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Discussion Starter #1
Hey everyone,

I joined this site three minutes ago so I guess you could call me a youngin around here. I am looking at an 86 bronco as a recreational off roading vehicle. I knew that going to a forum would be the right thing to do because you guys know these trucks inside and out and don't have any motives to not tell me the bad and the ugly. I am looking at it tomorrow and need to know what to look for on these models that become a problem besides the regular stuff like rust and leaks. Also he said he hasn't smogged it in a while, how hard/expensive is it to fix if it doesn't pass?

With regards,

Super Moderator
26,089 Posts

We have a 96, bought it new in May 96 and basically, we "over-maintain" it...meaning 3k mile oil/filter changes & lube, all filters changed, etc.. using Ford's severe duty schedule; see a Link at end of reply

One of the most reliable daily drivers and beach run/light off road vehicles we've have ever had (incl the ex 78).
Still, we had minor problems that we addressed quickly.

Besides the usual visual, driveability and leak checks, look for:
- oil pan rust - our's formed spots @ 62k miles - sand it down and prime/paint it w/ Rustoleum high temp. paint.
- look for leaks around pan from (front) Pump seal as well as engine rear main/timing chain cover seals, etc.
- radiator plastic side seam leaks, esp. during engine cool-down period/overnight - ours leaked @ 50k miles & again just recently - look for leaks after engine has cooled down, esp overnight
- auto tranny - E4OD had a lot of improvements made by 96 so look for good shifts and see the maintenance records; fluids/filter should have been changed every 30k miles and less if used for towing. AOD Specific Transmission Upgrades C-6 three-speed automatic transmission upgrades @ http://www.becontrol...techguide_5.htm
- rust in inner rear fender lips, bottom of B pillars and bottom of tailgate (fender lips are rusting due to Ford's flawed spot weld process on the inner (tub) and 1/4 panel that lets moisture & debris in the seam) - A Bronco may need extensive & $$$ patch or full panel replacements...
check tailgate drains for clogs/rust; check weather seals, esp the outer ws on glass
- radius arm bushing deterioration (I coated them w/pure silicone, from day 1) but replaced at 80k miles w/Daystar polyurethane bushings
- Programmable Speedometer Odometer Module (PSOM in 92-96), make sure it works; look for a waver in the needle at highway speeds; most get yard units for DIY or troubleshoot for other issues.
- look for some maint records or contact a dealer to see what maint was done to it a Ford dealership in the past (need VIN)
or on-line dealer service record summaries (Ford is adding entries now), etc. at Ford (need VIN) & must register if you haven't already for your other Fords.
If no maint records are avail; check and replace if needed all filters and fluids. Esp if it is an Auto tranny; fluid level; when at norm op temp; after running thru all gears & reverse; no burnt toast or whitish (water) deposits on dip stick.
- cracked exhaust manifold/Y, etc.
- roof/gutter area cracks
- emissions air check valve & cat. converter (AIR) tubes tend to rust early; as does the AIR tube; buy locally or from
- radiator core support, PIA to replace
- body mounts and frame rust
For a 96 get it checked for codes free at Parts Stores if you don't diy;
For pre 96 with EFI do a SELF TEST by my pal BroncoJoe at

Remember to have engine @ Normal Operating Temperature before doing the do the KOEO = Key On Engine Off portion first & KEY ON ENGINE RUNNING (KOER) portion

The self-test plugs were mounted on the passenger side fender on 85-86 EFI trucks; miesk5 NOTE, Self-Test Output (STO) is the Pin in the Lt gray Connector and Signal Return Ground (SIGRET) is Pin E in black Connector; The engine temperature must be greater than 50F (10C) to pass the KOEO Self-Test and greater than 180F (82C) to pass the KOER Self-Test. Run it around to heat the engine up and shift thru all gears incl Reverse. then; turn off all accesories/lights, etc. Make sure A/C is off and transmission is in Park (automatic) or Neutral (manual), release clutch. Do Key On Engine Off (KOEO) portion first. For Key On Engine Running (KOER) portion, the engine has to be @ normal operating temp.
- transfer case operation - electric push button motor/connector is a prob. area; usually a broken travel stop or the motor connector is fouled, etc.

Also the Check Engine Light (CEL) comes on when the electronic engine control system is not working properly. The check engine warning indicator comes on briefly when the ignition switch lock cylinder is turned to ON, and should turn off when the engine starts. If the check engine warning indicator does not come on when the ignition switch lock cylinder is turned to ON or if it comes on while the vehicle is moving, the system is malfunctioning
If the CEL does not light up at all when starting it; then suspect that bulb is burnt-out or loose, socket was damaged by PO or shop, etc. or someone removed it, which does happen, unfortunately.
RABS Overview; miesk5 NOTE: "1987 was the year the rear anti-lock brakes (RABS) were standardized on Broncos; "...Rear-wheel ABS is another type of ABS available on some light trucks. It works in a similar fashion to four-wheel ABS, but monitors and operates only the rear wheels, especially important with light trucks, which often carry heavy loads supported primarily by the rear suspension and wheels..."
RABS Self Test; except 93-96; "...The 90 service manual gives a routine to pull RABS codes. When the light comes on, don't turn the truck off before reading the codes. Put it in park, chock both front & rear of the wheels, note whether the red brake light is lit also, then momentarily ground the test connector. The test connector comes out of a large loom under the dash, coming through the firewall, near the parking brake. On mine there are 2 similar connectors in that area, the correct one has only 1 black wire with an orange tracer running to it, & was hidden on top of the loom. The correct one is hanging down on the bottom right of the pic below. After you've grounded & ungrounded the wire, the yellow abs light starts to flash. Count the flashes. It said to not count the 1st series, because it may start in the middle. The last flash of the series is a long flash. Then it repeats over & over, until you turn the key off. Count all of the short flashes & the long one together (So 4 short & 1 long is code #5). If I remember right, it should be a number between 2 & 15 or so. If you follow Steve83's sig link, & then go to his Brakes & Hubs album, he has the code definitions for RABS.." READ MUCH MORE; miesk5 Note, Steve83 wrote, The RABS module won't screw up the speedo or trans the way the 4WABS module can, and even if it goes bad, simply unplugging it removes it from the Gy/Bk circuit.
Source: by ElKabong (Ken, El Kabong) at

The 4-wheel anti-lock brake system in 93-96 is self monitoring. When the ignition switch is placed in the RUN position, the anti-lock brake electronic control module will perform a preliminary self check on the anti-lock electrical system indicated by a momentary illumination of the amber ABS warning light in the instrument cluster. During vehicle operation, including normal and anti-lock braking, the anti-lock brake electronic control module monitors all electrical anti-lock functions and some hydraulic operations. In most malfunctions of the anti-lock brake system, the amber ABS warning light will be illuminated. However, most malfunctions are recorded as a coded number in the anti-lock brake electronic control module memory and assist in pinpointing the component needing service.
Suggest you buy the official FORD Bronco Electrical and Vacuum Troubleshooting Manual - Powertrain Controls and Emission Diagnosis (EVTM/PCED) Manual DVD for Pin-Point Tests; it is the BEST under $15.00 or so item you can get to service and repair your Bronco! Avail on e-bay.

Most credit unions use NADA to appraise value; deduct $ for required repairs.

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