yellow Pages. Probably the most common
thing that enthusiasts do, though, is replace stock wheels with
aftermarket components. But check stock wheels for dents in the
rims before buying car.
- Tires. The 85-86 models came with 14 inch tires; 87-89 came
with 15 inch. You can upgrade to 16 inchers if you lower the
profile of your tires (see knowledgeable tire/wheel person) using
the Plus One concept.
- Steering. Steering racks have been known to go bad in XRs
and can be an expensive repair although you can buy a rebuilt
rack to keep down costs. Test the steering for notchiness (some
of which can be cured by flushing and refilling the power steering
fluid, which you should do anyhow periodically). Also check for
torn steering rack boots (they cost about $15 each and can be
repaired by most shadetree mechanics; I've done it twice; when
you look up Shadetree Mechanic in the dictionary, there's my
photo). Directions are on the Merkur Encloypedia. Replacement
boots can be obtained from FLM or from BAT or Rapido.
- Brakes. You'll need to change the brake pads occasionally,
the rear shoes less often. If you have to replace the rotors,
they aren't very expensive (compared to, say, cars with ABS brakes).
I've heard of very few problems with brakes; they're pretty simple
and straightforward like most other cars although XRs seem to
have inherited the common Ford problem of easily warped rotors.
XRs also come equipped with a low-pad thickness warning lamp.
This is actuated by a wire that runs to the caliper. It is not
unusual for this to break or even to be disconnected by someone
doing a brake job. I don't think they're worth much especially
since cars in most states have to have an annual safety inspection
where brakes are checked.
- Tip: flush and refill the brake fluid once a year (it absorbs
moisture); ditto for the engine coolant (while coolant should
last longer, these engines put a lot of stress on the coolant;
I wouldn't take any chances for the sake of $5-$10 worth of coolant).
One good thing about XR engines: If you don't overheat them
(which can be common), the engines are fairly bulletproof, especially
the bottom ends. Look for signs of oil leakage around the valve
- The valve cover gaskets are notorious leakers, especially
if original or especially if cork. This could be a bargaining
point with an uneducated seller. (If the seller were educated
about Merkurs, he would know to replace the gasket before selling
it.) The gasket costs about $25; you can replace it yourself
(see Encloypedia) with a little bit of patience.
- Look for signs of overheating, leaking fluids, etc. Check
color of the coolant (usually green or yellow). Radiators are
notorious for leaking especially around the plastic end caps;
ditto for water pumps. It is not uncommon for an XR to have had
at least one new radiator. XRs have different radiators for automatic
transmission and manual transmission cars. I have repaired one
XR radiator that was leaking at the end caps by following the
suggestion in the official shop manual... use RTV sealant. Did
the job. $4 and I've still got most of the tube of RTV left.
Although the radiator has resumed leaking, although in a very
small amount (drips really). I believe 89 XR radiators are different
from all others. Replacing the radiator is easy (I did one for
$160). All coolant hoses should be in good shape, not spongy
to the touch or bulging. Because of the underhood heat, it is
not uncommon to have to replace ALL the hoses and is advisable
on an old car with original hoses. Keeping spares handy is good
- Pull out the oil breather (round thing on back of valve cover).
Look inside. Should be clean. If clogged or dirty/sludge-y, suspect
that the oil hasn't been changed regularly. Clean in kerosene.
- Ask how often oil was changed and what kind of oil was used.
10w-30 Mobil 1 synthetic is desirable, and oil changes every
3,000 miles are smart on these cars (again that high heat of
the engine compartment and the extra loads put on turbocharged
engines). All vacuum lines should be hooked up and operational
although any smart XR owner would replace all the lines periodically
- Spark plug cables are susceptible to high heat generated
by the turbo. Should be replaced about every six months some
folks say. Ditto for the spark plugs. Expect to replace distributor
cap, rotor, plugs and wires anyhow when you buy the car. Most
XR enthusiasts recommend the original Motorcraft plugs and definitely
not platinum plugs. Some owners have reported good results using
NGK TR5 plugs, part #2238.
- Check the a/c hose that goes from the compressor to the firewall,
stretching right over the turbo. Bad for being affected by the
turbo's heat and cracking the hose, which leads to leaking refrigerant
and no a/c. Pretty costly to repair (about $100+) plus having
your a/c recharged. The a/c compressor is also known for failing
regularly. You can get rebuilt a/c components from a company
named Hancock Industries in Texas (see Archives). But if the
a/c is nonoperational, any buyer should expect to have an expensive
repair bill on their hands (I was quoted $2,700 once just for
the parts, although I ended up paying just $500 and doing it
- Turbo. Usually bulletproof as long as the driver lets the
car idle for a minute or so after driving it before turning it
off (this allows cooling oil to circulate through the turbo housing,
otherwise the oil just sits and cooks-called coking-and causes
harmful deposits, which in turn ruins the turbo). Replacing a
turbo is expensive.
- Keep an eye also on the oil coolant line. Prone to wear at
back of engine. If this line should break, you will cook the
- Exhaust. A good original exhaust is not uncommon on XRs.
Also not uncommon is a higher performance aftermarket exhaust,
such as a 2.5-inch or 3-inch downpipe (connects the exhaust manifold
to the catalytic converter) coupled with a cat-back exhaust system,
either single 3-inch exhaust or a dual 2.5 inch exhaust. All
this is highly desirable as it improves the car's performance
($600 and up for good aftermarket exhaust system). Also check
the catalytic converter for the possibility of being plugged.
This will hamper the car's performance significantly and is not
an UNcommon problem.
- Exhaust manifold. Check for cracks especially between Nos.
3 and 4 cylinder. Exhaust manifolds can be ported for better
- Expect to replace the PCV valve (located between distributor
and the engine) regularly. A $3.50 part that should be replaced
often and only with a genuine Motorcraft part. Expect to replace
all the fan belts just for safety's sake (inexpensive anyhow).
Keep the old ones in the trunk as spares.
- Timing belt. Ask seller if the timing belt has been replaced.
They are notorious for breaking every 60,000 miles (at least
the original belts were; replacement belts are stronger and probably
last longer). Best advice is to replace the belt every 60k anyhow.
If the belt breaks, the car just stops running (on some cars-not
XRs-when the belt breaks it might ruin the valves) but Merkurs
are trained to stop running when they are farthest from a repair
facility or when you're in a hurry. When you replace the timing
belt also replace the timing belt tensioner. Do not try to save
a few bucks by not replacing the tensioner; you'll be replacing
it later and having to do the whole job all over again. If the
car is running erratically, the problem sometimes can be traced
to a timing belt that has jumped a tooth.
- Check the hoses that connects the Vane Air Meter (VAM) to
the turbo and the turbo outlet to the throttle body for cracks.
If they're cracked, the car won't run right; also if the hoses
are missing their internal wires that help them hold their shape
the car won't run right (because the hose collapses). Coolant
overflow bottles are notorious for leaking as are windshield
wiper fluid containers Also suspect are all coolant pressure
caps (something else you should immediately replace with a new
one upon buying any XR).
- Leaking fuel injectors. Pretty common problem for XRs (hence
the good advice to carry a fire extinguisher in the car at all
times). Look for fuel puddling on the fuel injector rail alongside
the driver's side of the engine. If this is happening, you'll
need to r/r the injectors which can be expensive ($50 to $100
apiece and you'll need four). Also suspect a faulty fuel pressure
- Fuel pumps go bad in all cars and don't seem to be anymore
of a problem in XRs than any other kind. There are two pumps,
though, in an XR. One is in the fuel tank and is expensive to
replace, not that the other one is cheap. Fuel pressure regulators,
however, tend to get a lot of traffic on the various Merkur mail
- Squealing sound when you turn on the a/c. Could simply be
a loose belt. Tighten them all. Most early model XRs had the
a/c compressor belt running off a pulley at the water pump. Better
is installing a 3-belt crank pulley from a 2.3L Mustang and run
the a/c compressor off that pulley. No more squeal, and your
water pump might last a bit longer.
- Batteries. Again, because of the high underhood heat, batteries
don't last long in XRs, especially since the battery is located
almost on top of the 1,400 degree turbo. Several enthusiasts
have moved the batteries to the trunks (for this reason and also
to improve front-to-rear weight distribution). If you drive your
XR a lot, you can expect to replace the battery about once a
year, perhaps more often. One thing I do with my XR, is after
parking it in the garage, I lift the hood and let the underhood
hot air escape. You won't believe how hot it gets. In the summer,
I also turn on a fan and let the air blow over the engine. This
helps battery life and the life of everything else under the
hood. If you have a non-maintenance-free battery be doubly sure
to check the battery for low water regularly. Most folks recommend
using only distilled water.
- TFI (or Thick Film Ignition) modules on XRs fail, usually
catastrophically meaning the car simply stops running, more often
than anyone would like and usually as far from help as possible.
Hence the good advice to carry a spare TFI with you at all times
(and the special tool that removes/replaces it, about $10 at
any parts store... it's called a Ford ignition wrench, I believe).
The TFI mounts on the distributor body. R/Ring it is about a
15-minute procedure. Use only original Motorcraft TFIs (about
$80 at any FLM dealer) although the budget-minded XR buyer will
be enticed to buy a cheaper knockoff version. You will be sorry
if you do this.
- Throttle Position Sensor. This is a $35-$50 part (again,
buy the Motorcraft version), generally available, and controls
the idle speed among other things. It is a simple potentiometer
device. Must be calibrated using a voltmeter (set it a 0.95 to
1.00 volts). If the car has an erratic idle, or an intermittent
high idle, it's probably the TPS. Easy repair.
Tools to have:
Although a complete set of tools is by far the best thing to
have, including an engine hoist and drive-on ramps, you can make
most repairs with the following:
- A digital voltmeter
- Assorted screwdrivers (I've found that a very long 24-inch
Philips screwdriver is helpful in more instances than you might
imagine, as is a very stubby one)
- 3/8-inch socket wrench with extensions
- Set of metric sockets (from 8mm to 21mm)
- Combination metric wrenches (8mm to 16mm)
- Locking pliers
- Wire strippers
- Side cutters (diagonal pliers)
- Razor knife
- Floor jack and jackstands; also roll-on ramps.
- A magnet-on-a-stick for retrieving dropped nuts/bolts/screws.
You won't believe how often you use this tool.
- Timing light.
Things the smart XR owner carries in the car:
- Fire extinguisher (don't leave home without one)
- Extra fan belts
- Extra coolant hoses or a hose repair kit
- Duct tape
- Digital volt meter
- A spare TFI (Motorcraft only) and the wrench to R/R it (the
tool costs $10.00 and is worth every penny; there simply is no
- Spare timing belt
- AAA membership or similar
- Blanket, matches, survival gear I keep my shop manual in
- Did I mention cellphone?