How to buy an XR4Ti

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MarkM
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How to buy an XR4Ti

Post by MarkM » Sat Jul 01, 2006 12:14 am

ADMIN NOTE: The following was written by Richard Curtis and is used by permission. It will eventually be added to the FAQ along with relevent comments from this topic.
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Updated March 2006

What to look for when buying a used Merkur XR

Experience and disclaimer: I have bought four XRs, two 87s and two 89s and have lusted after several others. I've also read the IMON e-mail list for many years (almost since the beginning) and prowled through almost all of the Archives. I have done most of the work on my XRs myself, renovating three of them back to what I would consider very good condition. I sold the first one to a fellow in Las Vegas, who recently sold it to another Merkhead in Arkansas. The second one now lives in Boston after winning the Stock '87 class at the All-Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pa. The third, an 89, has been thoroughly reconditioned, rebuilt, repainted, etc., and is in exceptionally fine shape. The fourth I got running reliably and sold to a fellow in N.C. He later resold it to another North Carolinian.

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. At www.merkurencyclopedia.com you'll find a similar article on How To Buy A Scorpio, written by someone else, along with lots of other Merkur articles and various tech tips.

There are many Web sites now for Merkur owners. Among the best, in my opinion, are Merkur Club of America (http://www.merkurclub.com/ which has a very helpful forum), Ryan Mattson's XR page (http://www.merkurdesktop.com) which has a LOT of links to other Merkur-specific sites, the Merkur Encyclopedia(http://www.merkurgarage.com/encyclopedia/), and www.merkurtech.com. Some of these sites have how-to articles for the do-it-yourselfer. There are several parts suppliers that specialize in Merkur parts ... OPMD (www.opmd.com), Rapido, BAT (British American Transfer), Lou Fusz Ford, MerknDice, Modern Performance, plus others.

There are also several news groups that you should belong to. The one I currently find the most useful, the IMON group, is at www.merkurowners.org

I hope this helps you become an XR owner. Good luck.

Richard Curtis
Fairfax Station, Va. '89XR, 5-speed
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General:
Don't enter into XR ownership lightly. Unless you can work on the car yourself, or have a boatload of money, or both, you will be frustrated most likely with XR ownership. Generally, unless you buy from a Merkur enthusiast, most XRs haven't had a gentle life. A lot of things will have been neglected. Maintenance might not have been regular. 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, so they're always worth checking first) or available only through specialty houses (see later); 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 much support from Ford Lincoln Mercury (henceforth, FLM)(although certain Ford dealerships sometimes can be very helpful). Luckily, my local service station has been wonderful to work with (they say, "Hey, it's just a Ford"). You'll be lucky if you live near one of MCA's sponsors, such as Hartwood Automotive's Dave Planakis.

I must admit to enjoying greatly the feeling of community that surrounds XR ownership, almost all of it because of the Internet but also because of the annual Gathering at Carlisle (www.carsatcarlisle.com). The car is great also... surprising performance coupled with good fuel mileage (mid to high 20s on trips; around 20 mpg around town), 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 and usually a lot 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 (Scorpios were only '88 and '89). Basically, the '85 and '86 models were alike in almost every respect. Beginning sometime in '87, the floor pan changed slightly . The rear spoiler went from a biplane design to a mono design in the latter part of '87 models and were the norm for all '88s and '89s. '86-'89 models also have the Center High Mounted Stop Light (CHMSL), which was federally mandated.

Until sometime in 87, XRs had the lower plastic body cladding done in grey and then mono-colors also became available wherein the cladding was the same color as the body. Early cladding also had a rougher finish than later models, which were very smooth. 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); i have seen some 88s advertised as being two-toned (the cladding being the grey color).

Early models now tend to have cracked dash covers and split leather upholstery or broken upholstery seams; some of these were recalled and replaced/repaired. However, cracked dashes and split seams can be found on all models. XRs were offered in both cloth and leather interiors. 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.) I do not know if that recall is still valid. The '88 and '89 model years offered Raven Black and some few beige interiors; the beige interiors were not as prone to the cracking dashes/split seams of the early models. Sadly, few '89s were brought into the U.S. (around 2,500). In all, an estimated 44,000 XRs were imported from '85-'89. Estimates vary on the total number but this is a good ballpark figure.

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 there were problems in a lot of cars (due to a breaking of the wire from the hatch to the car). The fender-mounted power antenna on the '85-'87 cars are prone to failure but can be replaced with an aftermarket (most often a Harada) unit.

'85 models are most easily recognized by not having the third Center High Mounted Stop Light (CHMSL). '85 and '86 models also had the 14-inch phone-dial wheels. The '87 models had what are referred to a pie-spoke wheels but are 15 inches; some '88s had these wheels also. All '88s and '89s had 15-inch wheels. The '88s and '89s - most easily identified by their single spoiler -- had BBS-style basketweave wheels (although some early '88s had the pie-spoke wheels of the '87 models). XR wheels are hub-centric (meaning the center hole of the wheel must fit the hub)(the number 62.1 mm sticks in my mind but I'm not sure that's correct) and the wheels have a specific 38mm 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. Both printed manuals and a CD version are usually available on eBay.

Some '88 & '89 owners might wish to convert from the single spoiler on those models to the bi-wing spoiler of the '85-'87 models. They will have to replace the hatch also, since the '88-'89 hatchs (and thus spoilers) were different sizes from the '85-'87 models.

Things I've observed on XRs that generally need to be replaced/repaired soon upon buying your XR. All or some of these should be/can be bargaining points when dickering with the seller):

--Leaking radiator, usually around the plastic end-tank flanges. Sometimes these can be repaired with silicone RTV as per the shop manual. Replacement radiators are still available (Rapido and other vendors). A radiator from a Saab 900 can be made to work also (and reportedly runs cooler as it is a more efficient radiator).
--Radiator cap. Buy a new one immediately after picking up your XR.
--Thick Film Integrated (TFI) ignition module (see below)
--Plugs (Autolite 764s, available for $1 each, are perfectly fine), wires (Magnecors are guaranteed forever but original Ford wires work fine), distributor cap, rotor (both are easily available at any auto-parts store or Ford dealer).
--Check automatic transmission fluid (if any color other than red, or it smells burned, you have transmission problems). Check for fluid leaks under the car.
--Fan belts. If you buy the car and the belts aren't new, you probably should replace them anyhow. About $40.
--Change the oil. Most XR owners use Mobil 1 (10w30) because of the high heat load placed on the engine because of the turbo.
--Flush and change the coolant (good coolant should be yellowish-green although recently some new coolants are different colors such as orange). XRs are notoriously prone to heat-related failures. Ensure the cooling system is highly efficient. Keep an eye almost constantly on the temp gauge and if the temp gauge doesn't work, use it as a bargaining point. It can be a relatively easy repair after you've bought the car.
--Flush and change the power steering fluid (it's almost guaranteed to be a watery black color). A"notchy" feeling steering can be traced to bad fluid; worse, to a bad rack-and-pinion. Rebuilt racks are available from auto-parts stores. Sometimes changing the fluid will alleviate the notchiness as will adding a power-steering fluid additive.
--Flush and refill brake fluid (it is almost guaranteed to have moisture in it and be more than 3 years old). Brake fluid flush and refills and recommended every 2-3 years. Brake fluid can absorb around 5% water in a year. Use DOT 3 fluid.
--Charge the a/c refrigerant. Check for leaks. Check for split or leaking main a/c hose (that runs across top of the turbo). Original refrigerant is R12 (expensive); some owners have switched over to R134a (much, much less expensive). Some owners have reported that you must change the hoses if switching to R134a; others have reported it wasn't necessary. Best to check with a knowledgeable a/c expert.
--Replace all wiper blades.
--Check the brakes (see below for shuddering condition). Most XRs probably are still running around on the original rear brake shoes but the front pads wear out routinely.
--Install a new Motorcraft PCV valve (less than $4; cures a lot of problems).
--Check the timing (note that timing is different for automatics than for manual transmission XRs). 13 degrees for manuals; 10 degrees for automatics. Before checking or setting the timing, you must first pull the little plastic plug (called a SPout) from where it's dangling off a wiring harness near the TFI at the distributor.
--Check/replace all vacuum lines (a cracked vacuum line will cause all sorts of difficulties such as idle speeds; replacing them is a simple and inexpensive job).
--Replace steering rack boots if split, torn or missing altogether. This is not as difficult as it might appear (see directions on the MerkurEncyclopedia) and will/can prevent having to replace the steering rack.
--Check condition of the rear half-shaft boots also. If they're split (likely), they've allowed rain/grit/etc. into the constant-velocity joint, which will wear it out. If the car has a clunking or clicking sound when turning low-speed corners, it's likely to be worn CV joints. Replacement halfshafts are readily available and aren't that expensive. But see various e-mail postings about how difficult the Torx bolts are to remove.
--Polish the plastic headlights (they'll look sorta yellow); a plastic polish such as Meguiars will clean up a lot of this yellowing)

Common XR problems:
--Erratic idle. Can be traced to vacuum leaks or a failing Throttle Position Sensor.
--Dead batteries (underhood heat generated by the turbo tends to cook them). Think about installing new battery cables and cable ends, too. Clean all battery connections, also clean connections at the starter solenoid and all grounds. This should be part of routine maintenance as these cars are sensitive to electrical-ground problems.
--Driveline vibrations (most likely: a cracked guibo or misaligned driveshaft caused by failing engine and/or transmission mounts).
--Electrical problems (most due to corrosion on the contacts). Recommended: clean all the ground contacts. There are a lot of them.
--Timing belt needs replacing every 60k miles.
--TFI on the blitz. Best: carry a spare Motorcraft TFI in the car (and the $4 special Ford Ignition tool it takes to remove/replace it). A failed TFI usually manifests itself when the car inexplicably stops running. You can crank it but the car won't start. This can be other things, of course, but XRs are notorious for this failure. Hence the suggestion to carry a spare TFI unit with you.
--Leaking radiator, usually around the plastic end caps (I fixed a minor leak on my 2nd XR with some RTV sealant as suggested by the shop manual. That helped for a while but eventually, I had to replace the radiator).
--Leaking taillight gaskets. This allows water into the trunk, which eventually finds its way into the spare-tire well, and rusts everything. It also contributes to failure or erratic operation of the turn signals/brake lights/running lights. You can buy replacement gaskets from OPMD, BAT, Rapido.
--Drooping headliner. About a $70 repair (materials and glue) if you do it yourself. Instructions for doing this are on merkurencyclopedia.com and other websites.
--Clicking or failing constant-velocity joints on the rear axles. See above.
--Cracked dash. A good, uncracked dash will cost $100-$250 (I've seen them advertised for those amounts and actually paid $100 each for two of them). Replacement instructions are on merkurencyclopedia.com and other websites.
--Cracked leather seats or split seams. You cannot resew the split seams regardless of what others might say. The leather has shrunk. Replacing the seats with aftermarket seats is probably less expensive. New leather covers are available for $$$.
--Inoperative heated seats are very common. Most likely caused by a broken wire in the heating elements.
--Inoperative electric antenna on 85-87 models. Replace the antenna motor.
--Inoperative "hatch window" antenna on late 87-89 models. Probably a broken wire between the hatch window antenna and the car. Requires dropping the rear of the headliner.
--Erratic tach, fuel gauge or temp gauge. Or all three. Tach will be due to cold solder joints (can be repaired). Fuel gauge is probably a bad slosh board (can be repaired by removing the slosh board). Temp gauge usually traced to clogged coolant passages in the lower intake manifold, a bad sender unit (called the "purple-ring sensor", which is difficult to find), or both. See more on this later.
--Burned out illumination bulbs in the gauge cluster. Can be replaced fairly easily after removing the gauge cluster (again, only tool needed is a screwdriver). See more on this later.
--Leaking fuel injectors. Due to defective O-rings on the injectors. You CAN replace just the O-ring but it's more advisable to get the injectors either rebuilt or to buy new ones.
--Leaking valve cover gasket. Replace with '93 Ford Ranger gasket. Do not be tempted by the more common and cheaper FelPro blue gasket. It can and will fail and could lead to an engine fire.
--Torn steering rack boots. Replacements are available.
--Shudder under braking. Probably due to either (1) warped brake rotors; you can get rotors turned for about $7 each; or (2) deteriorated lower-control arm bushings ($200 a set plus installation).
--Broken or missing wheel well liners. They're made of plastic and have deteriorated over the years. Very expensive to replace ($150+ each). Some owners have reported being able to replace them using first or second generation Taurus wheel well liners.
--Failing (or failed) spark plug wires (the turbo heat tends to cook them). Most XR owners replace the plug wires with every tune-up. Magnecor wires come recommended and have a lifetime guarantee.


Bodywork:
--Paint. Faded paint is a common XR problem, especially on the non-metal rear wing and front fascia. Peeling clear coat is also common. Repainting a car can cost anywhere from $400 to $5,600 with an average repainting costing about $2,400. Generally, the more you spend for it, the better the paint job.
--Cracks in the grill (or front fascia) are not uncommon, especially around the headlights. This piece is plastic and is easily repaired by plastic welding.
--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. Check the hatch/spare-tire well for rust under the carpet caused by leaking taillight gaskets.
--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 available and are a very common problem. Can be a negotiating point if 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. Sunroof drains have also been known to clog up, as have door bottom drains. These should be checked periodically. Also, the area beneath the fuse box has been known to leak also as have the heater cores. A heater core leak is usually accompanied by the sickly-sweet smell of coolant,and coolant will be found soaking the passenger side footwell.
--Some cars will have loose lower body cladding. To repair, you need to remove the piece of cladding (drill out some rivets), reattach the cladding and then re-rivet (rivets cost around a dollar each; you'll need at least 28 to do all the cladding; a good tip is to buy extras. Available from Rapido or auto-body-shop places). 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 surprisingly easy to remove and replace.
--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 through eBay and other sites. Junkyards, of course, are always a possibility although getting more and more rare.
--Headlights not working. When my low beams were working but the high beams NOT, I traced this to a bad connector. You can buy generic headlight connectors at auto-parts stores for <$10.
--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 point.
--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; they're mostly to impress your BMW buddies), 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 aftermarket foglights for the same $30.
--Glass. Again, finding the replacement glass might be your biggest task. Any competent glass shop can replace the pieces if they have them. A windshield repairman said that windshields were still available (this was in Spring '99)(about $200-$250 to replace). So don't be put off an otherwise good buy by some broken or missing glass; it's easily replaced once you find the glasss but a good bargaining point in the meantime.
--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 inside the motor 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 and that's if you can even find it). I've found this to be a real pain to replace and unbroken junkyard parts are almost impossible to find. 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. Only tool necessary is a screwdriver.

Interior
--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 some '88 and almost all '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, so unless you're a real stickler, any XR dash will fit in any XR interior although that's not always true with the A-pillar covers, especially on '89 models.
--Seats: XRs came in 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 (my estimate was $550 a set, in vinyl), 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 $100-$150 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 contact cleaner.
--Wet floormats or carpets. Suspect clogged sunroof drains. Unclog with clothes hanger used gently. If wetness in the passenger footwell is accompanied by smell of coolant, suspect ruptured heater core.
--Drooping headliner. Very common especially in early-model XRs (although I've personally replaced the headliner in all 4 XRs that I've owned, two '87s and two '89s) and helped several other owners replace theirs. You can repair this yourself fairly easily (can you operate a Philips screwdriver?) in about 3 hours. Cost me $70 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 of its old glue (a messy job), reglue and recover. Getting the right type of glue is crucial. See Merkur Encyclopedia for step-by-step instructions.)
--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 (all of 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 have resoldered all the joints in the computer that controls this. 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. I did this, too, and haven't missed the car diagram.
--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 very 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 have someone else do the soldering work). Removing the gauge cluster again is a Philips-screwdriver operation.
--Erratic fuel gauge. Could be the gauge (anti-slosh board) or could be the sender. Not an uncommon problem. it's usually the slosh board (see Archives).
--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) or 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, although rare, are due to overheating.) The last thing you should replace would be the gauge itself; I've heard of only a few going bad.
--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. A long shot: sometimes the needle simply comes off the shaft.
--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.
--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 (see Archives), although very, very cheap and an easy repair ($2?) but a good bargaining point if the seller is not knowledgeable.

Transmissions:
--The original manual 5-speed is 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 or from a Thunderbird TurboCoupe. Much stronger transmission with better shifting. You'll also need a different bellhousing, driveshaft, etc. You can also buy an aftermarket short-shift kit (from BAT) that reportedly improves the shift action especially the throws.
--Clutch. 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 (expensive repair). Change fluid and filter in the transmission often (every 30k).
--Pull the automatic 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, thank the owner and then 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 accompanied 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.
--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, you should replace the transmission mount too (about $60). When I recently replaced the motor mounts in my second XR, the originals had collapsed 0.57 inch; the motor was noticeably higher in the car after replacing the mounts. At first I replaced only the mounts and not the transmission insulator; I had a very, very noticeable driveline vibration. I then changed the insulator and the vibration went away almost totally. If you change only worn motor mounts you will change the angle between the transmission output shaft and the driveshaft, hence the vibration. Changing the mounts I found really tough and eventually gave up and had a service station do it (cost two hours labor). They have a hydraulic lift that makes getting leverage on recalcritrant bolts a lot easier. That was the difference. Same service station charged one hour labor to change the transmission insulator. Note that XR insulators are no longer available but a Scorpio insulator will fit with a bit of minor reworking of the XR's transmission mount (you need to make a square hole out of a round one). The service station charged one-half hour to do this. All in all, a real bargain. I've also been told that what you think are vibrations caused by the driveline can also be caused by bad rear suspension bushings. I haven't replaced these yet, though.
--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 to improve the handling.
--Suspension bushings. Again, these are 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 the car. A complete set of bushings just for the front end cost around $270 plus labor to install them. You'll also need a front-end alignment afterwards (another $80).
--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 myself. Can be repaired at a wheel shop specializing in straightening bent rims. Check your Yellow Pages or the classified ads in Autoweek magazine. Probably the most common thing that enthusiasts do, though, is replace stock wheels with aftermarket components (can be almost as cheap as getting your stock rims repaired). But check stock wheels for dents in the rims before buying car. If you're experiencing a slow air leak from a wheel, suspect that the tire needs to be dismounted and the wheel rim cleaned of any flaking paint, etc. Tire shops can do this easily.
--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 Archives or knowledgeable tire/wheel person) using the Plus One concept.
--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. Get (1) a lot of guaranteed Torx bits; and (2) a list of pretty strong cuss words. Keep them handy. Some Merkheads have strongly suggested a thorough cleaning of the Torx bolt heads before proceeding. Others suggest heating the bolt heads first. Other suggest using an air gun. You also can buy rebuilt rear axles complete with c/v joints and replace everything. Many Xr owners suggest replacing the Torx bolts with Allen-head bolts.
--Steering. Steering racks have been known to go bad in XRs and can be an expensive repair. 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 periodically anyhow). 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). Replacement boots can be obtained from FLM, 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 at least every two years (the fluid absorbs moisture over time, up to 5% per year); also change the engine coolant annually (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).

Engine:
--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 cover. The valve cover gaskets are notorious leakers, especially if original. 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 $35; you can replace it yourself with a little bit of patience and an absolute minimum of tools.
--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, and different ones for early model and late model 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. Replacing radiator is relatively easy but can be expensive (anywhere from $160 to $350 plus labor depending on where you buy it).
--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 practice also. Complete hoses are available from BAT, Rapido, Lou Fusz Ford, etc. Don't be misled by a hose that LOOKS okay. Coolant hoses wear from the inside out.
--it is not uncommon to have to replace a head gasket (almost always related to overheating). Most XR owners suggest the FelPro 1035 gasket (about $55).
--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 or parts cleaner.
--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 anyhow. A leaking vacuum line will cause rough idling, poor performance, etc. This is an inexpensive and easy repair.
--Spark plug cables are susceptible to high heat generated by the turbo. Should be replaced about every six months on daily drivers 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. Definitely not platinum plugs. Some owners have reported good results using NGK TR5 plugs, part #2238. I use Autolite 764, available from Wal-Mart for $1 each.
--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. You can also buy a silver sleeve made of a reflective material for this hose (purchase from BAT, Summit, etc.). Cost about $12 for enough to do one hose. This protects the hose from the turbo's heat.
--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).

Richard Curtis
Fairfax Station, Va. '89XR

EDIT: Corrected spark plug part number
Last edited by MarkM on Mon Jul 10, 2006 9:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Frag » Sat Jul 01, 2006 12:33 am

Should be moved to FAQ.
:)

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Post by xrian » Sat Jul 01, 2006 8:01 am

That's exactly what it says right at the begining.
Frag wrote:Should be moved to FAQ.
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Ontario, Canada

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Post by Anto_D » Sat Jul 01, 2006 12:59 pm

I Dont want my dads merkur anymore.You changed my mind completly. I think ill just buy a 300zx.

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Post by Maurice S » Sat Jul 01, 2006 1:10 pm

Not that it's a bad car mind you, but the Nissan will never be a Merkur...which is not to say the Z might not be faster, handle as well, and definately stop better (stock)...but the feel of the stock steering wheel as opposed to the Nissan...the way the pedals engage the ball or heel of your foot...that quirkiness of the ergos, that's SO comfy, yet something about it never lets you get drowsy...even during endless desert droning...and speaking of droning...how an XR never does...at about 90 to 100mph you feel a little voice telling you "take the mike and announce ok to serve coffee and move about the cabin"...and look for the switch to turn the belt sign off...The absolute nuetrality of the steering after experiments with tire pressures....The way you can play with it in the wet and have your WRC fantasies....The intitially taken in as incongruent dash layout... that with a little time and the flipping to rightside up by the cortex quickly becomes pleasing...as compared to the uniformity of the Nissan with all similar gauges and abrupt angles and needles...which gets old in a hurry...not to mention the Ginsa "Reminds me of a night in Tokyo that I cant remember once" energy that eventually prevails...The look on womens faces, after exhaust and cone filter mods...as you roll down the window on a sultry summer evening....and they get all comfy...and you open it up and that swirling vortex of hell sound goes thru the cabin....BANG second gear...and you let off....and she looks at you...like GEEZ he can control ANYTHING....

Go ahead get the Nissan
85 XR '" Lightly Street Massaged"

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Post by DPDISXR4Ti » Sat Jul 01, 2006 11:09 pm

Maurice S wrote:Go ahead get the Nissan
Exactly. Some people just aren't up to the task. Richard's message is kinda like Fraternity hazing - if it you scares you away, it wasn't meant to be.
Brad

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Post by Maurice S » Sun Jul 02, 2006 10:08 am

DPDISXR4Ti wrote:
Maurice S wrote:Go ahead get the Nissan
Exactly. Some people just aren't up to the task. Richard's message is kinda like Fraternity hazing - if it you scares you away, it wasn't meant to be.
LOL! until I read this, I didnt see how it would save us alot of whining...that would be great.
85 XR '" Lightly Street Massaged"

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Post by Ray » Mon Jul 03, 2006 8:16 am

I didn't think it was supposed to scare people away, but rather educate them on common problems, odd merkurisms, and common modifications.

hell, ANY car that's 20 years old will need stuff like coolant lines and bushings, right?

And these cars are EASY to work on, and they're forgiving. And they're so fantastic once you finally get it right when it all just "clicks" and you smile for days and days...

Great now i need to go for a drive.
-Ray
1985 Ford F150 - Tow Missile
1985 Merkur XR4Ti -#141 CP "Miss Daisy"
2005 Subaru LGT
http://www.cartct.com

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Post by DPDISXR4Ti » Mon Jul 03, 2006 9:10 am

demonfire wrote:hell, ANY car that's 20 years old will need stuff like coolant lines and bushings, right?

And these cars are EASY to work on, and they're forgiving.
All true Ray. It's laughable how quick and easy most stuff is to replace on this car, as compared to other vehicles.

Still, some people just shouldn't own one of these cars - they're not for everyone.
Brad

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Post by Joe62Tampa » Mon Jul 03, 2006 9:26 am

My 2-cents --- maybe 1-cent (coming from a very, green newbie).... I mostly agree with the post by demonfire. I would imagine any older car is going to need "stuff" changed -- brake hoses, coolant hoses, worn/tired suspension parts, etc.

I've never worked on a car - okay, so I have changed the air filter -- LOL! I wouldn't say it was "easy" work, but it was somewhat straightforward after reading and re-reading (and again!) the XR4 manual. And having this forum has been an excellent resource of help, including the other XR4 websites.

In the end, my point is any older car is going to need work, unless the car had been meticulously cared for, and then I even wonder how many of those owners do things such as replacing worn bushings. It seems like Anto_D may be shying away from one set of "issues" and potentially seeing other "issues" with a Nissan, (assuming it's going to be an older car of course). Maybe I'm off base, but that's my synopsis (as I tend to get toooo verbose -- like here!)

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Post by Anto_D » Mon Jul 03, 2006 2:41 pm

Im sorry if I offended anyone. Im not saying the merkur is a worthless piece of crap compared to other cars. Since I was born my dad has had his 85 xr4ti.I grew up all my life around this car. My dad tells me stories of how he would let me(When I was 4 years old) stand up in the passenger seat with my hands on the dash to veer out the windshield as he would over accelerate the car just to see my face light up and hear me say “Woahâ€Â

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Post by Maurice S » Mon Jul 03, 2006 4:08 pm

[quote="Anto_D"]Im sorry if I offended anyone. Im not saying the merkur is a worthless piece of crap compared to other cars. Since I was born my dad has had his 85 xr4ti.I grew up all my life around this car. My dad tells me stories of how he would let me(When I was 4 years old) stand up in the passenger seat with my hands on the dash to veer out the windshield as he would over accelerate the car just to see my face light up and hear me say “Woahâ€Â
85 XR '" Lightly Street Massaged"

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Post by worked_xr » Mon Jul 03, 2006 11:06 pm

DPDISXR4Ti wrote:Richard's message is kinda like Fraternity hazing - if it you scares you away, it wasn't meant to be.
I think this is dead-on. I have to say that I read Richard's how-to for several years before finally taking the plunge and buying in. It convinced me of several things... Firs was that I needed to be serious about owning one of these cars before buying one. Second was that I should buy the absolute best, newest, lowest mileage, well maintained XR I could find. I ended up buying a well maintained, if much ignored, 59K original mile '89 XR that had only gathered 5000 miles in last 9 years (thus the "much ignored" part). Thank goodness for Richard's how-to, I've been very very pleased with my choice to wait and the car I ended up buying. Ownership has been a pleasure, even with the annoying little issues that have come up. But Richard's how-to predicted it all to the letter, and I have therefor been prepared and underwhelmed when finally confronted.

Three cheers for Richard!

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Post by AnHonestCitizen » Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:51 am

I was skimming this thread while doing a search for spark plug info, and I saw that there was talk of moving it over to FAQ.
Before it goes there I think it needs a thorough fact checking. Richard writes that the proper plug is the Autolite 964, but all the other research I did says that the Autolite 764 is the plug to get.
Maybe the 964 and the 764 both work, I don’t know. Most probably just an errant keystroke on Richard’s part. Maybe Richard is right and the other research I did is wrong which, since I know Richard, (and have personally benefited from his expertise) is quite possible.
Anywho, I think this deserves further clarification before it gets moved over to FAQ.

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Post by richardcurtis » Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:53 pm

Dave's right... errant keystroke. Correct spark plug is Autolite 764... $1 each and available at most Wal-Marts and auto-parts stores.

Thanks for kind comments about the original "How to buy..." post. I wrote it a longgg time ago.
Richard Curtis
Fairfax Station, Va. '89XR (gone to a new home but not forgotten)

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